Sunday, July 31, 2011

Video Sunday: How To Be Righteous by Mark Driscoll

The most important issue in regards to salvation is the issue of righteousness. Every religion has their path to righteousness, and it is always what you do. For the Christian, it is what Jesus has done. All those deeds are nothing and get us nowhere. This short clip by Mark Driscoll helps with this issue (by the way, this was from 2007, he looks so much younger, doesn't he?)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Feed The Sheep

I started reading this book a few days ago by William Still called The Work of the Pastor. William Still was ministry of Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen Scotland for over 50 years, from 1945 until shortly before his death in 1997. In the first chapter, he is making a plea to pastors to preach the Word and feed the sheep of God. The pastor is to be an evangelist, but the evangelism comes from the consistent preaching of God's Word. Amid this admonition, he says some very strong words that I found somewhat amusing.
"If you think you are called to keep a largely worldly organization, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness. Do we really believe that the Word of God, by His Spirit, changes, as well as maddens men? If we do, to be evangelists and pastors, feeders of sheep, we must be men of the Word of God" (23)
Love it! Let them do it out in goatland!

What do you think? What do you want from your pastor?

A Funny Moment

Okay, so today's post is just for fun. The other day, Monique was shooting some video for the boys as they were making some home movies. JT wanted to do his best snap boogie impersonation & this was the result. Oh, and in case you are wondering, he does move much better than his mom!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Comfort For Those Hurting In Norway (and everywhere)

Last week while I was on vacation enjoying the sun and fun of Chicago, a tragedy was taking place in Norway. I have been unplugged from most media, so I did not really track what happened until this week when I have been back at the daily grind. My heart breaks for the people who have been affected by the work of this man (who, could we please stop calling a Christian?).

There have been so many that have commented on the events that took place that I am not going to take the time or space here to give my thoughts extensively. However, whenever there is a major world tragedy, I always wonder how people view God. This is going to sound strange, but it is in situations like this that having a rock solid view of God's sovereignty keeps me from going insane. Is God completely in control of all things or not?

Now, don't take this some place I am not going. This happened because of the work of a madman. It is ultimately an act of sin. But it did not take God by surprise. And even in that decision by Breivik, God has a purpose and a plan. We don't have to go any further than to look at the worst massacre to ever take place to see this worked out, the cross of Jesus. The Apostle Peter in speaking to the men of Israel said,
"This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death." (Acts 2:23).
In Peter's second sermon, he said,
"And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled." (Acts 3:17-18).
God is in complete control. Here is where we take our confidence. God has a plan. He has a purpose to all things. And He does it all to bring Himself glory!

If God is not in complete control, what is the alternative? Have you ever thought about that? What do you think brings more comfort during the hard, difficult times in life: (1) God is in complete control and has a plan; or (2) sorry that random act of violence happened to you? Which would you choose to hold onto if your child dies? Where would you find your comfort when you lose your job? What will keep you stable when a madman kills near 100 people? I find it in the unshakable nature and character of God! Let me end with a list of Scripture that may be helpful in times like this.

  • "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." (Genesis 50:20)
  • "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21)
  • "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2)
  • "But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." (Psalm 115:2)
  • "For I know that the Lord is great and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps." (Psalm 135:5-6)
  • "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." (Proverbs 16:33)
  • "And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation." (Acts 17:26)
  • "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why People Don't Study Theology

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, gives a few reasons why the Christian should study theology. He says the basic reason is that Jesus commands us to do so in the Great Commission when He said to teach others "all that He commanded." "The task of fulfilling the Great Commission includes therefore not only evangelism but also teaching" (27).

But he gives another reason why we should study theology. It benefits our lives. It helps us overcome our wrong ideas. It helps us to make better decisions later in life on new questions of theology we might have. But it also helps us grow as Christians (28-29). If you get to root of our actions, you will always find a belief. It is not a matter of whether we are theologians or not, the only question is whether we are good theologians or bad ones. Everyone has thoughts of God and how He interacts with us. But do you have the same thoughts as God has? That's the question. But the answer is usually seen in the way we respond in our life.

As I was reading his points as to why people should study theology, I began to wander, "Why do people not study theology?" It's a good question. Maybe you should ask yourself, "Why do I not study theology?" Let me offer several suggestions as I thought about it, and after asking the same question to my elders. Here are several reason why I think people don't study theology.

1.  It Takes To Much Work.

It is difficult. We live in the world of wanting things easy. To study and really learn theology, it takes effort. Sorry Staples, there is no EASY button when it comes to learning theology or doctrine.

2.  It Takes To Long.

As well as taking too much work, it takes too long. We want it easy, but we want it quick. We want the 5-minute devotions. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why we feel the need to want to do our study of God as quick as we can? Think about that for a minute (if you have the time).

3.  We Don't Want It To Change Us.

Let's be honest, if we study theology, at some point we are going to be forced to change. That can be an intimidating concept to grasp. We have grown comfortable with our view of God and ourselves, even if it is not based on good truth.

4.  They Are Not Challenged To Do It.

This is probably a reason that is directed at us leaders of churches. Sometimes, I wonder if people do not study theology because we have not asked them to do it. We have lowered the bar because we are scared that people will not do it. I was taught early on in ministry that people will rise or fall based upon the expectations placed upon them. Let's put the cookies on the top shelf, not on the lowest possible.

What Are Some Other Reasons You Think People Do Not Study Theology?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reflections on Moving

For our vacation, we spent a week back with our friends in Kansas. It was exhausting, as we tried to pack so many things into just a few days. Right before I left to visit them, I was asked to write a short article for our Middlefield Post (the article is posted HERE, look at page 23).

