Monday, October 31, 2011

Jesus + Nothing = Everything By Tullian Tchividjian

[Attention: Please read to the end for information on how you can win a copy of this book]

Just over a year ago, I read Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian, which quickly became my favorite book in 2010. This past week, his next book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything was released and I think it just might make my favorite list of 2011. I absolutely love his commitment to the gospel for unbelievers as well as for the believer. No matter who you are or where you stand before God, your answer to any struggle is the gospel. It is all about Jesus and nothing else.

I am sure you can tell from the title that the premise of this book is that Jesus alone is enough for everything in your life. Adding anything to Jesus creates nothing. Jesus alone brings everything. The book is arranged cleverly, starting with the everything we pursue, then the nothingness it produces. The central part of the book is where he deals with the person and work of Jesus through the book of Colossians. Jesus is the heart of the gospel and he is the heart of this book. After he deals with the equation from back to front, he shifts to forward and goes back over the equation one last time. He digs deeper into the nothing that can be added and the everything that we can receive if nothing is added to Jesus.

One of his commitments when dealing with the "nothing" that can be added to Jesus is dealing with issues of legalism, which he calls performancism.
"Legalism happens when what we need to do, not what Jesus has already done, becomes the end game. Our performancism leads to pride when we succeed and to despair when we fail. But ultimately it leads to slavery either way, because it becomes all about us and what we must do to establish our own identity instead of resting in Jesus and what he accomplished to establish it for us. In all it's forms, this wrong focus is anti-gospel and therefore enslaving. It is typically displayed in someone who's trying to keep his or her preferred list of religious rules. At root, what this person tries to accomplish is really no different from what the secular person attempts by deliberately breaking those same rules. Both see what they do as the means to obtain what they're so desperately hungering for deep within. Both look to self to satisfy what only God can satisfy." (46)
He continues, 
"Accepting the reality of this basic tendency in us all can be very difficult, especially for those of us who've been in church a long time. We know it's wrong to worship immorality, like everybody out in the world seems to be doing; we find it harder to see that it's just as wrong to worship morality, like everybody in the church seems to be doing. In our bones, we know that God hates unrighteous 'bad' works; we're not nearly so convinced that he hates self-righteous 'good' works just as much, if not more. In fact, the most dangerous thing that can happen to you is that you become proud of your obedience." (46-47)
The book is filled with shots at religion like that, over and over. When he says that nothing should be added to Jesus, he means nothing. That is because there is nothing that can make us better. At least from the outside.
"The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Therefore rules, regulations, good behavior, personal success, and performance are never the solution. Behavior modification cannot change the human heart. Outside cleanup never leads to inside cleanup. Only inside cleanup leads to outside cleanup--and there's only One who can do that." (55)
If you have ever wondered how the gospel should make an impact upon your life, this is the book for you. It drips with implications on how Jesus alone can satisfy. It is saturated with thoughts on how the good news of the life and death of Jesus, His love for us, and His acceptance for us should move us to action. The Christian should never act so that we might be accepted, we act because we are already accepted. This is a book that shows us how God changes us from the inside out. And if we ever try to change without reliance upon gospel truths, we are in danger of moralism. One last quote:
"One of the reasons we experience so much failure in the Christian life is that we think more about obligations then we do gospel declarations. We focus on the imperatives, but we pass over the indicatives. We fail in our doing because we fail to grasp first what Christ has already done. This leaves us powerless--running on our own steam. Only when you realize that the gospel has nothing to do with your obedience but with Christ's obedience for you, will you start to obey. The only Christians who end up getting better are those who realize that if they dont' get better, God will love them anyway." (156)
Want To Win A Free Copy Of This Book?
Through the generosity of Crossway Publishers, I am able to give away a free copy of this book. 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, your answer will have no bearing into who wins, I am just curious).
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  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)
  5. Sign up using your email. Don't worry, your information will be safe with Punchtab & me. 
There you go. Sign up and maybe you will win the free copy of the book. The contest will run until Friday at noon, eastern time. Even if you do not win, I would strongly encourage you to read this book. It will be worth the time.

The Morning After: Authentic Prayer (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)

Any ministry that is seeking to become real or authentic will pray for one another. It's that simple. If a church desires to grow together with each other and for the glory of the Lord, they will spend serious time earnestly praying for one another.

Have you ever said you would pray for someone, but then never thought about them again until they gave an update several weeks later? My guess is that is not just something that has happened to me. To authentically pray for one another, it means we do not go through the motions of prayer. It means that we are not simply saying words, but there is a heartfelt commitment to the people that we are praying for.

That was Paul's heart toward the people of Thessalonica. He longed for them and he finally hears that they long for him as well. They had not abandoned their faith, but they were growing stronger and stronger. In response to this great news, Paul prays for them. One of the keys to understanding this section of Scripture is to realize the relationship that Paul had with them. Our prayers for each other will be enhanced when we pursue relationships with each other, but we also need to be willing to be pursued. That means, we need to let the guards down in our life and be real and open so people can pray for us.

In order to prove that, think back to the last time you were with a group of people taking prayer requests. When was the last time your small group had someone share about their marriage struggles, their loneliness issues, or their financial strains? Most prayer requests are about someones medical issues. They are important things to pray about, but they are safe prayer requests.

In 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Paul gives us 3 Prayers We Should Pray For One Another.

First, We Can Be Thankful To God For Each Other (vs. 9). Paul was so thankful to God for what God had done in their life that he didn't really even know what to say. He was unsure if the words he had to express himself would even get close to communicating how he felt about their spiritual growth.

Second, We Can Pray For Opportunities To Serve Each Other (vs. 10-11). Paul was thankful for their growth, but he wasn't content with it. He wanted them to continue to grow and he prayed that God would allow him to be part of the process to help them grow. The equivalent for us might be the older lady praying earnestly for opportunities to invest into the lives of younger ladies. It might be someone praying how they can invest into the life of newer believers. It might be some young adult praying for ways they could get involved into the lives of students. It is a prayer of desire to want to help others continue to grow in their faith.

Third, We Can Pray That Others Increase In Their Love For One Another (vs. 12-13). We should continually pray that others in the church would grow in their love for one another. Why is this important? It is vital because the gospel brings together people who normally wouldn't be together. While theologically, we are brought together as one body, we will constantly fight against our selfish nature. We can pray for unity, for genuine care and sacrifice for one another. We can pray that nobody shows favoritism. We can pray for forgiveness. We can pray that there are never any grievances that are never held onto. We should pray that loves increases in the church.

