Thursday, June 30, 2011

Walking & Memorizing

Let me share with you a few things I have been thinking about recently. Well, actually some things I am learning.

I sit in an office all day. I sit in the same chair all day. Yes, I sometimes get up to talk to the other people in the office or to grab another Diet Mountain Dew, but for the most part, 7-8 hours of a day is comprised of sitting. Some of you might think that is a good thing, but it actually isn't.

The other day, our administrative assistant (I call her Janet) went on a little walk down the street and came back saying how great she felt. She challenged me to do it as well. I thought it sounded like a good idea. What I should also say that will help you understand this is that just down the street from our church office is the 40 acres that our church owns and will be building on very soon.

I thought that this might be a great opportunity for both body and soul. I will walk down to the church property and pray for our church a few times a week. It will give me some much needed exercise and also give me some private time with my Lord. So, I did it. Well, sort of. The first day, I was almost down to the property when I felt the first drop of rain. Guess what happened next? Was that a sign?

Since that time, I have made the journey a few times. As it is evolving, I have decided to make the walking part more intentional. I have included a time of Scripture memorization during the walk. Then when I get to the church property, I take some time and pray for our church. Then on the walk back, I memorize more Scripture. My goal is to memorize the book of 1 Thessalonians. It is going to be the study our church will engage in starting in September. I am only five verses in and am realizing that my memory skills are drastically diminishing. I am going to have to work at this.

What I know for certain is that while most Christians say that Scripture memory is important, very few of them actually have a plan to do it. It is not something that will just happen, it takes work. As I have been thinking about it, I wanted to give you some reasons why I think Christians should memorize Scripture. Maybe at some point, I will expand each of these reasons. But for now, here is the list.

10 Reasons Why We Should Be Memorizing Scripture.

  1.  It will help us grow spiritually by hiding God's Word in our heart
  2.  It will help us fight off temptation like Jesus in that specific moment
  3.  It will help us meditate on the Scriptures
  4.  It will help us bless other people with a Word from God in a specific moment
  5.  It will help us stay away from sin
  6.  It will help us become better evangelists
  7.  It will help us constantly keep God's Word in our mind
  8.  It will help us love Jesus more deeply
  9.  It will help us grow to become more like Jesus daily
10.  It will help us become greater prayer warriors

Three questions in conclusion:

Are There Other Reasons You Memorize Scripture?
What Is Your Scripture Memory Plan?
What Scriptures Are You Memorizing?


Please leave a comment to encourage each other.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Commentaries On The Book Of Psalms

For the month of July, I am taking a short break in my series on the Sermon on the Mount and spending a few weeks in the book of Psalms. I love the Psalms. I love the heart attitude of David and the other authors. There is something about them that inspires me and motivates me to love the Lord. One thing I really appreciate about the Psalms is the real and often raw emotions. We see when the Psalmist struggles and when they are joyful. There are no masks worn in this book.

I have called my series Summer in the Psalms and hope to do this every July while in ministry. I do this because I can continue in a series, but each one can be independent of the other week. And since during the month of July, so many people are on vacation and gone, it works well. I thought I would share with you some of the commentaries I will be using in this series. This is not an exhaustive list of the ones I use, but some of my favorites. Who knows, maybe you will find time and money to purchase one of these.

By far, if you are going to study the book of Psalms, you need to have The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon on your shelf. It is a must, not only for pastors, but for laymen as well. If you are going to own just one commentary on this book, this is the one you should buy. What I love about Spurgeon is that it is not only easy to follow, but he is extremely insightful. I also really appreciate his "hints to preachers" at the end of each chapter.


One of the series of books that I have come to enjoy tremendously is the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament. I initially used the one from the book of Proverbs and enjoyed it so much that I had to purchase the entire series. It is fairly costly, but I think will be worth the money. In each Psalm, not only does the author walk you through the text (often in depth with the Hebrew, but not too much you can't understand it), but also he gives some theological implications. These have been helpful.

One of the staples of my selection of commentaries are those from James Montgomery Boice. Any of his commentaries show the heart of a pastor as he preaches through a book of the Bible. There are times when he doesn't emphasize something I think he should, but I really appreciate the time when he does camp on an issue. It makes me think as a pastor whether I should heed his wisdom and camp on it as well.

The NIV Application Commentary is very helpful for many reasons. They break each Psalm down into three sections: Original Meaning, Bridging Contexts, & Contemporary Significance. I have learned a lot as they show the the original context and how it might apply to our context today. One of the only things I do not like about the NIV Application Commentary on the book of Psalms is that volume 2 has not been published yet. Volume 1 only covers chapters 1-72.


There are several other commentaries I use, but these are probably my favorite four that I have learned from in the past. I would appreciate your suggestions as I might be in the market for a new commentary or two on the book of Psalms. What commentaries do you recommend on the book of Psalms?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

 A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me if I had read Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. Actually, I had never heard of the book or Idleman (who is the teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, which is the fifth largest church in America). My friend was telling me how much he really liked it and thought I might as well. So, I ordered the book and read it last week.

I must say, it is a really good book, and a very important book for American Christianity! In the prologue, Idleman begins by sharing his story of realizing that Jesus cared less about the number in the crowd than He did about the level of commitment by those people. This happened for him as he was preparing for Easter when thousands of people would be coming to his church. What would he preach on that would bring the people back? As he studied how Jesus handled the crowds, he realized that Jesus isn't looking for fans but followers. Summarizing the book, he says:
"I hope you will read this book and discover with me what it really means to follow Jesus. I will talk more about repentance than forgiveness, more about surrender than salvation, more about brokenness than happiness, and more about death than about life. The trust is, if you are looking for a book about following Jesus that lays out a comfortable and reassuring path, you won't find it here." (14-5)
From there, Idleman launches into a total call and commitment of one's life if they are going to be followers of Jesus. It reads like John MacArthur's Hard To Believe, but has current modern day humor and culture throughout it. He hits home in so many ways. He begins in chapter one by asking if you have had a DTR conversation with Jesus (DTR = Define The Relationship). Is your relationship with Jesus exclusive or are you trying to have the benefits of a relationship with Him without any commitment to Him. He defines what he means by a fan, "An Enthusiastic Admirer." Some of the most haunting words in the book are these:
"Jesus has a lot of fans these days. Fans who cheer for him when things are going well, but who walk away when its a difficult season. Fans who sit safely in the stands cheering, but they know nothing of the sacrifice and pain of the field. fans of Jesus who know all about him, but they don't know him. But Jesus was never interested in having fans. When he defines what kind of relationship he wants, "Enthusiastic Admirer" isn't an option . . . The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from." (25)
Throughout the book, he seeks to diagnose what it means to be a fan (by the way, I hope you understand by now, being a fan is not a good thing). He gives several questions throughout the book to help you look into your heart to see if you are a fan.

