Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Worst Day In The World

What do you think was the worst day in the world? Like most things it depends upon how you define "worst." The day that sin entered the world would rank pretty high. The day that Hiroshima was bombed would rank way up there on my list too. I would say that this passage in my reading today might also have a place in the top 10...
Exodus 12:29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.

Lord, let me never forget that you grant and sustain life and that my every breath is dependent upon your grace.

United - In A Valley by the Sea

Ok. I know it's not Tuesday, but I couldn't wait to put this one out to everyone. I know not everyone is a United fan, but if you are, Jeff Myers posted an opportunity for some FREE Hillsong United Music. You can get all the information over at the WIDE OPEN blog.

Here's what I like about United...
  • They unashamedly sing about Jesus and speak His Name in their songs. You won't confuse the meanings in these songs and wonder if someone is singing about their boyfriend or the King of the Universe.
  • They have a good mix of loud and fast, and soft and slow. You will almost always find some really good ballads and some really great driving songs on the same album.
  • They sing with passion.
  • And of course - they are from Australia. Everyone in Heaven has an Australian accent don't they mate? Doesn't all praise music sound better when sung with an Australian accent? :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Passing the Faith Along

What stories of faith are we passing along to our children? I have a tremendous heritage. I hope that I am continuing the race by passing the faith along. From my reading today.
Exodus 10:1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”

I hope that my son and my grandsons will be able to have stories of God at work in the lives of their heritage. There is another very famous verse in this passage that reminds me of an old song that was passed down from a faithful generation. The song is "When I See the Blood." Here is the text...
Exodus 12:13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you

What an amazing picture of the covering of Christ.

Lord, Thank you for godly parents and grandparents. Thank you even more for passing over when you see the blood of Christ on my life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Simple" by Rob Morgan - Assurance (Part 1)

I think we are going to really enjoy this book by Rob Morgan. In case you don't have a copy you can get one from Randall House. When I was at FWBBC in Nashville, I was able to sit under Rob's preaching. Some people have a good sermon every now and then, but Pastor Morgan had one every Sunday. He is a tremendously gifted speaker. He's not too shabby at writing either.

His book SIMPLE, the Christian life doesn't have to be complicated, breaks down steps in Christianity into ABCD & E.

A = Assurance
B = Baptism
C = Church
D = Devotions
E = Evangelism

In Chapter 1, Rob helps us answer this question: Can we know without a shadow of a doubt that we are going to heaven when we die?

The Short Answer: Yes!

I'm not sure this is the most important question, but I'm still working on my next "Get Saved or Get Lost!" post. Hopefully I can address the "Most Important Question" there.
Rob gives a variety of examples of people who lack assurance. And though there are many people who lack assurance, the Apostle Paul was not one of them.

2 Timothy 1:12 says, "Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day."

Rob points out three important things about assurance.
  1. Assurance isn't about how you "FEEL." This is something that so many young people need to hear.
  2. Assurance isn't a matter of having the exact time and place of your decision or conversion. Again, I've dealt with people who have battled this. I think this will be an encouragment to some folks.
  3. It is possible to have a false assurance. This is what pastors fear the most. Giving someone false assurance that they are "in." We must tread carefully here.
In order to have assurance, Pastor Morgan reminds us of two important questions:
  1. Do you KNOW Christ.
  2. Do you KNOW that you know Christ.
He will answer these questions using two texts from the apostle John. In the first chapter he starts with

John 20:30-31:30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

From this text he points out three very important truths regarding assurance:
  1. Our Salvation Is Centered In Christ -Notice from this passage the emphasis on Jesus as the Christ, and Jesus as the Son of God.
  2. Our Salvation Is Conveyed Through Scripture -Notice from this passage "these are written." God chose to give us these truths in written form.
  3. Our Salvation Is Claimed By Faith -Notice from this passage and 100 more places in the book of John the word "believe."
Rob concludes with a time-tested illustration of saving faith and a reminder that saving faith is often expressed simply through prayer.

Have you jumped into the wheelbarrow?

Dying Stars - Jake Bouma

A couple weeks ago, I was priveliged to get a copy of Dying Stars by Jake Bouma. After a couple of listens, my favorites are Leave The Light On and If You Return I'll Take It. I like the simplicity of Jake's music, but I am curious as to what he'd sound like with a full band as well.

I love the rhythms of Leave the Light on. I can listen to it over and over. I don't want to "label" Jake as sounding like just one artist, because on this album his songs have a lot of different flavors. But I am a John Mayer fan, and I couldn't help but notice how much Jake's If You Return I'll Take It sounds like Mayer's St. Patrick's Day. Check them out and see if you agree.

Thanks for sharing Jake.

I look forward to hearing more of your work.

Grocery Stores or Seeding Gardens?

David Fitch has an interesting perspective (On The Ones Who Would Go And Seed Missional Communities) on church planting in North America. I think the metaphor fits pretty well. I would also say that in some places, grocery stores are still thriving. But probably in more and more places we are going to see the need for seeding gardens.

Here's a really strange thought - are Free Will Baptists better suited to seeding gardens than grocery stores?

What do you think?

Frog Legs Anyone?

