Thursday, January 31, 2013

Speechless, but Not Prayerless

I am currently on a trip to Cambodia, visiting a Cadence International missionary that our church supports. On Thursday, we spent the morning with a Tanks Division outside of Sisophon. Towards the end of our medical time with them, a father brought his 20-year old daughter to us. In fact, we were just about ready to pack up when they came rolling into the camp. As they came up on a scooter, she looked very faint. She could hardly make it to the table where the doctors were looking at patients. She needed to have her father hold her up most of the time. I shot a video, but have had a hard time getting it uploaded to YouTube, so you will have to trust me on this. She goes in and out of convulsions without warning. Almost as if she is heaving to throw up. It was different. But the really strange part of it was that she would go back and forth from being completely lucid to being totally hypnotic. And it just didn't make sense what was going on with her.

After being examined by the doctor, the first thought was simply that she was anemic. She hadn't been drinking much water or any food in the past few days. Or maybe she had a low blood level. She was claiming to have a headache as well. But there was no fever. Even though I am not a doctor (actually am one, but not that kind), I jumped on board with everyone else trying to speculate what was wrong with her.

As we were speculating, the one thing that kept coming back to us was that maybe this was not physical at all. Maybe this was a spiritual issue. Cambodia is a part of the world that is highly Buddhist. Spiritism is everywhere. Outside of almost every home is a spirit box, that is meant to capture the spirits so that they do not go into the homes. I know it is ridiculous. But that is what is believed in this part of the world. The demonic presence is really powerful here.

[Let me interrupt this story to say that I do not fully know what to do with Spiritual Warfare. I have read books. I have studied the Scriptures. I have a grasp of what I believe in many aspects of it, but it seems as though my landing is more "what I don't believe we should do" as opposed to "what we should do." I think there has been one person in my life that I have come in contact with that was demon possessed. At the end of the day, it is just one area of theology that I have not come to full resolutions. Confronted with a situation like this tends to make me even more dependent upon Jesus for all things. I suppose that is the best place to be.]

Back to the story. I didn't really know what to do, but to pray for her. Paul, Sareth, and myself all laid our hands on her and started to pray. I was praying for her safety. I was praying that if there was something spiritual going on, that Jesus would take care of it. I was praying for the safety of those around her. While we prayed over her was the time that she seized the most. Constant convulsions. I would be lying if I were to say it wasn't a bit unnerving. 

When we finished, she seemed to perk up. We talked to her and she started to respond more and more. At one point in the conversation, she even said that she believed in Jesus. That was a good sign to many of us. After all, what I have heard is that many demon possessed people struggle even saying the name of Jesus. At this point, we went back to the physical. Maybe it isn't spiritual after all. We asked many other questions before the big ball dropped.

As Sareth pressed further into the history of her life, he found out several disturbing things. For one thing, as a 20-year old girl, she had been engaged two times before and both of the men died. Then there was a third boy that really loved her and prayed for this one spirit to help her love him back. That is when many strange things began to happen to her. Her parents then took her to a local witchdoctor just three days ago who tried to cast this spirit out of her and that is when she started going into convulsions.

When Sareth asked her where she was from, she indicated Siem Reab. That is where we are staying for the next two days. It is about 75 miles from where she lived. It is not where she lives. It is the largest temple complex in the world, known as Angkor Wat. We will visit it tomorrow, but I have been told it is 20 square kilometers of ancient temples. Unfathomable. But she indicated that she was from here. More things were confirmed when Sareth pressed her as to why she said she believed in Jesus. Her answer was that as a Cambodian, she believes in "all things."

At this point, her parents literally picked her up and said that she had to get out of there. They were hiding things during the entire conversation, and it was troubling. As more and more things came out in the conversation, all I could think of was the Apostle Paul entering Philippi and healing the demon possessed girl who was the slave girl (Acts 16:16-19). Just before she left, her parents indicated that she had been fortune telling the past three days. I just wonder if there is more to the story than what we were told from her parents. They were a part of it. When they knew that we were concerned for her soul, they were no longer willing to seek help.

During one of her more lucid moments, she turned to Deedra, one of the ladies that works for Cadence, who does a Bible study at this military base. As she turned to her, she told her that she really wanted her to come to her house. I can't help but think that was a moment of crying for help. Pray for Deedra as she seeks to help her in the future.

Once again, being in a situation like this can make leave you speechless. It can leave you confused as to what to do. But I hope it never leaves us prayerless. I guess the only thing I get about spiritual warfare is that I do not pray enough. There is a reason why Paul ended his teaching on warfare with a call to pray "at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:18).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Visiting a 1st Century Church

One of my favorite parts of the Bible is the book of Acts. I have always loved to read stories of the early church. I love to trace the flow of Paul's missionary journeys. As I think about his journeys, I am often captured by the thought of what it would have been like to minister and preach the gospel in the early church. I have wandered what it would be like to be in a town for several weeks, see people come to faith, and then leave that town, trusting in God to complete the work in their life. This week, I think I have experienced a glimpse of what it might have been like for the Apostle Paul. I say that, not as if I have done it, but I have seen it done.

The Christians I have met at the different villages are all first generation Christians. But it is more than that. I have met first generation Christians in many places in the world, including the United States. But these people are first generations Christians who often have been left to themselves, their Bible, and the Holy Spirit. Many of them have heard the gospel, believed, and then have been forced into taking on leadership as a baby Christian. Take for instance, the Minefield Village that I wrote about on Monday. A church was planted there after the gospel was preached and several hundred responded in faith. Then they were baptized. And then most of the leaders had to leave town. One man, Sareth Duong, moved there to teach them for one month. But then he had to leave as well. After hearing this story, the feelings toward the churches that Paul writes about come to life.