If you want to listen to the entire message, you can find it HERE. I hope you find the entire message very practical and encouraging, not guilt-rendering.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Video Sunday: Don't Waste Your Life by Lecrae

This coming Tuesday I will celebrate my 38th birthday. Most people think I am older than that. They probably think that because of the wisdom I exude. Or maybe it is because of my much younger, hot looking wife! Anyways, it is usually a day in the year that I really dislike. I made it clear last year on my birthday why I usually get depressed on November 1st every year. It isn't because I ate too much candy from the night before. It is because I now realize I have one less year left on this earth to live for the Lord. I don't want to waste my life!

A couple months ago, I came across this video. It is of a song by the Christian rapper Lecrae. That last sentence probably turned off most of the older people that read this blog. Christian rapper Lecrae. But I would ask you to resist clicking away from the blog because I have posted a rapper video. Let's just make an agreement. You are probably not going to get me a birthday gift. Let's just make your gift to me the promise that you will click the play button below and watch this video. 

This song was inspired by John Piper's book, Don't Waste Your Life. If you can keep up with lyrics as they are displayed across the screen, you will notice that Lecrae is calling us to forget about the American Dream and pursue Christ. Who cares if you get everything on this earth? It means nothing when all is said and done. You have wasted your one and only chance. Don't waste it! Don't waste it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Jesus and . . .

On Monday, I will post a full review of Tullian Tchividjian new book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Because there are so many parts of this book that have impacted me, and not all of it can make the final review, I am taking several days to share from the book.

Obviously, you can tell from the title, that he believes Jesus doesn't need anything added to Him in order to bring about total satisfaction. We need to add nothing to Christianity. I greatly benefited from this quote:
"Christianity and . . . For many of us, it may be Jesus and our achievements, Jesus and our strengths, Jesus and our reputation, Jesus and our relationships, Jesus and our family's prosperity, Jesus and our ambitions, and goals and dreams, Jesus and our personal preferences and tastes and style, Jesus and our spiritual growth, Jesus and our hobbies and recreational pursuits and entertainment habits--and, especially, Jesus and our personal set of life rules. 
Whatever it is our heart is drawn to--a cultural trend, a cause, a diversion, a personal 'passion,' a relationship, a pursuit, a venture, a comfortable routine--and however subtly it pulls us in, the cold, hard truth is that almost immediately it becomes an idol, and our heart grabs hold. As Martin Luther once said, 'Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God'--your functional savior. 
Jesus plus X. The formula looks so innocent and harmless, even commendable (we're helping Jesus out!). But no such equation can ever lead anywhere good. Ultimately there can be only one equation--Jesus plus nothing. Anything we try to add to Christ ultimately results in what Michael Horton calls 'Christless Christianity' . . . We habitually look to something or someone smaller than Jesus for the things we crave and need. And none of it is ever large enough to fill the void." (39-40)
That's a good thought. Anything that we add to Jesus; anything that we add to the grace; anything that we add to the gospel is just simply because we somehow think those things will fill the void. When in reality, they are so much smaller than Jesus and will never satisfy the void that we have in our life. Only Jesus alone will do that!

What are you adding to Jesus? What are you trying to combine with Jesus to fill the void in your life? All you need is Him and His finished work. His life, death, and resurrection. It is Jesus alone that brings satisfaction.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is Your Identity In Christ Or In Your Works?

On Monday, I will give my full review of Tullian Tchividjian's new book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything. As I read the book, there were many parts that impacted me. He shows how the gospel is often misunderstood, even by the Christians. This is seen in many ways in our lives. There are so many parts of the book that I want to share, but I know there would be no time in one review. Therefore, over the next couple of days leading up to the review, I am going to share some that did not quite make the final review cut, but still greatly impacted me.

One concept that he talks about often is understanding that our identity, when rooted in the gospel, rips away any concept of works. When we fully understand what it means to be "in Christ" as the Apostle Paul talks about, we should feel a sense of freedom in our identity of trying to please others. He quotes Paul Zahl, from his book, Who Will Deliver Us.
"If I can do enough of the right things, I will have established my worth. Identity is the sum of my achievements. Hence, if I can satisfy the boss, meet the needs of my spouse and children, and still do justice to my inner aspirations, then I will have proven my worth. There are infinite ways to prove our worth along these lines. The basic equation is this: I am what I do. It is a religious position in life because it tries to answer in practical terms the question, Who am I and what is my niche in the universe? On this reading, my niche is in proportion to my deeds. In Christian theology, such a position is called justification by works. It assumes that my worth is measured by my performance. Conversely, it conceals, thinly, a dark and ghastly fear: If I do not perform, I will be judged unworthy. To myself I will cease to exist." (132)
Tullian then comments on this quote by saying:
"The gospel frees us from this pressure to perform, this slavish demand to 'become.' The gospel liberatingly declares that in Christ 'we already are.' If you're a Christian, here's the good news: who you really are has nothing to do with you--how much you can accomplish, who you can become, your behavior (good or bad), your strengths, your weaknesses, your sordid past, your family background, your education, your looks, and so on. Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ's accomplishment, not yours; his strength, not yours; his performance, not yours; his victory, not yours. Your identity is steadfastly established in his substitution, not in your sin." (132-3)
Wow! Do you feel free or are you spinning the wheels of your life trying to please everyone else in your life? Do you feel as though if you work hard enough and your boss or spouse accepts you, then you have arrived? If so, maybe you need a good dose of the gospel to meditate upon!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Drives You?

Recently, I have doing a lot of thinking about what it is that should drive or motivate the Christian. Is there something that is at the core of everything that should dictate what we do? How we behave? Why we do what we do? The following is part of an article that I wrote for the Middlefield Post that came out yesterday. You can find the entire article HERE (check out page 27).
Everyone is shaped by something. Some people are shaped by their fears. They do not go for that new job they have always wanted because they are scared of failure. A kid might not stop the school bully for fear that he might become the new object of his bullying. 
Some people are shaped by their goals. They want to get into a certain college and so they study hard to get an A on that test. They want to win the big game, so they work out all year to compete for three hours. 
Some people are shaped by their beliefs. They refuse to lie to their neighbor because they believe lying never pays off in the end. They will not cheat on their spouse because they believe in the marriage vows they took before God and their family. 
Everyone is shaped by something. Have you ever stopped to ask why you do what you do? I have asked this question often in my life and ministry. What should the Christian be shaped by? Some say we should be shaped by love. That's a good option. Jesus does say the greatest commandments are to love God and others (Matt. 22:34-40). Some say we should be shaped by God's glory. That's another good option, for we are called to do all things to His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). While they are both great motivators, I would argue there is something deeper for the Christian that should shape them. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ!
The gospel is getting a lot of press these days. And for good measure. It is what should shape every Christian. It should be at the heart of everything that we do. It is deeper than love. It is even deeper than trying to glorify God. It is the reason why we should love and glorify.

