Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What I'm Reading

People occasionally ask me what I'm reading, so I thought that today I would share my current reading list for anyone interested.

I just finished The Epic of Eden and will have a review of it up at Passion for Preaching today.

My current reads include:

Worldliness edited by C.J. Mahaney.

Spurgeon on Leadership by Larry J. Michael.

The Soul Winner by C.H. Spurgeon

The Reagan Diaries by Ronald Reagan. (This is a large read that I digest a little at a time.)

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm (Wyatt and I are reading this one together).

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Monday, December 29, 2008

President Bush's Reading Habits

As an avid reader and lover of books, I am always excited to hear of the reading habits of others. The Wall Street Journal has a great article by Karl Rove, former adviser to the president, on the reading habits of President George W. Bush. Possibly most interesting is that the President reads through the Bible each year. If nothing else, this might help you to see through some of the stereotypes of the president as backwoods and uninformed.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Its All About The Presents

“For God loved the world in this way; He gave His Only
Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish
But have eternal life.” - John 3:16 HCSB

I love Christmas. My anticipation grows day by day as it approaches and I hate to see it go. I love the gift giving of Christmas and there is nothing like giving gifts to those whom you love. Many people say that Christmas is not about gifts, but today I disagree. I believe that Christmas is all about the gifts. For you see, Christmas is the celebration of the greatest gift of all. Jesus was more than a baby born; he was the gift of God given to all mankind. Christ was a gift given freely out of love. But, what is love?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says"Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish, is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." So, what is a gift given out of love? It is a gift that requires nor expects anything in return.
I read a story recently about an elderly woman who was blind. Her young pastor stopped to visit her and could not help but notice the beautiful Christmas tree in her living room. Taken back by this display of visual beauty in the home of a woman with no sight, he could not help but ask. “Mrs. Johnson,” he said, “your tree is beautiful, do you decorate it every year?” “Oh yes,” she replied, “my nephew and I get the lights and decorations down and we have the best time decorating the tree.”
The young pastor, as confused as ever, asked in reply, “why would you spend so much time decorating a tree that you can not even look at and enjoy?” The wise lady responded, “Pastor, not everyone is blind.”
That is a gift given in love. A gift that she will never enjoy for herself, but that will bless the lives of others. Christ was a gift much the same. After all, how could God enjoy watching his Son suffer the pains of this earth? Imagine the Heavenly Father wincing with every skinned knee or bloody nose of his son. Certainly, as he grew, God could not enjoy the ridicule Jesus faced, and need we even mention the pain of the Father as the Son hung from a cross? No, God’s joy was not in watching His Son suffer, rather, his joy was found in seeing His creation redeemed.
All gifts of love require some form of sacrifice, only God’s sacrifice was much greater than any of us can imagine. I’ve brought this gift this morning to remind us that Christmas is about gifts, it is about the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. This gift is beautifully wrapped and the anticipation for what is inside is great because of the beautiful exterior. Christ deserved to come to earth surrounded by beautiful splendor; but instead, the greatest gift of all was laid in a feed trough and wrapped in plain cloth. An ordinary entrance for the world’s most extraordinary child…Jesus, the Messiah, the Light of the World, the Son of Mary, the Son of God!

Monday, December 22, 2008

How Much Do You Have To Hate Someone Not To Proselytize?

This should be shown in churches, evangelism classes, and should become a mainstay in missions courses...

Penn of Penn and Teller is an atheist. His response to being evangelized after a show may surprise you.

"I don't respect people who don't proselytize. If you believe that there's a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, and you think, 'Well, it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward'...How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?"

HT: Dashhouse

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Rick Warren Vs. The Homosexual Agenda

Baptist Press is out with an article today reporting the outrage by the homosexual community at president-elect Barak Obama's selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration ceremony. In Gay Activists Outraged Over Warren Invite, one might develop the assumption that both the president-elect and Rick Warren seem a bit surprised by this gross over-reaction from the homosexual community.

Kelly reports the swift response from the homosexual community this way:

"Your invitation to Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans," wrote Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, which describes itself as "the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization." "By inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table."

Commenting on this situation, Albert Mohler has written a rather extensive article chronicling, not only this situation, but a short history of Rick Warren's social sympathies that have often put him in line with many liberals. Warren has always been a "cool" pastor, but this situation has put him squarely on the fringe of "cool" and his support of Prop 8 in California has nearly demonized him among those who celebrate the normalcy of homosexuality.

Mohler writes in The High Cost of Being Cool:

The outrage directed at Rick Warren must be seen in this context. It is a genuine outrage expressed by gay activists and their liberal allies. To these Obama supporters, it is unthinkable that the President-elect could have chosen Warren for such a prominent role. As one letter to the editor in Friday's edition of The New York Times expressed the sentiment, "Barack Obama’s choice of the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration is as if Lyndon B. Johnson had selected a pastoral proponent of racial segregation to deliver the invocation in 1965."

Here is the deep irony -- Rick Warren has devoted enormous energy toward the goal of defusing the culture war and creating common ground. He has attracted the criticism of many conservative evangelicals who have been concerned about how these efforts have been positioned and for what often appears as comments at their expense. At times, Warren has even had to issue clarifications in order to make his generalized statements more specific. If the President-elect wanted to choose a figure recognized as an evangelical in the public eye, but sympathetic to much of his stated agenda to unite, he could scarcely have chosen a more recognizable figure than Rick Warren.