  1. Have you made a decision for Jesus or have you committed to Jesus? (32)
  2. Do you just know about Jesus, or do you really know Him? (44)
  3. Is Jesus one of many or is He your one and only? (59)
  4. Are you more focused on the outside than the inside? (72)
  5. Are you a self-empowered fan or a Spirit-filled follower? (89)

As I read through this book, I think it could be summarized by this: If the gospel or your salvation has cost you nothing, you are probably a fan, or you should at least evaluate your heart to see if you are a fan. "There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no salvation without surrender. There is no life without death. There is no believing without committing." (35)

He spends the bulk of the middle of the book dissecting Jesus' words in Luke 9:23: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." I just can't emphasize this enough: His take on the gospel being a hard call of giving our all for all that Jesus is is so needed in our world today! We need this gospel! We need to call people to come to Jesus, deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him. I absolutely loved it!

The only negative I would have with this book is that some of the theology of the traditional Christian Church comes through in some of the examples. For instance, most Christian Churches would believe that baptism is part of the salvation process. And a few of the "not a fan" stories at the end of each chapter spoke of the person being changed as they came up from the waters of baptism.

But saying that, I have ordered several other copies of this book so I can have them around to pass out to people. IT IS THAT GOOD!

Does this sound like a book you might like to read?

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Morning After: A Life of Trust (Matt 6:25-34)

One of my greatest struggles in life is worrying. I know that some of you might be shocked by that, thinking I have it all together. But I do tend to worry about my life. Whenever my wife is late in getting home, I tend to worry that something has happened to her. I tend to overprotect my kids from going places by themselves because I worry about what could happen. I think our home in Kansas has taken so long to sell because God has wanted to deal with my worry problem (I'm thankful to say that it is to close tomorrow morning). I have a worry problem.

Well, really it is more than a problem because Jesus commands us three times in this passage to not worry (vs. 25, 31, 35). Therefore, to worry would be considered sin. I think when we tend to think of worry as something that happens to us instead of something that we can control. I wonder if this is a blind spot for many of us.

The main thought from this passage is that Worry Is Ultimately A Lack of Trust in God! Trust in God and worrying about life are two polar extremes that cannot co-habitate in our lives. As I broke down this passage, I saw Five Reasons Why Worrying Doesn't Make Sense For The Person Who Is Part Of The Kingdom.

1.  Because We Know Our Life Is More Than The Temporal (vs. 25)
2.  Because We Know God Cares For His Creation (vs. 26, 28-30)
3.  Because We Know It Doesn't Accomplish Anything (vs. 27)
4.  Because We Know God Knows What We Really Need (vs. 31-32)
5.  Because We Know What We Should Pursue (vs. 33-34)

As I walked through this, the one thing that most impacted me was the very last verse. Jesus ends appropriately with one last command not to worry about life or things of this life. Specifically, He tells us not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. In fact, each day has enough trouble of it's own. His point is that we need to just get through today! I summarized it like this:

Today's Troubles + Today's Grace = TRUST

Today's Troubles + Today's Grace + Tomorrow's Troubles = WORRY

If we live our lives in the here and now and trust the Lord to help us get through today, then we are on the right path. He will give us the grace to get through today. But if we combine today's troubles with tomorrow's troubles, we will worry! We have been given enough grace to get through today. Tomorrow will have it's own problems, most likely, things we have no idea about right now. But tomorrow also brings about more grace. So, let's trust! Let's trust in our Father by seeking His Kingdom today with all we have!

What do you tend to worry about? (if you want to listen to the entire sermon, find it HERE, usually posted by 12pm on Tuesday)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Video Sunday: What part of the body of Christ are you by Francis Chan

This week's video is a bit sarcastic. I hope it doesn't offend anyone, but at times we need to laugh at ourself. This is Francis Chan speaking at a Pastor's Conference. This is obviously part of his introduction. Look past the humor and ask yourself: what part of the body of Christ am I? And hopefully, you are not like the appendix as he describes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

BRC: A God-Sized Vision, week 6

I am continually encouraged as I read through this book that God does His work in His time. I hope some of you who said you would read this book are actually making your way through it. Even if you do not post comments, I hope you are being encouraged to a "God-Sized Vision" and what God can and wants to do.

This week, we read about the revivals that took place in East Africa from the 1920s to the 1970s. Honestly, I had no idea before reading this chapter. And still, I am a bit confused as to what all happened. Much of the revival that happened came through the ministry of Dr. Joe Church, a medical missionary from England. It took a while till he saw much fruit from his ministry, but over time, people were being saved continuously. In Rwanda in 1935, he encouraged the medical staff to get up at 5:00 a.m. for prayer. "They politely informed him that they were already meeting two hours before sunrise to pray" (124). As I read that, I was encouraged that when God moves, even my highest thoughts of sacrifice are mere shallow.

For Church, the revival that took place was because of a high emphasis upon the gospel. He said, "Revival for them is the blessing of the gospel continuously; the same grace that meets the sinner when he first comes to Christ is ministered to his heart unceasingly all through his Christian life" (126).

Probably what impacted me the most in this chapter was how revival took place, the gospel went forth amidst extreme persecution. In Uganda, the first missionaries entered the country in 1877. The authors report the persecution of Christians in this way:
"Almost from the beginning, martyrdom was the likely cost of conversion for new Christians. Only eight years after Christianity came to Uganda, a suspicious king ordered the murder of the first Anglican bishop sent from England. That same year, 1885, three boys ranging from eleven to fifteen years old became the first native Ugandan Christians killed for their faith. But they would be far from the last." (131)
As I read that and thought about those young boys, I couldn't help but think about heaven. I would love to meet those boys someday and ask them if it was worth it. I think I know what their answer is going to be, don't you?

In 1977, the president of Uganda, Idi Amin, began persecuting Christians. "Hundreds of thousands of Christians died under his rule. But try as he might, Amin could not stop God from turning his murderous prisons into revival halls . . . A church already broken by its own sin and desperate need for a Savior is better positioned to withstand attack" (132-3).

So, what about us? We celebrate the safety and religious freedom we have here in America. Don't get me wrong, I love this country. I love the fact that I get to preach every Sunday under the 1st Amendment and don't have to worry about it. But what would happen if we were no longer free to preach the gospel? What do you think would happen to the gospel?