I've been reading the story of Pharaoh and Moses and the plagues in my readings this week. I'm just blown away by the hardness of Pharaoh's heart. I would have caved at seeing all the blood. Which I have issues with seeing blood anyways - but that's for another post. But surely after the frogs, I mean dead frogs everywhere, surely that would cause him to give in.

Exodus 8:3 The Nile shall swarm with frogs that shall come up into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed and into the houses of your servants and your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. 4 The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your servants...13 And the Lord did according to the word of Moses. The frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. 14 And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank.

But again and again Pharaoh hardens his heart.

As we read on, we find out why Pharaoh's heart was so tough...

Exodus 9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

Pharaoh had a "free" will, and yet God had raised him up, a stubborn, hard-hearted king, that God would receive world-wide glory in the midst of Pharaoh's obstinance. In some sense, the more stubborn Pharaoh is, the more glory God receives. And even today, there's not many places that you could go where people haven't heard the story about the Ten Plagues.

Lord, I pray that you would continue to make your name renown among all the nations.

So You Want To Be Perfect

Whenever anyone greets my dad and asks him how he is doing, he always has a one word answer for them... Perfect.

Well, we know better. But in the ESV reading for today, Jesus gives us the answer on how to be perfect to the Rich Young Ruler.
Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Music Tuesday - Jon Foreman (Switchfoot)

Every now and then you just need something mellow. My first impression of Switchfoot isn't usually mellow. Maybe Stars, or Meant to Live, or Dare You to Move, but not a mellow song.

The lead singer for Switchfoot, Jon Foreman, has released a Fall and Winter EP. If you're looking for a happy pick me up, this ain't it. But I do like "Learning How to Die." And if the mood strikes for something mellow with a little guitar and some strings this may be just what you are looking for.

Tuesday Giveaway:
First person to respond with an email requesting a free song from Jon Foreman will receive a gifted iTunes song of their choice from the Fall or Winter EP. I'll list this week's winner below so you'll know if someone has already requested the free song.

This week's winner:
Christina

Last week I gave out a riddle:
Combine the first two words of a famous Christmas Carol with the last name of a current political candidate and you'll find the name of this woman from the book of Genesis.

Here's the Answer: Oholibamah. :)

No takers on last week's giveaway, so it's gone!

Bonus Video:
Ok. This video of Jason Mraz is downright awesome. Ever have someone with a talent in church, but your just not sure how to use it? That's what I thought of when I saw this video. Something that at first is just monotonous, but then when put together with the right accompaniment - it's beautiful.




Calvary Setlist:
Here I Am To Worship
Amazing Grace My Chains are Gone
Still
It Is Well With My Soul

Monday, January 28, 2008

An Interesting Map

Marko had this map on his blog today. You can really see the Bible Belt. It's in red. I was surprised to see so many Lutheran strongholds as well.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Links of the Week - January 26th, 2008

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. " -- Herm Albright(1876 - 1944)

  • A good reminder about being real from Tony Morgan

  • If you like indie music, you better make sure you have about a half a day to kill before clicking on this link. Some of the most interesting music I've seen in a long time. This puts a whole new spin on the idea of music videos. LaBlogotheque has an English site as well.

  • Interesting pro's and con's of satellites vs. church plants.

  • An oldie but a goodie. Scot Mcknight looks at Biblical Interpretation. Is it a timeless truth, a truth that has lost its time, or one that most Christians can't agree on? Does your church practice the holy kiss? I know that some still do. Our church does practice feetwashing.

  • There is still some free music up for grabs. If nobody guesses the riddle, I'll post the answer on Tuesday.

Friday is for Photos - Slick Willie

Slick Willie
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)


This is probably going to sound silly to some of you, but I love to go to the zoo. I always have. Every time I go, I am in awe of the design in the animal kingdom. This picture was from a couple years back at the St. Louis Zoo. We caught the seals (sea lions) in all of their glory. I don't remember this guy's name, but I remember him ringing a bell and then making this pose. I couldn't resist.

If you have a great zoo snapshot, I'd love to see it.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Enough Said

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Is Allah God?

We recently had one of the soldiers from our church return home from Iraq. And we've been discussing Islam and the differences between it and Christianity. I thought it was pretty interesting that this video from John Piper showed up in my reader today...



From Desiring God:

Update: For those unfamiliar with "A Common Word," it's a letter written to Christians by 138 Muslim scholars last October saying that love for God and love for neighbor is common ground between Christianity and Islam. The response from the Christian leaders, which John Piper finds disappointing, was published the following month.

Another Update: Justin Taylor suggests, "For those who want a fuller unpacking of Piper's views of these issues, I would recommend his essay, Tolerance, Truth-Telling, Violence, and Law: Principles for How Christians Should Relate to Those of Other Faiths, written in 2002."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

G-R-E-E-D

This Sunday we looked at the Rich Farmer from Luke 12. We had some good discussion after the message as to whether the Rich Fool's main problem was his greed or his arrogance. I'm sure he had issues with both.

I find it striking that when Jesus addresses the crowd after the brother fighting for his inheritance has questioned the Lord, that Jesus makes two strong statements:
15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Basically, "Watch out for greed" and "Remember that the value of life isn't about the value of stuff."

The whole series on money has really got me thinking. What should be the deciding factors in our use of material wealth and resources? A couple questions have been working on me so far...

