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.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ordinary Pastors

We watched the following video for our TriState Fellowship Ministerium meeting.

T4G 2010 -- Session 9 -- C.J. Mahaney from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

After the video, we also discussed the following questions:

    1. How can a comfort with being called to the ordinary not lead to complacency or laziness in ministry?
    2. Though CJ Mahaney refers to himself as an "ordinary pastor," none of us would probably refer to him as one. How do you think he maintains a genuine humility in regard to his ministry?
    3. How can we keep from comparing ourselves (either favorably, or unfavorably) with other pastors/churches within our district?
    4. Who do you have in your life who can assess whether you are being patient toward the sheep God has entrusted to you?
This timely article also came out on the Gospel Coalition.

Take a look, I think it will bless you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fun Family Event

Grace will be hosting John Begley this Sunday evening at 6:30pm.

Should be a fun time for the whole family...would love to see you there!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Interesting Interview

I found this interview quite edifying as you watch Harris, Driscoll and Chan work through different issues, but with respect and concern for one another:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Christ Glorified in Jocks and Nerds

Just the other day, I listened to a keynote panel (audio/video) from the Resolved Conference including CJ Mahaney, Steve Lawson, John MacArthur, and Rick Holland. During the discussion, CJ made the following observation:

"These men have a voracious appetite to read, because they have a voracious appetite to learn, because these men have a voracious appetite to grow in their knowledge of, and love for, God."
After he shared this observation, each man took their turn sharing how they once were not interested in academics, but spent much of their youth pursuing athletics. A couple of these men had great success in the athletic arena, and any reading or school work was simply completed for the sake of maintaining eligibility. However, each man shared how either at their conversion, or upon the call from God into ministry, they began to develop a new love for reading. They shared how this was such a radical change in their life that it was obvious it must have been wrought from God. CJ even shared (who experienced this change right at conversion) that it served initially as an evidence of grace in his life. Each man proclaimed that their love for reading had no other source than the love and grace of God.

But there was one other man on the panel.

Al Mohler does not share their testimony. Mohler joked that while the other members of the panel were outside playing with balls, he was inside reading books. Mixing his near-sightedness with athletic endeavors, Mohler quickly discovered, "This isn't working." Mohler explains the distinction:
I think we can make a virtue out of reading that can be an end in itself. But reading is not an end in itself, growth into godliness is the end; being conformed into the image of Christ. That's going to happen by Scripture, it's going to come by the teaching and preaching of the Word of God and it's going to happen by reading. So reading is not "the thing," it's not the end in itself. It is the way God has chosen to help His people grow, and it's been that way from the beginning. The Jews were dependent upon the scrolls. Paul says to Timothy, "Bring the books and the parchments in a hurry." It's just important and we realize we're not going to grow if we're not reading and studying.
I praise God for the testimony of both. The "reading jocks" remind us that you must read to be able to truly grow. But the "nerds" remind us that reading is not glorious if growth in godliness is not the goal. Without each other, neither message would be as clear.

Personally, I've never been smart enough to qualify as a "nerd" and certainly lack the athleticism to be a "jock." However, I will read, and call the sheep at Grace to read, because I trust in a sovereign God--for no other reason than to show His divine glory and mercy--delights in conforming His children into the image of His Son through His Word.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gospel Centered Surprise

Last night, QT and I joined our JOY Club (Seniors' Ministry) for a hymn-sing. We sang many favorites which I haven't sung in a long time. Someone suggested I Love to Tell the Story. I remembered this one from church growing up, and always thought it was a song about evangelism. But it's about much more than that! I found the final verse particularly encouraging:

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me;
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.


I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.


I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Perhaps the Amillennialists Are Right?

C'mon, Keith Shearer, you gotta admit that this makes you wonder if we aren't experiencing more of the Kingdom than we anticipated!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Christian Patriotism?