As I was thinking about visiting our church family back in Kansas, I was moved to write about the moving process. Here is what I wrote:

A few months ago, our family packed up all our belongings, left our friends, and drove over a thousand miles in order to move to Middlefield, Ohio. We did this because it was apparent to us that God was leading me to a pastoral position at Cornerstone Bible Church here in Middlefield. On a snowy day in February, our family entered central Geauga county not sure what to expect, but certainly knowing what we were leaving. 
Moving can be difficult. It can be difficult financially as the cost of selling a house these days can be draining. It can be difficult physically as packing and loading trucks can be overwhelming. But most of all moving can be difficult relationally. I will never forget telling our son that we were moving. As tears streamed down his face, he kept asking, “what about my friends?” 
His words and this move have taught me something about the Christian life. When God created us in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), one of the dominant longings of our heart is community. We thrive best in this life when we are involved in each other’s lives. We have been created to be relational. It is no doubt that the Bible speaks to how we should be involved in each other’s lives. 
The Bible says “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10). Our love for one another in the church should be like that of family. Not the sort of family you might see on “reality” TV, but the type of family that sacrifices and gives up their preferences for the other person. Later on in that chapter, we are told to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). This only happens when we live life with each other. When we have our homes open. When we engage people where they live and what they do. And especially when we open up our life to let people know the real us. 
As I reflect back, I remember driving into that city seven years ago to be part of that church. We knew no one. We had no relationships. But God provided us with some of the closest friendships we have ever experienced in our life. I expect the same here as we live life with each other.

Now, after getting back from vacation, I would say that last line is even more true. I expect God will do the same here as we live life with each other here in Ohio.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I have been wanting to read Unbroken for some time, but just haven't seemed to find the time. Then I went on vacation. Over the past couple of weeks, whenever I could find some time, I found myself trying to get alone to read this book. I was hooked.

Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini, who was an Olympic athlete turned military man who was shot down over the Pacific Ocean. After well over a month drifting at sea, eating birds and the rare fish he caught, and drinking rainwater, he was finally rescued. Only the rescue was anything but an answer to prayer. He found himself in the hands of the Japanese for a few years going from POW camp to camp. He was beaten to the point of death several times. He was emotionally taken to the breaking point of any man. And yet, through the entire ordeal, he never gave up hope of seeing his family again. As the subtitle says, it truly is a story of survival and resilience.

His story is only enhanced by the writing of Laura Hillenbrand. She absolutely drew me in to want to know more and more of what was going to happen to Zamperini (as well as all of his friends and family).

The subtitle also says that it is a story of redemption. As I read this book, I kept feeling like there would be more. It just seemed as though there would or should be a spiritual element in this story. But Louis was a very non-religious man who didn't want anything to do with Christianity. Yea, he did what everyone else in his position might do while floating at sea, he made a promise to God: "if you will save me, I will serve you forever." Yet this thought was far from his memory.

After he was finally rescued from the POW camp at the end of the war, he went through what many other POW's went through. The only way he could find comfort was through drinking. He did get married, but over time, that became a train wreck as well. He would get drunk every night so he could sleep and not see the Mutsuhiro Watanabe, the man who tortured him more than any other. This continued until Louis wife went to see a young preacher by the name of Billy Graham. She came home offering forgiveness to Louis and did everything she could to convince him to attend one of his outreach events.

He eventually did and left furious. But for some reason, he returned. As we was trying to leave after the message before the invitation, those thoughts on the raft came racing back to him. Hillebrand writes,
"As he reached the aisle, he stopped. Cynthia, the rows of bowed heads, the sawdust underfoot, the tent around him, all disappeared. A memory long beaten back, the memory from which he had run the evening before, was upon him. Louie was on the raft. There was gentle Phil crumbled up before him, Mac's breathing skeleton, endless ocean stretching away in every direction, the sun lying over them, the cunning bodies of the sharks, waiting, circling. He was a body on a raft, dying of thirst. He felt words whisper from his swollen lips. It was a promise thrown at heaven, a promise he had not kept, a promise he had allowed himself to forget until just this instant: If you will save me, I will serve you forever. And then, standing under a circus tent on a clear night in downtown Los Angeles, Louie felt rain falling. It was the last flashback he would ever have. Louie let go of Cynthia and turned toward Graham. He felt supremely alive. He began walking." (375)
And walking he did. A walk to follow Christ in all things. A walk that brought about forgiveness of his soul, but also forgiveness of his captors. It was a walk that stopped his alcoholism. It was one that changed his life. That is the story of redemption.

I can't recommend this book enough. It is well worth your time, even though if you have read this far into this review, you know the ending.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Harvest Bible Chapel - Palos

For me, being on vacation is always a good opportunity to visit other churches. Last Sunday, I was at my old church, GBC in Hutchinson, Kansas. This Sunday, I wanted to visit somewhere new. We have been staying in the south suburbs of Chicago all week, so I thought about visiting a Harvest Bible Chapel. I was hoping there would be one close to us and there was - Palos Hills, Illinois.

There are many reasons why I wanted to visit a Harvest church, but one main reason as to why this one: They meet in a school like we do Cornerstone Bible Church (and they were the closest). Since I have never been in a church situation without a building, I have never had to think through some of the things I do now. And since Harvest is planting churches around the country (and world), I figure they have certainly thought through just about everything.

My overall impression: They do things right! There were several aspects that led me to this conclusion.

