Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Firmly Planted Children

One main aspect of Psalm 1 is that the righteous man will be firmly planted in the Word of God just like a solid tree planted by the streams of water. When that happens, nothing can stop that man. It says they will be prosperous in whatever they do. That doesn't mean they will be prosperous as we define it in our American context. It doesn't mean they will make millions of dollars ever year. What it means is that his life will be grounded so that no matter what happens to him, he will know how to respond because he has roots that are deep into the things of God.

I have been thinking about this concept as I am trying to shepherd my children. I want them to delight in the law of the Lord and I want them to meditate on His law day and night. I want the Scriptures to consume them. I want them to know that all the answers to life are found in this book. In order to do that, I am directing them to the Scriptures over and over. 

Karsten (my oldest son, 11 years old) should finish this week his 90-day reading plan through the New Testament. It is great to watch him sit on the porch in the evening and read his Bible. He sets his own alarm clock in the morning and the first thing he does is to wake up and read his Bible. I hope and pray for him that the Bible takes him and firmly roots him in the Lord.

JT (my youngest son, 9 years old) has decided that he wants to memorize larger portions of the Bible. He first started to memorize the book of 1 Thessalonians. I am sure he started this because I am trying to memorize it (almost through chapter 2 in case your interested). But then one night last week, he came to me and said he would memorize the book of Psalms. I smiled and said "okay, that's a good goal." Well, in just a few days, he has memorized Psalm 1. I hope and pray for him that the Bible takes him and firmly roots him in the Lord.

Now please don't think that we are super parents. There are many things that we are not doing right. For instance: JT came to me last night and asked, "Dad, when are we going to start reading the Bible together as a family again?" Ouch! That hurts when your nine year old son asks for you to be the leader of the home and read the Bible as a family together. That will be something we will get back to very soon as we seek to firmly plant our children.

Question: What Are You Doing To Firmly Plant Your Children In The Word Of God?

When JT was finished memorizing Psalm 1, he said it to me. But then I told him he would not be done with it until he said it two nights in a row. I want him not to just memorize it for the moment, but for it to really be there in his mind. This is the second night. I am amazed at how easy he memorizes the Bible.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Uneclipsing the Son by Rick Holland

[Attention: Read to the end of this post for information about how you can win a free copy of this book]

I still remember going to a High School winter retreat and meeting a young speaker by the name of Rick Holland. He was a friend of my youth pastor and after the weekend was over, I wanted to be friends with him as well. His messages were very insightful. They were rooted in the text of Scripture. They were filled with cool illustrations that helped make the point of the passage understandable. But most of all, they were filled with Jesus Christ.

Times haven't changed much. In Uneclipsing the Son, Rick Holland continually points to Jesus being the center of the Christian's life. And we should not put anything in front of Him, or eclipse Him, from our life. In the very beginning of the book, Holland summarizes his main point that Jesus is to be central in the Christian's life. He writes,
"It's way too easy to begin to think of Christianity as behavior modification, as a limitation on what you can enjoy or maybe making a moral or political stand or a social alternative to the world . . . Christianity is the worship of Jesus Christ. It's the worship of Jesus Christ exclusively, and it's the worship of Jesus Christ comprehensively. He alone is worthy; He alone is God; He alone is the infinite sacrifice made for the sins of those who would believe. But it's comprehensive as well, which means that every part of our being should be engaged in the worship and honor of Jesus. If Jesus is who the Bible says He is, if He did what the Bible says He did, He is worthy of absolute, complete, exclusive, comprehensive attention and focus in our life. That's that's the conclusion of this book. That's the first and last word on the subject at hand. Worship this Jesus. Don't let Jesus be crowded out." (8-9)
I have listened to many of his sermons and as I read this, I could picture him saying these things. His love for Christ is seen from cover to cover of this book. Probably my favorite part of the book was Chapter 8, "Jesus, Married?". It is here that Holland writes about the relationship of Jesus to the church. He writes,
"The church exists for Jesus, for maturity in Jesus, for knowledge of Jesus, for growth in Jesus, for growth to Jesus. I think the biggest, most fundamental problem of every human heart saved by grace entering into the church is simply this: we come to the church with the expectation that this is going to be something for us before it is something for Jesus. Make no mistake; the church has incredible blessings to benefit us! But these only come when we are something for Him, a people gathered in love and in adoration, gazing on His unimaginable power and glory in the desert of this world, crying out together, 'Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him!'" (103-4)
That is a very important word. The church exists ultimately not for us, but for Jesus. After being involved in church ministry for many years now, many Christians have bought into the lie that it is about them. As Holland might say, "they have eclipsed Jesus out of the church."

In the book, Holland deals with a variety of topics besides Jesus and the church. He deals with the cross. He deals with the Love of Jesus. He deals with Jesus and communion. He writes on how Jesus is often eclipsed in our daily evangelism. This book has a very simple flow to it. It might not end up being a classic bestseller, but it is solid from beginning to end. I would highly recommend it.

Want To Win A Free Copy?
Through the generosity of Kress Publications, I am able to give away 1 free copy of this book. Here is how you can enter. There are many ways you can be entered into the drawing. But you must click on the  PunchTab link below.
  1. You will be asked to like this post on your Facebook (don't worry, it is a very non-evasive form and is not a FB app)
  2. Leave a comment on this post, answering the question: "Why do you want to win this book?" (just so you know, the depth of your answer has no bearing into who wins, I am just curious)
  3. Like "changedbythegospel" Facebook page
  4. Tweet this post (you will be given a link and every person who comes to the drawing from your specific link will give you additional entries)
So there you go. Sign up and maybe you will win the free copy of this book. The contest will run until Friday at noon, eastern time. Have fun and I wish you all would read it.

I received a copy of the book: Uneclipsing the Son by Rick Holland from Kress Biblical Resources for review.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Morning After: A Life of Integrity (Matt. 7:15-23)

There are some passages in the Bible that are life-giving. When you read them, your heart is encouraged. Your spirit is lifted. The outlook on your day is brightened. And then there are some passages that hurt. They confront. They sting. Matthew 7:15-23, particularly the last couple verses, is more the latter than the former. They are difficult portions of Scripture to read because they draw a line in the sand. Not the sort of line that becomes eventually blurred. But lines that separate people for eternity.