Paul spent about three weeks preaching the gospel in the city of Thessalonica. And amid much persecution, he saw many give their life to Jesus. A church was planted. But then he was forced to leave town. But the memories of the people in this town would not leave his memory. In fact, just a few months later, he writes the book of 1 Thessalonians in which he says,
"But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you--I, Paul, again and again--but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20)
Paul continues . . .
"Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you--for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8)
After seeing the new believers here in Cambodia, I can better understand what Paul was referring to in his letter to the Thessalonians. As Sareth and Paul Bradley, the Cadence leaders come into one town and preach the gospel to these military men, they leave trusting that God would sustain the men, women, & children. I am probably being a bit sarcastic, but the level of communication in this country isn't that far removed from what the Apostle Paul went through. In order to hear how these churches and ministries are doing, they need to go visit them. They can't Skype, as I just did with my family. They don't even have a good email option. Most of them do not even have electricity.  It is like I have stepped back a few hundred years. But in that time travel, I am seeing a place that is completely dependent upon the Lord.

I listened to the testimony of one of our medical doctors tonight. His name is Sem Sitha. He shared that when he came to believe in Jesus, the first thing he wanted to do was to plant a church. That's just crazy. Become a believer and then start a church. But as you read the NT, that's what Epaphras does in the planting of the church in Colossae. Maybe we are the ones backward. Maybe we have subtly created obstacles (dare I say excuses) to our service that we can't do such and such because we don't know enough. Maybe they have something with their radical trust in the Lord. I have to think that is what the early church did. I have to think that is what the Thessalonians and Colossians did as their churches were planted. And maybe it is what we need to learn from them. Maybe by stepping into their world, I have gone from a teacher to a student. And maybe that is what I need more than ever!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cambodia, Day Two

Our goal today was to visit the Unit 14, Special Forces Unit of the Cambodian Army. One of the first things I was told going into this visit was to not assume a base would look like I think it would in America. As I understand it, a base is formed when a General is given a piece of land and they have to develop it from the ground up. The Unit 14 base is way off the beaten trail. We had to drive about 10 miles off the main highway, going less than 10 miles per hour. The roads are horrible. When we finally arrived there, we were greeted by the 2-Star General (middle of the picture) and several of the other top ranking officials of this unit. Because of the lack of communications between other bases, the ranking General probably has more power and authority than the average American General. I count it a true honor to meet this man.

Cadence International has been trying to help this base for several years now. As we talked to the General, he expressed his thanks and also said that they couldn't do this base "without God." We are praying that he is softening to the gospel.

One of the best things going on at this base is Major Savorn. He is a strong Christian man who is bold with his faith. He has become the pastor of a church at the base that has about 30-50 people each week. The national constitution of Cambodia says that Buddhism is the national religion. As a soldier, they are not allowed to openly speak out against it. But Savorn has been bold, preaching Jesus and leading many other soldiers to faith in Christ. Interesting enough, while he has been bold, he has received several promotions.

One of the areas in which Cadence has helped with this unit has been through medical help. I was surprised to learn that the military does not receive regular medical treatment. There are two doctors, who are both Christians (actually the story is rather unique; one of the doctors came to faith through serving in this way). These doctors are also in the military and serve in the capital city. They are glad to give of their time and energy to help establish rapport with this unit.

We tried to do some teaching as the medical team was setting up. That proved to be very difficult. It was chaos. The men come to find help with many small ailments, from headaches to stomach problems. One of the most important things they provide are glasses. This very important ministry has opened many doors for the gospel.

In the afternoon, we did take some time to teach to a handful of the Christians on the base. I counted it a privilege to be able to open the Word of God with these men, to encourage them to take ownership of this ministry.

There are so many other stories of events that took place today. For instance, it is difficult to believe that there are between 100-200 kids in the area who do not go to school. They have no options. There are no schools for them to attend. Cadence is trying to provide opportunities for the children to get an education. That is one thing that I will continue to ask questions about in the future as well, as it might be a way our church could help out this military base.

It was a long day. But it was a good day. Tomorrow will include much of the same. More medical team work and hopefully some more Bible teaching. Thank you for praying. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

My First Day in Cambodia

Sunday was a very long day as we flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and then took a taxi about three hours to the border of Cambodia. After a few hours of trying to get across the border, we finally made it into Cambodia. I was told that this country was very poor, but I couldn't believe what I saw (more to come on that at some point)

After a good nights sleep, we took off on Monday morning for the Minefield Village. It is a village not far from the Thailand/Cambodian border that has been built on land the Khmer Rouge once planted mines all over to keep people from coming into Cambodia (or maybe getting out). Most of the land has been cleared of the dangerous mines, but there are still some parts of the land that might contain live mines on it (see how close I got to them). The village is composed of some of the poorest people I have ever met. That is not an overstatement. I spent time in some villages in southern China in 1996 and these people are way worse than they were. I couldn't help but be impacted by them.

 As soon as we pulled up in our truck, I was greeted by this little girl. She is eight years old and was the sweetest thing. She came up asking for a hug and then for several minutes just clung to my side. We then spent some time with about 75 children, leading them in some fun exercises and then trying to teach the Bible to them (it proved to be somewhat difficult since we were asking them to give up their play time of the day; go figure, they are just like kids in America). In this village, Cadence International works with an organization called Lightbridge International to help support these children by giving them education and a meal a day. Trust me, they need it. I am looking into ways that we might be able to do some things to help support this village or some other villages at CBC.

After the time with the children, we went on a little walk to other parts of the village to visit a few people my friends at Cadence needed to check up on. This is where it became very difficult. We met a little boy named Hoew who had visited a free medical clinic provided by Cadence two years ago. At that time, the doctors realized he had a major issue in his stomach and worked out the details for him to see some professionals. Two weeks ago, he had his spleen removed. The doctors said that he would have died if not for this checkup. I had the privilege to pray for him and his family. I couldn't believe the place in which they lived. It was a house that couldn't have been more than 12' x 12'. There were no walls. It was incredible. This is a picture of their house (and yes, the mom is pregnant and will deliver in this house)

After that, we were able to see a young family that was recently given a new house (I use that term very loosely). Their daughter, Hong, had a land mine blow up on her body, scaring her stomach area badly. Then she had her skirt catch on fire, melting the material to her body. Her father is a rat catcher. While we were not able to spend much time with them, we were able to see the new house that Cadence has been able to provide for them. It is not much of a house, but it was one of the nicest ones in this village.

After some more time in the village, we drove about 4-5 hours to get to Pousat. Tomorrow we will visit one of the military bases, which I am told isn't much different from the village we visited today. I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I get some opportunities to teach tomorrow and minister in many other ways. I will continue to try to provide updates as I am able. Until then...

