November 29, 2013

Temptation - Book Review

Temptation: Applying Radical Amputation to Life's Sinful Patterns by Jay Adams is a short book, only about 32 pages in length, and is part of a series of books providing Resources for Biblical Living.

Facing ongoing sin in one's life can be a troubling and frustrating part of Christian Living. I would doubt that there is a Christian out there that would honestly say that they haven't had struggles, or battles, with sin. In this book, Jay Adams begins by inviting the reader to consider sins in their own life that they may be struggling with, then he describes the two main tendencies offered in Christian circles on how to face sin.  These two options are: "(1) inaction on your part in lieu of contemplation and prayer; or (2) obedience to biblical commands that leads to growth."

Both of these methods, though often set as opposing methods, are actually missing the correct approach.  In other words, there are aspects of both that are true, but they must be taken together. I agree with this basic premise, true Biblical change is an absolute dependence on God, that we are working whole heartedly to accomplish. What many misunderstand in this is that since my sanctification (spiritual growth) is entirely dependant on God, then I can work with confidence!  Consider this passage of scripture:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV)
Can you see these two concepts working side by side?  It is not, "... God is doing his part and I am doing my part." Instead it is, "God is doing all of it so that I can do it!"

My issue, like most, is that instead of truly working, with the confidence that God is working, I want to gradually eliminate sin from my life when he calls me to stop sinning today.  This is where this little book is especially helpful. The main focus is on the concept of "radical amputation" which is pictured in Christ's teaching in Matthew 18 about the cutting off of hands and the poking out of eyes. What Jesus actually says is,
And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matthew 18:8-9, ESV)
Cutting off is so abrupt. It is so final. So much I want to hang on to the availability to sin in my attempt to stop sinning. I want to be gradual in the process. I don't want it to cost me very much.  That is not Jesus' approach. On this gradual walking away from sin, Jay Adams said something that was quite helpful in putting it into perspective:
"The proposal to 'wean' oneself from sin is as offensive as if one were to cut off a dog's tail, one thin slice at a time."
He goes on to say, in response to a Let God... mentality:
To many, the unbiblical (though seemingly spiritual) manner of putting off sin is to follow a quietistic course of action. In the final analysis -- without going into methods of various sorts -- what quietism is saying, 'God has promised to eliminate sin in my life, and only he can do so. I will therefore leave the matter in his hands. In his time, he will do so.' But this is nothing more than a pious cop-out. God has already told you the time -- it is now. The sin is to cease at once.
If you are struggling with sin in your life, then I want to recommend that you get this book. It is direct and to the point, which is what those who are in sin are needing and wanting to hear.

(This book was provided by NetGalley.com for reviewing purposes.)

November 26, 2013

Free Advent Ebook

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/good-news-of-great-joy-daily-readings-for-advent
Desiring God is offering their Advent Ebook for free again this year.  The title of the book is Good News of Great Joy.  According to the Desiring God website:
A year ago, the team here at Desiring God did a deep dive into our thirty-plus-year reservoir of sermons and articles, and selected brief devotional readings for each day of Advent. Now we’ve slightly revised the ebook to have it optimized for 2013. Our hope is that God would use these readings to deepen and sweeten your adoration of Jesus this Advent.
It goes on to say:
Many contacted last year to ask for permission to print these devotionals not only for private use, but to share with friends and family — even their whole local congregation. We love that impulse to spread the joy, and gladly encourage you do so. Also, to serve as many as we can, we’ve worked with Amazon to make available a quality paperback version at low cost, in case that’s your preferred format.

You can go to Amazon right now for the discounted ebook version:
Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent

Or you can go to the desiring God website for the Kindle Version, the ePub version or the pdf.
Good News of Great Joy

I have also made a pdf of their pdf to make it easier to print as a booklet.
Booklet Form

Since permission has been given to print this, I think that I am going to print some of these up for my church and try to get everyone to read it together.

November 25, 2013

I am a Church Member - Book Review

I wanted to listen to I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference by Thomas Rainer, because I was looking for a book that might be of assistance to those people that are new to our Church, but also new to church in-general.  I thought about picking up the Kindle Version, but when I saw this book on Christian Audio, I decided to go ahead and pick it up.  Listening to audiobooks on my ride to work and while I am working out, has been very beneficial.

Basically this book breaks down a few basic elements of Biblical Church membership. The author speaks as a Pastor (and the member of a church). He shares different stories with each chapter, and then builds a Biblical basis for the point of understanding Biblical Church Membership. I appreciate that the points, though they include the stories and personal experiences, are not built on these accounts. The principles are built on scripture, the other elements are just there to assist in illustrating different aspects of these principles.

At the end of each chapter, he restates the principle in the form of a commitment that a person could state as a promise to others in the church.  There is a huge benefit here, because it draws people in for the application of the Biblical truth they just read/listened to.  It is also a fairly short book. the audio chapters are only about 15 minutes long, and there are only about 6 chapters. I am considering looking for a package deal of these in paperback for the church. I will at least get one for myself to draw from as new people continue to come to Edgewood.

If you are looking for a great way to help new members understand what they are "getting themselves in to" then this is a good book that could be used to accomplish that task.

November 24, 2013

Desktop Background for this Winter

I try to update my desktop background on my Chromebook every so often.  One of my favorite things is to try to find a piece of art that matches the current "feel" of my life.  For this winter, I think I found a great piece.  I just google "famous winter paintings" and found this one by some Serbian artist names Sava Å umanović.  I love the fact that it is a winter painting with a snowy landscape, yet if still feels warm.

November 22, 2013

Whodle?



There is going to be a Doctor Who Google Doodle!  You can see it now on Google New Zealand, though I am sure it will go live on the main Google page some time today.

November 21, 2013

Coalition for Community Involvement

On November 21st, at 7pm, in the Georgetown Ridge Farm High School Cafeteria, there will be the first meeting of the GRF Coalition for Community Involvement.  This event is open to anyone in the Georgetown Ridge Farm Community.

Tonight I will be sharing the vision of the Coalition, with a key aspect on emphasizing Open Doors.  Even though this is not geared toward Churches or Christian Organizations, it is an amazing opportunity for Pastors and other Church Members to get involved in kids lives.

If you know anyone in the Georgetown Ridge Farm Community, or just someone who cares about this community (they don't have to have children in the school or even live in this community) then please pass this along.  This includes Pastors, Church leaders, Church members, Business owners, Law Enforcement, City Leaders, Public officials, Family members, Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and any other Concerned citizens.

Please Pray that this meeting goes well and loads of people will show up.

November 16, 2013

The Trilemma...