Just this past week, a new book called Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian was released. It is a fantastic book. Make sure and check back on Monday as I write a review on this book and offer a chance for you to win a copy of it. But let me just give you a glimpse of how he thinks the gospel of Jesus Christ is his focus.
"I have a confession to make: I'm addicted to the gospel. It burns inside of me. And it seems to get hotter very day. I can't stop thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it, reading about it, wrestling with it, reveling in it, standing on it, and thanking God for it. For better or worse, my focus has become myopic. My passion has become singular. Lesser things don't distract me as easily. I'm not as anxious as I used to be. I don't fret over things as much. I'm more relaxed. What others think of me (either good or bad) doesn't matter as much as it used to. I'm enjoying life more. The pressure's off. I'm beginning to understand the length and breadth of the freedom Jesus purchased for me. I'm beginning to realize that the gospel is way more radical, offensive, liberating, shocking, and counterintuitive than any of us realize." (11)
Does The Gospel Drive You Like That?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Post: The Importance of Reading with Your Children

For a long time, I have wanted to have someone else write a post on my blog. A guest-post. As I thought about who I would have do the first guest-blog post, I had to give it to my wife. For just over a year, she has been blogging at The tagline of her blog is "Reviewing Christian & Secular Children's Literature Through the Lens of the Gospel." She has a passion for helping younger parents read with and shepherd their children through what their kids are reading. And specifically, to use what they are reading as an avenue to teaching them the gospel. I hope you check out her blog and spread the word about it.

I asked her if she would be willing to write a short post on why it is important to read with your children.   Here is some advice from someone I would consider an expert in the field of what's out there in children's literature.


We all know that reading is an important skill, particularly as we look to our children. The statistics are overwhelming that reading plays an integral role in the development and education of children. We all want our children to be good readers. Whether we read to our children or they are themselves readers, it is a primary way by which we learn new things. As Christians, are we using this skill to further the gospel in our children? Are we teaching our children the importance of reading and the importance of what they read? How can we do this? How can we use an everyday exercise to shepherd the hearts of our children? Here are a few suggestions:

First, Read the Bible with Your Children. Yes, read the Bible with them. I mean the actual words of Scripture, not just a Bible storybook. The inspired Words of God. Second Timothy 3:16 tells us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This tells us that the words of Scripture are powerful in our lives and the lives of our children. Please do not send them the message that the Bible is only for adults, or that it is too difficult for them to understand. Teach them. Show them that God’s Word can be powerful in their life today. Begin today. Take the time to read the Bible with your children and as they become independent readers, encourage them to read it on their own.

Second, Know What Your Child is Reading. No matter what the age of your child, you should be knowledgeable about what they are reading. If it’s a book assigned at school, particularly one you are not familiar with, read it! Know what your child is being influenced by, what they are filling their mind with, what they are learning. Ask questions about what they are reading. It is only through being involved with what they are reading that you will be able to help them discern truth and error. 

Third, Communicate the Gospel Through What Your Child is Reading. No matter what they are reading, there is opportunity to speak Biblical truth and the gospel into their lives. Point out truths or untruths found in a story. Is there anything that contradicts Scripture? Talk about the actions of a given character, or an idea about God that is brought out in the story. Always point your child to the Bible and the gospel! Help them see the truth or untruth of a story based upon the Word of God, not our own opinion. No matter how much you try, your children are going to read things that contradict the Scriptures at some point. Therefore, it is crucial that you help them see those things in light of the gospel. As parents it is important that we continually dialogue with our children and use what they are reading to shepherd their hearts and communicate the gospel to them.


I would like to have more guest posts in the future. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, please contact me HERE. Tell me what you would like to write about and why. I would love to have some different perspectives on here from time to time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A BIG Thank You

I have to give a big shout out this morning to the Kindergarten & 1st Grade class from last Sunday morning at Cornerstone Bible Church. They gave me cards with lots of candy in them after the service on Sunday. Each of them made a card that had Philippians 2:4 in it. It says,
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Thank you Nathan, Brandon, Josh, Zachary, Christian, Grace, Edward, Keira, Anni, Eric, & Cooper. My prayer for you today is that you will understand more deeply what it means to look at the interests of others as more important than anything for yourself. My prayer is that it flows out a proper understanding of Jesus, His cross, and the gospel message.

That is something we should all think about today. As you go about your business today, ask God to keep in the forefront of your mind, a servants attitude. Not because it makes you a better person, but because Jesus has so loved you.

Love you kids! And thanks for the encouragement! Oh, and thank you to Mrs. Byler for leading our kids this past week in this reminder.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Morning After: Authentic Faith (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8)

An Authentic Ministry is composed of people who are deeply committed to God through strong faith in Jesus! It is a type of faith that doesn't waiver. It is a faith that does not give up. It is a faith that continues to grow. It is the type of faith that we see in the people of the church at Thessalonica.

Paul cared deeply for the people of this church because when he planted the church, he was only able to spend a few weeks with them. Then he was forced to leave town in a hurry. Several months later, he was deeply concerned that they had succumbed to the persecutions they were facing and might have left the faith. He was so concerned that he sent Timothy to them, to check on and strengthen their faith. He wanted to make sure they were not "moved by these afflictions."

As I studied last week, one thought kept coming to my mind. Paul said that he told them persecutions would come. He told them that they are destined for sufferings (vs. 3-4). Jesus repeatedly told His followers that they would experience persecution for following Him (Matt. 10:16-18; John 15:18-20). Later in Paul's ministry, he would say that every person that desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). The question that kept coming to my mind was this:

If Jesus, and Paul, continually said that persecution would come to those who follow Jesus, why don't we experience more of it in our churches?

