Wednesday, December 12, 2007

the Life God Blesses

Wow, that title sure sounds like a self-help book, but its not. It is absolutely true that we can't predict blessings from God, but I do believe we can put ourselves in the way of God to experience his blessings. This isn't prosperity preaching, so don't tune me out yet, but I believe it is godly. You see, we position ourselves to experience God's blessings when we are focused on honoring him and working at all things as unto him.

You want God to bless you with money? Here's the plan from God: if you don't work, you don't eat, so work hard and see the blessing that God gives you. Do you want a great marriage, pray to God and love your wife as Christ loves his church. That's God's plan for marriage. God's blessing may still require our work--they usually do.

We miss God's blessings sometimes because we lose focus. We mess up and then want to claim that God didn't bless it. This happens a lot in churches, they struggle to impact their culture and refuse to change, and then say that God didn't want to bless them. Maybe God did desire to bless and it was the church who lost their main focus. The church's focus should be on the glory of God and the salvation of sinners. It is no wonder that God's blessings seem to be missing from churches focused on hair styles, women's fashion, or carpet color. Focus on the things of God. God desires to work in the ordinary things of life. Will you maintain focus in the ordinary things of life to experience the extraordinary blessings that God has in store.

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Centrality of the Cross in Preaching

Be warned...this is very long. I don't usually post articles this long, but I thought it might be beneficial for someone.

How does one practice expository preaching in light of one’s understanding of the larger biblical-theological story of redemption? The answer to that question, of course, relies largely on one’s understanding of the larger biblical-theological story of redemption. In other words, the conclusions drawn by any preacher’s particular views of biblical theology will have a profound impact on the expository preaching practiced by that man. For the sake of this paper then, it is necessary to identify the one theme that the author believes to dominate the story of redemption in the Bible, and that theme is Christ. All of Scripture before the cross builds to that climax and all of Scripture written after the cross looks back to it as the centerpiece of redemption and salvation. The Bible is essentially a book about one thing, Christ and the cross. The purpose of this paper, then, is to show that since Christ on the cross is the climax and centerpiece of Scripture, it must also be at the center of all truly expository preaching.

Richard Baxter once said, “A preacher must be oft upon the same things, because the matters of necessity are few.”[1] Jesus said something similar when asked about the greatest commandment. In reply, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”[2] Preaching was once a respected calling, but in recent years, the art of preaching has come under much scrutiny and attack. The calls from many are to make preaching more needs based and consumer driven. However, in response to this call for variety and application, the preacher would do well to remember the words of Baxter and of Christ; for God’s word is a book that testifies to one great thing, and that great thing is the crucifixion of Christ.

The primary goal of preaching should never be to meet the needs of the hearer; instead, “preaching should be driven by a passion for the glory of God,”[3] and God’s glory is supremely displayed upon the cross. Because God is most glorified through the atoning death of his Son on the cross, the crucifixion event should dominate all truly Christian preaching that seeks to glorify God. Needs-driven preaching tends to lean toward one of two dangerous extremes; the preacher becomes either legalistic in his approach or staunchly liberal. The legalistic preacher looks to the wrongs of people and spells out a list of commands and rules from God that all should follow. The liberal minded preacher looks to the perceived needs of his congregation and re-interprets scripture in light of the current situation of his hearers. Rather than focused on the hearer, the sermon should always be focused on the God who created the hearer. John Piper quotes Cotton Mather as saying, “The great design…of a Christian preacher [is] to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men.”[4]

On the necessity of gospel-centered preaching, Bryan Chapell writes, in his excellent book, Christ-Centered Preaching:

By exploring how this gospel of redemption pervades all of Scripture, this book also establishes theological principles for redeeming the expository sermon from the well-intended but ill-conceived legalism that characterizes too much evangelical preaching. Christ-centered preaching replaces futile harangues for human striving with exhortations to obey God as a loving response to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ and in thankful dependence on the divine enablement of his Spirit. True holiness, loving obedience, spiritual strength, and lasting joy flow from this precise and powerful form of biblical exposition.[5]

Further, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” It is clear, however, that Paul wrote about much more than the life and death of Jesus Christ. In his writings, he writes about his life and the lives of his fellow Christians. But, Goldsworthy shows that Paul’s purpose in 1 Corinthians was to repudiate the worldview of the “pagan, the philosopher, and even the Jew who attempts to get a handle on reality apart from the truth that is in Christ.”[6] Goldsworthy further shows, “the reason for this Christ-centeredness is so that the faith of his readers ‘might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:5).”[7] Therefore, the necessity of preaching Christ as the central theme of Scripture is for grounding the sermon in the truth of God and not the perceptions of human beings.

Of course, the commitment to Christ-Centered preaching should never be a commitment to misinterpreting Scripture; rather it is the commitment to rightly interpret Scripture. Kaiser writes, “every sermon which aspires to be at once both Biblical and practical…must be derived from an honest exegesis of the text and it must constantly be kept close to the text.”[8] Piper writes, “In the cross of Christ, God has undertaken to overcome both obstacles to preaching. It overcomes the objective eternal obstacle of God’s righteous opposition to human pride. And it overcomes the subjective, internal obstacle of our proud opposition to God’s glory.”[9] In like manner, Goldsworthy illustrates that without Christ, even the Old Testament is not applicable to the Christian life: “While the temptation in preaching will be strong to proceed directly from the godly Israelite to the contemporary believer…there is no direct application apart from the mediation of Christ.”[10] Thus, Christ-Centered preaching is not the easy way out of difficult exegesis, rather it is the hard work that must be done by any serious preacher who claims to herald the truths of God’s word, because God’s word is Christ-centered.

Expository preaching that is cross-centered is only possible, however, if preaching is actually taking place. For many in the emerging church preaching has quickly fallen out of vogue. In an attempt to satisfy the wants and perceived needs of hearers, these emergent pioneers are anxious to rid themselves of the classic preaching event. Darren Rowse, a church planter in Australia writes:

At Living Room after 4 months we are yet to have a 'sermon' (in the traditional sense of the word), there have been no monologues and nothing that resembles preaching in the sense that I've previously seen it in the churches that I've worked. The only times I give a sermon these days is when I'm guest speaking at a church or a camp — and even then it often ends up more like a brawl (workshop might be a more correct way of saying it) than a 'sermon'.
Having said that, there has been a lot of group learning, teaching and exploring. Scripture has been opened and expounded virtually every week. People have been challenged and stretched by God through the worlds of those sitting around the table with them. Whilst some weeks I do prepare something for the group to grapple with, most weeks the group itself is responsible for each coming prepared to participate in the learning experience.

The same blog lists a comment by a different author that mirrors many of the same concepts.

We're planning to avoid the sermon format. We've found that it's even more boring for one person to talk in a small group than it is in a large group. There is a wealth of alternative formats to use - from ancient practices to modern education workshop formats. No reason for one person to A) Spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of things to say to his peers B) Ignore the contributions others are ready to make.[12]

But preaching is a necessity. D. Martin Lloyd Jones writes, “preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called…the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.”[13] There are great things to be learned from the emergent tradition, such as the necessity of maintaining relevance and authenticity in one’s preaching. One emergent author writes, “if the lives of Christian leaders are not modeling authenticity, including an honest self-awareness of their sexual sins, how can what they’re preaching be good news?”[14] Authenticity by the pastor or preacher is an absolute necessity and it is good for all ministers to be reminded of that requirement, but it is hardly a new concept with the emerging church. Phillips Brooks famously said, “Preaching is the bringing of truth through personality.”[15] In Lectures To My Students, Spurgeon quotes John Owen as saying, “No man preaches his sermons well to others if he doth not first preach it to his own heart.”[16] Spurgeon goes on to say that “it is a horrible thing to be an inconsistent minister.”[17] Thus, the call to authenticity in and out of the pulpit is a long standing exhortation from pastors to pastors. It is good to hear this charge echoed through the emergent church, but it must be recognized that the call for authenticity and relevance in application did not begin there.