But now many of Obama's own supporters attack Rick Warren as if he is a hate-driven homophobe, which he clearly is not. All that was necessary to bring on this opposition is Warren's opposition to same-sex marriage and his support for Proposition 8. Now, he is grouped along with the most strident and careless as an apostle of hatred.

It doesn't take much. We would all like to be considered cool. Cultural opposition is a tough challenge and bearing public hatred is a hard burden. Being cool means being considered mainstream, acceptable, and admirable. Believing that same-sex marriage is wrong is enough to turn "uncool" in an instant, at least in many circles.

I am not throwing Rick Warren to the wolves over this. He now finds himself in a whirlwind, and he will not be the last. Pastor after pastor and church after church will face a similar challenge in short order. No matter how cool you think you are or think that others think you are, the hour is coming when the issue of homosexuality -- taken alone -- will be the defining issue in coolness. If you accept the full normalization of homosexuality, you will be cool. If you do not, you are profoundly uncool, no matter how much good work you do nor how much love and compassion you seek to express.

With an eye to history and to the future of Warren and many conservatives like him, Dr. Mohler points out that a time comes when we often have to choose to be cool or to be true to the gospel.

Liberal Protestantism came to this conclusion long ago, and those churches desperately want to be considered cool by the elites. Having abandoned biblical authority, there is nothing to prevent them moving fast into coolness. The only barriers are outposts of conservative opposition, but they will not last long.

Many in the "emerging" and "Emergent church movements also state their intention to transcend the divisive issues like abortion and homosexuality. Some of these represent the quintessence of cool in cultural identification. But for how long? Eventually, the issue of homosexuality will require a decision. At that point, those churches will find themselves facing a forced decision. Choose ye this day: Will it be the Bible or coolness?

Both of these articles are interesting.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Economy Trumps Religion

Time Magazine recently released it's list of Top 10 Religious Stories. At the top of that list was a snippet of a story titled, The Economy Trumps Religion, containing the following statement:

Faith had its moment in the spotlight during the presidential campaign: A pastor (Rick Warren) moderated an encounter between John McCain and Barack Obama; former preacher Mike Huckabee made a creditable run; Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "God D--- America" sermon sideswiped former protege Obama; John Hagee's remarks on Catholics and Jews exploded on McCain. Indeed, there seemed to be such parity in piety between the two major parties that faith may have been cancelled out as a factor. A late October poll showed that only one in 10 Americans regarded the country's moral and spiritual condition as their foremost electoral criterion. Obama captured 53% of the Catholic vote (up 13% over John Kerry's 2004 tally) despite claims by several bishops that voting Democratic was tantamount to sin. Faith was simply not a primary concern by election day. By then, the mortgage and debt crises had very clearly pushed religion off the table.

Jesus warned us about this. You cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13), were the words of Christ, and yet we as Christians have somehow forgotten his words. When only 10 percent of Americans regard the moral and spiritual condition of the country as their foremost concern in the country, it is evident that their pocketbooks have become their gods.

As Christians, we must be different. The state of our economy is of grave concern to many people, but the nature of our God is such that he owns all that exists. Before we give our attention soleley to our bank accounts, should we not concern ourselves with storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19)? Where are your treasures today? I can assure you that your personal calendar and your check register will tell the truth whether you are comfortable with admitting it or not.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Eschatology of Parenting or Parenting in Light of The End Times

Dr. Russell Moore of Southern Seminary has written two very good articles on the eschatology of parenting. Today, because I believe many parents can benefit from these articles, I have copied and pasted both articles in their entirety below. You can find Dr. Moore's articles in their original form on his blog at http://www.russellmoore.com/.

The Eschatology of Parenting

Yesterday I helped a toddler clean up a 44 ounce cup of Coke Zero he’d spilled everywhere (yes, it was mine; and no, there were not 44 ounces left remaining in it when he found it). I answered forty questions about whether Jesus made Lego blocks (so stay tuned for my new sermon series on “The Logos and the Legos”). And I disciplined a tantrum thrower and a sulker.
All of that was about the end times.

When we think of Christian eschatology, we tend to think first of prophecy charts or apocalyptic novels, but nothing is more eschatological than parenting.

A parent disciplining a child, for instance, communicates to the child the discipline and judgment of God in ways deeper and more resonant than any Sunday school lesson (Heb 12:5-11). A parent who will not discipline a child for disobedience, or who is inconsistent in doing so, is teaching that child not to expect consequences for behavior.

In short, a parent who will not discipline is denying the doctrine of hell.

At the same time, a parent who disciplines in anger or with harshness teaches a judgment of God that is capricious and unjust. An abusive parent, worst of all, ingrains in a child’s mind a picture of God as a ruthless devil who cannot be trusted to judge justly.

Parental discipleship and discipline ought always to have repentance and restoration in view, picturing a God who is both just and the justifier (Rom 3:26). Discipline should be swift and fair with quick reconciliation between parent and child. Long periods of “time out” do not communicate the discipline of God; they communicate the isolation and exile of hell.

Parents who spend time with their children, especially at meals, demonstrate something of the harmony they want their children to long for beyond this life. It’s a longing to eat at another Father’s table in the kingdom of Christ.

