A Minister of Christ, But Still Just a Man

Wise counsel for church members to remember and understandable counsel that all pastors can concur with from experience.

For your own sake, and your children's sake, cherish and revere him whom you have chosen to be your pastor. Already he loves you; and he will soon love you as 'bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh.' It will be equally your duty and your interest to make his labors as pleasant to him as possible. Do not demand too much. Do not require visits too frequent. Should he spend, in this way, half of the time which some demand, he must wholly neglect his studies, if not sink early under the burden. Do not report to him all the unkind things which may be said against him; nor frequently, in his presence, allude to opposition, if opposition should arise. Though he is a minister of Christ, consider that he has the feelings of a man.--(Edward Griffin, "A Tearful Farewell from a Faithful Pastor", 1809)

Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart 4

Here are a few good excerpts from the chapter entitled, "What's At the Heart of Manhood and Womanhood" from John Ensor's book, Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart.

“At the heart of mature manhood is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.” --John Piper

“At the heart of mature womanhood is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”--John Piper

The fall of man is not found in the eating of the forbidden fruit. The sin was breaking trust with God, confirmed in the eating of the forbidden fruit. It was believing that God was no longer good and was holding out on them. It was believing that their glad submission to God’s rule was a form of oppression,
preventing them from being all that they could be. By rebelling, they thought that they could be wise like God. Their sinfulness, as it related to each other, was in the man’s failure to lead, provide, and protect and in the woman’s taking the lead.


"God the All"

That's the title of a prayer I read today from The Valley of Vision. Here are two quotes that encouraged me today:

I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal, and it delights me to leave them there.

O God, it is amazing that men can talk do much about man's creaturely power and goodness, when, if thou didst not hold us back every moment, we should be devils incarnate. This, by bitter experience, thou hast taught me concerning myself."


T4G 08 Slideshow

The Together 4 the Gospel site has put up a wonderful slideshow from the 2008 Conference. What wonderful memories of God's grace and the goodness of the Gospel! Take a look here.

There is word that a cd will be coming out from the conferences sometime later this year. Yeah! That will get much use in my car and in my office. The slideshow is set to the gloriously beautiful hymn by Isaac Watts, How Sweet and Aweful Is This Place. Below are the words to the hymn. Watch the slideshow the first time for the pictures. Then listen to it a second time and sing along. While I love both contemporary music/hymns, there's no contemporary song that competes with this great hymn!

How sweet and aweful is this place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?

"Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice, and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

Choosing the Steak Over the Sizzle

Glenn Beck recently wrote a good piece on the media's attention and fawning over Democratic Presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama. Beck writes,

But all of this points to a larger point: We've become a country that continually chooses the sizzle over the steak. McCain may not get my vote, but he gets my admiration for at least offering some substance and new ideas when he speaks. Obama, meanwhile, is like the rock star who's realized that he can just scream unintelligible words into the microphone between songs, and the entire stadium will still scream. When your fans already love you, there's no reason to risk it by offering anything that might be controversial. Remember the Dixie Chicks?

As candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain are ironically a lot like the way the media treats them: Obama is the glitzy magazine cover that screams for people to buy the issue, and McCain is the fact-filled article buried inside that makes you glad you did.

Is he talking about churches today or presidential candidates? Far too many times the churches that are full and "growing" are those that sizzle with sensationalism and entertainment instead of those who are more characterized by the substance of biblical truth and the centrality of the Gospel. By God's grace let us see less rock star, personality, and prosperity driven churches and more churches driven by the facts and faith of the Gospel. We and the lost we long to see saved will be glad if that is so!

Faithfulness Without Seeing Fruitfulness

Sometimes pastors can be critized for the lack of fruit in their ministries or the church where they pastor. However, that is not an indication of a lack of faithfulness. Here is an excerpt from an excellent post on this issue.

A lack of obvious, short-term "fruit" often leads people to question the faithfulness of the pastor. This may be appropriate, and indeed, accountability to remain faithful is a hallmark of a good pastor.

But too often a lack of short-term "fruitfulness" weakens a minister's resolve to endure, even though a Biblical call for endurance is exactly what is needed in so many cases.

