Jan 21, 2015

Live with Eternity In View

I was deeply encouraged by these words from this mornings devotion in Paul Tripp's New Morning Mercies:
"You and I are hardwired for eternity. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has placed eternity in every person's heart. That means that everyone hungers for paradise. No one is satisfied with things the way they are. So either you try your hardest to turn your life right here, right now into the paradise it will never be and therefore become driven and disappointed, or you live in this broken world with the rest and peace that comes from knowing that a guaranteed place in paradise is in your future." 
May we all live as agents of eternal hope in the present reality of a broken world where God is working his plan to bring about redemption.

May 12, 2014

Taking God At His Word - A Book Review

I've been on an unplanned hiatus from my blog for a few months while I was wrapping up doctoral work.  Now that it's over, I have had more time to pick up some books I was wanting to read.  Recently, I received an advanced digital copy of Kevin DeYoung's newest book, Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough and What that Means for You and Me.  I was excited to get an advanced copy of the book since DeYoung is one of my favorite new authors.  I have read most of his books so far and found each of them to be solid theologically and exegetically and very practical for the average Christian to read.  DeYoung does a good job mixing in current cultural events, humor, and practical advice into his books.  I recently heard DeYoung speak at Together for the Gospel '14 and his talk was basically out of a couple of chapters of the book.

DeYoung's book is a very important work in an area that is widely overlooked in evangelicalism right now.  The lingering question in the culture and still creeping into the church is "Is the Bible really God's word and does it have any practical relevancy to today's times?"  In my own denomination, the fight for the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture was fought many years ago.  While this question was answered on a national level in the denomination, I don't think the practical implications of it have filtered down into the pews.  While we were busy for many years touting the "inerrancy of Scripture", we were not doing a good job equipping our people on how to better know, understand, and do God's word.

DeYoung's book is a helpful step in that direction.  He does a great job showing that if the Bible is the written record of the words of Almighty God, then how should that affect the way we think, feel, and do what it says.  He also shows with an acrostic the most important attributes of God's word - Sufficiency, Clarity, Authority, and Necessity (SCAN).  DeYoung shows how Jesus not only believed that the Old Testament was the authoritative word of God, but that the words He spoke were also the words of God and these words were tied into his person and plan.  We have a superior word and a superior Savior whose authority backs those words.  Look at this quote from the book:
"Scripture is enough because the work of Christ is enough. They stand or fall together. The Son's redemption and the Son's revelation must both be sufficient. As as such, there is nothing more to be done and nothing more to be known for our salvation and for our Christian walk than what we see and know about Christ and through Christ in his Spirit's book." 
DeYoung takes care in each chapter of the book to bring giant theological truths about God's word down to not only see the doctrines clearer, but also to see the practical implications that these doctrines have on our walk with God, our trust in Scripture, our faithfulness to the gospel, and much more.  The final chapter of the book is a fitting end as it calls the reader to consider the power of God's word in their own personal life as well as it's ability to conform us to Christlikeness and it's practicality for everyday matters.

DeYoung's book is a helpful addition to a subject that has been assumed but not advanced properly in evangelicalism.  We need to recover a beautiful trust and devotion to God's word.  We need to separate it as "the" Word amidst a sea of words that we look to every day.  Most of us have multiple copies of God's word not only on our bookshelves, but on our laptops, tablets, and smartphones.  While we have so many copies of God's word, we have so little conformity to Christ's character.  We must develop a trust and urgency to love God's word again.  Get this book and fall in love with your Bible.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Crossway Books for review and publication on this blog. I was not required to write a positive review of the book or its author. 

