Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jesus or the Holy Spirit

We often think that having if Jesus were here walking and talking with us that a sanctified life would be much easier. But apparently, that is not the case. Jesus makes a remarkable statement in John 16:7 which has always caused me to stop and think. He says,
"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you."
We know from other Scriptures that Jesus was talking about sending the Holy Spirit as our Comforter. This has always been a mystery to me. How could the invisible Spirit of God impact my life more than the real person of Jesus Christ? Yet, Jesus says that it is to our advantage that He leave and send the Spirit. I am currently reading How The Gospel Brings Us All The Way Home by Derek W. H. Thomas. It is a book on Romans 8 and in a section I read today, he dealt with this thought. Here are his thoughts that helped me to a certain point. 
"The disciples were understandably fearful of losing the Savior's presence and fellowship. The truth was that they would come to know Jesus better after He had disappeared from this world. 
Does the presence of the Spirit seem a poor substitute for the presence of Jesus in the flesh? Perhaps this thought occurred to the disciples in the upper room. But a moment's reflection dispels any such concern. The Holy Spirit was present at the conception of Jesus (Luke 1:35) and enabled Him to grow in wisdom, strength, and favor with God and with men (Luke 2:40, 52). The Spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism and thereafter acted as principal strategist in Jesus' encounter with the powers of darkness (Luke 3:22; 4:1). By the Holy Spirit Jesus offered His life on the cross as an atonement for sin (Heb. 9:14). And, as Paul reminds us in this passage, by the Spirit Jesus rose from the dead (Rom. 8:11). 
To have the Spirit in our hearts is to have Him who has been intimately involved in every facet of Jesus' work--incarnation, obedience, sacrifice, and resurrection. And the Spirit has been in fellowship with the Son for eternity. The Spirit knows the Father and the Son in comprehensive, exhaustive detail. He searches 'the depths of God' (1 Cor. 2:10). Nothing is hidden from the Spirit. He 'proceeds' from the Father (John 15:26) and is breathed out by the Son (John 20:22). 'By this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us' (1 John 3:24). It is the Spirit who brings us into 'fellowship . . . with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ' (1 John 1:3)" (33-4).
At least for today, it is a good thought on the importance of the Holy Spirit in my life. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How To Deal With The Tragedy at Chardon High School

Yesterday morning just before 8 A.M., I started to receive text messages and phone calls informing me of the events happening at Chardon High School. In case you have been hiding under a rock the past 24 hours, there has been another school shooting. Just after 7:30 A.M., yesterday morning, one young man opened fire on a handful of students in the cafeteria at Chardon High School, just east of Cleveland. Five students were shot, and as of now, two of the students have died. While my heart has always been disturbed over these sort of tragedies in the past, this one was different. I live in the Chardon area. The high school is seven miles from my house. We have people from our church that attend Chardon. This time it was different. It was close. It was personal. 

My immediate reaction was to find out how our students and their families were doing. They are okay. Maybe I should say they are safe. Not okay, but safe. I am not sure anyone who is at that school is okay. Unless you are here, it is hard to describe the closeness of this community. Everyone knows everyone. And many of them are related to each other. People intentionally move 10 miles east from the eastern suburbs of Cleveland to Chardon to get the feel of the country and a small town. It is only a town of about 5,000 people, but the school feeds in from some of the surrounding areas. The school has around 1,100 kids in the High School. The downtown of Chardon is a quaint little town, with a town square. It's just one of those places that seems like home. 

We often think that tragedy shouldn't strike here. Not places like this. My heart grieved all day as I watched the news and heard interviews about what happened inside of the school. From all accounts the teachers, school district, and local law enforcement handled things as best as they could have been handled.

But now, 24 hours later, the questions still remain: How do we handle it? And should the Christian handle it differently than the Non-Christian? Does the gospel change the way we look at things like this? I would say it should. It should give us perspective. As difficult as this might be, we should force ourselves to think of this from the perspective of eternity.

As I just said, at first glance, it seems like this sort of thing should never happen in Chardon. It's an all-American small town. But as a friend of mine said yesterday, where there are people, there will be tragedy. That is because people are sinful. I was angry yesterday, but not necessarily at the young man who opened fire. I was angry at sin. And that anger turned into hope. I cannot wait till sin is finally eradicated. I can't wait until the final redemption of our lives where there no longer will be the presence of sin. But until that time (either when I die or Jesus returns), there will be tragedy. I just don't think answering people with "It will all be okay" is a good answer. It will all be okay when Jesus finally eradicates the presence of sin, but until that day it will not be okay. Sin still remains and people still do stupid things. Sinful things. Tragic things.

That might seem gloomy, so let me give some positive perspective. As I am dealing with this, I have to remember that none of this took God by surprise. He is not in heaven saying, "I can't believe this happened." It is in situations like this that having a high view of a sovereign God keeps me from going insane. God is in complete control. If you don't think that is true, think for a moment of the alternative. Which brings more comfort, God is in control or all things happen randomly for no reason. 

I take great comfort through the book of Job where nothing happened to him that did not pass through the approval of God. We want to search for the answers to the question of why these kids? Why our town? And those answers we will probably never know. Searching for the why answers will always leave us searching. But having our hearts moved toward more trust in a God that is in complete control, that leaves us with hope.

It is hope because the Scriptures say He will not give us more than we can handle. It is hope because we know that He is always working to redeem these tragedies for the glory of His name. I can only suppose that will happen as we trust deeper and stronger than we did before this event. And as we spread the name of Jesus through this event.

