Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Fourth Fisherman by Joe Kissack

Over the past year, I have tried to expand my reading genre with a variety of types of books. I have added some fiction, spiritual growth, and biographies to my normal theology and Christian living books. One book that somewhat falls into the biography (or autobiography) category is The Fourth Fisherman by Joe Kissack. It is the story of Kissack's life, told by himself, interwoven with the story of the three Mexican fishermen who drifted through the Pacific Ocean for more than nine months. How do the two relate?

Kissack had it all. He had risen to the top of the corporate latter. But he admits that he was lost. Under so much pressure to continue to perform, he started to self medicate with alcohol and drugs. Eventually, the life of cards that he had created came crashing down. He was lost. He was an image of the man that he said that he was. It was during this time that he found faith in God.

The first half of the book is evenly divided between his story and the story of the fishermen who drifted out to sea. They too were lost. As the story is told, they survived on rain water, turtle blood, fish, and the Bible. Well, at least one of the fisherman was committed to the Bible. His faith kept him going. And it seems as though it became contagious as the others expressed faith as well.

The second half of the book is Kissack's story of feeling called to pursue the fishermen and tell their story. He traveled to Mexico and back several times trying to gain their trust and eventually gaining an exclusive deal with them to tell their story. His message throughout the ordeal was that he felt just like them. He was lost as they were lost and his survival only came about through faith.

The book is fairly well written. It moves at a quick pace. I found myself wanting to find out what was happening, more in the life of the fishermen than in Kissack's life. I found their story more intriguing, and wish it would have been told in more depth. But this book is ultimately not about them. It is about Joe. It is about how Joe was at the top, came crashing down, and is starting the climb again. And it is all because of faith.

This book represents a segment of books out there that have to do with faith. But what I found very lacking in this book is "faith in what?" Faith in God is so vague. We are told in James that even the demons believe in God (2:19). Saying that their faith in God was what got them through their trying times does not do much for me. Even the salvation experience that Kissack tells leaves me wanting more. He went to bed wanting to die and had an experience in the middle of the night when he woke up in the middle of the night soaking wet with a peace he had never before experienced. He woke his wife and said, "I think...God has just come into my life" (80). He goes on to describe it:
"I didn't fully understand exactly what happened that night. Even today, I don't know the mystery of it, but here's what I think: In the simplest of terms, when I formed the thought, Please just let me die, I was giving up my tight, desperate hold on my life. I had surrendered the life I had been barely living, not in exchange for another kind of life, but just because I was simply out of options. That night, I was free-falling like a jet fighter in a death spiral...and God stretched out His big supernatural safety net and caught me" (81).
No mention of the cross of Jesus Christ. No mention of faith alone in Jesus as his substitute. No mention of the wrath of God being satisfied. No mention of repentance of sin. Nothing. Just, "I think God came into my life." Now, I am not saying those things didn't happen. They might have. But why not mention them if they did? Why is there a lot of talk of faith, but no mention of Jesus in this book (actually, I can only remember one mention of Jesus, but not in the context of salvation by faith alone through Him).

It is ironic at the same time I am reading Christless Christianity by Michael Horton who picks up on Christian Smiths view that the religion of our day is Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism. I just couldn't help but think of that as I read this book. It is a good story, but I have no hope with what was written that Jesus is the redeemer that rescued Kissack from the guilt and power of his sin. I pray it is true, but you cannot get that from this book. And neither can you from the faith of the fishermen. No mention of the gospel at all. Just faith.

If you want a video introduction to the book, the publisher offers this trailer.

I received a free copy of The Fourth Fisherman by Joe Kissack from Waterbrook Press for review.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Celebrating 14 Years

Fourteen years ago today, Monique and I were married. On one hand, it is hard to believe that it has been that long. But on the other hand, it has passed by very quickly. I still remember May 30, 1998. I remember it being a hot day in the suburbs of Chicago. I remember that something happened to the air conditioners at the church that made them not work. It didn't bother Monique and I as we had floor fans pointed right at both of us during the service. But I'm surprised that nobody else fainted. I remember how beautiful Monique looked the first time I saw her in that classroom before the service. I remember playing video games in the groomsman room before the service. I remember the huge crowd that showed up and the hooping and hollering that took place by a bunch of the students as we were pronounced husband and wife. And I do remember the very short kiss to seal it (I wasn't much into public affection at the time, it was a fairly short peck). But most of all, I knew that day was going to be a game changer in my life.

As we were pursuing marriage, we both knew that this was a one and done moment. We were committing for life. To death do us part. I like to tell people today that there are only two options in marriage: be happy and be married or be unhappy and be married. But even in that statement (which I believe is true), I probably do not bring out the full meaning of marriage. I know I did not know it 14 years ago, and probably have only started to grasp it, but marriage is not about making me happy. It is about teaching me to give of myself fully and completely to Monique. Not giving so I get. But giving because I am called to give. That is easier on paper than it is in practice. Today I know better than I did back then, but marriage is about my holiness more than my happiness.

One of the books that I have often referenced when it comes to marriage is Each for the Other by Bryan Chapell. If you have gone through any marriage counseling with me, I probably made you read this book. I would highly recommend it. It is a book that articulates my calling as a husband is to fully, 100% give myself to my wife without expecting anything in return. I am called to love her as Christ loved the church, not expecting anything in return. I am called to sacrifice and give up of my life for her in all cases. I am called to do this regardless of whether she reciprocates. And she is called to submit to me as to the Lord. The wife is called to give of herself to her husband as if she is giving of herself to Jesus. Not expecting anything in return. Even if he does not reciprocate. And as both partners do that, not expecting anything in return, marriage works.

I so love this thought. Well, to be honest, my heart loves the thought of Monique fully giving herself to me not expecting anything in return. The other side, my side, well, that's the hard one. Fourteen years in and I realize how selfish I can be in this equation. My sinful heart longs to do things so that she will respond. It doesn't want to do things regardless of whether she responds. I guess that is why this marriage thing is about producing holiness in my life. It forces me to deal with my heart. And my guess is that in your marriage, you are forced to deal with your heart (or at least you should).

I cannot believe it has been 14 years. I cannot wait to see where God will have us in another 14 years. I pray that I will be closer to Monique. I suppose I will. I hope I will. But more than that, I hope and pray that I will be closer to Jesus through my relationship with her.

How about you in your marriage?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Church Lessons From The Soccer Pitch

I love soccer. My kids, especially my oldest son, has grown up loving it as well. His soccer season ended this past week, and it has been a hard one for him. There have been some coaching issues that has frustrated him. There has been some lying and deceiving by adults. But at the end of the day, he just wants to walk onto the pitch (that's the official term for the field) and play his position. He wants to do what he does best. He wants to control the ball, dribble, shoot when there's an opportunity, and pass the ball.

This season for him has made me think a lot about the church. One of the problems his team has had is bunching up. This is usually a problem in the lower grades, where everyone wants to go to the ball at the same time. Teammates try to steal the ball from their own teammates. If you have ever watched kindergarten soccer, you know what I am talking about. The problem is that when this sort of thing happens, the team is not successful. Why? Because each of those kids were not designed to play the same position. There are different responsibilities that are needed on the pitch for the game to be played effectively.