Jan 29, 2014

Some Pics from an Alabama Snow Day













Rare Winter Storm in Alabama

Yesterday, central and southern Alabama was hit with an incredible and partially unexpected winter storm.  The storm wasn't completely unexpected, but the impact and widespread area was. Local weather guys had been saying for a few days that areas in Montgomery and South could expect some freezing rain and snow.  However, even early Tuesday morning, they were seeing that their forecast models were still uncertain how bad it could be.  I heard one weatherman in Montgomery saying at 6:00 AM Tuesday that the line could move further north, but they weren't sure.  Well, it did.  Instead of getting snow at Noon, Alex City started getting freezing rain at 7:00 AM and snow by 9:00 AM. Birmingham, which wasn't forecasted for much but some cold rain, instead got pummeled by snow and rain that froze us roads by 11:00 AM. Needless to say, it has been quite an adventure.



Thanks to all the people of the Alex City School System for working so hard to get kids home safe with very little warning. Thanks to the police and many volunteers of Alex City for helping push cars that were on ice and getting people home.  Lots of people have been negatively affected, but the people of Alabama, for the most part, have shown great resiliency and a positive attitude and neighborly spirit of cooperation.



Here is a video from a Birmingham news station of what that city looks like from the sky this morning:

RAW VIDEO: An aerial view of Birmingham and the surrounding areas: Part 1

Dec 19, 2013

Responding to the Duck Dynasty/A&E Brouhaha

Well, I can't say I didn't think the social media frenzy today over Phil Robertson's suspension by A&E TV was coming when I saw the release last night.  Within an hour of the "news" of his suspension, my Facebook timeline was being littered with posts of outrage - some that was simply grievous, some that was venomous.  It is a little predictable.  Whenever an organization or group with a non-biblical worldview attacks those with a supposedly "Christian" and biblical worldview lately, it creates quite a storm, especially on the shark-infested waters of social media where most people are reactionary and lack a filter they might otherwise have.

I will save most of my thoughts about the controversy to personal and private conversations instead of using blogs and social media as an electronic version of the National Enquirer.  I do think that situations like this call for a response from Christians.  However, I think that response should be measured, thoughtful, Christ-like, and gospel-centered.  I think that we should naturally feel an outrage whenever someone from a Christian perspective is censured just for stating his personal beliefs that are based on the authority and sufficiency of God's word.

I also think that today, we as Christians, should feel a similar angst that over 2 billion people on our planet have no access to the gospel while the fat and lazy church in America sits comfortably in our la-z-boys eating Cheetos and hoping that Phil, Willie, Si, and Jase are the vehicle of gospel transference to the world. We should feel the same level of outrage that millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted, tortured, maimed, and killed while we bemoan a Christian who has been dropped from a show on a network that has openly supported LGBT causes.  I am not saying that we shouldn't be upset at any level of persecution against believers, but let's keep that persecution in perspective.  I am pretty sure that the 2 billion without access to the gospel and the millions of persecuted brothers and sisters in India, North Africa, and the Middle East really don't know who Phil Robertson is nor care that he's been canned from a show where he made millions of dollars.

With that in mind, I've listed below a few links to some Christian bloggers I read who have said some good things about how we, as Christians who are aliens and strangers in this world, should respond:

You Have Been Warned - the Duck Dynasty Controversy by Al Mohler. Very grateful for Al's wisdom and timely response, as always.

Duck Dynasty? by Russell Moore.  Russ is the president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a great public spokesman for Christian causes.

"Duck Dynasty": Let's Deal in Real Reality by Jared Wilson.  I always appreciate how Jared has the ability to keep the gospel in the center and offers timely and wise words.

Duck Dynasty Prediction by Denny Burk. Another timely word and some thoughts about what might happen next.

This Is Not Worth Quacking About by David Mathis.  This post from Desiring God will probably anger some Christians who want to be up in arms about this whole mess. I don't agree with everything Mathis concludes, but his word of caution might be worth listening to.

Ultimately, let's remember that there is a more important conversation as Christians that we need to have with the lost world around us than whether or not we are free to express our opinions on national TV or in secular publications. Let's not lose the real conversation in the dust-up of this present one.

