September 28, 2012

Pray

I think God wants me to pray.

I could have known this when Jesus told the parable about how we "ought always to pray and never lose heart."  Or what about when Paul says that we should "pray without ceasing."

I could have picked it up from Paul as he was giving young Timothy some teaching about how we should be making all sorts of prayers for all sorts of people.  He later tells Timothy that the men (especially) should pray everywhere.

I could have learned it from any of those passages, or a dozen others like them, but I didn't.  I learn most everything the hard way.  Through trials.

It is through difficulties and challenges that I turn to God most diligently.  I wish it wasn't so... I really do, but I know that it is.

Life has been fairly smooth for awhile now, but God has recently allowed me to face a couple of minor challenges.  These things have left me realizing, more than ever, the necessity of prayer in the Christian's life.  It is so important that John Bunyan said, "If thou art not a praying man, thou art not a Christian."

So, I have been praying.  Praying more than ever.  Getting up early to pray. Turning my headphones off while I am running, so I can pray.  Praying on the bus in the morning.  Praying on my walk to school.  Praying during the day for the kids.

I have been reading books on prayer and prayer books.  Anything I can do to assist my growth in prayer.

This morning, after the bus dropped me off and I was heading to school, I was praying while I was walking.  It lasted for a few moments, then I started to get distracted.  Just as my mind was leaving that state of prayer, I looked up and saw this sight.


Like I said, I could have known the importance of prayer from many different sources.  In the end though, God is graciously bringing these reminders into my life.  And I praise him for it.

If you are not a praying person, then I challenge you to be.  Get on your knees this week.  Pray.  Cry out to God.  Pray for your family and your friends.  Get a prayer book and pray through those prayers.  Pray through the Psalms.  Write your own prayers. Just Pray.



September 27, 2012

Post Number 1501

This is blog post number One Thousand Five Hundred One.

I didn't realize I had posted so many times to this blog.  I started this blog September 2003, which means I have blogged, somewhat consistently for 9 years.  I can't even believe that blogging has been around that long.  It still seems like such a new thing to me.

While I've been on this blog, I've lived in Indiana, South Carolina, and Illinois.

I've taught at Faith Baptist Christian School of Lafayette, IN, Shannon Forest Christian School in Greenville, SC, Mauldin High School in Mauldin, SC, Blue Ridge Christian Academy in Landrum, SC, and Georgetown Ridge Farm High School and Mary Miller Junior High in Georgetown, IL.

In addition to teaching, I've been a truck driver at three different moving companies.  I've traveled as far north as Connecticut and as far south as Miami.  I've also been a janitor and a pastor (which are surprisingly  similar) since I started blogging.  I've made good money, bad money and no money.

I've seen my children go from tiny to one of them being as tall as me.  We've encountered black widow spiders, scorpions, and poisonous snakes.  One of my children had an encounter with a small hatchet.  Shortly after that I had an encounter with a sharp piece of metal.

I've seen my wife suffer through the loss of two babies.

I've owned and sold hairless cats.  I had a dog and had to give up that dog.

I've lived in 7 different houses since I started this blog.  I've owned a few different vehicles and had to repair more than one of them.  I've blogged about replacing the fuel pump in the same vehicle on two different occasions.

This blog started at a time when my marriage was barely hanging on.  Since then, I've seen our marriage grow to a deeper depth of love and commitment than I knew existed when I typed my first post.

I had just turned 31 when I started blogging.  Now I am 40 years old and have high cholesterol.

If I was really an ambitious blogger, I would put links up for each of these stories.  But I am not an ambitious blogger, I just like to get on here when it crosses my mind or when I finish a book.

Two other bloggers that I started following from the very beginning and have kept up with since then are Rodney Olsen and Rick Boyne, both brothers in Christ.  I appreciate both of their blogs and always enjoy reading what is going on in their lives.

Well, there it is.  One Thousand Five Hundred One posts.

September 19, 2012

Psalm 27 as a Prayer for my Church


This is a prayer for Edgewood Baptist Church, that was adapted from Psalm 27.  Feel free to pray this for us or for your own Church.

