Sunday, February 1, 2015

On Entering my Fourth Decade

This morning, as our family prepared for our annual trip to Great Wolf Lodge, we simply came to church. The sermon was being handled by another pastor and the music...well, the music is never going to fall under my responsibilities. I also had the unusual privilege of hanging out with another pastor-friend earlier in the week, to just think about 2015 and what it may hold.

Between that time of reflection, and this morning's sermon, a continued theme made a giant impression. We're working through the Gospel of John together, and this section was part of Marshall's text for the morning:

9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 “This I command you, that you love one another.

I'm praying that this small passage defines my 40th year (and...Lord committing it to memory). The following things stick out particularly boldly to me:

  • Joy. I don't just want the theological grid for this. I want this year to be a year I experience more of the joy of abiding in Christ.
  • Friendship. I know God loves me. I want this year to be a year where I also know that God likes me. Through the work of Jesus Christ on my behalf, again, not just theologically...but experientially, I want (like Abraham) to believe God and have that credited to me as righteousness, and be called God's friend.
  • Rest in His love. One humbling element is when you realize that your best friends you have are probably the people you've disappointed and let down the most. But that's what makes them your best friends...they are there for you...even in the failures. I want to remind myself that my friendship with God is based upon His working, and His choosing!
As I quietly type as the children and wife sleep exhausted from our Super Bowl/Birthday party after a day of running around in a water park, I thank God for my amazing wife who is on this journey with me, and pray to God that my children may experience joyful fruit from the things my Heavenly Father is teaching me.

And may we enjoy the lessons!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Loving, Not Liked

New post at the new blog is up.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On the Blog Again

I've been blogging since 2005. Notice I did not say I have been "blogging well," or even "blogging regularly," but simply that I have had a blog since May 2005. I guess my hope is that one day quantity will overwhelm quality and people will eventually think I have a legitimate blog.

I take solace in the fact that friends who are good writers also find blogging hard. It's hard to find a niche. It's hard to regularly update. It's hard to make it look nice.

Blogging has caused me some serious trouble in the past, yet I think I have learned from those miscues. I do not think it is a waste of time, for I do enjoy it (hate it at times, enjoy it at others) and I think it sharpens my thinking for other ministry opportunities.

So I'm on revision #437 and it's a biggie. Here is what is coming with the new blog:

    --Moving to wordpress. A couple of friends have been on me for a couple of years that wordpress is better, and I resisted. However, QT recently made the jump and it does look much better. I'm making the leap too!
    --Consistent posting. At this point, the plan is three posts a week (Mon/Wed/Fri). The first post will be an original article, the second will be links or other content to further establish Monday's point, and Friday will be completely unique.
    --Video Comic Strip. Introducing Hey Pastor!, a computer animated comic strip of the life of a pastor. Again, the comic will fit the theme for the week.
    --Theme. Finally, after years of struggling to know what my blog should be about, I've finally found a vision I'm excited about. The blog will be called "Growing Gray" and you can read about it's purpose here.

Posts begin Monday, January 3rd.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book List

I had the opportunity to share a book list with our church body during Sunday School. Below is the list of books, along with the loose categories I placed the books into:

The Greatness of the Kingdom--The first book I ever read that really justified having a Scripture index in the back. I was blown away and humbled by how well McClain knew the Bible.
Disciplines of a Godly Man--not the first book I read on the spiritual disciplines, but a better option than the first one I read!

Systematic Theology--Grudem's is readable and comprehensive.
What Is Reformed Theology?--Sproul's book is a great review of the "Solas" and the Doctrines of Grace. However, the book assumes we all believe in Covenantalism (relationship of Israel and the church, especially effecting end times), which if you are not (which I am not), you find yourself confused.
The Gospel According to Jesus--Great book to define how the gospel is received.
The Jesus Storybook Bible--Great children's book, and the reason do you hard produces beautiful results!

The Jesus You Can't Ignore--MacArthur's book, though not on the book of Matthew specifically, did open my eyes as we prepared for the series in Matthew to just how strong Jesus' words were against the Pharisees and self-righteous.