You see, one of the main emotions that will come out from this is fear. Fear that it could happen again. It could. Fear that my life could come to an end. It will. Fear of what happens when I die. Now we've arrived to a real issue. The fear of death is real. And this is how the Christian and non-Christian should look through different glasses. The Christian should realize that death equals a better life with Christ (Phil. 1:21-26). The Christian should realize that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8). The Christian should think differently about life and death because they have been forgiven by a holy God through the death of His righteous Son.

My heart still breaks. Please continue to pray. Pray that the name of Christ might be able to go forth in this community. Pray that God might use this tragedy to give people perspective of life and death. And pray that we ask the right questions and search for the right answers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Morning After: The Battle For The Throne


King David was a great ruler. He was a great warrior that lived to protect the name of the Lord. It was to David that God promised one of his sons would sit on the throne for all eternity (2 Sam. 7). But as the book of First Kings opens, David is old, advanced in age, and cold on his deathbed. It is vivid picture that it doesn't matter who you are, death plays no favorites. It gets the rich and the poor. It will come after the famous and the nobodies. It will get me and you. Yet there is even a greater picture that can be seen here. In contrast to the frailty of King David is another King who is one of David's sons . . . Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says that He is the King of the ages, and that he is immortal (1 Tim. 1:17). What relief that should bring to the heart of the Christian. The One who is on the throne that we worship is not going to grow old, advanced in age, or cold on his deathbed.

As the rule of King David seems to be coming to an end, there is a power move that is made by one of David's sons, Adonijah. He makes a move to the throne. First Kings 1 tells the story of how he exalted himself and created an entourage for his own glory. After all, he was good looking and next in line for the kingship. The spirit of Adonijah is seen so prevalent in our culture. People try to exalt themselves in front of other people. No, let's make it personal. We do it. We want people to be impressed with us. That is why we talk about who we know, what we have accomplished, wear certain styles of clothes and so on. 

The plot to take the throne was halted by the actions of the prophet Nathan and the wife of David, Bathsheba. They appealed to the royal duty of David to do what God had promised, make Solomon king. They cared so much for the promises of God that they had to act. And through their actions and David's decisions, Solomon is made king that day. 

The chapter starts with Adonijah exalting himself and it ends with him bowing and paying homage to the newly anointed King Solomon. Pride does that to us. When we exalt ourself, the timer is started. It will run out eventually. If not in this life, certainly in the life to come. While this is a really interesting story about the battle for the throne in Jerusalem that took place around 960 B.C., it should remind us that there is a daily battle going on for the throne in our own life. And there are only two options. Either you can be on the throne or Jesus can be your King.

Philippians 2:9-10 says that everyone will eventually bow their knee to Jesus. It will happen. "Long Live King Jesus" will be the anthem that will exist for all eternity. It is the anthem that each of us will bow to someday. Either now resulting in salvation or in eternity resulting in condemnation. I pray it is today!

If you are interested in reading my notes from this sermon, you can find them HERE. If you would like to listen to the message, you can find it HERE (usually posted by Tuesday afternoon).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ray Comfort Takes On Dr. Carole Lieberman

I would be willing to guess that when Ray Comfort received an invitation to come on Dr. Carole's Couch, a radio program with Dr. Carole Lieberman, he knew it would be very interesting. And it is. The first 15 minutes or so make for some good radio. Ray Comfort is asked to talk about Adolf Hitler and his new book, Hitler, God, and the Bible. But for some reason, Dr. Carole thinks this book is only about Hitler's life. And so when Comfort brings up God and the Bible, she takes offense. Check it out.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cornerstone Questions: Why Is Jesus Called Everlasting Father

As I have stated a few times on this blog, I have received many questions over the past several months. I have been very slow at attempting to answer them, but today I wanted to answer one more.

Question: Why does it say Jesus' name will be 'Everlasting Father?' It makes sense that he is the father or creator of all things, but it just seems like the only time he is referred to by that title. All other times we have a distinction between him and 'the Father.'

The question stems from that very familiar passage in Isaiah 9:6 which is in reference to the coming Messiah, which we know to refer to Jesus. Isaiah writes, 
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
It's a good question. How is it that the Son of God is referred to as Everlasting Father? The first thing that should be fully understood is that Isaiah is not confusing Jesus, the second member of the Trinity, with THE FATHER, the first member of the Trinity (I use first and second by way of classification, not by way of showing superiority or importance). The Son of God is NOT the Father and the Father is NOT the Son. While they are uniquely the same in their substance, they are separate and distinct Persons. We would do well to avoid the heresy of Modalism that says there is just one God who has manifested Himself in different ways throughout history. When Jesus came to this earth, the Father was distinct from Him and fully in heaven (whatever that fully means).