Originally a radio broadcast, eventually a book... Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

(I've probably posted this quote before, but I am an old blogger now, and I am starting to repeat myself.)

November 7, 2013

Offworld by Robin Parrish -- Book Review

Offworld (Dangerous Times Collection Book #1) by Robin Parrish was an interesting story with an interesting catch (on the plot). Set slightly in the future, the premise of this book involves a crew returning from the first manned mission to Mars, only to find the planet uninhabited by man or animal.

I found this book to continue at a good pace.  I was never bored with the story-line, and I found myself not wanting to put the book down on several occasions.  There was good character development, causing me to get attached to more than one of the main characters. The suspense in the book built at a good pace.  Even when the premise was explained, about three quarters of the way through the book, there was an appropriate level of intrigue remaining to keep me turning the pages until the end.

I also appreciated the cleanliness of this book. So often, anymore, science fiction authors are tending to believe that nobody will read their books unless they are raw and filled with profanity and inappropriate situations. No doubt the future will be full of questionable morals on many peoples parts, but good literature doesn't have to have it every single time.

I noticed this book was listed among the Christian books on Amazon and on another book site.  I could see the author being a Christian, for the previously mentioned reasons, but to say this was a "Christian book" might be a bit of a stretch.  It presents God in a vague, easily acceptable by the masses, sort of way. The specifics of the person of Jesus, essential to any authentic presentation of true Christianity, were not presented in any way. That is fine for this book, but dropping thoughts of God into a book doesn't make it a "Christian" book.

This book is currently still free, so if you are looking for a decent fictional book to dig your claws into, then this one is absolutely worth the cost. Supposedly it is the first book in a series, but it doesn't leave you hanging or feeling the need to read the next book in the series. It was good enough that I would consider getting the other books, though.

A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George M. Marsden -- Book Review

The Christianaudio.com free book of the month for October was A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George M. Marsden.

I really enjoyed listening to this book. I didn't really know anything about the life of Jonathan Edwards before this book. I knew the name, I knew that he had a major impact in the evangelical world, and I knew that there were several of his works that were on my list of "to read" at some point in the future, but frankly, I was fairly ignorant as to why his name was "known."

From what I understand, this book was meant to be an abbreviated version of a larger book by George M. Marsden. I haven't attempted to verify that, but I think this book mentions that in the introduction or the appendix.  I am sure that a longer work would be of great value, but if you are seeking to find the reasons why Jonathan Edwards has become an influential name in the realm of Christianity, then I would highly suggest this book.  It gives all of the basic information as to his history, the setting of his ministry, contemporary figures, works accomplished, family life, and personal impact.  I didn't feel that anything was left out concerning important aspects of his life.

This book will whet your appetite for learning more about Jonathan Edwards and for reading the books that he has authored. The voice talent for the reading of this book did an excellent job, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to find out about this amazing man.

November 4, 2013

A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll -- Book Review

One of the lessons that I have learned about listening to non-fiction audio books is that I will always be distracted, no matter how good the book. It could be the most fascinating book that I have ever listened to, or it could be the most boring monotonous book in existence, but I will be distracted. At some point while listening, I will catch myself thinking about something other than what this audio book is saying to me. With some books this happens more often than with others.

But I have found that one of the most telling attributes of an audio book is the form of my distraction, not just how often I am distracted. With some audio books I find myself contemplating supper or a test that I need to grade, but with other audio books, I find that my mind has latched onto a thought or concept that is being discussed in the book and my brain must travel down that path, even though the voice talent has continued reading.

With Christian Audio's version of A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future by Mark Driscoll my mind was constantly trailing off down a thought or concept presented by the author. For example, the chapter dealing with "tribalism" was quite enlightening.  Especially when Pastor Driscoll discussed these tribes through the illustration of national borders and local boundaries. Even though we evangelical Christians might sort ourselves out into different "tribes" there is an importance is understanding and operating with the reality that there are others in our same "country."

What I found even more fascinating were his explanations regarding the differences between Christendom and Christianity. This was an important distinction that it had never occurred to me to make, but once the differences had been clarified, I wasn't quite sure how I had missed it. I believe that distinguishing Christendom and Christianity will prove to be an invaluable tool as we attempt to navigate the modern religious and political scene, not only here in America, but across the globe.

This book was an absolutely worth-while read, and I would recommend it to anyone.  I will most likely have to purchase a hard copy of this book so I can take my time and contemplate each chapter a bit  more in-depth.

October 30, 2013

"I'm just bad at math..." it's a myth!

When I first started teaching, I began to encounter the "I'm just bad at math..." comment from a variety of students. I didn't find it helpful to the situation, but what was I to do?  I wasn't in their head... maybe they really did have math deficit disorder, but it sure seemed like the large part of my students who would use this phrase, seemed to connect it with their inability to get their homework completed.

The longer I taught, the more I began to see a connection.  I even noticed that those students who were typically labeled the "math people" were also very diligent in their work.

Now, I know that we live in a society that isn't allowed to make a judgment call on anybody for any reason, so even talking this way tends to ruffle some feathers.  My response is that you should stop judging me by calling me judgmental!  But that is a different blog post, I just want to share an article about this myth of "bad at math" that is plaguing our nation.

The article is titled, The Myth of 'I'm Bad At Math' and it's subtitle is: Basic ability in the subject isn't the product of good genes, but hard work.

There is much in the article that I found to be worth reading, but I want to at least quote the final paragraph, because I believe that it holds a key thought that is impacting all of us.
Math education, we believe, is just the most glaring area of a slow and worrying shift. We see our country moving away from a culture of hard work toward a culture of belief in genetic determinism. In the debate between “nature vs. nurture,” a critical third element—personal perseverance and effort—seems to have been sidelined. We want to bring it back, and we think that math is the best place to start.
Let's not forget the key third element to our intellects.

October 29, 2013

Program of Conquest

Might we consider going the path of the early Christians?  What was their method for winning the Roman Empire? According to Mark Driscoll, we should consider the words of Douglas Wilson:

It will be a great reformation and revival — it will happen the same way the early Christians conquered Rome. Their program of conquest consisted largely of two elements — gospel preaching and being eaten by lions — a strategy that has not yet captured the imagination of the the contemporary church.

~Douglas Wilson, as quoted by Mark Driscoll in his new book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future? 

October 27, 2013

"I smoke my pipe and worship God."