Critics of the emergent movement are quick to point out that one must be cautious in one’s attempts at relevance. William H. Willimon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, comments:

Sometimes in leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear that we may have fallen in! When, in our sermons, we sought to use our sermons to build a bridge from the old world of the Bible to the new modern world, the traffic was only moving in one direction on that interpretive bridge. It was always the modern world rummaging about in Scripture, saying things like "This relates to me," or, "I'm sorry, this is really impractical," or, "I really can't make sense out of that." It was always the modern world telling the Bible what's what.I don't believe that the Bible wants to "speak to the modern world." Rather, I think the Bible wants to change, convert the modern world.[18]

Changing and converting the world is exactly what the cross of Christ was intended to do. Application is essential in the sermon, even the great John Broadus writes, “The application in a sermon is not merely an appendage to the discussion or a subordinate part of it, but is the main thing to be done.”[19] The application of the sermon is precisely the change that is mentioned above by Willimon and is wrought by the cross of Christ. Preaching should have God’s glory as its primary motive, but God is glorified not only through the preaching event, but through the application of his word to the lives of the sermons hearers. So important is application in the sermon that Vines and Shaddix consider the motive of preaching to be positive response;

The preaching event is driven by the desire to see people respond positively to God’s word…biblical truth innately demands a response. It was not given for the purpose of trivial consideration or entertainment. God’s Word was intended to be acted upon.[20]

So, how does one practice expository preaching in light of one’s understanding of the larger biblical-theological story of redemption? One practices expository preaching by submitting one’s exegesis and exposition to the authority of God’s redemption. Unless God is schizophrenic, God cannot and will not change. God is a redeeming God and his redemption through Christ on the cross is the overarching theme of Scripture. Thus, all preaching, teaching, devotion, and study must be done in light of God’s work through Christ on the cross. A hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend captures the essence of Christ-centered theology and preaching well:

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.[21]

The Westminster Catechism asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” If that is indeed the chief end of man, then it ought also to be the chief end of the sermon. Expository preaching should prompt men and women of all ages to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The only path toward that glorification and enjoyment is Christ. He is the path to reconciliation between God and man. The short answer, then, that sums up the whole of this paper is that one practices expository preaching in light of one’s understanding of the larger biblical-theological story of redemption in and through Christ and his atoning sacrifice on the cross. A great speech may be written and recited that does not focus on Christ, but it will never be a great sermon unless it has Christ at its center.


[1] Richard Baxter. The Reformed Pastor (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), 114.
[2] Matthew 22: 37
[3] Jim Shaddix, The Passion Driven Sermon (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman, 2003), 3.
[4] John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 2004), 26.
[5] Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming The Expository Sermon (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic Books, 2005), 20.
[6] Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 2.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Walter C. Kaiser Jr Toward an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1981), 19.
[9] Piper, 33.
[10] Goldsworthy, 116.
[12] Ibid
[13] D. Martin Lloyd Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), 9.
[14] Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2007), 266.
[15] Phillips Brooks, The Joy of Preaching (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1989), 26.
[16] Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1954), 15.
[17] Ibid.
[19] John A. Broadus, Jesse Burton Weatherspoon, ed, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (New York, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1944), 210.
[20] Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1999), 26.
[21] Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend, In Christ Alone, 2001.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Random Acts of Kindness

Looking for a way to spread some holiday cheer this year? Try practicing random acts of kindness. I don't think we would consider Donald Trump a model for Christians to follow in most ways, but a recent news story about a $10,000.00 tip left by The Donald might inspire some of you to find a way to practice a random act of kindness in your own way. Try paying for someone's food in a drive-thru, or maybe just tuck a $5 bill and a note under someone's windshield wipers. My wife and I have often joked about sneaking through people's coat closets and leaving money in their pockets to find later.

Maybe your act can just be a note to let a friend or a random person know that you have prayed for them. Be creative, but at Christmas, be Christian. Christ gave when we did not deserve it, try giving to someone else just because you've been given so much by your Savior.

Click here to read about Donald Trump's awesome tip.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

For Fathers and Sons

Most of you know that I am a new dad. I LOVE Wyatt. One of my most uttered prayers is that I will be a godly father to my son and that I will teach him what it is to be a godly man. In our efforts, we have to remember that being godly is only part of being a godly man. The other aspect is, of course, that Wyatt has to be a man. I don't just mean an adult male, but a man! I bought The Dangerous Book For Boys as soon as Wyatt was born. Of course, we haven't been able to enjoy it together yet, but I ran across the interview below and thought that the author of that book had some wonderful insights for fathers and sons. I hope that you will read and enjoy.

Remember, godly men are godly first, but they are also men. It's time that we taught our little boys how to be godly men. It's difficult to describe what a phenomenon The Dangerous Book for Boys was in the UK last year. When I would check the bestseller list on our sister site,, there would be, along with your book, which spent much of the year at the top of the list, a half-dozen apparent knockoff books of similar boy knowledge. Clearly, you tapped into something big. What do you think it was?

Iggulden: In a word, fathers. I am one myself and I think we've become aware that the whole "health and safety" overprotective culture isn't doing our sons any favors. Boys need to learn about risk. They need to fall off things occasionally, or--and this is the important bit--they'll take worse risks on their own. If we do away with challenging playgrounds and cancel school trips for fear of being sued, we don't end up with safer boys--we end up with them walking on train tracks. In the long run, it's not safe at all to keep our boys in the house with a Playstation. It's not good for their health or their safety.

You only have to push a boy on a swing to see how much enjoys the thrill of danger. It's hard-wired. Remove any opportunity to test his courage and they'll find ways to test themselves that will be seriously dangerous for everyone around them. I think of it like playing the lottery--someone has to say "Look, you won't win--and your children won't be hurt. Relax. It won't be you."

I think that's the core of the book's success. It isn't just a collection of things to do. The heroic stories alone are something we haven't had for too long. It isn't about climbing Everest, but it is an attitude, a philosophy for fathers and sons. Our institutions are too wrapped up in terror over being sued--so we have to do things with them ourselves. This book isn't a bad place to start.

As for knockoff books--great. They'll give my son something to read that doesn't involve him learning a dull moral lesson of some kind--just enjoying an adventure or learning skills and crafts so that he has a feeling of competence
and confidence--just as we have. Do you think The Dangerous Book for Boys is being read by actual boys, or only by nostalgic adults? Have you seen boys getting up from their Xboxes to go outside and perform first aid or tan animal skins or build go-carts?

Iggulden: I've had a lot of emails and letters from boys who loved the book--as well as fathers. I've had responses from kids as young as ten and an old man of 87, who pointed out a problem with the shadow stick that we've since changed. The thing to remember is that we may be older and more cynical every year, but boys simply aren't. If they are given the chance to make a go-cart with their dad, they jump at it. Mine did. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to know the book is being used with fathers and sons together, trying things out. Nothing is more valuable to a boy than time with his dad, learning something fun--or something difficult. That's part of the attitude too. If it's hard, you don't make it easy, you grab it by the throat and hang on for as long as it takes.