1. If what I have isn't being used for God's Glory, then why am I keeping it?
2. Do I need this?

How do you decide if you should by "that" car or "this" TV? How do you decide whether or not to let your kids get the Xbox or the iPod? What are the determining factors in whether you buy or not?

My fear is that the American Church is no better than the Rich Fool. We are so busy building bigger barns, that we don't even see the needs of our own communities.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these things.

The Almighty God

In my reading today, I was overwhelmed with the power of the Almighty God.
Gen 45:7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.

What the brothers of Joseph meant for evil, God used for good. Who can thwart the plans of God? Who can stand in His way? I'm so thankful for the Almighty God, and the fact that not only is He Almighty, but He is good. His purposes will stand.

Lord, I praise you today because You are sovereign and You are in control.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Music Tuesday - Mercy Me

Christmas may be over, but the song "Emmanuel, God with Us" should be sung all year round. This is a song where the music really fits the lyrics.

Who are we that You would be mindful of us?
What do You see that's worth looking our way?
We are free in ways that we never should be.
Sweet release from the grip of these chains...All that is within me cries, for you alone be glorified. Emmanuel, God with Us!


You can check out the video on youtube, but I think it might just be better to put this in your car, take a ride on a starry night, roll down the windows and cry out "Emmanuel! God is with us!" thanking the Lord for delivering us.

If anyone would like to review the rest of the album, drop me a line and I'll be glad to have my first guest post on this blog.

Tuesday Giveaway:
The first person to respond with an email asking for "God with Us" will get the song free from iTunes. I'll list the winner below as soon as we have one.

Bonus:
We were playing 20 Questions on the way home the other night. I picked an unknown character but with the right clues my family finally figured it out. If you can guess the Bible character from these clues - you can pick any .99 song on iTunes that you want and I'll be glad to gift it for you. Here's the clue:

Combine the first two words of a famous Christmas Carol with the last name of a current political candidate and you'll find the name of this woman from the book of Genesis.

Winner:
Bonus Winner:

Calvary Setlist from Sunday January 20th:
This is the Day
Come into His Presence
Love the Lord
I Am Resolved
I Stand in Awe

Could You Say This?

From my reading today...
Psalm 18:20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,and have not wickedly departed from my God.22 For all his rules were before me,and his statutes I did not put away from me.23 I was blameless before him,and I kept myself from my guilt.24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

Lord, thank you for making me righteous in Christ. I wholly lean on Jesus' name. Help me to follow Jesus' teachings.

All About Benjamin

We finished our series on Money, Money, Money yesterday. We found a great video clip There's Something about Benjamin. Kudos to the guys and gals who produced this one. It was hilarious.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

And I Thought Today Was Cold

From MSNBC...

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Sunday’s NFC championship game at Green Bay isn’t likely to be the coldest ever in the NFL, although temperatures are expected to be near zero at kickoff.

The coldest game in NFL history was the 1981 AFC championship game, played Jan. 10, 1982, at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. The temperature was minus-9, and the wind chill plunged the readings to minus-59 as the Bengals beat San Diego 27-7.

Next was the Ice Bowl on Dec. 31, 1967 for the NFL title at Lambeau Field. The Packers beat Dallas 21-17 on Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak in the final seconds. It was minus-13 that day and the wind-chill factor was estimated at minus-48.

Now or Later

Here is another great reminder from an Old Testament passage that we should not make our focus on the stuff of this life. I'm hoping to discuss the destination vs. the journey in my next "Get Saved or Get Lost!" post, but for now I'll leave you with this passage from my devotions today...

Psalm 17:13 Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,
14 from men by your hand, O Lord,
from men of the world whose portion is in this life. (Now)
You fill their womb with treasure;
they are satisfied with children,
and they leave their abundance to their infants.

15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Later)

David says that the wicked find their portion in this life, but the righteous will awake to life forever with God.

Lord, please help me to put my focus on pleasing you in Christ that I may awake and be satisfied with your likeness.

Does God Still Speak Through Dreams?

Reading about Joseph in my devotions today brought about this question. Do you think God might still speak to us through our dreams?
Genesis 41:1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, 2 and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. 3 And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke.

Joseph interprets the baker and the butler's dreams. Then he interprets the Pharaoh's dreams. God uses this to carry out His redemptive purposes. I just wonder if He may do this today on a personal level. I'm not saying we should add anything to God's word, absolutely not! But I still wonder if God doesn't use our dreams to guide us or to encourage or exhort us. I know I felt that God used my dream the other day to admonish my laxity of spiritual care over some people in my life.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Links of the Week

I sometimes find interesting posts, but don't necessarily want to comment on them. So for this week, here are some of the articles that caught my eye...
  1. Jon Cannon is doing a series on Fasting.
  2. I'm really enjoying McKnight's Series on the Kingdom.
  3. Quote of the Week. This is a really good one.
  4. There are less abortions, but look at the number that are still being performed.
  5. Anybody rent a video from iTunes yet? I'm thinking about renting Glory Road.
  6. Illini finally get a win!
  7. Ron Hunter shares a testimony to the power of music. (Well at least the power of a good jingle.)