What about the fruitfulness of prayer? Or the fruitfulness of obedience? Jeremiah, Hosea, and others were faithful in their calling, but none of them saw "fruit" in the way we usually think of it. They called people to repentance and no one repented. Yet God seems to make much of their fruitfulness of obedience, their fruitfulness of endurance, their fruitfulness of faithfulness, their fruitfulness of doing what is right even if the stars fall.

Piper On the Importance & Blessing of Church Membership

John Piper recently preached a message on "How Important is Church Membership?" Here's a great excerpt:

Are you an accountable member of a local church? Not just: Is your name somewhere? But, are you committed to discipline and being disciplined according to biblical standards? Have you publicly declared your willingness to be shepherded and to be led by the leaders of a local church? Do you see yourself and your gifts as part of an organic ministering body? Do you show by your firm attachment to Christ’s body that you are attached to Christ?

Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. More than most of us realize, it is a life-sustaining, faith-strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us. I urge you not to cut yourself off from this blessing.

Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart 3

This is the 3rd installment of a series through John Ensor's excellent book Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart. Below are a series of quotes from Chapter Three: "What the Heart Lacks." Enjoy and then purchase the book and read the whole thing!

'Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.' I'll go with Augustine on this one. Our endless search for happiness explains just about everything we do, good and evil. We look for sex and drink beer because it makes us happy almost instantly. We repeat this because it is a fleeting happiness and so must be sought again and again.

If we do not seek our happiness in God and make him our perfect and everlasting happiness, then every good thing becomes a substitute for God; it becomes an idol.

Idyllic love is idolatry because it places on a man what only God can provide.

Sisters, to look to any man to be your all-encompassing delight is to set him up for failure, and then you will hate him for disappointing you. You will find what you are seeking only in Christ...Likewise brothers, there is no eternal bliss in breasts...God is the wellspring of our life.

Discretion is God at work in our heart, giving us the means to fulfill our heart’s desire by first protecting us against fraud...Without discretion you will fall prey to the dimwitted notion that you are ready for sex when you are in love. Nothing is more typical and nothing is more wrong.

The powerful urge within you will either be channeled into one enduring and precious love or it will drag you off, strip away all you cherish, and when you are left with nothing but yourself, it will eat away your flesh! Can a man play with fire and not be burned? Discretion, get discretion.

I am the only condom my daughter will ever need. I am her protection. I have modeled for her what kind of man to look for in marriage by how I live and love her mother. I have shown her what to look for—someone who values integrity and lives in submission to God, someone works hard to his family and laughs loud with them and can’t keep his hands off his wife. My boys too are watching and learning from me.

What we desire and describe as a healthy, tender, passionate, enduring, mutually-satisfying relationship, God simply calls marriage.

As you can see, this was a very good chapter!

2008 Bassmaster Classic Champion & Caution With Child "Conversions"

The latest issue of Outdoor Obsessions contains an interview with Alton Jones, the 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion. There is also a short account of his conversion to Christ. He comments on "conversion" as a child...

I was raised attending church every Sunday, praying before each meal, and kneeling beside my bed each night before going to sleep. As a young child I learned the "right" answers to many spiritual questions and I was even baptized at age 6. At that time, however, my true motivation for baptism had very little to do with my need of a Savior. I knew I needed to be baptized before I could partake in the Lord's Supper. I couldn't stand watching my friends eating a "snack" in church, so I learned the right answers and got baptized. Now I was entitled to crackers and juice in church too...

Pastors and parents must fight against being content with a child who can give the "right" answers, but rather fight hard for children to see their need for a Savior, repent of their sin, and turn in faith to Jesus Christ. Holly and I go through our "questions" with Annika and Alexa. They have about 11 of them memorized. And we are thrilled that they have the right answers to such questions as, "Who made you?" (Jesus) "Why did Jesus make you and everything?" (For his own glory) "Is there more than one true God?" (no)? Yes! Because we know that by God's grace He is putting categories of truth in their minds and hearts which hopefully will be filled with meaning as they get older.