Picture Caption Needed

On Monday afternoon, we were passing through the city of Bat Dambang, Cambodia when we stopped for some lunch at the Gecko Cafe. It was actually some good American food. But while I was there, I looked out the second floor and noticed the wiring job that had taken place. I was thinking that this picture is just screaming for a good caption. The person with the best caption (I will be the judge) will win something special. I will be glad to give you or send you something that I purchase in Thailand or Cambodia on my trip.

Be creative and have fun!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Video Sunday: What Happens To Those Who Never Hear the Gospel by David Platt

I woke up this morning in the country of Thailand. And today, I will beginning traveling into Cambodia for one very important reason. I want to preach the gospel to people who may have never heard of Jesus Christ. The reason I have traveled around the world to do this task is very well articulated in this short video by David Platt. He inspires me towards missions and I hope he does for you as well. Our calling is great! The need is even greater! But our Savior is the greatest!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Traveling For The Gospel

On Thursday morning, I hopped on a plane to Thailand. It took a total of 30 hours before reaching my final destination. We arrived in Chiang Mai and then at the missionaries house at about midnight on Friday night (12 hours ahead of EST). I was ready to go to bed. Needless to say, it was a very long trip. But after a nights sleep and some good conversation today, I have to say that I was a bit convicted. I was humbled that the traveling was really easy in comparison. Let me explain.

It is very easy to pass over the passages in the NT that speak of travel. When the Apostle Paul sets out on his first missionary journey, we are simply told that they "went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God" (Acts 13:4-5). When they left there, we are told that "Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13). In each of the details of Paul's trips, we are told locations and travel itineraries. And we do not think much of them. We often just pass over them as a necessary requirement to enter a new place. And it sort of is.

Compared to traveling from Cleveland to Chiang Mai, Paul's trips were relatively short. But there is no doubt in my mind that they were much more difficult. When I traveled here, I had a great Italian Beef sandwich at the Chicago airport. I then spent 14 hours on Korean Air, quite possibly the nicest airlines I have ever flown. We had a personal video screen that I could control in front of me. I had the selection of many movies and even games (Pacman was my favorite). I was served two full meals and as many snacks as I wanted. I could ask for my Coke Light anytime I desired. I could read or sleep. Then after landing in Seoul, South Korea, I enjoyed a few hours of walking before jumping on a last plane ride of 5.5 hours into Chiang Mai. Same thing with that flight. It was luxury. 

Paul's trips? Not so much. It would have been so much more difficult. No airlines that cater to his needs. No places to stop and eat. No easy shuttles to take him from one place to the next. He would have hiked it. He would have probably served as a crew member of some ship in order to hop aboard. Not only did he work at his destinations (tentmaker & gospel preacher), but his journeys would have been work.

Which leads me to this. Once again, I was confronted with how easy my Christianity has become. I was confronted once again how easy it became to complain of soreness from sitting so long. I traveled around the world to teach and share the gospel. And the travel over, I was not always gospel thankful. That realization was good for my heart and soul. I want to be uncomfortable with the gospel. It makes me more dependent upon the Lord.

As I continue to grow in my love for Jesus and the gospel, I pray that my heart is continually transformed. Part of that transformation would be to do whatever necessary to take the gospel to those that don't know it. I traveled around the world to do it. But I wonder if the most uncomfortable place to travel to take the gospel is next door.

Question: How Uncomfortable Will You Allow Yourself To Be In Order To Take The Gospel To Someone Who Doesn't Know It?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sending A Loved One to Minister the Gospel

I am on my way to Thailand and Cambodia for the next couple of weeks. I asked my wife, Monique, if she would write down how she handles my leaving like this. I appreciate her heart and willingness to let me go serve Jesus like this. It truly is a ministry to the universal church to let me go. I hope many of you can find comfort in her words of trust in our God. My wife regularly blogs at Check out her ministry of reviewing Christian and secular kids book through the lens of the gospel.

It was early November, 1999. Our first child was due to be born on December 21st, and Thad was headed to Russia. I can't tell you how many overseas trips he has made since then, but this trip (and the subsequent trip in June of 2000) was to have a great impact on me and our family for years to come.

Was it difficult  to have him leave? Certainly. Yet I was excited for him. What a great opportunity to minister to the church in Russia and be part of spreading the gospel there. I am so thankful for those opportunities the Lord has provided him to minister in many different parts of the world. He has used these trips to stretch our faith. We have dear brothers and sisters in Christ thousands of miles away. While I have never met some of these people, they have captured my heart and I pray for them. Because of Christ, the bonds of friendship run deep within our hearts. I would never have known their stories or be inspired by their devotion to Christ if Thad had not had these opportunities. They have encouraged me and caused me to grow, and I can't wait to see them in heaven one day!

From those first trips, I also learned another valuable lesson. While I longed to be able to travel with Thad and meet these people and minister to them, it just wasn't possible (maybe someday it will be). So how could I minister to them? What role could I play in these trips? It soon became evident to me that I too could, in a small way, be a part of spreading the gospel overseas. On occasion, people have expressed to me how difficult they think it would be for them to allow their husband to go overseas. Thankfully, I have very little struggles with worry and during these trips, I rest in the plans of the Creator. He is just as 'in charge' in Russia or Cambodia as He is in charge in Ohio. 

While I have struggled with these thoughts, I've never once heard anyone express to me how difficult it must be for Thad to leave his family to go minister. As I said, those first two trips were significant. During his first trip I was pregnant with our first child. When he left for his second trip, our son was about six months old. It was as we were preparing for his second trip that it became very clear to me that my ministry and the ministry our family would take on was to allow Thad to freely go whenever and wherever opportunities presented themselves. It wasn't easy for him to leave, so I needed to make it as easy as possible for him to go.

If I am anxious and worried, it affects him and his ministry. If I complain and wonder 'why he has to leave,' it hinders him and the spread of the gospel. The ministry I and our children can have is to send him off with great joy, counting it a privilege that we can help in this way. We want Thad to leave without hesitation or a second thought. When an opportunity presents itself, I don't want his first thought to be "I don't know how my family will handle this." We want him to have the freedom to run through the doors God opens, knowing that we support him in every way.

