Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Midweek Memo Column

Here's the column from our Midweek Memo.  It introduces the challenge we're taking on as a church this fall:  the New Testament in 75 Days.  I'll have a lot more to say about it in the days to come.

Dear Purchased People of God,

One of the amazing gifts that God has left with us on the earth is His Word. We prize it highly here at Heritage Park. We teach it regularly and systematically. We offer counsel from it. It guides our prayers and songs. In it we find the great and magnificent promises of God, we see the surpassing worth of knowing Him, and we understand His best way for us to relate to Him and others. The Bible is a treasure.

And as I mentioned on Sunday, we’re going to read the NT together this fall. It’s a 75-day journey through the 27 books of the NT which I believe is going to deepen us and mature us as a church. We’ll start September 13th and be reading about 4 chapters per day. There are reading guides already out in the Welcome Center and we’ll be publishing them on the website too. For those with iPhones, we’ll have an app that will remind you and provide you the assigned reading for the day. We’ll also have time to discuss it in Sunday School and small groups and I’ll blog about things I’m seeing. I can’t wait to see how God shapes us.

Don’t worry about your ability to do this. You’re capable. And we’re not going to do guilt either. That’s the Enemy’s way of discouraging you if you happen to miss a day. Prepare yourself and let’s press on to know Him.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Haiti Update

Just a quick update on the Haiti Mission project.  We have achieved our first goal, raising $3000 for the house we're going to build.  We've committed to a duplex, which is $6000, and are believing God for the remainder.  If you'd like to participate financially, you can send a check to Heritage Park marked Haiti Missions.

Also, we met as a team for the first time yesterday (all those who could).  It's an exciting group of men who are full of questions and readiness.  Please pray for all of us and the families we'll leave behind during that week.

I read this thought in Leslie Newbiggin's book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.  Some people focus on the evangelistic mission of the church and making sure people understand the message that God has sent to us in His Son.  Some people focus on the liberation mission of the church, making sure that societies, structures, powers and authorities do not win the day and people are set free in Jesus' name.  He made a good point:  words without deeds ring hollow, deeds without words are purposeless.  The words explain the deeds and the deeds authenticate the words.

You want to know why we're going to Haiti and dropping some serious coin on that effort?  That's why.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 8.29.10

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 8.29.  We looked at the passage where Jesus heals the deaf and mute man.  The part I couldn't get over in the text is God the Son sighing.  I wonder what that sounded like.  You can find sermon audio and these notes in PDF format at sermons.heritagepark.org.  May we live with the courage like this world "ain't what it oughta be."  Amen.

God Sighs (Pt. 1)
Mark 7.31-37

  • Nothing about this man deserved Jesus’ ministry.
  • There is nothing he offers Jesus that deserved His attention.

  • He deals with us personally and we must deal with Him the same way.
  • Dealing personally does not mean dealing privately.

  • We are never alone in our life.
  • His presence brings comfort.
  • His presence brings help.
  • His presence brings a sense of “ought.”

  • Jesus told them not to tell because He didn’t want people to get the wrong idea of Messiah.
  • It is the normal response to God’s work in our lives to speak of it to others.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Post #150 - God's Questions and God's Commands

Questions are powerful parts of language.  You can change the course of conversation, start a conversation, or terminate a conversation with a question.  They carry influence and often prove a little scary.

Consider these two:  Who will go for us?  Who do you say that I am?

One asked by God to Isaiah the prophet (Isa. 6).  One asked by God to His followers (Mark 8).

It's been my experience in relationship with God as well as student of the Scriptures that He asks questions when He wants me to think about something, to search my heart, to reveal something about Himself to me or about me to me.  His searchlight gets turned onto my life or circumstance and I get to see what He sees or see something how He sees it.

I compare that to the times when I've heard God's command.  I hear them often through the Scriptures and have a heard something direct and personal a few times.  But none of those have ever sounded like questions.  They sound like commands, orders, mandates.

His questions are invitations.  His commands are directives.