Instead of bunching together, the best soccer is played when the players spread out and stay in their positions. Of course, there are times when someone will overlap or slide over to help. But for the most part, a player is responsible for their section of the field.

I have found that the church is not much different.  Each person in the church has been uniquely gifted by the Lord to serve the church. Peter says "as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Pet. 4:10). Paul says that the body of Christ is composed of many members that do not have the same function (Rom. 12:4). Elsewhere, Paul says that the church is not composed of one member, but many (1 Cor. 12:14). This is like saying, not everyone is a forward, there are some defenders.

What does this all mean? Play your part. Play your position. If God has created you to be a servant, then be the best servant you can be. If God has gifted you to be a giver, then give out of His grace. If God has made you to teach, then be the best teacher you can be. But don't bunch up. Spread out and play your position, it will be easier to score and you won't get so tired. But above all, rejoice in your position.
"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another." (1 Cor. 12:21-25)
So what if God has created you to be left fullback instead of center forward. That position is crucial to the church. Rejoice in it! Live it!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Morning After: One Incredible Prayer (1 Kings 8:12-53)

I jumped back into my series on King Solomon yesterday as we looked at his prayer of dedication that is found in 1 Kings 8. It was a really good study for me for several reasons. Mainly, our church is just about finished with our building project. The first building project for Cornerstone Bible Church. I was intrigued to study the heart of the man who prayed. In this prayer, Solomon displayed several heart attitudes that appear to be important in prayer.

Heart Attitude #1: Reverence
Solomon began his prayer with a few references toward God that show that he knew who God really was. He said, "O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath" (8:23). He said, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built" (8:27). Solomon started his prayer with a heart that God was God and he was not. God is unique and unlike any other god.

And we must not rip this prayer from its context. Solomon is praying in front of the temple, the grandest building around. He had just witnessed God descend in a thick cloud into the temple. Everything about that moment was glorious. It was something that not even Steven Spielberg or George Lucas could replicate in a movie. I doubt there were any people there that had a nonchalant attitude toward God at this moment in time.

Great prayers are born out of a heart that has a great awareness of the greatness of God. A shallow view of God will always produce shallow prayers. If you find yourself praying shallow prayers, you might do well to grab your Bible and study the nature of God. Study His omnipotence. Study His Sovereignty. Studying the character of God will change the way you pray.

Heart Attitude #2: Humility
Reverence naturally leads to humility. When someone has a firm grasp that God is on the throne and is the ruler, that naturally leads to an understanding that they are not. The greatness of God is seen by Solomon mostly in the fact that God is a keeper of His Word. What He promises He fulfills. But that didn't stop Solomon from praying that God would continue to keep His Word. Even though God proves Himself to be faithful, Solomon continued to pray that God would be faithful.

But the heart of his humility is found in vs. 28-30, when in three verses, he calls himself God's servant four times. He is in not in any position to demand anything from God, but he is in the position of begging God for his mercy and forgiveness and grace. God is his master and he is God's servant. Reverence and humility intersect at the end of Isaiah's book:
"Thus says the Lord: 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.'" (Isaiah 66:1-2)
Heart Attitude #3: Sincerity
The rest of his prayer in chapter 8 is given to seven real examples of things that he thought might happen. He is blunt, honest, truthful. He does not hide behind any facade, he is real with God. He figures that God already knows what is going on in the heart of mankind. What does he pray for?

He prays for Justice (vs. 31-32)
He prays for Rescue (vs. 33-34)
He prays for Provision (vs. 35-36)
He prays for Deliverance (vs. 37-40)
He prays for Others (vs. 41-43)
He prays for Victory (vs. 44-45)
He prays for Forgiveness (vs. 46-51)

If you want to hear how I work each of these out, check out my NOTES or you can listen to the sermon HERE.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Video Sunday: Jesus Is Our Advocate by Matt Chandler

For the Christian, Matt Chandler shares a very helpful illustration towards the end of this short video that might help as you think about Jesus being your advocate, not your adversary.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Just Like You by Lecrae

I was first introduced to the music of Lecrae by a friend of mine who happens to be about the whitest guy I know. He loves it. And I have come to love much of his music. While this song has been out for a long time, I just happened to see the video the other day. In this song, he speaks about the example that he was looking for when he grew up, but never found. Well, that is until he met Jesus. I think he would say that even the best examples on this earth are going to fail, but Jesus never will. Men, we should not take that as an excuse for not showing Jesus to those around us. Let us model Jesus so that those around us would want to follow us as we follow Christ. Even if you don't like this style of music, I would encourage you to watch this video.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Prayer For J.T. On His Birthday

My youngest son, JT, turns 10 years old today. Where has the time with him gone? When I first started blogging in 2010, I wrote a short summary of the things I loved about each of my kids and my wife. The things I wrote about JT remain even more true today. I love the young man that he is turning out to be. He is gentle and sensitive. His teacher continually tells us how quick he is to help anyone he can at school. He is growing to be a leader. I cannot wait to see what God is going to do with his life. 

As I was thinking about him this morning, I pulled out my copy of The Valley of Vision, a collection of puritan prayers. As I read through a few of them, there was one that I prayed for JT. It is entitled "Christlikeness." I changed the pronouns to be in the 3rd person as I prayed for JT. I hope you would pray this for your children as well. (I have also changed some of the old English to make it more readable). 

Father of Jesus,
Without Your light within no outward light can profit;
Give JT the saving lamp of Your Spirit that he may see You,
              the God of his salvation, the delight of his soul,
              rejoicing over him in love.
I commend his heart to Your watchful care,
              for I knows its treachery and power;
Guard its every portal from the wily enemy,
Give him quick discernment of the enemy's deadly arts,
Help him to recognize his bold disguise as an angel of light,
              and bid him be gone.
May his words and works allure others to the highest walks
              of faith and love!
May the lazy be quickened to greater diligence by his example!
May the worldly be won to delight in acquaintance with You!
May the timid and irresolute be warned of coming doom
              by his zeal for Jesus!
Cause him to be a mirror of Your grace,
              to show others the joy of Your service,
May his lips be well-tuned cymbals sounding thy praise,
Let a halo of heavenly-mindedness sparkle around him
              and a lamp of kindness sunbeam his path.
Teach him the happy art of attending to things temporal
              with a mind intent on things eternal.
Send him forth to have compassion on the ignorant and miserable.
Help him to walk as Jesus walked,
              his only Savior and perfect model,
              his mind be like Christ's,
              his meekness to be as Christ's.
Let his happy place be among the poor in spirit,
              his delight the gentle ranks of the meek.
              Let him always esteem others better than himself,

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cornerstone Questions: What Is The Difference Between Milk & Meat?