Moreover, we should teach children to respect and acknowledge authority, attributes necessary for citizens of a democracy for a short time, yes, but more necessary for subjects of a kingdom forever. Teaching children to refer to adults as “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones” or “Pastor Doe” and to say “sir” and “ma’am” (or the culturally equivalent signifiers of authority) is about more than politeness. It is training children to recognize proper hierarchy and authority when the veil is lifted and we see face to face.

Those of you who are parents probably grow weary and discouraged sometimes. I know I do. It seems as though you’re not “getting through” sometimes, that your children aren’t responding the way you thought they would. Keep hugging. Keep kissing. Keep chastising. Keep teaching. This is a long-term project. You’ve got a long-term project in front of you. And there’s a lot at stake.

After all, parenting isn’t about behavior modification. It’s about Christian eschatology.

How "Hellish" is Time-Out?

Some commenters on the last post have raised the issue of “time out” as a tool for discipline, especially in light of my statement that extended periods of “time out” don’t communicate well the discipline of God over his children.

Some asked, “What about the exile?” Others noted, “Since godly parenting demonstrates belief in hell, why shouldn’t we employ a means that captures the isolation of hell?” Good points all.

First, the key issue in my argument isn’t with “time out” if by “time out” one means a short period of isolation in order to prompt the child to calm down or to reflect on the gravity of the situation. The key issue is extended periods of “time out” in which the regular discipline of the home is to remove the child from the life of the family.

There are homes in which “time out” is a means of social control in the household. Rather than disciplining and restoring, children are routinely sent into isolation for long periods of time.

Second, discipline isn’t punishment. God doesn’t punish his children. He disciplines them. This is the argument of Hebrews 12. Discipline pictures hell only in one way, that actions have consequences. This is why Jesus calls us to the self-discipline of the gouged-out eye or the cut-off hand rather than face the justice of God in hell (Matt 18:7-9).

Discipline isn’t condemnation though. There is no condemnation for those who’ve been adopted into the household of Jesus (Rom 8:1). The quickness of discipline is itself a sign of acceptance. Those who are perishing aren’t disciplined at all. They are given over to themselves, and their judgment comes upon them in the end (see, for example, the pattern of Esau, also referenced in Heb 12).

God’s discipline though is swift and purpose-driven. He seeks not to isolate but to drive the erring sheep back into the sheep-fold, to welcome the repentant son back to the table.

If “time out” in your house is a tool to prompt thinking, while the child waits for swift discipline and restoration, then have at it. If “time out” is a means of punishing the child by removing him from the fellowship of his family, then you’re removing him from the very means of discipleship he (and we) so desperately needs.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Study Bibles: Choosing and Using

Just today I shopped at the bookstore for Study Bibles as gifts for baptism this week. Study Bibles are great tools to help understand the Bible, primarily because they provide easy access to study materials alongside (or underneath) the biblical text. Dr. Albert Mohler has written a great article on the selection and use of Study Bibles. I heartily agree with him on his three options.

I just bought the ESV Study Bible for the baptism gifts and am excited for those who will receive them (though, if anyone is interested, I'm still waiting on my own :)). The Apologetics Study Bible (which you can find a review for on Passion for Preaching) is another great option that I received as a gift a few months ago. I have found the articles in that Bible to be second to none, I strongly reccommend it for the study of apologetics. I also once owned a MacArthur Study Bible, but I gave it away to a friend who had just accepted Christ. John MacArthur does most things well, and this is no different. Unlike the other two Bibles mentioned above, the Macarthur Study Bible is available in several different translations (NKJVand NASB).

To Dr. Mohler's List, I might also add the NIV Study Bible. I strongly prefer other translations over the NIV, but the NIV is not a bad translation. The primary difference is that the NIV is translated using a method known as dynamic equivalence. Translation by dynamic equivalence seeks to translate thought for thought or concept for concept. The ESV, NASB, and HCSB (all of which are referenced above) translate scripture using a discipline known as formal equivalence. The formal equivalence method seeks, as much as possible, to translate the original text into the English (or other language) using a word for word translation. Leland Ryken has written a great article, Choosing A Bible, that addresses these two forms of translation in 32 short pages.

I hope this is a quick intro for you into the valuable world of Study Bibles. The three above represent a great place to start, but there are many other Study Bibles from which you could choose.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Presents or Presence?

Christmas is all about the presents...isn't it? Of course it isn't, but I believe Christmas is all about the presence. The presence of Christ. After all, he is to be called, Immanuel, which means God With Us. Matthew testifies to this in Matthew 1:23 and the book of John tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Enjoy your presents this Christmas, but remember to celebrate the presence of Christmas. God became a man and dwelt among us. That is the miracle, that is the reason we celebrate. Don't miss the best part of Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Shape of Faith to Come

Check out my review of The Shape of Faith to Come at Passion for Preaching.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Links for Tuesday

Here's a collection of links for your Tuesday:

1. A God of Wrath?

This is definitely not the picture of God that we normally sing and preach about. This is not a cuddly teddy bear God; this is a God of terror. We know that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) but he punishes never-the-less.