My ministry to others is to send my husband freely to minister the gospel, knowing and trusting that we want him to go without worry or selfish thoughts. While Thad is away for these twelve days, we will pray. We will pray for him and those he will be ministering with and to. We will pray prayers of thanksgiving for the opportunity he has and prayers of expectation that God works through him. We have sent a piece of our hearts with him and we can't wait to hear the stories of what our amazing Savior will do!
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Trip to Thailand & Cambodia

I am leaving this morning for Thailand and Cambodia, a trip that will take me away from my family and church for the next two weeks. The reason for this trip is to visit Paul Bradley, a missionary supported by our church. Paul is the Division Director for Foreign Armed Forces Ministries with Cadence International. It is the goal of Cadence to mobilize armed forces to take the gospel to the world. Paul works with military and police in Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, India, and Bhutan. Their work with the foreign armed forces is to mobilize a multiplying discipleship movement among men and women, seeing officers reach out to fellow officers spreading the gospel.

While Paul does travel into some very remote portions of Burma, our trip will primarily be spent in Cambodia. He does tell me that this will be somewhat of an adventure. As I understand it, I will be teaching 11 times for 1.5 hours over the five days we are in Cambodia. I am excited. I normally relish being very busy while on trips like this. The more time to teach is the more time I have to maximize my gifts to the body of Christ universally. So, I am excited.

I will ask you to join with me on this trip. I am posting my itinerary below so that you could pray with me as I am traveling. You can know what I am doing and when. I would especially ask those at Cornerstone to keep tabs on what I am doing on this trip. I hope to be able to write some blog posts while I am there, but I do not know how the Internet situation will be. So be patient with me. 

My Itinerary:
  • Thursday, January 24th - Leave Cleveland Hopkins at 8am. Fly through Chicago then Soul, South Korea, then on to Thailand
  • Friday, January 25th - Arrive in Chiang Mai, Thailand at 10:40 pm (they are 12 hours ahead, which would mean this will be at 10:40 am Friday EST).
  • Saturday, January 26th - Recover from travel and spend time with their house church. In the evening, spend time at the night market
  • Sunday, January 27th - Fly from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and then taxi several hours into Poipet, Cambodia.
  • Monday, January 28th - We will be visiting a Minefield Village where they have planted a church and I will be teaching the Bible to many there (primarily women and children).
  • Tuesday, January 29th - I will be teaching among the Unit 14 group of military in Posat, Cambodia.
  • Wednesday, January 30th - Still teaching among the same unit.
  • Thursday, January 31st - I will be teaching among the Tanks/51 unit of the military in Sisophan, Cambodia.
  • Friday, February 1st - Still teaching among the same unit.
  • Saturday, February 2nd - We will be traveling to Siem Reap, Cambodia and visiting Angkor Wat.
  • Sunday, February 3rd - Traveling back to Bangkok, flying back to Chiang Mai.
  • Monday, February 4th - Ministry with Paul Bradley at his house and then leaving to travel back to US, late in the evening.
  • Tuesday, February 5th - Arrive back in Cleveland at 2:45 pm.

Prayer Concerns:
  • Pray for my travel itinerary above, that I would be rested and healthy on this trip. Especially since I have been in a house full of flue the past month, that I would not be susceptible to that sort of illness while on this trip.
  • Pray for a good time of encouragement with my friend, Brian Bailey, as we travel together (he is an old ministry friend who lives in Indianapolis).
  • Pray I would be an encouragement & not a burden to our supporting missionary, Paul Bradley.
  • Pray I would be able to teach the Bible clearly and effectively to the military and village people I come in contact with on this trip.
  • Pray for my translators on this trip, that the words I say would be easy to communicate into the different languages.
  • Pray for the gospel to be boldly proclaimed from my mouth and that there would be some who would come to Christ on this trip.
  • Pray for my picky taste buds, that I would be sensitive to the cultural implications of eating certain foods, but that I wouldn't get ill from it (I know some joke about this, but for those that do travel like this, it is a real issue).
  • Pray for my family as I am away from them, that they would be cared for and safe.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Les Miserables Radio Theatre

I was in my first year at Moody Bible Institute when a few of my friends convinced me that I should go see this musical called Les Miserables. I had no idea what this show was about, but I chose to do it anyways. It was incredible! I couldn't get enough. Since that time, I have seen the musical production of Les Miserables four times. And each time it gets better and better. I would pay to see it again tomorrow. Because of this, when I had the chance to review the Radio Theatre rendition of Les Miserables, I couldn't wait. It is about three hours of radio drama put on by Focus on the Family. And my honest feedback is that it was really good.

I do not plan on reviewing the story of Les Miserables here. It has been well documented that there are overtly Christian themes in this story. Those themes were obviously captured very well in this rendition. I want to talk as best as I can about what it was like to listen to the radio theatre of this story. 

I was a little surprised at first that there was no singing. I go back and forth as to whether I would have enjoyed it more if there was singing and not just acting. But as I listened more and more to it, the characters seemed real. The action was well portrayed. And the story line was very clear. Some of the events in this rendition was different from the musical. Since I have never read the book, I am going with the assumption that the difference between the musical and radio theatre is because they wanted to stick closer to the book.

After listening to it, I wouldn't be hesitant to listen to this with the family. There are parts of the musical production that are more than PG rated. But they seemed to get the message across well without making it over the top. I can picture our family listening to this on the next vacation we take (If I can get the kids to turn the movies off or the video games down). 

In the end, I would recommend it. I love the show probably more than this. But this is a good alternative to the Broadway production.

I received a copy of Les Miserables Radio Theatre from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a review.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Richard Baxter on Being With Christ

I do not think I am overly morbid, but whenever I begin the process of preparing for a long trip overseas, my mind always comes back to death. I tend to think and prepare myself for that time when my time on this earth will come to an end. As you may or may not know, I am leaving on Thursday for a trip to Thailand and Cambodia (I will post the details of that trip on Thursday morning). This has made me start to prepare myself, that if, my plane were to go down, I would be ready to meet Jesus (I know, it is safer than driving).