Dec 12, 2013

Simeon - Watchful Waiting

One of my favorite Bible stories from the Christmas narrative is the story of Simeon, the man who eagerly waited many years to see the fulfillment of God's promise. Sometime in Simeon's life, he received a revelation from the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw with his own eyes the arrival of the Christ. The Scriptures don't tell us exactly how he received that promise or how long he had to wait.  It does seem to indicate in the context that he had to wait a long time -- probably many years.  
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
  according to your word;
  for my eyes have seen your salvation
  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
  a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
  and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed  (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.

Waiting is a common theme in many of the great characters of the Bible.

  • Abraham had to wait 25 years from receiving God's promise of an heir until the promise was fulfilled.
  • Joseph had a dream that his brothers would bow down to him, but had to wait 22 years, enduring being sold into slavery, falsely imprisoned, and being in a foreign land, before the dream was realized.
  • Moses spent 40 years in Midian before receiving a word from God to deliver the people from Egypt and then spent another 40 years wandering in the desert with a disgruntled and ungrateful people and never actually set foot in the promised land.

Waiting is not something we value in our world today. We want instant gratification, microwave meals, shorter check-out lines, high-speed Internet, fast-food, and short waits in the doctor's office. We have boiled life down to a 30-minute sitcom where we fast-forward through the commercials. Most of us personally admit to suffering from a lack of patience.

I remember a time when most of the luxuries we have today didn't exist. We believed that all the advancements and technology would improve our life and make things better, but they have also made us a much more impatient group of people. When this creeps into our spiritual lives, it often has disastrous results. Many people have become frustrated or disenfranchised with God because He hasn't delivered what we want when we want it. Some of us have prayed for something and because we didn't get the answer we were looking for right away, we either decided that God didn't exist, or if He does, He doesn't care about me.  We have lost the art of waiting.

What does the story of Simeon tell us about watchful waiting?  What principles can we learn from Simeon's life that can help us develop the art of waiting?

1.  Ground Yourself on the Veracity and Surety of God's Word. 

Somewhere along the way, God spoke to Simeon through the Holy Spirit and revealed His plan for Simeon's life.  It may have been through reading the prophet Isaiah.  It may have been a personal word to Simeon's spirit during his prayer time.  Whatever it was, Simeon's response was "God said this and that's good enough for me. I will build on that promise and wait for it to come to pass."  Simeon knew the power of God's word.  Too many believers today fail to understand the power of God's word.  Our instant and fast moving society doesn't lend itself for most of us to slow down and develop the habit of reading God's word.  Some of us self-admit that we are not readers.  However, God has given us a written word and it is to be the foundation of our lives. Don't build your spiritual life on pithy Christian platitudes, talk-show advice, or by only listening to what your pastor preachers.  You must ground yourself on God's word personally to have a sure foundation to build upon.


2.  Focus On the Promises of God Instead of Focusing On the State of Your Present Circumstances.

Remember, it was years from Simeon receiving God's promise until it was fulfilled. Every day, Simeon lived in a society that was drifting from God. It had been over 400 years since God had spoken through a prophet.  The culture around him was a mix of hypocrisy and spiritual apathy. However, Simeon knew that God had promised a Messiah and knew that God had told him that he would see him personally with his own eyes.  Too many times, we lose sight of God's promises because we spend too much time focusing on the state of our circumstances - bills to pay, kids to raise, and living in a culture that doesn't value Christ. The way to survive is not by focusing on your circumstances, but by choosing to "set your mind on things above."

3. Stay in Daily Communion with God's Spirit

The Bible says that the Holy Spirit was with Simeon. It also says that he came into the temple in the presence of the Spirit. There was a tangible presence of the Spirit of God wherever Simeon went. He was the kind of person whom when you encountered him, you knew that he had been with God.  He had a consistency in his relationship with God. This type of relationship is borne out of daily, fervent, and authentic prayer.  Lots of people around Simeon prayed everyday.  The Pharisees sure did. The Pharisees also prayed fervently and loudly.  However, the difference was that Simeon's prayer was an authentic prayer from a heart that stayed connected to God.