Do you think it would be stopped or would it flourish?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Explaining Textual Criticism To My Son

The other day I posted on twitter: "Kman is reading through NT & this morning he arrived at Mark 16, I spent 10 min on the front porch explaining to him textual criticism!" Those that know what happens in Mark 16 might have gotten this statement. Actually, he turned to me and said these words: "Dad, why do they put parts in the Bible that they say were not in the Bible?" 

In Mark 16:9-20, most translations have a note similar to this: "later manuscripts add vs. 9-20." Does that mean that it should not included as part of the Bible? This can be somewhat confusing for a young person, or an older person. Is it part or not? I thought I would take a few minutes and give it my best shot. Here is what I told my son.

Textual Criticism is the art and science of discovering what the original manuscripts actually said. When the Bible was written, there were no copy machines. They had to copy the Scriptures by hand. Even though the Bible was extremely hated by so many people, it has endured the test of time. In fact, we have more evidence of the copies of the Scriptures than any other manuscripts in the world of any ancient writings. In the case of the New Testament, there are over 5,000 different manuscripts in Greek, 8,000 in Latin, and 1,000 in other languages (I actually didn't share that last statement with my son, but it's free to you).

We have all these manuscripts, but they are not complete. So, we start putting them together and come up with what the original manuscripts would have been like. For over 99% of the Bible there is no question. But in the 1%, like Mark 16, we have to ask some questions to determine whether it was part of the original text written by Mark. When there are any manuscripts that say different things, we need to  favor these manuscripts.

Which Is The Oldest? The closer back to the original you can get, the better. Have you ever played the game "telephone" where one person starts a story and passes it down the line? The further from the original you get, the more the story changes. So, it is always best to favor the oldest manuscripts.

Which Is The Shortest? The people who copied the manuscripts would never have cut things out in order to make it shorter, but they would have added things to fill in the details. For instance, could it be possible that some Scribe added the last verses to Mark 16 because there was not a sufficient ending to the book?

Which Is The Hardest? Once again, the people who copied the Bible would never have made it more difficult to read. The tendency would have been to make the language flow smoother for people to read.

So, when there are parts of the Bible that might be in question, there might be a little comment in the margin of your Bible that says, "the earliest manuscripts do not contain these vs." So, what should we do with it? What do we do with the 1% of the Bible that might be in question?

  1. As it is confirmed with other Scriptures, Believe & Obey it! For instance, in Mark 16, vs. 9 talks about the resurrection (many other passages confirm this); vs. 12 talks about the appearance to the two as they walk along the road (Luke says this as well); vs. 14 talks about Jesus appearing to the eleven (Luke 24); vs. 15 is the Great Commission (Matthew 28); and vs. 19-20 is the heartbeat of the book of Acts.
  2. Never make any major doctrinal stances from these passages alone! I would be really leery of taking Mark 16:18 and saying that all those who believe should handle snakes & drink their poison. Let's make sure it is confirmed in other passages of the Bible that are not in question.
After this conversation, my son said, "oh, cool!" There you have it, from the mouth of an 11-year old. How would you respond?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Asking Your Kids For Forgiveness

Last night, JT had a baseball game. I have always said that sports is a true test of your character. And having your kids involved in sports is a REAL test of your character. I have always struggled with pushing my kids too hard in sports. I am such a competitor that I want them to have that attitude as well. Anyways, as the story unfolded last night, his team did not play the best game. They had just come off of a tournament where they did really well (won all their games, made it to the championship game which was rained out). But last night was a different story.

They played sloppy, and lazy baseball. In the middle of this non-motivating game, JT made a couple bad plays. I call them bad plays, they should be called 9-year old plays. I was frustrated with him and he knew it. It is very easy to mask my frustration (that's the sophisticated way of saying sin) by saying that I know he can do better. But in reality, all the issue was me last night. It was not in how he played, it was in how I reacted.

After the game, I was convicted of my actions. I sat down with him and had to confess to him my sin and promised him that I would work really hard at being patient and not being upset over a game. I told him that I took it too seriously and my actions were not in line with the gospel of Jesus. I asked for his forgiveness.

Have you ever asked your child for forgiveness? I have done it many times in the past, but even last night I was reminded how humbling it is to ask your child to forgive you. But the more I thought about it afterward, I never want my kids to think that dad is above making things right. I never want them to think that I have arrived to a place that I do not need the cross and the gospel in my life. I never want them to think that I am too proud to confess and repent of my sins. I want them to be clear that daddy is a sinner and needs Jesus just as much as he does.

Here is the question you might need to wrestle with: why wouldn't you ask your child for forgiveness?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is My Child Saved?

For a while now, I have been asking questions to my children about their standing before God. Just the other day, I asked one of my boys this question: Do you think you are a Christian? As they answered "Yes," I asked them to defend it. I said, "Why do you think that you are a Christian." This led to a very healthy discussion. As we talked a few things came to my mind. First, I was very impressed with the amount of information my son knows. He knows a lot about the Bible, Jesus, and what He did on the cross. He can answer all of those questions with near perfection. But the other thing that came to my mind was "so what." Just because he can answer all the questions does not mean that He has truly trusted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. There are many who know the details about the death of Jesus who have never embraced Him in faith and repentance.

As we talked about things, I was led back to a book that I have read in the past. So, I read it again and wanted to share some insights to you. In Your Child's Profession of Faith, Dennis Gundersen's main concern in this book is to warn parents of the dangers of pressuring their children to make a public profession of Christ (I should say that it appears the book has been updated and expanded, but what I am sharing comes from the original booklet). We should let it happen naturally. My previous pastor said that he could have made his children believe that Barney the Dinosaur died upon the cross for their sins. Children are very impressionable. And at least my children, they so much want to please their parents (I am very thankful for that). I could guilt any one of them into praying the sinners prayer or "asking Jesus into their heart" (neither of which I will ever do since I do not think they are biblical concepts). Gundersen says,
"If you pressure a child about publicly professing Christ as a way of proving that he has a work of grace in his heart, it will often become a pressure he cannot emotionally bear, and he often will then make a profession, not because he has become a believer, but in order to please you. It is obvious to all that children have an intense desire to please the adults they respect. Instead we as parents, teachers, and pastors should keep them from getting anxious about a public profession. We must guard against their making a profession merely to win the acceptance of either you, the church, or their friends. We must rather continuously emphasize to their minds that the only acceptance of any eternal consequence is acceptance with God through Christ." (38)
Maybe I act as I do with my children because of the years I spent as a youth pastor. I cannot tell you how many times I went to a camp and came back with students that thought they were saved when in fact they clearly admitted they were living a lie. Jesus had not meant anything to them, but they acted as they did to keep peace with their parents. I remember one specific occasion when sharing the joyful news with their parents that they had just repented and trusted Christ at camp, the parent responded, "No you didn't, you got saved when you were 5 when we prayed together." I couldn't believe it.