The following video is a great way to consider our role as Christians who live in the United States:

A couple quick notes:

1. This is not an assessment of the individual faith of the "founding fathers." Every single founding father could have been a believer (they were not), and yet the United States would not be a Christian nation.
2. This does not in any way mean that we do not enjoy incredible freedoms here in our country, all of which are a grace from God. We experience a lot of liberties here which allow us to freely pursue Christ. This is a gift for which we should all be thankful.3. A common grace God has given for us so that we can experience these liberties has been seen in the lives of soldiers who have served (or are serving) as well as those who have lost their lives protecting these liberties. These sacrifices cannot save a soul, but they are a glorious display of loyalty and sacrifice.

Why does this matter? Couldn't this issue simply be left for opinion? Why does this issue seem to rile me up so much at times?

In a nutshell, I think the crusade to "reclaim" the United States as a Christian nation confuses and distorts the gospel.

1. It reduces the essentials of saving faith. I've heard people state, "Look, the Declaration of Independence mentions a Creator God, this proves many founding fathers were Christian." Such a statement ignores that simply being a Theistic Creationist does not mean one has saving faith. I've also heard people exclaim, "But did you know that a majority of the founding fathers were pastors?" Again, this misses that salvation does not come by an office held within the church. (In fact, Gilbert Tennent preached On the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry in 1739.) I've met a disturbing number of pastors who do not know Jesus Christ, and it seems Pastor Tennent had met a number of them too...right around the time of the Revolution.

When we want to claim our nation as Christian because the founding fathers made some vague comments about God, we distort the gospel on two fronts. One, we make it seem like the gospel is simply to believe that God is a Creator and we eliminate the news of the person and work of Jesus Christ. We somehow imagine a Christianity that does not require the gospel. And two, we obscure what it means to be a genuine witness. We begin to assume we are taking a major stand by saying God exists and He made everything. Instead, we need to speak of Jesus, and how salvation is only found in Him.

2. It confuses our mission. A recently heard a pastor state, "Pastors have to start preaching to their people that this nation was founded on Christian principles or we'll never see this country turn around." But Christ's kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). He will build His Church (Matthew 16:18). Surely this should be the focus of every disciple and pastor. The pastor who focuses on building this nation will a) find himself neglecting the proclamation of the gospel, for the gospel cannot be spread (or received) through political movement, and b) ignoring the fact that there are still 1.9 billion people who have not heard the name of Jesus, most of whom do not live in the United States. Our mission is to see God build a nation, not a country.

3. It does not call people to hope. Even if the United States had been founded as a Christian nation, such knowledge will not return people to those roots. Hope is not placed in the past (Romans 8:24). Such an effort falls victim to the naive assumption that the time of the Revolution was the glory days for our country.

Let's get this straight: Black people were slaves. Women were not given the liberty to vote. The Catholic church and corrupted Church of England were running rampant. People ignored Romans 13:1-7 and began to murder other people. And some people want to think of that era as the "glory days?"

The message of the gospel is set in the past, at what Christ did for us. But the hope of the gospel is set ahead of us. That we will be with Him some day! If this is as good as it gets, that's not "good news." If Resurrection Morning is as good as it gets, that's not "good news." The good news is good because in hope, I wait for the day that God will call me home and I will enjoy being in the presence of Christ for all eternity...freed from presence of sin and the curse placed upon creation for it. This hope is what can motivate people to proclaim His gospel and see His church built.

Independence Day is a day to celebrate. (There's double celebration in our family, as it is also my parents' anniversary.) Watch fireworks, go to a cookout, pray and thank God for our country...however you choose to celebrate. However, also remember that political and religious freedom is not true freedom. Freedom from sin and its punishment is the only true freedom there is.

And that's a message for every person, of every country.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lessons Tested With Fire

Before the smoke cleared--literally--people were giving their commentary of the "Solid Rock Statue" burning up. Some people were saddened by the event, stating they felt bad for a church that was truly trying to face such a set-back. Others saw it as a humorous story, even seeing it as a confirmation that God is trivial, for why would He burn down a statue of Himself, if He really existed. Conversely, some saw it as a crystal clear indication of God's judgment (yet, they never seem to address why God would allow it to exist for eight years before burning it down).

