Friday, May 31, 2013

My Son, the Writer

This past year, my oldest son has shown a growing desire and ability to write. He was involved in a writing club at school in which he made it past a district competition. It is one area that we are encouraging him to work hard at because we believe he is gifted at writing. 

A few months ago, we encouraged him (that is a gentle way of saying we made him) to enter a local Geauga County Park District writing competition. He entered the adolescent prose category (12-17 year olds). The only rules of the fictional writing contest was that it had to be something to do with nature. He ended up winning second place in his category. We are still not sure what that means, but tonight is the ceremony for winners where he will read his prose.

I have posted his article below. If you know him, encourage him to keep writing.

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"Walks with Dad"

"Son follow me," father had said. "Let's go on a walk." We always went on walks together, I love them. As we went out in the frisky weather, I loved the feel of the breeze blowing over my body, though my ears get a little chilly. I could see my own breath. Winter was coming and this would probably be my last walk with dad before it started snowing. We walked across the fields and the forests and through the plains, the leaves rustling as we stomp through them. Then, we stopped at our favorite spot, a little stream that is so clear and refreshing, it was very quiet. No birds even chirped. That day the stream wasn't so clear or refreshing. That day it was murky and dirty.

"Dad, what's wrong with the water?" I asked. "I don't know son." He had said. Right then I heard a popping sound shatter the silence as all the birds fly up in fright. I looked around but didn't see anything. Then I heard a rustle in the bushes. I looked down and dad was on the forest floor, bleeding. "Go get your mother," he rasps. "But I want to stay with you" I cried. "Go!" He yelled.

I ran as fast as I could to our house and told mother what happened. She ran faster than I did back to father but when we get there is only a puddle of blood. "Where did he go mom?" I had asked. "I don't know but we need to run, now." She had said. I obeyed her because I could see the fear in her eyes even though her voice is trying to be strong. We ran as fast as we could. To where? I don't know. As we ran all I could hear was the sound of my heart pounding in my chest and the clomping of our eight hooves. In my mind I am reminded of a warning dad often gave me, deer season had begun.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

15 Years and Counting . . .

May 30, 1998 was a really big day for me. It was the day that Monique Joy Nickel and myself both left our "families" and came together to join ourselves to form a new family. It was the day in the sight of God and our friends that we were married. It is hard to believe that it is now 15 years later.

I was thinking the other day that in the past 15 years, we have lived in nine different houses or apartments; we have been involved in five different churches; we have had five different cars; and we have added three people to our family. It has been a rich 15 years. But for some reason, I feel like we have just started.

I believe many marriages fall apart because the daily grind of the marriage is not what they expected. I wonder if many people have wrongly bought into the Hollywood picture of marriage. The serendipity moment. It's Tom Hanks meets Meg Ryan and sparks fly. But then a few years into the marriage, they wake up next to someone that doesn't quite bring the spark they used to. The euphoria fades. And what they are left with is a choice. Will they . . . will you choose to love your spouse?

Marriage works because of a choice. It is everyday waking up to the reality that your spouse is probably going to fail you, but you are still going to choose to love them. It is that understanding that they will sin against you and you will still forgive them. The sparks are not always going to be there; sometimes they are hardly ever there. That is why our decision in marriage cannot be based on our feelings. Many people fall "out of love" because they have gone days, weeks, or even months without choosing to love their spouse.

Actually, the choosing to love your spouse finds its example in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God poured out His love toward us while we were His enemies (Romans 5:8). He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:5). He cast His love upon us. He chose to love us. It certainly was not based upon any spark that He saw in us. It was because He chose to love us. The understanding of God's loving election of His children gives a solid foundation to the daily choosing to love your spouse.

Monique - today I wake up choosing to love you. I wake up to the reality that you and I will fail each other countless times in the next weeks and months (maybe even today). But I am deciding right now that I am going to fulfill my vows to you and love you like Christ loved the church. And I hope you will forgive me when I fail you in this regard. We are only 15 years into this marriage. But I can only assume that we will continue to have some great and not-so-good moments. In both of those times, I commit to look to and learn from our God as the foundation of my love for you.

It has been 15 years, but I feel as if it has just begun . . .

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Would You Rather . . .

The past several weeks, our family has been playing a game with each other. As we drive down the road or as we are sitting at home, we ask each other "Would You Rather" questions. This is Anni's favorite game to play the past few weeks.

Usually, the game goes something like this. I will ask her a question and then she asks me a question. Sometimes the questions are silly like, "Would you rather go to McDonalds or Burger King?" And sometimes the questions are a bit more serious: "Would you rather go on a date with me or mom?" (she didn't like my answer to that one). 

But last night as I was sitting on the back porch reading a book, she brought a chair up next to mine and asked to play a few times before bed. I begrudgingly agreed and put my book down to focus on her for a few minutes. Then she asked this question:

"Would You Rather Read The Bible 
Or A Book That Tells All About God?"

At first, I thought, well, the Bible is a book that tells all about God, so I can't answer that question. But then I felt really convicted by my 7-year old daughter. You see, it is really easy for me to become consumed with reading books about God instead of reading The Book from God! I would guess I am not alone in this. It becomes so easy to become overwhelmed by the thoughts of men instead of running towards the revelation from God. I find it way to intriguing for me to pick up a book by Paul Tripp explaining the grace of God than it is to read about the grace of God myself from a special grace of the Scriptures. Don't you?

I guess that has to change. Don't get me wrong, I read the Bible almost everyday. I study it often. But even as I do that, I find myself drawn back to what others have written about it instead of taking the time to work at understanding it myself. That needs to change the older I get in the faith. I need to read and reread and reread the Scriptures more and more as it is the only inspired words of literature I will read today. I hope you will as well.