Over the past several months, I have tried to deal with several questions I receive at church on a regular basis. I figured that if people at church have the question, then someone else might as well. I have answered questions that have to do with what happens when you die; why Jesus is called the Everlasting Father; The Ten Commandments and Sabbath issues; and why there are only 66 books of the Bible. But today's question is certainly the most unique question so far. Actually, it was one of the earliest questions I received. I feel bad that it has taken this long to answer it. But I have really had to chew and think about it for some time. But here goes . . .

Question: What is the difference between the 'milk of the Word' and the 'meat of the Word? How do you know if and when you are eating the 'meat of the Word'? In a typical sermon, would there be both 'milk and meat'; kind of like a dinner?

The terms "milk" and "meat" have become associated with the teaching of God's Word. At least on some level. And there are a few passages in the Bible that actually use these terms to describe it. Let me begin then by looking at these verses to hopefully, gain some understanding of these terms. One of the most common passages is found in 1 Peter 2:2-3, where Peter wrote to encourage people to keep growing in their faith.
"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation--if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2:2-3)
Peter is saying that the Christian should be like that newborn baby who longs for milk to eat. The use of the term "milk" here is simply a reference to the Word of God (the context makes that abundantly clear in 1:22-25). This is speaking more to the heart of the individual that longs for God's Word to be spoken into their life. Do you love reading the Bible? Do you love listening to preaching? Do you love your personal Bible study? And are the Scriptures providing your daily nourishment for your spiritual life?Now, in this passage, there is no comparison between "milk" or "meat." We are just told that pursuing the "milk" of the word of God is a good thing. Longing for God to speak into our lives is a good thing. It is the natural thing for the Christian. 

With that said, there are two passages that set the terms "milk" and "meat." in contrast.
"But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behave only in a human way?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) 
"About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:11-14)
One basic rule of biblical interpretation is helpful at this point. We must guard against assuming "milk" in these passages is the same thing as "milk" in the First Peter passage. Generally speaking, we must interpret words based upon their contexts. For instance, in 1 Peter 2, the word "milk" is generally seen as a good thing. But in these two passages, "milk" is thought of as not a good thing. Or at least it is a shallow thing in comparison to "meat." It is the eating of "meat" that shows the maturity of the Christian. It appears that "milk" is used to refer to the elementary doctrines of the Christian faith, and "meat" as a reference to the more advanced teachings of the Christian faith.

What does that mean? Is "milk" simply that Jesus died on the cross for sins and "meat" is the doctrine of election? I don't think so. As I have been thinking about this for some time now, I have come up with a few thoughts that have helped me wrestle through this question.

First, The Difference Has To Be More Than Information. The difference between "meat" and "milk" is not simply the quoting of Greek or Hebrew. It is not simply that you learned some new information about the size of the temple or King Solomon's house. It is not that you now understand the people of the genealogy list in Matthew or Luke. It has to be more than that.

Second, The Difference Seems To Determine Spiritual Growth. In the First Peter passage, it is apparent that in order to grow, the person needs the milk of the word. In First Corinthians and Hebrews, the people are chastised for only desiring milk. It is that they have stopped growing. They are called carnal. They are called unskilled in discernment. The point seems to be that a baby should crave milk. That is beautiful and amazing. But a 20 year old should not still crave only milk. The more someone grows, the more they should desire deeper and more understanding of God's truth.

So, what is milk and meat? We are never overtly told, but if I were to guess, I would say they are the same things. Meat is simply deeper understandings that lead to greater levels of obedience of the truth. John MacArthur puts it like this:
"There is no difference at all between the truths of a spiritual milk diet and a spiritual solid food diet, except in detail and depth. All doctrine may have both milk and meat elements. It is not that we are to be continually learning new doctrines in order to grow, but that we are to be learning more about the doctrines we have known for years. A new Christian might explain the atonement, for example, as 'Christ died for my sins.' A long-time student of the Word, on the other hand, would go into such things as regeneration, justification, substitution, and propitiation. One explanation would not be truer than the other; but the first would be milk and the second, solid food" (John MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, 71-72).
Then to take that thought to the rest of the question above: how do we know if and when you are eating the 'meat of the Word?' Once again, I would ask questions like, "Are you studying the same things you studied several years ago? Are you growing? Are you growing in your obedience to Christ? Are you walking in the fruit of the Spirit?" I ask the growing questions because it seems as though that is one evidence of the meat question. We grow because of meat, not just milk.

The last part of the original question asked if a typical sermon would be comprised of both. And my answer is YES. It should be the job of the preacher to share the elementary truths, but also to drive home deeper and deeper levels of the gospel into the hearts of the listeners. This is one reason why I love to connect our small groups with the sermon. I want to force people to not study another thing, but to dive deeper into the truth that they have already heard.

I know that was a long answer, but I hope it helps answer the question about milk and meat. I would love your feedback.

How Would You Answer The Meat and Milk Question?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Preach by Mark Dever & Greg Gilbert

I love preaching. I love to preach and I love to listen to men preach. One of the men that I have come to really respect on the topic of preaching (or anything else relating to the church) is Mark Dever. Along with his friend, Greg Gilbert, they have put in print their view of preaching in a great book called Preach: Theology Meets Practice. This might not end up being the definitive book ever written on the subject of preaching. And I don't think they think it is. They do express at the beginning of the book three reasons why they think a book like this would be useful:
"First, we can see rising in the evangelical church a loss of confidence in the preached Word of God . . . Second, we see throughout much of the evangelical church a lack of confidence in biblical exposition . . . Third, we want to work against the bad name that even some expositional preachers have given to expositional preaching" (3-5).
The outcome of their efforts is a book that introduces the subject of preaching in an easy, simple to understand, manner. The book is divided into three parts: Theology, Practice, Sermon Transcripts.

In this section, they argue that we preach because God speaks. This is the foundation of our preaching. And the words that God speaks is really powerful. They go on to make this argument:
"If preaching is simply a way--one way among many--of ascertaining new knowledge about God and the Bible, then there are a myriad ways for a person to do that. Reading books, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and having conversations with other Christians all fill that bill. Similarly, if preaching is nothing more than one man doing a bit of public meditation on spiritual truths, then there are countless ways for people to get that benefit. Why not meditate on God's truth together, in a conversation, for instance?  
But if preaching really is the proclamation of God's life-giving, ex nihilo creating Word, then the stakes are raised considerably, and it's no longer a matter of preference whether we do it or not. It's literally a matter of life and death. The Bible presents the act of preaching as having just that sort of power and authority. It is the preached Word, it seems, which the Holy Spirit uses in a unique way to give life and ignite faith in a person's soul" (30-31).
From there, they argue that preaching should be expositional in nature. That doesn't mean to them that it must be word by word or text by text. But it does mean that God's Word is explained in an ordinary fashion. And that explanation of God's Word should be the focal point of the main worship service in the life of the church.

The second section of the book would not be helpful without the first. But once a person is convinced that preaching is central, then it is important to refine that skill. They begin by giving some advice on what to preach on. Their advice is to preach on the entire Bible, preach through books of the Bible, and to preach at different levels of the Bible (what they mean by that is sometimes to focus on the forest and sometimes to focus on tree). This was one thing that I learned from Dever when I attended The Weekender. He basically told us that pastors make picking something to preach too complicated. He has a system in place that helps him. He goes from different testaments and different genres of literature in a calculated manner. For instance, he will preach from OT Law and then to NT Gospels & Acts, then to OT Histories, then to Pauline Epistles, and so on.