I continually tell my children that I want it to be their faith in Jesus, not my faith. I want them to really believe in what He did on the cross for their sins. I want them to fully understand the calling to surrender their life in faith and repentance. I agree with Gundersen when he says, "I will not tell a child who feels he may have come to Christ that he has not" (19). I rejoice with my kids that they say they believe in Jesus. And I agree as well when he says, "There is no wisdom in hurrying them to make their commitment public while hoping or even praying that their profession will prove to be a genuine one sometime later. Why take the chance of deception? Your child will not be any less saved by your judicious waiting for more substantial evidences, if God has indeed preformed a work of grace in the first place" (23).

If you are struggling with the issue of determining the salvation of your child, I would suggest to you this book. Sometimes he takes a harder stance on things than I would, but for the most part, it is helpful. One last statement from him that is very helpful. "When dealing with evidences of true conversion, there is no warrant for suggesting that we can be satisfied with seeing anything less in a child than we would in an adult" (39).

So for me, I am going to continue preaching the gospel & Jesus & the cross to my kids every day. And I will be continually telling them how much it needs to be their faith, not their parents. And I will continue to pray to God, who opens eyes, to save my child. And I will allow them to make the first move as to public profession of their faith in Jesus.

What do you think? How can you know for certain if your child is saved?

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Morning After: A Life of Service (Matt 6:19-24)

No one can serve two masters! It is impossible to serve God and money! These are the hard words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, which should shake us to the core. He is saying that He is not just an option among many others to be worshipped, but is the only option.

The interesting thing is that money or possessions are polygamists. They really don't care if you love someone else as long as they are included. but the problem is that Jesus isn't a polygamist. He is an exclusivist. He says that we must give ourselves fully to Him or else we can't give ourselves to Him at all.

My main thought yesterday as I was preaching through this section of Scripture was really a question: Who do you really serve? We often think that we can serve God and hold onto our idols on the side. We have learned very little in the Church from the nation of Israel who tried time after time to walk on both sides of the fence. In 2 Kings 17:41, we are told "while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day." They did what their parents did and their kids will do it as well.

There are many in my generation (and those older than me) that are shocked at what the younger generations is doing and acting. And while this generation might be playing with a different ball in the game, they are playing on the same field as we played in. They are trying to worship God and their idols at the same time in the same way that we always have.

To this, Jesus says, "You cannot serve two masters!" Earlier in the passage, He tells us to stop storing up treasures on earth, but to store them up in heaven. Treasures on earth are temporary, but those in heaven are permanent. Those on earth can be destroyed by moth or rust or stolen (or even a tornado can take it all away). But treasures that are stored up in heaven can never be destroyed or taken away. So, how do we do it? How do we store up treasures in heaven? We take the physical things that God has given to us and use them for kingdom purposes.

  • Use your money for God's work and God's people.
  • Use your vacation time to encourage others instead of only living for yourself.
  • Use your job as a mission field.
  • Use your time for kingdom work.
  • Use your home to impact people in the name of Jesus.
  • Use your kids sporting events to build relationships that glorify Jesus.
  • Use your opportunities when you are offended to forgive and show the importance of the cross of Jesus.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Who do you really serve? 

You can listen to the message HERE (usually posted by Tuesday noon)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Video Sunday: Jesus wants the rose by Matt Chandler

This is part of the sermon that turned me on to Matt Chandler and his ministry. It is the heartbeat of my blog, ChangedByTheGospel! I hope and pray that you will see the benefit of the gospel in your life. My guess is that you might have already seen this, but if now, enjoy. I hope it encourages your heart!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cornerstone Bible Church - VBS 2011

Monday begins our summer VBS at Cornerstone Bible Church. It is starting to become a habit, but my wife is once again the VBS coordinator. Before you think that is a negative comment, let me explain. She loves to do it and I think she does a great job. There is probably nobody I would rather have doing it the first year we are here at CBC. When we arrived at Cornerstone and started to ask questions, it turned out there was nobody scheduled to organize it this year. So, my wife jumped in with both feet and I am happy and excited for her.

However, it is different. This is the first year that she is coordinating it without having a building. Everything will take place at Cardinal Middle School, which has some benefits and negatives. One of the greatest benefits is a great gymnasium that can be used when it rains outside. One of the greatest hindrances is decorating the facilities. We can do some, but not what we are used to doing.

The curriculum we are using this year is once again from Answers in Genesis. We love their curriculum because it is so creative, yet very biblical. The theme this year is Operation Space: A Close Encounter with God's Word. The students will be learning about the uniqueness and authority of the Bible.

The main purpose of this blog post is to ask you to pray. I have been reading a book about revival (check every Friday blog posts) and it seems that every revival starts and ends with prayer. We are so dependent upon God as we minister to people here in Middlefield as you are in your city. Here is how you can pray for our church as we minister the gospel to many children this week:

  • Pray for great weather and for safety each day
  • Pray for all of our volunteers to have patience and energy as they strive to impact each child who attends VBS
  • Pray for our teachers (Jeni Najjar & Lisa Starr) as they present the Bible lessons each day
  • Pray for the hearts of the children in attendance. Pray that they would listen attentively and be impacted with the gospel message
  • Praise God for the privilege and opportunities He has provided for us to share the gospel and pray that we would be faithful to proclaim truth
  • Pray for the salvation of many children this week
  • Pray for the opportunity to impact the parents of children who visit VBS this week
Thank you! Thank you for praying! Two last prayer requests. Pray for my wife as she leads this vital ministry. And lastly, pray for a little boy named Thomas. He is a little boy that was in Anni's class and lives two doors down from our rental. He is down at our house just about every day. As I understand it, he comes from a separated home (lives with mom and grandma, but dad is not around very often). He is always out and about in the neighborhood. He is coming to VBS with us and I pray that we might be able to minister to him as well as his mom and grandma.

Friday, June 17, 2011

BRC: A God-Sized Vision, week 5

It was very insightful to read about what has happened around the world. Chapter five is about the global awakening that took place in the early 1900s in Wales, India, Korea, and North America.

One thing that really impressed upon me are the events that led to revival in Korea. Dr. R. A. Hardie, a missionary to Korea was depressed and saddened by the lack of spiritual fruit they had experienced in amongst the Korean people. There was a tradition among the people. They churches there would set aside one week every year for nothing but small group devotionals (106). During this time, Hardie was impacted by a visiting missionary, M.C. White from China. After meditating on Luke 11:13, where Jesus says the Father would give the Spirit to everyone who asks, Hardie was moved to confession and repentance. "Hardie confessed his pride and explained how he was depending on his own efforts, not on the Holy Spirit" (106).