The book is often bought by fathers, of course. Their sons don't know Scott of the Antarctic is a great adventure story. How could they if it isn't taught any more? Good, heroic stories don't appear much in modern school curriculums--and then we wonder why boys don't seem interested.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007


Today I learned that even athiests are sponsoring Sunday School...who knew? Read about that here if you are interested.

I guess that caught my eye because Sunday School has been on my mind so much lately. We have a wonderful problem. In some areas, we are outgrowing our facilities. I have racked my brain over how to make more space for these growing classes, but this week I was reminded that maybe space isn't what we need. The first thing we need to do is ask God what he would like for us to do and then look for the answer he gives us.

I know that sounds a bit ambiguous, but just listen for a minute. Often times in leadership, we get so set on doing things a certain way that we neglect to look for other ways to operate. So, churches will often jump ill-advised to a two-service model, or begin a building program, or purchase new equipment or land because that seems to be the next logical step without ever praying for God's direction and looking for his hand at work. As leaders in God's church, we must always remember that God is never surprised or unprepared. When we grow as the church, it is not because of our work, God alone is responsible for bringing about the harvest. If indeed it is God who brings the harvest, shouldn't we trust him to prepare the barns as well?

Maybe instead of more space, God says multiply into more opportunities.
Who knows, maybe God doesn't want bigger barns, maybe he prefers for his workers to be in the fields...just a thought for you to consider.
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Just Get Out of the Way

How can you be effective sharing the good news of Jesus as a pastor, a teacher, a mechanic, or just as a Christmas shopper? You know, it might not be as hard as you think. We serve a God who has been making himself known for all of eternity. Even creation screams his name. Ministry is not about making God relevant, he already is. Ministry and evangelism, instead, is about doing just enough to not get in the way.

You see, God doesn't need us, but he does choose to use us. Salvation is all about his work in our lives. We get into trouble when we try to make ourselves out to be more important than we are. Do enough to share the good news. Preachers, speakers, do enough to proclaim the truths of God's Word, but don't do too much. Make sure you don't get into God's way, instead, do just enough to remove obstacles that hinder people from seeing God, and then step back so that you too don't become an obstacle.

Let me know how this works for you, right now, we are seeing it work in an incredible way at Malvern Hill. God is working and we are getting to stand back and watch...Praise Him.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Freak Dancing?"

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Friday, November 16, 2007

The Cross is Secular?

Melissa Underwood of FoxNews is reporting that atheists in Utah have filed suit against the state to have memorials for fallen Highway Patrolmen removed from roadsides. According to the article:

American Atheists Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that the 13 white, steel crosses represent the death of Jesus Christ and therefore violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits government establishment of religion.

This is indeed a tragedy that anyone would contest such a noble memorial. It shows the growing desire of the Atheist community to not merely ignore God, but to actively push God out of the public sector...a sort of evangelical atheism.

My major concern, however, is this paragraph in the article:

The Utah Highway Patrol Association defends the crosses, which have the Highway Patrol logo on them and have been erected on government land. It says they are secular symbols that both honor the troopers and remind speeding drivers to slow down.

Unfortunately for us, the American Atheists Inc. have a better understanding of the meaning and purpose of the cross than does the Utah Highway Patrol Association. Without Christ, the cross has no significance at all for today, save the reminder of the torturous death that many have endured over the years. The only meaning for the cross is Christ who hung upon one to save men and women from their sins.

Obviously, it is crazy to suggest that the crosses should be removed, but this story should be eye-opening for everyone. It is a sad day when Americans need to be educated on the significance of the Cross from Atheists.
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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Great Insight on Modern Preaching

David Easler (there's your plug, buddy) has sent me the link to an article by William Willimon, the Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church on preaching to our modern culture. Willimon's warnings about accomodating our preaching to match the culture around us are timely and worthy of note.

For instance:
Sometimes in leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear that we may have fallen in! When, in our sermons, we sought to use our sermons to build a bridge from the old world of the Bible to the new modern world, the traffic was only moving in one direction on that interpretive bridge. It was always the modern world rummaging about in Scripture, saying things like "This relates to me," or, "I'm sorry, this is really impractical," or, "I really can't make sense out of that." It was always the modern world telling the Bible what's what.

It is absolutely true that too many have understood their task of preaching to the modern world as more of a challenge of molding the truths of Scripture to fit a certain mold formed by the modern world. Or, as Willimon puts it: I don't believe that the Bible wants to "speak to the modern world." Rather, I think the Bible wants to change, convert the modern world.

May we all be found speaking the truths of the Bible remembering the words of Jesus in John 5:24...He came, not to make sad people happy, but to make dead people live.

You can read the rest of Willimon's article here:
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Is It In You?

For anyone who watches any sporting event the slogan, Is It In You? should ring a bell. It is the advertising slogan for Gatorade. Of course, the purpose is to get you interested in drinking Gatorade...getting it in you. The commercials are great, the people sweat Gatorade.

Imagine just for a second if we were that filled with the knowledge of Scripture. What if someone cut you open and Bible just flowed out of you. Many people ask me how they can know the will of God and my reply is the will of God is wrapped up in his word. He has chosen to reveal his will to us in the Bible. So, if you truly have a desire to know and do the will of God, the greatest thing you can do is know the Word of God.

Is It In You? Not if you don't read it. Contrary to what you may believe, you will not be filled with a knowledge of God's Word until you are reading God's Word regularly.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Reformation!

October 31st, for most people, is a celebration of Halloween, but not for me. My wife and I choose to not really celebrate Halloween. As a matter of fact, in protest, we put out our Nativity in October.

October 31st, however, does have great significance for the Christian faith. It was on this date in 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenburg and ignited the protestant reformation. Many would argue that Luther's intention was to reform the Catholic church and not begin the protestant movement. It seems that Luther had a desire to move through the proper ranks of the established church, however, the advent of the printing press allowed for many hundreds of copies to be made and for Luther's 95 Theses to be widely published. God has since moved in a mighty way. Below, I have pasted a link to Luther's original comlaints...enjoy, and celebrate God's faithfulness through his Church that he has sustained for this many years.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Credit Card Anyone?

I know, most of you probably know this already, but I'm gonna throw it out there anyway. It is pretty common knowledge that people are likely to spend more money when swiping plastic than when paying with paper money. But, do you know how much more our plastic swipint causes us to spend? By at least two studies (one of those was a simple study by a couple), using credit cards instead of paying with the real thing causes people to spend 33%-34% more money. WOW, thats 1/3.

Next time you get ready to swipe that plastic, think about this.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Participation vs. Membership

Continuing on the Willow Creek trend this morning, let's consider a little story. When I was in college, many of my friends were members of a certain fraternity. All in all I had five different roommates who were members of this one frat. Although I was never a member of the fraternity, they extended the opportunity to me to become a "social affiliate." Basically, that meant I would have been able to attend all fraternity parties, social events, etc... I would not, however, be able to participate in the most important aspect of a fraternity and that is the community and relationship building that comes through their personal meetings. I would have no responsibility to the fraternity and they would have no responsibility to me. I could go hang out all day long, but there was zero commitment level expected or required.

Now, applying the same principal to the local church. If we focus all of our attention on participation and not on covenant membership, what have we really accomplished? Essentially we will have created social affiliates within the church. "We'd love for you to come hang out, but we do not need your commitment and we are not committed to you." This is absolutely not the biblical model 0f the church. According to the Bible, we have responsibilities to one-another as brothers and sisters in Christ. I am responsible to help you to become more mature in your faith, and you are responsible for the same things with me.