4.  Be Consistent in your Devotion and Obedience to God.

Simeon other characterization was "righteous and devout."  Righteous means that Simeon was obedient to God. He did what God said. He had a consistent obedience that produced a righteous character. This is in short supply in the church today.  He was also "devout" which means he maintained a consistent love and devotion to God.

5. Commit to be a Blessing to Others.

Notice in the text that when Simeon saw the baby Jesus, he immediately picked the baby up and spoke such encouraging words about him that it was a blessing to Mary and Joseph.  Again, this appears to be a pattern for Simeon. He was the kind of guy who lifted others up instead of dragging others down.  There are usually two types of people in your life - those who pour into you and make you feel better about yourself when you leave and those who drain you and make you want to avoid them when you leave. What kind of person are you?  Are you the type of person who consistently blesses others?  When you are waiting on God to fulfill his promises, you can either be so anxious about it that you are a burden to others. Or, you can commit to bless others and pour into them.

6.  Have a Lifestyle that Worships and Celebrates God

Simeon's response when he laid eyes on the baby Jesus was an immediate song of worship and praise to God. Simeon obviously lived a lifestyle of worship and celebration of the Lord, even when God appeared to take His time delivering on the promise to Simeon.  Some people allow their circumstances to hinder their worship. Simeon allowed his circumstances to deepen his faith and magnify his worship of the Lord.

Take a lesson from Simeon this Christmas if you are waiting on something from the Lord. Perhaps the reason you are waiting is that God is far more interested in what He is doing in you that what He is going to do for you.  Be a Simeon this Christmas and see what God does in and through you.

Dec 5, 2013

Another very cool Christmas song...

This has been making it's way around the internet and social media this week, so you may have already seen it.  If not, this is one of the best acapella songs I have ever heard.

Crazy Busy - A Book Review

How ironic is it that it took me over three weeks from when I finished a book called "Crazy Busy" until I actually wrote a book review of it on my blog. Probably sounds like the book didn't have much of an impact on me, huh? Perhaps. However, this is a great book packed with sound, biblical advice on a topic that most everyone I know struggles with.  I appreciate the writings of Kevin DeYoung.  He mixes together a sound grasp on biblical theology with direct application to the problems most people in our culture face. In doing so, he really helps Christians tackle issues from a Scriptural perspective rather than doling out recycled platitudes or giving personal opinion and self-help advice with a token Bible verse attached. He also mixes into his writing a quick wit and practical humor which keeps the average Christian reader more engaged on the subject.

Crazy Busy delivers exactly what the subtitle suggests: a (mercifully) short book about a (really) big problem.  DeYoung's book is 10 chapters spread out over 118 pages. This means that he moves through topics pretty fast, but still provides a lot of depth. He doesn't spend tons of pages on stringing out all the biblical exegesis he has done, but the way he deals with topics shows that he has indeed done a solid job of textual hermanuetics.  The bulk of the chapters deals with seven diagnoses of the spiritual reasons why some believers are potentially allowing themselves to overcommit, commit to the wrong things, not learn how to say "no", or running themselves ragged.

Personally, I found in each of these seven diagnoses something I was guilty of.  However, the beauty of Kevin's book is that his purpose is not to make us feel guilty about our busyness.  His purpose is to point out the spiritual reasons and implications of our busyness and then point us back to our grounding in the gospel and our identity in Christ. DeYoung doesn't just say, "Stop doing this", but he continually takes us back to what Scripture says to show us that a proper understanding of the gospel is the fuel for our busyness problems and that we often struggle with busyness because we have allowed ourselves to base our identity on something other than the gospel.