False Teachers
Jesus had just said there are two roads, one that leads to life and one that leads to destruction. And there has been and will always be people that lead others away from that narrow road. They are called false teachers. In verse 15, Jesus warns us to beware of false teachers. This warning is so important for many reasons. But this warning seems so direct because Jesus knows what we often forget: not only are false teachers dangerous, but they are also very deceptive.

Jesus uses the now very familiar illustration of the wolf in sheep's clothing. It is meant of person who pretends to be helpful and harmless, but in reality his intention is to plunder and destroy. Which do you think offers more harm to the Christianity? Is it the teacher of the church of Satan who cuts up chickens, offers sacrifices, and gives seances on Halloween. Or is it the teacher that holds up the Bible, talks about the Bible, wears the nice suit, has a great smile, but never teaches that Jesus is the only way? Which is more dangerous? Obviously it is the second illustration. Why? Because the closer someone is to the truth without actually having the truth, the more dangerous they become.

Satan is not stupid! The Apostle Paul acknowledged that false apostles disguise themselves as apostles of Christ because their leader, Satan, disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:13-15). If he can get someone to buy into everything Christian without buying into Christ, then he wins. Just because it has the name of Christian on it does not mean it is safe or true. Just because it is put out by a Christian publisher does not mean it is safe and true. And just because it is sold at a Christian bookstore or website doesn't mean it is safe and true.

How can we know? Jesus says that we will know false teachers by their fruit. The true colors of every person eventually show. And good trees produce good fruit. But bad trees produce bad fruit. What is the fruit? It is how someone lives and what someone teaches. There are three main issues that I see many false teachers avoiding to talk about. 

First, they tend to avoid talking about sin. I am not saying we should be mean to people, but I hope we can at least use the words the Bible uses. Second, they tend to avoid talking about substitutionary atonement. This is the belief that Jesus died in our place for our sins. It means that when Jesus hung upon that cross, the Father poured out upon Him all of His wrath for all of my sins. Instead, many say this is Divine Child Abuse. Third, they avoid talking about the final judgment. They talk about the best life now and that talking about judgment is just so negative.

False Followers
False teachers produce false followers. Matthew 7:21-23 are some of the scariest, most disturbing, most sobering passages in all the Bible. Not only are there many people on the wide road, but there are many people who spend the majority of their life thinking they will spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus only to wake up to a different reality once death has taken life from them.

The point of this passage is that words do not always tell the entire story. Just because someone says that Jesus is their Lord does not mean He really is in their life. It is one thing to say it, but another thing to live it. Jesus will one day say to many people, "depart from Me." I am not sure there could any worse words that anyone could ever hear. This is a term of judgment. This is a term of abandonment. This is a term that should wake us up to reality.

Is that you? Think, could it be possible that Matthew 7 speaks about you? Could it be that you are just a fan of Jesus but you have no desire to follow Him? It does not mean you will be perfect. But if there is nothing moving in your heart towards Him, maybe that is so indication that you need to take some time to test yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Do not just say that Jesus is your Lord. Make sure He is! Don't play the Christian game.

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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Video Sunday: What You Don't Want To Hear About Heaven & Hell by Mark Driscoll

Last Sunday, I preached on the wide & narrow roads from Matthew 7:13-14. In that passage, Jesus says there is a wide road that leads to destruction and a narrow road that leads to life. There are only two options, heaven or hell. As a follow up from my message last week, I thought I would post this short video by Mark Driscoll on heaven and hell. Heaven is real, and so is hell! You must consider which road you are on today. I appreciate what he says to those that do not believe it is real.
"If I am wrong, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. But if you are wrong, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Give Blood And . . .

The other day I posted a really funny picture on Twitter and Facebook. But I thought it was funny enough to deserve it's own blog post. Not much to say about it, but this is what you might see in Middlefield, Ohio.

Question: What Potential Prize Would Motivate You To Give Blood?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Money, Money, Money, pt. 1

God has our family at a certain place right now that is causing me to think a lot about money. If you do not know, almost seven months ago our family moved from Kansas to Ohio so I could become the Senior Pastor at Cornerstone Bible Church. This move has been hard, yet very rewarding. It took us five months, but we did eventually sell our house in Kansas. Now we are looking for a home here in Ohio. As we look for a home here in Ohio, the concept of money and money management keeps coming up in my mind.

I have taught a few classes in the past in different churches on stewardship and how to handle money. I have read several books on the issue of money and finance. There is even one book that I have read at least once a year, for the past four years (The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn). The one thing I have not done is to consult the one man who might be considered The King of Personal Finance, Dave Ramsey.

Supposedly, Dave Ramsey knows it all when it comes to personal financial issues. And since I have never read anything that he has done, I thought I would purchase a couple of his books and get started. I also wanted to do this to investigate the possibility of running one of classes for our church (I am unsure at this point whether I want to or not, but  want to investigate the possibility).

I really didn't know much about the books that he has written, so I did a little research. That was confusing. I settled on two books, only because they were the most familiar to me. I have started reading Financial Peace Revisited, which seems to be an updated version of his Financial Peace (at least that is what I thought, I guess it was updated in the late 90's). The second book I purchased is Total Money Makeover, which I look forward to getting to in the next couple of weeks.

My plan is to write several blog posts over the next couple weeks as to what I am learning as I read these books. This financial issue is a great reminder for me and hopefully will be very valuable for those of you who do not have the time to read the book. If ever we need to be good stewards of the money God has given us, it is now.

Let me end with just one thought about money. Or at least my heart when it comes to money. Very often, I tend to be impulsive when it comes to money. I think I get that from my parents. They made those impulse buy bins near the checkout lane for me. I can tell you some stories (my wife could tell better ones) about how I have been lured impulsively to purchase things. To that end, I found these points helpful that Ramsey makes towards the beginning of Financial Peace Revisited. These are not necessarily thoughts in regard to the candy bar at the end of check out lane, but larger purchases like buying a home. 
"First, remember that you are not helpless; so quit acting like it. You just need to be aware of this fact when making a 'significant' purchase. Second, you must carefully consider your buying motives when making purchasing decisions. Why do you want or think you need this item? Could you live without it? Do you want it for selfish reasons like showing up the neighbors or is the item of use to you? Third, purchasing decisions made slowly are invariably better decisions. If the purchase is a 'significant purchase,' you should never buy without waiting overnight. It sounds old-fashioned, not very nineties' advice. Well, so be it. The people of past generations didn't make the bad buying decisions we have made. They didn't have record foreclosures and bankruptcies, which are the norm today. Finally, you should seek counsel and look carefully for bargains." (42-3).
Question: Has Anyone Ever Been Through These Books? What Do You Think?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Did We Get The Bible, pt. 3

Two weeks ago, I posed the question as to how we got the Bible? It was posed as how you might answer someone who opposed that the Bible came from God. So, more accurately, the question might be posed like this: "How would you answer someone who claimed that the Bible was not from God?"