His questions can be direction-oriented, but seem to always be revelation.  His commands are most often direction-oriented, and demand my submission.

What's true about both:  they are equal parts of my relationship to the God of the Universe.  What an incredible God that I am brought into relationship with Him that He never finds boring and in which He's never too busy to talk about life.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

And a big post-script:  thanks for reading.  150 posts has required a lot of time and thought, so I wanted to say I'm grateful for anyone who honors me by reading.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bearing Burdens, Sharing Burdens

I talked to a friend of mine on the phone yesterday who's in the midst of trial and tribulation, frustration and fire.  I heard it in his voice and in his words.  He was honest and grateful for the call.  One of the things he said that stuck with me:  "I just tend to stuff things.  I know it's not right, but I do."

And that got me to thinking.  Why don't we take our burdens to God?  What is it about us, our burden, or God that we don't respond to God's command to cast all our anxiety on Him?  There may be 1000 reasons, but here are a couple.  We don't take it to God because...

We don't actually think God cares for our life.  We may think God cares about the economy, terrorism, heaven, or gay marriage, but He doesn't care about the average, everyday of life on Main Street.  But the Scripture is clear:  God does care for you, for you as you are, for your life as it happens on Tuesdays at 3:38pm.

We're prideful in that we think we can carry this on our own, managing the stressors and situations of life.  Pride is an isolating force, convincing us we don't need others.  Even when others seek to help or intervene, we answer their inquiries with the teenage-inspired attitude of "I got this."  Pride gets particularly insidious when we actually share about our burden or issue but don't share it.  This is the guy or gal who constantly talks about their burden but doesn't actually do anything about it nor let others do anything about it.

We're guilty and this is my way to atone for my sin.  Because I did sin A, this burden C or D or E is in my life.  Surely if I carry the burden, sin A won't haunt me and I can make it right.  But there is only one way that sin is atoned for and made right.  That is through the cross of Jesus Christ where the Son of God bore the wrath of God for those who have faith in God.

We're scared because this burden has become so much a part of me that I'll feel lost without it.  Like some jacked-up Stockholm Syndrome, I question:  if I release this, what will my identity be?

Instead, cast all your cares/anxieties/worries on Him because He cares for you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Haiti...wanna go? Wanna help?

For those 4 of you who have been wondering, we're officially on for our trip to Haiti.  We're going in October with YWAM and will be building a duplex for two families.  There are scores of implications for families who live in solid, concrete, non-dirt floor homes.  The incidence of intestinal issues drop by 40% just by getting them off dirt.  Having a debt-free home also helps break generational cycles of poverty.  I could go on.

Instead, I'll issue an invitation.

Yes, that's right, an invitation.  You're invited to participate with me and the others who are going to bless these families, give a cup of cold water both literally and figuratively to them in Jesus' name, and hopefully get to tell them of His care for them (through a translator, unless one of you is fluent in Creole).  So here is the invitation...

First, please pray with us.  Pray for us.  Pray for the families whose house we're building.  Pray for our families we'll leave behind.  Pray for safety.  Pray for evangelistic opportunities.

Second, if you want to participate financially, you can send a check to Heritage Park with Haiti Missions in the subject line.  We have to raise $6000 to build the duplex.  Every dime of what you give will go toward the house.  Somewhere along the way, I used to be skittish about asking for money on stuff like this.  Obviously I'm not any more.  Pray about giving and then do what God tells you to do.  We're about 1/3 of the way as of today and any amount helps.

Third, there are still a few spots open.  Cost runs around $1100 plus incidentals (shots, etc.).  Should be a fun team, with people from 3 states participating.  If you want to go, just comment here and I'll touch base with you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why are some parts of the Bible hard to understand?

I preached yesterday from Mark 7.14-30.  In the midst of the sermon, I heard myself confess to the congregation that I didn't like part of that text, in particular the part about the Syrophonecian woman.  It's kind of an off-putting story on first reading.  And I read it, and read it and read it and read it and read it and read it.  I did Greek.  I did English.  I did different translations.