Whene'er I take my pipe and stuff it
And smoke to pass the time away,
My thoughts, as I sit and puff it,
Dwell on a picture sad and grey.
It teaches me that very like
Am I myself unto my pipe. 
Like me, this pipe so fragrant burning
Is made of naught but earth and clay;
To earth I too shall be returning,
It falls and, ere I'd think to say,
It breaks in two before my eyes,
In store for me a like fate lies. 
No stain the pipe's hue yet doth darken;
It remains white. Thus do I know
That when to death's call I must hearken
My body, too, all pale wilt grow.
To black beneath the sod 'twill turn,
Likewise, the pipe, if oft it burn.
Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,
Behold then instantaneously,
The smoke off into thin air going,
Till naught but ash is left to see.
Man's frame likewise will burn
And unto dust his body turn. 
How oft it happens when one's smoking:
The stopper's missing from its shelf,
And one goes with one's finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doth dwell,
How hot must be the pains of Hell. 
Thus o'er my pipe, in contemplation
Of such things, I can constantly
Indulge in fruitful meditation,
And so, puffing contentedly,
On land, on sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.

~Johann Sebastian Bach
(as quoted in Drinking With Calvin and Luther!: A History of Alcohol in the Church by Jim West)

October 24, 2013

Basic Christianity by John Stott - Book Review

Basic Christianity by John Stott has been an amazing book.

I have heard of John Stott. I have seen other others mention him and quote him from time to time.  I have even seen a few of his books, but until now, I had never had the opportunity to read (or to listen to in this case) anything from this author. I am so glad that I have finally had that opportunity. While listening to this book, with each successive chapter that I completed, he continued to move up my personal ranks of influential authors.

This book is exactly what the title suggests, it is all about Basic Christianity. But what I really loved is that the majority of the topics that this book covers would not have made it into my own book on basic Christianity... But here is the thing: After listening to Stott's explanations and reasons for each of his topics, I began to see how important each of these subjects are. If I had written a book on Basic Christianity, I would have thrown it away in favor of this book.

I mean, sure, we both would have talked about who Jesus is, but the angles that he uses to approach this person of Jesus was literally eye-opening.  I have found myself throughout the day contemplating different points that had been made and making mental notes on what I would need to revisit.

Bottom line... Jesus is an amazing figure who stands supreme in the scope of human history.  I understand that better now after having listened to this book.  I will definitely have to purchase a hard copy of this book.

To get this audio book, please visit Christian Audio whose reviewers program has made it possible for me to listen to so many great books!

...unless someone would like to gift it to me during "Pastor Appreciation Month" ?

October 9, 2013

Lower Goods or Higher Goods

This life which we live here has its own allurements, which, from its own particular mode of beauty and its agreement with all these lower beauties... With regard to all these things, and others of like nature, sins are committed when, out of an immoderate liking for them, since they are the least goods, we desert the best and highest goods, which are you, O Lord our God, and your truth and your law. These lower goods have their delights, but none such as my God, who has made all things, for in him the just man finds delight, and he is the joy of the upright of heart.

~St. Augustine

October 6, 2013

Appreciated...

I knew something was up yesterday... I just couldn't get anyone to spill the beans.

October 5, 2013

Spirit and Truth

"Worshipping in spirit is the opposite of worshipping in merely external ways. It is the opposite of empty formalism and traditionalism. Worshipping in truth is the opposite of worship based on an inadequate view of God. Worship must have hear and head. Worship must engage emotions and thought." 
"Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half-full) of artificial admirers (like people who write generic anniversary cards for a living). On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought. But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship."
~ John Piper, Desiring God

October 4, 2013

Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell M.D. - Book Review

I just finished reading Driven to Distraction (Revised): Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder by Edward M. Hallowell M.D. and John J. Ratey M.D. a couple of days ago. I wanted to write a review of this book, not only because I enjoy writing reviews, but also because I was going to use this as an opportunity to talk about Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.

Growing up in a Christian, Regular-Church-Attending Culture, different psychological challenges like Attention Deficit Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, have tended to all fall into one category: The category of excuses.  For many in this culture, the attempt to label and understand these issues looks like an excuse for bad behavior. They might say that hyperactive kids or distracted kids are just in need of stricter discipline.  According to some, they haven't been properly trained, and when these kids get into high school, they are told that they just need to try harder. Some people on this side of the fence can even go as far as to say that, "...well, everyone has attention deficit disorder! Your challenges are no different than mine, you just need to buckle down like I have."

Besides the fact that an opinion like that is just arrogant... in the words of Dr. Hallowell, "Telling someone who has A.D.D. to try harder is like telling someone who is nearsighted to squint harder.  It misses the biological point."

This book helped drive that point home for me.

Please understand though, I did not read this book simply as a person trying to understand Attention Deficit Disorder in order to help others, students for example, but I read this book as one who has struggled my entire life with A.D.D. Really... I have been diagnosed as an adult by a physician with this condition.  For me, this book was personal.

Previously to reading this book, I have explored this topic from the Biblical Perspective point of view on more than one occasion.  I have heard the arguments and the considered the treatments from the Biblical Counseling (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) Training that I have received, but I had never really attempted to listen to the other side. Through this book, I have found that the other side has quite a bit to say, and what they are saying is not, "take this magical pill and you will be all better!"

Sure, medication is discussed in this book, but it is definitely not the centerpiece. The core of treatment is through learning strategies and getting a better foundational knowledge of the challenges that go along with this disorder.  There is also a personal aspect that is encouraged.  The treatment includes people and relationships, whether it be "coaches" or "groups" or just the people in your life, there is a human side to the treatment. Near the end of the book he goes into detail on several different structural strategies that have proven to be helpful to those with A.D.D., but even in these strategies, that personal aspect is emphasized.

Most of the book teaches through the use of case studies.  The names have been changed, but the situations are real. This makes it possible for the author to deal with all of the different ways that A.D.D. manifests itself, whether in children just learning to deal with it or in adults that have spent a lifetime trying to cope. It discusses people with the Hyperactivity element (A.D.H.D.) and people (like me) without the hyperactivity element (A.D.D.).

What I found most intriguing in this book was the discussions dealing with all of the secondary issues that so often go hand-in-hand with A.D.D. Issues like depression, anger, abuse and self-medication that are a secondary consequence of the A.D.D.  Many of these secondary issues are a result, not of the A.D.D. itself, but from years of believing that the reason you aren't a better person is because you aren't trying hard enough.  Those of us with A.D.D. have believed that if we could just get an ounce of the will power that others have, we wouldn't be losing our keys or forgetting important dates. If we actually loved the people that we were talking to, we wouldn't be distracted by what is out the window. If we were just better people, we wouldn't take 10 years and 5 schools and 4 majors to graduate with one 4-year degree. Hearing this inner commentary on your life... for your whole life... can drastically alter your perception of yourself.