Last week, I gave the first part of my answer to that question. I was summarizing 5 points I once heard from James Montgomery Boice as to why the Bible is in fact the Word of God. Last week, I gave the first three points: The teaching of Christ, The Bible itself, and prophesy. Now let me give you the last two points.

4. The Bible's Preservation

Before the printing press, the texts of Scripture were handwritten and preserved for people. And even though the Bible was of extreme hatred by so many people, it endured. In fact, we have more evidence of the texts and portions of the Scriptures than any other manuscripts in the world of any ancient writings.

You might not have heard of these, but here are some popular ancient writers. The plays of Aeschylus are known from only about 50 manuscripts. The works of Sophocles are known from only about 100 manuscripts. There are only a few hundred manuscripts of Euripides, Cicero, Ovid, and Virgil. But when it comes to the New Testament, there are over 5,000 manuscripts in Greek, 8,000 in Latin, and about another 1,000 in other languages.

All of this was preserved even though in times like the Emperor Diocletian, it was a capital offense to even have a portion of the text of the Bible. And yet it was so important that many people possessed them and passed them on (by a side note, I wonder if it was a capital offense today, how many who claim to be Christian would actually keep their Bibles). Diocletian was trying to wipe out the Scriptures from the face of the earth, but only ended up proving the words of Isaiah and Jesus:
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8) 
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Matthew 24:35)
It is unthinkable that someone could or would deny the evidence of the preservation of the Bible.

5. The Transformation of Men and Women

To me, this is a very pragmatic argument, but a very good one. The Bible over the history of the world has taken even the worst man or woman and transformed them. Of course, understand when I say that, it is the words of the Bible as they represent God, Jesus, and the gospel that transforms. But the Bible says that it will change people.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7)
As they have read the Bible, drunkards have been sobered. Prostitutes have been reformed. Proud, arrogant people have been humbled. Dishonest men have become people of integrity. Addicts have been set free. The Bible does such an amazing work on people that it has to be something other than simply a book written by mere men.

Those are the five points. What do you think of them? Next week I will finish with a short post on how the Bible was established. How did we get the 66 books of the Bible and are there more that we should be looking for?

Question: Has Reading The Bible Transformed Your Life?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The "What Not To Do" List

Last week, Michael Hyatt posted a very interesting thought on his blog: Do You Have a Not To-Do List? The point of his post is that while many people have a list of things they plan on doing each day (or week), not many make a list of things they should not be doing every day (or week). This is why he says it is important:
"The only way for these super-productive people to continue to grow professionally without going crazy is periodically to decide what they are not going to do. This is particularly important for people who have just been promoted to a new job. That's when you really face the pressure to perform and it's the most difficult to say, 'no.' But you must say 'no' if you are going to say 'yes' to the things that really count--both in your job and in your life."
This question has made me stop and think about my life. It has made me think that since I came to Cornerstone Bible Church just over six months ago, I have hardly said 'no' to anything. I really do not desire to say no to anyone or anything ever. That doesn't mean I want to do everything, but unless it has to do with eating potatoes, I do not want to say no to it right now. I want the people of CBC to understand how much I long to serve them.

But I am also finding out that eventually this is going to catch up to me. I just cannot physically do everything. At some point I am going to have to be able to say no to someone at some point. I am still formulating in my mind what those things are going to be as they relate to my position at CBC. But until I get that figured out, there are some things that I would like to put on my "not to do" list that will simply make my position at CBC more efficient. I am sure there will come a time when I will have to say no to someone in the church about some ministry activity. But until that time comes, I will simply focus on being more efficient in what I am currently doing.
  1. Turn off my phone & email while I am studying.
  2. Limit my time to reading other blogs & news sites to first thing in the morning or last thing at night, and only for a limited amount of time.
  3. Only check the statistics on my blog once a week. (I know that sounds strange, but I tend to check to see if the blog is being read about is a distraction to me).
Even as I look at those things, they all have to do with technology. Looks like I have not done a good job of doing some of the commitments I made back a few months ago. But I will try harder and hopefully be even more strategic with my time.

Question: What Do You Need To Put On Your "Not To Do" List?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond

The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond is part of a series of books called "A Long Line of Godly Men Profile" that was conceived by Steven J. Lawson. The purpose of this series is to introduce giants of the Christian faith and to show how they used their particular spiritual gifts, personality traits, or ministry abilities in serving God. The goal of this series is to set forth followers of Christ who are themselves worthy to be followed. And for the most part, this book does just that.

The Mighty Weakness. That's an interesting combination of words, don't you think? At first glance, these words seem to be a contradiction of terms. How can someone be mighty and weak at the same time? Or better yet, how can someone find their might when they are weak? That's the story of John Knox (and of all mighty Christians throughout the history of the world). Bond puts it like this:
"Knox is a model for the ordinary Christian, especially the one who feels his own weakness but who nevertheless wants to serve Christ in a troubled world. Knox is eminently relevant to all Christians who have ever been forced to come face to face with their own littleness." (xx)
I posted the other day that there is glory when we feel inadequate. That was Knox. But it was first the Apostle Paul who said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, "when I am weak, then I am strong." It seems such a paradox. But as Bond says,
"Weakness, in Paul's theology of ministry, is an essential prerequisite to being used of Christ. The Almighty is in the business of raising up simple, frail, and little people, and empowering them to be strong in Christ." (xxii)
What was his weakness? He grew up in a time in Scotland with severe persecutions. He was timid. He didn't want to preach. In fact, the first time he was asked to preach, he ran out of the room crying. He soon would return to preach and said, "O Lord Eternal, move and govern my tongue to speak the truth" (9). That's when God can use someone. When they feel as though the only way this message will be successful is when God takes the simple words that come out of the mouth and move them.