Here were some of my thoughts. I would be curious if you agree or disagree with these thoughts.

First, Maybe We Are Just Fortunate To Live In America. The place I live is not Iran. I am not suffering like Pastor Youcef. Maybe it is just God's grace to us that we live here and experience less persecution than those in other places of the world. Or maybe it is God's judgment upon us. I say that because a lack of persecution produces more people with false faith in the church instead of authentic faith.

Second, Maybe We Have Isolate Ourselves In A Christian Subculture. Some people can become so consumed with church, their Christian school, their Christian sports clubs, their Christian friends, and their Christian meetings that they have no opportunities to rub shoulders with anyone that believes different than them. If there is no connection point at some place in your life, I wonder if you will ever experience persection. Jesus prayed in John 17:15 that His desire was that His followers would not be taken out of the world, but that they would be protected from the evil one.

Third, Maybe We Are Not As Serious About Our Faith As We Think We Are. Have you ever thought about what would happen if a Christian were to live and share Jesus with every person they come in contact with in life? I know, pretty radical. But maybe that is just what we have been called to do. I think some "Christians" get more persecution about their sports team than they do about their Savior.

Fourth, Maybe We Are Not As Strong On The Gospel As We Should Be. There is the possibility that we are more like Americans than Christians. Maybe we have softened some of words of the gospel and are content with them being cute sayings on our coffee mugs or t-shirts instead of our life.

If you want to listen to the full message, you can find it HERE. It is my prayer that we don't quit. We don't stop living our faith. But that we keep going! And the message of the gospel is what we need to keep living the Christian life. We are worse than we think we are. But Jesus is so much greater than we could ever think or imagine.

QUESTION: What Do You Think Are The Key Components To Living An Authentic Faith?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Video Sunday: Paul's Unceasing Anguish by Francis Chan

Today I am preaching on 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8, which speaks of Paul's deep care and concern for the people of Thessalonica. There is something about Paul that seems other worldly, doesn't it? He consistently cared for people with a love that is so hard to find in our society today.

Another place we find that is in Romans 9:1-5, when Paul says that he is willing to be cut off from Christ if it meant that his fellow Jews would be saved. In this short video, Francis Chan tries to make some sense about this statement.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Tempter

This week, I have been studying 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8 for my sermon on Sunday morning. There is one phrase that Paul uses in verse 5 that has stuck with me. He says that he sent to find out about their faith for fear that the Tempter had tempted them and their labor had been in vain. That concept of the enemy being a tempter has made me think. To gain some more information, I turned to the classic resource The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.

I would encourage you to read this book if you have never read it. Lewis turns everything upside down in this book. It is a series of letters from an experienced demon (Screwtape) to a younger demon (Wormwood). It is important to remember that it is written from the perspective of the demons. So, when they say "the enemy" they are referring to God. When they say that someone is safely in the Father's house, it is a reference to hell.

As you think about Satan and his heavenly host being tempters, consider this quote from the book.
“I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument, I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man, which I had best under my control, and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. 
The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line, for when I said, ‘Quite. In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning,’ the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added ‘Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind,’ he was already halfway to the door. 
Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of ‘real life’ (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all ‘that sort of thing’ just couldn’t’ be true. He knew he’d had a narrow escape, and in later years was fond of talking about ‘that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic.’ He is now safe in Our Father’s house.”[1]

[1] Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters. Letter 1

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shepherding My Son Through Bullying

I have probably heard more about bullying in the past year than, well, probably ever. For some reason, this is a hot-button issue for our generation. And for good reason. Kids can be just downright rude and mean to each other.

So, the other day, my oldest son, was struggling with going to school. I thought it was maybe because of the big math test he had (who hasn't been there), but it was because of some kid at school calling him names. On one hand, it was nothing more than what kids do. But on the other hand, this was my son, the other kids language was completely inappropriate, and my son was hurting. He has struggled making friends and this just added to it.

As a parent, I was proud that he just walked away from the situation. But is that enough? What should he do when someone calls him names or when something bad happens to him? What is a parent to say to their child when something like this happens? I can tell you, the natural desire is to go straight into the classroom and give kids and the teacher a piece of your mind, but obviously, that is not going to help. So what can we do?

The only thing I can do is to pray for my son and bring the Word of God to speak truth into his life. I used this opportunity as a good point of reference to talk about the gospel with my son. It is my responsibility as his parent to bring the Bible to bear upon his life. So, I took him out to dinner (Wendy's, there's not many places to go around here). And we talked and I read some Scripture to him and asked him several questions from the text that I read to him.
"For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin, and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:19-25)
These are the questions I asked him?

  • Do you want to please God in how you respond to hurtful things? (vs. 19 & 20 say that it is a gracious thing, meaning that God is pleased . . .)
  • Did you deserve what happened to you? (vs. 20 says that if you suffer for sinning, you are deserving it and it is no credit to you to endure justly)
  • Do you have any desire to follow Jesus? (vs. 21 says that the believer in Jesus has been called to follow in His footsteps, and He has given us examples of how to respond.)
  • How did Jesus respond to unjust treatment? (vs. 22 & 23 says that he did not respond in kind. Romans 12 says that we should kill them with kindness)
  • Are you willing to trust the ultimately fair Judge? (vs. 23 says that God will be the One who will be judge justly someday)
  • Do you remember what Jesus did for your sins? (vs. 24 & 25 remind us that Jesus died for our sins, not just the unjust things that other people do to us).

We had a great time talking about the gospel in his life. It is my prayer that God uses things like this to draw my son to Himself. And I want him to remember that Jesus is a better friend than any person he could meet at Berkshire Elementary. That is a hard concept for a 37 year old to grasp, let alone an 11 year old. But I'm praying that he gets it someday.