Whether you are dealing with A.D.D. yourself or with someone you know and love, and if you are looking for a book that does an excellent job in outlining the reality, diagnosis, and treatment of A.D.D. from a current educated, psychological viewpoint, then this is the book for you. If you are looking for a book that balances this perspective with an accurate Biblical understanding of this topic, then you will need to look elsewhere. I have yet to find a book that balances these two realities. I could always give you my perspective, as someone who is attempting to bring these two viewpoints together into a more accurate understanding of what is actually going on in one who has A.D.D., but I haven't written a book yet, and to be honest, I will probably never get around to it anyway. It was challenging enough just to write this book review!

September 30, 2013

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung -- Book Review

I was too busy to read Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung.  The full title of the book is Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. It was produced by Christian Audio.

I didn't actually read the book, I listened to the book thanks to Christian Audio. This book was read by Adam Verner.  He does a great job of capturing the feel of the book he is reading.  I always feel like I am actually listening to the author of the book when he is reading.

This book deals with the problem of business. ...and it is a problem.  We are too busy, or at least it feels that way.  This book seeks to first address the reasons why we are busy or feel busy. As he attempts to diagnose the problem of busyness, Kevin DeYoung freely acknowledges the reality that he does not stand above the problem, but is right in the middle of the problem. In so many ways, he hits the nail on the head as he describes the different realities of "why" we are busy.

Near the end of the book he quite appropriately addresses the fact that in some way are supposed to be busy.  As much as we might diagnose and treat our unnecessary busyness, there is still a sufficient amount of busyness that we should be all about.  The goal is not to eliminate the busyness, but to prioritize the activities in the middle of the busyness, i.e. are we spending time on what really counts?

My only difficulty in reading this book was the lack of addressing my own personal situation.  I am a full-time high school teacher at a local public school.  I teach geometry, calculus, and trigonometry.  I am also the senior pastor at a small local church. I don't need to add more, but I am also a husband and the father of two children.  I am (without surprise) busy. I would even say that I am "crazy busy" much of the time.  But I don't believe that I have taken on more that God has led me to accept in my life.  And I don't believe that there is anything that I can lay down right now.  So, taking a day off, doesn't happen all that often.  Much of what Kevin DeYoung says is still very helpful, but it comes up short in the specifics of my own situation. Bivocational Pastor will always be Crazy Busy... Is there a better way to handle my busyness?  Most likely, but I am not sure exactly what I can do differently, at least for now.

If you are busy in life, I suggest this book.  Especially the audio version, you can listen to it on your commute to work or while you are at the YMCA on the treadmill.


September 26, 2013

Sequence Ravelled Out of Sound

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind --
As if my Brain had split --
I tried to match it -- Seam by Seam --
But could not make them fit. 
The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto the thought before --
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound
--
Like Balls -- upon a Floor

Emily Dickinson (1864)


These words ring true of my ADD mind.

September 20, 2013

education defined


education

EDUCA'TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

with proper citation this time...
"education." Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. 2013. http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/education (20 September 2013).

September 19, 2013

A Statement from the NEA (National Education Association)

“If the study of the Bible is to be excluded from all state schools; if the inculcation of the principles of Christianity is to have no place in the daily program; if the worship of God is to form no part of the general exercises of these public elementary schools; then the good of the state would be better served by restoring all schools to church control.” 

Oh... did I fail to mention that this statement was made in 1892?

September 12, 2013

10 years of blogging.

Somehow I have managed to maintain this blog for 10 full years.

September 11, 2013

Four Views of the End Times - Book Review

Four Views of the End Times is a rather short book.  It is meant to be a quick overview of the four predominant Biblical views of the End Times.  These four views center on the Biblical understanding of the Millenium and other apocalyptic prophecies normally found in the final book of the New Testament, the book of Revelation. These four views are Dispensational Premillennialism, Historic Premillennialism, Amillennialism, and Postmillennialism.

I know that the majority of people that I am acquainted with would be slightly surprised that there is more than one Christian view of the End Times. The view that is most popular today, in American culture is the view called, Dispensational Premillennialism. Most think that real Christian scholars are in agreement over this view, but they just don't know the timing of when these things will come to pass. End Times discussions that I overhear or are involved in tend to focus on this pervading thought that the rapture is going to happen any day now, and we can be assured of this because of the current events in the Middle East.

This book does an excellent job of describing the other three views and giving the facts regarding these views.  We learn the different time periods when different views were most popular. We also learn of different influential Christians who have held these different views throughout the ages.  Finally we learn much of the Biblical perspective on each of these views.

It is a short enough read that one could make it through the entire book in less than an hour, but you will still walk away from this book with a better understanding of our exploration of this fascinating topic.

If you are looking for a way to get a better grasp on the different views of the End Times, then I would highly suggest this book.

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton - Book Review

I have heard that I should read some G.K. Chesterton.  So I did.  I read Manalive and The Man Who Was Thursday.  I also read another one of his fictitious works, it might have been Lilith. But I have heard that I shouldn't just read his fiction, but one of his other works.  Recently I saw on a blog an encouragement to read Orthodoxy with a link to a free version on Amazon.

Orthodoxy is almost autobiographical, but not really.  It is a collection of thoughts that tell the story of Chesterton's journey away from Orthodox Christianity into truth, only to find that at the center of truth was Orthodox Christianity.

His writing style is fairly unique, and reminds me of C. S. Lewis.  There are references to names and ideas that are time-period specific, quaint little comments that I didn't understand, but gathered that his audience would have understood completely what he was talking about.  There is a whimsical edge to his words, but there is also a deep and profound logic to what he is saying.

I don't think that I could write a review that does this book justice, so I am going to share one of my favorite sections with you:

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.  
The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. 
It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. 
I think he may be right.

August 8, 2013

Man of God by Charles Stanley book review

I found Man of God by Charles Stanley to be a little lacking...

Ok.  I know that all of those Charles Stanley fans out there are probably trying to figure out my address so they can go throw eggs at my house.  Please don't misunderstand me.  I love Charles Stanley as well.  I first began to understand many of the things to do with God while listening to his voice on cassette while I was working third shift janitorial at a mall.  I got a glimpse at what a good television preacher could be like while watching him wave that giant, floppy, heavily used Bible.  I could tell there was a passion for this Great God that we serve when I heard his voice.  This isn't an anti-Charles Stanley sort of review.  All I am saying is that I found it a bit lacking.

Now, it was full, chock-full of excellent, godly advice. Bits of wisdom from years in the ministry.  Every bit of it was definitely valuable, and I wouldn't have a problem recommending it to any young father or young husband.  I especially enjoyed the second chapter where he broke down the elements of a "man of steel" and a "man of velvet".  A true man of God is a combination of these two, pictured in the man Jesus.

But I still found it lacking.

