Saturday, December 6, 2008

Best Christmas Present Ever!

I am sorry for being absent from the blogging scene, but life has just been crazy. I will definitely be back in action after the holidays, but hope to post a couple of more things over the next couple of weeks.

One of the reasons I have been out of pocket is that Allyssa and I found out that we are 9 weeks pregnant!! Well she is. So I have been totally excited about this, plus the holiday season is very hectic at church, as well as at my non-profit.

Please keep us in your prayers, and know that we are going to start a baby (family) blog soon. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and hope that the upcoming holidays find you well.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Three Marks Of A Thankful Heart

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus."
-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

1.) Rejoice always: Joy is an outward result of firm hope of the Christian.

"Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:2)

2.) Pray without ceasing: This is a continual personal fellowship with a Holy God.

3.) Give thanks in all circumstances: A follower of Christ should in all circumstances, good or bad, give thanks.

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17)


"How far less are the greatest afflictions that we meet with in this world...than we have deserved."
-Jonathan Edwards

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Catching Up

To those who follow this blog, I just wanted to apologize for not posting as often as I would like. Time has been crazy this past couple of months, but I am beginning to see relief in my schedule for the coming days. Be on the lookout for some upcoming posts that will be thought provoking and challenging. Please be in prayer for me and my church. Thanks to you who have contacted me concerned about me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Reflections

I love Sundays! Today was a great service at our church. We had a great crowd, wonderful Christ-centered music, and very challenging message from the Word of God. This morning we covered that in the story of Jonah, that God was determined that the Ninevites would be evangelized to. Also we saw that God takes moments in which we are disobedient, and uses them to mold and equip for his sovereign plan for our lives. The primary challenge was that if we want to see people come to know the Lord through the power and working of the Holy Spirit, we must be willing to die to our selves. Out of death, comes life.

Tonight, we continued our study on worship. The topic tonight was 'A Lifestyle of Worship.' We discovered through Scriptures, that God is not only interested in our words and attitudes, but also our actions. Like the morning service, the theme of total surrender (death to self) to God is way by which we are able to worship God the way He desires. Worship is not about us, it is always about Him. The question that we asked was 'What does your reflection look like?' Basically this refers to are we reflecting God's glory and the cross of Calvary, or are we reflecting with our lives our own personal desires, comforts, and opinions. May we die to self, so that God is glorified, and others are drawn to the saving grace of God.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Spiritual Growth Is Tough

This has been a week full of challenges, to say the least. I now realize just how miserable being in ministry can be if you are not really called to it. I say this as one who is finding out that what my wife's grandfather told me at my ordination service is so true, 'If you can do anything else, son, you had better go and do it. You had better make sure that this is what God has called you to do.' In response I must say that this is exactly what I was born to do.

This life that God has called not only me to but many others, is a tough road. However, we must remember that our Lord and Savior suffered much more than we could ever imagine. In the moments that I was experiencing criticism and condemnation, the only thing that I could think of is 'Scott, these people need the grace and mercy that Jesus has granted you.' Six months ago, I believe that I would have responded in a much different way. I would have been enraged that someone would speak to me in this manner and would have the gumption to cast stones at me, a righteous man. I would have returned evil for evil, stone for stone.

It is amazing how God works in the heart of His children. I mean, I was hurt and offended, but this time it was not for myself, but for the gospel. When it was all said and done, I walked away thinking to myself, how could people miss all that Scriptures say about self-control and loving kindness? How could people be so blind to the gospel's message? How could they mock at the death of Christ in such a way that it doesn't even faze them?

I now understand what Jesus must have felt when interacting with the Pharisees. I never would have imagined that people in the church could be so cruel and so condemning. However, as I read through the gospels, those are the people that Jesus faced everyday and who ultimately killed Him.

In all of this, I am humbled. I am broken. I am more sure now than ever, that God is sovereign and working out His plan in my life. I must remain faithful to my call, to my Father, and to my church. I must be steadfast and self-controlled, while responding with loving kindness, mercy and grace, and continue to preach Christ and Him crucified, even if it cost me my life. Isn't that what Jesus did? Isn't that what all the apostles did? Why should I be any different?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

In God We Do Not Trust: Mark Driscoll's Take On The Election

Over at Mark Driscoll's blog at the Resurgence, he has some very thoughtful insights on how Christians view and should view the election. This post was very convicting to me, and has really put some direction in my life. I hope you will check it out, and leave your thoughts here. May we put our total trust in God and in the atonement of Jesus Christ, and stop being as the Israelites looking for an earthly king to save us. He is the King, and is ruler of all and will one day take His rightful place on His throne.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday at church, we had a wonderful service. Our attendance was up 50% from last week, and everything was God-centered worship. John did an excellent job choosing songs that led up to the proclamation part of the service. I have to admit, during the song 'Here I Am To Worship', I broke down. This was not a result of an emotional experience, but one of realization of that which I was singing. In the song there is this phrase that is repeated: 'I'll never know how much it cost to see my sins upon that cross.' As I sang this I tried to imagine standing there as Jesus drank the cup that bore the wrath of God. As I did this, I saw myself, my sinful nature. This led to a desperation that I can't explain. It was like I finally realized, Scott you are unworthy, you are sinful, it is because of you that he is hanging there. In that moment I had no other option than to be broken and confess my need of God's grace and mercy. It was a very humbling moment, one that is needed daily.

We continued our study on Jonah. Yesterday we covered, Jonah 1:7-16. We focused on two things: God's sovereignty (He is in control of the good times as well as the bad times of life) and on Jonah as a symbol of the scapegoat used on the Day of Atonement. With this contrast, I was able to then show the congregation that even though Jonah was able to save the men from death of drowning, these sailors were still in need of something or someone to offer them hope for the salvation of their souls. This was a great lead into presenting the gospel of Jesus as that hope. The sailors made the statement that God does as he pleases, and I ended with the statement, 'It pleased God to provide a way for us to be atoned for, through the death and resurrection of His Son. Jesus was the final sacrificial lamb and scapegoat needed.'

It was an amazing service. My prayer is that God was glorified and not the church nor the pastor. I pray that I directed people's attention to their own sinfulness and upon the hope and beauty of the Cross of Calvary.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

Today is the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his theses to the door at the Wittenburg door. On October 31, 1517, it began, the great reformation.

'God may you bring a new reformation to the hearts and souls of your people today as you did almost 500 years ago. May we declare the truths of your gospel, without any hesitation. May we realize just how desperate we are for your Word and your Spirit, and may you create in us a hunger and thirst that can only be satisfied at your table. May all this happen as we declare that it is all for your glory, alone. '

Take time today to think about the great importance of this event in human history, but do not worship this event. Allow this event in human history to cause you pause, and may you meditate and rejoice in worship of the greatest event in human history, that of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. Soli Deo Gloria!

John Piper's Heart On The Election

Here is an excellent way to view our country and this election. We are God's people whose allegiance is to the Kingdom of Heaven and not to the kingdom on earth.





(via youtube...by way of Desiring God)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Three Standards Of Evangelism

I have been reading a book entitled, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community, written by Tim Chester and Steven Timmis. In Chapter 3, the authors lay out the process of evangelism in the context of community. For many this will be a drastic change of thought, and will challenge how they think about evangelism. However, I totally agree with their conclusions on the topic and wanted to share with you the three standards in which I (as well as the authors) believe will be most effective in carrying out the Great Commission, while obeying the Great Commandment.

1. Building Relationships: We should develop relationships with those who are not Christians. We should seek to love our neighbors (those around us) by inviting them into our lives in order to live life together.