Friday is for Photos - Frosty January Morning

Frosty January Morning or A Bunch of Limbs with a Fence
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)


I went out and shot this picture last Saturday morning. I've been by this spot before with snow, and even with a thicker frost. I think this time I got there just a little late and was hoping the sun would have been just a little lower. This picture is a hard call for me. When I first looked at it, all I saw was a dark fence and a bunch of tree limbs. But the more I looked at it, the more I liked the shadows on the posts and just the lighting of the whole picture.

What do you think? A beautiful capture of a January morning or just a fence with some tree limbs? I'm not sure just what I think of it myself.

Words Matter

Matthew 12
___________________________________

This passage reminded me to be careful even when blogging. Words Matter.

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Lord, help me to always cling to you and your righteousness. Help me to not forget those around me who are seeking you and in need of your deliverance. Help me to choose my words carefully.

Even Heroes Need Grace

Gen. 38
___________________________________

Sometimes I forget how messed up some of my Old Testament heroes really were. When I hear the name Judah I think about the "Lion of Judah." I imagine Judah as a strong leader, a good speaker, and a man of integrity. But he made his fair share of mistakes...

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” 18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him.

He is at least honest enough to admit that Tamar was more righteous than he was. And he does not take her life. But this reminds me again that we are all marred and in need of grace.

Strange Dreams...

I am still enjoying reading through the Bible in one year using the ESV feed. There was a lot to think about as I read today...

Gen. 37
___________________________________

Joseph had some pretty strange dreams, but he was very bold to speak about them. I had a strange dream last night, but it has really stuck with me. I dreamed that I was a teenager again, and I was swimming with some other guys and one of them got trapped under the water. Before I could help him another boy was hurt and I forgot about the first boy. Eventually, someone hit the boy who was under the water while they were swimming and came to his rescue. (I know - how did he survive? I dont' know - but in my dream he did.) He was freezing and in shock and eventually he came back around.

This kinda hit me to the heart. How many times is someone around me going under spiritually and at first I am concerned, but then something else distracts me and I forget to consider them in prayer or service. I wonder if the Lord wasn't reminding me to pay attention.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Desire Mercy

I love these words. I desire mercy, not sacrifice. They showed up in my Bible reading again today. In Matthew 9, Jesus says go and learn what this means. In Matthew 12 in dealing with the Sabbath Jesus says, "if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless."

So what do you think this means?

Here's a post I did on the Matthew 9 passage almost 1 year ago.

What a Way to Go!

From my devotions this morning:
Gen 35:29 And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
I love how this is worded. This is the statement of a life lived to the glory of God. One of these days I'll try to share about some of the people in my life who were "gathered to their people, old and full of days."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Get Saved or Get Lost!

What does it mean to "Get Saved?"

I don't know how this is going to go, but I'm going to do a few posts on the nature of salvation. This is much heavier post than a cool video clip or the latest music review, but I hope you'll jump in with me on this one.

(If you want something to get your mind running before you take the plunge, take a look at Rob Bell's Nature of Salvation Part 1 & Part 2 as blogged by Soul Renovatus.)

I read an article today about a funeral message that was troubling to me. I'll try to deal with this in more detail with another post. But for now let me just say that this started my mind on this whole idea of the nature of salvation.

I am beginning to think that the way the church looks at salvation is changing. In my early experience salvation was mainly about "getting saved." On the surface this was the idea that you made a mental affirmation to the facts of the gospel and if you believed they were true, repented of you sins, said some sort of prayer, then you would go to heaven when you die.

Some people added things to this idea. If you cussed, or drank, or did some terrible sin and you died without asking forgiveness, then you would be lost. Or on the flip side, you needed to do good deeds, read your Bible, come to church, give, pray etc... in order to maintain God's favor and your hope of heaven.

Mr. Forlines, one of my favorite college professors, had a term for this. He called it "Cheap Easy Believism." Fill out the card, come to the altar, say the prayer, or get dunked under the water, it basically reduced salvation to a formula.

Other people in my life soon taught me that doing good deeds had nothing to do with maintaining God's favor or your entrance into heaven. They knew that there was more than this, they knew this had to be accompanied by significant change - regeneration. These things were secured by Christ and the grace of God, not by any effort on our part.

So how do we prevent people from trusting the "steps" to salvation instead of trusting the Savior? An even more basic question would be, "are there 'steps' ?" Can you "get saved" if you don't say the sinners prayer? What if you don't confess your sins? What if you don't walk down the Romans Road? In the next post I'll explore these questions.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Afraid.

Why are we so afraid?
  • Afraid of what people think?
  • Afraid of what someone may say?
  • Afraid of failure?
  • Afraid of death?
  • Afraid of doing the right thing? Afraid of doing the wrong thing?
  • Afraid of who we really are inside?
We should be afraid. But only of God.
Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Lord, please help me to fear you and you alone.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Music Tuesday - John Waller

This week, I'm not reviewing an album, but one song that I really enjoy. The song is "The Blessing" by John Waller. I believe this song had some radio airplay, but I actually first heard it on youtube. You can check out the song on Rhapsody - remember you get 25 free plays per month.

I first found this song while doing some research for the Bless Back Series. It was very moving, the idea that we can choose blessing or cursing. Let us choose life. Let us choose blessing. Not a choice to be blessed, but to bless others.

The Scripture is Deuteronomy 30:19...


This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I also like hearing Mark Hall's voice from Casting Crowns on this recording as well.