So, as the question states, Jesus is separate from the Father, but He is still referred to here as Everlasting Father. Then, what does that mean? How is He Father? I will turn the conversation over to my dear friend, Charles Spurgeon, at this point to help with this answer.
"First, He is federally a Father representing those who are in him, as the head of a tribe represents his descendants . . . Adam is the father of all living; he federally stood for us in the garden, and federally fell and ruined us all. He was the representative man by whose disobedience we should have been blessed, through whose disobedience we have been made sinners. The curse of the fall comes upon us because Adam stood in a relation towards us in which none of us stand towards our fellows. He was the representative head for us; and what a fall was there when he fell! for every one of us in his loins fell in him . . . The only other man who is a representative man before God is the second Adam, the man Christ Jesus, the Lord from heaven."
He goes on to say,
"In our first birth we come under the fatherhood of the fallen one; in our second birth we enter into the fatherhood of the innocent and perfect One. In our first fatherhood we wear the image of the earthly; in the second we receive the image of the heavenly. Through our relation to Adam we become corrupt and weak, and the body is put into the grave in dishonor, in corruption, in weakness, in shame; but when we come under the dominion of the second Adam we receive strength, and quickening, and inward spiritual life, and therefore our body rises again like seed sown with rises to a glorious harvest in the image of the heavenly, with honor, and power, and happiness, and eternal life."
And so, mainly, when Jesus is referred to as the Everlasting Father, it is a reference to the fact that He will be the Second Adam, in whom we find our hope. Spurgeon goes on in an article entitled His Name--The Everlasting Father to make the argument that there is another way in which Jesus is considered Father. He says that Jesus Christ is a Father in the sense of a Founder. He says,
"Our Lord Jesus Christ, who brought life and immortality to light, and introduced a new phase of worship to this world is, in that respect, a Father; he is the Father of all Christians, the Father of Christianity, the Father of the entire system under which grace reigns through righteousness. Jesus is the Father of a great doctrinal system. All the great truths, which we are in the habit of delivering in your hearing as the precious truths of God sent down from heaven, fell first, clearly and powerfully, from the lips of Jesus."
Those are just two of the five ways that Spurgeon argues that Jesus is the Everlasting Father. Read the article for the other reasons. The question remains. Is He your Father federally. Are you 'In Christ' in the sense that you are now under the new Adam? Is He your Father in the sense that you believe the gospel He gave? If not, I would strongly encourage you to read the gospel accounts to investigate His claims and actions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Glory of Real Books

This morning I was surfing around and read a blog post by Kevin DeYoung called "Why I Hope Real Books Never Die (And They Won't)." It so resonated with my heart that I had to share part of it and thought I wanted you to encourage all to read it. I especially appreciated this thought:
Old books are like old friends. They love to be revisited. They stick around to give advice. They remind you of days gone by. Books, like friends, hang around. And they prefer not to be invisible. I can't tell you how often I sit at my desk, push back my seat, and allow my eyes to drift around the room full of bookshelves. I'm not procrastinating, not exactly. I'm scanning the room to see my friends. Their covers job my memories. They remind me of what I learned once. More than that, they remind me of my life-where I was when I first read Lloyd-Jones on the couch, how I knelt by the bed with tears when I read Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, how my life was so different 15 years ago when I read my dad's copy of the Institutes as a college student. If all my books disappeared on to a microchip I might have less to lug around and I might be able to search my notes more easily, but I'd lost memory; I'd lose history; I'd lose a little bit of myself.
I can so relate! You might like to check out the entire article by clicking on the link above.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Morning After: The End of the Story


King Solomon is one of the most interesting figures in the biblical literature because of the drastic shifts that took place in his life. On the one hand, he was brilliant. I don't mean that he was brilliant in just the sense that he was smart, although he was. He was the wisest man to ever lived, other than Jesus. But more than that, his life was one of brilliance. He was a great writer. He was famous. He had all the homes and stuff that we could imagine. Even though he had everything, through a series of stupid decisions, his life became an example of a tragic loss.

Yesterday, I started a series on the King Solomon. I think that as we make our way through First Kings 1-11, we are going to see ourselves in his life. Maybe not in the brilliance part, but certainly in the stupid decision part of his life. His choices in life will expose our choices in life.

As I thought about starting this series, I wanted to start at the very end of story. I wanted to show that no matter how many stupid things a person might have done in their past, they are never outside the reach of the grace of God. As you read the book of First Kings, it appears as though Solomon's life ends tragically. Yet I think in the white spaces of 1 Kings 11, we can find his life taking one last turn towards God. That account is told in the book of Ecclesiastes. 

The book of Ecclesiastes is the painful autobiography of a man who had everything and did everything, squandering God's blessings on his own personal pleasure rather than on God. Throughout the book, Solomon continually says that all of life lived under the sun (meaning, on this earth) is worthless. It is vanity. It is meaningless.

He explains how he tried many avenues to find his meaning in life. He tried wisdom. He tried entertainment. He tried alcohol and possessions. He tried sex. And he even tried work. And nothing seemed to give him the meaning of life. For the bulk of twelve chapters, he explains how life lived under the sun is worthless. But then, in the conclusion of the book, he gives the answer to everything.
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Ecc. 12:13-14)
The meaning of life is found in fearing God and keeping his commandments. If you want to hear how I explain that, you can listen to it HERE (usually not posted till Wednesday). Or you can read the sermon HERE.

I am excited about this series as we look at the life of King Solomon. I hope you will join me as we look at the brilliant life that tragically fell through a series of stupid decisions.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Video Sunday: John MacArthur Rebukes Joel Osteen

This is classic John MacArthur! After watching this, I think I get what he thinks about Joel Osteen. Don't you? Any questions?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What I Am Reading...From The Back Covers (part 2)

Several months ago, I gave a run down on the books that I am currently reading. Here is an updated list of the books that are on my radar at this moment . . . from the back cover of the books.