So much more could be said about Knox, but then you wouldn't have to buy the book. And you should read it. I do not know if I have read a book about a guy who literally had to dodge bullets as he was preaching (and I mean literally). But it was his unrelenting reliance upon the Lord that enabled him to move an entire country for Christ. Charles Spurgeon once said of Knox,
"When John Knox went upstairs to plead with God for Scotland, it was the greatest event in Scottish history." (33)
This was a fairly good book. It did present just enough of Knox to give his history, background, and to become familiar with him.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Morning After: A Life of Exclusivity (Matt. 7:13-14)

I had the opportunity yesterday to preach on one of the great gospel passages in the New Testament, the two roads (Matthew 7:13-14). If we are honesty, we would agree that it is not too difficult to understand what Jesus is saying. I don't think you have had to take some Greek classes or have a degree in Bible-Theology from some well established Bible College to understand it. Jesus says there is a gate that is wide and there is a gate that is narrow. There is a way that is broad and a way that is narrow. There are many people who follow the way of the broad road that leads to destruction and very few that follow the narrow way that leads to life. And it is His command to us that we enter the narrow gate and follow the narrow road. That's it! That's His illustration for how to live our life.

How Does It Fit Into The Context?
When Jesus stated the "golden rule" in Matthew 7:12, He ended it by saying "this is the Law and the Prophets." This concluded what He started back in Matthew 5:17 when He said that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. What Jesus starts to conclude the sermon and basically asks, "what are you going to do with my teaching?" "Who's team are you going to be on?" He is saying that you only have two options, you can follow the ways of Jesus or the other way.

The Difference Between The Roads.
There were three main differences that I see between these roads. First, the Wide Road is the way of the world, But the Narrow Road is the way of Jesus. There are many things those on the way of the world characterize this road. Some say there is no absolute truth. Some say that riches will make you happy. The worst things stated on this Wide Road are statements like everyone eventually gets to heaven or you can earn your way there. The only problem with those thoughts are they are just not what Jesus says.

The only summary of those on the Narrow Road is that Jesus is the Only Way. He is exclusive. There is not one person that will ever get to heaven apart from Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). No one comes to have a relationship with God apart from Jesus. Not the well-intentioned Muslim. Not the good person who gives millions away to help poor and starving children in Africa. Not even the person in some remote village who had never heard of Him. Not the one who plays the Christian game in the good Bible-teaching church. Not the successful politician. Not the atheist who doesn't believe God exists. And certainly not the pastor who writes good books about Jesus without ever knowing Him. NO ONE!

Second, the Wide Road is easy to enter, but the Narrow Road is difficult to find. If you read those verses, you will recognize that Jesus never tells you how to get on the wide road, but commands you to enter on the narrow road. Why is that? Because all people are already on the wide road. But He does command us to enter narrow road, but He says there are only few who find it. Apparently it is not easy to find. This tells me a very important thing about the way to heaven. It is free. It costs us nothing to enter. But that does not mean it is easy.

As Christians, we need to stop making following Jesus as if it is some easy decision that we make on a whim. It seems as though it has become so easy to follow Jesus in our society that everyone is a "Christian." I don't know how we got here, but we need to stop reducing following Jesus to saying some words of a prayer (as if the sinner's prayer is some sort of incantation) or asking Jesus into our heart (a phrase that is not even in the Bible). How did following Jesus ever get reduced to that? Instead, what we find in the Scriptures is what Jesus says in Mark 8:34-38, that to follow Him means the death of us!

Third, the Wide Road leads to Hell, but the Narrow Road leads to Heaven. This is what Jesus is talking about, your soul for eternity. Jesus couldn't be clearer. If you follow the Wide Road with the world, it will end in destruction. There is nothing in the Bible that gives any indication that once 100, 500, or 1000 years are up, there will be a second chance. The Bible talks about eternity in heaven or hell.

If you want to listen to the entire message, you can access it HERE (usually posted by Tuesday noon). If you have any questions about this message, feel free to contact me (EMAIL),

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Video Sunday: Abba Father by Alistair Begg

Alistair Begg and Parkside Church is not too far from our church. Ever since college at Moody Bible Institute, I have appreciated the teaching and preaching ministry of Alistair Begg. This video is him talking about Romans 8, when the Christian cries out "Abba Father" in a moment of prayer because of suffering. Insightful stuff!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Glory of Feeling Inadequate

Have you ever felt inadequate for a job that you have been assigned to do? Let me explain first what I do not mean. I am not wondering whether or not you are a surgeon and feel inadequate about doing surgery. Or I do not wonder whether you are a teacher and you feel inadequate to educate someone (although, even in those examples, there may be certain types of surgery or certain individuals that might make you feel inadequate). When I ask that question, I am wondering whether or not you feel inadequate for something spiritual that you feel called to be involved in. If you do feel inadequate, that is probably a good thing.

I strongly believe that the Lord does His most work in and through us when we are at our weakest. When we feel as though we cannot do it. When we are driven to our knees, knowing that unless He does His work it will fail. I came across this quote the other day in a book I am reading about John Knox.
"Who has not felt deep within him that he was too simple a man with too little to contribute to so great a cause as that of Christ and His church? What young woman, wife, mother, grandmother, or aged spinster has not wring her hands, fearful and weak against the enemies of her soul and the church? Who has not thought that his gifts were too modest, that others could serve far better, and that he was too frail and timid to help advance the gospel of our Lord Jesus? Or who has not felt that he was being unjustly maligned by critics, assaulted by the mighty, mocked and insulted by the influential? (Douglas Bond, The Mighty Weakness of John Knox, xxi)
Me! Me! (picture hand raised). Who has felt that? Me! But to be honest, I never want to get to the place that I don't think that. I never want to get to the place that I feel independent upon myself for my calling to minister to people. And probably if it is too easy for me, I am not being challenged enough or stretched enough in my faith.

One time, the Apostle Paul had some very painful things happen to him. We are not exactly sure what it was, but we are told that he had a "thorn in the flesh." I have an idea, as many other Bible teachers have an idea. But probably what's more important is not what that thing (or person) was in his life, but who it caused him to be. It caused him to become more dependent upon the Lord for the result of his ministry. The Lord said to him,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9a).
Paul went on to say,
"Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)
Let this be a reminder to you that the next time you feel inadequate for whatever the Lord is calling you to do, that might just be a good thing. Allow those feelings of inadequacies to drive you to further dependence upon the Lord.