Scripture felt a bit sparse... Definitely not absent, just sparse.  It might be because I have grown accustomed to books that break down passages of scripture and tie these daily realities and applications back into the grander reality of the great narrative of God and the gospel.  I kept waiting for that, but it never came.

He highlighted all of the important realities to being God's man.  Most importantly the need for true salvation as the basis for true manhood was driven home near the conclusion of the book.  But much of the book was a bit more like listening to a godly grandfather give advice.  (Which definitely not a bad thing.  Good godly advice from grandfathers is invaluable.)  The voice talent on this book added to the grandfatherly feel.  He sounded like a wise-old-guru of a gentleman.

Was it a good book?  Yes.  Did it leave me wanting more?  Yes, but not more of the book, more of what wasn't in the book.

July 15, 2013

Love Into Light - Book Review

Easily one of the top books I have read in 2013, Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard addresses a topic that is both highly relevant in our society and yet inadequately (and often inappropriately) taught in our churches.  If you are seeking guidance on how a Biblically grounded, Gospel oriented Christian ought to understand and interact with homosexuality, then this is the book for you.

Near the beginning of the book, Peter Hubbard addresses what I feel can be one of the most challenging problems with how the church has interacted with this topic.  He puts it this way:
I have spoken to scores of men and women who have spent years worshipping in church while battling alone with SSA (Same Sex Attraction). They were terrified to tell anyone, and convinced that if other Christians knew their secret, they would be tagged and discarded. Imagine the trauma of believing that your struggle is unlike any other sin. The preacher makes applications in his sermons to lying, stealing, or marital selfishness. And periodically a man may testify to struggling with heterosexual lust. Or a woman may ask  for prayer regarding anxiety. But these sins seem normal, understandable. And there is hope and help for change. But homosexuality seems different. When it is mentioned in church, it's usually associated with abomination, activism, or antagonism.  Often the pronouns change from "we" to "them." Some sins allow you to be a "we," but other sins require you to be a "them." The "yuck" factor crosses the line of acceptability.
How true that next to last sentence has been.  How often I have heard, and maybe have even maintained myself a "them" mentality regarding homosexuals.

Right after the above statement, he states three goals in this book.  The third of those three goals is:
...that the church, all believers, would shift from reacting to media and political stories, to proactively engaging our homosexual neighbors with the same love and the same truth that Jesus is offering to us.
Even though I thought that the entire book was excellent: again and again dealing with this emotionally charged topic with both grace and truth, I found that the final chapter, addressing outreach, was what truly brought everything together.  Of course to understand that final chapter, I needed to go through the rest of the book, which brought a better understanding to the topic, so that we can go into an outreach mindset with compassion and understanding. Consider this quote near the end:
Paul did not command Titus to preach against "those homosexuals." He commanded Titus to "teach what accords with sound doctrine."  ... According to the letter to Titus, gospel advancement is not to be pursued through hurling insults or lobbing cliches over picket lines. These methods attempt to catapult sound bites over deep trenches rather than living and speaking the story of Jesus before friends and neighbors. Some of us may feel uncomfortable with the New Testament's  method of evangelism. [emphasis mine]
I obviously left some of that quote out.  What does he mean by "teach what accords to sound doctrine"?  What does this look like?  How would one accomplish this?  I've left much out because it would take a book to do this topic justice... So, you should just buy the book!  That final sentence is such a reality for many of us.  We say we want to do evangelism God's way, but when it comes down to it, we can start to get a little uncomfortable and there are too many Christians that eventually default back to that "us" vs. "them" mentality.

I hope that God saves us from this, and more specifically I hope that Edgewood (the church where I pastor) would be a be a place where those struggling with SSA in Danville would come for the truth of the Gospel and the grace of Jesus Christ.

July 11, 2013

Who Stole My Church - Book Review

A couple of weeks ago a lady in my church, who has been at the church since I was about five years old, told me she was reading a book that she thought I might enjoy.  A couple of days later she handed me the book and told me that I could borrow it if I wanted.  The book was called,Who Stole My Church? by Gordon MacDonald.  The subtitle is, What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century.  It was feeling a bit too close to home, needless to say, I was a tad nervous.

But then I started reading the book.

Here is the premise of the book:  Gordon MacDonald, a real-life Pastor and the author of this book, decided to tackle the challenging topic of Church Change and Church Reinvention by writing a story.  He uses himself and his wife as real characters in the book, but the church and the other characters are all fictional.  He then begins to break down the different topics commonly associated with change through the form of dialogue.  He allows you to discover the correct conclusions by watching the characters discover them as they converse and experience the Bible in relation to Christ's Church in the day to day. He also steers you away from harmful and destructive attitudes by giving you a glimpse of what those stubborn attitudes look like in the real world with real people.

I absolutely enjoyed this book.  I made it through the first half of the book in my first sitting. And since then I have been telling people all about it every chance I get. I am looking forward, if this lady in my church won't mind, to loaning it to others in the church.  I am also considering purchasing a couple of other copies to pass out in the church, I would love to just give a few of these away.

My favorite part of this book is near the end when the topic shifts away from music (and other typical change related discussion) to those who might enter our church. What might they experience?  How are they received?  Lets talk beyond the surface and dig into our hearts.  If we are honest, many of us only want those who will make us feel comfortable coming in the doors of our church.

If you get a chance to pick this up, it is worth the read.  Especially if you are in a church that feels like it is being reinvented or if it needs to be reinvented!

June 7, 2013

Preaching from the Gospels


The challenge of preaching from the Gospels is, in part the challenge of preaching from narrative.  The best of Western seminaries and theological colleges reinforce the cultural bent toward the abstract, and fill students' heads with the importance of grammatical, lexicographical exegesis. Such exegesis is, of course, of enormous importance. But in students who do not have a feel for literature, it can have the unwitting effect of so focusing on the tree, indeed on the third knot of the fourth branch from the bottom of the sixth tree from the left, that the entire forest remains unseen, except perhaps as a vague and ominous challenge.
I am so glad that I have been reading this commentary by Carson.  I absolutely know that I could easily miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. My tendency is to drill deep on each verse and attempt to figure out what that verse is about.  I love the wealth of information that can be found in each individual sentence.  I don't want to miss any small bit of divine inspiration, and I don't want anyone else to miss it either.  But I think that he makes a very good point in his recommendation for John.