But right now those answers are just glorious spiritual facts that they know in their minds. Their hearts are not changed by the truth they know in their minds. Changed hearts by the power of the gospel and not "right" answers are what we must strive for as pastors and parents.


Reflections From Massachusetts Trip

Our family returned Saturday from a week's stay in Massachusetts. We lived there for almost two years in which God gave us the opportunity to plant a church. We had the privilege of returning for a week, after being away for three years, to partner with two churches there in the cause of the Gospel.

We helped out the church we planted, CrossWay Community Church as well as the church that sponsored us while we were there, Haverhill Community Church. It was very good and very much a blessing to be able to return to a place that will always hold a very unique place in our hearts. It was the first place of ministry for us. It was a church plant which holds a uniqueness all its own. It was where our first child, Annika, was born. It was where God grew us in ways that, though difficult, are precious. It was a place where we saw in remarkable ways the power and goodness of God.

Going back was a blessing. It was weird in a way. As Holly mentioned, it's weird when your mind is retrieving information and memories when you return to a place you have been away from for some time. I only got lost driving once, which was good! During the week we were reunited with so many very good friends and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. For most of the week we passed out fliers to promote a VBS type of event that the Haverhill church is doing in a few weeks. We also did some prayerwalking with CrossWay and helped the Haverhill church get some things done around the church building as well as assist them in their nursing home ministry. I also had the opportunity to preach and teach at both churches.

We stayed with familiar friends from Haverhill Community Church, Jim and Teddy. They served us well and were a joy to stay with for the week.

Some thoughts in recapping the week of ministry:

  • Only by the grace of God did we do the things we did in our time there planting CrossWay Community Church. As we were driving through Methuen on our way to church Sunday morning I thought, "We knocked on at least 75% of the doors in this town!" I have often thought recently of all the physical labor that went into renovating the original space we were in and asked myself, "How in the world did I ever have the energy to do that!" The answer to both is that God gave us a special measure of grace and strength for the task He had called us to there. God was faithful there and He will be faithful here.
  • I am so thankful to the Lord that the church He allowed us to plant is still there and persevering. It has not stopped. They have moved to a street level location and have a great pastor in Bob Smith. The faithful members we had while we were there are still there and a few more have been added. One of the joys of the week happened while we were prayerwalking. A lady asked us what we were doing and we told her who we were with and what we were doing and she said, "Oh, yeah, the church in the center of town. I know where your talking about." In two years, I never heard those words in our encounters with people. They are sweet words and words for which I am thankful to God.
  • The people of Haverhill Community Church are some of most loving people, if not the most loving people, we have ever met. They are such a wonderful example of Jesus' words in John 13:34-35. Oh, what a blessing it was to experience their love again and spend time with them in their homes and in their church family!
  • The spiritual blindness of the area is the same. We attempted to share the Gospel with an older gentleman. He asked me what religion I was and I told him Christianity. His reply was, "I'm fine with my Catholicism." I then had the opportunity to share the Gospel with two teenage young men, Nathan and Bobby. They listened, one more than the other, but you could feel and see the spiritual blindness of their hearts. I pray God will remove it.
  • What a joy it is for a husband to hear and see his wife sharing the Gospel with someone! When we finished sharing with Nathan and Bobby we made our way back over to where Holly was. When we walked up she was there talking to another mom and was about halfway through presenting the Gospel. I was and am very proud to be her husband. Her heart for lost people and her faithfulness in sharing the Gospel challenges and inspires me. She is a gift from God.
  • And similarly, what a joy it is for a Daddy to hear his two little girls praying for lost people. Annika and Alexa were with us when we were prayerwalking. They wanted to pray and so from time to time when we stopped in front of a house to pray, we let them pray. Their prayers weren't too complex or wordy or sometimes even understandable, but God knows the intentions of their hearts. God only knows what seeds were planted in their hearts while they were in the midst of praying for others.
  • It was a blessing to share the experience. It was a blessing to share it with our girls, but also with a church member. I hope he saw our burden for that place and that people and that in some small way caught that burden as well. He was a blessing to our family and I pray the week was a blessing to him.
  • It's good to be home. Though we will always have a heart and burden for New England, Massachusetts was where God called us then. Westmoreland, TN is where God has called us now and the best place to be is always where God has called you.
  • God is faithful. He was faithful to us in every way there while we lived there and He was faithful to us in every way while we were visitors. He was faithful to get us there and to give us the opportunity and to sustain us while we were there. He was faithful there and He is faithful here.