The Apostolic Fathers--Pretty amazing to read from pastors of the early stage of the church. Kind of scary how their usual assumption of the gospel can make them sound like legalists!
Contending for Our All--The chapter on Athanasius won me to studying history.
Confessions--I received it years before I got around to reading it. Once I read it, I was bummed I had waited so long.
On the Incarnation--blown away by how current and readable a VERY old book could be. Removed the intimidation for me. Solidified Athanasius as a spiritual hero of mine.

He Is Not Silent--a great book on the "why" of preaching. (And a friend got me an autographed copy!)
Preaching and Preachers--Classic book from one of the great preachers of the last century. His section on why altar calls are not most beneficial is gold.
The Expository Genius of John CalvinHow does a pastor write commentaries on nearly every book of the Bible? Well, because he preached nearly every book. Yet, he didn't preach what had not effected his heart first. This book helps expose how the Word should be effecting the preacher too.
Spirit Empowered Preaching--maybe my favorite "preaching book." Lays out that Holy Spirit empowered preaching is not about theatrics or production, but about the Spirit's purpose; exalting Jesus!

Prophetic Untimeliness--Guinness' book does a great job of stating the church loses her relevance when she pursues being relevant with the world. (forerunner to Unfashionable)
The Deliberate Church--Great book on thinking about why we do what we do.
Biblical Eldership--This is the classic book calling for elder leadership as a trust in God and His Word.
CrossTalk--Every believer is capable of connecting the Scriptures to the lives of those living around them.
Trellis and the Vine--Great book for describing what the multiplication of disciples in the church should look like.
Church Planter--as elders, we going through this right now! Great chapters on the call of God.

Humility--Great book! I think I'm on my second case.
Unpacking Forgiveness--Too many Christians think they understand this, but way too many don't. If we are to forgive as God has forgiven us, this should be a must read for believers.
When Sinners Say I Do--We use this for all marital counseling. Great illustration on how the gospel sanctifies!
Shepherding a Child's Heart--Great book that encourages the parent to not just think about behavior but consider the heart. Parenting is a call to make a disciple.
The Heart of Anger--great book that reminds you that the problem is often not the child, but we the parents. Great application sections.
The Treasure Principle--Great book that causes you to examine where your treasure is, and gives practical application to how to store treasure up in heaven.
Sex is not the Problem, Lust Is--Used to be called Not Even a Hint. Great book to get to the heart of where sexual sin comes from.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fake or Fraud

I had an ethic professor who pushed the issue of integrity in sports. To push us, he asked about the ethic of deliberately fooling your opponent through a no look pass, or a play-action football play. He argued that we accepted it simply because it got desirable results.

I struggled as he spoke to really see his point. It wasn't just that getting a bounce pass into the post would be harder if you couldn't fake. You also run into a scary question, "How responsible am I for the conclusions others will make?" If a team knows the opponent will assume they are running the ball because of the formation they are in, is the team then obligated to run it? It seems that a good fake is part of the game, reminding the opponent to keep the eye on the ball and be prepared for the unpredictability of the game.

However, I just don't know how I feel watching the clip below. Perhaps you could argue the opponent could have known the rules and therefore stopped the play. Perhaps I'm only bothered because the players are fairly young in age.

However, I just can't imagine, if this was the game winning touchdown, that I would be able to sit in front of my locker feeling like we really got the best of our opponent. It wouldn't be so much and issue of skill or strategy, but of trickery. What do you think?

video clip HT: Justin Taylor

Friday, October 15, 2010

Subtle Shift Follow Up

In the previous post I asked readers to identify a "subtle shift" in the preacher's message.

In my opinion, the shift is seen with just one word. Compare the following sentences:

Your mental state is totally dependent on what you think about. (original statement)

Your mental state is totally dependent on who you think about. (what I wish he had said)

Ultimately, this is not just a case of nit-picking words. Certainly, a person could say what you think about and can mean thinking of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. However, when Scripture tells us to turn our eyes to Christ, it is not the same thing to focus on Christianity.

This was the tension I felt as I heard the pastor preach. Christian lives are not changed by focussing on what Christian lives should look like. Lives are changed as we look to Christ. We don't focus on things, we focus on Him.

The shift is subtle, but it's also massive.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Subtle Shift

I recently heard a pastor sharing a message, where in the midst of the message he quoted Isaiah 26:3, in the NLT:

You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
His next words:
Your mental state is totally dependent on what you think about.
Catch the shift? (Offer it in the comment section.)