This is a great book that I would highly recommend to all Christians.  It would be a great read during some of your time off during the Christmas season. It might be better for some of you to read it before you start stressing out about the busyness of Christmas shopping. If you think you are too busy to read a book, that's all the more reason why you should get it. My small group and I are going to be working through it starting in January.

Here's a video of Kevin DeYoung talking about the book:
Busyness is Bad for You: A brief word from Kevin about the dangers of busyness from Crossway on Vimeo.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Crossway Books for review and publication on this blog. I was not required to write a positive review of the book or its author. 

Dec 4, 2013

"Angels We Have Heard On High" by the Piano Guys

I had never heard of these guys before I saw this video today, but what a great rendition of a popular and powerful Christmas hymn. Enjoy!

Oct 30, 2013

Clear Winter Nights - A Book Review

The older I get and the longer I am a Christian, the more I value reading and the importance of a good book.  I try to read a variety of books in order to be balanced.  One area that I like to read is good fiction.  Some pastors and Christians only read books on ministry, theology, and the Christian life. They view fiction as a waste of time. Some Christians only read fictional books, but never venture into good books on theology or the gospel because they see it as above their heads.  So, I was intrigued to see that Trevin Wax had recently written a fictional work that also was designed to teach deeper theological truths.  So, I was excited to pick up a copy of Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After.  The book subtitles itself as "Theology in Story" and that is a very apt description.  I appreciate Trevin's gift of writing and his understanding of the gospel and its importance.  Trevin serves as the managing editor of LifeWay's new curriculum "The Gospel Project".

While Clear Winter Nights is a fictional work, it makes an important contribution to the current trend of gospel-centered writings that have been offered in recent years.  It's the story of a young man named Chris and the week that he spends with his elderly grandfather who is a retired pastor. The reader walks with Chris as he is going through a crisis of belief brought on by several factors: the challenges of his liberal religious professors, the recent ending of his engagement to the woman he loves, his grandmother's death, and the recent news that his earthly father wasn't the man that he thought.  These events have left Chris jaded, confused, angry, and resentful.  When his grandfather experiences his own health crisis, Chris steps in to help by staying with him a few days. As they reconnect, Chris' grandfather brings the depth of the gospel and the word of God to Chris' struggles.  He forces Chris to wrestle with questions and truths he had once blindly accepted, but has recently abandoned. This is the process of sanctification and growth.  It's the struggle of a young man actually learning to own his faith through trials and doubt. The author does a fantastic job helping the reader to see that faith is not just a personal belief in something. Ultimately it's a search for the truth, and truth is found in a person, Jesus Christ.

Clear Winter Nights is the kind of book that every Christian can read and appreciate.  The story is short - a mere 147 pages - but laced with important gospel truths. The storyline is very relevant and believable. The struggles of the lead character are relevant to many who have grown up in the Christian church but have struggles reconciling what they have been taught with an increasingly secularized culture that has abandoned objective truth for a more personal, subjective experience.  I commend Trevin for what he has brought to the table and highly recommend you read Clear Winter Nights and pass it on to your friends who may be struggling with doubt.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multinomah for review and publication on this blog. I was not required to write a positive review of this book or its authors. 

Oct 8, 2013

The Pastor's Justification - A Book Review

Jared Wilson is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. He has a solid grasp on the gospel and a gifted writing style that keeps the gospel from becoming rote and academic.  I was very excited to receive a copy of his book, The Pastor's Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in your Life and Ministry.  This may be one of the most important books to my personal ministry that I have read in a long time. Jared does a masterful job of bringing together the calling to ministry and the daily implications of the gospel that we pastors, we are stewards of that same gospel, so often forget.