APPLICATION POINT #1: We Cannot Do It Ourselves. I think it is really easy in ministry to get where Hardie was. It is so easy to become dependent upon ourselves and not on the Spirit of God to do the work. If we are there, we will always become disappointed at some point.

Hardie decided he would confess his self-reliance to his people in his church. Because of his openness to his people, the Koreans were moved to make things right themselves. A revival started. "Confession humanized the missionaries, showing Koreans that the Westerners struggled with their own temptations and doubts" (108).

The stories of the revivals in Wales were impressive, yet left me hollow. They were filled with religious fervor, but something just didn't set right with me until I came to the end of the chapter. The authors explain towards the end of chapter that as quickly as the revivals came, they left. "We also know that Wales seems to have entirely forgotten its revival legacy. Wales is perhaps more immune to revival today because it has been inoculated with heavy doses of undiluted religious fervor" (115). As they investigated these revivals, they noticed one glaring deficiency. Evan Roberts, the main instrument in this revival, "did not prioritize Bible teaching" (115).

APPLICATION POINT #2: We Must Teach The Bible. There are many things we could possibly do for short-term growth. But if we are thinking of long-term sustaining revival ministry, we must uphold the Word of God and instruct people how to use it properly. They said, "Without the basic biblical formation, many caught up in the revival lacked the necessary tools for spiritual growth" (115).

What are we going to do? What did you learn from this chapter?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Don't Waste Your Summer

It's here! Summer Vacation! Well, at least the kids are out of school and it is starting to get hot outside. AS we enter this time of summer, I wanted to ask a valid question: What are you going to do to make sure you do not waste your summer vacation? 

If we are honest with each other, we know how easy it is to waste it. It is so easy to get to the end of the summer with the kids and look back and realize that nothing significantly was accomplished. It was just many days at the pool, in front of the TV, at the park, or on the baseball field. I'm not saying those things cannot be fun or redeemed. But the summer can and should be so much more than just those things. So, how can you not waste your summer? Let me offer you several ideas:

Read the New Testament. Did you know that in just about 3-5 chapters a day, you can read the entire NT with your kids during the summer? Or better yet, set up a plan for them to read it. I have set up a 90-day schedule for Karsten to read the NT, from June 1 to August 30. It will be good for them as well as you. If you want to see the schedule, send me a message and I will send it to you.

Memorize Scripture. The summer is a great time to fill the mind of your children with Scripture (and yours as well). Moms, if you are with your kids all summer, set up a time each week to work through some passage of Scripture. My wife is taking our kids through a Psalm that I am preaching in July. Pick a longer portion, not just random verses. At the end of the summer, you could say you have memorized all of Philippians 2 or Psalm 19.

Read something of spiritual value. How about sitting with the kids one night a week and reading through a spiritual classic like The Pilgrim's Progress or the Chronicles of Narnia? Or maybe you could even get a good recording of a good Christian book and listen to it together. My younger son just finished going through 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders. It is a great opportunity with so much free time to ground them, and you, spiritually.

Serve someone outside your family. Find some family that needs some help and go minister to them as a family. Bake a meal. Help paint a house or clean a yard. Don't let the busyness of your summer overtake you, but you be in control of the schedule. Think bigger than your family this summer. Let your kids see you serving. Lead them in it.

Invest in your church ministries. Don't forget about church this summer. If you get to the end of the summer and your service of the church, let alone your attendance, has plummeted, you probably wasted your summer. So many people think summer vacation is also a time to take off from church. Use this as an opportunity to get more involved in your church, not less. Participate in VBS & other children's ministry events during this summer. It might be too late, but use some of your vacation time to take your kids on a missions trip (I have a friend that right now is on his way to China with his entire family, and it's not a vacation). Think bigger than your family, think about your church family.

Develop relationships with your neighbors (for gospel reasons). Have a neighborhood cookout at your house. Invite all your neighbors that you do not know very well. Think about ways you could be a missionary to your neighbors. Once again, don't get to the end of the summer and say, "we really meant to have our neighbors over for dinner, what happened?" What happened is that if you don't control your schedule, it will control you. Plan ahead.

There are so many other things you can do in order to not waste your summer. What are some other ideas? I would love to hear from you. How can you not waste your summer?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Morning After: A Life of Worship (Matt. 6:16-18)

Obviously, I am a day late in making this post. But yesterday, I spent most of the day at a golf fundraising event for a ministry that our church supports. It was a fun day, some great fellowship, but most of all a day to spend with my son JT. They made it possible for him to come with me and ride the cart with me all day. It was so much fun.

But on to A Life of Worship. On Sunday, I was able to speak about the issue of fasting (the audio should be available HERE). Ultimately, fasting is not just about food. IT is a test of our worship. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus gives some guidelines to fasting, as it is not to be done as a show before other people. We are to live our lives as normal and entrust our Father in Heaven who sees what is done in secret. His point is not the secrecy of the event, but the motivation behind the event.

In our culture, I wonder if Jesus would have even said something like this. I wonder if Jesus would have given guidelines for how to fast. I think He might have given guidelines on the nature of fasting, at least fasting spiritually. I believe we have lost the importance and significance of this spiritual discipline. If you combine all the teaching in the Scriptures, there are basically three reasons why someone might fast.

First, Someone Might Fast As An Act Of Confession. This is a fasting because of their sin. They gave up the physical to cry out to God to take care of the spiritual (Deut. 9:18; Neh. 9:1-2; Jonah 3:5).

Second, Someone Might Fast As An Act Of Sorrow. This was a way of expressing sadness or regret, not necessarily because of sin, but because of a situation (2 Sam. 1:11; 12:16-17)

Third, Someone Might Fast As An Act Of Seeking God's Will. People fasted in order to seek out the will of God for a particular situation (Acts 13:2; 14:23).

Whatever the different situation, what we find as we study this passage is that Jesus assumes His followers will continue to fast. At the heart of fasting is the desire to give up the physical in order to pursue the spiritual. It is asking the question: do I love that item more than I love my Lord? The heart of fasting is a test. Am I worshiping the Lord or an idol? Do I love the gift or the giver of the gift?

As I have studied the concept of fasting, there is one book that has always stood out to me. I highly recommend it to you. It is A Hunger for God by John Piper. In this book, he shows the comparison between a hunger for the things of the world and a hunger for God. He says, that the only way to know for sure where your true hunger lies is to intentionally give up things in order to pursue God. They might be good things, but if you can't give them up, maybe they are idols to you. I highly recommend it to you.