How would you answer that question?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Puritans on Excess

The past several months, I have enjoyed reading through parts of A Puritan Golden Treasury, a collection of Puritan quotes. The thoughts these men had are deep and profound. Add to this that the past several weeks, I have tried to watch what I'm eating (some people call this a diet). And so when I came across the section on "Excess" I was intrigued. Here are some Puritan thoughts on Excess. I'm sure we can all learn from this in some way or another.
"Excess in meat and drink clouds the mind, chokes good affections, and provokes lust. Many a man digs his own grave with his teeth." (Thomas Manton) 
"More are hurt by lawful things than unlawful, as more are killed with wine than poison. Gross sins affright, but how many take a surfeit and die, in using lawful things inordinately. Recreation is lawful, eating and drinking are lawful, but many offend by excess, and their table is a snare. Relations are lawful, but how often does Satan tempt to overlove! How often is the wife and child laid in God's room! Excess makes things lawful become sinful." (Thomas Watson) 
"The physician saith, nothing better for the body than abstinence; the divine saith, nothing better for the soul than abstinence; the lawyer saith, nothing better for the wits than abstinence; but because there is no law for this vice, therefore it breaketh out so mightily. Whoredom hath a law, theft hath a law, murder hath a law, but this sin is without a law." (Henry Smith) 
"Simplicity is the ordinary attendant of sincerity." (Richard Baxter)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

J.T. Turns 11

It just seems like yesterday that we were bringing our second son home from the hospital. But today is J.T.'s 11th birthday. I cannot believe how fast it has gone. If you are a parent, I am sure you can resonate with that thought. The older we get, time seems to go faster than the day before. There are times in which I wish I could slow it down to cherish the size, humor, and personality of my children. But then each new phase of life brings about a new set of things I love about them. 

Since I started blogging, I have tried to write about my children. In many way, it is a digital memory of my life with them. The past few years I have shared many thoughts about J.T. In 2011, I shared 15 reasons I love my youngest son and some thoughts for his 9th birthday. All of those are just as real today as they were then. Last year I shared a special prayer for Him. I still echo that prayer as much today as I did then.

We spent most of the day shopping and hanging out with J.T. As I have been watching his life and spending time with him today, my mind kept racing back to Psalm 119. I eagerly want him to love the Word of God. And so, this is my challenge for him as he continues to grow, not in his physical life, but his spiritual life.

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"Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!" (119:1-2)
Son, you are going to be tempted with many things in this life that you think are going to bring you blessings. Right now, you think sports, video games, and playing with your friends is what brings you ultimate blessing. And truly, they do bring excitement and joy to your life. But they are only a picture of something greater. The greatest sort of blessing is to see everything in your life as a window to your relationship with God. It is to view everything through the lens of obedience to Jesus. I know that obedience is a hard thing to grasp. It implies that there is someone greater than you. It means that you are not the authority of your life. But if you are able to come to this realization, there is a ocean of blessing from the Lord. There is peace knowing that you are walking with Him. There is joy unlike anything you have ever experienced.
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (119:9-11)
Son, you are about to enter a time in life when your passions are going to be strongest. And in these times, there is one place you can run to in order to keep yourself pure from the things of the world. Believe it or not, the Word of God is a refuge. It is not just a book that you read on Sundays or during the week. There is great reward in reading and seeking it, and there is great pleasures in storing it in your heart. God says that it will keep you from sin.
"I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God." (119:113-115)
Son, I desire for you to love God and others. I want your heart to break over your friends that run away from God. I want you to pursue them and share the love of Jesus with them. But I desire that your greatest friends in the world are those that seek a heart after God's Word like you do. They will help you as you seek to find your place of comfort in the Lord.

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I could keep going throughout this entire Psalm. My heart is that he love God through spending time with Him in His Word. God speaks through His Word and I want my son to listen more intently this next year than he ever has.

I love you buddy!

Friday, May 24, 2013

God's Not Dead by Rice Broocks

A few months ago, I was given a copy of God's Not Dead by Rice Broocks to review. It is a new apologetics book directed to three different type of people. 
"The Seeker is attempting to believe but faces doubts about whether God is real. I offer the evidence in these pages hoping that person will be able to realize that it is indeed credible as well as fulfilling to believe in God. Even before understanding Christianity or the Bible, there is ample evidence that the world around us is no accident. The Believer knows God is real subjectively but cannot easily articulate this faith to unbelievers. Hopefully these chapters will make the evidence for God clear so that it can be easily comprehended and then presented to others. The Skeptic may be reading this book from a critical point of view and a predetermined mind-set that there is no God. My hope is that regardless of how attached this reader is to skepticism, the following evidence will ironically allow a seed of doubt to be planted, helping that person break free of the matrix of a godless worldview and embrace the real story that best corresponds to the evidence, the one that declares, 'God's not dead'" (xviii-xix).
As Broocks writes, he tries to answer the question of why the Christian believes what they believe, particularly about creation and the meaning of life. But I did appreciate that he goes further than just arguing the issues of creation versus evolution. He spends ample time on the arguments for Jesus and the Christian life. In the end, he argues that true Christianity has produced a grace effect and living proof that there must be Someone who changes people from the inside out. 

If you have never read a book on apologetics, let me explain what you might expect. Some of the arguments are going to be hard to understand. But if you are willing to reread a page or two from time to time, your understanding will be expanded. I will not promise you that this is the easiest book you will ever read. But it is one that is needed by the Christian community. In fact, I would say that it is easier to understand than many other books like it I have read. 