Church involvement does not equal mature Christians, but you can bet that Christians mature in their faith will be totally comitted to the church.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines Still Work...and Are Needed

Willow Creek Church is, and has been, one of the most progressive churches in America for the past thirty years. However, founding pastor Bill Hybels now says there are things that he would have done differently. Specifically, Hybels suggests that involvement is not the gauge of Spiritual maturity.

Here's the main idea from Hybels:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

You can read more here.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

For Your Consideration

Joel Osteen has written a new book that is bound to be a best-seller. I believe he received a $15 million advance on the book. He also pastors the largest church in america, or does he? The questions surrounding Osteen are endless, is he a pastor or a motivational speaker? Denny Burk has written a thorough review of Osteen's interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday night. You can read Burk's Review here:

I found the most intriguing part of Burk's comments to be the quotes taken from the 60 Minutes interview. I challenge you to find the gospel in the quotes below, and then, if you haven't already, read Burk's review. I promise it is worth your time.

Inteviewer: “[In your new book, you write that] to become a better you, you must be positive towards yourself, develop better relationships, embrace the place where you are. Not one mention of God in that. Not one mention of Jesus Christ in that.”

Osteen: “That’s just my message. There is scripture in there that backs it all up. But I feel like, Byron, I’m called to help people…how do we walk out the Christian life? How do we live it? And these are principles that can help you. I mean, there’s a lot better people qualified to say, ‘Here’s a book that going to explain the scriptures to you.’ I don’t think that’s my gifting.”

We must be dilligent in our study, practice, and teaching of God's Word. Above all else, a pastor must be a person that is "going to explain the scriptures to you."

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Friday, October 12, 2007

From a Dying Man to Dying Men -- Recovering a Bold Vision for Biblical Preaching

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And how will they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14

Is preaching still central to Christian worship? This question is asked again and again as contemporary evangelicalism is observed. How can this be up for question?
In some circles, preaching has fallen on hard time. An open debate is now being waged over the character and centrality of preaching in the church. At stake is nothing less than the integrity of Christian worship and proclamation.

How did this happen? Given the central place of preaching in the New Testament church, it would seem that the priority of biblical preaching should be uncontested. After all, as John A. Broadus--one of Southern Seminary's founding faculty--famously remarked, "Preaching is characteristic of Christianity. No other religion has made the regular and frequent assembling of groups of people, to hear religious instruction and exhortation, an integral part of Christian worship."

Yet, numerous influential voices within evangelicalism suggest that the age of the expository sermon is now past. In its place, some contemporary preachers now substitute messages intentionally designed to reach secular or superficial congregations--messages which avoid preaching a biblical text, and thus avoid a potentially embarrassing confrontation with biblical truth.

A subtle shift visible at the onset of the twentieth century has become a great divide as the century ends. The shift from expository preaching to more topical and human-centered approaches has grown into a debate over the place of Scripture in preaching, and the nature of preaching itself.

Two famous statements about preaching illustrate this growing divide. Reflecting poetically on the urgency and centrality of preaching, the Puritan pastor Richard Baxter once remarked, "I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men." With vivid expression and a sense of gospel gravity, Baxter understood that preaching is literally a life or death affair. Eternity hangs in the balance as the preacher proclaims the Word.

Contrast that statement to the words of Harry Emerson Fosdick, perhaps the most famous (or infamous) preacher of this century's early decades. Fosdick, pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City, provides an instructive contrast to the venerable Baxter. "Preaching," he explained, "is personal counseling on a group basis."

These two statements about preaching reveal the contours of the contemporary debate. For Baxter, the promise of heaven and the horrors of hell frame the preacher's consuming burden. For Fosdick, the preacher is a kindly counselor offering helpful advice and encouragement.
The current debate over preaching is most commonly explained as a argument about the focus and shape of the sermon. Should the preacher seek to preach a biblical text through an expository sermon? Or, should the preacher direct the sermon to the "felt needs" and perceived concerns of the hearers?

Clearly, many evangelicals now favor the second approach. Urged on by devotees of "needs-based preaching," many evangelicals have abandoned the text without recognizing that they have done so. These preachers may eventually get to the text in the course of the sermon, but the text does not set the agenda or establish the shape of the message.

Focusing on so-called "perceived needs" and allowing these needs to set the preaching agenda inevitably leads to a loss of biblical authority and biblical content in the sermon. Yet, this pattern is increasingly the norm in many evangelical pulpits. Fosdick must be smiling from the grave.
Earlier evangelicals recognized Fosdick's approach as a rejection of biblical preaching. An out-of-the-closet theological liberal, Fosdick paraded his rejection of biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility--and rejected other doctrines central to the Christian faith. Enamored with trends in psychological theory, Fosdick became liberal Protestantism's happy pulpit therapist. The goal of his preaching was well captured by the title of one of his many books, On Being a Real Person.
Shockingly, this is now the approach evident in many evangelical pulpits. The sacred desk has become an advice center and the pew has become the therapist's couch. Psychological and practical concerns have displaced theological exegesis and the preacher directs his sermon to the congregation's perceived needs.

The problem is, of course, that the sinner does not know what his most urgent need is. She is blind to her need for redemption and reconciliation with God, and focuses on potentially real but temporal needs such as personal fulfillment, financial security, family peace, and career advancement. Too many sermons settle for answering these expressed needs and concerns, and fail to proclaim the Word of Truth.

Without doubt, few preachers following this popular trend intend to depart from the Bible. But under the guise of an intention to reach modern secular men and women "where they are," the sermon has been transformed into a success seminar. Some verses of Scripture may be added to the mix, but for a sermon to be genuinely biblical, the text must set the agenda as the foundation of the message--not as an authority cited for spiritual footnoting.

Charles Spurgeon confronted the very same pattern of wavering pulpits in his own day. Some of the most fashionable and well-attended London churches featured pulpiteers who were the precursors to modern needs-based preachers. Spurgeon--who managed to draw a few hearers despite his insistence on biblical preaching--confessed that "The true ambassador for Christ feels that he himself stands before God and has to deal with souls in God's stead as God's servant, and stands in a solemn place--a place in which unfaithfulness is inhumanity to man as well as treason to God."

Spurgeon and Baxter understood the dangerous mandate of the preacher, and were therefore driven to the Bible as their only authority and message. They left their pulpits trembling with urgent concern for the souls of their hearers and fully aware of their accountability to God for preaching His Word, and His Word alone. Their sermons were measured by power; Fosdick's by popularity.

The current debate over preaching may well shake congregations, denominations, and the evangelical movement. But know this: The recovery and renewal of the church in this generation will come only when from pulpit to pulpit the herald preaches as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Not That Hard

I've had several people come to me lately and tell me, "you make it easy to understand your sermons." Well, I think that is primarily because I have to be certain that I can understand them before I preach them:).

But, you know, it is important that we make our faith understandable. Jesus spoke in such a way that people understood what he was talking about. Paul did the same thing. As Christians, we've got to be sure to speak in such a way that others know what we are talking about. There's no reason to make Christianity harder than it is...the whole concept of dying to self is difficult enough without talking about soteriology and eschatology.

I don't have to sound smart to be biblical, and neither do you. Throw away some of your church words and use Christ's words. You might be amazed when people look at you and say, "wow, you make it easy to understand the Bible."