I am reading this book with a couple pastor friends and will get together with them the first week of March to talk about it.
"Christians today define mission more broadly and variably than ever before. Are we, as the body of Christ, headed in the same direction or are we on divergent missions? Some argue that the mission of the church is to confront injustice and alleviate suffering, doing more to express God's love for the world. Others are concerned that the church is in danger of losing its God-centeredness and thereby emphasize the proclamation of the gospel. It appears as though misunderstanding of mission persists. Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert believe there is a lot that evangelicals can agree on if only we employ the right categories and build our theology of mission from the same biblical building blocks. Explaining key concepts like kingdom, gospel, and social justice, DeYoung and Gilbert help us to get on the same page--united by a common cause--and launch us forward into the true mission of the church."
I have been wanting to read this book for months, and I think it is about that time.
"The apostle Paul's letter to the Romans is widely regarded as his magnum opus. At the center of that book lies chapter 8, which Derek W. H. Thomas calls, 'the best chapter in the Bible,' for in the thirty-nine verses of that single chapter of Scripture, Paul shows how the gospel brings believers all the way home. From 'no condemnation' (v. 1) to 'no separation' (v. 39), the chapter is an overview of the Christian life. In these pages, Dr. Thomas leads his readers step by step through this remarkable chapter of Scripture, unfolding the waystations along the Christian journey and uncovering profound exhortations and reassurances for God's people."
I have heard so many good things about this book by Joe Thorn. It is a very short book and probably will not take long to read it. But I think, practicing it might be very difficult.
"The idea of preaching the gospel to ourselves is getting more press these days, but the actual work of preaching to ourselves seems to be slow in coming. We hear the basic concept and think, 'Of course, I need to do that.' But where do we start? What does it mean? [And] how do we actually do it?"
I have had the opportunity to meet and talk to Dr. Larry Crabb on several occasions over the past several months. His son is leading a Sunday School class (that I am attending) on this book at our church. It has been very interesting and has led to many great conversations.
"Have you ever read the Bible only to come away confused? Ever wondered if God actually had you in mind when He began telling His story? Though life may not be going according to your plan, God has another one, far better than you can imagine. From Genesis to Revelation, experience His invitation to get you dancing with joy."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore

I just finished reading Russell D. Moore's book, Tempted and Tried. I am blown away. It has made me really think about my view of temptation, and particularly the temptations of Christ. The first thing I would say about this book is that Moore is a really great writer. Add to his ability to frame and structure sentences the reality that the guy really understands the Bible, it makes for an insightful read.

The book begins by dealing with the gradual, luring nature of temptations. Chapter 2: Slaughterhouse Drive might just be the scariest chapter in the book. I shared some quotes a few weeks ago that should scare you to death. It did me. His point is that we never see it coming. We never see the results of the temptation. We are just being led down a path that leads to destruction, but we never see it coming when we continually keep taking the bait. He says,
"Temptation only works if the possible futures open to you are concealed. Consequences, including those of Judgment Day, must be hidden from view or outright denied" (50).
After these introductory chapters on temptation, he gets to the heartbeat of the book, which is an in-depth look at the three temptations that Jesus went through in the wilderness by Satan. He does a great job of showing how these temptations are really the same things we struggle with every day. He says,
"You will be tempted exactly as Jesus was, because Jesus was being tempted exactly as we are. You will be tempted with consumption, security, and status. You will be tempted to provide for yourself, to protect yourself, and to exalt yourself. And at the core of these three is a common impulse--to cast off the fatherhood of God" (20-1).
The first temptation of turning a stone into bread was a temptation of consumption. Satan began the temptation by saying, "If you are the Son of God . . ." He was trying to make Jesus become discontent with the way His Father was treating Him. After all, what kind of dad would let his son be out in the wilderness for 40 days without feeding him? Moore points out:
"To lose control of your appetites is to lose sight of the gospel itself, the truth that God knows what you need to survive--the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus. God allows his people to 'hunger' so he can feed them with what is better than what they would choose. The Israelites wanted Egyptian onions and leeks; God was training their appetites for bread from heaven" (80-1)
Why does Jesus resist that temptation? How?
"Jesus flees Satan's temptation not because he doesn't like bread, but because he wants more bread than Satan can provide and because he wants the bread in fellowship with his Father and with his bride. The Devil wants a masturbatory meal, wolfed down alone in the desert. Jesus wants a marriage supper, joined with his church 'as a bride adorned for her husband' (Rev. 21:2) in the New Jerusalem" (84-5)
The second temptation was when Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and told Him to throw Himself down. Why? Because Satan was trying to get Jesus to doubt the protecting nature of His Father. This was a temptation of security. This plays itself out in our life everyday in many different situations. Moore describes this problem in our life.
"When our ultimate goal becomes security and protection, God becomes a means to that security and protection. We 'test' him then, to see if he is able to serve as a means to our real god, our sense that everything will be all right. As long as we see our way toward physical, emotional, financial, relational, or familial well-being, God is welcome. But when such things are threatened, we indict God with our grumbling, even when we carefully disguise this as a 'venting' against our circumstances, not against God. We assume that God's love entails God's visible protection right now. When that is absent, we grow distant and prayerless toward God. We put him to the test" (112).
I think we have all been there. We are there. As he progresses to the third temptation, where Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, he makes the argument that this is a temptation of status. Satan is willingly offering all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus. We are told that Satan is the ruler of this world, for now at least. But someday all of the world will belong to Jesus. What Satan was offering was for Jesus to have them without having to go to the cross. And that's the real point. Satan would be more than willing to give up everything if only Jesus wouldn't die. This lure of status is found in us in many different ways.
"For some people, the self-exaltation impulse means fantasizing in front of a mirror about being a world-renowned musician. Others, though, seek the same kind of renown, just limited to the world of air-conditioning repair in West Chester, Ohio. Some people want to be billionaires with villas in the south of France. Others just want their neighbors to envy them because their marriage is intact, their children still in school. The issue isn't the size of the kingdom; it's what you will do to get it" (144-5).
The book is extremely helpful to make you think through issues of temptation. But don't get me wrong, it is not an easy book. It is weighty. It took me much longer to get through it than I anticipated, mostly because I had to process and think and repent of areas in my life where I have never seen my giving into temptation. I would highly recommend this book to every Christian. Read it. Listen to it. Look up the Scripture verses that he gives. Let me end with one last quote. One that hurts, but helps.
"The problem is, though, that we often think escape from temptation, promised by God, means escape from the agony of struggling against temptation, which it does not. Don't pray for an end to the struggle. Pray for your warfare to be more effective as you dodge fiery darts on the way into the kingdom. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit, but that's peace with God and with one another. It is emphatically not peace with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. That's why the Bible can include such a seemingly discordant statement about peace as 'The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet' (Rom. 16:20). Don't be discouraged or depressed if you're in agony fighting against your temptations. That means the Holy Spirit is there. And where the Spirit is, for now anyways, there is war (Gal. 5:17)" (184-5).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Daddy Valentine

I love my wife. We are now knocking on the door of being married for 14 years (May 30th, in case your interested). And every year for Valentine's day, I want my wife to know that she is appreciated and loved.