The thing I appreciated most about this book is that Broocks clearly and definitively articulates the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not enough for him that someone become a theist. He must believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He shares a story of sitting next to a man on an airplane that stated God could not have existed because of all the evil in the world. He says,
"I told the man in 14D, 'God could get rid of all the evil in the world in a moment. All He would have to do is kill everybody.' Think about it. That's exactly what happened in the biblical account of Noah and the flood. God 'saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart" (Genesis 6:5-6). He eventually destroyed the majority of living things and saved one family of eight. The virus of evil was in them as well, though not fully manifested, and it has grown into the world we have today. 
I continued, 'God has a plan to get rid of all the evil in the world without having to destroy us.' The man was now somewhat stunned that his reasoning for rejecting God was being critiqued. 'He wants to remove all the evil in your heart without having to destroy us for being a carrier of this virus. God wants to get rid of all the evil in the world, starting with seat 14D.' The problem was the passenger wanted to get rid of others' evil, but he wasn't willing to give up of his. The truth is, we want God to stop evil consequences but not our own evil actions. We want evil to stop happening to us, but not through us" (62-63)
He goes on later to share why he preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"First, the gospel is the only thing on this planet that can tell a person what is really wrong with him or her . . . the gospel tells us that the source of our pain is our separation from God because of sin. As we have broken God's moral laws, it has resulted in our lives and our souls becoming broken . . . The second reason I preach the gospel is because it is the only thing on this planet that can tell us what to do to heal our condition" (63-64).
This book is more than just a book on apologetics. You will find the gospel weaved throughout it. For that reason, I would recommend it to you. I can envision giving this book out to a few people who are searching for answers.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Inside Out

I am sure you have heard it said before that Christianity is different from any other religion. There are many aspects of how believing in Jesus is different than believing in any other religious leader. But the one that I want to focus on today is how we are changed. I doubt many people think they do not need to be changed. I know I do. I know those around me need to be changed. That is one of the reasons why I blog, to share how I have and am being changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

But here's the deal. Every religion in the world tries to change you from the outside in. They make rules that you have to follow in order to be accepted into their religion. They say things like, "your made holy by the things you do." But that simply is not true with Christianity. When we believe in Jesus, He changes us not from the outside in, but from the inside out. He begins with the greatest place of trouble in our life, our heart.

This concept was visibly displayed through the life example of Moses. When he would go up on the mountain and meet with God, his life became radiant. He was externally changed through spending time with God. When He spent time with God, the glory of God would then radiate from his face. It was so bright that he had to veil his face so that people would not die.
"When Moses removed his veil in the Tent of Meeting and spoke with the Lord face to face, he experienced a physical transformation when his face became luminous. At the same time he underwent a sanctifying moral transformation as, being exposed to God's presence and revelation, his character and will became so marked with God's image that he lived in profound obedience to God's glorious revelation." (Kent Hughes, 2 Corinthians, 79).
Moses had to wear the veil to protect people from the radiation of the glory of God that shone from his fact. But over time, that glory would fade. What is interesting is that the Apostle Paul says that should not happen for the Christian. 
"To this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." (2 Corinthians 3:15-18)
When a person turns to Jesus (believes in Him), the veil is removed from their heart. And they begin to radiate from the inside out like Moses radiated. Instead of the glory of God radiating and fading, it gets stronger and stronger as He changes us from the inside out.

When you spend time with Jesus today through His Word, prayer, and the community of believers, you shine a little brighter. The external comes about through the transformation that is taking place in the internal. You are changed from the inside out.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Several months ago, a friend of mine recommended that I read Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves. He said it was the best book on the Trinity that he had read in a long time. I must agree. It has been about two months since I finished this book and I am just now getting to review it. I did not want to write much on it until I had a chance to meditate on its truths for some time.

Reeves subtitles this book, "An Introduction to the Christian Faith", which seemed to me a rather curious thought. Not many of us would say the doctrine of the Trinity, let alone our delighting in the Trinity, is the place to start when it comes to the Christian Faith. But Reeves argues it is the only place to start. He states in his introduction:
"Christianity is not primarily about lifestyle change; it is about knowing God. To know and grow to enjoy him is what we are saved for--and that is what we are going to press into here . . . the triune nature of this God affects everything from how we listen to music to how we pray; it makes for happier marriages, warmer dealings with others, better church life; it gives Christians assurance, shapes holiness and transforms the very way we look at the world around us. No exaggeration: the knowledge of this God turns lives around" (10).
The rest of the book is his attempt to show how a biblical understanding of the Trinity can change the way we view all relationships in life. 

We define Trinity as three in one. There is only one God, which means we are monotheists. But that is not enough when it comes to understanding our God. He is deeper than that. He is three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. At some levels it is very right in saying that Christians believe in one God. But at other levels, that will not suffice. Reeves says,
"If we content ourselves with being mere monotheists, and speak of God only in terms so vague they could apply to Allah as much as the Trinity, then we will never enjoy or share what is so fundamentally and delightfully different about Christianity" (18).
The book is divided into five chapters on how the Trinity interacts among each other and how this relationship affects the Christian life.

  • Chapter 1: What Was God Doing Before Creation?
  • Chapter 2: Creation: The Father's Love Overflows.
  • Chapter 3: Salvation: The Son Shares What Is His.
  • Chapter 4: The Christian Life: The Spirit Beautifies.
  • Chapter 5: "Who Among the Gods Is Like You, O Lord?"

Each chapter contains its own gems of knowledge. The Trinity's interaction before Creation shows us how God was pursuing and loving each other before all time. He did not create because He needed relationship, but already had it fully and perfectly. He created to share and pour forth to others what He already had with each other in the Trinity. And then the Father sends the Son as an outpouring of His love for His Son.
"The Father sent his Son to make himself known--meaning not that he wanted simply to download some information about himself, but that the love the Father eternally had for the Son might be in those who believe in him, and that we might enjoy the Son as the Father always has. Here, then, is a salvation no single-person God could offer even if they wanted to: the Father so delights in his eternal love for the Son that he desires to share it with all who will believe. Ultimately, the Father sent the Son because the Father so loved the Son--and wanted to share that love and fellowship. His love for the world is the overflow of his almighty love for his Son" (69-70).
And on and on the book goes about what it means that God is Trinity. He pours out. He pursues. He moves. And that stands as a basis for our understanding of Him. It stands as a introduction to the Christian faith because when we understand that God perfectly loves in Himself and then moves to share that love with others, we are learning the foundation of what it means to live the Christian life.