First, was the signage. The over-communicate who they are and what they are about. Even before entering the campus, there were signs out by the road stating that a church was meeting there. There were signs by the front doors. When we needed to drop my daughter off at the Children's Ministry, there was a vary large sign stating where to go. Each ministry had a sign in the hallway that would lead you to their particular information.

Second, their service. It was raining when we arrived, and there were men in the parking lot with umbrellas to help us get into the building without getting wet. The ladies that signed in Anni into their children's ministry were very friendly and helpful. There were guys walking around the campus with shirts on stating they were security. The administrative assistant from the church caught us walking in and helped us find out way.

Third, their worship in music was excellent and Christ-honoring. It was not forced, but seemed natural. There was never the appearance of performance as I have noticed in other some places I have been. I really appreciated the transitions from song to song. As well, their use of technology for the songs was seamless and well done (and my son did notice they had 2 macbook pro's running their video).

Fourth, they used the Bible. Of course, this is the most important. It wouldn't be a church without the preaching of the Word of God. The preacher was in his series on the book of Acts. He preached for about 40-45 minutes and explained and applied the text for his people. He challenged them at the end to step up their efforts of evangelism.

Overall, there are several things that I learned and appreciated about this church. If you ever find yourself in or around Palos Hills, Illinois, I would highly recommend you visit Harvest Bible Chapel.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Video Sunday: Joshua Harris is Eaten by a Beanbag

Proverbs 3:7 says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil." We face temptation every single day. How should we deal with it? Should we get as close to evil as we can or should we run as far from it as possible? In this short video clip, Joshua Harris demonstrates the dangers of not turning away from evil and temptation.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Video Sunday: Irreverent, Silly Myths by Matt Chandler

Another video by Matt Chandler. This is one where he gives a great example of how most churches preach vs. the impact of how we should preach the Word. You will like this one:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Candy Shop

Just about a week ago, Tim Challies posted this video on his blog (which if you do not visit, you should visit his site at I wanted to share it with everyone here as well.

The Candy Shop is a parable of sex trafficking. Don't worry, there is nothing sexual about this video. However, the implication is very apparent. As I watched this video, my heart just broke for those young girls who are bought, abused, or sold into the sex slave. Watch this video and pray for them. If you are moved to do more than pray, please visit their website for additional information on how to help.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Final Thoughts On Revival

Over the course of the last couple months, I have been reading A God-Sized Vision by Collin Hansen & John Woodbridge with several of you. I hope you learned as much as I did in this study.

In this final post about this book, I wanted to give some final thoughts about the conclusion of the book, as a summary of what I learned about how God has moved in revival around the world.

Actually, what I learned can be boiled down to one simple concept. The main thing I took from this book was the Commitment to Prayer by those that experienced revival. Each and ever chapter kept bringing me back to the issue of prayer. I felt like I mentioned it in almost every blog post, but I often feel as though I want God to revive our city. But I wonder if I want it bad enough to get up at 4 a.m. and pray that He would do it! I have been convicted by this time and time again.

Why has prayer played such a vital role in revival? I suppose it is because when we pray, we are saying that we cannot do it. There is a sense of dependence upon God to do the work in the hearts of people. The authors write,
"We must not depend on methods, cultural exegesis, strategies, and techniques (helpful though some of them can be) as our end-all approach to doing ministry. We desperately need to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit in our day-to-day lives." (181) 
This goes hand in hand with a humble dependence upon God. We recognize that He is in control and we give our lives to Him to do as He so desires. Jonathan Edwards understood that "the Lord often used humble believers to lead spiritual awakenings" (184). Is it proud to say that I want to be one of those leaders? For me, one of the most helpful summary statements was found when they wrote,
"When we are weak, God is strong. When God is strong, we worship. When we worship, the world notices. When God sends revival once more, the world won't be able to ignore it." (185)
That's what I am praying. But that praying begins with my acknowledgment of humility. I can't do it, but He can. My prayer is that God would do something in my city for His glory. As the Psalmist declared:
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. Why should the nations say, 'Where, now, is their God?' But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." (Psalm 115:1-3)
Here are the links to each of the weeks as I worked through what I learned each week.

Chapter 1: Biblical Foundations & Theology of Revival
Chapter 2: First Great Awakening, 1730s to 1740s in North America
Chapter 3: Second Great Awakening, 1790s to 1840s in North America
Chapter 4: Prayer Meeting Revival, 1857 to 1858 in North America
Chapter 5: Global Awakening, 1910s in Wales, India, Korea, North America
Chapter 6: East Africa Revival, 1920s to 1970s in East Africa
Chapter 7: Henan, Manchurian, & Shantung Revivals, 1900s to 1930s in China
Chapter 8: Evangelical Boom, 1940s to 1950s in North America

As I finish this post, and if you have read to the end, I have one question. Is a series of blog posts like this helpful? I am trying to decide whether I will do another book like this again. I want to hear from you whether you thought this helped you understand some of the history of revival. Maybe you read the book, maybe you did not. Maybe you posted some comments, maybe you did not.

Was It Helpful?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How Should We Study Theology?

When it comes to theology, there are several different methods that can be used to organize thoughts of God interacting with man. One method is called Historical Theology. This is the study of what those in the past have said about God and man's relationship. It might show how the church has viewed truth and error over the centuries. A good study of historical theology will take a person through a journey of the church fathers and what they believed about different topics. For instance, let's say we wanted to study the topic of justification. We would read the different church fathers as to how they interpreted the Scriptures to understand justification. What did Aquinas, Augustine, Luther, and so on think about this topic.