But there is another little girl in my life that I just can't help but to show love on a day like this. It is my daughter, Anni. It has been our tradition to go on a date on or around Valentines Day. So, yesterday morning, I took her out for a little daddy date. A time with just me and her. We ate some muffins, drank some juice, and played some tic-tac-toe. But in reality, we were just with each other. I held her hand. I opened her door for her. I helped her across the snow piles. I want to show her that men should treat her with respect and kindness. But above all of that, I want her to know that I am the man in her life (at least for now). 

She is only six years old, but she gets what is going on in the world. I have made a conscious effort to start early with her, to tell her continually how much I love her. I remind her that she is my valentine and that I am her valentine. I remind her that I am the only boy in her life.

Just about every night, I get on my knees as she is laying down in bed and we pray. She wants mom to pray with her, but then most nights, she wants me to stay in and pray again with her. Just her and me. Last night, I prayed for her that God would grow her up into a woman who loves Jesus. I prayed that she would stay pure. I prayed that when she is older that God would bring a boy into her life that would love her even more than I do (I don't even know if that is possible). And I prayed that she would love Jesus more than me or any boy some day. As I finished praying, she just grabbed me and hugged me. She had that look in her eye that she was thankful and a little teary. 

Dads, today as you celebrate Valentine's Day with your wife, don't forget about your little girl. Don't forget that you are the man in her life. Set the standard very high for her. Love her and hug her. Play princesses with her (something my daughter would not want to do), or wrestle with her (something she would like to do). But above all, show her that you love her. And show her that there is someone that loves her even more than you do. Show her Jesus!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Morning After: Our Vision

I shared last Thursday that Sunday was going to be the day we shared the vision of our church. What are we going to focus on in the next five years. Where are we going?

Now that Sunday has come and gone, I am extremely grateful for all the Lord is doing and is going to do at Cornerstone. I am so excited. Even though we had the worst storm this year, so far, we had a good number of people there, and a lot of people that stayed for the annual meeting afterward. I am so thankful for each of them and the role they are playing in shaping our church.

I do not plan in this blog post to share everything that I shared on Sunday. For that, you are going to need to listen to my message or read my notes online. What I wanted to share in this post are the opening comments that I made about vision. It was Robert Kennedy that is famous for saying, "Some people see things the way they are and ask why; I see things the way they could be and ask why not?" I think so often we live in our comfortable world and do not look into the future to ask, "God, why couldn't you do this or that?"

One thing that I tried to articulate is that a vision statement could change over time. Our mission does not change. It states our overall purpose. But our vision is what we are going to focus on in the future for this season of life. Our vision in five years might (hopefully will) be different than it is today. Now, that is easier to understand intellectually than it is to understand practically. Why? Because we all struggle with change. We are comfortable with the way things are. But I truly believe that a church is either changing or it is dying.

As well, any vision that we have must be dependent upon the Lord. We are not trying to create something on our own. We are not trying to build our own enterprise. The elders and I have been seeking the Lord for months on these priorities and we are walking forward with boldness, yet with caution knowing the Lord is in charge of all these things. He is the real Senior Pastor of this church (1 Peter 5:1-4). James warns us not to make plans as if God is not in charge of them (James 4:13-17). That is why as this thing unfolds, I pray it never becomes boasting about our things, our buildings, our programs, but how awesome the Lord is in using us in His plan to reach this world.

One last thing. It is my belief that most of our vision of what God could do is too small. Paul tells us that God can do abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21). Too many churches and organizations set goals too low and try to accomplish them too quickly. It has been well said that most people over-estimate what they can accomplish in one year and they under-estimate what they can accomplish in ten. I never want to be the place that sets goals based upon what we can do. Those goals will be shallow and not dependent upon the Lord. I want to be the place that must be dependent upon the Lord for all these things.

Vision. Do you have it for your church or ministry? Do you know what God would want you to do for the future? To get the full detail of the Five Priorities I listed for our church, please either listen to the message or read my notes online. As well, if you are interested, you can read our Annual Report which states many goals that we have for this coming year.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ten Reasons To Come For Vision Sunday

This post is primarily for those who come to Cornerstone Bible Church or that live near us and would like to visit us. This coming Sunday, February 12th, will be our Vision Sunday. I have been asked since the time I arrived here a year ago, what my vision is for CBC. I have been very clear that I want it to be our vision, not just mine. After meeting with the elders and taking time with many of you, I have some grand ideas of what we could do in the next five years. I want to share them with you on Sunday morning at 10:15 AM. I hope you are there. No, let me be very clear. I really hope that you are there. I understand that some of you will be traveling or out of town. If that is the case, I would highly encourage you to listen to it online next week. But if you are just going to sleep in and eat your cereal at 10:00 am in your pajamas, let me do please persuade you to get dressed and come to church. I want to do this by giving you Ten Reasons To Come For Vision Sunday.