Here is the video clip from youtube:



Tuesday Giveaway: Even though we didn't have a ton of traffic for the first giveaway - I'm still going to do some giveaways for a while. So the first person to respond with an email asking for "The Blessing" will get the song free from iTunes. I'll list the winner below as soon as we have one.

Winner: Shane. Congratulations!


Sunday Setlist from Calvary:
Great & Mighty/What A Mighty God We Serve
Everlasting God
How Great Thou Art
Jesus Paid It All

P.S.
Tim - I never heard back from you last week. Please send me an email so that I can send you your free song from Shane and Shane "Pages." Thanks!

A Little More REVEALing

I've been reading some other blogs as they discuss Willow Creek's Reveal. You can read my earlier article if you want to catch up. I want to make sure this doesn't come across as some small church pastor complaining about the big church. When I saw the Reveal video clips I was intrigued. They are wanting to measure spiritual growth.

When I worked in the local school system it was very clear that you tested/evaluated the things that were the most important. If you knew the State Board of Education was going to hold you accountable for writing a certain way, then you spent considerable time on learning and quizzing and testing on how to write that way.

If we want to see improvement in the area of spiritual growth, then it makes sense to evaluate and hold people accountable in this area. I felt that the REVEAL study was working towards this goal. We are even considering conducting a spiritual life survey in our own church for a couple of reasons:

1. We want people to think about their relationship with Christ. We want them to take a heartfelt look at their life and see if it measures up to what God would want it to be.

2. We (the leaders of the church) want to know where people in our church perceive they are in their journey with the Lord. Are people hungry and thirsty for righteousness, or are they just going through the motions?

Because we think there is value in these things, and because Willow Creek has some incredible resources at their disposal, we are following they transformation they are hoping to accomplish. While trying to get a grasp on some of these ideas, I ran over a couple of other blogs dealing with similar issues.

Today I ran across an article discussing Reveal more from the sociological standpoint.
Technically, REVEAL used a cross-sectional survey with no comparison group and no randomization. This means they surveyed people once during a given period of time—it's like taking a snapshot of a group of people. It’s the tongue depressor of survey methodology—a good place to start, but not a very powerful tool. While this type of survey does a good job in describing peoples’ characteristics, it doesn’t explain them. It describes “what” but doesn’t explain “why.” Findings from this type of survey are open to multiple interpretations, and the data themselves can’t distinguish the correct one.

Over at 9Marks at the Church Matters Blog, Jonathon Leeman has been during a series on REVEAL and he has some good insights. I would recommend it to anyone who is following the whole REVEAL discussion. Here's a quote:
It’s simply Willow’s way of going about this that I question. Somewhere there is a line between the person, politician, or pastor who leads by taking polls and the person, politician, or pastor who leads by principle yet knows how to ask for feedback. Somewhere there’s a line between being a Jew to the Jew or Gentile to the Gentile and letting the Jew or Gentile tell you how to be the church. Where’s that line? I’m not sure, but will viewing attitudes, emotions, and motivations in precisely the same fashion that Starbucks, Nike, and Fisher Price view them help us to find it? Will adopting the supply/demand mindset of the market help us to find it?

This discussion brings me back to the discussion "is the church an organization or organism." How much effort does the local church put into becoming an efficient and excellent organization/business. And how much effort does the church focus on preaching, praying and leading by principle. Where is the balance?

All comments welcome.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Shock and Awe

I love this story from Matthew 9...

9:1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?


Here's the SHOCK...
6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home.

And here is the AWE...

8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Get Smart.

One of my favorite statements about Job is that he feared the Lord and shunned evil. He was truly "smart." From my reading for today...
Proverbs 3:7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Lord, help me to shut up sometimes. Help me to fear you and you alone. Help me to love what you love and hate what you hate.

The Kingdom of God vs. the Church

What exactly is the Kingdom of God? How is that different from the church?

From Easton's Online Bible Dictionary...

Kingdom of God
(Matthew 6:33; Mark 1:14, 15; Luke 4:43) = "kingdom of Christ" (Matthew 13:41; 20:21) = "kingdom of Christ and of God" (Ephesians 5:5) = "kingdom of David" (Mark 11:10) = "the kingdom" (Matthew 8:12; 13:19) = "kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 13:41), all denote the same thing under different aspects, viz.: (1) Christ's mediatorial authority, or his rule on the earth; (2) the blessings and advantages of all kinds that flow from this rule; (3) the subjects of this kingdom taken collectively, or the Church.

Church (more)
Derived probably from the Greek kuriakon (i.e., "the Lord's house"), which was used by ancient authors for the place of worship.
In the New Testament it is the translation of the Greek word ecclesia, which is synonymous with the Hebrew kahal of the Old Testament, both words meaning simply an assembly, the character of which can only be known from the connection in which the word is found. There is no clear instance of its being used for a place of meeting or of worship, although in post-apostolic times it early received this meaning. Nor is this word ever used to denote the inhabitants of a country united in the same profession, as when we say the "Church of England," the "Church of Scotland," etc.


Right now over at Jesus Creed, McKnight has an excellent series on the topic of the Kingdom. You might want to check it out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Friday is for Photos - A Little Fire

This time of year a little fire goes along way...
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)




I took this picture while attending a friend's graduation party. We were sitting outside and the fire looked so inviting. I love the glowing embers and the color of the flame. Maybe this will warm you up on this cold January Friday!