Towards the end of the book, he vividly paints the picture of Jesus on the cross being being the perfect example of God perfectly pouring out of love towards us. 
"In 1882 Friedrich Nietzsche boldly announced the death of God. By that he meant that belief in God is simply no longer viable. He meant it to be an end to all faith. In actual fact, though, 'God is dead' is where true faith begins. For, on the cross, Christ the Glory puts to death all false ideas of God; and as he cries out to his Father and offers himself up by the Spirit (Heb 9:14), breathing out his last, he reveals a God beyond our dreams. Through the cross we see a God who is infinitely better" (127-128).
His word pictures are helpful and convicting. It has to change the way I relate and move towards people. If it doesn't, I wonder how much I really know or understand about God.

Before reading this book, I thought I had a very high view of God. But after reading it, I felt as if I have just barely touched the surface of understanding what kind of a God I serve. This is most definitely one of the top books I have read the past year. He writes at a fairly deep level, but puts the truths into words that are understandable. And his sarcastic writing style keeps you interested as you make your way through a very hard concept to understand. 

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who calls themselves Christian. But I warn you, the truths that you learn about the Trinity will probably force you to think about how you love and pursue one another. It just might change the way you relate to your family and friends. But then again, that's why we read books . . . to be changed.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Puritans on Idleness


I often think of how productive I am in the office as a pastor. But I am even more concerned at times at how productive I am as a Christian. Am I working as a servant of Christ Jesus to His glory or wasting my time on this earth with the things of the world? As I think of that, I came across a few quotes on idleness from A Puritan Golden Treasury that helped convict me of why I need to stay busy for the cause of Christ. I hope they might help you as well.
"Ah, doubting Christians! Remember this, that the promise of assurance and comfort is made over, not to lazy but laborious Christians; not to idle but to active Christians; not to negligent but to diligent Christians....The lazy Christian hath his mouth full of complaints, when the active Christian hath his heart full of comforts." (Thomas Brooks) 
"Idleness tempts the devil to tempt." (Thomas Watson) 
"O spend your time as you would hear of it in the Judgement!" (Richard Baxter)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Leading in the Early Days of Ministry

I have spent the past week at Parkside's Basics Conference. I have tried to share each day something I learned relationally through the teaching or interaction with other pastors. This morning, I wanted to add one more thing I learned from a breakout session with Thabiti Anaybwile.

His session was on starting over without leaving. He tried to impress upon us that it is very easy to begin a new ministry without the right motives. We think they are right, but they are probably focused upon ourselves and not the people to whom we are ministering. I am now part of the way through my third year at Cornerstone Bible Church. Early on when I came here, people would ask me about the ministry. They wanted to know how it was going. My general response was that it was better than I thought it would be. Now, maybe my expectations were low or it really was going well. Either way, I was excited about what was happening here.

I still am. However, I couldn't help but think while Thabiti was talking that there may have been times in these first two years in which I have pushed too fast and hard. There are sure things I wish I could undo that I did in these first two years. I wish I would have been more patient. I wish I would have spent more time with some people. While I can't go back in time, I can certainly learn from those mistakes.

At the end of his message, he gave a list of 10 ways to respond in order to start over. I do not think I am need of starting over, but this list was very helpful for me.
1. Listen to your critics.
2. Keep your mouth shut & don't talk out of school.
3. Recognize that not all disagreement is opposition.
4. Let other leaders set the pace as much as possible.
5. Take all the controversy off the table.
6. Recognize that the messiness is the ministry.
7. The only thing I have to change is me.
8. Declare your intention to serve the church.
9. Set an example for everyone to follow.
10. Explain everything in detail (teach, teach, teach).
The first one is so hard for me. It is difficult to listen to your critics. It is very easy to come into a new ministry position as the expert. I am the one with the doctorate in pastoral ministry. I am the one who has the experience. But I know that with every critical statement, there is some truth in which I need to learn. Combine that thought with the third thought, that not every disagreement is opposition, and you can find a helpful way to respond to people when they do not agree with you. I need that.

I know our ministry has changed since I have been here. I hope it has been for the good and not the bad. At the end of the day, I pray God continues to use me as a humble servant, leading His church that He is building all to His glory. I count it a privilege to just be part of it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Basics Conference 2013, Day 3


Pastoral ministry can be one of the loneliest professions. It becomes very easy to know everyone at your church, but for nobody to really know you. That is just one more reason why I love going to conferences like Parkside's Basic Conference. There are many things I could say about the last day of the conference. The Q & A was insightful and entertaining. Alistair Begg's last message on the end of Jude was helpful. But I want to focus on the friendships that I was able to engage in this last day.

Throughout the conference, I spent time with a college friend, Josh Lough, who pastors in Wisconsin. It was encouraging to talk about everything from our churches to our families. We have always had a good relationship, where we can push each other on some minor theological points without feeling like we are condemning each other. We were able to rejoice with each other in the joys of ministry as well as hurt for each other on the hardships. I count it a privilege to have him as a friend.

And then there are my friends from Parkside. I am thankful for their investment in my life. I appreciate the thoughtful conversations I was able to have with Jonathan Holmes. I count it a blessing to being able to interact with Adam Romans. Along with the others I was able to talk to, these men have all played a significant role in my spiritual development.

Then there is my friend, Dave Fry. He is the pastor of a nearby church and has been a great help to me personally. Along with another friend, Dave and I get together once a month to encourage, challenge, and help each other run this race of the Christian life in ministry together. He is a good man with helpful insights into my life.

Finally, there is Luke Rosenberger. He is another pastor at our church. Since he came in August, 2012, I have enjoyed spending time with him. He has a great love for the church and the gospel. I am privileged to serve CBC alongside of him.

All of these men and many others help make my life what it is today. Friendships are rare these days. But Godly friendships that spur you on to continue your run in the Christian life is even rarer. I can't help but to think of the author of Hebrews words . . .
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I understand the cloud of witnesses that he is talking about are those that lived by faith in chapter 11. But in some way, I wonder if there are those in our lives today that live by faith that help us run as well. I want to be that for others and I need that in my life. So, thank you to all of you that have impacted me. And thank you to Parkside for hosting a conference that is much more than teaching. The aspect of bringing pastors together to come alongside each other for encouragement is priceless. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Basics Conference 2013, Day 2


The Tuesday of the Basics Conference is always the longest. It starts early in the morning and goes till late at night and contains six sessions of teaching. As I have shared the past two days, I am not going to detail every session, but try to pick one aspect of the day that really hit home to me relationally and show how it can apply to my personal relationships.