2. Sharing The Gospel: We should love our neighbors, but with gospel intentionality. We should live life together with the desire and purpose to present them the gospel, not just with our actions but with our words as well.

3. Introduce People To The Church Community: This is not simply inviting them to our church gatherings. This is part of it, but not exactly what this is intended to mean. Within the church community we have people with different gifting. Maybe one is good at hospitality (cooking, entertaining, etc) and another is good at communicating clearly the goals and beliefs of the community. We come together over a meal at someone's house, and we begin talking about life and the one who is good at communicating the gospel can present the core beliefs of the community. This can be done in homes, restaurants, gatherings, small groups, etc.

Understand that this is not a specific formula but a lifestyle to be lived by the church. We have to move beyond our understanding the church to be a building, to a community living life together. Within this context trust is built, love is shown, needs are met, and the gospel is presented. This is the standard by which evangelism is to be most effective in our present world. This is precisely the way Jesus lived out his life, and how the early church lived out their mission in their context.

What are your thoughts? Is this helpful? How does your church perceive evangelism? How well do they live life with those around them?

Quote Of The Day

"The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world...The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us."
-G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Formula: How To Know Right From Wrong

I am not usually much on 'Christian Formula's', but while reading Jerry Bridges book, The Pursuit of Holiness, I came across this formula and it seems as though it could be helpful for us, especially in those gray areas in life. The following formula is biblical and very applicable to our lives:

1. "Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial." (1 Cor. 6:12)
Question 1: Is it helpful - physically, spiritually, and mentally?

2. "Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Cor 6:12)
Question 2: Does it bring me under its power?

3. "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." (1 Cor. 8:13)
Question 3: Does it hurt others or cause them to fall in their spiritual journey?

4. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)
Question 4: Does it glorify God?

"Am I willing to develop convictions from the Scriptures and live by those convictions?"
-Jerry Bridges

Pursuing Holiness: God's Provision and Our Responsibility

I am almost finished reading Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness. It is a great read, and packed with very convicting and applicable insights from an author who has definitely done is research on the topic and has obviously experience this pursuit in his own journey as a Christ follower. In His book he states the following about God's provision and our responsibility in our pursuit of holiness:

"God has made provisions for our holiness and he has also given us a responsibility for it. God's provision for us consists in delivering us from the reign of sin, uniting us with Christ, and giveing us the indwelling Holy Spirit to reveal sin, to create a desire for holiness, and to strengthen us in our pursuit of holiness."

"If we sin, it is because we choose to sin, not because we lack the ability to say no to temptation."

These two statements have great implications in my present experience on my journey. Many of times I am tempted and try my darnedest not to give in, but eventually fall. Almost immediately, I turn and fall on my knees and ask for forgiveness, and ask God to give me the strength to resist temptation. What I read in the above is that the crying out needs to happen in the midst of the temptation, if I am to overcome it. In my pursuit of holiness I need to realize that I have all I need to be obedient to God, and grow in holiness. The key for me is to not wait until after I fall to cry out to God for more strength, but instead cry out to him during my temptation, realizing that I have His strength within me through the Holy Spirit, and plead for mercy during this time.

It is inevitable that this process will take time, and I am sure to fail, but this is new and fresh way, for me at least, to look at this awesome pursuit. What are your thoughts? Are you in full pursuit of holiness in your everyday journey? May God grant us the grace and mercy needed to pursue him and his holiness.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Waste Your Pulpit: A Cry To Biblical Saturation In Preaching

This is a must see video for all pastors. Please take the five minutes it takes to watch this and be convicted.





(via www.dontwasteyourlife.com)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sunday Reflections

In our morning service, I felt like John did a tremendous job reflecting the glory of God as he led us in our time of praise. I know there has been talk as of late around the blogosphere about singing songs that go along with the sermon as a negative thing. However, I really feel as though it enriches the worship service and helps get everyone, including myself, prepared to hear what God wants us to hear. We finished our series on the Sermon on the Mount, in which we focused our attention on the two types of foundations that Jesus describes in Matthew 7:24-27. I stressed that a life that is built upon anything other than the truths of the gospel, mainly Jesus, are not lives that are bringing glory to God. I compared the rock and sand to either building your life on Jesus or on church tradition. This is precisely what Jesus was teaching here in this passage. He was addressing those who were grounded in a particular religious establishment, but were unwilling to obediently follow Christ and His teachings. All in all I felt like it was an eye-opening experience for many and spiritual reality check for us all. My prayer is that many repented of their religiousity and turned to obediently follow Christ.

Last night was a great time of intimate worship. Again, I really felt the presence of God in our midst. We began our journey studying Psalm 51, a prayer of repentance, which has a played a huge role in my life pursuing Christ and His glory. We just covered the first verse, which was an appeal to the mercy of God, which is our only hope in seeking forgiveness. We talked about how we usually come to God like little children come to their parents when they have done something wrong, full of excuses and defenses. We learned that the only appeal we had was to appeal to His mercy.

It was a great weekend, except for the fact that Allyssa was sick. The past few weeks I have really felt myself in full pursuit of God's glory. For the first time in my life, I am feeling a genuine clossness with God, which is a very humbling expereince. My only appeal is for Him to grant me the grace and mercy that is needed for Him to be glorified in my life.

James 3: A Story

Every Christian should watch this video, and will probably need to repent when it is over.




(via Desiring God)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Seeking Our Glory Instead Of God's Glory

Over the past couple of years, I have seen a trend in Christians and churches: seeking their own glory, instead of God's. An example of this can be seen in many churches mission statements and how they approach ministry. They say look at us, look at what we are doing over here...leave your church and join ours, because we are most effective. Churches are measuring their effectiveness on growth, not spiritual growth but numerical growth. It seems as though busyness equates to holiness now. What is the deal with this self-centered, self-glorifying method to ministry and the Christian life?

I heard someone today say that their church is effective because they are the only church in their area that has a billboard and ministries for each age group. Is this really what we have come to in measuring the effectiveness of our church...a billboard? This is very disturbing to say the least. Where does God fit into all this busyness? Are we calling people to Jesus as the treasure of their life, or are we calling them to Jesus to buy into another product? The question I have and continue to ask is, 'Is there room for Jesus in our Christianity anymore?'

The Bible tells us that everything was made by Him and for Him...for His Glory, not ours. It seems as though the Western church has bought into this idea of consumerism and have adopted a business ideology for how we do church. Jesus has now become a product that we sell to people, instead of being the Lord and Savior of their lives. We sell them the idea of Heaven as the goal of salvation, instead of God Himself. We don't ask people to come and follow Christ, and follow through with the discipleship process. We instead ask them to accept Jesus and get heaven. We create a church environment that is comfortable for Christians and is effective on giving them a false sense of holiness.

In the end, we have failed to seek God's glory in how we live our lives and conduct our corporate worship services. In essence we are saying to Jesus, 'You are not enough, what you did on the cross wasn't worth it, we need something more.' This is devastating to the church and more importantly robbing God of what is rightfully His, all the glory and honor. How do we move away from this self-serving, self-righteous, self-centered ideology? How do we reclaim lives that long to seek to be satisfied with who God is and has done through Jesus, and seek to bring Him the most glory in how we live our lives? How do we stop calling people to come and look at our churches, and point to the cross and say 'Look at my awesome, mighty, and holy Savior'? It is in the best interest of followers of Christ and the church to turn back to the cross and repent of our religiosity and gain back our total focus on the glory of God. It is rightfully His, and He will pour out His judgment on those who try to take it away from Him.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday morning's service was incredible. We changed some things up a bit, which made some uncomfortable, but it was well worth it. It was 'Communion Sunday' and so everything that we did was centered around the observing of the elements. The atmosphere just seemed different in the church, and yet different in a wonderful sense. After the service was over, I was speaking with several people and surprisingly they were very excited about the direction the service went. Many of times as a pastor, it is probable that you will get negative feedback, and if you are not careful, you can come to expect it. However, when the feedback is positive, you can sometimes be blown away. It was great to hear many say that they felt the Spirit of God during the service.