Singing with Your Eyes Closed

I thought this article was good. No comments, just a link...

http://www.worshipmatters.com/2007/12/addressing-one-another-in-psalms-hymns-and-spiritual-songs/

My Opinion or God's Will?

I'm really enjoying reading through the Bible in one year through the RSS feed. Right now it combines a couple chapters of Genesis with one from Matthew, a Psalm and some Proverbs. It's amazing how almost each day there will be a theme between different parts of the scripture. It's almost like they were written by the same author. ;)

In today's reading, we see that Abraham's servant has gone to get a wife for Isaac. His prayers are answered. I love the response from Rebekah's Father...
Gen 24:50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master's son, as the Lord has spoken.”

It's almost as if he's saying - "It really doesn't matter what we think, it is God's will that she go with you so who are we to interfere with what the Lord desires." I think that is an attitude to emulate. "It doesn't really matter what I think, what does God want?"

And then continuing the theme we have those fantastic verses about the Lord's will from Proverbs 3...
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,and do not lean on your own understanding.6 In all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make straight your paths.

Lord, help me to desire your will above all things.

Who's Paying?

We've all been there...the awkard moment when you and a friend have gone out to dinner and the waitress says, "Will that be one check or two?" Do you pay? Do you graciously let your friend pay? Are you being rude by not answering, "two please!" I hate those situations.

I think I found a similar situation in my reading from today...

Genesis 23:10 Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city, 11 “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the sight of the sons of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead.” 12 Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. 13 And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, “But if you will, hear me: I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.” 14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.” 16 Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.

Ephron is basically saying it is really a small amount between two wealthy people. And it is not nearly as important as Abraham having a special place to bury his wife. Ephron gives a reasonable amount. And Abraham doesn't hesitate to pay. In this case it seems to me that Ephron is being gracious by saying it really doesn't matter, and Abraham is being appreciative by paying the reasonable price.

I guess the moral of the story for me is - Always be generous whenever you have the opportunity. Be generous on every occasion. That sounds like a scripture!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

You Can't Even Give Away This Stuff

I was really excited about my post on Tuesday, and I thought for sure as soon as I posted that I'd have people lining up to get a song for free. (By the way, if anyone else wants to try something like this sometime let me know - I love getting free music.)

But that hasn't happened. As a matter a fact - I've only given away one song, and mainly gave that one away, I think because one of my friends was "taking care of the preacher."

So either...
  1. People don't care much for Shane and Shane - which is hard for me to believe. But you know how it is -- something you think is fabulous, someone else may not care for at all.
  2. People don't like iTunes all that much. It's great if you have an iPod, but how many rich snobs get to own one of those? Sorry, Tia, Corey, Brooklyn, and any other rich snobs I may have just offended. :)
  3. Nobody is reading this blog. If a blogger posts in a forest and no one is around to read it... well you get the idea.
My guess is it's probably number 3. There's not a ton of you out there reading this blog, but I'm working on improving things. Hopefully this will get better.

By the way - I still have 2 songs left to giveaway. So if you are a tree in the forest, give me a holler, I'll try to find something on the Shane and Shane album that you like.

Protecting Us From Ourselves

I'm just amazed at the grace of God, that he would protect us as he does even when we are unaware.

I love this story in Genesis 20. Abraham is once again "hiding his wife" by calling her his sister. The king Abimelech is taking her as his wife. (She must have been some looker, this happened more than once.) When the king finds out what has happened he fears the Lord and fears for his life and the life of his people. But notice the response from the Lord...

Genesis 20:4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

God honored the king for his motive. He was doing the wrong thing, but he was unaware and in grace God prevented the King from sin.

Lord, thank you for looking out for us, even when we don't know it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Music Tuesday - Shane and Shane

This Tuesday I'm not cheating, I actually bought Shane and Shane's Pages Special Edition album. If you want to listen - you can listen to 25 songs in one month for free on Rhapsody.com You can find the Pages CD here.

So far my favorite songs are the 3 acoustic songs at the end of the Album.
  • Before the Throne of God - An awesome hymn with incredible lyrics. They add a chorus to it that just rings and makes you want to praise the Lord at the top of your lungs.

  • We Love You Jesus - I love the intro to this song. This is the kind of song you just need to roll your windows down, turn up the volume and let the whole world know you love the Lord.

  • Beg - The reason why I bought the album. This song is a cry for God to break into to our lives and to push aside the sweet frames and make us totally dependent upon Him. It's also known by the name - I bake for you to moo...




So here's my Tuesday surprise. The first 3 people to email me, (first come first serve) I'll send you one of the songs off of this album that you choose through an iTunes gift. If you don't use iTunes this probably won't do you much good. In the email subject type "Shane and Shane Music Giveaway." Then in the body, just let me know which song you want. I'll reply to the winners letting them know they will be receiving the iTunes gift song. Below I will post the first name of the winners so if there are 3 names there you'll know that all the music is gone.

Winners:
1. Tia
2. Tim
3. Scott

Sunday Morning Setlist from Calvary:

This is the Day/I Will Call Upon the Lord
Victory in Jesus
All in All
I Love You Lord / My Jesus I Love Thee

Chasing God

The theme for our church this year is Chasing God. In my devotions today I read this from Proverbs 2
2:1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

I'm not sure there are any better verses that would explain the idea of Chasing God.