Why are such stories and difficult texts in the Bible?

First, there is the human factor.  We're living in 2010, not 45 AD.  My culture is western, not middle eastern.  There is a lot of distance between me and the text.  Not every story or paragraph in the Bible is hard to understand, but some are - and the difficulty is contributed to by the distance between me and the author.  It's rarely insurmountable, but it is distant.

Second, the humility factor.  I think God, in His infinite wisdom, decided to put hard things in the Bible because it keeps us dependent on and humble before Him.  Should we have it all figured out, we'd probably live in the pride He opposes.

Third, the relational factor.  Were we to have every iota and minutiae figured out, our hearts would be inclined to relate to the text instead of the God who inspired the text.  God didn't give us the Bible so we could love the Bible.  He gave it to us so we could love Him.

Lastly, when you combine humility, relationship, and the pursuit of understanding, you find transformation.  Working hard on what the Bible means, how an argument works in the text, how a Gentile woman is called a dog but still bold enough to keep asking for Jesus' help - these are processes that God uses for transformation in our lives.

So keep studying.  Keep reading.  Even when you don't understand it, the Bible still has authority over you and me.  Stay humble.  Be a learner, or, when you can't figure it out, at least a ponderer of these things.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 8.22.10

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon from Mark 7.14-30.  We talked about how Christ aims for our hearts and not our actions and the demonstration of that with the Syrophonecian woman.  The sermon audio should be up on the web early in the week as well as the PDF version of these notes, findable at sermons.heritagepark.org.  May God grant us the grace to live out what we hear.

The Target of Jesus
Mark 7.14-30

What is Jesus saying?
  • It is not our external purity that is God’s priority but our internal purity.
  • External purity will flow from internal purity.
  • Even external commands or disciplines are designed to shape the heart.

What is this heart that Jesus targets?
  • The biblical heart is not emotion, compassion, or affection.
  • The biblical heart is the center of the self – what makes you who you are.

Why does he target the heart?
  • He knows that all impurity flows from the idols of the heart.
  • He knows that you can fix actions but leave the heart untouched.
  • He pursues His glory in your joy.
  • When our purpose and passion unite, God receives greatest glory.

What about this woman?
  • She’s the consummate outsider.
  • She is humble and bold. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just because this is awesome

For all the space nerds out there and for those who enjoy amazing video that you just can't fabricate, I present to you the launch of STS-124 Discovery as seen from a tiny camera attached to one of the solid rocket boosters.  A couple of things to know about the video:

When it starts, you're looking at the side of the external fuel tank.

The fireworks get started about 1:40 or so.  Fast forward to there.

There's a blacked out part for about 30 seconds at about the 5:00 mark.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Single or Married and the Kingdom

CNN.com leads this morning with a story about singleness.  46% of households in the US are maintained by single people.  Bad news for you ladies:  for every 100 single gals, there are only 88 single men.  Of course of those 88, maybe only a few are worth pursuing a relationship with.

Some guiding thoughts from the Bible on all of this...

Singleness isn't a curse.  For those who are single by choice or circumstance, the Kingdom of God is still available.  We partied last night at a single mom's house who is a widow raising three kids.  She's great and going a fabulous job at life.

Singleness can free you up to pursue Kingdom things.  Obviously if you have kids, it's more constrained, but if you're 40 and have a great job and are single, you're free to go to Haiti or Burma or Pakistan on mission without much notice.  You have the opportunity to stay out late with lost friends or spend a Saturday driving a homebound widow to the store, the cleaners and the store again for all the things you forgot.  Married folks have their own ministry to the family, but they also have less freedom in the above scenarios.  It's a trade-off in many ways.

Singleness requires the same life of holiness as anyone else.  There are no excuses, no outs, no permissions, no different standards.  It is holiness that God requires - holiness of body, heart, mind, soul.

Lastly, just because a person is single now doesn't mean single forever.  Even later than you hoped or thought, God can bring Eve to Adam.  While you are single, take great advantage of the opportunities God provides.  Those opportunities often shape you into who you'll be in marriage.