Question: What do you feel inadequate to do for the Lord?

Friday, August 19, 2011

How I Write A Sermon

This is a very unusual post, at least for me. This will sound really strange, but what I am about to write is very personal. This is what I do by myself just about every week of my life. But I thought I would take you into my study and explain to you my process from the studying of Scripture to the writing of a sermon. There are many different methods that people use, but this is how I do it. At least for now. It has certainly evolved over the years and I assume it will continue to as I refine my process. Well, onto it, this is how I write a sermon.

Step 1: Selection of Text of Scripture
Obviously, the first step of the process is having a text of Scripture to preach. I am really not a good preacher when it comes to topical messages. Even when I do preach something like that, I like to have a passage to base things out of. This is one reason why I love expository preaching, because I know what the next passage is for me. This week, I am in Matthew 7:13-14, I know that because last week I ended with Matthew 7:12.

Step 2: Write Text on Paper
This might seem like an unusual part of the process, but it is very important for me. There is something about writing the biblical text that helps me understand it better. I almost always use 8.5" x 11" yellow lined paper. I write the text on the first page and sometimes 1-2 verses per page. I write it in such a way to gain the flow of the passage. I always write it in black ink (you will see why I do that later). I usually try to get the passage written on Tuesday at some point and then just let it sit for a day.

Step 3: Prayerfully Meditate and Read Text Repeatedly
This is probably the most important part of the process. I take time to pray over the text. I read it a lot. I would guess that I go over the text 10-20 times, just reading and writing down observations that I see. During this process, I am brainstorming and trying to gather how this passage fits with the previous and coming passages. As things come to my mind, I will write them down. You might not be surprised to learn that I have a color coded system.

Blue Ink = General comments about the passage
Red Ink = Illustrations and cross-references
Green Ink = Points of Application

The picture below will show you what I do at this point. I know, I am slightly OCD, but it is what works for me. It is usually Wednesday morning that I will spend a couple hours on this part of the process.

Step 4: Use Commentaries To Help Bring About Ideas
Depending on what passage I am studying, I will at this point look at a number of commentaries. I almost always use one commentary and go all the way through my passage. Then pick up the next commentary and go all the way through my passage. And so on. Until I usually get through 10-15 commentaries. As I make my way through these commentaries, I write down info on my sheet that is helpful (and I continue to use my color coded system).

It is also at this point that I am focusing on words, their meanings, and the original language. I am also learning to use Logos for this part of my study. As well as the last step, I do spend a few hours on Wednesday going over some commentaries. But then I try to block out Thursday morning for this step as well.

Step 5: Summary of Main Thoughts & Outlines
This is a very important part of my process. At some point as I am studying the passage, I will take some time and summarize the passage. Most of the time, I do this best as I type it out and see how it looks on the screen. I will usually work on the main thought till it best represents the passage. Then I will work on the outline till it reflects the passage and the main idea.

I use Microsoft Word as my writing tool. I have a custom page size I use (see picture below). So, at this point I usually will have the main idea & an outline typed out. Then I begin to write.

Step 6: Begin Writing
I start from the beginning with my sheet of paper that has all sorts of handwritten notes and start putting my sermon into written format. I usually try to carve up several hours in a row to get a good bit of it written. I try to go by this basic thought:

Explain the text
Illustrate the text
Apply the text

Of course, this is not always followed. But it is a good model to follow. Thursday and Friday are days that I try to get most of the writing done on my message. I usually have 9-11 pages of typed text after this is done. What I write out is probably about 75-80% manuscript. There are some things that I work hard to write out because I want to say it in a very precise way.

Step 7: Finish Rough Draft Alone for 24 Hours
After finishing writing the text, I really like it best to let it sit for a good 24 hours. I want to walk away from it for a while. Let it sit in my mind and on the screen for some time.

Step 8: Final Edits & Print
Usually on Saturday night, I take about 1-2 hours and go over it one last time. From start to finish. I clean up some of the ways I want to say certain things. Then I print it & put it in my special leather binder.

Step 9: Prayerfully Go Over Print Version on Sunday Mornings
On Sunday mornings, I get up early and go over the manuscript I am about to preach just one more time. I use a highlighter (two of them) and a pen. My main thoughts get highlighted in green & my main points I try to make are in yellow. This is an example of the first 2 pages of my sermon from last week.

Step 10: Preach It!
I get up and preach it. I remember reading a quote a few weeks ago that said something to this affect: "I refuse to preach a sermon without the faith to believe that it will do it's work that God wants it to do." That has been helpful recently. I get up and do my best to not be tied to my manuscript, to be passionate, to be truthful, and to drive home the points of the message!

Step 11: Blog About It!
I have been doing this since the beginning of blogging in a series I write called "The Morning After." My point is to try to put in summary the main thoughts and ideas of my message. Some have said it is not a good idea to blog about your messages, but I'm not sure about that. I guess the jury is still out on that part of the process.

That's my process. Then I start all over again with another passage of Scripture. What do you think? Anything surprising to you about my process? Since it is Friday morning, you know I am writing phase of my message prep. Would you please say a prayer for me? Thank you, I greatly appreciate it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How Did We Get The Bible, pt. 2

Last Thursday, I posed the question of how the Bible was put together. What would you say to that person who claims that the Bible was just a bunch of words by men, written by men, and selected by men (you can read the post HERE). What was your answer?