Over all, I feel that God was definitely honored and glorified with what took place in the morning service, and I really sense that God is doing a great work in our church. This is very encouraging and I am excited about the direction God is taking our church. I am just happy to be a part of the journey, and look forward to the ups and downs that follow.

I had prepared so much for the morning service during the week, that I didn't really get the chance to prepare much for the evening service. I decided to speak from 1 John 4, on the amazing love of God and how that is played out in our lives. To be totally honest here, I felt like I was grasping for words at times and rambling at others. It was such an important topic, that I wished that I had spent more time studying and preparing for speaking on it. So after the service was over Allyssa and I came home and were winding down from a busy day. We were just sitting around watching the Steelers beat the Jaguars, and I get a couple of messages on my BlackBerry. They were from a couple of people at the church, expressing that the message tonight was really touching to them, and led them to call people that they had been angry at for some time, and ask for forgiveness and tell them they love them.

Wow! I didn't expect that one...but why? I guess because I figured that since I didn't do a good job in the delivery of the message, that people wouldn't get anything from the service. Apparently God's delivery counts much more than mine. He is always faithful, even when we are not. I am just truly in awe of how great our God is and how He can use us despite our weaknesses and flawes. I am grateful for Him allowing me to be used as a vessel for His Spirit and work, and hope and pray that I continue to seek His glory and honor and not my own. To God be the glory for the great things he has done.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Book Review: Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a relentless God


In a world where everyone is expressing a dissatisfaction with the state of the church (including myself), there is one pastor from Southern California who has spoken truth in love, to the subject. In a very humble, yet direct way, Francis Chan in his book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a relentless God, has spoken out about the state of the church and the Christians who fill the seats every week.

I began reading this book a couple of days ago, and have not been able to put it down. This is probably in the top 5 books I have read on God's love and how it should move us to pursue Him, not out of fear or duty, but out of our total love for him. I found this book to be an easy read (in style), and yet very challenging (spiritually) because I found myself in a state of pause several times throughout it, reflecting on my view of God and how it effects my relationship with Jesus and with those around me.

There are so many things I would love to share with you that I learned from this book, however it would probably make you frustrated with me for writing so much. So I will leave it to you, to purchase the book and see for yourself. I would highly encourage you to have a pen and journal in hand, because I found myself writing as much as I was reading, which made it so much more fun. I would also encourage you to check out his website for the book, and watch the two to three minute videos that correspond with the chapters in the book. I found them very helpful in understanding more completely the author's perspective in his writing.

If you find yourself feeling as though you are working your backside off trying to be "good enough", or you find yourself discouraged because there is no such thing, you will find encouragement in this book. If you want to learn how to pursue God in a more fruitful way, read this book. This is by no means a self-help book; it is in fact a book that takes the focus off of self and encourages you to put the focus back on the one who created you for Himself.

I will end this post with one of the many challenging questions from the book in hopes that it not only spikes your interest in the book, but also causes you to reflect on the state of your heart as well:

"Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ? Or do the words half-hearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better?"

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Quote of the Day

"If life is a river, then following Christ requires swimming upstream."
-Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Our union with Christ, if we are truly 'in Him', cannot be broken. But our communion with Christ will be dimmed and weakened if we do not carefully attend to the duty of a full-souled and full-hearted obedience to the revealed will of God in Scripture."
-Maurice Roberts

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday was a great day of worship and fellowship at our church. Although, John and I were supposed to be gone to a conference, I feel as though it went well. John and Kelley did a terrific job leading us in worship and allowing the Spirit to guide them while leading. I was very anxious about delivering the message, because normally I spend at least 20 hours in study for a sermon, I only had Saturday to prepare. Thanks to my life experiences and interactions with people over the span of Friday and Saturday, the Lord allowed me the opportunity to speak of those. I spoke on the topic of "The Discipline of a Loving Heavenly Father". It was freeing to me to be totally transparent before my congregation on why I felt that I was unable to attend the conference. I spoke to how although we(Christ Followers) are not to be fearful of the wrath of God, due to Jesus taking that upon himself, we did need to realize that God, like our earthly fathers, will discipline us when needed out of love.

It answered many of questions that people had, and I think clarified some concerns that others had about the topic of discipline. For me, it was a great learning experience, in which I learned that although God is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9), he still has every right to discipline us when we have strayed off the beaten path. The thing to remember was, he does this to those in whom he loves.

Last night we had a special guest with us, who taught on the crucifixion from a doctors and historians perspective. It was an eye-opening experience and really painted a very vivid picture of the crucifixion for us. Thanks Ric for coming and teaching. The whole night service was great. John chose appropriate songs for the topic on hand, and at the end of the service I read a quote that spoke of the offensive/attraction of the cross.

All in all, I feel as though God was glorified in all that took place, and I prayerful that people's hearts were challenged and possibly in the process of being renewed and transformed. I know that is the case in my heart. God has really been at work in my life lately, and has challenged me in many ways. My inclination is to continue pursuing him with all that is in me and as James says, he will draw nearer to me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not A Good Day To Be A Calvinist

Well, John and I are back at home, and obviously we didn't make it to the Desiring God Conference. We sat at the airport for almost 9 hours, and found out to our surprise that all the flights we could take were canceled and the others were full. So the only other option we had was to take an 8:30 am flight out of Atlanta (2 hours drive from our houses) and we wouldn't get to Minneapolis until approximately 1pm. Well the unfortunate thing is the conference will be over half over. So we decided to cut our loses, suck it up and come home.

This is not a good day to be a Calvinist for the simple fact, as a Calvinist I believe that God is in control of everything, the good and the bad. Through His ultimate sovereignty, there is a reason for us not being able to make this conference. That is hard to swallow, because I wanted to ask Him why He wouldn't want us to go, because it was a great opportunity for growth for John and I. However, I couldn't do that, because of my theological foundation. I am not saying I wasn't angry and disappointed, because I was and I am still very disappointed.

In the end, God is in control and is always good and profitable for His kingdom. May He be glorified in all that took place today and takes place in the future in my life. I am excited though, to get to preach on Sunday and serve with John on Sunday.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

2009 Desiring God Conference

Well it is finally here. Tomorrow, John and I will be flying out of Chattanooga to go the Desiring God conference. We are so excited about the potential growth that we may experience at this conference. This will be our first time going to this kind of conference, but we are very excited, because the line-up of speakers is incredible. Some of my spiritual heroes will be there, and I am looking forward to hearing them in person, especially Piper, Driscoll, Ferguson, and Tripp.

I am most looking forward to the opportunity to purchase a load of books. I have already planned it out: I am going to take a bigger suitcase than I need for the little clothing that I will be taking, so that I will have room for all the books that I am planning to purchase. However, the only thing that worries me is the weight limit for the airline, but I figure it will be worth the extra expense if it turns out to be a problem.