But many of these comments remind me of Luke 13:1-9, we spend all our time speculating "why" it happened, and entering that debate, we miss the most critical step, asking "what" I should learn from the event. The following is a short list of things I've been processing since the statue burned down:

Theological Practice Matters--It's interesting to me that many people want to question the church's use of money (more on that below), and charge of idolatry (a charge the church denies by saying they truly worship Jesus, not the statue), but do not address a crystal clear issue regarding their theology. This issue is seen in nearly every article that includes a response from Solid Rock. Most of the quotes from Solid Rock come from Reverend Darlene Bishop. Why does this matter? Isn't this simply an issue of preference or interpretation? Consider the following well-written quote from T4G's Affirmations and Denials:

We affirm that the Scripture reveals a pattern of complementary order between men and women, and that this order is itself a testimony to the Gospel, even as it is the gift of our Creator and Redeemer. We also affirm that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the church, and the society. We further affirm that the teaching office of the church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings and that men are to lead in their homes as husbands and fathers who fear and love God.

We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful ministry in Christ’s kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues
without damaging its witness to the Gospel.
(Article XVI, emphasis added)
I understand that the media will distort and omit quotations regarding the gospel from pastors, so I know it can be hard to assess a witness through the papers, but unfortunately I have not heard a quote from Solid Rock that lays out the gospel. When PETA made an offer to finance the rebuilding, the response was, "We’re not interested. We raise cattle. We never build a statue with stipulations that we would have to advertise for PETA."

Lesson for Me
I'm reminded that it is easy to be complementarian in theology but not practice. As a man, I am tempted to neglect my role of headship and passively take a back seat. Instead, Scripture reminds me that for the sake of the gospel witness (especially to the children in my home), I need to make sure the gospel is kept clear by keeping our roles in proper order.

Preaching is Still Primary In defense of Solid Rock building the statue, many speculated that it was simply their way to be a witness. However, we must remember that no one can be saved without preaching:
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"--Romans 10:14-15
Simply looking at the statue can leave you with plenty of questions. Why is Jesus in water? Why is the cross smaller than Him? Is this a picture of Him after the crucifixion or before? What of His ascension? Why does this matter? The statue cannot speak. It leaves you with questions that create gaps, that keep you from being able to place faith in Christ. The message must be spoken.

Lesson for Me Nothing can supplant preaching. Remember the great buzz generated by The Passion movie? I heard several preachers suggest that it was going to help usher in revival. I can honestly say I saw no discernible difference in conversions or sanctification after the movie was produced. Why? Because preaching is still essential. Yet, we remain easily tempted into thinking various methods, models and programs will be what God uses to build His church. Often, those programs can be the application of truths presented from the pulpit, but they cannot replace the pulpit. Mark Dever says, "What you win them with, you win them to." We don't want to seek to draw people in with distractions from the Word of God, but with the Word of God itself.
Critiquing Spending Habits is Dangerous Much of the outrage I read regarded the finances necessary for reconstruction. That money could be given to missions! That money could be given to the poor! Of course, if you do not believe it is wise to build the statue, then the cost seems all the more staggering. However, I haven't seen any church or individual step forward and offer themselves for public financial scrutiny.

Lesson for Me Nothing makes you rethink your spending habits like visiting a third world country. To be honest, meeting with these Haitian pastors this week and seeing their great needs does make me question the wisdom of building a giant statue. I also heard a latino pastor rebuke Haitian and Dominican pastors for a history of not reaching other people groups. He laid out the great need of reaching the unreached, again making it hard to imagine using steel, wood and styrofoam to build a statue rather than a church building. However, I miss the point if I don't immediately begin to evaluate my own personal budget and our church's. I am praying that the day comes that over 50% of our family budget and 50% of our church budget could go toward the proclamation of the gospel. Yet, even if that day comes, my could still be subject to scrutiny. While I can encourage others to spend wisely, for the sake of my own soul, I must remember that my spending habits can always be refined.