Another method is called Biblical Theology. This is generally thought of as what the individual authors of Scripture have to say about certain issues. To continue on our example, we might want to ask what Paul thought about justification. What did Moses have to say about the being justified. It seems to reason to me, that this form of study would be better than historical theology. That is not to say that historical theology doesn't have value, but at least in this method, we are looking at the Scriptures themselves as a starting point and not the views of some man (who is sinful).

Another method, and probably the most popular, is called Systematic Theology. Wayne Grudem defines systematic theology as "any study that answers the question, 'What does the whole Bible teach us today?' about any given topic" (21). It is the collection, study, then summary of all the passages of a particular topic. And so, to fully understand justification, we are asking not just what Paul thought or what Moses thought, but what do they both say as well as the other authors of Scripture? What does the Bible say?

There are certainly other methods that people use when they study theology. Some might use a philosophical approach. Others a social approach. For me, as I study with our elders, we will be using the systematic approach. Here is the only danger I see in this approach. My experience has been that those who use a systematic approach to theology tend to interpret Scripture based upon their system of thought instead of letting the text speak for itself.

The Covenant Theologian interprets all Scriptures by their system. Yet so does the Dispensationalist (don't worry, it's not important that you know these terms now, I am sure I will define them over time). And the Calvinist sees everything through that lens, as does the Arminian. As we collect, study, and summarize, I think it is helpful to remember that the Scriptures are inspired, my system is not.

What dangers do you see in the different approaches to studying theology?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spiritual Pride

Every now and then, there is a quote in a book I am reading that will stick with me. The other day, as I was reading, there was a quote by Jonathan Edwards on the topic of spiritual pride. Let me share it with you. He once wrote:
"Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others; whereas an humble saint is most jealous of himself, he is so suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart. The spiritually proud person is apt to find fault with other saints, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they be, and crying out of them for it, and to be quick to discern and take notice of their deficiencies: but the eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home, and sees so much evil in his own heart, and is so concerned about it, that he is not apt to be very busy with others' hearts; he complains most of himself, and cries out of his own coldness and lowness in grace, and is apt to esteem others better than himself . . . and can't bear to think that others should bring forth no more fruit to God honor than he."
Which do you think you are? Are the person who has so much to do at home (meaning your own heart) that you see so much in your own life that it is difficult to notice the problems others have? Or are you the person who notices the problems of others more than yourself? It's a good word and probably worth a few minutes of your day for contemplation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Surviving Your Serengeti by Stefan Swanepoel

If you know me at all, you know I am not much into camping or wilderness experiences. The closest I ever desire to being on the African plain is watching YouTube videos of crocodiles eating wildebeests. Yet, I really did enjoy the picture that was painted by Stefan Swanepoel as he tells a fable in his new book, Surviving Your Serengeti.

The book is set in the Serengeti, as a couple embarks on a safari of sorts. As they find out more about the different animals, they are instructed by their guide on the seven skills of seven different animals that allow them to survive. Here are the animals and their corresponding skills:

  • The Enduring Wildebeest - This animal will travel a thousand miles to find water. It is the endurance needed in order to survive. "Endurance is the steadfast capacity to hold on for one more day" (31).
  • The Strategic Lion - The lion works strategically to find their kill and enjoy food for the day. "Strategy is the road map you need to define and achieve your goals" (59).
  • The Enterprising Crocodile - The crocodile cannot chase down its food in order to survive, but they do have to make choices as the food comes near them. "An enterprising person explores all options and boldly seizes every opportunity" (75).
  • The Efficient Cheetah - This amazing animal has to conserve energy and make bold dashes to feed for the day. "Efficiency is the optimization of all resources to achieve the best results" (88).
  • The Graceful Giraffe - The giraffe is a beautiful creature, which appears to be very graceful. "Grace is more than style and finesse, it's doing the right thing" (101). Swanepoel would say it is not just winning that matters, but how you win that makes the difference.
  • The Risk-Taking Mongoose - As the mongoose feeds on smaller rodents or bugs, they take great personal risk of their life. "Taking calculated risks is an essential part of every journey" (116). Those who never take the risk, risk starving to death in their Serengeti.
  • The Communicating Elephant - The elephant can communicate with other elephants in a multitude of ways. "Effective communication is the art of successfully delivering your message" (139).

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. It is a very quick read and is very creative. He uses the African Serengeti, the animals at least, to paint the picture of different personalities that we might have. They have even created a website where you can go, take a quiz, and find out which animal personality you might be (any guesses on which they say I am?)

Let me just make this disclaimer though: this book is not a Christian book. While there may be some undertones of things that are christian, there is no mention of Jesus, the cross, or the gospel. That doesn't mean it's not worth a read. If you are in a business setting, it might be worth the few hours it will take you to get through this book. I just don't want to mislead anyone as to what kind of book it is.

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 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Morning After: Principles for Effective Worship (Psalm 100)

Today begins my vacation. Before I left, I wanted to preach on something that will be constantly on my mind as I drove in the car a few thousand miles and spend lots of time with the family. I wanted to remind myself how I can go on vacation and still worship Jesus!

Psalm 100 is one of those Psalms that helps put things in perspective. Since it is so short, let me just quote the entire Psalm here:

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing. 
Know that the Lord Himself is God; 
it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting,
and His faithfulness to all generations.