Please keep us in your prayers. We are anticipating a time of renewal and fellowship. I am experiencing what many pastors have talked about for years, that being as a pastor I prepare for sermons week in and week out to help disciple my congregation, however I am finding that I am not receiving the same in return. What I mean is, I am not being pastored to in my life, aside from the occasional podcast that I may listen to, in my on life. I see this as a great opportunity for this happen. So please pray that we will leave refreshed and filled, so that we will be able to come home and minister to our flock in the most effective way. I will be updating the conference here on my blog some over the weekend.

Quote of the Day: An Ambition We Should All Strive For

"I am persuaded that I shall obtain the highest amount of present happiness, I shall do most for God's glory and the good of man, and I shall have the fullest reward in eternity, by maintaining a conscience always washed in Christ's blood, by being filled with the Holy Spirit at all times, and by attaining the most entire likeness to Christ in mind, will, and heart, that it is possible for a redeemed sinner to attain in this world."
-Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Focus on Christ will always result in focus on the Cross. You cannot be Christ-centered without becoming Cross-centered. The crucified Christ is to be the center of everything I know about myself and my world. You cannot have any real hope for flawed people in a fallen world unless there is a Redeemer to rescue us from the evil that resides both inside and outside of us. Real restoration to God's created design requires the cross. It is the cross of Christ that alone will restore my allegiance to Christ and His rightful place at the center of everything in my life."
-Paul David Tripp

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday was a great day of worship at Idlewild. John did a great job preparing our hearts for the message through music, and directing our attention to the one with whom we come to worship. The sermon was on Matthew 7:1-5, I talked about the difference between righteous judgment and self-righteous judgment. It was a text that many have heard taught, but not in the detail that we covered it yesterday. I received a lot of positive feedback concerning the message, consisting of people saying that this was something that they had a hard time with, but now understand Jesus' teaching on the subject. I was real encouraged that God used a message that he laid on my heart to help people understand that not only was this a commandment from Jesus (something that they should do or shouldn't do) but also is something that they could personally apply in their lives.

Last night we dove into the next verse, Matthew 7:6, which was a pretty hard text to understand. I relied heavily on commentaries and books from D.A. Carson, Sinclair Furgeson, and James Montgomery Boice to help me understand the meaning of this passage on 'not throwing the treasures of the gospel to the dogs and pigs in our lives'. It was an interesting time, but a time of learning about seeking discernment in our dealings with our witness.

Overall, it was a great Sunday of worship. I have had a very challenging week, dealing with guilt over my past, almost to the point of depression. However, God is showing me that He is in control, and that I needed to turn over my sin and baggage to Him and seek forgiveness and sanctification, and He would take care of the rest. I am learning more and more that this process of being a disciple of Jesus and sanctification is a long process and doesn't happen in the time frame that I would like for it too. God is sovereign and has a plan for our lives, and that gives me hope and comfort at the same time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

J.I. Packer on the ESV Study Bible

If you haven't pre-ordered your copy of the ESV Study Bible, you really should go and do so. It is due out October 15th. I have had mine on order now for about a month, and I am anticipating its arrival on my front step soon.

The following is a video of J.I. Packer discussing his thoughts on the Bible:





(For more videos go here.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mark Driscoll on Christian Meditation

Here is an excerpt from Driscoll's most recent post over at theResurgence on what 'Christian Meditation' is:

"Christian meditation is actively filling one's mind with scripture to hear from God and subsequently being transformed by God to effectively serve Him in the world.

Christian meditation is prolonged, focused, thoughtful, and prayerful deep thinking on the truths of who God is and what God has said and done according to Scripture."


I really needed this in my life today (and everday for that matter). So I highly encourage you to go over to his blog, and check it out for yourself.


Quote of the Day: God As Judge

"An awarenes of God as Judge teaches us to be merciful, and gentle with others. For in the discovery of our own hearts, we learn to have compassion on others in their weakenss. The knowledge of God's judgment clarifies and sanctifies our attitudes toward ourselves and others, as well as toward the Lord."
-Sinclair Ferguson,
(The Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Life in a Fallen World)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mark Dever & John Piper: What Is The Gospel?







(via thegospelcoalition.org)

Quote of the Day

"Jesus has walked ahead of us to clear the way. He has blazed the trail of victory through perfect obedience for our salvation. Though we often fail, he did not. Through faith in Christ our failures are hidden in his victory; our faithlessness is garbed in his obedience. His righteousness is presented on our behalf, and now his power is made available to us in the Holy Spirit."
-Richard D. Phillips

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday was a great time of worship. I was a little 'anxious' about preaching a sermon on 'anxiety'. Kind of ironic, huh? I spent more time than usual studying and praying for this sermon, but still on Sunday morning, I felt really unprepared. I find it really difficult to preach and/or teach on passages of Scripture that I, myself have a hard time wrapping my heart and mind around, and this one was one of those.

One thing that I told the congregation was just what I stated, that this was going to be a difficult sermon for me, due to my struggles with anxiety. My struggles with anxiety have always haunted me, and now are a major contributor to my daily stomach problems. I would have to say that this is a sin that I struggle with the most.

In the end, I feel like it was one of the best sermons that I preached, to date. I know that sounds conceited, but the reason I can say that and not feel bad is two fold. First, I was able to stand before my congregation and let them know just how difficult the week was, and also to let them know that their pastor understands the struggle of worrying. Second, it allowed me the opportunity to use personal examples of how real this struggle is, and really make a connection with the people. What I didn't want to do was just stand before them as someone who seems to have it all together and proclaim that victory over anxiety was plainly just belief in Jesus and everything else will be alright.

I know that this is a true statement, but it doesn't help them that much in their current reality. I was able to expositionally go through each of the 10 verses and explain the arguments that Jesus gives for not worrying. Then take those arguments and apply them to our everyday lives.

All in all it was a terrific service, and thanks to my worship leader, John, for following the leading of the Spirit and helping prepare us for the sermon through music and reflection. I saw people really engaged with the sermon, and I hope that others, like me, were confronted with the danger of spending our day worrying about tomorrow. The central truth was that God gives us the mercy and grace and strength to get through today, but the reason we fill overwhelmed at times, is mostly due to our anxiety about tomorrow. The Bible tells us that tomorrow will worry about itself, but since today has enough troubles for today, we need to focus on seeking the kingdom first and all these things (basic needs, mercy, strength and grace) will be added to us, daily for that day.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Anxiety

I am really looking forward to this Sunday's service. I am going to be speaking on a topic that we all struggle with. We are continuing our study of the Sermon on the Mount, and we are at Matthew 6:25-34, which has to do with not being anxious and seeking first God's will. It is tempting to just speak on the topic, but due to my theological background, I am going to do my best to stay true to the text. My job as a pastor is to do so, and I will expositionally preach from this text. We will look at the ways that anxiety hinders our spiritual growth, due to the fact that to be a worrier is a clear sign that you are of "little faith".

So anxiety is a faith problem, not just a medical problem. Being a social scientist in the making, this is hard for my educational background to accept, but excites my theological background to the fullest, which in the end always out-weighs the education. I hope to see people comforted in the fact that God is faithful to supply our every need, just as he does birds and lilies. With this knowledge I hope that they, as will I, will begin to put our total faith and trust in our Heavenly Father, and live today for Him, by the mercies he pours out on us to do so on a daily basis, without worrying about tomorrow's troubles.

So how about you? Do you struggle with anxiety? If so, do you see it as a faith problem or a personal problem? Look forward to the feedback.

The Truth Behind Those Annoying Political Emails

My blog friend Jared Wilson over at The Gospel-Driven Church has written an article for SearchWarp that sheds light on those annoying political emails that we all get from friends and family. These emails are supposedly true and tell you if you are a 'true' believer and stand firm on your faith, you will forward them to all the people you know. To be honest, I usually just delete them on the spot, because I know generally what they are going to say.