2. Ten Favorite Books from Trevin Wax

Every December, I select the ten books that I most enjoyed reading during the year. (See 2007 and 2006 lists.) Please note that I am not giving a blanket endorsement to everything in these books (after all, some of them contradict each other at points). I choose ten books a year based solely on how much I enjoyed reading them.Here are my top ten picks for 2008

3. The Epic of Eden

This is a book I'm reading right now. I'm about 70 pages into it, but so far it is the most interesting Old Testament Introduction book that I have ever read. I'll post a review of it soon, but you might be interested in it for now.

4. Big Picture Story Bible

Wyatt is getting this book for Christmas and I would strongly recommend it for anyone with small children. It collects the Bible into one big story with lots of colorful pictures.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

80's Music Medley for Angela

This is solely for my wife, Angela, who LOVES 80's music. If anyone else enjoys it, thank her. This is great.

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Reformed Gospel Hip-Hop Grammy Nomination

OK, so the title may have caught you off guard, but check out the post below copied from Denny Burk, the new dean of Boyce College at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is good stuff...

The Protestant Reformation has come to the Grammys! On Saturday, one of our students here at Boyce College was nominated for a Grammy award. His stage name is “Flame,” and I wrote about him here in October. He’s a hip-hop artist with a gospel message—one that is rooted deeply in the reformation tradition.

According to the Grammy website, Flame’s “Our World Redeemed” has been nominated for “Best Rock Or Rap Gospel Album.” CMSpin.com has the details of the story, and the Associated Press reports that the Grammy Awards will be broadcast on February 8 on CBS. You can be sure that we’ll be pulling for Flame.
Here’s a link to Flame’s album. If you haven’t bought it yet, you really should.

Our World: Redeemed (2008)
Russell Moore interviewed Flame on “The Albert Mohler Program” last Spring. You can download it here or listen to it below.
Here’s Flame’s Website.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

USA TODAY: TV and Internet Harm Kids

I just saw a tagline for a blog that said children now spend an average of 45 hours per week immersed in the media. That's a scary thought, really, if you believe (as I do) that most of our media has a very secular and even anti-Christian bias. What are you doing, then, to protect your children from the anti-Christian influence of our culture?

USA Today writes:

Parents and policymakers need to take action to protect children from being harmed by TV, the Internet and other types of media, a report says.

Researchers have done individual studies for years to learn how media affect children. A review released today, which analyzed 173 of the strongest papers over 28 years, finds that 80% agree that heavy media exposure increases the risk of harm, including obesity, smoking, sex, drug and alcohol use, attention problems and poor grades.

Some of the links are particularly strong. For example, 93% of studies found that children with greater media exposure have sex earlier. Authors say the soundest studies are those linking media use with obesity, while the evidence linking media exposure to hyperactivity is weaker.

The study provides overwhelming evidence of the importance of limiting children's use of media and teaching them to critically evaluate the ever-growing volume of text, images and sounds with which they are bombarded, says co-author Ezekiel Emanuel of the National Institutes of Health. He says the report also urges Hollywood and technology makers to create entertainment that is less toxic and more family-friendly.

Let me suggest just a few things that you can do to benefit your children and aid them in their spiritual journey.

1. Limit TV time. Of course, limitations mean censoring as well. Just because it comes on TV does not mean it has to come on in your house...

2. Limit Computer Time. This probably goes without saying, but too much time in front of a computer is not a good thing. You should also have filtering and accountability software installed on all of your computers to protect every member of your family.

3. Family Devotions. When specific times are set aside for family devotions, your children are being immersed in a Christian worldview.

4. Eat Together. I've written about this here, but suffice it to say that family meals are a proven benefit in the lives of your children (and in contributing to the health of your family).

5. Attend Church Together. Does this one need explanation?

6. Encourage Extracurricular Activities. Sports, dance, band, whatever it may be, get your kids involved in activities that benefit them socially and otherwise.

7. Play Together. That's right, play together. Find an activity you can do together as a family, the TV is not adequate family bonding.

The TV and computer are not intended to be your babysitters. As parents, you have been given the responsiblity to raise your children, so take your responsibility seriously or your children will reap the neagtive rewards of your failure.
Albert Mohler's comments on this article.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Health, Wealth, and the Life of Jesus

I was reading in the gospel of Matthew today was really struck by the following passage:

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. [1] Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

We follow Jesus and expect blessings and rewards. We complain when we suffer and question God's goodness, and yet, our Lord, was born in a feed trough and did not even have the money to pay the tax for the temple. This was not a great amount of money, maybe $100 (maybe even less), and yet our Savior did not have that money on him.

Of course, The Father provided to meet his needs and he will provide for ours, but should we truly expect to be blessed? Does God owe good to us, or will we not accept both good and evil from our God (Job 2:10)?

We serve a good God and that shall never change, but let us all beware when we believe that God owes to us better than even Christ had as he walked this earth. Luther writes it aptly this way:

Think of it, my kinsman, yes, my brother, the King of all creation in heaven and on earth, and of all creatures in them, lies there in such wretchedness! shame on me! Why am I so stuck-up? Why do I want to be so high and mighty that I never want to suffer anything? if the King of glory suffers as he does, for my sake, who do I think I am, anyway? Isn't it a fact, that I am a poor sinner who does not even deserve to lie on bristle. But here I am, lying on a bead of ease, while my Lord lies there on coarse straw in a manger for the cows!
But isn't this a disgusting deal? Here we see the humiliation and poverty in which our Lord Jesus lies for our sake, while w pretend to be aristocratic landowners who should get off with not punishment or suffering at all!