Let me finish with this: What should you fast from? You will have to listen to the audio to hear the explanation of each of these.

1. Food or Drink
2. Sex
3. Technology
4. Occupation
5. Hobbies
6. Anything that might be your idol!

Do you find fasting easy or hard?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Video Sunday: The Danger of Cultural Morality by John MacArthur

From the time the Lord grabbed a hold of my heart, John MacArthur has played an integral role in my spiritual growth. I feel as though I have been discipled by him from afar, as so many of you have. I have listened to many sermons. I have read numerous books. The Gospel According to Jesus made the top 5 in my list of most influential books. The main men who have impacted and discipled me in ministry have been from The Master's Seminary. I have been to his pastor's conference seven times. To say that he has impacted my life and ministry would be an overstatement. Yes, there have been times when I have disagreed with his stance on some issues. But I have respected his stance for the truth in a world that sees a need for relativity.

Last Sunday, he finished preaching through the gospel of Mark, which means that in the 30+ years he has been at Grace Community Church, he has now preached through the entire New Testament. Because of that, I felt it would be good this Sunday to have a short video from John MacArthur. I found this one and just loved it. It is a video that summarizes my entire blog: we need to be changed by the gospel! And the fact that it is one of those new trendy Sermon Jam, that is cool as well. Enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

BRC: A God-Sized Vision, week 4

The reading this week took us down the road once again of the power of prayer. The first two revivals they talked about, the 1st & 2nd Great Awakenings, I have heard of before. This one was new to me. But what is not new is the economic situation they described before the revival hit in America.

It was the mid 1850's and it was fairly clear America would be going to war because of the slave dispute. But what became more clear was the economic disaster that took place. The stock market crashed on October 10, 1857. Amherst President, Heman Humphrey said, "Men went to be dreaming all night of their hoarded treasures, and woke up in the morning hopeless bankrupts" (79).

It was about this time that Jeremiah Lanphier started a businessmen lunch hour of prayer in NYC. Within a few weeks, he had over thirty businessmen praying during their lunch hours. Here is what happened at the meetings:
"Each meeting opened with the group singing three to five verses from a hymn. Then someone led in prayer, read Scripture, and opened the floor for prayer requests. sings set the ground rules: 'No Controverted Points Discussed,' 'Prayers and Exhortations not to exceed five minutes,' and 'Not more than two consecutive prayers or exhortations.' Businessmen could come and go as they pleased, according to their schedules. Five minutes before 1:00 p.m., they sang a closing hymn, then a pastor delivered a benediction." (81-82)
By the middle of 1858, it was estimated there were some 10,000 businessmen praying during their lunch hours in NYC. But then it spread to other cities. Philadelphia found itself with men praying. Even Boston had men praying. As I read this, there is one quote in a book by some of the men from Philadelphia that really made me stop and think:
"God leads his people to pray for that which he designs to give." (84)
That is one to think about. The authors of this book acknowledge what was meant by this quote is "that before God pours out his Spirit in revival, he grants a spirit of heartfelt petition" (84). May we have this sort of spirit of heartfelt petition. From here, preaching entered. Men prayed and then they listened to the preaching of God's Word. I loved how they described who was responsible for this event. They said,
"On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached; Luther preached, and Livingston, and Whitefield and Wesley! Great spiritual movements have usually identified with some eloquent voice; but NO NAME, except the name that is above every name, is identified with this meeting." (85)
Their point is that in the revivals in the past, there were great names associated with the events. This one, the only name associated was Jesus. May we live like that. May we live that the only name associated with any ministry we are involved with is Jesus!

And now your turn. I know a few of you are still reading with me. Your thoughts?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Spiritual Prozac

Yesterday, I wrote about having a perspective of God & seeking God when I tend to worry. Today, I wanted to share just a few verses that I tend to gravitate towards when I am feeling down and depressed. I am not trying to make light of depression. There are some who will always fight it. What I want to say is that we can and should seek the One who made us when we are feeling depressed. And we can and should seek Him in His Word. Simply meditating and reading the Scriptures can bring joy to the heart. Here are a few examples:
"You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever." (Psalm 16:11)
"Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit." (Psalm 51:8-12)
"Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted." (Isaiah 49:13)
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
There are hundreds more that I could share. But the most important part is this: when I am feeling down, there is nothing better I can do than to get alone with my Bible to read and pray. Is that what you do? What are some of your favorite verses or passages to read when you are feeling depressed?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spiritual Xanax

If I were to characterize on of my sinful struggles, it would be that I have a tendency to worry! Xanax is a medication that is traditionally given to someone with anxiety, or worry issues (this is not a post against medication for anxiety, but I have always thought it interesting that this is an anti-sin medication). Whenever I get to the point of worry, I know the best solution is to contemplate the greatness of my God and seek after Him.

At 9am (Hutch time), the people buying our home in Kansas will be doing their inspections on our house. This will be one of the last deciding factors on whether the purchase of our home goes through. We really need to sell this house and I have found myself the last couple days at the point of worry. So, today, I am casting myself upon the Lord and letting Him do as He sees fit. It is His home and if He is ready to sell the house, we are ready for Him to sell it. In a few weeks, I will get to preach on this passage in Matthew. But I have jumped there and have read it through a few times, for it helps my heart. It is like spiritual Xanax for my soul.
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:25-34)
I am praying that I will trust the Lord today. Will you pray for me? Will you trust Him today in whatever you are going through? What is the passage you turn to when you worry?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron

Ian Morgan Cron is a fantastic writer. This is probably the best written book I have read this year, and I read a lot of books. He is masterful in painting pictures that kept bringing me back to wanting more. That is probably obvious when I wanted to keep reading about a man's life, someone I have never met. This book is his memoir...of sorts. He says "of sorts"because as he tried to write about his childhood, he realized we all imagine how it was like better than it probably was. He says, "This work dances on the hyphen between memoir and autobiographical fiction. Many of the stories in this book are more than forty years old . . . They include approximations of conversations that actually occurred or ones I believe could have reasonably taken place, given my knowledge of the people and the events at the time" (4).

After reading it, all I can say is that if it is indeed real and not fiction, I feel for this man. He grew up in a family where his father, covertly working for the CIA, was an alcoholic. Much of the book is about his interaction and struggle of dealing with a father who never expressed his love for him. He never thought he was good enough for his father, even though he had a mother who loved him unconditionally. He grew up in a Catholic family and tells stories of what it was like to be a young altar boy as well as attend Catholic school.