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Does God Hear Our Prayers?

I am aroused from a great book tonight to post in response to the anonymous comment left concerning my post from this morning. The anonymous author points out that the book of Jonah recounts the efforts of a prophet sent to a gentile (and hostile) nation to warn of God's judgment if they did not repent. Does God hear your prayers regardless of your ethnicity or nationality? The answer is a resounding yes, but only in as much as we call on God's name according to his terms.

Anonymous writes: I think we could benefit from a review of the Book of Jonah (a book that Judaism, Islam and Christianity understand). God hears all prayers, from everyone. A merciful and peaceful God who actively listens and helps both Jew and Gentile.

The main problem with a philosophy that claims that all religions worship the same god (especially Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) is that no religion makes that claim for itself. God, the God of the Bible is a God open to all people as they call on his name, but only as people call to him on his own terms. He is the Great I AM, without beginning or end. We, as the creation have no right to say to the Creator what he should be called, rather we submit to his terms as our Master.

Remember, Jonah did not call on the people to cry out to their own gods, he called on the people of Ninevah to cry out for mercy to the one true and living God. It was YAHWEH to whom they cried and it was YAHWEH who forgave, not the gods created by their hands. God is passionate first and foremost for his own glory and that glory is bound up in his name. He is the God who saves, but salvation is found in the name of Jesus.
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What a Let Down.

I almost hate to do this because I had made a commitment to myself yesterday to try to be positive on my blog today. Well, tomorrow is positive day, today I have to address something else...sorry.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am an avid supporter of our president, George W. Bush. However, I read a quote from him that has really disappointed me. In an interview with an Arabic news service, President Bush recently said:

Well, first of all, I believe in an Almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That's what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace. And I believe people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives aren't religious people, whether they be a Christian who does that – we had a person blow up our – blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City who professed to be a Christian, but that's not a Christian act to kill innocent people.

I believe we can all agree that it is not a Christian act to commit terrorism. It is also true that there are many Muslims around the world who are not actively involved in terrorism and who do not support it as a tenet of their faith. However, it is incomprehensible to suggest that Christians and Muslims (or Bhuddists, Hindus, etc...) pray to the same God. Even if we did not get into the theological concerns for such a claim for Christians, it is insulting to Muslims to believe that their God is the same as the God of Christianity.

But, why can I say with such certainty that we worship a wholly different God than Allah of Islam? For the same reason that I can say we worship a God different than the God of Judaism. God, YAHWEH God has made himself known in this world and has shown us the way to know and worship him. Jesus, one member of the Christian Trinity, specifically showed that to know him is to know God. He went so far as to say that he, Jesus, was the way the truth and the life and was the only pathway to God.

President Bush is right, a man who professes Christianity should not blow up a building. However, a man who professes to be a Christian should not reduce the Triune God of Christianity to being less than he has revealed himself to be in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Theology vs. Leadership

It seems obvious to me that many large churches of today are large because they have incredible leaders as pastors. That has caused me to realize that one of the greatest needs in the evangelical church today is great leadership from pastors. It is our responsibility as pastors to seek God for the direction of the church and then to run full bore to see that direction fulfilled. Pastors must be great leaders.

However, leadership can never be pursued at the sacrifice of theology. If we as pastors neglect to be theologians, we neglect to be the shepherds God has called us to be. A great leader might grow a corporation or a country club, but a pastor is called to be more than a great leader, he is called to be the shepherd of God's flock. For that reason, we must strive to be leaders and scholars.

Theology and leadership do not stand as opposite ends of a spectrum, but both are essential for effective pastoring in the Twenty-First Century. After all, growing a huge church on flimsy theology is dangerous for those who would have a false sense of confidence in a lesser God than the Bible teaches. Pastors, LEAD AND TEACH. Be the pastor, not the leader or the professor. We, as pastors, must strive to be ALL that God has called us to be and not just part.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When Ecology Replaces Theology

Posted: Wednesday, October 03, 2007 at 2:22 am ET on

Is saving the earth what remains when liberal churches are no longer concerned for the salvation of souls? Have these churches replaced theology with ecology?

Frank Furedi is a British sociologist who teaches at the University of Kent. He is also a controversialist and a public intellectual. In a recent article published at Spike, Furedi suggests that some religious institutions are "busy reinventing themselves by promoting ecological virtues and preaching against the eco-sins of polluters." He offers a most interesting argument.

Furedi contends that a crisis of authority has shaken many churches, and that modern societies the have largely given up on saving traditional morality. In his words:

Sometime back in the 1980s, Western societies gave up on the project of rescuing 'traditional values' and morality. From time to time, conservative politicians and moral entrepreneurs have attempted to launch back-to-basics crusades promoting 'family values'. However, their lack of popular appeal has only exposed society's estrangement from these traditions. Indeed by the Eighties, even religious institutions found it difficult to uphold their own authority with conviction. Instead of influencing society many churches began to internalise the attitudes associated with the lifestyles of their increasingly individualised consumerist flock. The last quarter century has seen a steady diminishing of religious authority in Western societies. Debates about the role of women priests, homosexuality and marriage indicated that religious institutions have become confused about their own relationship to traditional values.

Furedi suggests that these churches are now seeking to find a new platform in order to assert a new claim to authority within the culture. This new platform appears to be ecology and the goal of saving the earth.

His argument is compelling:

In recent years, some in the church have sought to gain the public's ear through the greening of traditional doctrines, and Christ the Saviour is fast becoming Christ the environmental activist. Western society is continually in search of rituals and symbols through which moral probity can be affirmed. It appears that, for many church leaders, the project of saving the planet offers more opportunities for reconstituting rituals and symbols than the saving of souls.

It is not just the odd priest offering absolution through the ritual of eco-confession. Church leaders have embraced the rituals of eco-morality to demonstrate their commitment to a higher good. Absolution through carbon offsets appears to be the way forward.

An observer of church life today, especially within the shrinking domain of liberal Protestantism, will find plenty of evidence for Furedi's hypothesis. Ecological concerns appear to serve as a replacement for abandoned doctrines and outdated concerns -- such as evangelism.

Furedi finds plenty of support for his argument within contemporary Roman Catholicism, but here is his analysis of the situation within the Church of England:

In 2006, the Church of England launched an eco-crusade entitled 'Shrinking the Footprint'. The Archbishop of Canterbury complained that 'early modern religion contributed to the idea that the fate of nature is for it to be bossed around by a detached sovereign will, whether divine or human'. It seems possible that those misguided early modern religionists received that idea from the Book of Genesis, where God gives Man dominion 'over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth'. Now the head of the Anglican church protests about nature being 'bossed around' not only by Man, but by God. This year, the Church of England launched a booklet of green tips for the faithful entitled How Many Christians Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb? Its eco-commandments include: share cars on the road to church, use virtuous low-energy lightbulbs but cast out junk mail, and do not flush the loo at night.

So is Christ the Savior is fast becoming Christ the environmental activist? Furedi's argument is both insightful and troubling. There can be no doubt that his argument is true with respect to many churches and denominations. And there is a clear warning here. When churches abandon or marginalize the central doctrines of the Christian faith, another religion soon takes its place. That religion might be a religion of therapy, social action, or ecology -- or any number of other substitutes for the Gospel.

As Furedi explains, this particular temptation can be traced to "the powerful influence that environmentalism exercises over contemporary culture." When churches lose confidence that they can speak to other issues in terms of right and wrong (sex, personal behavior, etc), environmentalism remains. In effect, it is the only socially acceptable form of moralism.