The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, volume V, 136.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Leading That Lacks a Calling

I picked this up from JDGreear and thought it was worthwhile.

All pastors, by definition, are leaders. I have discovered, however, that many of them do not think of themselves as such. You ask them where they see their church going, what vision they are pursuing... and beyond bland banalities they have little to say.
For many pastors, I think one reason they fail to lead is they haven't learned to recognize the ways God has genuinely called them to be a leader. Let me explain.

Acts 26:16 has always been one of the most important verses to me in ministry (since my college pastor, Tom Wagoner, shared it with me in his office in 1994). In that verse Jesus tells Paul, "Rise up and stand on your feet, for I have made you a minister and a witness of the things you have seen and the things I will yet show you." Jesus had shown a part of himself to Paul that he had not shown to Peter, and Paul had a special angle on Christian ministry he was to add to the church. Jesus told him, "I gave you, and will give you, this insight on me. My calling on you is to add it to the body of Christ."

Over the years, reflection on this verse has propelled me into leadership. I don't assume that Jesus has shown me something that he has never shown to anyone else. However, I do understand that Jesus has let me see, experience, understand and feel certain things, and I am to add that to the body of Christ. This forms the core of my leadership fuel. I am a minister and witness of the things He has shown me and will yet show to me.

For many of us the best thing we could do is to get away with our Bible and maybe our wives or even a close friend and ask Jesus what he has planted deepest in our hearts. Talk them out. Pray them out. Write them out. Map them out.
Then lead the rest of us in them.

One note for those of you with the same idolatrous disease I have to gain recognition... don't try to be "novel," as if you have something new, never discovered before, to add to the body of Christ. I have discovered that the desire to be "original" is usually idolatry in me. Just try and understand what Jesus has shown you most powerfully from the Scriptures that the rest of us don't seem to understand as well, and then figure out the clearest way to help us all understand that.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas Specials

I felt like I had to post this today. Christmas is a special time and some of our most nostalgic memories revolve around Christmas movies and TV Specials. TV Guide has a calendar of Christmas Specials. Maybe you can find this beneficial as you plan your family's holiday TV watching.

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Church Signs

Still looking for something to be thankful for? Check out the Sign on Travis Agnew's blog and be thankful it's not in front of your church! And, for more entertainment, check out his Church Signs category.

If you like what you see, let Travis know, he's a great guy and he'll get a kick out of it.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

10 Tips to Read More and Read Better

This is copied from Tim Challies' site and I dedicate it to Condy Richardson (because he envies my reading selections).

Also at Challies' site you can find a review of Twilight. I've not read any of these books, but they are a huge hit with teens and the first in the series has recently been made into a major motion picture.

When I turned to the readers of this site and asked for questions I could answer or topics I could address, I noted (without much surprise) that many people were interested in the subject of reading. One person sought a basic “Why, what and how of reading Christian books.” Others sought advice on how to read more and how to read better. This is a subject I have written about before but I thought it would be valuable to return to it today. Here is a list of ten tips to read more and to read better.

Read - We start with the obvious: you need to read. Find me someone who has changed the world and who spent his time watching television and I’ll find you a thousand who read books instead. Unless reading is your passion, you may need to be very deliberate about setting aside time to read. You may need to force yourself to do it. Set yourself a reasonable target (“I’m going to read three books this year” or “I’m going to finish this book before the end of the month”) and work towards it. Set aside time every day or every week and make sure you pick up the book during those times. Find a book dealing with a subject of particular interest to you. You may even find it beneficial to find a book that looks interesting—a nice hardback volume with a beautiful, embossed cover, easy-to-read fonts and beautiful typography. Reading is an experience and the experience begins with the look and feel of the book. So find a book that looks like one you’ll enjoy and commit to reading it. And when you’ve done that, find another one and do it again. And again.

Read Widely - I’m convinced that one reason people do not read more is that they do not vary their reading enough. Any subject, no matter how much you are interested in it, can begin to feel dry if you focus all of your attention upon it. So be sure to read widely. Read fiction and non-fiction, theology and biography, current affairs and history, Christian and non. You will no doubt want to focus the majority of your reading in one broad area, and that is well and good. But be sure to vary your diet.

Read Deliberately - Similar to reading widely, ensure that you read deliberately. Choose your books carefully. If you neglect to do this, you may find that you overlook a particular category for months or even years at a time. Al Mohler, a voracious reader, divides books into six categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature and has some project going within each of these categories at all times. You can draw up categories of your own, but try to ensure you are reading from a variety of the categories on a regular basis. Choose books that fit into each of these categories and plan your reading ahead of time, so you know what book you will read next and you know what you’ll read after that. Anticipation for the next book is often a motivating force in completing the current book.

Read Interactively - Reading is best done, at least when enjoying serious books, when you work hard at understanding the book and when you interact with the author’s arguments. Read with a highlighter and pencil in hand. Ask questions of the author and expect him to answer them through the course of the text. Scrawl notes in the margins, write questions inside the front cover, and return to them often (and, if the questions remain unanswered, even seek to contact the author!). Highlight the most important portions of the book, or the ones you intend to return to later. As Al Mohler says, “Books are to be read and used, not collected and coddled.” I have found that writing reviews of the books I read is a valuable way of returning at least one more time to the book to make sure that I understand what the author was trying to say and how he said it. So interact with those books and make them your own.