Lord, guide us to your silver and your gold that we would understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Anyone following Reveal?

A few months ago I stumbled across the Reveal website. I found it intriguing that Willow Creek was re-evaluating their "model" of doing church. They have found some very interesting patterns in their church and many others. I'm sure I'm over-simplifying but they found that the church was working pretty good for those just coming to Christ, but it wasn't working well for the more "mature" believers.

It appears that the more someone was practicing spiritual disciplines and portraying a close walk with Christ, the less value they found in their local church. It also appears that the church was creating a lot of Christ followers who were dependent upon the church for their growth. Instead they would like to see Christians who were growing on their own. Hybels coined a term "self-feeders" that seems to have gained some traction.

I really liked the idea of measuring the Church's "success" by trying to measure Spiritual Growth. I don't know if you can measure spiritual growth, but it makes more sense to me than always measuring effectiveness by attendance to services and programs.

This week I found the blog of David Fitch. I must say, most of what he writes is really resonating with me. He has written a few articles about REVEAL. They make a lot of sense to me. I found this post to be tremendously thought provoking.

I also really liked his post about Evangelism or Witness - Why Character Matters. Here's a quote from his article...

I've been ruminating about this for a few weeks because I am in the middle of a writing project that describes how "the kinds of people we are" is absolutely essential for our witness. More than anything else (I argue), it is the kind of character we exhibit in our lives in everyday life before the hurting, downtrodden and lost that God shall inhabit to spread the good news. This is more than individual character; it is the character we exhibit as a people together and in the world.

If this is true, pastors must guide their churches differently. For our focus can not be lazered upon organizing for numbers, the production of "decisions for Christ," programs to entertain children in the hopes they will want to be Christians because its cool. Instead, we must organize with the purpose of discipleship, spiritual formation into Christ. For it will be out of this that His Mission shall flow with such integrity it cannot be stopped. And we will not have the time or concern to count numbers and/or decisions.


I don't know much about Mr. Fitch yet, but I'm going to be following his blog.

On the flip side, Scot Mcknight - the busiest blogger on the planet - (and one of my favorites) who attends Willow Creek has an article on Reveal as well. I look forward to this conversation as it continues.

I am thankful for Hybels and Willow and what they bring to the table for evangelism. I'm sure I'll be revisiting this topic in the future. For now it looks like I have a lot of reading and thinking to do.

Dude, He brought zie pie.

We started our series on money and stewardship today. The basic idea we wanted to convey was that everything belongs to God.

We found a great video clip that really carries this idea. You can see the video clip of God Pie on youtube or click below

It Never Gets Old...

Tonight we looked at the Church of Laodicea. They thought they were rich and self-sufficient, but the Lord saw them as blind, wretched, naked, and poor. Yet in the midst of their lukewarmness, he calls to them.
Revelation 20:3 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

It never gets old. I don't understand the grace of Jesus. But even when we are far from Him, He comes knocking. He comes to us. He desires to be with us. It is unfathomable to me. The Lord of all the universe, wants me to eat with him.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Good Advice or the Power of God?

We had good discussion this past Wednesday night about the gospel. Here's a quote from Leon Morris...

"The Gospel is not advice to people suggesting they lift themselves. It is power. It lifts them up."

This is the greatest need of the American Church. We must once again see the power of the gospel. We don't need to just tell people how they can have a better marriage or be debt free or how to lose 10 pounds. We need to clearly proclaim the GOSPEL. When the gospel begins it's work on you, it will transform these other areas, but it needs to do the transforming. We aren't just a spiritual version of Oprah or Dr. Phil. We are messengers sent to proclaim the greatest story ever told, a story with the power to change the world.

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Here's a good quote along the same idea from Jacob Riggs at afrayedknot...

Why do music and sermons only focus on “light” topics? Stop singing songs that don’t mean anything. Give us depth. Give us solid food. Give us historical context and exegetical sermons. Don’t give me three points and a poem. Stop worrying about if you’re going to step on my toes and give me the honest, pure word of God. Do this in the music, teaching, and preaching. It’s sometimes a really great thing if you’re blunt about where I’m really bad at life. That’s why I’m coming–to grow and change to be more like Christ. Don’t tell me I’m ok where I am. Yes, be encouraging, but be honest first.

Bless Back - Final Chapter

This challenge has been such a wonderful thing. I hope that everyone will continue with their acts of service even though our official challenge is over. Here's one more Bless Back story...

We put our $5.00 together and we got the $10.00 to grow to $150.00. We used the $150.00 to take a household that had almost no food enough food to last a month. I know people will wonder how $150.00 can possibly supply enough food for a month for three people, but the Lord showed us wonderful ways to do just that. I think about it and I just am in awe of the Lord!

We are going to make this an every day thing and we are so blessed by this! What a wonderful idea! Every day is a happy day for us as we plan our next "blessed back"!

Friday is for Photos

Standing out in the crowd...
(Click on the Picture to see a higher resolution image)


This picture isn't a technical masterpiece. It's a little blurry. The distance is a bit too much. The pose isn't the best. But it's one of the most exciting pictures I have ever taken. And I took it just a few hours ago.