I want the people at Edgewood to see the forest.  I know that they might miss a tree or two along the way, but if they would but see the big picture.  Carson adds to this by saying,
Rightly done, preaching from the Gospels enables a congregation to put its Bible together, and then to find the Bible's deepest and most transforming application emerging from this vision.  To put the matter another way, John's stated purpose in composing the Fourth Gospel is not that his readers might believe, but that his readers might believe that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus, and that in believing they might have life in his name.
Adding more to his advice on preaching through John, he adds this final bit of opinion, that I am seriously taking to heart:
...those who set out to expound John's Gospel, as opposed to one of the Synoptics, often find themselves enmeshed in 'vain repetition'. John's vision is more narrowly focused than that of the Synoptists. For all the wealth of his presentation of Jesus, his own application, made again and again with driving force, is that his readers should believe. Many a preacher has begun a series on this book only to find that his application is becoming boring even to his own ears, and abandoned the series at ch. 7 or ch. 9 or the like.
He goes on to say that the series should go on to " ... focus on Jesus himself, on the fathomless Christological wealth bound up  in this Gospel."

I would be the preacher enmeshed in vain repetition.  I know I would. I hope to avoid that by heeding this godly advice and focusing on the forest even though my brain loves gazing at the trees.


The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary)

May 29, 2013

I just want you to listen...

I have been trying to think of some commentary to add to this clip, but I just don't think I can do better than the video's description from YouTube:
"Don't try to fix it. I just need you to listen." Every man has heard these words. And they are the law of the land. No matter what.
I will say that I am almost positive that I have had this exact conversation, except without the nail.


 

HT: 22 Words

May 28, 2013

windows into the reality of God

Yesterday I read through the entire Gospel According to John.  I did this, and will hopefully do this several more times, as preparation for our upcoming study on this Gospel.  I also started blogging my way, verse by verse, through this book.  I am up to John 1:12 as of this morning.  To cap it off, I started reading some commentaries on John, to get a better feel for the book.  It has been very interesting and enlightening, after only a few days, but it has also had a negative effect on me: I am starting to feel overwhelmed by this task. I am starting to realize that this Gospel account, even though the simplest of people can read it and find encouragement and insight, it is also very, very deep.

It's uniqueness was my first clue.  Now, I have known for quite a long time that John was different than the other three gospel accounts, but I didn't realize how unique it actually was.
It omits so many things that [the other gospel accounts] include.  The Fourth Gospel has no account of the Birth of Jesus, of His Baptism, of His Temptations; it tells us nothing of the Last Supper, nothing of Gethsemane, and nothing of the Ascension.  It has no word of the healing of any people possessed by devils and evil spirits. And, perhaps most surprising of all, it has no parables...
William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study Series, The Gospel of John (Volume I)
Some of those differences I was aware of, but more than one of them was a surprise to me.

These unique aspects, along with many other tidbits that John includes, that the other Three Gospels do not, are not meant to be interesting points of trivia, so you can win that next game of Bible Trivial Pursuit.  No, this is important to the whole understanding of this book.  Why did John not include these other items, what was his goal, what was he trying to get across.  Why was John so selective in the stories that he did include?

William Barclay, learning from Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 230), shares what he believes is the key insight into understanding this Scripture.
The feeding of the five thousand is followed by the long discourse on the Bread of Life (chapter 6); the healing of the blind man springs from the saying that Jesus in the Light of the World (chapter 9); the raising of Lazarus leads up to the saying that Jesus is the resurrection and the life (chapter 11).  To John the miracles were not simply single events in time; they were illustrations, examples, insights into that which God is always doing and what Jesus always is; they are windows into the reality of God. ...
He goes on to say,
John did not see the events of Jesus' life simply as events in time; he saw them as windows looking into eternity, and he pressed towards the spiritual meaning of the events and the words of Jesus' life in a way that the other three gospels did not attempt.
William Barclay
I am seeing these glimpses through the windows already in my own reading of John, and it is making my head spin.  I wish I had more time to study this book before I start preaching it, but I believe that God is leading me to this Gospel account for just these reasons.  With several new people at our church, I believe that what they need to see and learn most of all is who this Jesus actually is.  I suppose I will just have to use the extra time that God has given me.

If you are the praying sort, I would appreciate your prayers, that I might speak boldly the mystery of the gospel. (Ephesians 6:19-20)

May 21, 2013

Free eBooks by R.C Sproul


Right now the ebook versions of the Crucial Questions series by R.C. Sproul is free. The announcement on the Ligonier Ministries website reads:
To further help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it, and how to share it, from today the eBook editions of R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions series will be free forever.
So, there is no rush to go grab these. (Although I went immediately and grabbed all of them.) They have epub format available, but they also have links to the Kindle version and the iTunes version.

Check it out now and go get some questions answered.

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/rc-sprouls-crucial-questions-ebooks-now-free/


May 20, 2013

Logic + Math + Wibbly Wobbly Infinite Stuff

William Lane Craig speaking on why actual infinities cannot exist, meaning that there is a beginning to the universe.



I love this stuff.

May 18, 2013

Faith and Works

After the last sermon I preached, someone that visited our church thought I was preaching a works-based salvation. Now, honestly, I don't believe in a works-based salvation.  But, after I thought about it, I have been accused of that before.  I'm telling you though, I believe that salvation comes by God's grace alone, and it is worked through God-gifted faith. (Eph. 2:8-9) I am not upset at all about the question, I am a school teacher... I love being questioned!  But I do want to mention this because there seems to be some confusion among many Christians that I know when it comes to the relationship between faith and works.

Another example of this happened a few weeks ago.  There was a prominent Pastor in the area that did some teaching on the topic of eternal security. He taught that you cannot lose your salvation, so to speak, but that you can walk away from the faith. Now, I don't want to put words in the mouth of this Pastor, and I believe him to be a godly man, who loves Jesus, but I would disagree with him.  At the same time, I would also disagree with many of the baptists in my town who believe in an eternal security that has no evidence except a person's declaration of belief.

Normally I would say that I fall somewhere between those two camps of thought, the eternal security camp and the no eternal security camp... In this case I won't say that I am between them, instead I am more off to one side, and I would classify both of those camps as basically the same error.

They have a weak view of God's salvation.

May 12, 2013

Best Mom!

my mom is better
than yours. gentle, sweet and kind,
and prettier too.

May 11, 2013

Need of Jesus

Lord Jesus,
I am blind, be thou my light,
   ignorant, be thou my wisdom,
   self-willed, be thou my mind.
Open my ear to grasp quickly thy Spirit's voice,
   and delightfully run after his beckoning hand;
Melt my conscience that no hardness remain,
   make it alive to evil's slightest touch;
When Satan approaches may I flee to thy wounds,
   and there cease to tremble at all alarms.
Be my good shepherd to lead me into the green pastures of thy Word,
   and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts.
Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales
   may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.
Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge,
Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean,
Thy death occurred to give me a surety,
Thy name is my property to save me,
By thee all heaven is poured into my heart,
   but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love.
I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel,
   but thy cross has brought me near,
                 has softened my heart,
                 has made me thy Father's child,
                 has admitted me to thy family,
                 has made me joint-heir with thyself.
O that I may love thee as thou lovest me,
   that I may walk worthy of thee, my Lord,
   that I may reflect the image of heaven's first-born.
May I always see thy beauty with the clear eye of faith,
    and feel the power of thy Spirit in my heart,
    for unless he move mightily in me
    no inward fire will be kindled.