The rest of this section was a helpful reminder. In the chapter on sermon preparation, I was convicted that I have been too reliant upon commentaries recently. I have a tendency to consult them before I have spent enough time in the text.

One other aspect of this section was how they encouraged preachers to have a good platform to have people help them review their sermons. They say doing this teaches people how "to give godly criticism, to receive godly criticism, to give godly encouragement, and to receive godly encouragement" (133).

Sermon Transcripts
In this last section, they illustrate how to give good sermon reviews. They give the full text of a two sermons (one by each of them) and show how they interact with each other as they are giving a review of their sermons. It was helpful to read their interaction to each other. And I see how this could be very helpful in the life of the church.

It does not matter if you want to preach, just started to preach, or are an experienced preacher, I think this book could be helpful to you. Pick it up, you never know what sort of jewel you might find that will help you become a better preacher.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Few Blogs I Follow

Since I started blogging, I have come to a greater appreciation of the writings of others blogs. There are thousands out there. Probably millions. What I have come to realize is how much work it takes to write good things each day. I know what they do in order to produce some really thoughtful material. There are some blogs that I check out every day and then some that I check out a few times a week. I wanted to share some of the blogs that I read and maybe you should as well.

Tim is one of the foremost Christian bloggers. He has several updates a day that are thoughtful, encouraging, and insightful. Much of what I have learned about blogging has come from watching and reading his blog. Some of the best parts of his blog are his book reviews. In addition, I like the giveaways that he does every Friday. I probably shouldn't mention that since if you try to win, it will make my opportunity less. But you should check it out.

This is a blog dedicated to putting people in touch with helpful quotes, books, and resources concerning the Christian life and thought from, well, the old guys. They classify them as dead guys. Some of the men that they continue to quote from are Jonathan Edwards, Herman Bavinck, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, Thomas Watson, and Jeremiah Burroughs. It is a blog that you might like to check out from time to time.

Rachelle Gardner
This is the blog of a literary agent, so it might not interest you. Since I have written a book and desire to write more books, I happen by this site a few times a week to see what is going on in the world of publications. There have been several things I have learned about the art of writing and publishing from her blog.

I could not include a list of blogs I follow without including my wife's blog. In September, 2010, she started reviewing all sorts of Christian literature in view of the gospel. She is not scared to take on some hot books on the market as well as digging into some Christian classics. Along with a friend, they are trying to create a place where parents can read a short review on books their kids are reading along with some talking points that will help bring the gospel out in their life.

There are so many other blogs that I read. Maybe I will share a few more in a later post.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Morning After: Careless Words

I took a week out of my series on the book of 1 Kings yesterday for several reasons. But the main one was that I had a crazy busy week and I just did not fully grasp the text of Scripture that I was planning on preaching. In addition, there were some things that happened late in the week in our life that moved me to think about the use of the words I use. There was a really horrible situation at my sons soccer game, where parents and coaches responded poorly to some calls by the refs. It was embarrassing and really sad. When I heard about that event, my mind was immediately brought to the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:36:
"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak."
On the day of judgment, every person will give an account for every careless word they speak. Think about that. Every careless word! When Jesus said every 'careless word', He meant any word that is unprofitable or any word that is just idle; any word that does not bring resolution to a given situation. The Scriptures are filled with warnings and admonitions to use caution with our words. For instance:
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)
But there is probably no section of Scripture that speaks to the issue of our words like the book of Proverbs. In this message, I tried to show how God stands in opposition to the wicked tongue (Prov. 6:16-19; 8:13; 12:22; 26:28). In addition, I tried to show the power of the words that we speak (Prov. 18:20-21;  11:9-11; 12:18; 15:1; 25:18). Finally, I tried to show the significance of our responsibility to control our words (Prov. 4:24; 10:19; 12:19).

I know that I will always struggle with my tongue. I will always struggle with saying the right things at the right times. But I also know, that God has saved me from speaking falsehoods. He has redeemed me from being controlled by my tongue. He is changing me from the inside out. And as He continually changes me from the inside out, my speech will see changes. I pray I continue to change.

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

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Video Sunday: God Hates & Loves Sinners by David Platt

David Platt talks about a time when he got in some trouble for a quote out of his book, Radical. What should we make of the common statement that God hates the sin, but loves the sinner? Is that true? Or is it that God hates the sinner? The answer just might surprise you. But please listen to the very end as he tells an illustration that will drive home his point. It is very powerful!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Still Praying For The Nations

Just about a month ago, I made a commitment to pray for evangelization of the nations. To be honest, there have been some days that I have really prayed and then others that I have just gone through the motions. But this week, as I have been studying Solomon's prayer in 1 Kings 8, I was convicted again for the need of praying for other peoples of the world. Solomon prays:
"Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel comes from a far country for your name's sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name." (1 Kings 8:41-43)
Here is Solomon, the King of Israel, God's chosen people, praying for other nations to come and repent before His God. Why? Because he wants all the peoples of the earth to know His name and fear Him.

I have continued to make my way through the 60 Day Prayer Experience with Operation World. Would you join with me in praying today for Malaysia? It is a country that has almost 28 million people and only 4.3% of the country is Evangelical Christian. The largest religion in Malaysia is Muslim. Please pray that the gospel would go forth and penetrate this country so that the people of this nation would know the name of Jesus and fear Him. Submit to Him. Be saved by Him.

This is a short video put out by Operation World to help lead in prayer for the people of Malaysia.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Basics Conference 2012, Day Three

Yesterday was the last day of the Basics Conference for pastors at Parkside Church. If you are a pastor, I would highly recommend that you attend this event next year. It is a great time of teaching. A great time of encouragement. A great time of worship. And it is a great time to be challenged.

The morning began with me going to another Logos training session that was put on by a friend that I went to Moody with, Bobby Moss. It was good to see him and to learn from him on how to use this incredible software that I have purchased. I feel like I have not even touched the surface of it and am thinking about attending one of the Camp Logos later this year.

Main Session - Q & A, All Speakers
Some of the best times at conferences like this is when they offer a Question and Answer time. This was no exception. Here is a list of most of the questions that were answered during this time.

Pastoral Prayers - One of the questions had to do with the pastoral prayers during the church service. Alistair Begg said that one of his mentors actually wrote out every one of his prayers and then categorized them afterward. His purpose in that was to ensure that there would be a variety of prayers prayed during the worship service. But he also stated that the best preparation for pastoral prayers in the preparation of the soul of the person who prays.

Church Discipline - Mark Dever answered a question about church discipline by saying that if you have never done it, don't go home and do it. He explained that there should be months if not years of instructing the congregation on the necessity of it. In addition, he said that if a church is sloppy on membership, discipline will also be sloppy.