Ultimately, the statue serves as a reminder that all our lives will face fire.
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident ; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.--1 Corinthians 3:12-15
And when we face that fire, it will be too late to consider reconstruction.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Purpose-Driven Piper

John Piper's announcement that he has invited Rick Warren to speak at his conference has generated a lot of discussion. I've been thinking through it since I heard about it (ironically, the day before April Fool' I was skeptical at first). I've considered writing my thoughts out--for I've had several people ask, "What do you think?"--but have hesitated for the following reasons:

    Who cares what I think? (That's been my default answer when asked.) It's Desiring God's Conference, and I do not sit on their board, and they do not use me as an advisor. If we ever hold a conference at Grace I will then be able to choose the speakers along with the other elders. How I would feel about the people Piper invites should never cross Piper's mind.
    Who knows why Piper invited him? Watching the comments from some blogs, there is a form of Fundamentalism (using the word to refer to actions more than doctrine) that I don't think Piper would mind distancing himself from. I believe Piper wants to resist a loveless orthodoxy that can be proclaimed by some. His teaching ministry has resisted it, but I also believe he wants to avoid being associated with it, if possible. One comment I read said something like, "Can we now as fundamentalists admit that Piper is not one of us?" Reading from other comments the man made, I thought, "Yeah, Piper may be ok with not being "one of you." Perhaps there is some strategy here not only to state what Piper supports, but also passively eliminate that which he does not.
    Who knows what Piper will do? It appears from the schedule that Piper will still speak at this event, despite his break from public ministry. For this reason, it seems to me that final judgement is best reserved until after the conference. You never know what Piper may do. I was at a conference once where Piper publicly asked the music leader not to sing a song again due to erroneous thinking communicated in the bridge of the song. He pointed out the error, and was gracious to the leader, even suggesting maybe changing the words or eliminating the bridge, but even stated publicly that he hates the words. Another time, Piper was sharing the pulpit ministry at a conference with another nationally known speaker. The other speaker was setting the crowd up for his next session by saying some rather controversial things. He finished and sat down. There were a couple of songs in between and then Piper took the pulpit. Piper's first actions were to publicly point out the concern he had, stated the concern he had for where the speaker was headed and told him he'd be listening very closely. He did all of this in the pulpit with the other man (who's neck turned very red) sitting on the front row. I don't see John Piper shying away from pointing out error, even if he invited the speaker to his conference.

Yet, I have to admit, I am a little baffled by Piper's decision. However, until I write a full blog post (and am probably leaning toward I won't), this is the best article I have seen. The concluding paragraphs of the article state:
I am glad that through his conferences John Piper is not trying to build the young, restless, Reformed as much as he's seeking to just preach truth. That is a good and noble goal. It is a goal that allows him to look outside of a safe little group of approved speakers. At the same time, Rick Warren is way outside that group and for good reason. Warren's critics have not always been fair to him and yet neither have they been without justifiable and significant concerns. His ministry is in so many ways antithetical to Piper's. It surprises me and maybe disappoints me a little bit that he has been invited to share that platform.

At yet let's heed Piper's warning not to fall into an error of secondary separation. There is no need for us to separate from Piper over such a decision. We have plenty of latitude to disagree with him; let's do so with respect for him and for his long and faithful history of ministry to the church. The sky is not falling, the world will go on.

Seriously, you should read the whole article.

Also related, here's some video from Piper himself, regarding the issue:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kicking Cancer in the Teeth

A dear friend and former elder at our church is in his third bout with cancer. For the last two days, this passage has been working through my head:

1O LORD, how my adversaries have increased ! Many are rising up against me. 2Many are saying of my soul, "There is no deliverance for him in God." Selah. 3But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. 4I was crying to the LORD with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. 5I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me. 6I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about. 7Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God! For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. 8Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah.--Psalm 3
In the midst of increasing adversaries, David does not by the lies of his enemy. God has not abandoned him. God will be a shield to David and God will destroy all of His enemies:
20But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, 24then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26The last enemy that will be abolished is death.--1 Corinthians 15:20-26
While we should always pray to God that His will be done and not ours, we can know that it is His will to destroy cancer. Cancer suffered its defeat at Calvary. Cancer will suffer ultimate defeat at the Judgement.