Please check it out, it is really eye-opening and for some it will be very convicting.

Quote of the Day: A Dissatisfied Messiah

"The One on whome we wait is a dissatisfied Messiah. He will not relent, he will not quit, he will not rest until every promise he has made been fully delivered. He will not turn from his work until every one of his children has been totally transformed. He will continue to fight until the last enemy is under his feet. He will reign until his kingdom has fully come. As long as sin exists, he will shower us with forgiving, empowering, and delivering grace.

He will defend us against attack and attack the enemy on our behalf. He will be faithful to convict, rebuke, encourage, and comfort. He will continue to open the warehouse of his wisdom and unfold for us the glorious mysteries of his truth. He will stand with us through the darkness and light. He will guide us on a path we could never have discovered or never would have been wise enough to choose. He will supply for us every good thing that we need to be what he's called us to be and what he's called us to do in the place where he's put us.

And he will not rest from his work until every last microbe of sin has been completely eradicated from every heart of each of his children."
-Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quote of the Day: Spurgeon On Salvation

"Dear friend, salvation would be a sadly incomplete affair, if it did not deal with the whole part of our ruined estate. We want to be purified as well as pardoned. Justification without sanctification would not be salvation at all. It would call the leper clean, and leave him to die of his disease; it would forgive the rebellion, and allow the rebel to remain an enemy of his King. It would remove the consequence but overlook the cause, and this would leave an endless and hopeless task before us. It would stop the stream for a time, but leave an open fountain of defilement which would sooner or later break forth with increased power."
-Charles H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

When Music Is No Longer About Music But Sex

My wife and I just got through watching 'Fashion Rocks', and I am just speechless. We are music lovers. My wife is very musically inclined, but I am not, I just know how to download tunes off of Itunes onto my Ipod. But we love music. So any time there is anything on television that has to do with music, we make it a point to watch.

So we happened to be flipping through the channels and came across 'Fashion Rocks' on CBS. We thought that this would be something that we would be interested in watching. Well, were we wrong. There was hardly any act that I would consider good music. The only artist we really enjoy, OneRepublic, didn't even get to do their whole song. They were the only true 'musicians' on the show.

There was only one theme that we noticed throughout the whole show, and it was the same theme that we noticed the other night as we watched the VMA's. That being the theme of sex. As a man, who struggles with lust (as do all men), it is difficult to watch these things. During both shows I leaned over to my wife and said, "When did it become so fashionable and cool to wear clothing that shows more skin on the front of the body than on the back?"

It seemed that all the artists', if you can even call them that, music was about sex and their showing was about encouraging sexual activity. Now I want to remind you that I am not a legalist. I enjoy good music, which means that I do not enjoy most 'Christian Music". I am finding more and more that the music I enjoy the most is performed by artist that are not very popular. Those who hold true to real music and real messages.

I guess I am just having a hard time understanding why there is such a huge market for 'music' that encourages sexual activity. Especially since most of the consumers of this music are teens. We complain about teen pregnancy and about kids dressing inappropriately, and yet we allow our children to be exposed not only to music that encourages these behaviors but also, let them watch the videos and movies that encourage this kind of behavior. I just wonder if parents would start monitoring what their kids are watching and listening to, would we see a change in behavior? Not only see a change in behavior, but also would we start to see the music industry begin to get back to music that encourages real talent and positive messages? I don't know the answer to this, but I do know that if you are a parent, instead of ignoring what your kids are exposed to, you should start listening and watching what they are.

As pastors and youth leaders, we should be educating ourselves on these things as well. For far too long, we have ignored these things and preached against them. This is a huge failure on our part, leading us to be totally ignorant in our speaking and leading on the topic of culture. Even Paul was educated on the culture of his time. At times he was even able to use figures and music of his culture to help reach people for Christ. People don't need to hear us preach against somethig, and yet seem totally out of touch with what we are speaking about. It is very apparent to me that we need to become more educated on our culture, so we can relate and speak in such a way that allows people to know be confident that we know what we are talking about.

So what do you think? How do you feel your knowledge of the current culture is? What can we do differently in order to be able to counsel and teach people in such a way that they know that we truely understand what we are talking about?

Sin According To Keller

"Sin is not only doing bad things, it is more fundementally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry."
-Tim Keller

Quote of the Day

"Within this narrow house of my body, this tennant of clay, if I be a true believer, there dwells the Holy Ghost, and when I desire to pray I may ask Him what I should pray for as I ought, and He will help me. He will write the prayers which I ought to offer on the tablets of my heart, and I shall see them there, and so I shall be taught how plead. It will be the Spirit's own self pleading in me and by me, and through me, before the throne of grace."
-Charles Spurgeon

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

"As a tempted brother, He feels for us; as a sinless brother He can save us."
-Sinclair Ferguson

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday was a great time of worship. It was evident that the Holy Spirit was really working in the life of our worship leader yesterday as he led the music portion of our service. The choice of music helped us reflect upon what God had been doing in our lives over the past week, as well as helping prepare our hearts for what God was going to do during the preaching of the Word. I know in my own life, I was moved to repent of sins and ask God to empty me of myself and to fill me with His Spirit, so that I would speak exactly what God wanted His church to hear.

The sermon was on Matthew 6:19-24, where Jesus teaches His disciples that they cannot serve both God and wealth. He instructed them to lay up their treasure in Heaven, and not spend so much time and effort laying up treasure here on this earth. The title of my message was 'Choose Your Master: God or Wealth'. I really feel that God spoke to His people in a way that both challenged them and convicted them of their neglect of seeking God. We have to understand that our treasure is Jesus, and that we are not called to seek the gifts that come from God, but to seek God Himself. He is the ultimate gift, and one day we will get to experience Him for all eternity. The important part for us to remember is, as His children we get to experience Him now. However, many believe that we pray a prayer and then wait till we die before we can experience God in all His glory. I tend to disagree. Salvation is the beginning of an awesome journey here on this earth, with Heaven being our final destination. The good news is that we can experience Him now.

I am really challenged by this message, because I spend so much of my week seeking the treasure that comes from this earth, that will one day be destroyed. I focus most of my attention on my job and how I am going to pay the bills, and seem to spend so little time seeking the one treasure that lasts for all eternity, Jesus. Man, how convicting this is!!! It moves me to almost tears even admitting this. Why do I focus my entire life on things that will pass, but spend so little time seeking the treasure that never fails and never dies? The answer is simple: It is more important to me to seek my kingdom, than to seek the Kingdom of God.

How about you? Is this something that you struggle with? Is this even something that you consider a problem?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Our thinking about who we are as Christians should not begin with what we can discover about ourselves by self-analysis. Rather, it begins with what God says about those who trust in Christ."
-Sinclair Ferguson

Friday, September 5, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Christ died, not that we may be able to form a holy nature in ourselves, but that we might receive one already prepared and formed in Christ for us, by union and fellowship with him."
-Walter Marshall

John Piper On Influences And Family




Mark Driscoll interviews John Piper on those who have influenced him in life, and he gets really transparent and personal about his relationship with his wife. This is truly an inspiring and touching interview. Hope you enjoy it.

(via theResurgence.com)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Heavy Burden

It is very late in the night and I have a really busy day ahead of me tomorrow, but I can't sleep. All I can do is lay in my bed and think about my community, the city I live in. One question that keeps haunting me is, 'How can a person reach a community for Jesus that appears to have already been reached?' I know, not everyone has been, but what about those who appear to have been? Are they truly in love with and following Christ, or have they just bought into a religious tradition?