Read with Discernment - Though books have incredible power to do good, to challenge and strengthen and edify, they also have the power to do evil. I have seen lives transformed by books but have also seen lives crushed. So do ensure that you read with discernment, always comparing the books you read to the standard of Scripture. If you encounter a book that is particularly controversial, it may be worth ensuring that you can reference a review that interacts critically with the arguments or that you can read it with a person who better understands the arguments and their implications. You do not need to fear any book as long as you read with a critical eye and with a discerning mind.

Read Heavy Books - It can be intimidating to stare at some of those massive volumes or series of volumes sitting on your bookshelf, but be sure to make time to read some of those serious works. A person can only grow so much while living on a diet of easy-reading Christian Living books. Make your way through some Jonathan Edwards or John Calvin. Read Grudem’s Systematic Theology or David Wells’ “No Place for Truth” series. You will find them slow-going, to be sure, but will also find them rewarding. Commit to reading some of these heavy volumes as a regular part of your reading diet. Consider joining in one of our Reading Classics Together efforts to add some interaction and accountability in reading one of the classics of the faith.

Read Light Books - While dense books should be a serious reader’s main diet, there is nothing wrong with pausing to enjoy the occasional novel or light read. After reading two or three good books, allow yourself to read a Clancy or Grisham or Peretti something else that never changed anyone’s life. Allow yourself to get lost in a good story every now and again and stay up way too late insisting that you’re going to read just one more chapter. You will find that they refresh you and prepare you to read the next heavy book.

Read New Books - Keep an eye on what is new and popular and consider reading what other people in your church or neighborhood are reading. If The Secret is selling millions of copies, consider reading it so you know what people are reading and so you can attempt to discern why people are reading it. Use your knowledge of these books as a bridge to talk to people about their books and what attracts them to the ones they read. Use your knowledge of these books to understand what other Christians are reading and why.

Read Old Books - Do not read only new books. I cannot say this any better than C.S. Lewis: “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.” So be sure to read old books, whether that means classics or whether that simply means books that come from a generation or two before your own. And be sure to read history as well, since there is no better way of understanding today than by understanding yesterday.

Read What Your Heroes Read - A few years ago, while at the Shepherds’ Conference, a young man who was in ministry but had not had opportunity to attend seminary asked John MacArthur what he would recommend to this man so he could continue learning and continue growing in his knowledge of theology. MacArthur’s answer was simple: He said that this pastor should find godly men he admires and read what they read. So do that! Find people you admire and read the books that have most shaped them. Visit the web sites of your heroes and you may just find that they have already compiled lists of their most formative books. Read these books and see for yourself how they shaped your heroes.

HT to Charlie Wallace for bringing this to my attention.
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful for Angela

I know its thanksgiving week, so I wanted to take space on here to just recount how thankful I am for my wife and son. I am very blessed to have them in my life. Angela takes care of me and is a great mom and wife. She has given me a wonderful son and we have a daughter on the way. I am blessed beyond measure. Being a pastor's wife is not always easy, but she takes it all in stride and loves our church as much as I do.

Not only am I blessed to have her in my life, but our church is blessed to have her as well. Most people will never know how beneficial she is to the ministry of Malvern Hill, but I am well aware of what God has given to me.

What are you thankful for?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Woman Receives Windpipe Transplant Grown From Her Own Stem Cells

In a very rare occurrence, a woman has recieved a windpipe transplant to save one of her lungs. The most amazing and exciting news about this transplant, however, is that the windpipe was made of her own stem cells. There was no need to use embryonic stem cells. FoxNews is carrying this story and I would strongly urge you to read it. This is just one more scientific advance to provide arguments against the use and neccessity of embryonic stem cells.

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Two Links for today.

1. I've posted a book review of G.K. Beale's We Become What We Worship at passion for preaching.

2. Al Mohler has written a review of a USA Today article that says this:

Compared with the Baby Boomers who were seniors in 1975, 12th-graders surveyed in 2006 were much more confident they'd be "very good" employees, mates and parents, and they were more self-satisfied overall, say Twenge and co-author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia. Between half and two-thirds of the Gen Y teens gave themselves top ratings, compared with less than half in their parents' generation. The report is in 'Psychological Science.'

Boomer parents "are more likely than their parents were to praise children — and maybe over praise them," Twenge says. This can foster great expectations or perhaps even smugness about one's chances of reaching "the stars" at work and in family life, she adds. "Their narcissism could be a recipe for depression later when things don't work out as well as they

If you are a parent or an educator, both the article and Mohler's take on the article are well worth your time.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Voddie Baucham on SBC Controversies

I normally resist the temptation to enter into a great deal of controversy with this tool. But, I ran across a post from Voddie Baucham that I found to be interesting. I had the opportunity to meet Voddie and spend a little time with him during the summer of 2003. He is scary smart and hardcore about holiness (his enormous size forces me to use those descriptive terms). I do not agree with everything Voddie says, but I do respect him greatly. If you are interested in working to be the solution to the problem of fractions in the SBC, Voddie's post may be a great place to start.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

God of This City

I'm not sure that Chris Tomlin does any bad songs, but God is surely glorified in this one.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

ADHD Causes Divorce?

Reuters reported last week on a recent study that suggests a link between children with ADHD and parents who divorce.