Question: What Would You Say To Your Children?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Humbling Passage of Scripture

I took great comfort and was humbled by this portion of Scripture this morning.
"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Maybe that thing is in your life and will not go away because God is keeping it there to keep you humble and dependent upon Him! It is a great thought to meditate on today. Is that thing driving you closer to God and making you more humble?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quotes from Steve Jobs

After I heard that Steve Jobs had died, I ordered a book that was coming out this month called, I, Steve: Steve Jobs In His Own Words. Yesterday I received this book, a collection of quotes that he has made over the years. If you followed anything about Jobs, you will know that he is very famous for being quotable. That is why this book intrigued me, for I think you can really get to know someone by what they say. I spent about 30 minutes looking through many of his quotes. Here are some of my favorites.
"I'm the only person I know that's lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year....It's very character-building." (63) 
"You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do....Don't settle." (78) 
"The thing that bound us together at Apple was the ability to make things that were going to change the world. That was very important." (92)
There were so many quotes that were very interesting. I can't share them all. But let me share one more. This is the one that impacted me the most and really made me think about my Christian life.
"I would trade all my technology for an afternoon with Socrates." (106)
Really? To be fair, this quote was at the end of 2001. It came about a month before the release of the first iPod. There was no iPhone, no MacBook, and no iPad. Only Jobs knows whether he really meant it or was it just one of those statements to make people stop and think.

It made me think as a Christian. Would I trade all of my successes in life for an afternoon with Jesus? Would I trade everything I have for a few hours with Jesus? There is no doubt in my mind that most of the Christians I know would say, "Yes, of course, I would trade everything I have here to spend a few hours with Jesus." But then have you? Have I?

Have you stopped what you are doing today and given up something in order to spend a few minutes with Him (through reading His Word and prayer)? Are you willing to give up your hunting to spend time with Him? Are you willing to give up your sports in order to spend time with Him? Are you willing to give up your career to spend time with Him? Are you willing to give up yourself in order to spend time with Him? Jesus invites you to do just that when He said,
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? What can a man give in return for his soul?" (Mark 8:34-37)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Clothing, Music, & the Word of God

The arguments have sort of died down in the blogosphere, but I am sure they are not far from the minds of many pastors and church leaders. Several months ago, John MacArthur wrote a series of blog posts targeting the Young, Restless, & Reformed group, mainly taking aim at the young, hip, church planters. Many of the things he said in these posts were helpful and beneficial. Some of them were hurtful and not needed. I somewhat made a commitment to myself when all of it started that I was not going to get involved (as if anyone cared what I thought about it). I only made mention of it in a book review of Collin Hansen's, Young, Restless, & Reformed.

Last night I was making my way through Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman when I came across a few quotes that I thought were helpful to the discussion. I appreciated his balance on the issue of clothing, music, and the Word of God.
"Can we attract people with the right style of clothes? Of course. Can we cause them to feel rapturous emotions with modulated music? Yes. Can we elicit gratitude through acts of mercy? Again, yes. Can we win their approval with humor, and their affections with kindness? Indeed. Can we even cause them to be moral with the right combination of legal incentives and disincentives? Sure . . . But when we're dealing with changing a sinful nature, we're dealing with something categorically different. To borrow from Jeremiah, we're asking the leopard to change its spots (Jer. 13:23). To borrow from Jesus, we're asking a bad tree to bear good fruit or the thorn bush to bear figs (Luke 6:43-44). What humans need is not a change of mind about God, but a change of nature. They need to be born again, given spiritual sight, set free. Music can't do that. Style can't do that. Law and good deeds cannot do that. We need something not with natural power but something with divine power." (69)
"What's strange is, you can 'talk theology' with church leaders, and many will acknowledge everything I just said about our enslavement to sin and the depth of our problem as fallen sinners. But turn the conversation to local church practices, and that earlier conversation gets left behind. They begin to talk about reaching out with the right style of music, or dimming the lights to create the right worship effect. They readily adopt the devices of the marketing firm or the political campaign, even though such devices are utterly powerless to change the nature of the heart." (70)
I really appreciated these words. What they mean is that ripped jeans will not save a person any more than a nice tailored suit. Contemporary lighting and guitar riffs will do nothing more to move a person's heart from sin to Christ than a pipe organ. You may like one more than the other, but none of those will be the means by which someone gets saved. The heart will be changed only through the Word of God!

What do you think about these thoughts?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Morning After: Authentic Listening (1 Thessalonians 2:13-20)

The majority of my sermon yesterday had to do with the topic of listening to God's Word, or specifically, how to listen to sermons. Obviously, if you know me, you know this has been a topic that consumed my thinking for years as I wrote my dissertation on it and then published my first book on this issue (Helping Johnny Listen). I spent most of my time on 1 Thessalonians 2:13, which says:
"For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."
It was obvious to Paul that when they came into the city of Thessalonica and opened up the Bible, explained & reasoned from from the Bible, their words were God's words for the people. God's messenger must rely upon the bible, and every loyal preacher or teacher of God's truth is a channel of the Word of God--as long as they are faithful to the Bible. That does not mean the preacher has some special power or is special by themselves. It is the truth of Bible that is important. As a man is faithful at standing before an audience, opening the Word of God, explaining the Word of God, then God is speaking to that given audience.

For the people of Thessalonica, there were two different responses Paul says that they received the Word of God. This means they were receptive, they were willing to allow someone to come alongside of them and teach them. I have heard it said before that it means they listened with interest. It means they prepared themselves to listen. As I studied this once again, I kept coming back to this one question:

Do you want your preacher to prepare for the sermon every Sunday with less, the same, or more energy than you use in preparing to listen to the sermon?

What are some things you can do to prepare? Be at church. Come early. Spend time with the Lord in the morning before church. Have a heart of prayer. Do your best to avoid distractions. Bring your Bible. Come hungry to the Word of God. Don't leave the service during the message. And the list can keep going (if you want to see an extensive list, check out chapter 2 of my book).

So, they received the Word, but then they also accepted it. This means they took it internally. They made the message from God as part of their life. And as they did it, it started to do a work in their life as they believed it. When the Word of God is welcomed with a heart of faith, God is continually at work. For us to do this, we need to respond to the message in faith. It is faith in what God is saying that will motivate us to be different people (read Hebrews 11 and notice what it was that moved those people to do crazy and amazing things for God).

So, how are you listening to God's Word? Are you receiving it? Are you accepting it? It is my contention that they only way anyone will have an authentic ministry is if people are correctly listening to the Word of God in their life.

If you want to listen to the entire message, you can find it HERE.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Video Sunday: Hebrews Recited by Joel Shorey

I watched this video the other day by Joel Shorey (he is a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church) where he preached through the book of Hebrews. Well, let me be accurate: he recited the book of Hebrews from memory. If you have the time, this will be worthy it. For sure. It is not only amazing that he memorized this entire book (as I am struggling memorizing the book of 1 Thessalonians). But as he recites it, you gain a greater understanding for the purpose of this book, that it is all about the greatness of Jesus Christ!