What a great Psalm! There are seven imperatives in this Psalm: shout, serve, come, know, enter, give, bless. All of these imperatives are given because the author of this Psalm was very concerned how we would worship. I summarized these into Five Principles For Effective Worship:

1.  Worship with Joyful Excitement (vs. 1)

"Shout Joyfully to the Lord." This is a command. Charles Spurgeon once said that "our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people." Sometimes, the Christians I know are the most boring people on the face of this earth. My greatest concern is never the volume of the shout, but it is the joy that is behind the person. Could it be that we are more enthusiastic about our sports teams than God because we find more joy in them than Him?

2.  Worship with Willing Service (vs. 2a)

We are to serve God with gladness in our heart. When we serve the Lord in this way, it counts as authentic worship to Him. But not if our heart is torn to serve because of pressure, guilt, or duty. We should serve Him because it pleases us to do so.

3.  Worship with Joyful Singing (vs. 2b)

He mentioned shouting in general, but then talks about singing specifically. Music is one form in which we are to express our joy in the Lord. Isaac Watts wrote the Hymn, Come, We That Love the Lord." It is hardly ever sung, but he penned these insightful words in the 3rd stanza:

Let those refuse to sing, who never knew our God;
But favorites of the heavenly King, must speak His praise abroad.

Dead people do not sing. But those the Spirit of God has brought to life love to sing praises to Him.

4.  Worship with Proper Humility (vs. 3)

In order to properly worship the Lord, we must have a good idea of Who it is that we are worshipping and who we are. He is God, we are not!

5.  Worship with Overflowing Thankfulness (vs. 4-5)

We worship through being thankful for Who God is and what He has done. We should be moved to thankfulness because the Lord is Good (all the time); He is Loving; and He is Faithful.

If you want to listen to this entire message, please visit our church website. The sermon is usually posted by Tuesday at 12pm.

Which of these five points motivates you to worship?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Video Sunday: What Is Preaching by John Piper

A few months ago, I started posting every Sunday a short sermon clip of some of my favorite preachers. These are the guys who impact me with the Word of God. I know that in many circles, preaching the Bible has been attacked. The sermons have become shorter, they have become funnier, they have become more practical, and they have become less Scriptural. I appreciated this little clip from John Piper as he explains the purpose of preaching.

He says, "the preacher's job is to minimize his opinions." I like that. But more than that, I like the end of the clip where he explains why he preaches longer, doesn't attempt to be immediately practical, and gets worked up when he preaches.

If you have a preacher that follows this method, send him a note of encouragement this week. If you don't, maybe you need to find one!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Work & Rest

Tomorrow, I will be leaving for a vacation. As I have been looking forward to it this week, it got me thinking about the purpose of work and rest. From the very beginning of creation, God modeled what it means to work. For six days, He created the world and everything in it. But God did more than model work. He assigned it as well. On that last day of creation, God placed Adam in the garden and gave him a job to do. God told Adam to be the cultivator and keeper of the garden (Gen. 2:15). So, work is something that has been mandated by God for us to do.

And when we do it, we can serve God by using the skills and gifts that He has given us. For the carpenter, they can glorify God by building houses and buildings. For the farmer, they can glorify God by using their skills of cultivating the land. And for the pastor, they can glorify God by teaching and shepherding people.

Yet we also know that work became much harder because of the fall of mankind. In Genesis 3:17-19, we are told that Adam's work would become much more difficult. "By the sweat of your face you will eat bread." Work now is more difficult, that is why we never see a bumper sticker that says, "I would rather be working." Work is seen as a headache, a horrible thing that keeps us form the things that we really want to do. At least for most people.

Have you ever thought about how much easier farming would be if there were no weeds? Or how much easier building a house would be if there were no crooked boards? Or how much easier pastoral ministry would be if there were no sinners (I think of that one often). We are called to work and we know that it will be difficult.

But here's the other side of the work issue. It is the concept of rest! God modeled work, but He also modeled rest. On the seventh day, God rested. But then He mandated that His people rest as well. He commanded a Sabbath day. It is a day set aside for God, to worship Him. But it is also a day set aside for recovery. Our bodies and our spirit need time set aside each week to rest and refresh.

Let me just open and vulnerable. I am not very good at this. If there is anything I tend toward, it is working too much. There have been relatively few days since I have arrived in Ohio in February in which I have done no work. It consumes me. We all know that pastoral ministry is not a physical occupation. It consumes me because it consumes my mind. I often get to the place where I don't have time to think and clear my mind. It is something that I know I need to do better, but often don't know how.

Even beyond the weekly day off, it is good from time to time to get away for an extended period of time. That is what I am doing, starting tomorrow afternoon. I am going on vacation. For those interested, I thought I would end with a list of ways you could pray for me while I am on vacation. It seems strange asking for someone to pray for a vacation, but I would greatly appreciate if you would think of us over the next couple of weeks.

  • Pray that I would enjoy time with my family.
  • Pray that I would relax physically and mentally.
  • Pray that I would have some time of refreshment spiritually as I read God's Word and a few other books.
  • Pray that we would have safe travels back to Kansas and then to Chicago to see some family.
  • Pray that we would be able to speak into the lives of friends and listen as they speak into our life.
  • Pray that we would return energized for what the Lord has in store for CBC over the next several months.

Friday, July 8, 2011

BRC: A God-Sized Vision, week 8

This week we read chapter 8, the final chapter of the book on revival. It dealt with the Evangelical Boom that took place in North America in the 1940s and 1950s. Much of this revival story is told with Billy Graham at the center of it. I know some people have some negative thoughts or feelings about the way in which Graham ran his evangelistic crusades. I am not dealing with that here. All I will say is that he used his gifts and impacted more people for the Kingdom than I will ever dream of doing.