Ministry is an exhaustive exercise of trying to prove your worth and calling by trying to convince others, who are also fallen, sinful creations, to live the gospel. Every time we as pastors get together, we ask about the same metrics: "How many do you run in Sunday School?", "How many did you have in worship Sunday?", and "How many have you baptized this year?"  When you add to this equation that 85% of churches in America, including mine, are plateaued or declining, then you come out with a mix of pastors that are stressed about numerical success, depressed about their current ministry context, looking for greener fields somewhere else, or questioning their own calling.  The statistics about the spiritual health of pastors and ministers are frightening:

  • Each month, about 1,500 ministers leave ministry altogether either by moral failure, ministry burnout, or forced termination.
  • About 70% of pastors are fighting depression of some sort
  • 50% of ministers say they would probably leave the ministry if they could find another job that would pay them what they are currently making.

This is why Jared Wilson's book is of fundamental importance and a clarion call in a desperate time.  Jared is a pastor who lives in the trenches of ministry every day.  He also has a profound ability to bring practical application of the gospel to everyday life. He shows us exactly what Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 that the gospel is not just something that has saved us, but that it is "the gospel in which you stand and by which you are being saved" presently.  Perhaps the desperate and tragic state of our churches is due to the fact that our pastors are not preaching the gospel to themselves everyday.  Perhaps our obsession with numerical success has blinded us to the fact that we are perfectly accepted by our Heavenly Father because of Christ's righteousness no matter how many people didn't show up last Sunday.  Perhaps the biggest reason there is a fundamental ignorance of the gospel in thew pews of our churches is because there is a fundamental ignorance of neglect of the gospel in the pulpit.  The issue of gospel application to the minister's calling and work is of fundamental importance and Jared does a masterful job of showing this in The Pastor's Justification. He shows how the gospel makes pastors holy, confident, watchful, free, humble, and justified. He also shows how the issues of faith, grace, Christ, God's word, and God's glory apply to the daily and weekly grind of ministry.

As I began reading this book, my first thought was, "I wish this book had been given me when I was in seminary."  I think that every person who seeks to minister in Christ's church should pick up a copy, absorb it, digest it, and master it.  This isn't a book you will fully comprehend in one reading.  The truths of this book will take years to digest and apply.  If you are a pastor, youth minister, worship leader, children's minister, lay minister, or just a concerned church member, you should definitely read this book.

Aug 28, 2013

Time to make a STATEment!

3 days!

Aug 5, 2013

Faithmapping - A Book Review

Several months ago, I received a copy of Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper's new book Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey. These guys work at Sojourn Church in Louisville, KY.  I had been watching this book for a few months and planning on buying it, so I was very honored to get a free copy of it to review.

Faithmapping is one of the best books on understanding the gospel and its practical implications in the daily lives of believers I have read.  It has a solid theological foundation, but it is very practical and easy to read.  One of the strengths of this book is that I can give it to a relatively new Christian and know that they not only can read it and understand it, but that it will ground them in some much needed and often over-looked theological truths.

The authors of the book do a very good job of presenting what is called a "triperspectival" approach to the gospel.  The gospel is a brilliant, multifaceted gem.  Every angle that you look at it shows you another brilliant truth.  Sometimes, authors trying to write about the gospel will focus on one specific aspect to the neglect of others and in the process may give an unbalanced understanding that only this one thing is the key to understanding "the gospel".  Montgomery and Cosper do a good job of presenting three "perspectives" that are equally vital in our understanding of the gospel - the gospel as the kingdom of God, the gospel as seen in the cross, and the gospel as shown in the grace of God.  One of the most important parts of Faithmapping is that they define what the gospel looks like in each individual aspect and then they show why we most not elevate one aspect to the neglect of the others.  This balanced approach is refreshing and invigorating as you read this book.

The authors also do an excellent job of showing how; once we come to a balanced, biblical approach to the gospel, this same gospel has practical affects on the way we worship as individuals and as a faith community.  It affects our understanding of the church as a faith "family" of adopted sons and daughters of God.  It affects our mentality of serving and being served and motivates us to take up the towel and serve others.  It affects us as growing disciples of Jesus Christ who are also responsible to make other disciples.  Finally, it affects our witness to the world in both words and actions that are compatible with the gospel.