Hebrews Recited from Covenant Fellowship Church on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wrong Worship

I saw this video the other day. I just couldn't help but post it here. I think the main reason why we laugh at it is because we know there is more truth to it than error. We have to laugh at it or else we become convicted at our selfish heart even during a time of worship. It made me think of this quote by A.W. Tozer:
"If you cannot worship the Lord in the midst of your responsibilities on Monday, it is not very likely that you were worshiping on Sunday! Actually, none of us has the ability to fool God. Therefore, if we are so engaged in our Saturday pursuits that we are far from His presence and far from a sense of worship on Saturday, we are not in very good shape to worship Him on Sunday" (Whatever Happened to Worship, 122).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Christianity, Politics, & Mormonism

Over the past week, the issue of Mormonism has made a lot of news. Most of it goes back to presidential candidate Mitt Romney being a Mormon and some comments made by some "evangelical pastors" or "church leaders." Here is a wrap-up of some of the best articles that you might want to read to gain a fuller understanding of these issues.

  • Kevin DeYoung gives a good summary of the history of Mormonism in his "Mormonism 101"
  • David Murray makes an interesting argument that the mainstream media has been silent on Romney being a Mormon because they hope he gets the Republican nomination . . . in his post, "A Rare Foray Into American Politics."
  • But obviously, this should not be striking to us. Ed Stetzer gave us some LifeWay research as to what American Protestant Pastors think about Mormons. The chart below illustrates the results. His article is worth your time, "More on Mormonism: USAToday, LifeWay Research, Richard Meow, Etc..." Obviously, you might guess where I stand on this issue.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Work Is Beginning

On Monday, they began some of the work on the property that will house our facilities at Cornerstone Bible Church. Our plan is to build a Ministry Center that will be used between Sundays to minister the gospel to people. It will have one large gathering room, a few other small classrooms, bathroom facilities, and our offices.

If you are part of CBC, I would particularly ask of you to pray for this project. Even if you are not part of CBC and you think of it, would you pray for this project for our church. As to this point, not many things have gone according to plan. Even our builder has said that ever possible road block that could have come up has come up. So, we need to pray that God would help the rest of this project run smoothly. Here are a few things that you could pray for as this project continues:
  • Pray that the elders and building team would have wisdom as they move forward in the building phase.
  • Pray that the rain would hold off the next several weeks so we can get the excavation completed.
  • Pray that God would allow the process of building to be quick, that the harsh NE Ohio winter weather would hold off until the project is under roof.
  • Pray that God would continue to move in the hearts of individuals as to how they might be able to give financially or physically to this project.
  • Pray that the building would be greatly used for the glory of Jesus and the good of His people.
  • Pray that the body of CBC would continue to grow and fight against gossip, slander, and other sins that so separate people.
Thank you for your prayers. Here are a few more pictures of what was accomplished the first few days of the project. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall in Northeast Ohio

We moved to Northeast Ohio back in February. When we moved here, we were told by many people that the best time of the year is the fall. That was no joke. We have lived in Ohio before and I grew up in Northeast Indiana, but I do not remember it being like this. The last week has been the peak season for the colors of the trees. And it has been amazing.

I thought I would just post a few pictures that I have taken on my phone over the past week. As I look at these trees and how they are changing, I just can't help but to think of Psalm 19, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God." If the colors of trees are this amazing, how much more so is God who designed and created the process where trees turn these colors. So amazing! Oh, and maybe the fall here is so amazing because God is being gracious before the hard winter buries us under snow.

Hey Kansas friends: you need to come in October next year. It's great!

This is taken from Patterson's Fruit Farm in Chesterland, Ohio
Another picture of the family looking at the beautiful colors from
Patterson's Fruit Farm
Red, Yellow, Orange, Green
Many different colors. It is a testament of God's handiwork
This is a picture from the back deck of our friends, John & Lisa Starr.
Doesn't that look peaceful?
Monique & I went on a walk on Monday and this is a beautiful
picture of the water & the reflection of the trees.
This was so peaceful, I could actually have had fun in
a canoe out on this water

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Awaiting A Savior by Aaron Armstrong

Whenever someone brings up the issue of social justice or poverty in a room full of Christians, the room usually splits into one of two camps. One side of the room would support what has become known as a social gospel. They would say our only purpose is to feed someone who is starving, to clothe someone who is freezing, or to provide for someone who is less fortunate. After all, isn't this what Jesus did? I would argue that this is futile living.

The other side of the room would be shaking their heads in disagreement (if not disgust). And because they are so scared of being labeled part of the social gospel, they swing the pendulum so far that they never consider the implications of social ministry upon the Christian. I doubt they would actually say that taking care of the poor has nothing to do with Christianity, they just live like they believe that. I would argue this is Christ-less Christianity.

I have often longed for a balanced voice in the middle of this issue. I think we now have one. Awaiting A Savior by Aaron Armstrong is a new book published by Cruciform Press that deals with the real issues of poverty, but doesn't shy away from calling Christians to do their part. He doesn't waste any time dealing with real issues when he says "the root cause of poverty is sin" (9). That might sound shocking, but he does a great job of explaining what he means by that.  
"The basic premise of this book is that our good faith efforts to address legitimate questions of poverty and injustice must never lose sight of the fact that poverty will persist as long as the heart of man is ruled by sin . . . I hope to show that the best way to help the poor is to minister to them as the Church, in both word and deed, to the glory of God" (9-10)
I think he does adequately address these issues in the book. He does it by taking us back to the beginning before sin when Adam and Eve lived perfectly without any thought of poverty. It was only after the fall into sin that poverty even became a possibility. He says,
"Everything about Adam and Eve's fall makes economic prosperity difficult and elusive. In fact, the fall has made poverty the default setting, an ever-present gravitational pull intent on dragging us down. This is true not only because it is now harder to produce material wealth but also because the fall triggered an ongoing cascade of relational challenges characterized by blame-shifting and excuses about our sin, as well as an ongoing desire in each of us to play God over one another. Hardly a recipe for success." (20)
Tracing the flow of the Scriptures from creation to fall to tower of Babel to the prophets--Armstrong does a wonderful job of showing how God's heart has always been to take care of those that cannot take care of themselves. The only problem is that our heart of sin tends to make the poverty issue worse. Even when people do seek to help those in impoverished situations, many attempt to build their own kingdom, not God's. And we know that God will not share His glory with anyone. The solution of course is the gospel in our lives. It is fully understanding the truth of God invading and changing us. He says,
"Those whose hearts are inclined to the Lord will seek true justice on earth as it is in heaven. Covenant faithfulness always leads to ethical faithfulness . . . We dare not turn a blind eye. We dare not think, 'They're somebody else's problem.' If we really mean that, our hearts are as dead as those of the unfaithful Israelites of Isaiah's day." (56-7).
In the end, I would highly recommend this book to all Christians. Specifically if God has placed on your heart a burden for the impoverished. One particularly helpful aspect of this book is the study guide questions at the end of each chapter. This would make this book very easy to be read in a group of people as they seek to learn a balanced view of poverty together.