Well, let me share with you what I would say to that person. Many years ago, I came across a list of 5 Evidences That The Bible Is The Word of God by James Montgomery Boice. Here are the first 3 of those evidences that he stated (the rest will come next week)

1. The Teachings of Christ

Jesus consistently referred to Scripture in His ministry. He emphasized the Bible. He taught it as truth from God. He saw it as authoritative. In Luke 4, Jesus says that a fulfillment of prophecy had just taken place in their midst after He had read from the book of Isaiah (vs. 21). In other places, Jesus made these statements:
"But He answered and said, 'It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'" (Matt. 4:4) 
"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." (Matt. 5:18)
After His resurrection, Jesus shepherded the two men on the road to Emmaus by opening and explaining the Scriptures. Jesus obviously had a high view of the Bible. If we deny that the Bible is from God, at least the Old Testament, then we make Jesus out to be a liar and deny His deity. Boice said,
"If Jesus is who he claimed to be, and if Jesus truly taught those teachings attributed to him in the Word of God, then we can believe the Bible to be the Word of God because Jesus believed it to be the Word of God."
2. The Bible Itself

Internally, the Bible claims to be the Word of God.
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17) 
"But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Peter 1:20-21)
As well, we cannot but acknowledge the unique nature of the unity of the Bible. I will say more about this next week, but read the words of Boice.
"Here is one book, comprised of 66 books, written over a period of about 1500 years by about 40 different authors. These authors were not alike; they came from different levels of society and from diverse backgrounds. Some were kings. Others were statesmen, priests, prophets, a tax collector, a physician, a tentmaker, fishermen. When asked about any particular subject, these writers would have had views as diverse as the opinions of men living today. Yet together they produced a work of marvelous unity in its doctrines, historical viewpoints, ethics, and expectations . . . Only one thing accounts for this unity. Behind the efforts of the more than 40 human authors is the one perfect, sovereign, and guiding mind of God."
3. Prophesy

Prophesy is a really huge subject to undertake and fully understand. I have read before that there were more than 20 OT predictions that were fulfilled within 24 hours during Jesus' crucifixion.

Isaiah 53; Micah 5:2; Daniel 9:25-27; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Psalm 16:8-11; these all predict the coming of Jesus. They tell us when, the place, the family conditions, how he would be received by Israel, and the events of His death, burial, and resurrection. All written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Do you understand the mathematical laws of probability that all things turned out just as it was predicted?

Or for instance, the probability of the destruction of Tyre described in Ezekiel 26 is estimated to be about 1 in 400 million. The probability of the destruction of Babylon in Isaiah 13 is about 1 in 100 billion. But the chances that every prophecy that is stated in the Scriptures to come true would be unreal. Let's put it this way, I wouldn't play that lottery. In writing about prophesy, John MacArthur said:
"Biblical prophecy declares the events of the future with accuracy which is beyond the capability of human wisdom or anticipation. Despite astronomical odds, hundreds of biblical prophecies have come true, and they make the most objective argument for the Bible's authority."
Well, that's the first three points. I will post the next two points in my next post next week. They are even stronger, I believe.

Question: What do you think of these first three points?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anniversary Week: My Favorite Posts

On Monday, I shared the TOP BLOG POSTS from the previous year. These are the ones that have been the most viewed on my blog since August 14, 2010. On Tuesday, I shared a list of MY BOOK REVIEWS I have made over the course of the past year. In addition to that, there is a BIG giveaway. Make sure to register for that contest, maybe you could win a free book of your choice.

Today, I want to share with you my favorite posts from the previous year. These are the ones that I enjoyed writing and sharing with everyone on this site. Obviously, there are some that were part of the top blog posts that I enjoyed writing. But I am staying away from them for this one. So, here they are, my Top 5 Favorite Posts of the past year. 

In this blog post, I was able to express my heart concerning my birthday every year. Since, it is just around the corner, I am starting to think about it again. It is not that I hate birthdays, but I am so driven to do the most in my time on this earth that my birthday every year often reminds me that I have one less year to serve Jesus. How do you feel about that?

Actually, I just enjoyed going back over this blog post since the summer is just about over. I am sure there were parts of the summer that I wasted. Maybe I didn't listen to my own advice.

This blog post was born out of frustration. But I still stand by what I wrote at that time.

This one sort of hurts a bit. We long so much to have a place here in Ohio to call our own because we really do see our home as a place of ministry. I know God has a plan (see #3), and I know I need to be patient. We are starting to have people to our rental, just not a lot of people.

It was impossible for me to pick between one of them, so they all make the top spot on my favorite list. I guess that is sort of cheating, but let's be honest. It's my blog, I get to make the rules. I truly love them more today than I ever have in my life. I would do anything to them. And as I mentioned on Sunday to my church, sometimes the hardest things in life as a parent are not giving them the good gifts, but giving them myself! That's sacrifice!

I look forward to another year of blogging. My hope and prayer is that there is something that has been posted here in the past year that has been beneficial to you. All to the glory of Jesus!

Importance of Faith & Love

I am halfway through reading Rick Holland's new book, Uneclipsing the Son. In chapter 5, he has an extensive quote from Thomas Vincent, who was a Puritan pastor in the middle 1600's. This quote is on the importance of faith and the connection of faith to love. It was helpful to me, so I thought I would share it.
"The essence of Christianity consists in believing. Reason makes us men, but faith makes us Christians. If you would attain this love unto Jesus Christ, whom you have never seen, you must get a thorough persuasion that there is such a person as Jesus Christ, and that He is such a person indeed as the Scriptures have revealed Him to be. The reason why heathens and infidels are without love to Christ is because they have never heard of Him; and the reason many nominal Christians that have heard of Christ are without love to Him is because they are not really persuaded that there is, or ever was, such a person Jesus Christ in the world. If you would attain this love, you must give a firm assent tot his truth (which is the greatest of all, and the very pillar and foundation of the whole Christian religion), that Christ really is, and the history of Him is no cunningly devised fable."
Do you believe like that? Do you love like that?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Anniversary Week: My Book Reviews & Free Giveaway

I love to read. I stated on Sunday that one of the main reasons I wanted to have a blog was to post reviews of the books I read. I do this for two different reasons. First, I want to be able to think through the book. Writing a short review of the book helps me grasp and understand and remember the book that I just read. The second reason I like doing this is that I want to help you. I want to be able to recommend good books and warn you if books are bad. I hope that has been helpful.

This past year, I reviewed 32 books. I anticipate at least that many the rest of the year. Below is an alphabetical list of the books I have reviewed on my site. As I always have said, if there is some book that you would like to see me review, just contact me (email) and I will see if I can get to it.

Here is what I wanted to do to celebrate my 1 year anniversary. I wanted to do a special giveaway. Here is what I am offering. The details of the giveaway are found at the bottom of blog post. But the summary is that I will give away 1 book of your choice (from any that I have reviewed on my site) to 3 different people. So, there will be 3 winners. Just follow the details below to sign up. The contest will run until Friday at noon. (So that you know, I am using a new software to run this giveaway, so I am hoping it runs smooth. I guess we will find out soon, huh?)