Same-Sex Marriage - This was the question that everyone wanted to hear answered, and the one that took much of the time. Usually in Q&A times, each question has a short answer, but they took great length in answering this one. The main question was how to address this issue with your congregation. It might be helpful to separate the conversation at this point:
  • Alistair Begg - He noted that you communicate it with difficulty. He expressed that nobody has the right to reinvent marriage. After the conversation was passed around once, he did get more specific, especially about the biological nature of same-sex marriage. He said that he would share more things with a group of pastors than he would his church. In honor of him, because of that, I will not share what he shared.
  • Voddie Baucham - He said that he would not go out of his way to address it, but he would not shy away from the issue when it comes up in the preaching of God's Word. That is the advantage of preaching book by book. He did make one very helpful distinction. He said that we need to remember that the homosexual movement is the enemy (or at least they have made us the enemy), but that the individual persons who are homosexual are not. We need to love them and share Christ with them, not see them as an enemy.
  • Mark Dever - I was so glad to hear from him on this issue. Partly because of where he is located and partly because I knew he would have given this some very serious thoughts. He began by saying that we have a strong responsibility to be very clear on the issue. It is a sin. But it is a sin that can be repented of ("such were some of you, 1 Cor. 6). He said that sexual identity is now seen similar to ethnic identity, as something that cannot be changed. These are both in opposition to religious identity. One of the really helpful things he mentioned is that our culture has always been messed up. We cannot act as if our society is finally now corrupt. We have always had really sinful things in our culture. As well, we need not to think in terms of legal = moral and illegal = immoral. Or vise-versa. There are many immoral things that will never be illegal (for instance, pride). But when all is said and done, our job as pastors is to prepare our churches to think in terms of our country is not heaven. This is not our Best Life Now. And that we can still preach the gospel in prison, if it comes to that.
What Preacher Would You Want To Sit Under - This was a very unique question. All three men were asked if they could take a season and sit under any preacher's ministry, who would it be. Mark Dever began by saying Charles Spurgeon. Alistar Begg said that he would choose Thomas Watson or Charles Simeon (one reason was that Simeon was in his church for 54 years). Voddie Baucham said that he would pick Spurgeon or Edwards. But if he were to choose a contemporary, he would want to sit under Mark Dever's ministry.

After some time to reflect on this, I think I would choose Dever as well. From the time I have had to interact with him (which is very limited), there seems to be a real genuineness about this man. While some of the A-List speakers that you hear seem to bleed pride, he seems to exude true humility. Everything that he does is for a reason. He is very deliberate. And he has thought through the issues, but is willing to hear the other side of the arguments. I have really grown to appreciate him and his ministry.

Main Session: An Exposition for Expositors, pt. 2 by Alistair Begg
Begg finished off what he started on Monday afternoon by talking about the pastors duty to prayer and the word of God from Acts 6. He began by stating as fact, that too much pressure is placed upon some pastors by their congregations to do everything that it causes them to leave the ministry. When in reality, their main calling is to pray and preach the Word of God. One of the cures for this problem is to help everyone in the church to realize that if they are a Christian, they are involved in full-time Christian ministry. The real ministry is not some guy locked in his office for hours upon end or somebody who goes overseas to do what nobody really knows . . . the real ministry is people using their gifts and abilities everyday in the life of the church.

Prayer - He once again emphasized that the man of God must pray privately; for Himself and by himself. But then he also must pray corporately. He spent considerably less time on this point than the next one, partly I would guess, because it had been talked about at length over the few days.

Preaching - He admitted at first that the "word of God" in Acts 6 is not exclusive to preaching. It certainly includes more than that. But it does not include less that it. So he focused on preaching. I have heard Begg say this before, but he emphasized "teaching the Bible by teaching the Bible." What he means, of course, is that the source of any message by the pastor is the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone. Until we come to understand the "there and then" we should be hesitant to talk about the "here and now." That is helpful to remember. 

Then he gave a few helpful reminders to preachers. First, we should remember that believers and unbelievers will be in our services at the same time. So as best as we can, avoid assuming everyone understands the Christian lingo that we choose to use. Second, make sure that we distinguish between religion and the gospel. Third, declare simultaneously the justice of God and the love of God. Fourth, many won't be asking if it is true, they will be asking if it is relevant. As preachers, we must be showing them what it means and why it matters. Fifth, teach through books of the Bible.

There was so much more that he said, but I do not have time to articulate it all. In the end, he used a nautical illustration to state that Prayer and the Word of God are the two ballasts that keep the ship of the church afloat. We must use them. They work.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Basics Conference 2012, Day Two (ii)

Earlier today, I shared my thoughts from the morning sessions of Day 2 of the Basics Conference at Parkside Church. It was a long day and I had so much to say that I had to split it into two blog posts. This is what happened in the afternoon sessions.

Breakout Session: Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham
Let me begin by saying there were many things in this session that impacted me positively. But there was one thing that impacted me negatively (I will share towards the end).

Much of the information from this session was taken from his book, Family Shepherds. He expressed the need for men to take the leadership in the home rather urgently because of the cultural degeneration and the feminization of the family. He urged us to understand the need that men be assimilated, meaning, that we can no longer assume that men know what it means to be men. Church leaders must teach them, model for them, and mentor them.

The bulk of his time was spent explaining the four main components or areas that need to be addressed by men as family shepherds: Family Discipleship, Marriage Enrichment, Child Training, and Lifestyle Evaluations. I love the fact and really appreciated his call for men to step up and take leadership in their home. For men to lead their family in a time of family worship. For the men to take seriously their calling to wash their wives with the Word of God. For the men to teach and train their children in the ways of Christ. All of this is desperately lacking in the church today.

I was convicted that I have let some things slack in our family. We have set up some great plans that have now been placed on the back burner because of our busy schedule with soccer and baseball. Could it be that I have bought into a lie that those things are more important? Probably. It is very subtle. He said that if we can't make time in our schedule to take a meal with our family everyday, he thinks we are in sin. I'm not sure he has a verse for that, but he is probably right. I was convicted and plan to change some things up to do a bit better in this regard.

However, there were some negatives. The thing that concerned me the most is his stance on homeschooling. Let me be very clear as I do not want to communicate what I feel he communicated. I think it is the parent's choice to make the decision for each of their kids. I do not necessarily think that one option is better than the others (home, Christian, public). But what I feel like we shouldn't do is to make people feel like they are sinning if they choose an option differently than you. We send our kids to public school. That has been our decision we have made for several reasons. But that doesn't mean that we are better than those who have sent their kids to a Christian school or educate them at home. Trust me, we are very involved in their education.

Towards the beginning of the session, he made the point that it should be the role of the man in the family to ensure Christ-centered education. He made the point that it is better to redeem the countless hours a kid sits in school and we should teach from a christian perspective. I was okay with that. I might disagree to some extent, but I was okay with what he said. But then during the Q&A at the end, someone asked for him to explain his view on homeschooling a bit more. He very sarcastically said that those who send their kids to public school are allowing their kids to be socialized by the world. He said, "yes, I don't believe in socialization." And everyone laughs. Everyone applauds. So, you are saying that because my kids are in a public school, I do believe in socialization of my children? This is what I mean, he made everyone who was there that didn't home school feel about an inch tall. Or that is how I felt. I felt like I was sinning.