Praying that between those two moments, God will kick the teeth of cancer in again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Preaching [and living] Like This Is Dangerous

May God grant me the same commitments and convictions not just now, but 30 years from now!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Anticipating T4G!

Two weeks ago, Mark Dever gave some video announcements regarding the messages for Together for the Gospel. At this point, the schedule is:

The Church is the Gospel Made Visible--Mark Dever: Dever jokingly says all his thought has simply gone into the title, and if you simply meditate on the title, you don't even need to hear his message.

The Defense and Confirmation of the Gospel: What I Have Learned in 50 Years--RC Sproul: More of an autobiographical talk, Sproul will trace us through his observations these last 50 years. (MacArthur gave a similar message at the first T4G which was great. It really gives those of us with less experience an opportunity to grow from his!)

How Does It Happen? Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel--Al Mohler: Speaking of learning from the past, Mohler plans to show how the gospel often gets adjusted, bit by bit over time.

'Fine Sounding Arguments' How Wrongly Engaging the Culture Adjusts the Gospel--Thabiti Anyabwile: Thabiti plans to show how our good intentions can sometimes cause us to make bad decisions which could compromise the truth of the gospel.

The Theology of Sleep--John MacArthur: Dever says this message will be based from Mark 4. Hmmm.

Did Jesus Preach the Gospel of Evangelicalism?--John Piper: I'm guessing that we will hear one talk packed full of John's growth through preaching the gospels as well as researching for books he's written like What Jesus Demands and Finally Alive.

Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?--Ligon Duncan: Actually, this message may be the one I am looking forward to the most. I read the Patristics about 3 years ago and really struggled that grace does not appear easily visible in their writings. Duncan got his PhD in Patristics, so I'm looking forward to hearing him explain if that is simply writing style, arguments of the day or an issue of doctrine.

Expository Faithfulness--CJ Mahaney: Although the website says that CJ will be preaching from 2 Timothy 4:1-5, CJ also has an uncanny ability to mesh everything from the conference together so that you are sure to take away the big ideas.

If you are not from Grace, you still have time to sign up. If you are from Grace, it may be too late to get a room with us and get in on our transportation, but we'd still want to work with you. Let us know you are going, and we'll make sure you're in on all the opportunities to fellowship with us during the week.

[We're also in the process of arranging some time with a pastor of a very active church planting church. He's a warm, gracious, passionate guy who loves church planting and has seen God honor that in many ways. I believe it will be a real inspiration for us!]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Big Red Tractor

File under "Chan is the man"

The Big Red Tractor from Jacob Lewis on Vimeo.

(And in Darke County, I feel it is my responsibility to point out that Chan has probably never heard of Massey Ferguson, so this is not a slam on Deere. You can pretend the tractor is green and yellow if you want to.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Introducing Acts 29

Last night, at Greenville Grace's Vision Night our elders announced that we are pursuing a relationship with Acts29.

If you're not familiar with Acts29, we invite you to cruise around their website. I especially encourage you to check out this page, which explains what Acts29 believes. Acts29 summarizes their statement in four words: Christian, Evangelical, Missional & Reformed. (You'll find their beliefs fit right into what we already have listed as our Statement of Faith from the FGBC.)

We're excited that Acts29 seems to offer the experience and resources to help us fulfill our long-time plant many churches that will plant churches.