Well, if you will allow me to have these thoughts, it might pay dividends for you. You see, as I have been thinking through this, I took some time to look through Richard Baxter's work, Dying Thoughts. In this book, Baxter tries to explain what Paul means in Philippians 1:23 when he says that he desires to die and be with Christ. In many ways, he is writing to help someone prepare to die well. To look forward to that moment of passing from the temporal to the eternal.

In one of the chapters, he talks about what it means to depart this earth in order to be with Christ. There are two parts of that equation. One is departing, while the other is arriving. Often, we spend so much of our time on the departing aspect of that equation. Will my family be okay? What about the fun that I will miss here on the earth? What about my grandkids? And so on.

As I looked through this chapter, there were several parts that I really enjoyed. Let me share just a few quotes from this chapter. Baxter is making the case that in order to be with Christ, something has to happen. The time here on the earth must come to an end. We must depart from this body before we can be with Christ. He says,
"I must particularly depart from this body, from all its former delights, and also from more rational pleasures belonging to the present life and world . . . Here these eyes must see no more, this hand move no more, these feet walk no more, this tongue speak no more. As much as I have loved--and over-loved--this body, I must leave it to the grave. There must it lie and rot in darkness, as a neglected and loathsome thing" (41-42). 
"I must depart from all the former pleasure so this body. I must taste no more sweetness in meat or drink, in rest or action, or any such thing as now delights me. Houses and lands, goods and wealth, must all be left; and the place where I live must know me no more. All I labored for, or took delight in, must be no more to me than if they had never been. But consider, O my soul! Thy former pleasures are already past. Thou losest none of them by death, for they are all lost before; unless immortal grace has made them immortal by sanctifying them. All that death does to me is to prevent the repetition of them upon earth. Is not the pleasure which we lose by death common to every brute? Meat is as sweet to them, and ease as welcome, and appetite as vehement. Why then should it seem hard to us to lose that, when God pleases, which we deprive the brutes of at our pleasure? If we are believers, we only exchange these delights of life for the greater delights of a life with Christ" (44-45).
He makes a good point. If we are to die, we do not lose our treasure. We only exchange a small delight for a much greater delight! May we have that sort of mentality, in life or death.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Morning After: A Qualified Eldership, pt. 1

I am preaching a series on the church. Our aim in this series is to find our way back to how God has designed the church to be. I find it so easy to drift from His plans for the church. But as I shared a few weeks ago, Jesus is the Head of the church. It is His show. He is the ultimate leader. Therefore, it is wisest for us to get in line with what He wants to do in the church. Part of that has to do with how to structure leadership.

Jesus' design for leadership in the church is a group of qualified men. They are called elders. In 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the Apostle Paul gives us 22 character qualities that qualify a man to be an elder of Christ's church. I will share at length in the coming weeks some of my understandings of these character qualities. But today, I want to share some preliminary thoughts on these characteristics.

First, These Are God's Standards
These are not suggestions of what might make a good leader. Jesus is not recommending that it might be wise if the leader of the church isn't the guy throwing punches at the local bars on Friday nights. He is raising the bar to say that it can't happen. These are His standards. Because of that, we should listen and follow them with uncompromising fervor. We know that anytime God's standards are broken, it leads to consequences.

Second, These Standards Deal Primarily with the Character of the Men
The world begins the evaluation of leadership from the bottom line. Have you been successful? Does the business grow? What are the results? But Jesus comes to the subject of leadership very differently. He says, "I don't really care what you do for me, I care who you are before Me." God cares more about the character of the men than He does what they can accomplish for Him. That is seen in the fact that most of the 22 characteristics that are mentioned have to do with character.

Third, These Standards Are in the Present Tense
It is easy for the church to err in one of two directions. Some make the mistake in disregarding a man because of what happened 20 years ago. Of course, the man needs to be above reproach, but don't forget who is writing these words. Paul was a known murderer. I only wonder how the church would feel if the next elder candidate put forward was like Paul. But it is also easy for the church to swing that pendulum too far the other way. We might install an elder and then ignore character issues moving forward.

Being in the present tense also means that we are not talking about perfection, but a pattern of life. If it was perfection, we are all in trouble. Nobody would be qualified. Only Jesus fits that standard. But it does mean that the pattern of their life is character.

Fourth, These Standards Are for Men
God has designed a plan that men are to be leaders in the home and the church. As we make our way through these qualifications, it is expressly directed towards men. The pronouns are masculine. The adjectives are masculine. He is to be a husband of one wife, not a wife of one husband. It is expressly male.

Fifth, These Standards Are Called of All Believers
Simply put, the elders are to be an example of what all Christians are called to be. Almost every one of these character qualities are seen in the calling of other believers at some other points in the Scriptures. The elders are not perfect, but they are setting a standard of what it means to be a Christian.

Over the next several weeks, I plan on posting on here an explanation of some of the character qualities. If you want to listen to the extent of the sermon where I begin going into these character qualities, you can listen HERE (usually posted by Tuesday). Or you can read my notes HERE.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Video Sunday: No, Mr. President by John Piper

Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday. As I was looking around for a good video to show at church today, I came across a bit of a sermon that John Piper preached about four years ago at his church (the sermon was entitled, "The Baby in My Womb Leaped for Joy"). It was just after the inauguration of President Obama for his first term. This is classic Piper as he boldly proclaims God's desire for the protection of the unborn child.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

This Week in the Blogosphere (January 19, 2013)

Each week, there are hundreds upon thousands of blog posts written by people all over the world. I find myself each week, reading several of them. I have taken the time to link to some of my favorite blog posts or news stories from around the blogosphere from this previous week. I hope maybe one or two of these will be an encouragement to you.
  • Get Ready to be Lance Armstrong's God by Mark Driscoll. He has a very interesting take on the truth finally being told by Lance Armstrong and the response by people. Its a great opportunity for him to share a bit from his new book on identity.
  • What Pastors Shouldn't Tell Their Wives by R. Scott Clark. There has been a very helpful dialogue happening through some blogs on how much pastors should or shouldn't tell their wives. It seems to have began when Megan Hill wrote, "What Your Pastor Tells His Wife About You." Fascinating thoughts. As for me, I tend to lean mostly towards Clark's article. I tell Monique only what she absolutely needs to know and only on areas that I know she can help minister to other women.
  • 9 Things You Should Know About Roe vs. Wade by Joe Carter. Since this is the 40th anniversary of that sad decision by the courts, Carter looks back and offers some interesting stats and thoughts about it. Read it.