Need of Jesus,
from Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions
pg 102.

Being an Introverted Pastor/Teacher

Sometimes when I read a blog or an article, it strikes a real chord in my heart.  The other day my wife pointed me to this post on the Desiring God blog that did just that.  I think it struck a chord in her heart on my behalf as well.  I believe that was because it put to words what I experience in my own life.

The blog was about a discussion with John Piper reflecting his 33 years in ministry.  The sentences that caught my attention were:
“It’s amazing how many introverts go into ministry,” Pastor John said of himself and others. But it’s true. For many pastors, hanging out with people is physically draining. “A lot of people would say that’s a bad thing; you should repent of that and turn around and either do something else, or start loving to hang out with people.” 
Or, he said, introverted pastors can use their strengths to intentionally love people. Extroverted pastors and introverted pastors, if they’re born again, both love people, but there remains a tension for the introverted pastor who defines love exclusively in terms of activities in the presence of people.
He went on to discuss how he learned to be who God had created him to be in ministry. It was encouraging to hear.  Mostly because I love the people of my church, genuinely love them, but I have always found personal interactions to be challenging.  Not because I don't want to interact, but I just don't feel good at it. Plus, I love just being at home with a book.

Piper goes on to say,
Plead with God to make your in-disposition to be with people a blessing to people. In other words, I would say after 33 years, my default after preaching is to go home and pray and read, not to hang out for three hours over a meal. That’s my disposition. I do hang out for an hour and pray with people, and I’m glad I do, and it is rewarding to do it.... If you're wired that way, instead of constantly praying God would make you another kind of person, pray that he would make you really useful for people. I think he’s done that for me.... 
I believe what people have benefited from me most is what I have seen in the Bible. I don’t think I have blessed Bethlehem much by being a good organizer or a good model of personal evangelism. I can list a lot of ways they have not benefited from me. But, if I don’t despair, if I say there’s been some good done, I know where it came from — it came from me taking notes over my Bible and wrestling to see how Hebrews 10:10 and 10:14 come together, that was this morning; seeing something I’ve never seen before in the text, and walking into a staff meeting and telling them; walking into a hospital room and telling her; walking into the pulpit and telling them what I saw. And then going home to see some more. 
Take what you see, and then if you’re a writer, you write it. If you’re a preacher, you preach it. If you’re a hanger-outer, tell the hanger-outters-with what you saw this morning.
You can read the entire article by clicking here, that will also take you to a link where you can watch/listen to the entire discussion that happened at Redeemer Bible Church.

April 26, 2013

Some good Noise Trade music right now...

If you have never been to NoiseTrade.com, now would be a good time to visit them.

Noise Trade has free music.

Yeah sure, there is the option of leaving the artist a tip, but sometimes I don't really know the artist that well.  There have been a couple of times that I have left a tip for an artist that I knew and I believed in supporting their work (or ministry in some cases).  But sometimes I just download something that sounds interesting, but I have never heard of it before.

If you haven't been there before, you should swing by and pick up Andrew Peterson's The Lost Boy Sampler.  So far I have loved all of Andrew Peterson's work, and this one doesn't seem to be a disappointment.

I also downloaded two albums from The Vespers.  I have never heard of this group, but so far I have really enjoyed what I've heard so far.  In fact, I am listening to them right now. Here is a video of them live in New York.

April 21, 2013

Taking God Seriously - Book Review

Taking God Seriously by J. I. Packer was not at all what I expected it to be.

I have read a couple of other Packer books.  I have thoroughly enjoyed everything that I have read from him in the past, so when this new book became available through Christian Audio, I was happy to listen to it in order to write a review.

Having read these other books by Packer, I was expecting this book to deal with big thoughts of how we need to take God seriously.  I was ready to soak in some over-arching themes on the importance of really listening to God and doing what He says.

My first surprise came when he started talking extensively about issues in the Anglican church.  Not only did I not know that Packer was Anglican, I had also never seen him refer to any current denominational issues.  This book contains numerous references to current issues that are plaguing the Anglican church and many other churches in the world today.  Much of this book felt like an address to others in the Anglican church to ... well ... take God seriously.

The next surprise that this book delivered was related to the content.  Sure, he addressed some issues that I expected, like repentance, but he also addressed some issues that I didn't expect, like church, baptism and communion.  Even though I didn't necessarily agree with everything he said, I also didn't find myself disagreeing with anything he said either. I found the information landing on very common ground and very Biblical, at the same time. But what made this surprise content really enlightening was that while I was listening to it, I found myself realizing that I hadn't been taking Baptism or Communion as seriously as I should, and that the question of taking God seriously couldn't really be dealt with until these issues were addressed.

If you've never encountered a book by J.I. Packer, this is a great place to start. He has a straight-forward, no-nonsense style of writing that I find refreshing.  He doesn't beat around the bush, he goes straight to the point, and he brought this direct style of writing, which I've normally encountered in his theological works, into this current, culturally relevant book.

April 17, 2013

Blessed by not being Blessed

The church where I am the pastor has seen some growth lately.  On Easter Sunday we had 4 baptisms, there have been others wanting to join the church, and several others who have been attending on a regular basis for a couple of months now.

I am struggling for the words to try to explain how exciting this has been for us.  You need to understand that we were averaging about 25 people, 3 months ago.  Lately it has been closer to 50 on several Sundays.  Then, this Easter we had 75 people in our building, when the previous Easter we had 15.  On a personal note, before the four baptisms that I performed on Easter Sunday, I had only performed three other baptisms total... in my whole life!  It has been very exciting.

To top everything else off, the people that are coming are the exact sort of people that I had been hoping for.  Nearly everyone that is new is someone who has either never been to church, or has not been to church in countless years.  There are even several who attended Edgewood when I was a child, who have come back now.  More than one person was convinced that the walls would come crashing down if they ever set foot in a church, and yet, here they are.

When I first came to Edgewood to be the Pastor, I had hopes of a revived church.  I prayed for it, I longed for it, and I diligently sought God for it. But instead of growing, we actually got a little smaller.  There were some families that just stopped coming.  Then there were some regulars who weren't as regular.  Things were getting quite slim, and there were several Sundays that the crickets were chirping and the tumbleweeds were blowing through.  We were hoping and praying for God to bring the unchurched through our doors, we were inviting people left and right, and our desire was simply in the Gospel of Jesus Christ being spread in our town.