I have read a lot of books already this year, but I would put Faithmapping in the top three I have read so far.  I believe many people in the church can benefit greatly from picking up a copy of this work and applying it to their lives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Jul 31, 2013

"The Story of God" by Matt Papa

Great reminder of the beauty and depth of the gospel from Matt Papa

Jul 23, 2013

An Update On Things...

So I have come to the conclusion that I basically stink at keeping up a blog. For the past two years, I have struggled with being disciplined enough to post anything of significant value multiple times a week. It's not that I don't have an opinion about a lot of things out there, it's just that I get so distracted by family stuff, delayed doctoral work, or mundane trivia on the internet that I never make time to blog much.  Anyway, I'm sitting here in my office watching a deluge out my window and thought I would start trying to put some stuff up here for the 2 of you that occasionally stop by here to see if I have posted anything only to be sorely disappointed:

Summer Travels
First, I just got back a little over a week ago from some busy traveling this summer.  My family and I spent 2 1/2 days being "house parents" for some orphans from Ukraine who were brought over here by Bridges of Faith ministry.  If you haven't checked out this ministry, you need to.  They are doing some great work trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus for some kids who desperately need it.  I know that several of the kids we stayed with are already in the process of being adopted by people here in the States that met them last month.  It was a great experience.

After that, my family and I drove all the way out to Houston for the Southern Baptist Convention.  Some asked me when I got back if I had a good "vacation".  My reply was, "If you think driving 14 hours with four kids for a three day Baptist business meeting is a 'vacation', then I would love for you to come with us next year."  However, we had a great time.  I hope to blog later about my experiences at the SBC and why my family and I like to go.

After a couple of weeks home, we were gone for two weeks to South Carolina.  First, we led a group from my church to Greenville, SC for the second year to do work with an organization called "Diligent Hands, Gracious Hearts".  If you are looking for a way to involve people in inner-city missions with multiple opportunities for a group, check them out.  Great week of ministry whenever we weren't dodging rain drops.  Then, my family and I headed from Greenville to Hilton Head for a week of vacation.  My sister-in-law lives in Hilton Head, so all my wife's family joined us there for a week at the beach.  All-in-all, we had a very good week mostly hanging out at the beach.  Hilton Head has great golf, but I couldn't fit my clubs in the Pilot with all the luggage for 6 people for two weeks.

Doctoral Work
I am trying hard to get my doctoral work finished.  Because I am a procrastinator, I have put off this work for far too long.  Ministry and family demands have kept me busy enough, but now I have to find the motivation to push forward to get it done.  I am in the process of developing lesson plans to teach my deacons on the subject of "helping deacons to be servant leaders."  I have had to read about 25 resources as part of my research.  I have also been carrying a large bin full of books, files, and papers around.  Pray for me to be disciplined to "get 'er done" over the next few weeks.  I hope to have the lesson plans developed soon to be able to start teaching soon after Labor Day.

Reading
Most of my reading has been limited to doctoral work this year.  However, once I finished my annotated bibliography, I was able to pick up some books I had set aside.  I will be posting a review here soon on "Faithmapping" by Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper.  Great book.  One of the best books I have read so far this year is "The Insanity of God" by Nik Ripken.  This is his encounter of over 20 years of working with the persecuted church around the world.  Warning: "If you read this book, it will shatter your perception of the current state of the church and cause you to be very frustrated with the shallowness and consumerism of the contemporary American church." However, if I had one book I wanted every friend of mine to read right now, "The Insanity of God" would be it.

There are a few updates for you if you happen to stop by.  I will try to keep some posts and thoughts up here soon.  Maybe I can give you some of the things I am learning about servant leadership as I am writing my lessons.

Go Red Sox!

May 6, 2013

New Book Review - "A Cross Shaped Gospel"

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Bryan Loritts speak at the Advance13 conference. I left his message challenged deeply to see on a deeper level how gospel reconciliation should also lead more to racial reconciliation.  Bryan leads Fellowship Memphis, which is a multiethnic congregation in the racially divided city of Memphis.  This is a church that has found ways to bridge the racial divide in the deep South.  They have also committed to making a major difference in the city of Memphis for Christ.