    Friday, January 18, 2013

    A Friday Funny

    A friend of mine showed this to me yesterday and it was really funny. At least, I thought it was. Enjoy and have a great day!

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    God's Care For The Handicapped

    I received a text message from my mother on Monday that a family friend had passed away. She was a young lady who had lived much of her life in a comatose state. I will probably get some of these details wrong, but when she was about 4 years old, her parents realized that she was falling down more than usual. This led to many doctors appointments in which it was eventually discovered that she had a tumor on her brain. A surgery was needed, but very risky. I can't imagine the decisions that a young couple would need to make at that time. Choose surgery or your child dies. Choose surgery and it could drastically affect your child's life. The surgery was performed and she wound up in a comatose state for the last 35 years.

    As I heard about her passing, I immediately thought about what I would say to her parents. How do you comfort someone who for the past 35 years has taken care of a young woman who couldn't take care of herself? What would I say to someone who lost their child once and now lost her again in death? As I was seeking for answers to their potential questions, I found myself meditating on a few thoughts.

    1. God Greatly Cared For Your Daughter!
    This is something the world doesn't understand. How can we say that God greatly cared for a young woman who ended up having this horrible tragedy in her life? How can something like a brain tumor which results in the loss of motor functions and "life as we know it" be an example of God's care? It is because God says He cares for someone like her.

    In God's dealings with the prophet Jonah, He makes a very pointed statement about His care and concern for those who are unable to cognitively understand even the basic functions of life. In response to Jonah's pity-party about God's mercy on the repentant in Nineveh, God says,
    "And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 person who do not know their right hand from their left?" (Jonah 4:11)
    God confirms that it was right for Him to have pity on the 120,000 people in the city of Nineveh that didn't understand the difference between their left hand and their right hand. This was a signal of their mental capacity to understand. If you have children, you know the big day in their life when they finally understand that the right shoe goes on the right foot and the left shoe goes on the left foot. We can all remember when we have asked them to raise their right hand and the left goes up.

    We learn from Jonah that God is more merciful than we are. We are shown the heart of God for those who do not yet know or are unable to tell the difference of something as simple as right from left. I would take this to include not only very young children, but also older children or adults with mental handicaps that keep them from even comprehending the basics of life.

    2. God Spared Her From The World!
    Think about it for a second. She never had to struggle with a desire of whether she was too thin or too fat. She never felt the abandonment of friends. She never had that feeling that her life would never be complete without the latest iPod Touch. She never found her identity in having the newest line of clothing with a famous designer on it. She was never hurt by some stupid boy. She was spared from the lure of the things of the world. I think it is even fair to say that God spared her in this world from herself. Don't we all need that sort of protection? 

    And in doing this, God reminds us that this place is just passing away. He reminds us from her life that everything is pointing towards eternity. Living for the here and now is shallow living. In many ways, her struggle on this earth was so much greater than the vast majority of people who live 72.5 years of perfect health. God can and does use her as His instrument to remind us that our life is not about the world.

    3. God Chose You To Care For Her!
    I know you know this, but there was no accident in her illness. Satan didn't win this battle. There was nothing you went through these past 35 years that He did not provide the grace to get through the day. I can't imagine what you went through. I am sure most people who read this can't. But I wonder if we also can't understand the grace and mercy that you have received over the past 35 years. He has provided each day perfectly for your own spiritual transformation. You have felt his mercies new every morning in ways we haven't.

    Someday, you will see her again. I fully believe that (see #1 above & read this book). But until that time, God isn't finished with you. She didn't die early or late. Nobody does. Take great comfort in that.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    It's Time For Men To Step Up

    Attention Men. This message is for you. Especially if you are part of Cornerstone or live in the surrounding region of CBC. You need to watch this video! But it is not enough to simply watch this video.

    This last Sunday we shared that we will be hosting an upcoming men's retreat at our church on February 2, 2013. It is an all-day conference called Stepping Up, put on by Family Life Ministries. You will want to be here. You will want to bring your older boys. It is time to stop saying that you want to be a spiritual leader in your home. It is time to stop talking and start living. It is time to start doing it. It's time to Step Up! 

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    The Benefits of Shared Leadership

    I have become convinced over the years that the most biblical form of church leadership is that of a plurality of elders. A group of godly men, who are equal in status and authority. I shared yesterday just a few of the Biblical texts that speak towards this structure of church leadership. Today, I wanted to share just a few of the practical benefits from it as well. In his book Biblical Leadership, Alexander Strauch, gives several reasons why a shared leadership model is very practical.

    It Helps To Balance People's Weaknesses
    Every person has blind spots they are unable to see. Every person has weaknesses that can deceive and eventually destroy them. Therefore, it works well when leadership decisions are made by a group of men who can come alongside each other to balance those potential weaknesses. 

    For instance, among our elders, there are some who are quick decision guys and others who are process guys. The process minded individuals help balance and ensure that decisions are cautiously thought through before moving forward. But the decision guys ensure that decisions are actually made in a timely manner. There are others who tend to be harsher in their dealings with people and are balanced by those with more grace. There are some who lean toward being fearful of men and are balanced by those not afraid to confront sin in the life of others. It appears obvious that we need to be balanced, particularly in leadership.

    It Helps To Provide Accountability
    I am sure you have heard it said before that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But a shared leadership model ensures that no one person holds too much power. It is the only form of leadership that creates a culture that helps a sinner defer the glory. In way too many churches, one pastor or leader often has too much power. It often begins when the people of the church become indifferent to the work of the ministry because they are simply too busy. Therefore, the church administration is left largely into the hands of that one leader. This is not good for him or the church. It makes it very easy for the pastor to build himself up into a dictatorial position and cater to his desire for glory.

    But the process Christ has designed keeps a man from seeking his own glory because there are several other men who are equal in authority with him. The checks and balances this provides helps ensure that Jesus in fact is the only one to whom the glory belongs.