That's all for now. If God places other reflections on my heart of the week, I will share. Pray for the spiritual blindness of New England and your hometown as well to be removed by God's grace through God's Gospel.


Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart 2

This is the first of the aforementioned series of post that will focus on an excerpt or idea from each chapter of John Ensor's exceptional book concerning biblical manhood and womanhood in relation to marriage entitled, Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart.

Chapter 1 is bacially an introduction and overview of the book and so we will start with Chapter 2.

Chapter 2: What the Heart Wants
Commenting on what women really want:
“There’s no doubt that young women are being taught today to be sexually aggressive and to expect many partners. Modesty and restraint are considered signs of obsequious surrender to a foregone age of sexual repression. The strong woman is one who takes responsibility for her own body and who is smart enough to know how to use it. If she is good at it, it is assumed that she will have many partners. Women can and do get to this point. But this is not what they are by nature. This was not their starting point, only their settling point. Blow away the ash, and the ember yet burns for a healthy, tender, passionate, enduring, mutually satisfying relationship with just one man.”
Commenting on what men really want:
We must make a distinction between what the culture assumes we all want and teaches us to want, and what we really want. We must make a distinction between what we thought we wanted, merely to please others, and what we are truly designed to want. We must make a distinction between what we want as sinners in a sinful world, and what we want as men made in the image of God for great purpose.”
Summarizing what men and women both really want in regards to relationships:
“Women want a healthy, tender, passionate, enduring, mutually satisfying relationship with a good man. And men want the same with a good woman.”

Calvin Might Struggle In Today's Church

John Piper gives this excerpt from T.H.L. Parker's biography of John Calvin,

And so we trace him preaching on Sundays with one hundred and eighty-nine sermons on the Acts between 1549 and 1554, a shorter series on some of the Pauline letters between 1554 and 1558, and the sixty-five on the Harmony of the Gospels between 1559 and 1564. During this time the weekdays saw series on Jeremiah and Lamentations (up to 1550), on the Minor Prophets and Daniel (1550-2), the one hundred and seventy-four on Ezekiel (1552-4), the one hundred and fifty-nine on Job (1554-5), the two hundred on Deuteronomy (1555-6), the three hundred and forty-two on Isaiah (1556-9), then one hundred twenty-three on Genesis (1559-61), a short set on Judges (1561), one hundred and seven on 1 Samuel and eighty-seven on 2 Samuel (1561-3) and a set on 1 Kings (1563-4).

189 sermons in Acts. 174 sermons from Ezekiel. 159 sermons from Job. 200 sermons on Deuteronomy. 342 sermons on Isaiah over three years. Calvin may have a hard time pastoring the churches of today that focus sometimes more on the peripheral issues of music, lively childrens programs, and technologically driven sermons instead of the central issues of the Gospel and the Word of God. But I have a feeling the fruit of the former does not last near as long as that of the latter.

The World Would Not Consider This Wise

Heather Payne, one of the founding members of the highly successful Christian group Point of Grace has recently decided to retire from the group. You can read the whole letter to the fans here, but here is an important excerpt...

I told the girls that I would give it my all to keep up the pace. Well, I have given it my all and in the process I have realized that I can’t do it all. As much as I have tried to be super-wife, super-mommy and super-singer, my efforts came up empty. I now know that I haven’t been excellent at any of it. The girls have sacrificed and I have sacrificed, but mostly my family has sacrificed, and to continue like this is not God’s will. We all desire to be great at everything we do, however, in this world where there are so many things to do, we end up being average at those things instead of being excellent at the most important things. Right after I had Ella, I memorized Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This passage has been a constant reminder of the mandate that we have to raise our children in a way that they can watch us living out every day and therefore desire to emulate us as they grow older. It says:

"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (vv. 6-9).