Nevertheless, Furedi believes that this is a losing strategy for the church in terms of social and cultural influence. As he explains, "eco-spirituality cannot really compensate for the loss of traditional moral authority."

Furthermore, once a church embraces environmentalism as its central mission, its authority suffers and even greater loss because the society considers the true authorities for ecology to be scientists, not church leaders. "The shift away from God towards nature inevitably leads to a world where the pronouncements of environmentalist experts trump those of the priesthood," he explains. "It will be interesting to see what will remain of traditional religion as prophecy and revelation is displaced by computerised climate models."

Christians do bear a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth. This is not an easy responsibility to bear in the confusing context of modern ecological debates. But the church of Jesus Christ bears the responsibility to be the steward of the Gospel above all other concerns. The temptation to turn to this-worldly concerns at the expense of spiritual concerns is very strong. Beyond this, human beings will worship either the Creator or the creation. When the authority of the Bible is undermined and confidence that we can know the Creator is compromised, the creation itself looms larger and larger as a central passion.

When a passion for seeing sinners converted to faith in Christ declines, a passion for converting people into environmentalists can appear as a replacement purpose and a culturally-attractive mission.

We should take note when a sociologist like Frank Furedi sees the picture so clearly. Why does he see what so many others miss? When a church forfeits its God-given mission, no other mission matters.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is It Worth It?

I've talked and written a good bit lately on evangelism, especially of those to whom you are closest. One thing that I have not mentioned is that sharing the gospel with our friends and family is not easy. Thankfully we do not live in a country where we will be imprisoned, tortured, or even killed for our faith, but that is not to say that sharing our faith does not have costs related.

Let's be honest, the gospel, by definintion, involves the conviction of sin. To share the gospel with a person is to tell them they are wrong and sinful and that they need to repent and believe in Jesus. No matter how you slice it, that can be a little sticky for some folks. The question, however, is not whether or not there are risks involved. Instead, ask yourself if the risk of the gospel is worth the rewards.

The potential is that you might make a family member or friend mad at you (though, in my experience this is rarely the case), or at the very least put them into an awkward situation. That is uncomfortable, but is it worth your discomfort to give them the opportunity to experience the Savior of the world? Think about it, Jesus died and we don't want to be uncomfortable. It's pretty selfish on our parts isn't it? It's worth it, so get to it!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Problem for Church Soundsystems?

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is considering a new law that would allow new devices (PDA's, cell phones, etc.) broader access to existing wireless channels - a move that would put every church wireless microphone or hearing assistance system in jeopardy of major interference. This will be in front of the FCC within two weeks, so time is short.
Several of my peers in the industry have been following this even more closely than I have. My friend Doug Gould of Shure, has forwarded me a letter for churches to sign and send to the FCC urging a change in this potential law. There are other frequencies that could easily be utilized that would not affect wireless audio systems.

Click here for more information:
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Morning Devotion for You!

In trying to constantly keep my blog worth reading, this morning I post a prayer that I believe we should all be praying daily. Angela and I had this in our wedding, it is without a doubt my favorite version of this song! Sing and pray this morning.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's Nothing Personal...

I have no doubt that a personal relationship with the Lord is essential to the Christian faith. As a matter of fact, I believe it is the cornerstone of Christianity. However, I believe that the emphasis on "personal" faith has hindered the evangelical church. I have a 15 pound dumbbell sitting on my desk with a plaque that has Proverbs 27:17 written on it: "As iron sharpens iron, so wome man sharpens another." Who ever said that the Christian faith was supposed to be lived alone?

I encourage you to be careful that you do not so personalize your faith that it ceases to grow through the outside influence of others. We've got to sharpen our skills regularly and that happens through the influence of others in our lives. In other words, relationships are key to spiritual growth. You must surround yourself with people who are going to challenge you to be more spiritual every day. And, in turn, you must present the challenge of deeper spirituality to others as well.

Growing in the Lord is, at the same time, personal and communal. It is imperative that you grow personally, but that growth is going to be the greatest when it is influenced by other people. Find some folks you can lean on, let them lean on you, and then get to sharpening. It's OK if sparks fly, it just makes a sharper edge!

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Thursday, September 20, 2007


It is safe to say that Johnny Hunt is one of the most amazing pastors and preachers in the world; and I love to listen to him. Yesterday, I listened to one of his sermons and not only was it great, but he reminded me of some things that I had not thought about in a while (On a side note, that's one of the great things about preaching and teaching. Even when you don't learn something new, you get reminded and re-energized about something you knew already). Here's what Johnny said, 97% of people who come to Christ do so because they were contacted by one of the following people:

What does that mean? That means that if you really want your brother, or your sister, your boss or your employee, your workout partner or your neighbor to come to the Lord, there's only a three percent chance that a stranger will introduce them to Jesus. People come to the Lord because one of their FRAN's either shares the gospel with them or loves them enough to invite them to church. So, don't go to your pastor and ask him to witness to your sister, it probably won't work. But, if you grab her by the hand, tell her you love her, and invite her to church, you just might get the opportunity to hold her hand as she accepts Jesus.
So, let's make every Sunday a "bring a FRAN" day. Can you imagine how the churches of America would explode if Christians would do simple things like inviting people to church?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Formula For Success

I do not know who left the comment on yesterday's blog, but it is worthy of further extrapolation (big word of the day). God is ultimately responsible for salvation. I think we could all agree with that statement. It is also true that God is ultimately responsible for sanctification, for church growth, and for healthy churches. The Bible makes it plain that God is in control and God is sovereign.

The Bible also makes it clear that we are responsible. We are responsible for all of the things mentioned above as well. God alone saves, but God requires us to repent and believe. Regardless of your theological convictions about election, everyone should be able to agree with that brief statement. But the same is true of growth (spiritual and numerical) as well. Both God and we are completely responsible for seeing the church grow.

The Bible really does not sort out this complicated scenario for us, we just take it at its word knowing that God is in control, but we are his hands and feet in the world responsible to make a difference in his name. So, to quote my anonymous friend (I would love to know who posted this, so send me an email) "If we pursue every challenge in life and work as if every aspect relies solely on ourselves and pray everyday as if every aspect relies on God, the results are astounding. Personal accountability and drive matched with the power of God and the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ - the formula for success"

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pursue Excellence

When I was in college, I had a professor for history that really got on my nerves with the tests he would give. First, he would never call them tests, but rather, opportunities to show what we had learned. Next, at the top of every test was the phrase, "pursue excellence." And did I say that the tests were grueling?

Well, even though in my slacker college days, I was not always in the business of pursuing excellence, I now see great value in those words. As a Senior Pastor, it is my job to pursue excellence in all that I do. It is also my job to push others to pursue excellence in all that they do. Notice I didn't say pursue excellence in our "Christian lives."

Often, that is the problem with Christians. Our lives are segmented into the "Christian" parts and the other parts (business, family, etc...). The result is what people outside the church call, hypocrisy. Galatians says that we are to die to ourselves and live only in Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Pursue excellence in everything you do and you might just be amazed at how quickly people begin to notice your love for God oozing out of your life. It's not going to be easy, but who said it was supposed to be. Jesus had to go to the cross, why should we expect to get to sit comfortably on our couches?

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Bluetooth Technology

OK, so let me brag. I have a new Blackberry Curve and I love it! I've been a Blackberry guy for a while now, but I had no idea how much fun the Curve would plays music and videos! But, one of the coolest features is the Bluetooth. I've had phones with Bluetooth before, but never one that would play music wirelessly like the curve will, I think that is awesome.