The Book Reviews:

In addition to these, please check out my list of top 31 books that have impacted me in my life and ministry: The Books!

Come Join The Giveaway Today!

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Several months ago, I made a commitment to read any non-fiction book that hit #1 on the NYTimes best-seller's list (print & e-book list). Since then, I have read and reviewed Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo & Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Just a few weeks ago, A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard made it's debut on the list at #1. I faintly remembered her story and thought it would be an interesting book to read.

Warning: This book tells the real accounts of a young 11-year old girl being kidnapped and sexually abused by a man and his wife. She was held captive for 18 years, gave birth to two girls by him before she was found. This book contains the words of Jaycee herself. It is real. It is raw. At points, I wanted to put it down and honestly almost didn't finish it. I warn you, if you are going to read it, there is language and imagery that will be offensive to you. If it isn't offensive, there is something wrong with you. She said that she wrote the book for two reasons:
"One reason is that Phillip Garrido believes no one should find out what he did to an eleven-year-old girl . . . me. He also believes he is not responsible for his actions. I believe differently. I believe that everyone should know exactly what he and his wife Nancy were doing all these years in their backyard. I believe I shouldn't be ashamed for what happened to me, and I want Phillip Garrido to know that I no longer have to keep his secret. And that he is most certainly responsible for stealing my life and the life I should have had with my family. I am also writing my story in the hopes that it will be of help to someone going through, hopefully not similar conditions, but someone facing a difficult situation of their own--whatever that may be . . . My goal is to inspire people to speak out when they see that something is not quite right around them." (ix-x)
I thought the best way I could give a review of this book would be to write a letter to Jaycee. I know that she will never read it, but if I had a chance to talk to her, this is what I would say to her.

Dear Jaycee,

My heart broke when I read your story. You just might be the bravest woman I have ever read about. Words cannot explain the pain and anger that welled up inside of me when I read what Phillip did to you. Please understand, I know what I write will never help you deal with the pain that you experienced, neither will it bring back the years that were stolen from you. But, if you have the time to read this, there are four things I would like you to tell you.

First, Phillip did those things to you because he is a sinner. You stated several times that he would tell you that he couldn't help himself. He wanted to stop targeting little girls, but he just couldn't stop. He would say things like "the angels made me do it." The truth of the matter is that he had given in to the sinful nature that is part of all of us. The Bible says that all people are born into sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). All of us, myself included, are by nature sinners. I am sure when your little girls were growing up in the back yard that you never had to teach them to be selfish. You never had to teach them to think only of themselves. That was natural to them.

We are all sinners, but Phillip took it deeper and farther than most people do. Most people have a moral restraint, but Phillip let his conscious go. He did whatever he wanted to do to satisfy his natural fleshly desires. I am not dismissing the fact there was probably some demonic influence in his life, but he is responsible for his actions. I know that he had to answer to the judge when he went to court, but one day, he will have to answer to the Ultimate Judge, his maker and God. And so will I. And so will you.

Second, Phillip's representation of the Bible was just as wrong as the things that he did to you. You said that he would make you sit and listen to his Bible studies. You said that he would read the Bible often. Let me just say that to read the Bible is one thing, to listen and obey the Bible is quite another. Obviously, he missed the most important part of the Bible. The point of the Bible is to tell us how to have a relationship with God. It is a message of reconciliation, not of captivity. It is given by God so we can be changed, not so we can hurt other people. Please do not connect what he did to you with anything to do with the Bible.

I would beg of you to read the Bible for yourself, maybe for the first time. I would beg of you to read about Jesus. The story of Jesus is not just about a good man, but it is about God becoming one of us, to rescue us. I know for so long you wanted someone to come and rescue you. It took 18 years for that to happen to you physically. Spiritually, it could happen to you today!

Third, the things that happened to you are not the greatest tragedy our world has ever seen. In your personal experience, this will be very difficult to understand. I am not trying to diminish the fact that your life has not turned out like you thought it would. I am not trying to minimize the fact that you have endured more hell on this earth than any person should ever endure. I am not sure how to say this to you, but the greatest tragedy that has ever happened on this earth was when the eternal God became man, lived a perfect life, and was condemned a sinner (even though He never sinned), and was killed as a criminal.

Jesus did nothing wrong and He was killed because men despised Him. The things that happened to you are not your fault. You did nothing to deserve it. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, we are all sinners. I am a sinner. And you are a sinner. Jesus came to this earth, lived the perfect life, went to the cross to bear the sins of humanity so that our sins could be taken away.

Fourth, your stolen life can be saved for eternity. You thought the day you walked into that police station is the day that your life was given back to you. You think that is the day your life was saved. But there could be another day for you. I am assuming from reading your book that you are not a Christian. You have never come to the point of repenting of your sin and believing in Jesus alone for salvation. I would ask you to do that today.

Your stolen life will never be given back to you. I know there have been several times that you have said "what if." What if you never went to school that day. What if that parole officer would have checked that back yard. What if you would have had the courage to just run away. Well, there is coming a day after you die that your life will be gone once again. The Bible says that when we die, we will either spend eternity with Jesus in heaven or eternity apart from His presence in eternal destruction. There are millions of people who right now, in eternal punishment, are thinking "what if." What if I would have just given my life up while I was living. What if I would have just read the Bible. What if I would have thought of eternity a bit more than the temporal. I hope your eternal life will not turn out like your temporal life.

At the bottom of this letter, I am giving you several passages of Scripture I hope you would read. If you have any questions, I would love to answer them. Please know I am praying for you. I am praying that you will one day fully understand ultimate forgiveness, when you experience God forgiving you of all your sins because you have trust Jesus with your entire life.

Praying for Healing,

Thad Bergmeier

P. S. Here is the list of verses I would recommend you reading.

Romans 3:9-26
Romans 5:6-11
Ephesians 2:1-10
Colossians 1:13-20
Matthew 18:21-35

Monday, August 15, 2011

Anniversary Week: The Most Popular Blog Posts

I have no idea if the statistics software that is attached to my blog correctly records which posts get the most hits. I assume it does. So, I assume this post will be correct. Over the course of the past year, I have made 213 blog posts (not bad for a first year). I was interested, so I checked to see which ones were the most popular posts of the past year. Here are The Top 5 Most Popular Blog Posts in my first year of blogging.