    It Helps To Lighten The Work Load
    The more qualified elders a church might have, the more help it will bring to lighten the work load of the ministry. Moses had this problem. He tried to do everything himself and it caused him to want to die. But God's solution was to divide the work load among several qualified men (Numbers 11:14-17). Solomon said that two are better than one and that a cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

    The extra help in the ministry of the church ensures that one person is not having to do everything. When he does it all, he ends up serving outside of how the Lord has gifted him. A plurality of eldership allows each shepherd to function primarily according to the personal giftedness rather than being forced to do everything and then being criticized for not being multi-gifted.

    I am sure there are more examples of why a shared leadership model is more beneficial in the life of the church. Can you think of any? I would love to hear what you think.

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    The Morning After: Elders, a Shared Leadership

    I grew up in a baptist church that was congregationally led. Well, to be fair, in practice, it was mostly a Senior Pastor led church where the congregation affirmed everything that he did. But there was still a very strong congregational feel. I remember late in high school thinking that type of church government felt very American. It felt very democratic, where everyone got their vote. The first time I went to a church other than that type of government was in college, when I attended a church that was led by a group of godly men. They were called Elders. And it just made sense.

    I will never forget coming home from college and having a conversation with my parents in which I tried to explain to them this type of church leadership structure. I am positive that I did not handle those conversations well. I am sure I was very arrogant and didn't listen. I remember asking a question like this: "Why would we desire to allow people who are not walking with the Lord to make decisions in the life of the church?" I felt it then and I feel it now. What does it look like to have a congregational form of government where everyone gets a vote . . . including those people who have not cracked their Bible in the past month. As I reflect on it now, I am sure those questions were presented to my parents in pride, not humility. But it is still a valid question.

    As I continued my series on the church that I began last week, I have come to the point of trying to make sense of church leadership. Last week, I shared that Jesus is indeed the final authority in the church. He is the head of the church. But that does not mean we leave an office open at the end of the hallways. Jesus leading the church must become practical in some way as to the everyday function of the church. 

    Over the course of the years since I was in college, I have only become more convinced that Jesus' design for the leadership of the church is a plurality of godly men. These qualified men share the leadership responsibilities in the life of the church. I believe the Bible very directly teaches this. In Paul's letter to Titus, he gives his dear friend instructions on why he was left on the Island of Crete.
    "This is why I let you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you." (Titus 1:5)
    Titus was instructed to bring order and structure to the churches on the Island. The primary way order would come about in these churches would be in the appointing of elders in every town. Literally, the phrase, "in every town" could be translated, "city by city." Paul's message was that in every place there was a church, there should be elders in that church to lead or give order to that church. 

    We also do not want to miss that Paul says there should be a plurality of elders. In fact, every time this term is used in the NT (other than when John or Peter use it of themselves), it is plural. There is to be more than one elder in the life of a church. For the good of the man and of the church, the ministry is not to be left up to just one man. Other texts of Scripture confirm this.
    "And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed." (Acts 14:23)
    Acts 14 contains the actions of Paul early in his ministry. The instructions to Titus are his feelings late in his ministry. And in both cases, he appoints multiple elders in each church. The term elders is plural and church is singular. Once again, in every church, there are to be multiple elders. Multiple leaders.
    "Elders are nearly always spoken of in plurality because God intends for more than one man to lead and rule over the church, as a safeguard for both the church and the man. We also see this when Paul speaks of a council of multiple elders ruling in a local church. The leadership of the church is to follow the Trinitarian pattern of shared leadership that God himself models" (Mark Driscoll).
    A plurality of elders is biblical. But it is also very practical. Tomorrow, I will share some of the very practical benefits of a shared leadership model. Much of my sermon yesterday was investigating the biblical texts that speak about elders and their responsibilities. If you want to listen to the sermon, you can find it HERE (usually posted by Tuesday). If you want to read my notes, you can find them HERE.

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    Video Sunday: Goodness vs. the Cross by Matt Chandler

    A helpful thought on the doctrine of justification to meditate on today and hopefully proclaim tomorrow.

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

    This Week in the Blogosphere (January 12, 2013)

    Each week, there are hundreds upon thousands of blog posts written by people all over the world. I find myself each week reading several of them. I have taken the time to link to some of my favorite blog posts or news stories from around the blogosphere from this previous week. I hope maybe one or two of these will be an encouragement to you.
    • Husbands: A Tip that Could Save Your Marriage by Eric Raymond. I think originally when this was posted, it was entitled "Husbands, Get a part-time Job." You will have to read it to find out why he said it that way and why he might have changed the title.
    • Bible Reading Plan for Kids by David Murray. This is a great plan. If you are not doing anything, pick this up and start challenging your children to read the Bible.

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    Defining the Church

    Yesterday, I tried to articulate the difference between the universal church and the local church. It is my feeling that too many people today emphasize the universal aspect of the church to the exclusion of the local body of believers. That's a problem considering the overwhelming evidence in the New Testament of the church is the local gathering.

    Okay, so when three Christian friends get together once a week at Applebees for fellowship and accountability, is that the local church? Does that count as their local church? I would say no. There are many cogs in the wheel of what constitutes a definition of a local church. From the New Testament through the early church Fathers, the important components of the local church were clearly defined.

    In trying to be clear, I have come up with a definition of the church. It is certainly a definition that has been influenced by many dead and modern theologians. But here it is:
    "The church is the local gathering of believers who confess Jesus as Lord and organize under qualified leadership to observe the ordinances, to hear from God through the preaching of His Word, to serve one another by using their spiritual gifts, to hold one another accountable for personal holiness, and to take the message of Jesus to a lost world."
    The evidence is clear in the NT that the church must is led by Jesus as the Head. That authority is acknowledged when people confess Him as Lord of their life. His day to day authority has been delegated from Him to a group of qualified leaders called elders. They are to share the leadership responsibilities in the practical outworking of the church. They are to ensure that the gathered body of believers remember the ordinances (baptism and communion). They are to let God speak through the preaching of His Word. They are to encourage the regular serving of all Christian's spiritual gifts. They are to ensure that the body of Christ be pure, through the process of church discipline. And they are to help the body of Christ take the message of Jesus to a lost world.