In the evening session, Kevin DeYoung spoke on the parable of the laborers in the vineyard from Matthew 20. His point was whether we are looking at the world through lenses of grace or lenses of unfairness (read the parable and you will understand what that means). At the end of the parable, the land owner asks three questions to test the heart. First, did you not agree with me for a denarius? Second, am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? And third, do you begrudge my generosity? When good things happen to others, things that I believe should be happening to me, how do I respond?

Now, all of the message was thoughtful and powerful. But there was one part, really a tangent part of that message, that made me stop and think about me and our church. As he was detailing the second point (second question), he talked about how friendly our churches are. He said that many people do not care about how friendly your church is, but about whether or not they are interested in being friends. I tell people all the time that we should be the friendliest church around, but I am not so sure I teach that we should pursue friendship with them. 

Then he shared an illustration about a student from Japan at their church. She told him that she felt the church was very friendly and people had really welcomed her. But in that, she felt as though she needed their friendship while they did not need hers. It gets to the heart of how we view people. Is our relationship quota full? Do we feel as though we don't need anyone else in our life?

At some level, people that step into our lives several years ago, we treat differently than people that step into our lives last week. Now, I understand that we have built deep bridges of trust with them that we do not have with the new people. But I wonder how many times we are too comfortable with those we went to work with at 6 am and won't even give those that show up at 3 pm the time of day in our life. Even though, we know they need us, we hardly ever let them know that we need them. We live as if we don't.

This is where pride reigns. The reality is that we do need others. We need the person that just showed up. It made me think about some of the relationships that I have with those that are newer at our church. I feel it that I need them, but I wonder how much I have communicate that. I hope I can more in the future.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Basics Conference 2013, Day 1


I am at the Basics Conference, hosted by Parkside Church, for a few days this week. Usually when I go to a conference, I try to write a short summary of how I was impacted from each of the speaking sessions. But this time, I am going to try to pick one thought that impacted me in the context of how I relate to others. I want to share what I am learning relationally through this conference.

As I shared yesterday, this is a time of meeting up with friends. When I walked into the conference, I immediately ran into several people I have not seen in a while. It was good to talk with them for a few minutes, catch up on their ministries, and enjoy a laugh or two. I love that.

But the one thing that struck me relationally yesterday has to do with prayer. In his evening session, Thabiti Anyabwile taught on 1 Timothy 2:1-7. At the beginning of the message, he was articulating from the first two verses, on what the pastor should pray.
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."
He said that we should be praying all sorts of prayers for all sorts of people. It made me think of how I pray for all the different people in my life. Or, maybe, I should say that it made me think of how little I pray for all the different people in my life. On some level, we would all say that praying for each other is certainly relational. But if we are honest with ourselves, it doesn't feel that way very often. The fact that I pray for you or you pray for me doesn't feel very relational when you or I don't know that we are praying for each other. That is why his suggestion of writing a short email to everyone in his church he is praying for really helped me.

And then this morning, I remembered something else that happened yesterday. I received an email from a friend I had met at a conference a couple of years ago. In the email, he expressed how his church would like to pray for me and our church this week. That spoke volumes of his care for me and our church. 

Maybe one way to relate to others is to pray for them; communicate you pray for them (not in a boastful way); and then follow up with their needs in their life to see how they are doing. I can't imagine that wouldn't draw people together.

What do you think? Do you think if someone did that for you, it would make you feel special and cared for? Then why don't we do it? Why don't I do it? Hopefully I will start to do more of that sort of relating with others.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Basics Conference, 2013


Since I moved back to Ohio in 2011, I have enjoyed attending the Basics Conference. It is a conference for pastors hosted by Parkside Church (Alistair Begg). The purpose of this conference is to challenge pastors to not forget the basics of pastoral ministry.
"Believing that our effectiveness under God relies in some measure on our ability to 'do the basics well, most of the time,' we will once again focus not on matters we have never known, but upon the things we must never forget. Church history testifies to the lasting benefit when pastors have come together to deepen their fellowship in the Gospel and to encourage one another in faithfulness to it."
There are many aspects of this conference that I have come to enjoy. The speakers are usually engaging. The hospitality is especially blessing. But the relationships are extremely special. I have many pastoral friends on staff at Parkside, as well as many that will attend this conference. That means that this will not just be a time of learning from the teaching. It will be a time of relational community, something I enjoy more and more these days. I think the more time I spend in pastoral ministry, the more I realize how important friendship are to my spiritual growth.

Because of that, I wanted to change how I blog during a conference. Each day, I will try to pick one main thing that I learned during the day that impacts me relationally. I will not detail each session like I have done in the past. I want to focus on just one thought and then expand on it's implications for my life. This thought might come from one of the speakers or it may come from time around meals as I spend time with other pastors. Either way, I hope to share what I am learning relationally through this conference.

If you think about it, would you pray for me and the other pastors and church leaders that will be attending this conference. If you are interested in following along with this conference, you can live stream it. All the times listed below are E.S.T. If you are a pastor, church leader, or simply love good Bible teaching, feel free to follow along with the conference online.

Monday
3:00 pm - Breakout Session: Praying Publicly (Kevin DeYoung)
4:15 pm - Main Session (Alistair Begg)
7:00 pm - Main Session (Thabiti Anyabwile)

Tuesday
9:15 am - Main Session (Kevin DeYoung)
11:00 am - Main Session (Thabiti Anyabwile)
1:15 pm - Breakout Session: Starting Over without Leaving: Recovering from a Bad Start in Pastoral Ministry (Thabiti Anyabwile)
2:30 pm - Breakout Session: The Dangers & Delights of a Long Term Ministry in One Place (Alistair Begg)
7:00 pm - Main Session (Kevin DeYoung)

Wednesday
9:30 am - Question & Answer (All Speakers)
11:00 am - Main Session (Alistair Begg)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

This Week in the Blogosphere (May 11, 2013)

Each week, there are hundreds of thousands of blog posts written around the globe. I usually find myself being impacted by a few of them. Here are a few things I have read this past week that you might find interesting.