Parents of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be more likely than other parents to divorce before their child's 8th birthday, a new study suggests.

The study included nearly 500 couples - 286 had a child with ADHD and 206 had a child without this condition. The researchers found that couples with a child with ADHD were almost twice as likely to divorce before their child turned 8 years old. After that age, however, divorce rates were similar in both groups of parents.

Past research has found that compared with couples with a child without ADHD, parents of children with the disorder tend to argue more often and be less satisfied with their marriage. But studies have come to conflicting conclusions regarding the divorce rate.

Of course, I have no data to back up my theories, but should we not look at this study and question if unhealthy marriages create an environment that fosters the development of ADHD? When I read this study, I am inclined to wonder if the researchers have it all wrong. Maybe the child does not cause a divorce, but instead, marriages in turmoil serve to negatively affect the well-being of children.

Obviously, problems can occur in children who grow up even in the best of homes, but because ADHD is a clinical diagnosis, it is a diagnosis based on signs and symptoms which may or may not include inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impusliveness. Of course, other symptoms and signs are common, but many of the signs and symptoms are also common for children who do not receive proper love and attention at home.

I wonder if some children diagnosed with ADHD should really be diagnosed with bad parent disorder instead. Remember, I write as a fellow ADHD sufferer (I was a late bloomer, not diagnosed until I was completing my Masters Degree) and so I am not questioning the reality of the disorder, but I do call into question the popularity of the diagnosis, especially in light of the research stated in the Reuters article cited above.

I'd love your comments on this issue.

HT: Bowden McElroy

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Something Interesting To Start Your Day

Ed Young Jr. has a great challenge for the members of Fellowship Church. Read about his Seven Day Sex Challenge. His perspective is great and he is spot on in his analysis:

"God says sex should be between a married man and a woman," Young said. "I think it’s one of the greatest things you can do for your kids because so goes the marriage, so goes the family."

Sex is God's gift to married couples and should be practiced by married couples, not only for their enjoyment, but for the health of their marriages.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Brit Hume Retiring to Pursue Christian Growth

Justin Taylor has posted an article about Brit Hume that is nearly unheard of in our day. Hume is retiring at the top his career game so that he can spend more time with his family and grow in his Christian faith. This is a great story that you should read.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Links

A prayer request here.

Russ Moore's thought's on judgment house evangelism are interesting.

A reminder of what may be the greatest victory for Christians in the 2008 election from Denny Burk.

The need for a mondern day Wilberforce.

And, for anyone slightly interested in the Puritans, Timmy Brister has written Who Is Richard Baxter?

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

95 Reasons I Love My Church

In celebration of Reformation Day last Friday Night, I got home to find my house and yard covered with 95 copies of Luther's 95 Theses. Several of the students from the church pulled their own Reformation Day Prank on their pastor. I also received a Reformation Day gift bag. In the bag was a rubber mallet and a dvd of the first season of Monk...that's right, a monk and a mallet for Reformation Day.

We are blessed for the efforts of those who have gone on before us proclaiming the gospel and for the reformation that they brought. I am blessed to be a part of a church that loves me and is interested in learning about the Word of God and the rich heritage of our protestant history.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The King Is On The Throne

Elections are big deals in America, and they should give Christians an opportunity to reflect upon our citizenship, not only in this country, but our heavenly citizenship as well. We have selected a new president and that new president holds great power, however, as Christians we still serve the same King. Jesus came to set up a kingdom that is not of this world:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
-John 18:36

Even as we participate in the political process, we know that our God holds sway over the politics of the kingdoms (countries) of this world. Take heart, whether your candidate won or not, your God is still seated upon his throne and his will shall be done!

Jesus said, "let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, beleive also in me..." No man or woman has ever undone what God wills to be done. Praise God this morning that he is still the KING!
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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Free Books!

Passion for Preaching is hosting it's first ever book give-away. Click on www.passionforpreaching.net and sign up to win a copy of Robert Smith's, Doctrine That Dances.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Teen Pregnancy Linked To Watching Sexy TV

An article on FoxNews today reports the findings from a recent study that suggests a link between increased pregnancy rates among teens and television shows with sexually suggestive/explicit content. The three year study by Rand Corp. showed that teens who watch the raciest shows are twice as likely to become pregnant as those who don't.

Participants were asked how often they watched any of more than 20 TV shows popular among teens at the time or which were found to have lots of sexual content. The programs included "Sex and the City," "That '70s Show" and "Friends."

Pregnancies were twice as common among those who said they watched such shows regularly, compared with teens who said they hardly ever saw them. There were more pregnancies among the oldest teens interviewed, but the rate of pregnancy remained consistent across all age groups among those who watched the racy programs.

Admittedly, other factors (such as family structure, economic situation, self-esteem issues, religious affiliation, etc...) were not considered, but the data does seem to speak for itself. In a study of more than 2000 teens, presumably a conglomeration that covered a wide range of life-situations, the statistic is alarming. Parents cannot ignore this study.

The article continues:

Psychologist David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, cited data suggesting only about 19 percent of American teens say they can talk openly with a trusted adult about sex. With many schools not offering sex education, that leaves the media to serve as a sex educator, he said.

"For a kid who no one's talking to about sex, and then he watches sitcoms on TV where sex is presented as this is what the cool people do," the outcome is obvious, Walsh said.