    That's how I define the church.

    Is There Anything I Missed?

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Universal vs. Local Church

    As I started a series on the church last Sunday, the first thing I felt I had to do was to give definition to the term, "church." In order to do this, I needed to distinguish between two very important aspects of the church: the universal church and the local church.

    Universal Church
    This is the true people of God. It is comprised only of believers and is all true Christians across all denominations, race, color, gender, and time. This is the church that only God sees. Because of that, it is often referred to as the invisible church. There are no false believers in this group of people, only the true people of God. If you have come to a place of believing in Jesus alone for your salvation and making Him Lord of your life, then you are part of the universal church.

    Local Church
    While it is true to refer to the church universally, the emphases that we find in the New Testament is that of the universal church gathered locally. This is the local church. It is the regular gathering of those who profess faith and allegiance to Jesus. In fact, the term that is translated "church" in the NT actually means "gathering" or "assembly." Because we can actually see the local church, it has often been referred to as the visible church. This visible church would be comprised of true Christians and false Christians. There will always be tares among the wheat.

    While the assembling together constitutes the local church, it has nothing to do with the location of the gathering. This means it is not a building. Our church is an example. Over the past 19 years, our church has met in many different locations, but the location didn't define the church. It was the local, formal gathering that defined it. Because of that, it would not be proper to say that you "go to church." I would challenge you to think that it is more proper to say that you go "to be the church."

    Why Is This Important?
    I fear and grieve over an entire generation of people that are emphasizing the universal church as more important than the local church. I understand the angst that many of them feel, because some local churches are simply stupid. They do stupid, non-Christ like things. But it is still the church. And this is where I fear for them. From the time the church began in Acts 2, we never see any Christian that is part of the universal church that is not part of the local church.
    "This invisible membership is very visible in the reality of life. As for membership in an invisible church without fellowship with any local assembly, this concept is never contemplated in the New Testament. The universal church was the universal fellowship of believers who met visibly in local assemblies" (Robert Saucy, The Church in God's Program, 17).
    I fear for those that try to live their entire Christian life apart from the local church. I fear that they will continue to live in a state of spiritual immaturity, for the gathering together of the local church is the process God has designed for people to grow to spiritual maturity. I know the local church is filled with sinners. I know it is filled with hypocrites. It always will be. And there is plenty room for one more.

    What Good Reasons Can You Think Of That Keep People Away From The Local Church?

    Wednesday, January 9, 2013

    Worship from Passion 2013

    The Passion conferences have become widely known for many things. One of them is dynamic worship. These are a few of the songs that I appreciated the most from the conference as I have watched them. (You can find the entire list of the videos from the conference HERE)

    Matt Redman singing one of my recent favorites, "10,000 Reasons."

    This is a great medley of songs by Chris Tomlin, including "Whom Shall I Fear" and "We Glorify Your Name"

    David Crowder singing one of my favorite songs, "O Praise Him."

    I had to add one from Lecrae as he sings (raps) his song, "Tell the World."

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile

    Every year, I am striving to encourage our elders at Cornerstone Bible Church to pass out a book to everyone in the church. Because we are starting a new series on the church, I wanted to give out a book that would encourage and help people discover their rightful place in the body of Christ. That is why I chose What is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile.

    I first picked up this book in 2008 right after it was published. I had been told by someone that he had a chapter in the book on listening to preaching, so I was very interested in picking it up as I was writing my doctoral dissertation on that same subject (my dissertation was later turned into a book, Helping Johnny Listen). What I found when I picked up his book was a very succinct, direct, and needed message on what it means to live the Christian life. Yes, you read that right. I believe what he calls "a healthy church member" is really a call for someone to live out their Christian life as the Bible says they should. I believe he sees an intrinsic link between a Christian and a Church Member. So much so that he says,
    "Whether your Christian life began yesterday or thirty years ago, the Lord's intent is that you play an active and vital part in his body, the local church. He intends for you to experience the local church as a home more profoundly wonderful and meaningful than any other place on earth. He intends for his churches to be healthy places and for the members of those churches to be healthy as well" (14)
    Don't let his name fool you, this book is very easy to read. It is well-written and covers a variety of topics. He states that a Healthy Church Member is an . . .

    • Expositional Listener
    • Biblical Theologian
    • Gospel Saturated
    • Genuinely Converted
    • Biblical Evangelist
    • Committed Member
    • Seeks Discipline
    • Growing Disciple
    • Humble Follower
    • Prayer Warrior

    There was one chapter that I wanted to look at more closely. It is the chapter on being genuinely converted. I really appreciated that he included this chapter, even though my guess is that many people will struggle with this one. We have so watered down the gospel in our churches that anyone who prays a prayer to "ask Jesus into their heart" is automatically assumed to be a Christian. But we live in a world where believing in Jesus is much too easy. I forget who it was who originally coined this term, but we have many "unregenerate Christians" in the church today. They say all the right things, but they have never been regenerated. They have never been converted.

    In many ways, I wish this would have been set as the first chapter of the book. We need more warnings like this. He defines conversion as "the radical turn from an enslaved life of pursuing sin to a free life of pursuing and worshiping God. Conversion is a change of life, not merely a decision" (49). He then proceeds to ask several questions as evidences that conversion might have taken place. For instance, he asks whether the patter of your life is light or darkness? Good question. He asks for you to evaluate your love for other Christians.

    I would highly recommend this particular chapter and this book. The good news is that if you were at CBC this past week, you received a free copy. There are a few left and will be available this coming Sunday. If you live around us, come on by and pick up your free copy. In closing, let me share a few of his closing words.
    "It is entirely possible to read this book with the spirit of individualism. You may finish this book and think, 'Let me get to work on me.' And to be sure, there is a great deal of growth we all need to make, and by God's grace will make, until Christ returns. But this book is about the church, the whole of Christ's body in a particular place. Much is said about your role and my role in it, but you and I are meant for and belong to all the others who assemble as God's people (Rom. 12:5). So, the best way to put this book into practice is to do so with the partnership, support, and love of other Christians in your local church. Don't be a 'Lone Ranger Christian,' exclusively or myopically concerned with you. Lock arms with others who love the Lord and love his church and together grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (116-117).