To make matters worse, he used, what I would say, was a very poor illustration. It was demeaning and frankly a straw man argument. The illustration he gave was of a 10 year old boy in his church that sought him out one day after church to talk to him about his uncle. The young child was concerned because his uncle looks at and says things that he shouldn't. His uncle is lazy and refuses to get a job. And then this 10-year old boy asked his pastor to pray for his uncle. I could have totally missed something, but in the context in which this story was shared, this kid was held up as an example of the maturity a 10-year old boy can have when he is home schooled. Great! Praise the Lord! I am glad that boy was sensitive to the things of God, but don't say that it is because he is home-schooled versus being placed in the public school. Why don't you just say that God has been gracious to him. And God is and has been gracious to many who are not home-schooled.

It is ironic that my wife just started reading Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public Schools. It is a book that stresses while Homeschooling or Christian schools can work for some families, the public school system can also work. They say, "when you nurture the life and power of Christ within your children, they are prepared for thoughtful engagement with the forces that surround them and are strengthened as they make choices to stand up for what is right. With God's help and these solid, biblical principles, your child can thrive in public schools!" I think I will read this book as soon as she is done. But please understand my heart in this as I do not want to communicate what I think Bauchman communicated. Our choice is not better than your choice. You are responsible for your children and will give an account for your children before God. If you choose to home school them, praise the Lord. I hope you take it seriously. If you choose to put them in Christian school, praise the Lord. I hope you take it seriously to be active in their education. And if you choose to place them in public school, praise the Lord. I hope you talk to them everyday about their education.

Main Session: The God Who Prays by Mark Dever
God prayed. That simply thought alone is enough to make me say that prayer is very important. Before Jesus goes to the cross, He takes time to pray very intentionally. There were four main questions that framed John 17 for Mark Dever in this sermon. As with the morning session, his reading of the text simply moved me. He was able to read the entire chapter in a way that he was out of the way and God was speaking. As I have thought about it, maybe his reading of the text was less about a technique and more about a prayerful man engaging the Scriptures. Here were his four points.

First, To Whom Did Jesus Pray? Jesus prayed to God. Specifically His Father. But as He prayed to the One He knew for all of eternity, there was no glimmer of casualness in His prayer. That might be a helpful lesson to each of us.

Second, For Whom Did Jesus Pray? Jesus began by praying for Himself in John 17:1-5. He shows that it is okay, and probably strategic, that you can pray for yourself. We should care for our own spiritual state. But then He also prayed for those the Father had given Him. Throughout most of the chapter, Jesus prays for "those He gave me out of the world." And He also prayed for those that will someday believe in Him through their message. That means, in John 17:20, that Jesus was praying for me!

I knew Dever would not go two messages in a row without talking about church membership. He made the point that if Jesus prayed for His people, how much more so should we pray for our people. He said that the most important book to him for his pastoral ministry is the Bible. His second most important book? The church membership directory at Capital Hill Baptist Church. He brought it with him, so he could pray for his people while he was gone. That was humbling and I realize I do not pray enough for those at Cornerstone. I pray out of emergency, not out of compassion.

Third, What Did Jesus Pray For? He prayed that He would be glorified. But then He prayed for the protection, sanctification, and unity of His followers. He knew that this world would be a dangerous place for Christians, so He prayed for their safety. He knew that truth was important for their sanctification, so He prayed they would be made holy in the truth. He knew that they would struggle over petty issues, so He prayed for their unity. Unity, in his prayer, was not at the watering down of doctrine, but at the full content of truth. Especially, in the true gospel!

Fourth, Why Did Jesus Pray? He prayed for the glory of God. He prayed for the salvation of sinners (which meant that He had to go to the cross). He ended the message by saying, "If you don't care for the glory of God, you will not pray."

It was a helpful message for me. I think I am often way to self-dependent and think I can take care of things by myself. But I need to pray more often and more fervently for the protection, sanctification, and unity of our church to the glory of God.

I went up to talk to Dever before the session. He had remembered that I was at a Weekender, but had forgot my name. We talked a bit and he asked if I would pray for him as he prepared to preach. After the message as I was walking out in the crowded hallway, I felt someone tap me on my shoulder and say, "Thad, are you going to pray for your people?" I turned around and it was Dever. I thought, "well, I am now!" But honestly, his message of God's Word impacted me that I hope will last for a long time.

Basics Conference 2012, Day Two (pt i)

Day two of the Basics Conference is the long day. It started at 8am and finished after 8pm (although we did have a few hours in the afternoon of free time that I spent at Panera Bread doing a little work). That means many things, but one is that to write about the entire day in one blog post would be really long. Because of that, I have split my take on it into two blog posts. This first one will be what took place in the morning before lunch. And then at 1pm today, I will post my thoughts on the afternoon and evening sessions.

The morning began with me spending some time trying to learn Logos Bible Software, that I purchased at the conference last year. I will spare the details, except to say that it has been a year and I still do not know how to use much of it. I found out from the instructor that my problem will not be solved in a one hour training session, but that I need to watch the tutorial videos that are provided with Logos. I think I will do that.

Main Session: The God Who Speaks by Mark Dever
Since I attended "The Weekender" I have come to really enjoy the ministry of Mark Dever. I was really looking forward to sit under his preaching. I was even more interested when I heard that he was going to preach on Ezekiel 1, a chapter that has some interesting twists and turns. His main point in the sermon was to try to answer the question as to why we preach as preachers. His answer from Ezekiel 1 was because behind us is a God who speaks.

One thing I was particularly struck by was his reading of the entire text of Ezekiel 1. I asked the question last week as to whether we should read large portions of Scripture that seem confusing. He did. And the way in which he read it was compelling. If you do not have time to listen to the sermon, at least jump online to listen to the first five minutes as he reads the text. His use of pauses and inflection drew me into this rather unique portion of Scripture.

He gave five things that we need to learn about God from this portion of the Bible.
  1. God Is Not Like Us - God is who He is, independent of us. He encouraged us to not make God into our image, but to realize the otherness of God. God is so different that Ezekiel had a hard time describing Him. He had to use the phrases "like this" to describe God. And when he finally heard God speak to him, he had to fall on his face before Him.
  2. God Is All-Powerful & All-Wise - the pictures of these unique creatures go to make a point about a God that knows and sees all. God is not limited in time or space. He looks into the future as easily as He looks into the past. What should our reaction of this be when we experience the presence of God in our life? It should be reverence and awe, not casualness.
  3. God Is Not Limited By Circumstances - This is what he said would be the main thought in this chapter. As a priest who had been exiled from Jerusalem and from the temple, Ezekiel would have been distraught. In losing their land, had they lost their God? The answer: NO! The point is that there is hope even in the worst situations of life.
  4. God Initiates - This vision doesn't come because Ezekiel is someone special or because of his rather unique holiness. All the wording goes to show that God is the One doing the work. The heavens were opened; the Word of the Lord came; the storm came; the creatures came; then there came a voice. God initiates, man responds.
  5. God Communicates - There was sight, then sound, and then speech. Verbal communication is essential for real relationships to exist. He made the point as a church that we are not trying to cultivate reverence to a mute God.
At the end of the sermon, Dever asked a great question that drove it home for me. And probably should for you as well. It doesn't matter whether you are a pastor or not. His question was this: What difference does it make if you believe these five points or not?" Just go through them. What difference does it make in your life whether you believe that God is not like us or not? What difference does it make in your life whether you believe that God is all-powerful & all-wise? What about whether you believe that God is not limited by circumstances? Or that God initiates or communicates? It Should Mean Everything! And I would say that it should change the way a pastor preaches and how listeners listen.