As we prayed about what to do, this passage in Deuteronomy kept coming to mind. Every time I got to the part about teaching our children "diligently" and at all times, I started feeling uncomfortable. I haven’t been diligently teaching my children, I have been getting by.

What a truly courageous and biblical decision that Heather has made. She should be commended no matter how unwise the world would say this decision is. Moms and dads: be excellent at the most important things.

Coupled with the above passage from Deuteronomy 6, this passage in Psalm 145 represent the most important things that dads and moms should be focusing on as parents.

One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty...They will tell of the power of your awesome works...They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. (Psalm 145:4-7)

Is This the Gospel?

In the recent issue of Christianity Today, there is an article detailing James Choung's new and simple gospel presentation. This presentation can be easily drawn on a napkin and seems quite simple. But is it too simple and an even greater question is, "Is it really even the gospel?" I have no doubt that Mr. Choung's intentions were not to misrepresent the gospel and quite the opposite, I imagine his intention was to better and more simply represent the gospel to unbelievers in 2008.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

As I'm drawing the four circles, I'll tell the story like this: The world, our relationships, and each one of us were designed for good, but all of it was damaged by evil because of our self-centeredness and inclination to seek our own good above others. But God loved the world too much to leave it that way, so he came as Jesus. He took everything evil with him to death on the cross, and through his resurrection, all of it was restored for better. In the end of time, all will be fully restored, but until then, the followers of Jesus are sent together to heal people, relationships, and the systems of the world.

I don't believe that the Bible teaches that "all evil will be fully restored" when Jesus returns. All evil will be finally judged and condemned to an eternity of perishing, but not restored. Choung's comment here sounds like all will be saved or restored when Jesus returns.

The overriding spiritual question today is: What is good? What will really help the planet be a better place? And our faith better have an answer for it to be relevant today.

I think Christianity does have an answer for that question (Romans 8:18-25), but I don't know that it is irrelevant if it doesn't address this primarily and I have an even greater issue with this being the "overriding spiritual question" of the day. Now it may in fact be, but it should not be and I do not believe that Scripture seems to frame that as the overriding spiritual question. Scripture seems much more focused on "How will our sinful and rebellious hearts be reconciled to a holy God?"

Choung goes on to say,

We need Jesus to help us become the kind of good we want to see in the world. Only he can fully help us put to death our self-centered ways so that we can truly live. So if you really want to be a part of healing the world in a way that lasts, you have to go through Jesus.

Jesus does not "help us become the kind of good we want to see in the world." This statement almost seems like we can do some good in the world on our own, but Jesus is needed to add what we lack. The gospel says that we have no good in us and there is nothing eternally good that we can do for this earth. Any good thing that we may do, apart from Christ, is done with sinful motives.

Choung does speak on sin:

But we still come back to the concept of sin in the context of a broken world. Each person contributes to the mess. We all do. And when we present sin in the context of results we see in the world (instead of, to a postmodern, an arbitrary set of rules we see that one tribe happens to live by), then our sinfulness is much easier to accept.

What about sin in the context of man being in rebellion against a holy God and therefore rightly and justly condemned by Him? What about that rebellion against a holy God being the reason the world is broken? Choung seems to couch sin as primarily against the world and not against God. Man's main problem is not that the world is messy, but that his heart is messy before God and he and his messy heart have made a messy world. Would Isaiah agree that when sin is seen in the context of results we see in the world, then our sinfulness is much easier to accept? Was it the results Isaiah saw in the world around him that made him cry out, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips..."?

No it was not. Isaiah very clearly gives the reason why he saw his sin: "...for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" What was it about this King that He had seen? The holiness of this King. "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." John 8:41 clearly tells us that this King Isaiah saw was the Lord Jesus Christ. It was when Isaiah was presented with the holiness of God that he saw and accepted his own sinfulness.

Well, there are a few other quotes that are noteworthy, but you can read the whole story and see them for yourself. I am not sure that if the gospel that people believe in is repentance from sin of the results they see in the world and not repentance of sin in their own hearts against a holy God that they will be restored in the last day. I am not quite sure that if people come to Jesus to help them become the kind of good they want to see in the world that they will be "restored" in the last day.