He has also produced a video trailer for the book. If my review doesn't convince you to purchase it, maybe this will.

I received a free electronic copy of Awaiting A Savior by Aaron Armstrong for review.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Morning After: Authentic Leadership (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12)

What do you think the difference is between the leadership style of Steve Jobs and the Apostle Paul? That question kept coming to my mind as I studied the beginning of chapter two of 1 Thessalonians this past week. My conclusion is that they way Paul dealt with people was radically different from that of Steve. You see, in this passage of Scripture, we find Paul defending his ministry against certain accusations that are being cast at him. Not many leaders I know, specifically church leaders, ever want to be in the position where they need to defend themselves. But the tact that Paul took in doing it was to call upon the memory of the people in the church.

Six times in this passage, Paul is going to say something like, "as you know" (vs. 1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 11). He does this because he wants them to remember that he lived a certain way before them during his short time he stayed with them. He was entrusting his life and character to them, but also to God. Three times he refers to God as being the ultimate judge of his heart and motives (vs. 4, 5, 10). What we gather from this is that no matter what happened when Paul planted that church, his character mattered more. The way they lived before these people meant so much more to him than the success of a large church.

So, what does it mean to have authentic leaders? First, let me share my main thought from the message yesterday. We will never be an authentic ministry if we do not follow authentic leaders. That statement, obviously, has two parts to it. First, churches need to have authentic leaders. Second, when they are present, people need to follow them. Both of those parts are equally important. In vs. 1-12, Paul gives us Five Evidences Of An Authentic Leader We Should Follow.

1. Authentic Leaders Are Bold (vs. 1-2)
The suffering they went through in Philippi did not make them change either their message or their method. Nobody wants to follow someone who is going to change their views or beliefs based upon the pressure of the crowd. Real Christian leaders do not change their theological convictions because it means more money in their pocket or a larger church on their resume.

2. Authentic Leaders Are Humble (vs. 3-6)
Paul says they did not preach a message from error, impurity, or deceit. They were not there to trick or scam them. They were not using flattering speech, they did not come with a heart of greed, and they did not come seeking glory for themselves. They were fully 100% there to serve the people of Thessalonica with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

3. Authentic Leaders Are Caring (vs. 7-8)
They cared for them so deeply that he uses the illustration of a nursing mother caring for her little child. That is how he felt about them. The only way this happens in our lives is when we live life with each other. We are there to weep with each other. We are there to rejoice with each other. We open our home and they see us at our best and worst. We create time in our schedule so we can minister to each other. We act as a friend should act, giving up our preferences for them.

4. Authentic Leaders Are Hard-Working (vs. 9-10)
Paul and his gang worked so hard to the point of exhaustion because they did not want the people to associate the message of the gospel with money. If the common joke about pastors or church leaders working only a couple hours a day or one day a week is true, there is something wrong. There is no room for laziness in pastoral ministry. If anything, they should border on exhausting themselves for the work of ministry.

5. Authentic Leaders Are Visionaries (vs. 11-12)
The goal the Apostle had for them was that they would walk in a manner worthy of God. To get them there, he had to guide and instruct them, as a father does his children.

There will never be an authentic ministry if people do not follow authentic leaders. So, the person who is reading this has three options. They can walk away from their church and not follow. They might think there are no authentic leaders and they can run to a place where they find one. Although, one caution should be that they need to remember there are no perfect people. Another option is to walk away and follow their leaders. This would be great! A third option is to walk away and seek to become that sort of leader.

What are you going to do? If you want to listen to the full message, you can find it HERE!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Video Sunday: Horrified by Matt Chandler

This is from a message that Matt Chandler preached several years ago (or at least whoever put this together says it is from 2004). Chandler keeps using the phrase that he is "horrified" over the state of people who come to church, are involved in the acts of churchgoers, but do not have any real relationship with Christ.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" (Matthew 7:21-23)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sleeping In

It has been a long time since I had something I had to get up for on Saturday morning. So when I went to bed last night, I was very excited about the probability of sleeping in this morning. I am also realizing that the older I get the less I can sleep in. Do you remember the days when you could sleep till 10am or maybe even 11am in the morning? Now, I can barely make it past 8am. As I lay in bed trying to sleep in, I was brought back to some thoughts I wrote in my book. It is okay to sleep. It is a necessary component of life. We have to sleep. Of course, we do not need to sleep in, that is a luxury. But to get the sleep that our bodies need is very important. One physician said,
"A person can't do without sleep. He may keep it at bay for hours or even days, but eventually everyone must surrender to it. Sleep is indispensable to life itself. Sleep is good for us. It is so important, that even rest is no substitute for sleep . . . sleep provides wakefulness, the alertness needed to be responsible. This one-third of life makes the other two-thirds possible, even if the only function is to enable us to stay alert while awake, this function must be recognized, understood, and respected in our day-to-day lives." (Robert Smith, The Christian Counselor's Medical Desk Reference, 122)
Yet, while I lay in my bed this morning, I did think how easy it is for us to abuse sleep. Too much sleep in a person's life can make a person lazy in life. Living in a state of laziness will make a person more tired. The Proverbs say, "Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger" (Prov. 19:15). This should be a warning to us that to sleep in every day or to live our lives in a state of laziness will only produce more laziness in our life. It is not hard work that makes us lazy, but laziness makes us lazy. The Proverbs also give us this stern warning: "Do not love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food" (Prov. 20:13).

If you did sleep in today, then go and do something active instead of sitting around watching college football all day. I think we are off to pick some apples at a local apple orchard. I am really excited about that. 