Main Session: The Shepherd Who Prays by Voddie Baucham
In his first session Baucham shared about the shepherd who preaches. In this one, he shared about the shepherd who prays. His main text was 2 Timothy 1:3 when Paul says that he prays for Timothy. Homiletically, I had a hard time following his main points. He shared several aspects of the shepherd that prays, but I didn't get how he organized them. So I will just give them in random. 

First, Our Dependence In Our Prayers. He made the point that praying shows that we are dependent. And praying for someone shows them that we cannot fix all their problems. He asked us not to wait till the end of our lives to teach our people that they need to be dependent on someone other than us. They need to be dependent upon God. God does not change, we do!

Second, Our Prayers Should Be An Expression Of Intimacy. Paul said that he prayed constantly, night and day as he remembered Timothy's tears. That means they had some very meaningful conversations. He knew the history of this young man. He knew his mother and grandmother. If it is not important to know the person, then we will not think it will be important to pray for those things in his life. The message of the book of 2 Timothy is Paul telling Timothy that he was about to be killed for preaching the gospel and when they do that, Timothy, preach the gospel. Paul knew that Timothy was timid. But he knew his spiritual heritage. That level of knowing his friend moved him into deeper levels of prayer.

Third, Our Prayers Should Be Christ-Centered Prayers. Praying in 'Jesus name' is not about just adding a tag at the end of our prayers. It is about praying according to His will and to His glory. It is about praying the heart of Christ over them.

Fourth, Our Prayers Should Be Made Public. He encouraged us to engage in more public pastoral prayers. For one thing, all of Paul's prayers in his letters were read publicly in the gathered worship service. For another, Jesus said that His Father's house would be a house of prayer. I was challenged to take my pastoral prayer time in our main worship service a bit more serious. Maybe even to think through what I am going to pray and why. I just need to be more deliberate in my public prayers.


That was the morning sessions, I will post my blog at 1pm on the afternoon and evening sessions. Today is the last day of the conference. If you want to stream the main sessions, you can find it HERE. This is today's schedule:

9:30 am - Q&A with Main Speakers
11:00 am - Main Session with Alistair Begg

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Basics Conference 2012, Day One

The Basics Conference for pastors began yesterday afternoon. Upon arriving, I was able to get registered with ease and then catch up with a few friends. After looking over the couple books they gave us (which I already have, anyone want a copy of THIS), I made my way to the room of the first break out session.

Breakout Session: On Being A Pastor by Alistair Begg
There were probably just over a hundred men or so in this session. Begg spent the first half of the session giving some well-informed advice for pastoral ministry and then the last half he opened up for questions. The advice he gave was very timely for me. He gave nine pitfalls that seem to come with the job of being a pastor.
  1. Prayerlessness - He was referring to the lack of prayer in our private lives. If we pray more in public than in private, there is probably something wrong.
  2. A Gap Between Life and Doctrine - Do we live what we say we believe? And even more worrisome is the widening of that gap the longer you are in pastoral ministry.
  3. Inflated Ego - He mentioned that a good wife and good colleagues can help with this.
  4. Despondency - This is the opposite of the last one. This is the guy who thinks that nothing is good about him. It is the Elijah syndrome, that he is the last righteous guy around doing it right. He made the point that often, fatigue can lead to this.
  5. Jealousy - Especially at pastors conferences. Jealousy at others gifts and abilities and opportunities.
  6. Laziness - He said that everyone is afraid of burn-out when they should be afraid of rust-out.
  7. Misplaced Affections - He mentioned it becomes easy to love the work and not the Lord of the work.
  8. Aimlessness - This is the drifting away from a real calling or purpose in ministry.
  9. Fads - Ideas will come and go.

It was helpful for me in several fronts. For one, I was really challenged to think about my prayer life. It is easy for me to simply define prayer as constant communion with my Father in an informal sense and then not take the time to have some formality with Him. The other one that I could see is an easy pitfall for me is an inflated ego. I need to constantly remember who I am and what God has called me to do. And that it is Him who does the work, not me. It's not about me, but Him. If that is true, then why should I ever be proud about anything I am able to accomplish?

Main Session: An Exposition for Expositors, pt. 1 by Alistair Begg
The theme of the conference is Acts 6:4, "We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." That is what Begg took as his task for the first session (and the second one on Wednesday morning). He began by making the point that there is nothing more important for the pastor than the prayerful feeding of the flock of God by the Word of God. He who does not feed the flock in the preaching and teaching of God's Word is NOT a pastor.

Acts 6:1 begins by saying, "In these days..." He spent considerable time showing what days these were. Starting in Acts 1, he begins to show the early history of the early church. They prayed. They were persecuted. They prayed some more. And amid all of that, they taught the truth of Jesus Christ. He made the point that at the beginning of the church, the Evil One tried to beat the early Christians through persecutions. But that seemed to make them stronger. Persecution lead to prayer which led to preaching which led to growth in the church.

If persecution wasn't going to work to stop the work, the next attempt by the Evil One was going to be distractions. Enter Acts 6 and the problem of being distracted by taking care of the widows and their need for food. The response by the leaders was clear and inflexible. Their main calling was to preach the truth of Jesus Christ. They were not demeaning in this as it was communicated to the widows. But nothing was going to allow them (and nothing should get in the way of the pastor) from preaching the Word of God.

The evidence of the gospel (taking care of widows for example) is not the gospel. It is not enough to stop preaching the gospel and simply say that we should just take care of people. The gospel must be verbalized. So what did they do? They delegated to make sure that the work of widow caring continued, but they committed themselves to what they were called to do.

This was a very helpful sermon as I have been at the church now for over a year. When I first arrived, I said the main thing I wanted to establish was a strong preaching ministry. Over time, even this short time, I can see how many things have crept in to distract me from this. This was a good focus moment for me.

Main Session: The Shepherd Who Preaches by Voddie Baucham
As I mentioned yesterday, I was very unfamiliar about Baucham. This was the first time that I have had the opportunity to listen to him preach. And I think I am better for having been there. He began his message by saying that the preacher preaches. It is what he does, what he thinks, what he desires. It is who he is. He said that when the preacher listens to other preachers, he wishes that he was up there preaching. Amen to that! I get that.