A Cross Shaped Gospel is a timely and well presented read.  Bryan Loritts shows a profound understanding of the gospel for his age. He is the son of a very faithful pastor and has served in many capacities across a spectrum of churches.  The premise of this book is that the center of the gospel is the cross of Jesus Christ. In it's horizontal dimension, the gospel reconciles us to God. But in it's vertical dimension, the cross also calls us to reconciliation with our "neighbor", whether they be of a different race, political persuasion, or socio-economic status.  Bryan calls all believers to start with the gospel and then allow the implications of the gospel to lead them as they live in harmony with their fellow man.  Bryan's chapter on "Donkeys and Elephants" is spot on and has much to say to both sides of the political divide.  Also, his chapter on race reconcilation, "The Gospel and O.J. Simpson" shows the maturation of someone who has been affected by racial discrimination, but has learned that in Christ, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

This book is a very important book for all in the church to wrestle with. The issues Bryan Loritts addresses have long been buried in the church as we rest in a gospel that gets me to heaven but doesn't call me to cross the street or to the other side of the tracks.  The issues that divide us personally are more of the reason we are losing credibility with the culture than the issues that divide us theologically.  If Loritts is right, we cannot give an accurate gospel without stressing both the horizontal and the vertical implications.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Moody Pressroom bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Apr 9, 2013

End It...

Today is a national day to bring awareness to the "End It Movement" and the issue of global slavery.  Most people are still very unaware that slavery not only still exists in our world, but that it is a larger problem than ever before.  I am proud of Louie Giglio and the Passion Movement for the effort they have brought to this cause.  Here is a powerful video from the End It website:



Pray for those who are enslaved today through human trafficking. Pray that they find freedom both physically as well as spiritually in the gospel.
Pray for those who are the enslavers that God will convict and save them.
Pray for governments to crack down on human trafficking and slavery.
Pray for God to continue to motivate a generation to bring awareness to this issue.
Pray that the money that is being raised through these efforts will be used wisely by these organizations to help rescue and redeem those caught up in slavery.

Apr 6, 2013

I Have But One Plea...

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav'n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there 
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is justified
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there, the Risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless Righteousness
The great unchangable I Am
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

Before the Throne of God Above - lyrics by Charitie Lees Bancroft and Vicki Cook. Copyright 1997 Sovereign Grace Music

Apr 3, 2013

Risk Is Right - A Book Review

A couple of months ago, I received a copy of a small book by John Piper to review called Risk Is Right. It is actually an excerpt from a book he previously released called Don't Waste Your Life.  This small little book is jam-packed with inspiration and challenge that we as followers of Jesus Christ have become too preoccupied with the illusions of security and safety.  The fact of the matter is that we unconsciously risk our lives every day when we take our cars out of the driveway or order food off of a menu.  The question is not, "Will we risk?", but,  "Will we consciously risk our lives, finances, and security in order to bring glory to God?"

This small little book is an excellent resource.  It is solidly biblical.  It is very practical.  It is an easy book to give to a young teenager, college student, or to a guy who "doesn't read very much."  It is only 51 pages so it's not intimidating.  However, the resounding message from it is that God has called us to abandon the illusion of security and live boldly and courageously for Him and His gospel.  This is not a call to "reckless living", but a call to be willing to risk, knowing that our God rewards those who risk greatly for Him.

At the end of your life, do you really want to stand before God with a large, furnished house, some money left to your kids, an empty membership on a church roll, but with nothing of spiritual value stored up in heaven simply because you were too afraid to risk what is really not yours anyway?  Get this book.  You'll be glad you did!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Apr 1, 2013

Play Ball!

In honor of Opening Day. Still funny after all these years...