The Lord is our Light and our Salvation.
Who or what is there that we would fear?
The Lord is the Stronghold of Edgewood Baptist Church.
Is there anyone or anything that could cause us to be afraid?
When Satan tries to discourage us.
because of his desire to consume this Church,
He may bring all manner of enemy against us.
So much so that it will feel like an army in battle array against this Church.
But We will be confident!
And our hearts will not fear! 
There is one thing that we are asking of you, Lord.
Just one thing that we are seeking after.
Our desire is your presence in this Church.
We pray that this will truly be the house of the Lord,
That we may live in your presence, not just today, but every day.
We don’t want to miss your beauty
or the beauty of your Gospel!
May we come here to gaze upon it all the days of our lives. 
When days of trouble come, we know that safety is with You.
We run to you for shelter, comfort, and a firm place to stand.
Now Lord, we will lift up our heads to you.
Our sacrifice to you will be done with shouts of joy!
We will sing praises to you and mean it! 
Please hear us Lord as we pray... As we cry aloud!
In your grace, Lord, will you answer the prayers of this Church?
You have said, “Seek my face.” 
In obedience, We are answering this call.
Lord, Our heart is saying to you, “Your face, Lord, We will seek!
As we do this, Lord, do not hide your face from Edgewood Baptist Church. 
Maybe you've been angry with one or all of us.
Lord, Please don’t turn away from this Church in Anger.
You have been our help.
We have turned to you again and again.
Lord, Please do not cast This Church to the side.
Please don’t forsake us. 
David cries, “O God of my salvation!”
That is what you are to Edgewood. Our Salvation.
And we would seek salvation in no other!
There have been so many that have forsaken us.
But the Lord will absolutely take us in! 
Teach Edgewood your Way.
Show us the level path.
The Enemy would have us go astray
He will speak lies to us, discouraging us.
Help us to stay on the right path. 
We believe that we will look on the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living. 
We will wait for the Lord.
We will be strong.
Our hearts will be courageous.
And We will wait for the Lord.

September 15, 2012

The Hole in our Holiness - Book Review

I just finished the Christian Audio version of The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung and read by Adam Verner. The full title of the book is The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness.

The Amazon.com Description:
The “hole in our holiness” is that evangelicals don’t look particularly holy, and, despite the flood of gospel-centered discussions, there seems to be a greater focus on personal depravity than on the pursuit of holiness. Looking to right the balances, Kevin DeYoung presents a popular-level treatment of sanctification and union with Christ, helping readers to see what matters most—being like Jesus. He shows how one can be like Christ in being joined to Christ. The market is ready for DeYoung’s timely book, ready to avoid legalism and ambivalence, and they are ready for someone to articulate the inextricable relationship between grace and holiness.
I absolutely agree with the basis of this book. In my own circles of friendships and acquaintances, I have seen this consistent slide towards a relaxed view of holiness.  With many it has even been a, "We can continue in sin so grace may abound!" sort of view.  Though most wouldn't admit this truth, their lives proclaim it day by day.

I have seen this tendency in my own life as well.  The "big-bad" sins are gone, but those lingering ones tend to remain for a long time.  It has been through great conviction, and some trials and tribulations, that God has begun to work those out of my life as well.  It has now moved to the forefront of my mind that this is essential to all Christians.  And the critical nature of personal holiness has also shown itself in my study of Ephesians at Edgewood.

The thing that I really enjoyed about this book, that moved it up to an "excellent" number of stars on my ratings, is that it is full (to the brim) with scripture.  And not just references, I love it when an author includes whole verses and passages of scripture in their book.  It isn't just "filler" for a book, it becomes the book's spinal cord.

I also appreciated how Kevin DeYoung starts by showing us the "why" of holiness, but he also tells us the "how" from more than one perspective.  There were huge applicational points throughout the book, but he really zoned in on the marriage between God and his Grace in Jesus Christ and the effort that is exerted in a pursuit of holiness.

I highly recommend this book.  I really enjoyed the voice talent as well.  Adam Verner was a new name for me, but he really reminded me of the times that I have heard Kevin DeYoung speak.  There was such a personal feel to the reading that I thought that it was actually the author reading the book through most of it.

Check out the links above to go to Amazon, or go the the Christian Audio site to purchase this book.

September 11, 2012

New York City From Space on September 11, 2001


This image is from NASA's Image of the Day website.  Here is part of the description:
Visible from space, a smoke plume rises from the Manhattan area after two planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center. This photo was taken of metropolitan New York City (and other parts of New York as well as New Jersey) the morning of September 11, 2001.
Click on through to read the rest.  click here

September 10, 2012

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church - Book Review

Earlier in the year our church covered the book What is a Healthy Church?  The longer version of that material is found the the book called the Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. To prepare for the Wednesday night teaching, I read through this book to help me prepare.

I was drawn to this book because I am the Pastor at a very small church.  And when you are the pastor of a very small church, you find yourself constantly questioning your own abilities and measuring your effectiveness by the number of people in the room.  I mean, surely if I was doing what God wanted me to do, then this church would grow... Right?

Wrong.

There are many cases in the Bible of Men doing exactly what God wanted them to do, and their lives weren't marked by popular success.  Noah didn't have one convert believe in his message of judgment.  Isaiah's message was that people weren't going to believe it.  And Jesus was eventually abandoned by all of his followers and crucified.

So, I needed another way to evaluate our church.  I had been reading the Nine Marks blog for a little while, so I decided to grab this book from Amazon and give it a read. I then grabbed the down-sized version and used it during our Wednesday night teaching time.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it and we walked away with some changes that need to be made and some confidence that we are doing some things right.

The Nine Marks are:

  1. Expositional Preaching
  2. Biblical Theology
  3. Biblical Understanding of the Good News
  4. Biblical Understanding of Conversion
  5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
  6. Biblical Understanding of Church Membership
  7. Biblical Understanding of Church Discipline
  8. Biblical Understanding of Church Leadership
  9. Concern for Promoting Christian Discipleship and Growth
Though there are several other ways to evaluate your church, I found this one to be extremely helpful and essentially Biblical in nature.  Even asking about being "healthy" instead of "successful" is such an important aspect.  I highly recommend this book, and encourage you to click the link above and start evaluating your church.