I like Jesus and Paul's version of the Gospel much better. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) Let the Gospel be the Gospel.

"Your Children Will Worship God or Idols"

What a frightening and piercing truth that should be to all of us as parents. Our children will either worship the one true God through faith in Jesus Christ and enjoy Him forever or they will worship the idols of the heart and perish forever because of that sin.

That truth is from chapter eight of Tedd and Margy Tripp's book Instructing a Child's Heart. In that chapter Tedd and Margy deal with casting a vision of the glory of God to your children. Children will either worship the greatness of God or they will worship the idols of their heart. Those idols include: power/influence, pride/performance, possessions, pleasure/sensuality, fear of man/desire for approval, friendship, and being "in the know."

The authors' comment in relation to those idols of the heart that they will never satisfy your child (or you and I for that matter) because we were created to be satisfied and amazed with Someone much greater, God.

Either your children will love and serve God or exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator. Teach them to understand the heart's propensity to manufacture idols.

When you think of idols of the heart, don't think of scandalous sins. Think of harmless hobbies in which children will invest vast amounts of time. Think of the daydreams that provide excitement to a heart that is not finding true and lasting pleasures in knowing God.

Here a a few (several) more great quotes from the chapter:

Remember this. Your children are not likely to grow into adults who truly know God unless you provide them with a big God who is worthy of worship.

If you want your children to sing on Sunday, give them a glorious God. If you want your children to have a reason not to sin on Monday, give them a glorious God. If you want them to think of nobler things than the latest, mind-numbing video fantasy game, give them a glorious God. If want them to dream grander dreams than illicit sex or more money or more stuff, give them a glorious God. If you want them to have a reason for confidence when life seems to spin out of control, give them a glorious God.

Until your children have understood that it is worthwhile to divest of everything, that nothing in all the earth matters but knowing and loving Jesus, they will never know him and love him and serve him.

The authors warn parents, "Don't Feed the Idols."

Families are so overcommitted to activities that there is precious little time for meals together, family devotions, or simple conversation and family enjoyment.

I have observed children coming to church in their Little League uniforms. At 11:55, the family quietly slips out of the Lord's Day worship service. The game starts at noon and the coach won't play anyone who is late. The church is gathered to exult in God's presence and to hear his Word. The pastor is opening the Word of God. Just as he is getting to application, an entire family leaves the church because there is something more time sensitive--the child's participation in Little League. If this child concludes that life is found in knowing God it will be in spite of, not because of, his parents' examples.

I am not against enjoying the blessings God has given us...I am not arguing for asceticism. But don't present a worldview in which life consists in these things, and God is just the icing on the cake. God is the cake!

The authors mention a "Decision Tree" to be used by parents before enrolling their child in any activity:

    1. What is the committment required?
    2. What will it cost?
    3. How many hours each week will we be "on call'?
    4. Does this activity conflict with things of higher priority (i.e.
      family worship, family meals, corporate worship at church)?
    5. How will this impact the rest of the family?
    6. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?


Many Christians are cynical about whether their children can be moved by a vision for the glory of God. They can. They are made for this truth. It is the authentic answer to their deepest longings. It is self-authenticating truth. Your children can "get it."


"Whiter Than Snow"

Here's a helpful and convicting excerpt from Paul Tripp's latest book Whiter Than Snow: Meditations On Sin and Mercy. It is helpful because it is convicting.

Sin lives in a costume, that's why it's so hard to recognize. The fact that sin looks so good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life in a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party.

Impatient yelling wears the costume of a zeal for truth.
Lust can masquerade as a love for beauty.
Gossip does its evil work by living in the costume of concern and prayer.
Craving for power and control wears the mask of biblical leadership.
Fear of man gets dressed up as a servant heart.
The pride of always being right masquerades as a love for biblical wisdom.
Evil simply doesn't present itself as evil, which is part of its draw.