The 1940s in America was a down time. War had influenced so many people. But it was also a time when the foundations of Christianity were being tested, particularly the authority of the Bible. Seminaries had allowed the methods of Higher Criticism to influence the way they saw the Holy Scriptures. And it was in this time, that we see the major turning point in the life of Billy Graham. He was torn between the "intellectual" view of the Bible (how can it be reconciled with science, how do we know it's true, etc...) and simply believing it was from God. This would be the crucial point of his life. He finally came to the conclusion that would impact everything that he did when he prayed:
"Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word--by faith! I'm going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word." (162)
The major revivals started when he preached for eight weeks in Los Angeles and continually thundered "We need revival!" Next came a revival in Boston. Thousands of people gave their lives to the Lord during these revivals. The response in the cold-hearted Boston was such a surprise that Harold Ockenga, the pastor of the famous Park Street Church, said:
"We call the entire Christian public of the nation to prayer for if Boston and New England can receive such a shaking of God under this stripling who like David of old went forth to meet the giant of the enemy, then we believe that God is ready to shake America to its foundation in revival." (166)
Ockenga went on to say,
"I believe that 1950 will go down in history as the year of heaven-sent revival . . . You do not have to next year. You don't have to wait ten years. You don't have to pray anymore, 'Lord, send a revival.' The revival is here!" (169)
What can happen when a few men start to pray that God would change a nation? What could happen when a few people get serious about their calling to preach His Word and trust it to do the work? What would it be like to say, we don't need to pray anymore, "Lord, send a revival" because it is happening all around us? Lord, bring that to us today!

Next Friday, I will give some final thoughts about this book and what I have learned about revival as I have read this book.

What did you learn from this chapter?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Reflections of a Theologian 01

Theology is normally defined something like "the study of the existence and nature of the divine and his relationship to and influence upon other beings." In laymen terms, theology is generally what we believe about God and how He interacts with us. Today I am starting a series of blog posts that I am calling "Reflections of a Theologian." These blog posts will be my thoughts about what I am learning in my study of theology. My plan is to post a new blog on this topic every Thursday.

Let me make a promise at the very beginning. I promise that I will make every attempt to make it understandable. I do not plan on making these blog posts uncharacteristically long. I want them to be helpful. I want them to be read. While I think the best way for anyone to study theology is to pick up the Bible along with some helpful theological work, I also know that many people are busy. I want to do this series to help people because I think most people are theologically ignorant.

I apologize if that is offensive. However, I cannot tell you how many people I talk to who say they believe things they have no idea how to defend. I often wonder if people believe things more based on Christian sub-cultures than they do because they are taught in the Bible. Therefore, I want to do this so that others might grasp a glimpse of theology and might be able to process a few concepts in their mind.

I also anticipate that I will ask more questions than give answers in this series. These are going to be my thoughts as I wrestle through tough topics and thoughts about God. I will give what I believe is truth about these things, but anticipate doing so through the form of questions. As any theologian knows, good answers only come from good questions. I hope you will see my thought process.

Much of this will be the result of a study with my fellow elders at Cornerstone Bible Church. As I challenged them to study theology more in depth, they quickly decided to take time once a month in our elder meeting to study. As elders, God has called us to know the truth and to guard it. He has called the elders of the church to hold "fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). I particularly hope those from CBC will read these posts and ask questions back as well.

Let me end with one quote from the main book we will be using to enhance our study of theology. The name of the book is Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem (I was fortunate enough to have him as a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). Here is his take on the need for theological study in the life of the church:
"I am convinced that there is an urgent need in the church today for much greater understanding of Christian doctrine, or systematic theology. Not only pastors and teachers need to understand theology in greater depth--the whole church does as well. One day by God's grace we may have churches full of Christians who can discuss, apply, and live the doctrinal teachings of the Bible as readily as they can discuss the details of their own jobs or hobbies--or the fortunes of their favorite sports team or television program. It is not that Christians lack the ability to understand doctrine; it is just that they must have access to it in an understandable form. Once that happens, I think that many Christians will find that understanding (and living) the doctrines of Scripture is one of their greatest joys." (18)
Amen! That is why I am engaging in this blog series. Please spread the Word!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris

Several years ago, I preached a sermon entitled: "Have We Forgotten The Holy Spirit?" My point in that message is that we often treat the Holy Spirit, not as the 3rd member of the Trinity, but as some force or person that frankly scares us. In the theological circles I find myself, I believe we have greatly decreased the importance of the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, there have been a number of books written recently about the nature and purpose of the Spirit of God in our life.

The good news after reading The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris is that we have another book emphasizing the importance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. The book is adequately subtitled: "How Real Friendship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life," because Morris writes in this book how seeing the Spirit of God as more than a force or power. He is a person who desires to have a relationship with us.

That's the good news. But here's the bad news. While I appreciate the emphasis he is trying to make, this book is poorly written, not insightful, & basically theologically confusing.  I understand that he comes from a different theological persuasion that I do. I understand that he is going to take some texts of Scripture differently than I will. But it was more than that.

I have been wrestling through how I would share what it was I disliked about this book. Time certainly doesn't allow me to talk about all of them. But let me share just a few of them.

He does rightly say that many people view the Spirit of God as a force instead of a person. He rightly makes the assertion that "the witness of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit is a full and equal member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is not a force, a 'thing,' or an 'it'" (33). Amen! The only problem is that this comes just a few pages after he quotes Charles Finney on his experience of the Holy Spirit coming:
"The Holy Spirit...seemed to go through me, body and soul...I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way." (21)
I have no idea what Finney meant by that statement, but it just didn't seem to be helpful. And probably a bit confusing.