Challies continues his series on the history of the church. The Gutenberg Bible is the 9th segment in this series. 

Happy Daughter's Day by Elyse Fitzpatrick
As a pastor, I am always very sensitive on Mother's Day. I want our women to know how much we love them, but I am very sensitive to the pain and hurt that many women are going through that day. I often do not know what to do. This article helps. It is pure gold. Women, read it!

Another article for Mother's Day. As before, it is a helpful reminder for us to be sensitive.

A few months ago when I was in Thailand, I was told of the strategic nature of having mission home bases in Chiang Mai. But this statistic is shocking!

It's official. Texting and driving has now surpassed drinking and driving when it comes to death among teens.


Friday, May 10, 2013

A Pastor's Self-Examination

My guess is that just about everyone thinks their profession is the hardest. The waitress exclaims that she has to be on her feet all day, dealing with complaining people for immodest tips. The construction worker is right to say that his job is physically bearing while not financially profitable. The salesman claims to be rejected all day, every day. And on and on we could go. Including pastors.

I am a pastor. I would not say that our job is the hardest. But I would say that our profession contains some very dangerous potentials. These dangers have been clearly articulated in Paul Tripp's book, Dangerous Calling. Tripp was not the first one to identify the dangers or needs that pastors face. Another man who has identified the dangers of pastoral ministry is Richard Baxter. 

The other day I came across a list by Baxter on the need for pastors to continually be self-examining their life. This list is very important. It is a list pastors should read and consider. And if you are not a pastor, may this list help you better pray for your pastors. Please take some time today to lift them up in prayer.
1. You have heaven to win or lose yourself . . . A holy calling will not save an unholy man. 
2. You have sinful inclinations as well as others. 
3. You have greater temptations than most men. 
4. The tempter will make his first and sharpest onset upon you. If you will be leaders against him, he will spare you no further than God restrains him. 
5. Many eyes are upon you, and therefore there will be many to observe your falls. 
6. Your sins are more aggravated than those of other men. They have more of hypocrisy in them. 
7. The honor of your Lord and Master, and of His holy truth, doth lie more on you than other men. 
8. The souls of your hearers and the success of your laborers, do very much depend upon your self-examination.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Redemption of the Earth

It is spring-time in NE Ohio. Trees are blooming. Grass is growing. Flowers are budding. Creation looks amazing. This picture is part of our backyard. The flowers on this tree are amazingly beautiful. Whenever I look at them each morning, I am reminded of the incredible creativity of our Creator.

But there is something else that is growing during this time of the year. Weeds. And lots of them. They are everywhere. Thistles. Thorns. Dandelions. No matter what we do, they keep sprouting up everywhere in our yard and flowerbeds. Whenever I look at these weeds, I am reminded of the devastating results of sin. 

This is not what God originally designed. It is a result of the sin of Adam. In Genesis 3:17-19, God gives Adam the bad news of the consequences of his sin. God says,
"Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Sin was so devastating that the creation was even affected. But there is hope. We have hope. Because of what Jesus accomplished; His resurrection securing victory over sin and death, we have the possibility to be redeemed. Those that trust in Jesus will be raised from the dead and given a glorified body. We will be restored. But note this: So will the creation! That is what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:20-22:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now." 
Yesterday, I was reading Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. Ponder these words that he writes in connection with the redemption of the earth:
"In this renewed creation, there will be no more thorns or thistles, no more floods or droughts, no more deserts or uninhabitable jungles, no more earthquakes or tornadoes, no more poisonous snakes or bees that sting or mushrooms that kill. There will be a productive earth, an earth that will blossom and produce food abundantly for our enjoyment." (836)
And so the next time you pull a weed, think about redemption. The next time you spray Roundup on your flowerbeds, think about glory. The next time you have to cut down a tree because it has died, consider eternity. It's all going to change . . . someday!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

REACH AMERICA

Last night, I was about to go to bed and was sifting through my twitter feed, looking at things others had posted in the past few hours. It was then that I came across an organization called REACH America. It is an organization based out of Idaho that is calling on young people to fight to bring Christ and the Judeo-Christian Values back to America. The hook this organization has put out is a short video called "The Thaw." I showed it to my son this morning on the way to school and his response was "That was Awesome!" Watch it!



After the video, I began talking to my son (7th grader in a public school) about how he can be an influence. Like this organization, I do believe that students can do mighty things. They do not have to wait till they are older to have an influence. They can make an impact now. 

After watching the video, I went to their website to look around. I certainly did not want to promote some organization that called for action, but did not teach the gospel. But by every evidence from their doctrinal statement to their mission, they are about Jesus, the gospel, and reaching the community by being "Christ-centered; counter-cultural."

I appreciate what they are doing and hope more people will join on board with something like this. I am not very political. But I do realize that there is a wave coming that is going to be detrimental to our country. As Jesus said, we are called to be salt and light in a dark place. We can either bemoan the fact that our country is getting darker or we can be excited that the darker the community, the brighter our light shines. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What I'm Reading...From the Back Cover (May '13)

I am always reading a book or two (or three, etc...). From time to time, I like to share a list of the books that I am making my way through. Here are the books currently on my "to read" list for the next several weeks and what the publishers say about the books from the back cover.

God's Not Dead by Rice Broocks
"Faith in God is rising, yet so is skepticism. The evidence for the existence of God must be grasped and clearly articulated to answer this challenge," says author Rice Broocks. "The success of the atheistic agenda is mostly due to the fact that the theistic responses to atheists' claims have not been widely circulated." God's Not Dead guides seekers and reminds believers that...

  • real faith is not blind--it is based on evidence.
  • life is no accident--there is meaning and purpose in the universe.
  • good and evil are no illusions.
  • the God who exists has revealed Himself in history through Jesus Christ.