Not to be cliche` or goofy, but I got to thinking this morning about how that relates to our communication with God. Bluetooth is good for a distance of like thirty feet, but the Bible tells us that we can't get away from God no matter where we go. He is always there with us. I know that the metaphor does not work out perfectly, but thats fine. After all, who would want to serve a God that could be reduced to a headset?

Our Heavenly Father has promised to never leave us or forsake us. You know, regardless of your situation in life, you are never out of God's range. He is always as close as a whisper. Call out to God today, I promise he's listening.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Britney Spears

OK, so this definitely goes down in history as the one blog title I never thought I would use. I seriously never thought I would write a blog about Britney Spears, but I just can't resist it. If you have watched news recently, then you have definitely heard that Britney bombed at the MTV Video Music Awards the other night. I did not see the show, but I did catch some highlights on, and she did miss some dance steps, but that's not what I'm writing about. I have great concern over the fact that commentators had as much to say about Britney's body as they did about her missteps.

What did they have to say about Britney’s body? Not some trashy lust-filled garbage, instead, commentators were talking about just how “out of shape” she looked on stage. Let’s be honest, she had no business wearing the clothes she was wearing, but it was not because she was fat, it was because she looked trashy. I guess most women who have had two children would love to have her body.

Our media has created a culture of “skinny” for young girls that is incredibly dangerous. Angela (my wife) and I were appalled that a woman in the physical condition of Britney Spears would be considered fat or “out of shape.” So, it is worth saying, Britney is not fat, Paris is WAYYYYY TOO SKINNY, and it is not healthy to be bony.

What does all of this mean for Christian women? Buck the system and be who you were created to be. Your body is not a sex symbol; it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Treat it that way. Find godly men who are interested in loving you because of your love for the Father. Stay in shape, but don’t buy into the mess the media is trying to sell you, Paris Hilton is not normal and neither are Victoria’s Secret models. If you don’t wear a size zero, you aren’t fat, you are normal, and that's not bad!

Oh yeah, and for you guys, let's help out a little here. Girls like fries and burgers too and they should get to enjoy them. We have a responsibility to turn the tide. Be bold and take a girl to eat ice cream instead of salad, sure there are more calories, but it is also twice as fun, and fun is gorgeous!

I could get into a lot of other stuff here, but let’s just leave it at this. If you looked at Britney and thought “gross, fat,” you have been brainwashed by the media. She is smaller than Marilyn Monroe and no one ever called her gross. If you are interested, I could scream about this, but I won’t. And for the record, when you get to have an adorable child (like Wyatt), he or she will appreciate you for being healthy rather than depriving yourself of the nutrition needed for you and for that child.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You Gotta Work Out!

I am really excited. I've found a home gym on E-Bay that I can afford and I should be able to get it to my house in the next couple of weeks. I am in desperate need of some serious strength training. Since Wyatt was born and we moved I've not had access to a gym so I've begun to shrink...and yes, even get a little flabby. I know I'm weak as water now, but gimme some time and I'll be back to my fighting shape.

As I was thinking about that this morning, I was reminded of just how necessary it is for us to be working out spiritually as well or we will become spiritually flabby. In strength training, it is necessary to increase weight to get stronger, similarly, it is necessary to push yourself spiritually to grow spiritually. Don't expect to grow in your faith because you say "God is Great, God is Good," before every meal. Get in there and sweat with your Bible and in your prayer life.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Three Essentials

Of course We could make an incredibly long list of the essentials for Christ followers, but I've chosen to reduce my list to three items that are of absolute necessity. Of course, a personal relationship with Christ is the beginning point and is the mark of a Christian, but from there, here are the three essentials; they also happen to be our three areas of focus here at Malvern Hill.

1. WORSHIP--Bob Dylan once wrote a song with these words: "You're gonna serve might be the devil or it might be the Lord, but you're going to serve somebody." Bob Dylan is definitely not on my top ten list of theologians, but in this case his words ring true as starkly biblical. The Bible shows us that worship is not only something we should do, it is something we will do...worship is what we were created for. God is the only proper object of our worship. You will worship something, it might be your bank account or your work-out schedule if it isn't God, but if you claim to be a Christian, the number one essential of your faith is worship. That is why we are committed to creating excellent worship experiences at Malvern Hill, because God deserves our best and he desires our worship.

2. WORD-- Christians should be people of one book. I'm not advocating ignorance or illiteracy here, you can read things other than the Bible and I encourage you to do so, but Christians should be biblical people. The only way you can hope to be biblical is by understanding what the Bible says and the only way that will happen is by studying God's word. At Malvern Hill, we encourage everyone to be involved in study of the Word through Sunday School and other Word Study opportunities.

3. WORLD-- Christianity is meant to grow. When new churches start, we use the term "plant" because churches (all churches, not just "new church plants") are intended to grow. Jesus gave the great commission so that we would obey it. If we are not working to reach our world, we are not honoring God fully. Understand, that does not necessarily mean packing up and heading to the African Bush (it might, and if God calls you to that, then praise His name), but it does mean that we should all be intentional about sharing the love of Christ within our own world. The Bible tells us that it is God's will that all should be saved and he chooses to use us to carry the gospel message so that people can be saved. At Malvern Hill, we are serious about reaching our world and we will do more than give lip-service to this idea.

So, there you have it, my three essentials and the three basic building blocks for our church. I hope that this helps you as much as it helps me to keep my priorites properly ordered.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Choices Revisited

You might not always realize it, but much of your Christian life (your life in general) has more to do with the choices you make than anything else. Yesterday, we talkeda bout how choices and Spiritual Warfare go hand-in-hand, but choices also have much to do with your Christian maturity and many other facets of your life. Just as you make conscious decisions to engage in sin, which has a negative affect on your life, you also can make conscious decisions to seek God and to engage in Spiritual disciplines that will benefit your life and your relationship with God.

Of course, I'm not trying to remove the supernatural aspect from the Christian life, God is the author and perfector of our faith, but we have responsibility as well. Do you want a closer relationship with God, then pursue God through prayer and Bible study. Do you want to understand worship better, then engage in worship and tithe to your local church. Do you want to have a godly marriage, then work with all of your heart to be a godly husband or wife and trust God to work in your partner's life.

Life takes work. If you want great relationships, then work to be certain that you are an equal partner in all of your relationships. If you want great friends, then don't sit at home and wait for the phone to ring, become pro-active. If you want to know God better than you ever have, then get to work. No one ever said it would be easy, but if you will make the right choices and choose to pursue God, guess what, you will find him and you will find greater fulfillment than you ever thought possible. So, as I ended yesterday, I end today, Choose Life!

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Are You Sure You Are Being Attacked?

I was talking with a friend yesterday about Spiritual Warfare. You know, that's one of those concepts that we kinda tiptoe around because we don't always know what to do with it. We know its real because the Bible speaks of it, but we also know that it is not what alot of people make it out to be...There's not a demon behind every bush.

As real as I know Spiritual Warfare to be, however, I am convinced that many things that get labeled as Spiritual Warfare are really not that at all. Let me give you some examples. If you choose to cheat on your wife and that ruins your marriage, you cannot say "the devil just ruined our marriage." The devil did not cheat on your wife, you did. If you do not do your job properly and you lay out of work for three days in a row, you do not have the privilege of saying "I'm just under attack," when you get fired. You are not under attack, you are reaping the rewards of your actions.