#10 - There's no snow to keep you inside. Or should I say, there is no snow to busy yourself with outdoor sports. By the way, I was told that it snowed in NE Ohio in the winter. What's the deal?

#9 - We are having pizza after the service. Okay, so maybe a very earthly draw. But it is free. And we will include salad & cookies.

#8 - I might cast part of the vision in a rap or song. You will never know if you are not there because if it actually happens, I will make sure that the recording is cut off for that portion. I promise.

#7 - It is Sunday and your mom told you to go to church on Sundays. I know what you are saying, "But Thad, you hate religion." I know. Don't come to church only because you are supposed to, but because you want to. But at least on this Sunday, listen to your momma.

#6 - To be informed so you can ask good questions. After the pizza, we will be having our annual meeting where we would love for you to ask questions of the leadership of our church. Being at Vision Sunday will help you ask informed questions.

#5 - To be encouraged at God's faithfulness this past year. We have made the annual report available online and will be passing out hard copies on Sunday. In color. On paper. And it is filled with great reports of what God has done in and through us this past year.

#4 - To get a free book. We still have a few copies of What is A Healthy Church Member by Mark Dever that we want to give away. Pick up your free copy this Sunday.

#3 - You want to see your area reached with the message of Jesus. Since you love Jesus, you love His church. And you love the local church. And you love Central Geauga County. And you want to hear how we are going to reach our county and the world for Christ in the coming years.

#2 - I might even wear a tie. Yes, that is right, I might wear a tie. No pictures will be allowed, but I might actually wear a tie. Even writing that seems awkward and weird.

#1 - The Vision involves YOU. You are crucial to everything we will be talking about on Sunday morning. You are so valuable and important to God and us. We want to help you see how you can be involved in the change of people's lives in our area.

I hope that church is packed this Sunday! I hope to see you all there.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

1 Corinthians 13 - The Love Chapter

As part of my daily Bible reading, I found myself reading 1 Corinthians 13 this morning. It is quite possibly one of the most recognized chapters of the Bible. When I say 1 Corinthians 13, most people who have any knowledge of the Bible will say something about it being the Love Chapter in the Bible. And that it does. Specifically in verses 4-7 we are given a description of some of the characteristics of love. Read them again, slowly, as for the first time. What do these characteristics of love have to do with you and your relationships?
  • Love is patient
  • Love is kind
  • Love does not envy
  • Love does not boast
  • Love is not arrogant
  • Love is not rude
  • Love does not insist on its own way
  • Love is not irritable
  • Love is not resentful
  • Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing
  • Love rejoices with the truth
  • Love bears all things
  • Love believes all things
  • Love endures all things

Valentines day is right around the corner. What if we didn't buy flowers and chocolate and just committed to being different in our relationships. What if our gift was a renewed type of love for those we say we love? Think about it, how would our relationships be so much greater if we had this type of love. Don't you agree? If you were to seek this type of love, would it make your marriage stronger? Would your friendships be different? Would your parenting be taken to a new level? You know the answer to the question is a resounding YES!

Now, go back to that list and think about your past week. How have you not been patient? How have you not displayed a heart of kindness in your love? And go through each of them and repent of your lack of love. Then turn the other way and start loving like Christ loved. After all, that's what this list is really about. It is a description of what Jesus did for us. Or maybe I should say, does for us. He is patient. He is kind. He is not arrogant or rude. He rejoices with the truth.

May we catch of glimpse of His love for us and then allow it to be redirected toward those we say we love. All to His glory and honor.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Puritans on Unity

I have been really busy today thinking and writing for our annual report at Cornerstone Bible Church. While I have been doing this, I have been giving some thought to the unity of the local body of Christ. I took some time and turned to a great little resource called, A Puritan Golden Treasury, which is a collection of Puritan quotes. I was impacted by a few of these quotes and so I thought I would share them late in the day today. Enjoy.
"Ah, were their souls fully assured that God had loved them freely, and received them graciously, and justified them perfectly, and pardoned them absolutely, and would glorify them everlastingly, they could not but love where God loves, and own where God owns, and embrace where God embraces, and be one with every one that is one with Jesus." ~ Thomas Brooks 
"There is but one God, and they that serve Him should be one. There is nothing that would render the true religion more lovely, or make more proselytes to it, than to see the professors of it tied together with the heart-strings of love." ~ Thomas Watson 
"I do verily believe that when God shall accomplish it (unity), it will be the effect of love, and not the cause of love. It will proceed from love, before it brings forth love." ~ John Owen

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Morning After: Our Invitation

I tried to tackle a monster topic yesterday. Church membership. In my experience, there are about three different groups of people when it comes to church membership. Let me say at the very beginning, I love each of these groups. I have probably been in each of these groups at some point in my life. My prayer is that my words were edifying and not discouraging, whichever group a person might find themselves in.

What are the groups? First, there are those that have no problems joining a church. Maybe they are already members or they are new to the church and will quickly pursue membership. Then there are those who need to have every question answered before they join. I applaud them. I think you should have as many questions answered before you join anything, especially a church (although, I will say, at some level this can become an excuse for you might not ever get every question answered). 

The last group are the skeptics. They either do not feel like they have to sign on some dotted line to join, or simply, they just do not see the need to become a member. This is the hardest group to talk to for many reasons. But the one that seems most difficult to crack is that they tend to listen to any message with a filtered grid, having already made up their mind on the issue of membership. They see no need for it. They would even say that since the Bible does not say we should become members, it is unbiblical to join a church.