I just can't seem to come up with a plan or a 'strategy' if you will, on the right approach to reach this area. The seeker/100 program churches are getting a lot of people busy in the church, but I am thinking about something that is much deeper than busyness. I am talking about getting people to see their need for Jesus at the core of who they are. Something that is not just getting people involved in an activity or even an age appropriate program, but something that becomes who they are, the source of their life not just another item on their to-do list.

I don't know, I am just not buying into this business as usual, going through the motions ordeal. I want to experience and lead people to experience a community that centered on Jesus. One where we focus on seeking the face of God, searching out the Word of God, getting involved in people's lives without the agenda of getting them to buy into a tradition of rituals, but just genuinely wanting to get to know them and build lasting relationships with them.

I just have a burden for all those laboring and trying to find fulfillment in going to church and being busy doing 'God's Work', and yet still find themselves lacking. It is my dream to see a group of people come together in community to seek God for the sake of knowing Him and feeding on Him and relying on Him for our satisfaction. I just don't see a hunger in people's eyes for something more. I don't see that longing in church goers eyes that says 'I want more'. People get to church three times a week and then look miserable while they are there and then leave as quickly as they come when it is over. Why?

As a leader how do I take this burden and make it into a reality? I spoke to a college class recently. I was asked questions about my job and then when I told them I was a pastor the good questions came. "How do you deal with those who have different views than you?"; "As a Christian how do you set your agenda aside and begin to help those who maybe aren't Christians?". These are excellent questions, and ones that I feel deserve answers. These are the people that I see that are searching for something deeper, something more. Where is the hunger, where is the thirst for the truth?

How do you proclaim the truth in a believable way to people who are convinced that they are the only ones right? I don't want to have an agenda, except to love people the way Jesus has loved me, and through those relationships point them to Jesus by showing them the truths found in the Gospel. I just find myself battling church traditions and religious rituals more and more, and I just want to see less fighting and more desiring of God. More desperation for the Spirit of Truth. Less agendas and more love.

This may be a terrible post to even publish, but this is killing me tonight for some reason. Like Paul, I am burdened for my city. I am tired of feeling as though I am in competition with other churches, and tired of hearing who is right and who is wrong. Who cares? People are desperate all around us for the truth. They are desperate to be a part of a community of people who are honest and humble about their faults, doubts, and questions. We need to be seeking to build relationships with these people, not for the sake of filling the pews on Sunday, but for the sake of letting them know someone loves them regardless if we agree with them or not on every issue.

How do we do this? And no, I am not asking for another book referral, I have read plenty, but none of them suggest to me how to reach the so called reached. How do we in the 'Bible-belt', get to the people and show them that the Christian life is not about being faithful to a denomination or a church, but faithful to the God of the church and his Son who provides the way for us to even have contact with this God, Jesus Christ?

We need to see our desperation for Jesus, in our lives, in our homes, in our relationships, in our churches...I need Him more than ever. I know this seems like a bunch of rambling nonsense, but it is three o'clock in the morning and I am carrying a heavy burden and I need to hash out my thoughts. Sorry if this offends you, and just to set the record straight, this does not stem from any specific interaction with any specific person or person's. These are my observations of my city and the surrounding areas as a whole. I love my church and the people who are members of it. I care deeply for them as individuals and their souls. They are growing spiritually and asking tough questions. However, this has been a burden of mine since I moved back to this area, and believe that is the reason God has placed me and my wife back in this area. I just want to figure out a way to get through, connect, and get people moving towards the cross of Calvary where we are on level ground, where we are all equals. I just want to see a burning desire in peoples lives for God, and who are willing to seek Him no matter the costs.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Uncomfortable Message

I live and serve in the heart of the Bible-belt. I grew up here in a conservative God-fearing home for most of my life. I grew up in a very legalistic independent baptist church, where everything was wrong, except for what the pastor said was right. He was our moral authority, because he was the only one who could hear from God. This led to me being very closed minded and unaware of the deep truths found in God's Word, and the ability for me to experience this God firsthand. I was never aware that there was the capability to have a real, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. The only thing I could do was to quote certain scriptures that would defend the personal beliefs of a pastor that I knew very little about, but was told that he was following God's leadership. On a side note, I am not attacking the character or beliefs of one particular individual. I am attempting to attack something that is reigning so high in the Bible-belt at this time. This being modern day Pharisaic living.

Coming back to my home town after serving in the military and seeing my need for a deeper understanding of what living a life for Christ really looks like, I am deeply concerned for my community, because there doesn't seem to be this same concern in the lives of many of the churches and Christians around me. People are willing to fight to the stake over church tradition and personal preferences, but a lack of fight for sound biblical truths and doctrine. This reminds me of what we see in the Gospels that Jesus was facing when he was speaking to the Pharisees. He spoke to them with the prophetic words of Isaiah, "You honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me."

I see this being played out inside the churches of our community and in the lives of many good-intentioned Christians. People are capable of quoting Scripture to defend their traditions and personal preferences, but due to being uninformed they are unable to express what they believe and why they believe according to Scripture. In all fairness, this is not their faults, because this is what I was taught as well. Many just need to be given the permission to study and think freely for themselves. Many people need to be taught how to study Scripture and find out what the Bible really says about the Christian life.

It seems as though we are good and content with following laws (just as the Pharisees), but not so comfortable with actually being responsible for our own Christian lives and how we live them in accordance to Biblical truths. What I fear this leads to is what Jesus expresses in Matthew 7:22-23 "On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name; and do many mighty works in your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"

This is my fear because I believe that many have bought into a religious ideology, but haven't actually given their lives Jesus and made Him the treasure of their lives. I know this is not a popular topic and one that I could potentially receive a lot of ridicule for, but I have placed myself in this same post. It wasn't until recently (the past 3 years) that I have understood this more clearly. Being a Christian is not about me, but it is all about Jesus. Quite frankly, I don't believe that there is enough room for Jesus in many of our churches and our Christianity today. We need to to do as Paul says in Philippians 2:12, "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." I don't say this to cause fear, but to awake us from our slumber and begin following Christ and run quickly from religious stagnation. When Christ becomes the center of our lives, our churches, our religions, other things become more important. We start paying closer attention to our hearts and their motivations, and pay less attention to how we look and appear to others. I believe this is what is needed in order for a modern day reformation to break loose and our world to experience a great revival of the heart and spirit.

I humbly invite any thoughts on this subject. I truly believe this is something that not only pastors need to be discussing with each other and their congregations, but also this needs to be the topic of discussion between husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends. So feel free to add to this discussion, even if we disagree.

Strep Throat

I haven't had strep throat since I was in high school, but low and behold Friday evening I started getting a sore throat and chilling. It got even worse on Saturday, but I kept telling myself, 'You'll be ready to preach on Sunday'. Well I woke up on Sunday morning, and then came the dreaded telephone call. I had to find someone, with two hours notice, to fill in for me. Luckily one of my deacons was able to help me find someone to fill in.

I am feeling a lot better today, but still have a sore throat. I owe a lot to my wife who has put up with my whining and complaining for the past three days. I feel so sorry for her, because I can be a huge baby when it comes to being sick. God has really blessed me with a wonderful wife, and I am so very thankful for Allyssa.