So, you see, a large part of any war doesn't involve guns and a large part of spiritual warfare does not even involve the Enemy. A large part of Spiritual warfare is simply choices...putting up a great defense (and defense, I might add, wins championships). So, make wise choices. Protect your marriage by being smart about where you spend your time. Do your job and you won't get fired. Choose to obey God's Word and you will find yourself in the middle of his will. Moses said it this way, Choose life or death.

I choose life.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You Can Be Invisible Too!!!

I heard someone say this morning, that when we get wrapped up inside our own little world, we assume that it is so big that no one on the outside could miss it...but instead we are almost invisible to the outside world. You see, something going on in your life can seem so huge that no one could miss it, but to the outside world, it's just another day. It's like having the greatest hair day of your life and getting zero compliments.

Well, the same can absolutely be true of our church and even our Christian lives. You see, we've convinced ourselves that because of the awesome things going on inside of our lives through the love of Christ, that people see us mowing our lawn and automatically assume that Christ has transformed our lives and our church rocks our world. WRONG!!! Folks, face reality, unless you are blunt honest and transparent with people, they rarely figure out whats going on in your life, good or bad.

We've got to find ways to tell the world how Christ changed us. We've got to be blunt honest about why people need to be in church. Watching you go through the doors on Sunday will not convince them to be there, but hearing you rave about it on Monday might spark an interest. So...mow your lawn to the glory of the Lord, but don't assume that cutting a cross into your grass will convince anyone to be in church or to follow Christ. But, if you put down that weed eater long enough to share with your neighbor how awesome things are at Malvern Hill (or wherever your respective chruch is) they might discover that they need the Lord too.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Talent is Never Enough

Talent is Never Enough is the name of John Maxwell's latest book. I started reading it last night (which, for those interested, is about the sixth book I am currently reading). Though I am just into the very beginning of the book, I was reminded of something that I probably need to be reminded of very often...Good enough is never good enough.

Maxwell presents a stark reminder that it doesn't matter how good you are at anything if you are unwilling to put in hard work. The same is definitely true of God's church, regardless of where it is that you are serving. We should never settle for mediocre churches because we do not serve a mediocre God.

What does all of that mean? It means that you better be working your tail off if you plan to be better than average. Your talents/skills/strategic location might give you the head start you need to be the best, but unless you are willing to work harder than the rest, you will simply be one more waste of talent.

Potential is what you aint done yet. So, let's get busy making potential a reality.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Should We Be Innovative?

Well, most of you who know me know my answer to this question, but I discovered this morning that Perry Noble has a better answer to this question than I could have provided. Instead of ripping off his ideas and plagiarizing his blog, I'm just gonna post a link to it. If you don't go and read Perry's article, at least read these Scriptures:

Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.-- Isaiah 42:9

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. --Isaiah 43:18-19

If God is willing to make rivers in the desert, shouldn't we be at least willing to do something new in our churches...after all, nothing we could do would be as dramatic as a river flowing through the Sahara.

Click Here for Perry Noble's blog

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Big News

OK, so maybe its not all that big, but for anyone interested in subscribing to my blog, you can now have it emailed directly into your inbox when there is a new post. Subscribe using the box on the left (<-- It's over there). Just my attempt to make life a little easier for those of you interested.

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I Can't See...

It's raining outside right now and that reminded me of the drainage problems here in Camden. I've only lived here for a few months, of course, but the main road leading to the church is a nightmare when it rains. Water stands (well, it doesn't actually stand, it more or less runs like a river) so deep that when you run through it, it covers your windshield and you can't see. I personally like doing it, I guess its the little boy in me still trying to get out, but my wife reminds me that its dangerous--I guess she's right, but it is still fun.

Now, raise your hand if you've done anything like that in your Christian life lately...You know, stepped out on faith into a puddle where you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. I know, its scary, what if there's something there that you were not anticipating. But, it's also invigorating. It's like the thrill of a roller coaster, you aren't sure what comes next and while its happening you might not even be sure if you like it. That rock that sits in your stomach that makes you think about puking because you are so nervous can drive some people to never set foot on a roller coaster, but for everyone who has ridden a roller coaster, the nervousness is well worth the pay off. During the ride, you scream that you'll never do it again, but when its will stand in line for an hour just to experience the thrill one more time.

It's like that with God and faith. You step out on faith to tell someone about Jesus and you think about puking and you really don't want to do it because it makes you so nervous. In fact, it makes you so nervous that you might not even do it...but if you do, and that person listens, or comes to church with you, or comes to know Christ as their Savior, then you will know that the puking was well worth it. Who knows, you might even stand in a roller coaster line one day and be more excited about the thrill of sharing Jesus with the guy behind you than the excitement of the ride!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Whats It All About?

I mean, seriously, have you asked yourself that question? What is church all about? What is Malvern Hill supposed to be about? Obviously, the glory of God, Jesus, and all of that stuff, but is that all? Is it about preaching and singing...yes! But surely, there must be more.

There is more! Church, THE church is all about changed lives. Its all about people who are far away from God being drawn closer to God. Thats doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it all out. We NEED to be about changing the world, one life at a time. So, who has been changed recently? Seriously, who have you reached, who has been impacted so dramatically by your testimony and your witness that they have come to know the Lord. Maybe you brought them to church and they heard the pastor or maybe ya'll prayed in a parking lot. It doesn't matter how it happens, it only matters that it happens.


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Monday, August 27, 2007's Godly

Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." As great as it is for us to apply that to all the big things in life, like poverty and injustices, but what about the smaller thigns in life? You know, loving your neighbor as yourself means doing to your neighbor the things you would want your neighbor to do for you.

What in the world am I talking about? Hey, why not making loving our neighbor our mantra in all of the aspects of life? Give a pat on the back or a word of encouragement, thats a great way to love your neighbor and you will be shocked to discover how impactful that will be. Drop a card in the mail, give a call, do the squishy stuff of telling someone how much you appreciate them.

I know I talk alot about how we love people by being serious about church discipline, but there's more to love than that. Don't just talk about love, live it out in the small things of life. Take it old school and remember DC Talk...Love Is A Verb. So, what can you do? Be creative, bake a cake, visit a shut-in, send a note to your teacher or your favorite Sunday morning vocalist. Watch how love can take over the church when you live it out.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Be Honest...It IS Almost Unbelievable

Angela and I were talking the other night, and I was reminded of just how out there Christianity really is. We talk alot about how much "faith" it takes to believe in evolution, or how insane it seems to be to believe all that is claimed about mormon theology. Of course, for our western mindset, the beliefs of hindus and buddhists seem way out in left field, but just how plausible do the claims of Christianity seem to be against a scientific and rational backdrop.

Let's see...the Red Sea parts and then closes up over a whole army, the walls of Jericho fall because the Israelites march around them for seven days, a child is born of a virgin and that child becomes a man who we discover to be the Son, not of Joseph, but of God, who is eventually crucified and buried and rises from the grave three days later. Honestly, that stuff is just about unbelievable as well. Why then do we believe, and what is our basis?

Hebrews gives us the answer, For without faith it is impossible to please God. God is not pleased for us to have all of the answers, but rather in that we beleive without always having adequate explanations. So, I go out on a limb and say that what I beleive does not make good sense to the world in which I live, but I do not care. I did not make this up, as an old song says, it is this belief in my God that is making me more into his image everyday. So...step on out there, trust God even when it does not make sense to you. God has been doing things that seemed impossible ever since he SPOKE the world into creation.

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