As you might be able to tell, this can be a difficult subject. At the most basic level, I just do not get it. You see, most of the skeptics that I have talked to in the past, are people who are deeply committed to the church. They are serving. They are engaging. They just do not feel like they should have to sign their name to prove they are committed. They say their actions speak for themselves. And I agree at many levels. We need more of them in our churches. But I just keep coming back to this quote by John Piper:
"If you want to say, 'OK, I believe the New Testament says, 'Be a part of a community, give yourself to ministering there and receiving ministry there, and advancing the cause of the gospel there, and upholding the name of Jesus there, and doing mission there,' and I'm part of that,' then to resist putting your name on the line for that is probably not a biblical conviction. It's probably an American, independent, give-me-elbow-room, don't-get-in-my-face-too-often conviction, which I don't think is biblical."
I just do not fully grasp why those who are so engaged and love the church, would resist making their commitment to the church formal and vocal. Could someone please help me?

One of my main points in this message is that membership is someone announcing "I want to be shepherded." That is why I said it is our invitation. We would long for someone to announce to us that they want us to shepherd them. They want to formally engage with us and make their intentions clear that they are committed to us and want us to commit to them.

I do think the principle of church membership is biblical. You will need to listen to the message HERE in order to get the entire argument, or download my notes HERE. I also acknowledge that while it is a biblical principle, the way we do it is a cultural phenomenon. I do not think that people in the city of Thessalonica signed on the dotted line to be part of that church. But they also had no options. If they were Christians in Thessalonica, they were part of that church. Period. When we have several "Christian" churches in an area, it becomes necessary to clarify.

In the end, I think the main reason why people do not become members is that church leaders do not take church membership seriously. They water it down to mean almost nothing. If a church is going to say that membership matters, then the leaders had better be willing to back it up to actually mean something. I hope with grace and mercy, that would be the direction we move towards as a church.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Human Trafficking at the Super Bowl

Justin Holcomb, who is the author of Rid of My Disgrace, has written a very interesting, yet disturbing article that was posted on the Resurgence blog the other day called "Sex-Trafficking at the Super Bowl." I have to be honest, this is not something I have given much thought about. I guess, not many people do and that's the problem. Holcomb says,
"On February 5, 2012, over 100 million people will watch Super Bowl XLVI. Few of them will know about the horrific crimes that will be committed during and around the event in Indianapolis. 
The Super Bowl is the most-watched program on TV every year. But many people don't know about its dark underside: the Super Bowl, like other large sporting events, is a magnet for sex trafficking and child prostitution. It is possibly the largest sex trafficking event in the US. As more than 100,000 football fans descend on Indianapolis, sex traffickers and pimps will also arrive in droves to take advantage of the demand. 
Large sporting events like the Super Bowl are prime targets for sex traffickers because of the high demand generated by thousands of men pouring into an areas for a weekend of fun. The 2010 Super Bowl saw an estimated 10,000 sex workers brought into Miami. Despite efforts to crack down on sex trafficking at the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, there was still a tremendous number of women and children sexually exploited. in the past, attempted crackdowns by law enforcement have misfired by treating prostitutes as criminals to be locked up rather than victims to be rescued."
I would highly recommend you read the rest of the article, particularly where he suggests things we can do to fight against this sort of thing. As I read that and as I am writing this, I am finding it easy to be heartbroken. But easy to move onto other things. For some reason, that just doesn't sit well with me. I just can't help but think of my daughter and what I would want someone to do for her if she was exploited like that. 

I think we have to do something . . . don't you?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Are You Dating the Church?

I have spent some time this week reading Joshua Harris' book, Stop Dating the Church (It has recently been republished under the name, Why Church Matters). It is a very interesting book with a very interesting concept. Are you a church dater? How does he describe that?
"Can you spot what I'm calling a church-dater? Here's a quick profile. Do you see one or more of these characteristics in yourself? 
First, our attitude toward church tends to be me-centered. We go for what we can get--social interaction, programs, or activities. The driving question is, 'What can church do for me?' 
A second sign of a church-dater is being independent. We go to church because that's what Christians are supposed to do--but we're careful to avoid getting involved too much, especially with people. We don't pay much attention to God's larger purpose for us as a vital part in a specific church family. So we go through the motions without really investing ourselves. 
Most essentially, a church-dater tends to be critical. We are short on allegiance and quick to find fault in our church. We treat church with a consumer mentality--looking for the best product for the price of our Sunday morning. As a result, we're fickle and not invested for the long-term, like a lover with a wandering eye, always on the hunt for something better." (16-7)
What do you think of that description? 

The Three Little Pigs by John Branyan

I found this to be a very funny indictment upon our American culture. How about you?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Some Initial Thoughts on Church Membership

For the past several months, I have been trying to think through the issue of church membership. As I have been doing this, I have had my eye on different organizations that we choose to join. A few weeks ago, my wife and I spent some time walking through Costco. What we found out is that not just anyone can get into Costco. You have to be a member. We were able to walk through one time with a guest pass (although you can't purchase anything). We still wanted to do this to check out whether it would be a good deal. We have heard so many things about it and wanted to see if it is as amazing as what people are telling us. I will tell you, it was pretty cool. I just know I could spend a whole lot of money in that place, all under the banner of "saving money." 

As I have thought about it, the reason we join places like Costco is because it offers benefits to us. The entire motivation for memberships are that they bring something to us. We join Netflix so we can watch movies at our convenience. We join the local country club so we can play golf at our convenience. We join Costco because they provide food and goods at wholesale prices.

Is this the type of thinking we should have in thinking about joining a church? Stay tuned for my thoughts on that question . . .

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cornerstone Questions: The Ten Commandments & The Sabbath

I have been receiving an enormous amount of questions over the past several weeks about the Bible and the Christian life from people inside and outside of our church. I have been in process of answering them, but have recently realized it is going to take forever to get to all of these questions. So I have brought in some help.