But that's me thinking thoughts...

Thursday, August 19, 2010


This is very personal for me, so if my emotions come out in my writing and my editing doesn't abrade them, please bear with me.

I've done some thinking about this word "exoneration."  It all started when Ergun Caner was demoted from the deanship/presidency of Liberty Seminary, was seen by the review board of making factual statements that weren't factual, and yet was "exonerated" as claimed by his supporters like Norman Geisler, Peter Lumpkins and the bloggers at SBC Today.  It never sounded like exoneration to me.  It sounded like a way for Liberty University to get out without losing too much face.

Tuesday night, a dear friend faced down an accuser in a political setting.  An independent audit was held and the results released.  The quote from the auditor was telling:  "The 71 accusations [against my friend] appear to be made up out of thin air."  He went on to say that he found no wrongdoing and, actually, the more he looked the better the grade he gave.  Tears were shed.  Support was expressed.  And even a few apologies were given.

Now THAT is exoneration.

And, at the risk of being the hyper-spiritual person I generally disdain, I thought about my life.  I was not exonerated from anything.  In fact, I was guilty of everything.  But I was liberated from it all because someone else took the punishment I deserved.  That person was Jesus.  It happened on Good Friday.  And I have never been the same since God made that real to me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hot Topic (again)

As if gay marriage wasn't enough, the headlines are also screaming with the intent of the Cordoba Initiative to build an Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero in NYC and the president's confusing stance on it.  For those who don't have a frame of reference for two blocks in NYC, I point out that it appears a piece of landing from one of the flights on 9/11 crashed through the roof of this building.

So this is how I see it.

Is this an unbelievable test of our will and commitment to religious freedom in America?  You bet it is.  My friend Tommy Kidd wrote an op-ed for USA Today to the same tune.  If we start limiting places of worship because we don't like the idea of them being located there, it appears the attackers on 9/11 really did succeed in changing something.

Is this an unbelievably bad idea and in just about the poorest taste you could muster?  Absolutely.  This is a thumb in the eye of basically every NYC inhabitant, every 9/11 widow and orphan, every firefighter and first responder who served, and basically everyone who loves decency.  You don't build bridges, trust, or repaired public images by ignoring the pain you're causing others.

And that leads me to the basic issue that I've been figuring out how to address.  It's an issue that goes across spectrums of religion, politics, relationships and ministry:  just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Marriage Redefined (?)

There is a lot to be said for the Prop 8 ruling that was struck down by...wait for it...a homosexual judge.  Whether or not a federal judge should involve himself in such a dispute is one question, although I know suits were filed in his court.  Whether or not his logic (or lack thereof) will withstand scrutiny is another.  Whether or not he's right is a completely different issue.

His argument, as I understand it, goes something like this:  marriage is a right for everyone and gay people should be allowed to marry.

The major problem with that statement is what it does to the definition of marriage.  What has been commonly held as a definition for millennia is now tossed by a guy wearing a robe in California.  The fact that we have to legally define it as such is preposterous and imbecilic.

There's an old joke, allegedly by Abraham Lincoln (himself somewhat a friend of civil rights):  How many legs does a dog have if you count the tail as a leg?  Answer:  Four, because even though you call a tail a leg, it doesn't make it a leg.

Even though society may call gay couples "married," it doesn't make it so.  Marriage is a relationship designed by God for a man and woman to reflect His love for His people.

So what?

Well, first, foremost, as a priority and, in general, straightaway, I think we married folks ought to think about marriage in a holy way.  How are we doing at reflecting Christ's love to our spouses, to the world through our marriage?  Are we redefining what marriage is by our laziness, selfishness, bitterness, or something else?  I'm not so sure that marriage and its definition isn't in more danger from lazy men than it is from federal judges.

Second, God's not mad at gay people.  He's just right.  Life works better when we live in accordance with what He says is best.  What's more, He wants to save them from all of their sin just like He wants to save me from all of mine.  This is primarily not about legislation.  It is about salvation.