While he referred to much of the book of Titus in his message, the focal point was Titus 1:9, which says, "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict." The pastor is to hold firm to the trustworthy word he was taught. Not the false word he was taught, but to the gospel word he was taught through the message of the apostles.

He mentioned that the gospel message should shape us as preachers. That is why the man is called to be a man of character in vs. 6-8 before he is called to preach in vs. 9. Truth produces character and then the man is to proclaim the truth.

Probably the most encouraging part of the day was when Baucham said that we should be constantly talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ in every sermon. As we unfold every portion of Scripture, we should be showing how it teaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said that we should not just talk about the gospel, but we need to share the contents of the gospel every time we preach. We should preach it until everyone is tired of hearing it and then preach it some more. We should keep saying it because maybe at some point it will click for someone in your church. 

That was helpful for me as I have been preaching through 1 Kings and each week, I seem to be coming back to the gospel. Even last week, I felt like I was just being repetitious too much. It's always about how glorious Jesus is than the temple or sacrifices or even King Solomon. But I guess, that's the point. Keep preaching the gospel until people are tired of hearing it and then preach it some more.

That was day one at the Basics Conference. Today will be another busy day. If you are not attending, but want to watch the live sessions, you can do so by going HERE. This is the schedule for the main sessions today:

9:15 am - Main Session, Mark Dever
11:00 am - Main Session, Voddie Baucham
7:00 pm - Main Session, Mark Dever

Monday, May 14, 2012

Basics Conference 2012

Today begins the Basics Conference for pastors. It is hosted by Parkside Church, where Alistair Begg is the Senior Pastor. This will be the fourth Basics Conference I have attended (2002, 2003, 2011). In each of the previous conferences, I have been blessed many times over. There are many reasons why I like this pastors conference.

First, it is close to me. I only live about 30 minutes from Parkside Church, so I can attend without leaving my home. I can sleep in my own bed at night. I can get some work done in the office this morning before heading over to the conference. There is something to be said about attending a conference that doesn't disrupt my entire schedule. 

Second, the schedule is relaxed. They have done a good job of packing in enough sessions to make an impact, but not overburdening the pastors and church leaders that come. It begins on Monday afternoon and ends Wednesday afternoon. In reality, there are only about two days out of the office. Everything takes place on their campus. All of the meals are there. There is no formality about the conference, as I have experienced in some others. 

Third, the speakers are exciting. I have wondered in the past whether at least one of the general session speakers had to have an accent in order to speak at Basics. That hypothesis was debunked this year as Mark Dever and Voddie Baucham are the main speakers in addition to Alistair Begg. I have grown to love the ministry of Mark Dever, so I am really excited to once again sit under his teaching. Baucham is a bit of a wild card for me. I have never heard him speak, but he seems to be invited to some of the larger well-known conferences. All I have known about him is a limited view of his concept of youth ministry vs. family ministry. But his bio says that he is more than qualified to be a conference like this:  
Voddie Baucham wears many hats. He is a husband, father, pastor, author, professor, conference speaker, and church planter. He currently serves as Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, TX. He has served as an adjunct professor at the College of Biblical Studies in Houston, TX, and Union University in Jackson, TN. He has also lectured at Southern Seminary. Voddie's area of emphasis is Cultural Apologetics. Whether teaching on classical apologetic issues like the validity and historicity of the Bible, or the resurrection of Christ; or teaching on biblical manhood/womanhood, marriage and family, he helps ordinary people understand the significance of thinking and living biblically in every area of life."
I look forward to learning and hearing from each of these men of God.

Fourth, the friendships I have established. I have many friends on staff at Parkside. In addition, many other pastors who will be there. I look forward to some times of good conversation and encouragement around meals and free times.

If you cannot attend, there is an option for you. The main sessions will be streamed each day. You can find that by going HERE. Today's schedule for the main sessions will be:

4:15 pm - Welcome & Main Session - Alistair Begg
7:00 pm - Main Session - Voddie Baucham

I will be blogging each day about what I am learning. So stay tuned each day as I recap what I learned the previous day.

The Morning After: One Incredible Day (1 Kings 8:1-12)

Most of the days in our lives are really normal. We wake up, shower, take the kids to school, go to work, come home, eat dinner, help with homework, watch the news, then go to bed. Just to wake up again to do the same things again. It is like our lives are one big episode of deja vu. However, every now and then there are some special days. Every year we have a birthday. There is the day you get married, the day your kids are born, and the day you graduated from high school or college (hopefully not in that order). There are some really special days in our lives scattered amid the normal days of life.

As the account unfolds in First Kings 8, there had been seven years of normal days. There had been seven years of finding the right timbers, cutting the right stones, using the best finishing materials as Solomon makes certain that the temple is completed. Then it was done! Now comes one of those special days. It is move-in day!

It was one grand event when King Solomon dedicated the temple. In the first twelve verses of chapter eight, we see the general events that took place on that day. It started with bringing all the nation of Israel together for a grand ceremony. This probably took place at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles (vs. 2), which was a celebration of remembrance for the nation of Israel of God's faithfulness to them as they wandered through the wilderness. It was no accident that it was this week that the temple is dedicated. In the same way that they remembered their wanderings, they were now celebrating the end of a temporary place for God to dwell.

When the temple is dedicated, we are taught two main things about God. First, No Matter What We Know About Him, He Is Still A Complete Mystery. When God descended into the temple, we are told that it was in a cloud, in a thick darkness (vs. 11-12). This was the way God descended upon Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:18-21) and upon the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35). As the cloud fills the temple, the priests were so overwhelmed that they could not stand to minister. The temple is now open for the business of meeting with God and we are told that it couldn't happen. God was too glorious. 

There is so much that we think we know about god, but I wonder if what we actually know about Him is not much more than looking at a dark cloud. The more we get to know Him, the more we realize how much we don't know about Him. He is so much more glorious than we think. He cannot fully be captured by our human perceptions. He is separate from, independent of, and superior to us.

But while God is still a complete mystery, the second thing we learn in this passage is At The Same Time, God Is Sufficiently Revealed. Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant into the temple. The Ark was the item of furniture that Moses was told to build (Exodus 25:10-22) that it might be the place where God would meet with him and communicate to him His commandments for life. Inside the Ark, we are told was the tablets of stone that Moses put there (vs. 9). These were the Ten Commandments. They show us that God is a communicating God. He told His people how they could have a relationship with Him.

But here's the glory of the Ark. The Ten Commandments were inside. On top of the Ark was known as the Mercy Seat. It was the place where once a year, the High Priest would come and sprinkle the blood of a goat that would cover the sins of the people for that year. It didn't take away their sins, but it covered their sins. As the blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, God's wrath was appeased for that year. How? Because in those sacrifices, God was looking forward to One sacrifice that would completely and fully satisfy His wrath once for all. That was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:10; Romans 3:23-25). 

In one object, we are told of the commandments of God, but shown the mercy of God. That incredible day for Solomon looks forward to another wonderful day in your life. The day when you come to faith in Jesus as your sacrifice, your propitiation, your mercy seat. If you want to listen to the sermon, you can find it HERE. If you want to read my notes, you can find them HERE.