I'll be back to blogging on Tuesday or Wednesday. Please pray for my mom at this time also, because she has been in the hospital since Thursday and the doctors don't know what is causing her illness.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quote Of The Day

"Let nothing disturb you, nothing dismay you; all things are passing; God never changes. Patient endurance attains all that it strives for; those who have God find they lack nothing. God alone suffices."
-St. Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Desiring God Conference 2008

I am so excited that I can't possibly wait until September 26th. Along with my worship leader, John Burroughs, I am going to be getting on a plane and heading to Minneapolis, MN to a conference that I have always wished to go to. The Power of Words and the Wonder of God Conference is one of the many annual conferences that John Piper's ministry, Desiring God puts on.

I am excited to get to hear from many ministers and Christian leaders that I have long looked up to and have gleaned so much wisdom from. The line-up for this years conference is: John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Bob Kauflin, Sinclair Ferguson, Paul David Tripp, and Daniel Taylor. I am getting excited as I write this. I am not that familiar with Daniel Taylor, but it appears that he is the master of storytelling.

If you have the opportunity go over to the Desiring God website and check it out. It is going to be such a great time, and I am sure that I will be confronted with sin in my life and areas in my ministry where I need to improve. I am looking forward to both, due to the deep desire I have for personal growth as the pastor of a church, as a husband, and as a child of God. This is sure to be a time of great fellowship for John and I, but also a time for great spiritual growth in my own Christian life. Please be in prayer for our safety, as well as that we will be alert to the Savior's voice calling out to our souls for a closer relationship with the Father. May I become more satisfied with God, so that in turn, He will be most glorified with me.

Quote Of The Day

"The notion that we are children of God, His own sons and daughters, lies at the heart of all Christian theology, and is the mainspring of all Christian living.
-Sinclair Ferguson

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quote Of The Day

"On the most basic levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to the basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands. When my soul sits empty and is aching for something to fill it, such deceptive promises are extremely difficult to resist.

Consequently, the key to mortifying fleshly lusts is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with the fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel. Indeed, it is in the gospel that I experience a God who glorifies Himself by filling me with His fullness. ...This is the God of the gospel, a God who is satisfied with nothing less than my experience of fullness in Him!...

Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply loose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free. Eyes to not rove, nor do fleshly lusts rule, when the heart is fat with the love of Jesus."

-Milton Vincent

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday, our church joined together with about six other churches to put on an event for outdoors enthusiast. My dad has been putting this event on now for six years, and this years was the best. There were about 900 people who came out to join in on the festivities, as well as to hear the gospel. The cool thing was that 80% of these guys would never step foot inside of a church, so we bring the church to them. At the end of the event before the door prizes are given out, there is a service where the gospel is presented by a well-known sportsman who happens to be a Christian. At the end of the event 54 people decided to follow Christ, and 20 0thers felt the need to recommit their lives to following Christ. It was awesome to see the power of God at work in our community. This was an awesome way to begin the weekend.

Today was an awesome day at church. We had a wonderful time of worship in the morning service. Johnny B did a tremendous job leading us in praise and worship, in preparation for what God was going to reveal to us through the teaching of His Word. We finished our study on the Lord's Prayer, ending with learning how to defeat temptation and the importance of submitting our lives totally to God. Then we ended with exalting God who is powerful and deserves all the glory forever and ever. It was a great service and I really felt like God was at work in everything that took place.

Tonight I was involved in my first church budget meeting. We have been praying that God would direct us according to His will for our church in regards to how we will spend the money that has been given to accomplish the mission He has called us to. Much to my surprise it was a pleasant and encouraging experience. I have heard a lot of stories from other pastors that had different outcomes, but I am so proud of my congregation for having proposed a budget that is definitely based upon faith and not on what we think we can accomplish. I am looking forward to see how God blesses the obedience of our church, and seeing Him glorified in our obedience to His mission for our church. We are going to be pursuing more opportunities to reach out into our community and serve those around us. I am absolutely excited about what God has in store for our church in this upcoming year.

All in all this has been an absolutely wonderful weekend. I can say that even though I personally struggled with having faith in what God can do through His people, I am absolutely in awe of how faithful He is. I pray that He has been glorified with all that has taken place in my life this weekend, and He deserves the honor for it all.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Stagnation and Complacency

It astounds me as I look around at the world and see so much evil, see so many hurting and crying out for help. Then I take a look at the 'inside' of our churches and see people who appear to be so happy and satisfied in their lives. I begin to wonder just where the gap is. Are we missing something, or have we found something that takes away our desperation and needs, and offers us hope that those on the outside seem to be lacking?

I know that the Sunday School Answer to that question is: Those people within the church have found their hope and happiness in the only One who can provide it, Jesus Christ. This would be an acceptable answer, however, if this is true then shouldn't those who have hope, the key to all their problems, share the 'Good News' with those on the outside? Aren't they called by the One who provides this 'New Element' in life to go and share this hope?

The answer is, yes they should! The question still remains then: Why does it seem as though this is not happening in most places? Why do we not see people desperate to share this hope? Why does it seem like there is so much indifference in the body of believers? Where does God and His will and word fit into this picture?

The truth of the matter so it seems, is that there really isn't much room for Jesus in our Christianity. How can this be? Well, how much of what we do in our lives and in the life of our churches really has do with Christ? How many of us can say that Jesus is truly the Lord of and over our lives and our churches?

Stagnation seems to be spreading in the lives of our churches and those 'Christians' who fill them. We have adopted what seems to be a consumeristic approach to how we do church. We work on providing what people want. We try to offer 'programs' for every age group in our churches. We have changed or transitioned from presenting an uncomfortable and offensive gospel, to presenting a more comfortable and non-offensive tips to living life. This is tragic! We seem to tell people what we perceive to be what they want to hear. What we fail to do as pastors and leaders is to teach them what they need to hear. We fear that if we tell them the truth, they will be offended and leave. So we tend to cater to what they want instead of what they need.

What we then develop is a safe and comfortable place for 'Christians' to settle in and feel at home. In doing this, we are sending the message that life and church is about us, and begin to develop a complacent attitude about our current situation.

(Side Note: Church is not only about non-believers. Church is also a place where Christians are discipled as well. This was not the point I was trying to make, but I feel as though I need to clarify my stance.)

The problem with this is that life and church is all about God and His glory. The church should be a place where those who do not know Christ should feel comfortable and welcomed. However, when we create an atmosphere just for Christians, those who are not feel like outsiders instead of welcomed and wanted guests.

It is of utmost importance that we stop creating comfortable places for Christians and begin to allow Christ to be the Lord of our churches and our lives. We need to create an environment that says, 'Come as you are, filth and all, and meet our Lord Jesus Christ.' Instead of being complacent and indifferent, we need to be desperate. People all around us need a Lord who is much bigger than them and their current circumstances. The only way they will be introduced to this Lord, is if we Christians begin to invest in peoples lives, and offer them the hope that we have found in Christ.

We should move back to proclaiming the uncomfortable and offensive gospel in love, and challenge one another to not be discouraged but begin to follow Christ and go where He went. It is certain that others will come to know Him and in the process we will see spiritual growth in our own lives and the Kingdom of God will grow numerically. Most important is that if we were to approach life like this, God will be glorified and honored. That is our ultimate goal as followers of Christ.

Quote Of The Day

"Jesus shocked the established authorities by being a friend to - not only to the destitute and hungry, but also to those rich extortioners, the tax-collectors, whom all decent people ostracized... The shocking thing was not that He sided with the poor against the rich but that He met everyone equally with the same unlimited mercy and the same demand for total loyalty.