He said the message to parents is to talk to their kids about sex long before children are teens. Parents also should be watching what their kids watch and helping filter messages sex-filled shows are sending, he said.

This needs to be just one more wake-up call to parents and church leaders. If we are not talking about sex with our children, they are learning about it from somewhere. Hollywood should not set the sex-education curriculum for our children. The Bible gives some explicit guidelines for sexual relationships, specifically, that sex is reserved for a monogomous relationship between a man and a woman inside of marriage.

Pop-culture and most TV portray sex as something far removed from the biblical ideal. When TV becomes our baby-sitter, then the media from it's screen also becomes our children's teacher. Stand in the gap for your children, honor God with the blessings he has given you.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The History of Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, and Capitalism

In the United States, Thanksgiving began with the Pilgrims who settled around Plymouth in 1621. During the winters of 1621 and 1622 they suffered many privations. Food and supplies were scarce and disease ran rampant in the region.

Nearly half the population died. The settlers at the time and historians both agree that there were two reasons for the problems of the Pilgrims. First, they were generally not experienced farmers. They were fortunate that some of the local Native-Americans helped them learn to farm the local crops. Second, and perhaps more tellingly, they had originally been organized into a commune where the produce of all was brought into a common store and then distributed among the inhabitants based on need.

The Governor at the time, William Bradford, was quick to recognize the problem. This excerpt from his diary, written in the 1620s, explains all:

The failure of this experiment of communal service, which was tried...by good and honest men proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times, - that the taking away of private property, and possession of it in community, by a commonwealth would make a state happy and flourishing...For in this instance, community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort.

So every family was assigned a parcel of land according to the proportion of their number...It made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been...and gave far better satisfaction.

Thankful for the re-institution of private property and the plenty which it provided, the Pilgrims invited their benefactors in 1623 to a three-day celebration. More than 80 "Indians" came to enjoy the festivities. They brought venison, wild turkey and other victuals. There was much singing, rejoicing and even sermons.

As Thanksgiving approaches, let us be thankful to God for his provisions and the country in which we live.

Much of this info was found here. http://www.holidaycook.com/ is apparently more than a cooking site.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Review: Is Jesus The Only Savior

This is a great scholarly response to one of the prevailing questions of our day as the title suggests.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday's Links

1. Albert Mohler has published a great post on the removal of the younger Schuller as the preacher on the Hour of Power broadcast. This is telling of the actual "ministry" of the Crystal Cathedral under Robert H. Schuller.

An excerpt:

Schuller built his worldwide ministry over a half century on the psychology of positive thinking and appealing to people turned off by the formality of traditional faiths. In contrast, his son's sermons have been full of direct references to the Bible.
"I was called to start a mission, not a church," Schuller told his audience Sunday. "There is a difference. . . . You don't try to preach . . . what is sin and what isn't sin. A mission is a place where you ask nonbelievers to come and find faith and hope and feel love. We're a mission first, a church second ."

2. A quote to consider from Abraham Piper

If you ask questions but you reject answers, you’re not actually asking anything. You’re just festooning tired, old propositions with trendier punctuation.

3. Tim Challies' latest blog has some good content on the use (and disuse?) of the gospel

This is some exceedingly bad news. And this is why so many churches seek to soften the news. It’s better, they think, to welcome into church the many people who will accept a softened message than the few who will accept such a tough message. And so they tamper with it, taking the edge off. Yes, we have sinned, but let’s think of it as just doing bad things or making mistakes.

4. Here's a link to, of all things, Oprah's website. Why? Because for those of you who can't wait to get your hands on a new Amazon Kindle (or to buy one for me), you can visit the link above for a $50 off coupon.

5. For those of you who live within a few miles of Barnes and Noble (It's more than 30 miles for me), here's a coupon for a free beverage. The only catch is that you have to use it by Friday.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Right Praying is Right Wanting

“Praying is not about getting God to give us what we want;it is about learning to want what God wants to give.”

- David deSilva, Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer, 114

HT: Trevin Wax

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween Evil or Edifying?

Here's an article that some of you may enjoy. I'm not a huge fan of Halloween myself, but I am cautious about referring to it as Satanic. Michael Spencer has posted his annual rant on Halloween. I think it's worthwhile reading for good conversation.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Most Important Election Issue?

I try to avoid politics here, but since abortion, which is a moral issue, has been politicized, I think it is appropriate to post this video from Catholic Vote 2008.

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Book Review: Five Leading Reformers

I've posted a book review for Five Leading Reformers by Christopher Catherwood at http://www.passionforpreaching.net/. I encourage you to check it out.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Cross is a RISK

In Southeast Asia a few years ago, an IMB missionary spoke with me about his job there:

It is dangerous to spread the good news, but these people need the gospel more than they need my physical help. The cross is spelled R-I-S-K. I know that my I and my family may be in danger for spreading the gospel, but it must be done.

A news story out of Afghanistan today shows that the risk of the gospel is still real. The dangers of spreading the good news did not miraculously stop when the United States declared freedom of religion. Millions of Christians around the world still fear for their lives because they name the name of Christ.

Please read the story of Gayle Williams from FOX News and be in prayer for her friends and family.

It is said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. May the sacrifice of Gayle Williams serve to promote the gospel in new and accelerated ways in Afghanistan and around the world.

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