After a lengthly and detailed process, we are now in the Candidate Phase. This means that we have been received into the Network and would receive a "full membership" status provided we meet the following three conditions:

  1. Enter into a coaching relationship with an existing Acts 29 pastor who can help guide you through the process of planting a new work out of Grace. (This is one reason we pursued Acts 29. We look forward to the development at Grace that will come through a coaching relationship.)
  2. Develop a written strategy and timeline that details how you plan to become a church-planting church. We would like to see you launch a church plant from Grace within the next two years with a well thought out strategy for the location and a plan for missional engagement. (It's exciting to think our intentions could become reality within 2 years! Of course, to help see this happen, we need some coaching and help!)
  3. Financially support church planting with 10% of your overall budget per the Acts 29 Covenant (a voluntary 1% to Acts 29 Foundation Fund and 9% to church planting as your church deems fit, but we would like to see that be an Acts 29 church plant). (We're excited to begin supporting active work more intentionally, while continuing in our support of other church plants, both domestic and abroad.)

We're praying that this relationship will foster massive Darke County and around the world!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Join Me!

Sojourn is hosting a Church Planting for the Rest of Us event. It's FREE and looks to be real good. Dustin's latest post states:

Though we already have some content established for our forum next week, we would like to know what YOU would want to know about church planting to allow us be as helpful as possible to church planters.

Hopefully you will be attending this FREE event in person, but even if you aren’t, if you are a church planter, or are working toward planting a church, and have a “burning question,” we would love to know what it is to help us “answer the questions people are asking” about church planting.

Feel free to begin posting your questions here now and tell your friends to do the same through your blog and Twitter.

Some of the best ones will doubtlessly influence our direction.

It’s not to late to sign up either!

Sojourn/Church Planting for the Rest of Us FREE Lunch Forum

Featuring Acts 29 Church Planters Dustin Neeley, Rick Long, Nick Nye, and Kevin Jamison.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

11 AM – 1 PM

930 Art Center

930 Mary Street
Louisville, KY

The event is FREE, but we need you to register to get a head count for lunch.

Register here and if you live in my area and would like to carpool, let me know!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Got Our Number

In high school, nothing sounded as painful as Probability and Statistics Class. I would just as soon walk down to the shop and drink a pitcher full of sawdust. My distaste was probably a combination of totally maxing out with Trig & Pre-cal, but also for the fact that I tend to shy away from most record keeping involving numbers. It just seems that issues of the Kingdom are not usually assessed with numbers and figures.

This caused me to be very suspicious of Ed Stetzer. Why would anyone in ministry want to spend their time looking at numbers? And how in the world could that benefit the church?

I have recently come to really appreciate Stetzer's ministry and particularly his teaching. As an evidence, consider a wonderful article by Stetzer for Christianity Today.

He lays out how statistics are often misused and misunderstood. He also exposes the panic and conclusions that are often made which are contrary to gospel truth. Of course, most stats used in Christian publications paint a picture of a bleak and dying church. However, Stetzer reminds us:

Reports of Christianity's demise in America have been greatly exaggerated. While the main thrust of good research does indicate that the percentage of Americans who self-identify as Christians is declining, these data are not necessarily a bad thing. If three out of four Americans call themselves Christians, we are in big trouble. Three out of four Americans certainly do not live like Christians. Christianity becomes confused when everyone is a Christian but no one is following Christ. We evangelicals believe that most Americans do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Is the church dying? I wouldn't count on it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Say No to Deodorant

They said to them, "May the LORD look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh's sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us."--Exodus 5:21

What was Moses' crime? How did he make the Hebrews odious in Pharaoh's sight?

He had the nerve to obey the LORD and ask Pharaoh for permission to observe a feast in the wilderness.

Now, fast-forward through all the plagues (except the plague of the first-born) and consider a commandment God gives to the Moses:

"Speak now in the hearing of the people that each man ask from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor for articles of silver and articles of gold."--Exodus 11:2

The response?

Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh's servants and in the sight of the people.--Exodus 11:3b

The reason?

The LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians.--Exodus 11:3a

I am by no means advocating that we intentionally act in an offensive way. However, in an era when so much blame is passed on believers when they are not received well by unbelievers, we must remember the reception is in the hands of the LORD.

Beloved, you smell. But please don't try to cover it up:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?--2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Friday, January 8, 2010

Faithful to Martyrdom?