Eventually, his struggle with his father turned him against God. He talks about how getting that guitar in High School was his savior, of sorts.
I don't know what would have happened to me if I hadn't learned how to play guitar and write songs. God provided me with music as a spiritual foster home until I could find a permanent place to live. I no longer thought much about God, and when I did my thoughts turned dark. My life was one long, unanswered prayer. If there was a God, he was just like my father, a drunk who forgot to keep his promises to his children. It was up to me to make life work." (115)
This was his attitude, whether it was pursuing education, alcohol, drugs, or whatever thing in life. He thought God and Jesus was a sham because they never answered his prayers as a child.

As I read this book, my heart really felt for the young boy in the story. I felt for the high school student who tried and sought attention in so many places. I was moved by the story of the college student who still looked for happiness in so many places. Then the book ends with Cron leading a parish in the Sacraments as part of a Episcopal church. And I thought . . . what happened? Where's the conversion? Where's the understanding of Jesus and the cross being his only hope? Where's the understanding of justification by faith? Where's the forgiveness? And while I was compelled by the literature of this book, it ended with my heart still aching for this man. I hope it is in vain and he has really found the meaning of salvation in Jesus, the cross, and repentance of sins.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Morning After: A Life of Prayer, pt. 2 (Matt 6:9-15)

The Lord's Prayer! If you have grown up in the church, you have probably heard of what has traditionally been called The Lord's Prayer. Some people these days have said it should be called The Disciples Prayer because Jesus is telling the disciples how they should be praying.

In Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus warns the disciples against the religious trappings of a prayer life. Those that are part of the Kingdom should not seek to pray in order to be seen by others and they should not seek to pray with meaningless repetition, thinking their words are magical. I find that interesting that this comes just before Jesus teaches on this prayer. In vs. 9, He says, "pray then in this way." It is not meant to be something that is magically repeated, but in reality, this prayer is a model of how we are to pray.

Yesterday at Cornerstone, I walked through this prayer (listen to it HERE), and noted 7 General Patterns To Our Prayers.

1. When We Pray, Let's Praise God's Fatherhood (vs. 9b)

Jesus begins by saying, "Our Father who is in heaven." When we pray, we need to remember that we are praying because of a special relationship we have with God. Can you believe that? We get to pray to the God of the universe because He is our spiritual Father! And so, maybe, just maybe, our prayer life is more about who we are asking and worshipping instead of what we are asking for at that moment.

2. When We Pray, Let's Pray For God's Reputation (vs. 9c)

When Jesus says "hallowed be Your name," He is praying a prayer for protection of the name of God from being misused by people. To hallow God's name is to sanctify it or make it holy. And since we cannot make holy something that is holy, what He is saying is that we are to attribute to God the holiness that He already is. This means in our actions. For when someone takes on the name "Christian" and then they act in the same way as the world, they are taking the name of God in vain.

3. When We Pray, Let's Pray For Christ's Kingdom (vs. 10a)

This is a prayer for Christ to rule in the hearts of individuals as they come to salvation as well as a prayer for Christ to come back. We know that the name of God is not hallowed among men, so we need them to be saved! Do you pray for the salvation of people?

4. When We Pray, Let's Pray For God's Will (vs. 10b)

We should be praying that what happens in Heaven takes place on earth. That we would be seeking to align our wills more closely to the will of God.

5. When We Pray, Let's Pray For Our Basic Physical Provision (vs. 11)

Now Jesus gets to the physical, the thing that most consumes our prayers. But why should we pray for something that many of us need less of, daily bread? This is a prayer of dependence, that our Father in heaven will provide all that we need for life and sustenance.

6. When We Pray, Let's Pray For Our Basic Spiritual Provision (vs. 12, 14-15)

What bread is to the physical body, forgiveness is to the soul. We have a debt that we cannot pay. It is called sin. Therefore, we cry out for our Father to forgive us our sins. The heart of the person who cannot forgive someone else for what they have done to them, probably has never understood the forgiving nature of the cross of Jesus.

7. When We Pray, Let's Pray For Spiritual Protection (vs. 13)

This is a prayer of crying out to the Lord for help! Protect us!

As I studied this and taught it, I realized how my own prayer life needs to grow. What do you think? Which of these areas do you think you struggle in the most?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Video Sunday: Fight Your Sin by John Piper

I love the ministry of John Piper. Whenever I need a little charge to get me going, I listen to him, watch Him preach, or read a book he has written. It is not that he is anything special. But his passion for Jesus oozes out of every part of him. That excites me. His calling is that of joy and passion in the pursuit of Jesus. And with that comes warnings to say no to sin. I found this short video helpful, maybe you will as well.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Next Story WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT

On Monday, I posted my review of Tim Challies new book, The Next Story. I stated in my blog that I would be giving one copy of the book away at random from the comments listed. Thank you to all of you who posted a comment. And the winner is.....

J Roque

If you are the winner, please contact me by EMAIL with your shipping information. I will get it sent out right away. Thank you for everyone who came by the blog to try to win this book. You should read it even if you didn't win. If some of you came by because of the review, I hope you will stop back to see what is going on. Have a great day, and a great weekend as you worship Jesus who hopefully has changed your life!

BRC: A God-Sized Vision, week 3

This week's reading consisted of the revivals that took place in America from the 1790s to the 1840s. It is generally thought of as the Second Great Awakening. Although the Second Great Awakening touched many other regions of American soil, the authors mostly focused their illustrations on what took place at Yale College through the lens of Timothy Dwight (Jonathan Edwards' grandson).

Dwight was a remarkably young man, extremely brilliant, and when God got hold of his heart, he was a useful tool for ministry. He returned to Yale when he was 43 years old as their president and what he found was a place that was hardly Christian. In 1795, it was said that only 10% of their 125 students would have professed Jesus publicly. That might seem like a lot today. If 10% of the students at Yale today professed Jesus publicly, that would be incredible. But for them, this was through and through a Christian college. That would be like saying 10% of Moody Bible Institute was willing to profess Christ today. That would have been shocking. But then a revival broke out.

APPLICATION POINT #1: Let's Spend Time With People. One of the the things that led to the revival was Dwight's persistence to spend time with his students. We are told, "He taught regularly as professor of theology, preached every week, and advised seniors. Through this regular interaction, students got to know Dwight personally as a humble, pious role model" (64). I hope people in my church will see me as a humble, pious role model. But the only way that will happen is to spend time with them. Live life with them. One of his students had this to say about Dwight:
Oh, how I loved him! I loved him as my own soul, and he loved me as a son....He was universally revered and loved. I never knew but one student undertake to frustrate his wishes." (66)
I want to be that guy who lives so uprightly and is so kind and gracious before people that they will seek me out and think of me as a role model. Of course, not because of me, but because of Jesus and His name I carry as His servant.