I asked a friend of mine from college, Bryan Hodge, to help me answer some of these questions over the next couple of weeks or months. Bryan and I were friends at Moody Bible Institute and then were roommates after we graduated. From the time that we met, I was in awe of his knowledge of the Scriptures. If you are looking for some really thoughtful articles on theology and faith, I would highly suggest that you check out his blog, Theological Sushi. It will make you think more deeply about life.

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Matthew 22:37-40, I've heard that this Scripture is kind of a summary of the 10 Commandments in that they express love towards God and love towards your neighbor. Why was the Sabbath included as part of the 10 Commandments? Or maybe what is its significance and how is it relevant today? To which half does it belong? Love towards God or love towards neighbor?

The Sabbath law was the law that commanded the Israelites to do no work on the seventh day of the week, i.e., Saturday. The word “sabbath” is derived from the Hebrew Å¡abbat, which literally means “seventh,” but is tied to the idea of rest. The punishment for not obeying the Sabbath was stoning, so we see that God was very concerned about the Israelites obeying it.

This concern was rooted in what the Sabbath conveyed. We first see the Sabbath being observed by God in the creation account of Genesis 2:2–3, which gives us the meaning of the Sabbath event. In creation, God overcomes the chaos of a humanless world by making the world a place that can be inhabited by humans and is supportive of human life. He then rests, which in the ancient Near Eastern world conveyed that He has complete control over all adverse forces (whether natural or supernatural). The rest, then, signifies His sovereignty.

The Sabbath is then placed as an observance of the Israelites, once God has delivered them from Egypt (i.e., the creation of the nation of Israel), which is another major creation event displaying God’s sovereignty over chaotic forces (i.e., the Egyptians and their demonic gods) in order that Israel might always convey the idea that God is sovereign over them. To obey the Sabbath, then, was to convey that YHWH is God and King over Israel, as He has everything under control, including their well being and holiness (Exod 31:13–17). To disobey the Sabbath law was to convey the exact opposite: that God is not in control, He is not the sovereign king, other forces are greater, and hence, we must work to overcome them ourselves each and every day, including the Sabbath (i.e., we need to work on this day like every other nation, rather than be distinct in our practice of it). Hence, the man who is found picking up sticks on the Sabbath is executed for it, as his actions are both apostate toward God and treasonous to the people of Israel. Instead, the Sabbath is practiced by Israelites as a way for them to humble themselves, rather than thinking they can control their situations themselves, and trust in God (Lev 16:31).

Now, having established what the Sabbath is, we need to ask how it is relevant for us, and whether we should observe it too. It’s important first to note, however, that Israelites were to stay in their tents, in their own homes, during the Sabbath. It wasn’t a time to gather in the assembly, so people who make the argument that we should meet on Saturday instead of Sunday are not paying attention to what is being said. This may be a time of family gathering, but not the gathering of the assembly. There are exceptions to this, such as the high Sabbath days, which do not always fall on Saturdays, but are the equivalent to a religious holiday. For the priests, the Sabbath signified the time to change the temple watch, another act of faith that God would keep His sanctuary and the community safe even in between watches. The Sabbath began from what we would consider Friday evening and ended Saturday evening (Lev 23:32).

One thing we need to remember is that this is an everlasting covenant for the Israelites (Lev 24:8). The same is said of the Aaronic priesthood (v. 5). So we are speaking about something specifically given to Israel. For Christians, our duty now is to understand whether we are to adopt this law into new covenant practice, or simply adopt the principle of the Sabbath into our thinking, with the external forms of applying the principle treated by the individual as an exercise of each Christian or Christian community’s freedom in Christ. Paul’s answer seems to be that this is left to our own discretion and is a part of our freedom in Christ from law (Rom 14:4–12). Notice in this passage that Paul mentions that some choose to see every day the same, but all, whether they observe some days as higher than others, seek to honor Christ as Lord and acknowledge His sovereignty over them. 

This is the principle that Christians must apply from the law, but the actual law itself is never repeated in the New Testament along with the other commandments that are continually repeated for us, precisely, because we are not under law, but under grace. Hence, we are free to seek the Lord through the principles of something like the Sabbath without needing to fulfill some external law or practice in order to do it. As Christians, Paul says, all of us are seeking to receive Christ as Lord over our lives more and more, regardless of the amoral created things (e.g., holy days, types of food and drink, etc.) through which we choose to express that. The New Testament is much more concerned that we all express His lordship over us through obedience to His commands to love God and one another, as that is the theology of the law that then produces the morality that is found in the law. Paul’s point is that this desire to lift Christ up and love God and others does not automatically produce an observance of a particular day, however, as that is a mere Old Testament picture for what our life in eternity will be like (i.e., complete peace and no concern that evil will overtake our houses, as we trust completely in God as sovereign over all things).

Hence, all of the commandments are listed in the New Testament except the Sabbath, because it is the Sabbath principle, not the external observance of a particular day, that is proclaimed in the very message of the gospel and throughout the whole counsel of God, that says God is sovereign, He has overcome chaos through Jesus Christ our Lord, and He has done so to make us a holy people for Himself. Our actual Sabbath rest will be when we enter His presence (Heb 3:16–4:11). Hence, let us trust in Him as our sovereign in all that we do, whether we choose to convey that on a particular day or celebrate it through some ceremony every day. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s; and that is the eternal principle of the Sabbath that we are to remember, as His people, for all time. In remembering this, we love God and neighbor, as every action speaks to our exaltation of God over chaos, and proclaims the hope of His peace to all who would enter it.