If you are like me, you've read the accounts of martyrs today and wondered, Would my faith be so strong? I remember reading the Martyrdom of Polycarp and being amazed by his strong reliant faith. Of course, the legacy of martyrs in the church begins with Stephen, who was clearly filled with the Spirit at the time of his execution. However, reading in Acts, we also see that filling marked Stephen's life in the "little things" as well. He was identified as a good candidate for deacon because he was one who was filled with the Spirit. We prepare for the call to martyrdom by learning to be faithful in the small things in life.

Steve Timmins shared a few thoughts on such faithfulness recently on his twitter account. They were too good to not share, but I didn't want to just retweet them, so they appear here instead:

How can I be sure I would lay down my life for sake of Jesus & the gospel? Perhaps I'll be like Peter in his bravado and subsequent denial? Can't ultimately be sure until I'm called on to do so. But there are indicators in what I am reluctant to give up...

    If I'm not prepared to give up my bed to go and serve someone, I can be fairly confident I won't give up my life...
    If I refuse to give up a holiday abroad so I can support someone in gospel ministry. I can be fairly confident I won't give up my life...
    If I'm not willing to pursue people who are different from me in order to bless them, I can be failry certain I won't give up my life...
    If I'm not prepared to miss out on promotion so I can stay & help plant churches, I can be fairly certain I won't give up my life...
    If I'm not prepared to jeopardise a friendship so that I can tell others about Christ, I can be fairly certain I won't give up my life.
May God grant us faithfulness in the small things as well as the large!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Book Review: Trellis and the Vine

The Trellis and the Vine
The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything
by Colin Marshall & Tony Payne
Ⓒ2009, Matthias Media
196 pages

Almost every ministry book seems to be endorsed by a number of prominent pastors, so I rarely buy a book simply off the recommendations. But this book caught my eye, not only for the names that recommended the book, but also for the type of comments they made. These weren't the typical, "these guys have written the perfect book that makes ministry flourish while you sit back and do nothing" kind of prescription. These ministers acknowledged that the work is hard and mind-shifting, yet Biblical and gospel-centered. Some even acknowledged that these men wrote a book that describes their ministry philosophy.

So, I read it.

Ever read a book that so resonates with what you were thinking, yet says it in such a better way and develops it further than you ever dreamt that you almost feel like there is no way you were previously thinking any of it? As I read, I kept highlighting and silently "amen-ing" (and sometimes not silently). Yet the authors experience, Biblical framework and organization so far surpasses anything I've thought on my own that it almost feels silly to say you agree. Sort of like a guy who designs a new abacus trying to take credit for IBM. Sure, I've thought about leadership development and how ministry is about people, not programs, but not like these guys.

Absolutely loved this book! Praying that Grace will love the effects as we move forward to the glory of Christ! And perhaps by His grace, some of it will look like what the Trellis & the Vine illustrates.

If you are a pastor, read it an implement it. If you are not a pastor, read it and help your pastor implement it!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Charting the Course

One thing that fascinates me about the glory of God is the absolute diversity of His creation. Not only are there amazing types of animals and plants, but even by those stamped with His own image, there is amazing diversity. I'm always amazed by those who have minds built for charts, grids and columns. (My mind just doesn't work in this way.) I also praise God for the grace He gives people, for I know my scattered approach is not a joy for very many.

I was reminded of my inability to really chart things well when I recently saw a chart from Graeme Goldworthy on Justin Taylor's blog. Though I know the story line, I started at the chart for quite a while trying to figure out what it was saying. (And to be honest, don't think I have figured it out yet!)

However, charts may not be the problem, for I found this one by this one by Tim Stevens to be quite simple:

(Of course, I also noted the need to add Maid-rites to the chart!)

Friday, January 1, 2010

10 Great Questions

Justin Taylor has a great post from Don Whitney where he asks 10 Questions to ask at the start of a New Year:

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

Whitney includes 21 more you can ask here.