To be totally honest, my confidence plummeted.  I started thinking that all of my sermons were horribly presented.  I started questioning my interactions with other people... was I nice enough?  ...did I say enough?  Everyone that left, I took it personally.  Every criticism was really a criticism of me.

But then something really neat and totally unexpected happened.  I became nothing.

It happened when one particular couple left the church. I couldn't believe it. I had tried everything I knew.  And with these people, I had really attempted to reach out to them and encourage them in any way that I could.  All of the stops had been pulled out and I still came up lacking.  I was really nothing in the process, but that is a good thing.

I mean, isn't this Christ's church anyway.  Isn't He the one who builds it?  Isn't it the Spirit who empowers it? I wasn't attempting to find my "nothingness" in the church, it just happened.  Then the more "nothing" I became, and the more okay I was with being nothing, the more the gospel started to seep into my life, becoming a part of my very psyche.

I really started to believe that it was all of grace.  It was all about what Jesus does and not about what I can do.  Consider how the gospel can play into our service:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 
(1 Corinthians 1:26-29, ESV)
What a blessing it has been in God's timing.  I know for a fact, that if God would have brought people to our church when I first came here, I would have been tempted to glory in myself instead of in Him.  God has blessed me, by not blessing me, when I thought He should.

March 20, 2013

Praying Biblically

I just found an article by David Powlison, a well-known Biblical Counselor.  The article deals with introducing Biblical Counseling in the local church.  He says he comes at it by adjusting how we take prayer requests in the church.  Though this article is about Counseling, I felt that the comments made about Biblical prayer were worth reading and sharing.

Here is a snippet of that blog post:


... the Bible’s prayers are rarely about health, travel mercies, finances, doing well on a test, finding a job, or the salvation of unsaved relatives. Of course, these are legitimate things to pray for, but they are a minor emphasis in Scripture. Even so, these topics typically dominate most church and small group prayer requests. They easily miss the real action of God’s dealings with his beloved people. 
In contrast, the driving focus of biblical prayer asks God to show himself, asks that we will know him, asks that we will love others. It names our troubles. It names our troublesome reactions and temptations. It names our holy desires. It names our God, his promises, and his will. When someone asks you, “How may I pray for you?,” imagine the impact of responding in a manner such as this: “I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and have been inattentive and irritable to those nearest and dearest to me. Please pray for me, that I will awaken and turn from my preoccupation with work pressures, recreations, health problems, or money. God promises to help me pay attention to him. Ask him to help me remember and focus. Ask him to help me to take my family and other people to heart. Pray that I will take refuge in him when the pressure is on. The Lord is my refuge, but I’ve been taking refuge in TV and food.” This kind of prayer gets things that matter on the table—things that matter both immediately and eternally.
How true these thoughts are!  Most of my own requests are for people and things, and they aren't prayers for God to show Himself and make Himself real in my life.

Tonight at our mid-week prayer meeting at Edgewood, I will introduce some of these ideas.  Our church has shown some growth in numbers, but it is important that we remember that this is God's church and His work.  You can pray for us at Edgewood, that we will see God clearly, and that His Spirit will be poured out on the people who come to this small local Church.

The rest of the article is worth reading.  You can find it here: Prayer is a Great Place to Begin Biblical Counseling

March 4, 2013

Free Music from Page CXVI

Page CXVI Hymns is giving away their entire music catalog... 74 songs... for free!

According to their website:
To celebrate our 7-year anniversary of making music, we're giving away our entire catalog of music for the month of March, including our original music from The Autumn Film!
They are celebrating their own "Jubilee" for 7 years of making music.

I have listened to most of their music over the past couple of years.  What I have listened to, I have really enjoyed.  As far as I can tell, they work hard at creating God-honoring, Christ-exalting music.

If you would like to download this music, just head on over to their website:

http://www.pagecxvi.com/jubilee/

If you download it, let me know in the comments.  I would like to hear what you think about their music.

My New Favorite Sandwich!

My new favorite thing to eat... Peanut Butter / Biscoff sandwiches!

I first tried this with a product called Speculoos Cookie Butter. My wife bought a jar of it at Trader Joe's.  Since she hadn't been back, I've been doing without... until I found the original at Wal-Mart!  It is called Lotus Biscoff Spread.  I am sure it is not all that healthy.  It is made from cookies, but it has no nuts in it (for those with allergies).

If you check out the official website, you will see it's history and they will also point out that it is Vegan.  :)

February 26, 2013

Minder - Book Review

I don't read nearly as much fiction as I used to, but occasionally I will see a book on Amazon for free that I think to myself, "hmm.  That sounds interesting."  Minder was one of those books.

I was drawn into this book for a few reasons:  One, it was free.  It is no longer free, but it was listed with the free books for a short time.  That can easily draw me in.

A second reason I was drawn into this book was the basic premise, as shared through the book's description on Amazon.  It reads:

Oh, Parents. If you knew what was inside that security blanket, you'd never throw it away. Childhood is governed from a sacred place within the trees, lit by fireflies, and overseen by ancient souls devoted to the sanctity of youth. Some kids are lucky enough to visit this place, but mortal danger arises for Sophia, who arrives uninvited. Readers are carried through a whimsical, often nail-biting adventure as brother and sister confront every parent's worst nightmare. Dragons and fairies are alive and well in this old-world tale, where scary things happen to children who ignore their Minders.
P.S. Childhood ends at 30. And this book proves it.
Parallel worlds and children travelling there is one of my favorite story ideas.  I don't think that it was C.S. Lewis who originally thought of the idea, but it was definitely through his storytelling in the Chronicles of Narnia that opened up my mind to the wonderful idea of another place. Minder follows this basic idea through to a whole world of creatures and personalities that only children can get to.

Third, this book pulled me in because of the positive reviews.  I always check some reviews on Amazon before purchasing a book.  (Even if it is free.)  This book had great reviews.  I don't believe that there was one negative review, at least when I was checking it out.  Many times on Amazon, books get negative reviews simply because of poor spelling and bad grammar, most likely one of the pitfalls of self-publishing.  This book seemed quite well written.  In fact, that idea is related to my final point that I would like to make.

Finally, this book captured my attention because of the author's writing ability.  I found myself not wanting to put this book down.  It captured my attention right at the very beginning and held it throughout the rest of the book.  It had a nice pace and a good rhythm to the storytelling.

I must say that the overall story wasn't quite the Chronicles of Narnia Caliber, but it was still enjoyable.