Drawing from the areas of philosophy, science, history, and theology, we can form persuasive arguments for God's existence and His presence in our lives. This book equips us with the tools, providing clear, easy-to-follow explanations of the key concepts and controversies. God's Not Dead is apologetics for the twenty-first century.

Sex & Money by Paul David Tripp
Pleasure. We live in a world obsessed with finding it, passionate to enjoy it, and desperate to maintain it. Chief among such pleasures are sex and money--two pleasures unrivaled in their power to captivate our attention, demand our worship, and drive us to hide or to despair. You don't have to look far to see that we are in big trouble in both areas. Many of us see the battle. We feel the strain of the war. And we are eager for freedom in a world gone mad. 

Seasoned counselor and pastor Paul David Tripp pulls back the curtain on the lies that surround us and on the distortions we often overlook. As Tripp thoughtfully exposes the insanity of our culture, he also wisely speaks to our own tendencies to fall prey to sexual and financial idolatry. Sex and Money ultimately directs us to God's Word and the liberating power of the gospel, offering real-world advice, and giving us the guidance we need to find true joy and enduring satisfaction.

Is College Worth It? by William Bennett
For many students, a bachelor's degree is considered the golden ticket to a more financially and intellectually fulfilling life. But the disturbing reality is that debt, unemployment, and politically charged pseudo learning are more likely outcomes for many college students today than full-time employment and time-honored knowledge.

This raises the question: is college still worth it? Who is responsible for debt-saddled, undereducated students, and how do future generations of students avoid the same problems? In a time of economic uncertainty, what majors and schools will produce competitive graduates? Is College Worth It? uses personal experience, statistical analysis, and real-world interviews to provide answers to some of the most troubling social and economic problems of our time.

Communion with the Triune God by John Owen
This edition is edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor. Since there is no publisher remarks on the back of the book, let me share one of the endorsements, given by J. I. Packer.

"Here is a moder reader's edition of a classic Puritan work by a classic Puritan author. It is a powerful Trinitarian profiling from Scripture of the truth that fellowship with God is and must ever be the inside story of the real Christian's life. The editing is excellent, and the twenty-seven-page introduction and the thirty-page analytical outline make the treatise accessible, even inviting, to any who, with Richard Baxter, see 'heart-work' as the essence of Christianity. John Owen is a profound teacher on all aspects of spiritual life, and it is a joy to welcome this reappearance of one of his finest achievements."

Question: What Are You Currently Reading?

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Morning After: Jesus' Authority over Sin (Matthew 9:1-8)


Every human has many basic needs. There is the need for oxygen. There is the need for water. There is the need for food. But among all of these needs is one that stands above the rest. It is the need for forgiveness of sins. In Matthew 9:1-8, Jesus displays that this need for forgiveness is the greatest of all needs. In this miracle account, Jesus dramatically displays His authority over sin, while at the same time, displays His deity to the religious leaders. 

Jesus is in Capernaum, teaching in a house that is so packed full that nobody can enter. The gospel of Mark tells us that four men came carrying their paralytic friend on a mat to meet Jesus. When they realized they had no option of getting into the house, they improvised by going up onto the roof, digging a hole, and lowering the man down into the middle of the room. 

We can well assume that at that point, everyone thought Jesus would heal the man. Instead, Jesus looked at the man and said, "Your sins are forgiven." This was not what the friends wanted. It was not what the man expected. And it certainly was not what the religious leaders anticipated. But could there be any sweeter news to a man than this?

Of course, the teachers of the law thought Jesus was blaspheming. They understood that nobody could forgive sins but God alone. They knew that Jesus was claiming to be God. The only thing they didn't think as an option was that Jesus was in fact God. And so when Jesus perceived that they were disgusted with Him for forgiving the man's sins, Jesus gets right to the point to confirm that He is God. He says,
"Why do you think evil in your heart? For which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins--he then said to the paralytic--'Rise, pick up your bed and go home."
Which is easier to say? There is no doubt that it is easier to say something that cannot be physically verified. Nobody can look into the man's heart to see if he had been forgiven. But if Jesus had told the man to get up and be healed, that is able to be verified and it would draw a line in the sand. And so Jesus raises the tension by looking at the man and telling him to get up. All so that they would know He had the authority to forgive sins. Powerful. Amazing. Dramatic. And the man gets up.

If you want to read or listen to the rest of the account and how I applied this text to our life, you can find it HERE (sermon audio usually posted by Tuesday afternoon). 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

John Piper Interviews Matt Chandler, part 1 & 2

Part 1 & 2: A Personal Autobiography -- I quote and link to Pastor Matt Chandler often on this site. If you have ever wanted to hear his testimony, this interview by John Piper is really helpful.



Saturday, May 4, 2013

This Week in the Blogosphere (May 4, 2013)

I continue to find and read good news stories or blog posts from around the world each week. Here are a few of the stories that really impacted me this past week. I hope you might appreciate a few of them.

It would be good for everyone who shared or "liked" or commented about this story on Facebook this past week to read this article. It helps clarify some things that Christians overreact towards.

We seem to live in a culture that is all about acting based upon our emotions. Taylor looks at how Jonathan Edwards viewed the difference between affections and emotions; one good, the other not so much.

His church is very close to Michigan State University and so he has a very fresh perspective on helping college students become ready for the world. Or at least, Christian college students.

A Father's Love by Tullian Tchividjian
To be honest, this was a very tough one to read. As a father of two sons, I was humbled by the grace of this father. 

I was somewhat surprised by the lack of articles written by those I read on this issue. But here is one perspective that says this is a sign into our future.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris

Pride seems to manifest itself in many ways in my life. But one place I tend to see pride in my own heart time and again is when it comes to doctrine. I think most of my theology is correct. I assume you do as well. That is one of the reasons why Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris is such a needed book for me (and probably for you).