The last half of the book deals primarily with the gifts of the Spirit, primarily those that are looked at as miraculous. He spends a bulk of time detailing and describing three baptisms that are recorded in the Scriptures (although he spends lots of time on them, his argumentation is really poor). First, he writes about Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is unto salvation. This is what is described in Romans 12:4-5 as we are baptized into the body of Christ. Second, he writes about water baptism. This is when we follow in obedience and example of Jesus. It is visible and we see it. Third, he writes about Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is different from the first baptism, which leads unto salvation. This one is when we fully give our lives to the Holy Spirit to control us.

It is at this point that his use of Scripture becomes laughable. While earlier in the book, he described the Spirit of God as coming to be IN us and not just WITH us (indwelling). Now, he says that this even does not happen at salvation, but only when we are Baptized in the Holy Spirit. He says,
"On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the 120 gathered and remained upon them for the rest of their lives. The same things is available to you and me. As a matter of fact, I've experienced it. Once I got over all my suspicions, hang ups, and distorted preconceptions, I threw my heart open to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and asked Jesus to baptize me in Him. And the Holy Spirit descended upon me and remained upon me. My Christian life has never been the same!" (95)
So, the Spirit of God did not come to dwell when he was saved? But only after he asked to be baptized in the Spirit? His argumentation of seeing these three baptisms in the life of Abraham is extremely faulty handling of the Scriptures.

In the end, while I do believe we have ignored the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I would not recommend this book to anyone!

I received an advanced copy of the book: The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Christian Perspective On Being American

Let me begin by saying I am so thankful I live in America. I will never forget the first time I traveled overseas to a foreign country. I was a college student and spent six weeks in China. It was a very important, eye-opening experience for my life. But I was honest, the greatest part of that trip was landing back on American soil. Since that time, I have had many opportunities to travel overseas, and I always loving coming back through customs in America.

Trust me, I am a fan of America. You should have seen our family celebrate when Landon Donovan scored that game winning goal in the World Cup. You should see how we watch the Olympics and cheer fervently for the USA. When it comes to the Ryder Cup, it is all America! I am through and through an American.

However, I do not and can not worship this country! I do not and can not make my Christianity something to do with my nationality. It is my view that it is very easy for many American Christians to get caught up in America to such an extent that their country has become their god! I seems to me that many tend to celebrate and think that God has some special favor for this country that He doesn't have for other countries. To this, I say, I refuse to worship America (or any country). Let me explain. 

4 Reasons I Refuse To Worship America (or any country)

1.  This Is Not My Home

The words Paul says in Philippians 3:20 are very appropriate. "Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Just because I have a blue passport that has USA imprinted on it, does not mean this is my home. Yes, I live here for now. But it is not my home. This has been a hard concept for me to grasp. But the more I realize that my real home is somewhere else, the less I am tempted to worship this place. Let us never forget that America is temporary. Even if this country lasts another 235 years, it will eventually perish. It will end. Yet we will live forever. 

I guess I tend to worship my country when I forget to eagerly wait for my Savior, who is in Heaven and will be coming back to get me someday. It was this Savior who has instructed me to not waste my time storing up things here, but to live for the eternal (Matt. 6:19:24). But He is my first love and He is the One I can't wait to see someday. As I long for Jesus, my heart is not conflicted with worshiping America (or any other country).

2.  God Sovereignly Placed Me Here

It seems backwards for me to take pride in this place as my home when in reality, I was placed here by a sovereign act of God. Why I was born in the USA towards the end of the 21st Century, I will never know. What I do know is that He placed me here by His sovereign choice. Paul argued in his sermon on Mars Hill that God "made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation" (Acts 17:26).

God determined my time and the boundary of my habitation. He made sure I would be born in Northeast Indiana in 1973. He could have just as easily placed me to be born in Haiti in 1935, but He didn't. For me to worship my country instead of the One who determines times & boundaries is sort of backwards, don't you think? 

3.  God Is Not American

A friend of mine tells the story of once asking an older gentleman at his church if he thought God was American. The man's answer: "Yes, of course." I hope that shocks you as it did me. But that is an attitude of many American Christians. I doubt there is another country in the world that has quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14 more than we have: "If my people, who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." This is not about us. It is about the nation of Israel, God's chosen people. I do believe that God will honor those that honor Him. I also believe that for so long, America has been blessed because we have fought to defend Israel (Genesis 12:3). But to say that this is God's country or even that God is American is silly. 

Let me just say something that might seem controversial. But I ask you to think carefully about this statement before reacting: The God of the Bible cares as much for the Arab Sheikh, the African orphan, the Russian politician, and the South Korean soldier as He does for the all-American boy or girl! This must be true, unless of course, we falsely believe that God somehow thinks highly of us because of who we are or what we have done. There is nothing in us that makes us attractive to God.

It is often over-quoted and usually mis-quoted, but God does love the entire world and sent His Son to die upon the cross that "whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). That "whoever" is not limited to race or nationality. We are told in heaven, there will be people "from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues" worshipping God (Rev. 7:9). It's not about being American, it's about being a follower of Jesus.

4.  Prosperity Tends To Hinder Genuine Faith

Jesus said wealth will hinder genuine saving faith. It was a normal day when a rich, young man came to Jesus looking for salvation. Jesus tells him that you cannot hold onto your wealth and love God at the same time. What Jesus was saying was no different from what He said in the Sermon on the Mount: "No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and wealth" (Matt. 6:24). After the young man leaves disappointed, Jesus turns to His disciples and says "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God" (Luke 18:25). 