The bottom line is that sin causes us to not hear or see ourselves with accuracy. And we not only tend to be blind, but to compound matters, we tend to be blind to our blindnessWhat does all of this mean? It means that accurate-self assessment is the product of grace. It is only in the mirror of God's Word and with the sight-giving help of the Holy Spirit, that I am able to see myself as I actually am. In those painful moments of accurate self-sight, we may not feel as if we are being loved, but that is exactly what is happening. The God, who loves us enough to sacrifice his Son for our redemption, works so that we would see ourselves clearly, so that we would not buy into the delusion of our own righteousness, and with a humble sense of personal need, seek the resources of grace that can only be found in him.

So True

Thabiti posted this recently concerning pastors and trials/discouragement:

For the past couple of days, I've been working on a pastoral situation where it seems nothing has gone right. I've been heavy in spirit--discouraged really.

Then last night in Bible study, two members of the church approached me separately with small gifts. Both thanked me for what they see as faithful shepherding in their lives.

I can't count the number of times I've been downcast in soul and God kindly sent someone to me to point out evidence of His gracious work in and/or around me. When my soul falls He is ever there to pick it up. I'm thankful for the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:26).

I'm also thankful for the trials that push me out of myself, depletes my self-dependence, and makes me cry to the Lord. "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees" (Ps. 119:71).

I cannot agree more. This too has been my experience as a pastor. Each divinely positioned bump in pastoral ministry has always been leveled by a divinely placed steam roller. There have been countless times where I have been downcast and discouraged because of ministry not going the way you pray it will go or because of attacks from within and outside the church. But with each time, God has been gracious enough to sustain me with a perfectly timed moment of grace to encourage me. It may be Holly giving me an encouraging word. It might be a note from a church member expressing their appreciation or even a geneous gift of thanksgiving. God uses those moments to sustain a pastor and remind him that his labor in the Lord is not in vain.


"Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart"

I just finished reading Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart by John Ensor. I enjoyed this book immensely. I believe this is the best short and easily readable book there is today in regards to biblical manhood and womanhood and the interaction of the two in marriage the way God designed. Every engaged man and woman should read this book. Every husband and wife should read this book. Every Dad and Mom should read this book with their sons and daughters.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some excerpts from each chapter of the book to whet your appetite to go and buy the book and read it. Some posts will be just the excerpts and others may have some personal commentary and how the quotes affected me. I hope you are as edified from these posts as God has been gracious to edify me through this book.

“This book is about doing things right in matters of the heart. It is for those who know by painful experience, if not by observation, that the postmodern paradigm of meeting up, hooking up, shacking up, and breaking up is bankrupting the rich treasure of love itself.”

Chapter Titles

1. Introductory Matters in Matters of the Heart'
2. What the Heart Wants
3. What the Heart Lacks
4. What's At the Heart of Manhood and Womanhood
5. Doing Things Right
6. He Initiates...She Responds
7. He Leads...She Guides
8. He Works...She Waits
9. He Protects...She Welcomes Protection
10.He Abstains to Protect...She, to Test
11. His Unmet Desire Drives Him Toward Marriage...Hers Is Rewarded With Marriage
12. He Displays Integrity...She, Inner Beauty
13. He Loves By Sacrificing...She, by Submitting
14. He Seeks His Happiness in Hers...She Seeks Hers in His
15. He is the Primary Provider for the Family...She, the Primary Nurturer
The Conlusion of the Matter

"FireProof" Outreach

Holly and I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to see a screening of Fireproof, which is the third film project of Sherwood Baptist Church. Their first two were Flywheel and Facing the Giants. This movie is by far the best of the three and I think will have the greatest impact inside and outside the church.

Next week, I am going to begin planning an outreach/inreach strategy around this movie that will coincide with our current series through the Book of Ephesians. The movie opens on September 26th and in the providence of God we will be in Ephesians 5 dealing with the roles of husbands and wives and God's purpose in marriage as it relates to Christ around this time. I ask that you pray for me over the next week as I seek the Lord's will in planning this outreach to our community and inreach to our church families and especially as I plan the sermons that will accompany this outreach. Below is the trailer for the movie. Enjoy and make plans to see the movie in your area when it opens on September 26th. For more information, you can go to http://www.fireproofthemovie.com/.