In 2010, Harris wrote Dug Down Deep, a book on why theology is important. The last chapter of that book now serves as the basis for Humble Orthodoxy. It has been taken and expanded on to make its own book. The point of this book is that while we do need to stand for the truth of God, we shouldn't be a jerk while we do it. Harris says,
"We need to be courageous in our stand for biblical truth. But we also need to be gracious in our words and interaction with other people" (3-4). 
I cannot tell you how many times I have related to people when the subject of certain doctrines came up, with arrogance. Still to this day, I think I have a much stronger argument biblically. But I really do not think I pleased the Lord in those conversations. In most of those situations, I found myself in the pursuit of truth . . . for truth's sake. Not for the glory of God. And certainly not for the good of other people. Again, Harris diagnosis many of my intents when he writes:
"That must always be the driving passion behind our pursuit of biblical orthodoxy. Not to prove ourselves more right or better than someone else but to better worship the holy God, the one who forgives and accepts us for Christ's sake alone . . . If we make a good think like correct theology the ultimate end--if being right becomes more important to us than worshiping God--then our theology is not really about God anymore. It's about us. It becomes the source of our sense of worth and identity. And if theology becomes about us, then we'll despise and demonize those who oppose us" (25-26).
That is not what I want. Do you? I want right theology. I want to teach truth. I want to hold the gospel and other biblical doctrines with security. I do believe the Bible is written in such a way that we can understand it and apply it to our life. I just don't want to do any of these things so that I look better or smarter than someone else. I want to love people while I teach the truth.

When I received this book in the mail, I quickly realized that I could read it in a few hours at most (it is only just over 60 pages). But I also realized that the implication of this book will never be so easy. It will probably take me a lifetime to fully understand. His point at the end of the book is very fitting and helpful to close out my thoughts:
"Something that helps me in my pursuit of humble orthodoxy is to remember that one day in heaven there will be only one right person. It won't be me. And I'm sorry to say so, but it won't be you either. It will be God" (54). 
I received a copy of Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris from Multnomah for review.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

One Solitary Life by James Allan Francis

The other day, I came across the poem, One Solitary Life, by James Allan Francis. It is a poem on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, which was written in 1926. I have read it before, as I am sure most of you have as well. As I read it, I was struck by the utter humiliation that Jesus undertook in coming to this earth. Isaiah told us that he would have no form or majesty that would move people to desire him (53:2). Unfortunately, I am fairly sure, this is not what our culture (including Christians) would consider a great leader in our day. But it is our Savior, Leader, and God.

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that have ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard

At the end of this month, I will celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary to Monique. Some of my favorite memories of those pre-marriage days with her were our dates together. I think both of us knew early on in dating that this was going to move towards marriage. And in one year and one week from our first date, we were married. According to Justin Buzzard, at that point, our dating relationship was not over, but should have just been starting.

That is the theme of his book, Date Your Wife. Since the book was released in 2012, I have wanted to read it. I am glad I finally took some time to get to it because this book really challenged my thinking on continually pursuing my wife. When I picked up the book to read it, I quickly became aware of how important this message is for the Christian. In the opening pages of the preface, he makes a statement that really scared me:
"Make a list in your head of the marriages you've seen that you actually like. How many married couples can you think of that have a thriving marriage--a good, happy, alive marriage--the kind of marriage that makes other people want to get married" (15).
When I read that, I was scared because I struggled to come up with a handful of marriages that I could put in that category. To be fair, I am sure there are many couples I know that should be in that category, I just do not know them well enough to speak of their marriage like that. As I thought about it, it made me sad that I didn't have many names to list immediately. And then I thought, "Would anyone put our marriage in that category?" I want to be clear, I do not want to work on my marriage simply so I could be included in a list like that. I want to have a good healthy marriage for us, our children, and the glory of God. But it did make me think about how others view our marriage.

Buzzard does a great job of making this book easy to read. It is filled with helpful stories and action points. I think one of the best uses of this book would be in a small group of men. He ends each chapter with helpful, thoughtful questions for men to ask of themselves. But men meeting together to talk about their marriages might just turn out to not be super enjoyable. He very clearly states the problem in marriages are the men.
"Men are the problem. If you want to change a marriage, change the man. If you want to change your marriage, you must first see that you are the main problem in your marriage . . . You are what is wrong with your marriage. It's your fault. This is the second most important truth to learn from this book: it's your fault. You are the husband. You are the man. And God has given man the ability to be the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to a marriage. Before you can be the best thing that ever happened to your marriage, you must see that you have always been the worst thing that happened to your marriage" (40-41).
That might sound harsh. And let's be honest, there are probably many marriages where the man is doing everything right. But the reality is that Buzzard is trying to get men to take the responsibility in that relationship; something we do not like to do. He states this is the second most important truth of the book. The first? That God can change men. He roots his arguments deep in the well of the gospel. He  clearly shows that God makes a man able to pursue His wife only when that man realizes how much God has pursued him (79). That's the gospel truth that we need to hear.

He ends the book with very helpful advice on creating a plan for dating your wife. If you do not plan it, it won't happen. He begins with a large picture of a month by month plan for the year (he calls this the air war). How many times a month the next year will you date your wife? What are the large-scale plans? Will you go out of town or stay at home? How much money are you willing to budget for these dates?

This is good, but it must be connected with a weekly schedule of how you are going to pursue your wife (he calls this the ground war). When is your day off? What are your priorities? The key is that he encourages this to happen before anything else gets put on the calendar. He says,
"Once you have created your air war and your ground war, you've completed an annual Date-Your-Wife Plan. Now all you do is follow the plan. Since now you've blocked off your year and your weeks to date your wife, you can fill in your calendar with everything else in your life: work, activities with the kids, outings with friends, etc. This process ensures that you approach each new year of life with 'date-your-wife eyes,' that you keep dating your wife a priority above the other priorities in your life" (116). 
Now we will see whether my wife reads my blog. I have 30 days to come up with this plan. She will see it. I doubt many of you ever will. But as I make these plans, I could use your help.

What Are Some Good Ideas For Dates?