We are surrounded by wealth and prosperity that has hindered faith in the lives of people in America. If I were honest, in my moments of strong faith, I have prayed that God would make America less prosperous, so that people will be less likely to trust in their riches and turn to God. In my moments of weak faith, I don't pray that.

I know there will be the possibility that my words will be taken out of context. Yesterday was the 4th of July. A time of celebration of the founding of our country. My views of my country have nothing to do with the bravery of those who have fought for my freedom. I am forever indebted for them that my family gets to grow up in a place where they can worship the Lord God of the Bible without the threat of death. One of my favorite items in my office is the Bible my grandfather used in WWII. I am so thankful to all my friends who are in the military that keep my freedom secure so I can write a blog like this. They are more brave than I. Please do not take what I am saying as though I am unthankful for my country. I just refuse to worship it!

If you agree with me, how do you think American Christians tend to worship America instead of God?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Morning After: Will You Give Thanks? (Psalm 34)

Yesterday, I started a series just for the month of July that I am calling Summer in the Psalms. This is one of those things I have always wanted to do when I became a Senior Pastor and had some control over the preaching calendar. I know that usually the month of July is a time when many people go on vacation. It is hard to continue in a series that builds upon each other. So, I have always wanted to take very July and preach through selective Psalms. I hope I can do it each year.

I started with Psalm 34, which has always been one of my favorites. And the context of this Psalm means everything to understanding it. In most translations, there is a subtitle to the Psalm that says something like this:
"A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed."
This is a reference to the events that took place in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. David was on the run for his life. He was anointed to be the King of Israel, but the only problem was that Saul was still the recognized king and wanted him dead. Saul had tried several time to kill David and was chasing him all through the countryside of Israel trying to end his life.

This was a particularly difficult time for David because he had just left his best friend, Jonathan. He was all alone, on the run for his life. In fact, the time was so difficult that he found himself running into the land of the Philistines, to the King of Gath. This is just a few years after killing their giant, Goliath. As he gets there, he is so scared for his life that he pretends to be insane. He drools on himself. He scratches and claws things. He does such a good acting job that the King of Gath doesn't want to kill him, but doesn't want him around. He kicks him out of his country.

We are told in 1 Samuel 22:1 that the only place he finds to stay is in some cave in Adullam. It was from here that he writes this Psalm and says,
"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." (vs. 1)
Did you get that? He was going to give thanks in all things, praise God in all things. Would you say that you are a thankful person? My main point:

As Christians, We Should Be Thankful Because Even When We Are At The End Of Our Ropes, The Lord Is There To Comfort Us!

Do you believe that? I gave Five Reasons To Be Thankful.

1. The Lord Invites Us To Worship Him (vs. 1-3)
2. The Lord Answers Prayers For Help (vs. 4-7)
3. The Lord Provides Ultimate Fulfillment (vs. 8-10)
4. The Lord Has Given Us Rules To Find Joy (vs. 11-14)
5. The Lord Is Favorable Toward The Righteous (vs. 15-22)

If you want to listen to the entire sermon, you can find it posted HERE (usually by noon on Tuesday).

What Do You Have To Be Thankful For?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Video Sunday: Idolatry by Mark Driscoll

I know that for many, Mark Driscoll is a very polarizing name. It seems like most people love his ministry or can't stand his ministry. For me, I have come to appreciate much of what he says. That doesn't mean there are not things that I have heard him say that make me cringe a bit. But as he would say, I think we are on the same team!

One of the topics I have heard him preach on that has so helped my walk with Christ is his take on idolatry. This short video is worth the time that you will give to it. Especially watch into minute 3 as he talks about some modern day preachers who treat Jesus as if He is the great idol giver. Interesting.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Trusting God For The Results

I have been reading a book about preaching with the youth pastor at my church. It is a book that has many different authors who each give their take on the preacher and the act of preaching (don't worry, review coming soon). As I was reading a chapter this past week on "The Teaching Preacher" by R.C. Sproul, I was struck by a quote that he gave from Martin Luther. Here it is:
"Your task, O preacher, is to make sure that you are faithful to the text, that you are faithful to the proclamation of that gospel, that you are faithful to set forth the whole counsel of God, and then step back and let it happen. I don't have to try to cajole and persuade people with my techniques to get them to respond. I preach the law, I preach the gospel, and the Holy Ghost attends the ministry of that word to bring forth the fruit."
As a preacher, what a helpful thought. I don't know if I could be in the ministry I am if I believed everything was up to me. If it was up to my illustration or my humor I would be in trouble. I am not sure I would be able to enter the pulpit each week. But the Scriptures tell me that God does His work through His Word.

The one thing I have been taught in ministry by those who have discipled me is that God honors His Word being lifted up. That is why I preach and teach the Bible. I am not saying that illustrations are not important. I am not saying that humor is not important. What I am saying is that my job is to help the listener each week understand the meaning and point of the Scriptures. And as I do that, God does His Work through His Spirit. I am trusting God to do the work!

Preachers, let this be a reminder to you to be faithful to the text of Scripture tomorrow. Give your people the Word of God and let His Spirit move in their heart!

Listeners, think about your responsibility tomorrow. This is not an excuse for you to sit back and let God work. There will be no excuses when it comes to how you respond to the preaching of God's Word as it is explained.

Does that quote impact you like it impacted me?