Why did I include this in my book? It is my contention that people who come rested physically to church will become better listeners to the sermon. If you come too lazy (having too much sleep) or if you come unrested (if you don't get good sleep), you will probably struggle to listen to message God has for you from the Sunday morning sermon. Therefore, feel free to sleep in, but be wise with your sleep.

Question: Have you had a chance to pick up my book? If you have read it, would you be kind enough to post a review of it on Amazon or Christianbook? Or both?

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Work of the Pastor by William Still

Several months ago, I purchased The Work of the Pastor by William Still at a pastors conference I attended. As I began reading the book, several of the quotes inspired a few blog post (Feed the Sheep & A Poor Diet of the Word of God & Does Preaching the Bible Work?). I had every intention to finish reading this book back then. But for one reason or another, it was put on the shelf. This is not meant to be an indictment upon the book, but probably more about how many books I am trying to get through. But just a couple weeks ago, I was able to get another pastor friend of mine to read it with me. Today, we are getting together to talk about it, and there are many things for us to talk about.

At the very beginning of the book, Still makes clear his purpose:
"The thesis is that the pastor, being the shepherd of the flock, feeds the flock upon God's Word; the bulk of pastoral work is therefore through the ministry of the Word." (11)
He addresses this issue of feeding the flock over and over again in the book. And he is very quotable. Maybe that is why many of them have found their own blog post over the past several months. I was greatly encouraged that what I am trying to do is what he says I should be doing--preaching and teaching the Bible. He would say there is nothing more important I can do as a pastor than to feed the sheep with the truth of God's Word. After exhausting many pages encouraging pastors to preach the Bible, he gets to this question: "How do you preach and teach the whole Bible?" I really like his answer.
"Once you are convinced your people need - I say need - the whole Word of God, and you get over the shock to your indolent flesh that you are not in the ministry for an easy job, you simply roll up your sleeves, and, having gathered, or being in the process of gathering, the most helpful library of commentaries and reference books you can find, you get down to it: and book by book you give your people a balanced diet of the truth." (61)
This reminded me something that Mark Dever said at The Weekender which I attended a few weeks ago. He said that we make the systematic preaching of God's Word too difficult. He has a plan where he goes back and forth from different genres of Scripture between the Old & New Testaments. It is less about what our people need than what is next. He does that because all of the Scriptures are inspired and profitable and what the people really need is more of the Bible. If your pastor is systematically preaching the Bible, be thankful!

As the pastor feeds the sheep, he is going to need prayer. One thing he mentioned that I always said I wanted to do when I became the primary preacher (and which I have yet to do) is to get people to consistently pray for me. He says,
"We must challenge our people to pray for the ministry, and must see to it that however we meet, and whatever you call it, there is a backing, a support, a powerhouse of prayer behind our ministries." (99)
I appreciated the fact that he says personality is important in the preaching event. I appreciate he calls men to find the balance dead academics and emotionalism. Towards the end of the book, he gives several steps to finding balance in pastoral ministry. First, he says you need to know Christ. Second, make sure of your calling. Third, be willing to wait for His will. Fourth, you have to die to yourself if you are going to preach the Bible. Fifth, you will never be able to do it alone (pg. 116-8). I have always felt called to do something cool in pastoral ministry. He ends with this prayer for pastors:
"Take me, Lord, at whatever cost. Make me a quiet, or roaring flame of fire, as You wish, to burn up the dross of evangelical life in our day, and sear the tails of the demons of ungodliness and filth which are roaming unchecked in society. Then build the church and Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Use me, Lord, use me, for service or sacrifice." (122)
That just could be a dangerous prayer.

Question: If Your Pastor If Faithful To Feed You With The Word Of God, When Was The Last Time You Encouraged Him?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Example of Steve Jobs

I am guessing there will be more blog posts written about the death of Steve Jobs than any recent event to happen in the past year. Maybe even more than the death of Osama Bin Laden. As I have thought about the little I know about Steve Jobs today after hearing about his death, I have been asking myself this question: "Why was he so popular?"

Yes, of course, he revolutionized how we think about technology. I remember my mom getting a Mac when I was just out of high school. It was very cool. Over the years, I have dabbled a bit in the Mac world, but have recently drank a bit of the Apple kool-aid. I am typing this on my MacBook Pro with my IPhone 4 sitting next to me with my iPod Classic in my backpack. The products he has produced has changed the way I work and live. Yet, I am not so sure this is why he is so popular. The die-hard Apple fans might think this next statement is sacrilegious, but I think the reason he is so popular has more to do with who he was as a person and less to do with what he produced.

You see, Jobs stood before us as an example of a brilliant thinker. He set the standard on thinking outside the box. I look forward to reading his biography when it comes out at the end of the month, but I wonder what motivated him to see things that others did not. He saw not only what we did not see, but what we could not dream up. He was an example of a hard worker. The stories are all over the place of his demanding of perfection and not allowing people to leave work until things were what they were supposed to be. He gave his all to his business.

He was an example of the perfect salesman. He would tell you what you needed before you even knew it existed. He was able to get the average person hyped about something that was so out of the box that they would stand in line for hours to get it. Then after about a year, he would convince you why the product that was so revolutionary and perfect wasn't really that good. You needed an upgrade with the newest and best gadget. And people would trade in the old for the new.

But even in his death, he gave us one last example. This is probably the most serious and unfortunately the most tragic. He lived his life as the example that many people are going to follow. His life is an example of someone who gained the whole world and lost his soul. He died an extremely wealthy man. Apple has said to have 75 billion dollars available to spend, which is more than the US Government had available. He had it all, yet in the end there is little to no evidence that he had Jesus or the gospel. If this fact is indeed true, as it seems to be, he exemplifies the words of Jesus as the person who gained the whole world in exchange for his soul. Jesus said,
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forefeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:34-37).
Right now, I guarantee you that Steve Jobs would give up Apple, and all its gadgets, products, and money that was earned from it, in exchange for his soul. Right now to Steve Jobs, the ipad2 or iPhone 4s seem so trivial. He does not care how many apps are on iTunes or how thin the new MacBook Air is. What he cares about as he looks towards a future of eternal torment is the missed opportunity to embrace Jesus while he lived.

So, while you might look to Jobs as an example of a great thinker, motivator, communicator, or hard worker, I would beg of you to not follow his example of risking your soul in the pursuit of money or popularity. Do not risk your soul in exchange for the world. Do not exchange your eternal life for a blimp on the radar here.