If we look at the end of His earthly ministry, at the cross, it is clear that Jesus was rejected by all - rich and poor, rulers and people - alike. Before the Cross of Jesus there are no innocent parties. The cross is not for some and against others. It is the place where all are guilty and all are forgiven."
-Leslie Newbigin

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Quote Of The Day

"Any step that is taken in any way, by strength not immediately from Christ, is one step towards hell. He first takes us by the arm and teaches us to go, until he leads us on to perfection. He hath milk and strong meat to feed us; he strengthens us with all might, and is with us in our running the race that is set before us."
-John Owen

Three Things A Speaker Must Do

Perry Noble has posted some great thoughts on the role of the pastor over at his blog. He has listed three things that we need to do and think about as we prepare to speak and as we speak. This has really touched me in a special way in the season I find myself, and I think they would be helpful to you all as well. Please take some time to read through his blog, and know a head of time that you will be challenged in a big way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Defeating Temptation

I am really excited about this upcoming Sunday. I am going to be finishing up our study on the Lord's Prayer. We will be looking at how we need to pray and ask for protection from the evil one, and we will be turning to James to find out how the Bible explains how we are to defeat the temptation that comes from Satan. We will be addressing two important questions:

1.) Why do we often find ourselves giving into temptation and committing sin?
2.) What is the secret to defeating temptation?

James 4:6-8 says:
"But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."

There are two actions that a follower of Christ must commit to doing in their everyday lives in order to defeat temptation.

1.) Submit: We must totally surrender our will and life to God. This cannot be accomplished apart from a personal relationship with Christ. This simply means that it is imperative that we spend time conversing with God in prayer and through reading scripture.

2.) Resist: In our own power this is impossible. Since we are sinful by nature and do not have the power to resist Satan on our own, we must rely totally on the power of God living in and through us. Jesus resisted Satan's temptation was by quoting passages of Scripture. We must not miss this point and must apply this discipline to our own lives.

We must conclude then, that the only way one can and will defeat the temptation that comes from the evil one, is by submitting to the One who has the power to defeat Satan, and resist the evil one by using the Word of God as our weapon of choice. The only way one can do this is by maintaining a personal relationship with Christ and putting to memory those things written in His Word.

D.A. Carson says about the petition found in Matthew 6:13: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.":

"This petition is a hefty reminder that, just as we ought to consciously depend on God for physical sustenance, so we ought to sense our dependence on Him for our moral triumph and spiritual victory."

I am excited about this message because there are so many who are so discouraged about their inability to defeat the temptation that comes into their lives. I know that I am at times. I pray that by revealing this simple truth, that others will find hope and realize that they are incapable of defeating Satan in their own power. We must realize just how desperate we are for the power of God in our lives. This is the hope of the Gospel and I am excited about proclaiming this to others.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Stockdale Paradox

I am currently reading a great book by Jim Collins entitled, Good to Great. In the first chapter the author discusses the different levels of leadership. Level 5 leadership is the the one that we all should aim to achieve in our lives as leaders. Under this heading he says that those who posses this level will confront the brutal facts, but will never lose faith. He makes reference to this concept entitled the Stockdale Paradox. The following is the definition that he gives of what this concepts entails:

"Stockdale Paradox: You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

As a leader this is a difficult thing to do, but is an attribute that I hope to master. How well do you as a leader confront the brutal facts of your current situation? Do you find it hard to do so and at the same time keep the faith? I look forward to hearing some feedback on this one.

Quote Of The Day

"You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not
mind who gets the credit."
-Harry S. Truman

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Reflections

I have to tell you, it was great getting back and serving in my church today. I was encouraged greatly today by all those who told me they had missed my teaching the past week. Thank you to those of you who prayed for Allyssa and I as we were on vacation and all you who have been so encouraging to us as we minister to you.

This morning was phenomenal! We were privileged to have with us a local folk/bluegrass band leading our worship service. I am not the biggest bluegrass fan, but their music was tremendous and their music was so God-centered. The members of the band presented the church with a couple of challenges, and encouraged the church to be obedient to what God has asked of them. Thanks to the guys of "Just Us", and I hope to have you guys back soon.

Tonight, I got the opportunity to finally get to preach again. God has really been working in my life over the past week and I was able to express those things to the church. I spoke about the Rich Young Ruler's encounter with Jesus. Many people use this passage in Matthew 19, to tell people that Jesus requires you to sell all your belongings and give it to the poor. This ideology and understanding really misses the point. Jesus here calls the guy out on his sin, which is the fact that things and doing good has become his false god. Jesus calls him to get rid of his false god, and come and follow the one true God. I challenged the church to rid themselves of the false gods that have taken the role of GOD in their life, and begin to follow Christ. Even though in the world's eyes we may be last, we will be considered first in the Kingdom of God. We are to live our lives with the motivation not to gain rewards and recognition, but to bring glory and honor to God and obey Christ commands just because we desire that His name be lifted high and exalted. There is nothing we can do in our own merit to earn God's favor, but with God working in and through my life anything is possible.

This passage has really challenged and convicted me about letting things, people, and thoughts take the place of God in my life. I need to rid my life of these false gods and begin to follow Christ. I want my life to show that what Jesus did on the cross was not meaningless but in fact was totally necessary. May God be glorified because I am most satisfied in Him (John Piper).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Quote Of The Day

"Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you is a branch sticking out of the edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and seems more than strong enough. How can it save you?

If you're certain the branch can support you, but don't actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If instead your mind is filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. How?

It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is totally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch."
-Tim Keller

Friday, August 15, 2008

Recommended Reading: 13 Ways To Ruin Your Life

When we returned home from our vacation, I went to the post office to pick up our mail from the last week. To my surprise I had a free book in the mail (this is always an exciting time). It was from a great speaker and author named Jarrod Jones. The book is entitled, 13 Ways To Ruin Your Life: A Practical Guide For Guys. This book is on how sexual sins, pornography and lust to be exact, can ruin a man's life.

I have just read the intro, but it looks to be a very promising book. It is designed not only for individual reads, but mainly for small groups of men to follow along and become open about their struggles. I am excited about reading this book, and I am already in planning mode on how I can incorporate this book into the lives of the men in my church.

Men, if we are honest, there is not a man out there who has not or who does not struggle in this area in some form. This is the primary area that the enemy tries to get a hold of us, and it is about time that we become open about it and begin to fight back. I believe that this book will be a great place to start. The author has used Proverbs 7 as his biblical focus, and if we are to follow what Christ modeled, we need to fight temptation by responding with scripture. This is exactly what Jarrod has done in this book.

More to come soon, after I finish reading the book. Check it out.

Final Day of Vacation: Animal Kingdom

Here are a few of our pics from the last day of our vacation at Disney. Animal Kingdom was one of the coolest places I have ever visited. The safari was incredible, and Expedition Everest was an interesting ride.

To end the day, I took my wife to her favorite restaurant, Rainforest Cafe. This was my first time eating there, and it was amazing. I had the 'pot roast', and it was (sorry mom) the best pot roast I have ever eaten. It was a great way to end the vacation. So I suggest you go to the nearest Rainforest Cafe as soon as possible, but watch out for the thunderstorm and the wild monkeys.







Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pictures from Vacation: Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios

We are having a great time at Walt Disney World. We have now visited three of the four parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. We are making our way tomorrow to Animal Kingdom, and looking forward to riding Everest. Here are just a few of the pictures we took the past couple of days just to give you a taste of what we are experiencing. We are a little sad, because tomorrow is our last day in the park, and Friday we fly back to Nashville.

We have decided that the next time we come, we are going to do eight days in the park, instead of six. It is so much easier when you can spend two days in each park, and it also allows you to experience everything and not feel rushed. We did this for Magic Kingdom and Epcot. This is the absolute best way to experience Walt Disney World.