I was taking my son to a basketball game near Centralia, IL and on the way we passed what I thought were 3 lawn ornaments--two normal whitetails and one whitetail painted all white. As we passed the row of trees, on the other side we saw more "lawn ornaments" and we realized that these deer were real. I couldn't believe it - we saw an Albino Whitetail in the wild.

I had my camera with me to shoot my son's ballgame. I walked slowly up by the deer. And started snapping. I just couldn't believe I was getting a picture of this. Later on, I spoke with some of the parents working the ballgame and found out that this deer actually is seen around these parts quite often. The kids at Willow Grove School have named the deer "Snowball."

I have made a little gallery on my website if you want to see more pics or if you want to see the originals. Anybody else seen a whitetail in the wild?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Random thoughts from Thursday's Bible Reading

I really enjoy getting my Bible readings through RSS. Here are some thoughts on today's reading.

Gen 5:24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
  • God took him. Can you imagine? One day God is walking with you at your place, the next day you are walking with Him at His. Oh, to be as close to God as Enoch was.


Gen 6:9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

  • "Blameless in his generation" - Noah stood out. In the midst of extreme wickedness, Noah was without blame. Another great example for all of us to follow.

Gen 6:22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
  • This is what I have always loved about Noah. The whole world may have been calling him a crazed lunatic. He did what God commanded. That is the essence of faith. Obedience to God's word.

Matthew 4:4 “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
  • I constantly need this reminder. I will not be nourished unless I have the words of God. Lord, help me to be hungry and thirsty for your righteousness and your word.

Proverbs 1:17 For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird,18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood;they set an ambush for their own lives.19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.
  • Who says the Bible isn't relevant? It seems these days everyone wants to get rich quick. And some are willing to cut ethical corners to do it. But people who take this route are taking their own lives. Their lives are being wasted on their hunger for things.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Why God Doesn't Need Your Excellence...

Thanks to Out of Ur for pointing to this article "Recovering from Excellence" by Dan Schantz. This has been an ongoing discussion in some of our Wednesday Night Studies. Here's an excerpt...

Nowhere did Jesus emphasize having fine things as the mark of superiority. Never did he say to his disciples, “OK, guys, we are going to cross the Sea of Galilee today, but no more fishing trawlers for us. We will take the yacht, the one with Stormtrack Radar and onboard theater, so we can catch the game between the Nazarenes and the Samaritans.”

What is excellence as it relates to the local church? Do we always have to be bigger and more expensive to be "excellent." One church this year spent over $1 million on it's Christmas pageant. That may have been a small portion of their budget. Maybe they felt it would lead many to Christ. Maybe they just thought God was worthy of the best Christmas show they could give. But if big and expensive is what is meant by "excellence," then that means about 99% of churches are failing when it comes to excellence.

Before you call me Judas complaining about the alabaster being spent and spilt on the Lord, let me state that I don't have a problem with spending money. Ask my wife! It takes money and sometimes lots of it to do what God desires of us. And lavishing gifts to the Lord is the most worthy thing we can do. The motive is so important here. (See this quote from Furtick) But I'd say God is much more concerned about "keep my commandments" than whether we have the best pyrotechnic show around.

I think there is a healthy debate here. It's actually been around for a long time. Do we build the fancy Cathedral or give the money to missions? Or are we doing missions by building the fancy Cathedral? Believe me I wrestle with similar questions all the time.

We only have so much time and so many resources. How do we use them? If I'm an excellent father, does that mean that I'll be a poor pastor or vice versa? What we need is discernment to use ALL of the resources that God gives us in a way that is pleasing to Him.

If excellence means a slick Sunday morning production designed to impress, God doesn't need it. It is the power of the Gospel that changes lives, not the fancy lighting.

Before the lighting people send me mail, I think this is all about the motive. In our own church we use transitions, practiced musicians - at least most of the time - and we have a planned service. Where I battle, and why I wanted to write this article was because sometimes I fall into the "excellence" trap.

Thanks to Dan Schantz for reminding me that it's not all about excellence.

It's really about faithfulness.

Angry with Evil

Do you ever get angry when something bad happens to someone else? Trust me, I've made plenty of my own messes and have caused others heartache. Sometimes I have been the cause. But as I was reading for my devotions today, I was reminded of other's heartache.

Matthew 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Can you imagine the pain of those mothers and fathers in Bethlehem?

Evil makes me angry.

Just this week I read about the killings of refugees hiding in a church in Kenya. I just don't understand why people would kill their own. And I really don't understand the killing of children. But today my reading also covered Genesis and I was reminded that the killing and evil began a long time ago.

These kinds of things increase my desire to see God's kingdom come. Some day the Judge will bring justice. I'm looking forward to that day. But for now, I'm thankful for His grace.

Grace has been around a long time too...
25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed [14] for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Lord, forgive me for the evil that I have participated in. Please help me to hunger and thirst for your righteousness and your kingdom. Thank you for your grace.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

In His Image

What makes us different? What makes us special? We are created in the image of the Almighty. Every time I hear this or read this, I'm just blown away. I am created in God's image.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

When you get upset or angry with someone, remember this passage. When you are about to give up on someone remember this thought. They are made in the image of God.