The revival broke out. By 1802, we are told that one-third of the Yale student body professed new faith in Jesus (the student body now numbered 230). People joined the church, they became pastors, but most of all, they began living lives pleasing to Christ. But then after those students left, a new batch of students came in with little fervor for Christ. By 1808, much of the fervor was gone.

APPLICATION POINT #2: Let's Not Live Off The Past. I think it is easy to live off of the past. It is easy to tell stories of times of old, when everything was going well. But when we think of our spiritual lives (and the lives of those around us), we need to think of the present. It only took several years for it to leave Yale College (granted, mostly because those excited about Jesus graduated). And look at Yale today? Hardly anything of a college it was started to be.

We must seek out the Lord continually. We are told that Dwight continually led the student body before the throne of God. He prayed for them, and we get the feeling that he prayed for their souls publicly. We are told:
"Never did a minister plead more fervently for his people--never a father more importunately for his children, than he did of his pupils before him. Nor were the wants of the churches, nor the influence of a revival in the college upon the Redeemer's kingdom in the land--in the world, forgotten." (70)
As they prayed, God blessed them with revival again. We are told that a small group of people woke up before 3:30 am on Sunday mornings in order to pray for revival (72). Do we want it that bad?

Now your turn. I know a few of you are reading with me, please post your thoughts so we can be encouraged with each other.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let's Get Real by Dale & Jena Forehand

I am very skeptical when it comes to marriage books, especially by authors I have never heard of. I usually avoid them altogether, but because this was my anniversary week, I thought I would give a newer book on marriage a chance. And I was quite surprised.

Let's Get Real by Dale & Jena Forehand is a helpful book for marriages that are in trouble, as they deal with issues that tend to find their way in and destroy the marriage. They begin by telling their story of their marriage, divorce, and eventual remarriage. They attributed their eventual remarriage to Christ and the gospel. At the very beginning of the book, they say what I have said to so many couples, "as long as we have Jesus, we have hope" (7).

It is a very unique book, for it is a book, but it is also a workbook. Every couple pages in the book, they pause and ask some very direct questions (and leave space for you to fill in your answers). There are many passages of Scripture they ask you to look up and write down thoughts. I do not know if I have ever read a book like this. It is not just a study guide, for much of it reads like a book. But it is not really only a book either. Being different made it really work. I think it probably would be best if accompanied with the Let's Get Real DVD (although I did not go through the book with it, I am assuming it would be helpful as there are spaces to take notes for each lesson).

Who Should Read This Book?

That's a good question. I could probably direct many people to some better marriage books. But after reading this book, I would certainly direct those whose marriage is "in trouble" to read it. The process of Scripture and answering questions as you read will be helpful for you. The book is very gospel-centered.  For instance, they make statements or ask questions like these:

  • Just as Christ is available to us, we must also be available for one another! Unfortunately, many couples today are simply too busy to be available. (23)
  • Is it more important to you that your spouse look like you or that he look like Jesus? (32)
  • How do imperfect people strive for a perfect marriage? They follow a perfect Savior who supernaturally transforms them through His workmanship toward perfection. (48)
  • Women, God hand-carved the need for intimacy and security in your life so you would see your need for Him. Praise God, He sent Jesus to fill your void. (57)
  • If you're a child of the King, Satan will do whatever he can to steal your joy, kill your passion, and destroy your marriage. (70)
  • We believe that God does His deepest transforming work in the marriage relationship. We also believe God does His deepest work in the midst of trials, stress, struggles, and conflicts. No wonder marriage is so hard. No wonder conflict in marriage is so critical. No wonder we need to see our conflicts the way Christ sees them. (128-9)
  • Instead of divorcing from each other, what if a couple decided to divorce themselves from the sin that resided in their relationship? What would happen to their marriage? (140)

Anything To Watch Our For?

There are two issues that I will not go into detail during this blog review. One issue is their view of generational characterizations. I certainly do not disagree that we are who we are because of our families or heritage. But they seemed to take it to a level of we sin because of our heritage (they don't actually say that, but it feels like it). We are responsible for our own sin.

The larger issue is this whole thing of "forgiving ourselves." I don't know what it is with this issue, but I have heard it three times this week. They say things like this: "If it was your sin that caused your shame, you must forgive yourself and allow Christ to forgive you" (103). I just never see this concept anywhere in Scripture.

Overall, though, a decent book that I would not hesitate recommending to someone who's marriage is on the rocks.

I received a copy of Let's Get Real by Dale & Jena Forehand from NavPress for review.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Marriage Enhancement Advice

Since Monday was my anniversary, I was looking for some things to meditate and think about in regards to marriage enhancement. I came across a few words of advice that I gave in one of my sermons recently and these were good words to remind myself (is it fair to get good words from my own sermons?).

It is no doubt that marriage takes work. Here were a few words of advice that I gave for those who want to avoid marital failure.

First, Don't Think It Can't Happen To You! I have read the statistics. I have seen what has happened in the lives of people who thought it would never happen to them. I would be a fool to say that it cannot happen to me. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says "let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." It does not mean that I should live a paranoid life, but that I should realize that no relationship is disaster proof. That keeps me working hard in order to keep it growing.

Second, Don't Forget Your Primary Relationship Is Jesus! If you do not love Jesus, I hardly doubt you will love your spouse like you should. Jesus will never fail you, but your spouse might. Jesus will never leave you, but your spouse could. Remember that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37-38).

Third, Work Hard At Your Marital Relationship! It does not come easy, so it is something you need to work at. And sometimes in the working of the relationship, it hurts and is uncomfortable. Here are a few tips of some things that are crucial as you work at that relationship with your spouse.

  • Spend some time away from the kids. A continual date night is important. Think through your relationship and be romantic. Take turns planning dates. Make sure that you are cultivating your relationship with each other and not only through the kids. For once the kids leave the house, you will have each other alone.
  • Get away for a week or weekend. This is the last point on steroids. Spend some longer times away from everything and just have fun with each other.
  • Create open lines of communication. You must be able to talk to your spouse. Are you able to express your feelings and thoughts? Do you even try?
  • Study Scripture & pray with each other. Talk about what you are reading in the Word together. Develop your relationship with God through Jesus (who is your only mediator). Pray everyday for your spouse.
  • Stay intimate with each other. Seek each other out in the bedroom as much as you do outside of it.
Marriage is not easy, but it is worth it!