I am so happy this is in the top five. She so deserves it. All of those things that I stated back almost a year ago are still true today, probably even more so. I know that it has been a very interesting year for her. One of the reasons why it has been so difficult not finding a home here in Ohio is because I want a place for her. But she doesn't complain a bit. She is so easy going with this transition that is now in the 7th month. One more shout out for her, if you have not visited her blog and passed it on, would you?

Book Moms: Reviewing Christian and Secular Children's Literature Through The Lens Of The Gospel

Back in the middle of December, we made the announcement that the Lord was moving us from Grace Bible Church in Hutchinson, Kansas to Cornerstone Bible Church in Middlefield, Ohio. I just went back and read what I wrote and I was almost in tears again thinking of all our relationships back in Kansas. But God is doing some really cool things here in Ohio and we look forward to the next years of ministry here. We love you back in Kansas, and we love those now in our life here in Ohio.

This past year, I have reviewed over 30 books on my blog. Many of them have been from different publishers who have generously given me free books if I would review them. This was not one of them. But I am still standing by my statement that day that it was one of the best books I had read last year. I think it might be the BEST book I have read in the past year. If you still have not read it, what are you waiting for? It is a book that describes the need for the gospel for all people, including Christians. It is his take on the book of Jonah. Read it, you will not be disappointed.

It seems like anything by Tim Challies is very popular these days in the reformed circles of Christendom. And it should be. He is one of the foremost Christian bloggers in the world ( He is a very good writer. This post was part of a blog tour from Zondervan Publishers. I thank them for the free book and I was very happy to give one away as part of the deal. The Next Story is a blogger and Internet guru's take on how technology can and should be part (or not part) of the Christian's faith. It is a very good read.

Far and away this was the most popular blog post. This post is why I started to blog in the first place. I wanted a forum in which I could write about things that happen in my life. The day that Bin Laden was killed, I watched the news with my son JT. And He asked this question: "Dad, are they celebrating that this guy was killed?" It was only as I put down my thoughts on paper (or screen) that I was able to make sense of what was going on and his question.

That's it. My top most hit blog posts in the past year. What do you think? Did you read them? What was your favorite blog post on this site in the past year?

Don't forget to come back tomorrow afternoon as I will have details about a give-away I will be doing on the blog! Don't Miss It!

The Morning After: A Life of Grace (Matt. 7:7-12)

The Sermon on the Mount is filled with cool Christian slogans. You know, the kind of sayings that find themselves on coffee cups or framed pictures for your office. The thing I most despise about these (the slogans, not the verses) are that most people do not rightly understand what they mean. They have been taken out of context for so long, not many people correctly understand their meaning. Yesterday as I preached through Matthew 7:7-12, I found myself having to deal with two of these famous Christian slogans.

The two pictures in this blog post tell you which ones I had to deal with. As I studied this passage, I realized that as Christians, we should live dependently upon the Lord for all things. But that does not mean we live passively! We are to be crying out to Him for all things in life. But Matthew 7:7 (Ask, Seek, & Knock) was never meant to be a prescription for some sort of "name it, claim it" theology. It was never meant to cure the ales of our physical poverty.

I am not saying that we should never pray for physical things (for instance, I keep asking, seeking, & knocking in regards to a house for us to have here in Ohio). But what I am saying is that fit into the context of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' words here have nothing to do with our pursuit of luxurious, material possessions. Jesus' half-brother, James, drives the point home:
"You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, sot hat you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?" (James 4:2-4)
Jesus wants us to continue to ask and beg of Him for help (we know that because each of those commands are seen in the present tense, meaning keep asking; keep seeking; keep knocking). But He wants us to ask for things that are not worldly with pure motives.

Take some time and read back over the Sermon on the Mount until this point. You will see that the point Jesus is trying to make is that we cannot do it ourselves. We cannot be pure or avoid anger in our heart. We cannot be completely truthful. We cannot avoid worry or being worldly. Without His Help!

We cannot even follow the simplest summary of His teaching, to do to others what we would have them to to us without His help. We could make lists upon lists of things to do in order to keep the Golden Rule and they would all fail. It won't change us. What to know why? Because our greatest problem is what is found on the inside of us, it is our heart. And our only hope is to cry out, keep asking, keep knocking on that door for God to change us from the inside out. Our only hope is to live dependently upon the Lord. Not passively, but actively seeking His help in everything.

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

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Changed By The Gospel - 1 Year Later

August 14th! That was the day that I posted my first blog. Today is my 1 year anniversary. To be honest, when I started, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that I had wanted to blog for a long time, but the timing was never right. After I finished school and my book, the desire to blog continued to grow. I wanted to continue to write and I knew a blog was a place that I could work out life on paper (or computer screen). That might sound weird, but writing helps me think through issues, pastoral ministry, current events, and theology. I also wanted a place I could post book reviews because I knew I would take reading more serious if I did that (btw, I have posted 32 book reviews this past year, check the entire list HERE).

I was ready to start, but I needed to have that angle, or at least a good name for the blog. I will never forget searching and realizing that the domain name, was still available. I was shocked and jumped all over it. I chose that name because that is the heartbeat of my life. The gospel changes people forever. It has changed me and will change you. It changes people from the inside out. I get tired of those people that try to moralize people when what they need to do is to preach the gospel to them. The gospel will moralize them. A friend of mine once said:

"Our goal in ministry is not to moralize unconverted people, 
but to see immoral people converted."

That thought changes the way I do ministry and how I relate to people. I do not get shocked when I see unbelieving people do really bad things. I know that if it were not by the grace of God, I would be doing the exact same things. As Paul told the Corinthians (my theme verse above), "such WERE some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

Over the course of this past year, I have had some good months and some bad months of blogging. Probably my favorite month was January, when I posted the top 31 books that have impacted me and shaped me into the theologian or pastor that I am today. If you are curious, check out the summary and links that I posted to that series I called The Books!

I invite you to stay tuned this week to the blog. It is my plan this week, Anniversary Week, to have some special posts each day about this past year and what I have planned for the coming year. One thing to note, I will announce on Tuesday a very special giveaway. You will not want to miss it.

Thanks for all your support. I appreciate your comments. Honestly, I think I would continue to write, even if nobody visited this site. It helps me. But the fact that many of you are visiting, that makes things even more fun! I hope you have been encouraged by something I have said this past year.

To God Be The Glory,

Thad Bergmeier