September 9, 2012

The Expository Genius of John Calvin - Book Review

About a month ago I finished reading The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven J. Lawson.  I had read another book about Calvin about a month before this, but I was especially intrigued by the focus of this book.  I was also intrigued by the low price when I purchased the Kindle edition.  (I think it was in the free section for about a week.)

Knowing that, it doesn't mean as much if I say that it was a worthwhile purchase.  Let's pretend that it was regular price at the time... "It was a worthwhile purchase!"  Did the pretending help?

OK, OK, let me just say that it was a really good book.  It was easy to read and covered aspects of Calvin's life and ministry that I hadn't heard of before.  I appreciated the examples that this book shared from different messages that Calvin preached.  The book was well researched and the examples demonstrated the points the author was making as to the methods of Calvin's sermons.

It was interesting to find out that he attempted to speak in such a way so that the common man could understand the message.  When he would quote other passages of scripture, he wouldn't always mention that it was a quote, quite often state a phrase or a portion to emphasize a point.  It was as if Scripture simply flowed from his lips.

I was also greatly encouraged to learn that the focus of Calvin's ministry was simply to "preach the word."  Change didn't come because he had political influence or even an office.  He was simply the pastor who held the belief in Scripture alone.  He faithfully preached his way through book after book of the Bible.  Many times picking up exactly where he had left off after an illness or even after the time he was run out of town, when he returned he started at the very passage in the book he had been preaching through.

The book ends with a plea for faithful preaching, voiced by stating, "We want again Calvins!"  C.H. Spurgeon said this of Calvin:
Among all those who have been born of women, there has not risen a greater than John Calvin; no age before him ever produced his equal, and no age afterwards has seen his rival.
At another time he said:
John Calvin propounded truth more clearly than any other man who ever breathed, knew more of Scripture, and explained it more clearly.
From the author:
We now stand in the twenty-first century, almost five hundred years removed from John Calvin's time, but we find ourselves in an equally critical hour of redemptive history. As the organized church was spiritually bankrupt at the outset of Calvin's day, so it is again in our time.  Certainly to judge by outward appearances, the evangelical church in this hour seems to be flourishing.  Megachurches are springing up everywhere. Christian contemporary music and publishing houses seem to be booming.  Men's rallies are packing large coliseums. Christian political groups are heard all the way to the White House.  Yet the evangelical church is largely a whitewashed tomb.  Tragically her outward facade masks her true internal condition.
Though I don't agree with that exactly, mostly because we forget to factor in the global church, I think the author might be dead on when it comes to the American Church.  More importantly, I believe that the remedy is not to be found in a program or a new Bible Study, but in the preaching of the Word.  I will close with one more quote of Spurgeon's that the author also chose to end with:
We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen's ears.  We have dire need of such.  Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the Church, and will come in due time... 
I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men's ears to hear it.  The moment the church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His churches.



September 6, 2012

In the news...

My family was featured in our local news paper, The Commercial News, over the summer.

I've hesitated mention this on the blog because it felt a little too much like self-promotion. I don't want to do things that make me look good.  I want to do things that make Christ look good.  When I originally said yes to this interview, I simply wanted the end result to lift up Christ.  When I first read the final result, I felt that, to some degree, that was accomplished. So, I am sharing this now for that same reason.

My secondary motivation for saying yes to the interview was the potential of getting the name of our church out there.  I love my church and I am totally content with the people who are there and completely satisfied with God having full control over the growth of this Church.  But I love people and I want them to come to our church!

I really believe that our core group of people at Edgewood Baptist Church have a genuine desire to do things God's way.  For the most part they are holding onto the things that matter and willing to change and adjust in other areas.  We just need some more people. So I hoped that the article might catch the eye of someone who might be hurting or struggling or maybe someone simply looking for a good church to attend.

If you haven't read the article, please read it and let me know what you think.

Pastor Fulfills Dream After Return to Danville

September 5, 2012

Officially an Old Guy

It happened in one week.

I've always felt like such a kid, and I've always felt like I was on the younger side of life.  But then in one week it all faded.

On Monday, August 27th, I turned 40.  That's a big number to an actual young person.  I'm sure I could ask some real old people and they would tell me, "... Aw!  You're just a young pup!"  I think their perspective is just a bit skewed though.

The 40 by itself wouldn't have done it, but at the end of the same week I received a prescription for cholesterol medication.  I've had high cholesterol for a while, and even though I've worked really hard at getting it down with diet and exercise... since I've done next to nothing to remedy the problem through diet and exercise, the doctor felt like it was necessary to put me on some meds.  It was really high though.  triglycerides through the roof.  My blood was basically lard.

So this double blow of oldness has hit me.  I am just glad that I still have my hair and my wits.