If society continues to redefine and conjure, we will get what we're asking for.  And I'm afraid we're not far off from that.  Our rebellion and rejection of God's ways mean that He will allow us to go our own way.  But the good news is that the church has flourished when society has failed.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Laying it before the Lord

There's an incredible promise in 1 Peter 5:  Cast all your anxiety (worries, cares) upon Him because He cares for you.  That command (to cast worry upon God) is predicated on His character (He's a caring God) and His disposition toward me (He cares for me).

I've sat in offices and at lunch tables trying to help people understand that command as they walk through overwhelming and awful circumstances.  I have tried to help them see that it's a command we have to obey often throughout the day when emotions are fragile and darkness sets in, not just a one-time-here-it-is-God obedience.  Continually, we have to cast our worries upon Him because they nag at us and haunt us.

I've struggled with painting a picture for them of what this looks like.  I think I have a good biblical picture in King Hezekiah.  At the midpoint of Isaiah's prophecy, Hezekiah is in bad shape.  King Sennacherib from Assyria has invaded and is about ready to lay siege to Jerusalem in full force.  Hezekiah and his advisors pray and then receive word from the Lord through Isaiah that the Assyrian king will return to his own land and be killed.  Sennacherib does return to Assyria, but writes a letter back saying Hezekiah better not get too comfortable because he's coming back to finish what he started.

I love Hezekiah's response:  he goes to worship and lays the letter before the Lord in the temple (Isaiah 37.14ff).  He offloads all the worry and concern, spreading the letter before the Lord.  He knows he is not big enough to handle the Assyrian army or their threats but God certainly is.

What a great picture.  We can lay anything and everything out before the Lord.  That's how we cast our worries upon Him because He cares for us.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 8.15.10

Here are the sermon notes from today, Sunday, 8.15.10.  We continued through Mark's Gospel and looked at Jesus' encounter with the Pharisees and the conflict over hand-washing.  I think we had some website problems last week, but this week should be smoother on that front.  Therefore, you should be able to find the audio and these notes in PDF at sermons.heritagepark.org in the early part of this week.  May God grant us the grace to hear His Word and courage to live it.  Amen.

Jesus v. Religion (Rd. 1)
Mark 7.1-13

Religion:  the place people run to be respected when they refuse to be real.

4 Markers of Religion
  1. Redefining to suit their worldview
  2. Canonizing common sense
  3. Focusing on fences
  4. Institutionalizing self-preservation

Jesus’ Response to Religion

He gets ruthless
  • He calls them names and calls them out.
  • He relentlessly shows them for what they are:  self-righteous hypocrites. 
  • He refuses to allow them to void God’s message by shrouding it in rules.

He gets personal
  • Jesus makes sure that we know we must personally reckon with Him.
  • The question has been asked and must be answered:  Who do you say I am?

He exposes idols
  • Idol and rules are inseparable.
  • Rule:  I must keep all the rules.
  • Rule:  I must break all the rules.
  • Both are idolatry in the heart because they set self above God.

He offers a different way
  • The hint of Jesus’ way:  “their heart is far from me” (v.6).
  • He does not want us to obey – He wants to transform us into people who normally obey.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


We just confirmed with YWAM that our hoped-for dates for travel to Haiti will work.  There's one more formal step but that should be done very soon.

That's news to some of you, so let me break it down.  YWAM is a mission-oriented group that has been in St. Marc, Haiti for 20+ years.  They have an amazing ministry strategy that addresses both spiritual and social problems.  My wife went in May with them on a medical team and was blown away.  This trip will help build a house in Haiti for a family who has been living in a tent since January.  Why in the world would we participate in such a thing?


A debt-free home helps leverage families out of poverty, even breaking a generational cycle of poverty.

A child who lives in a home is three times more likely to attend school and will, on average, attend two years longer.

Trading a concrete floor for a dirt floor reduces incidence of recurring diarrhea by more than 40%.

Families in permanent structures are free to dream about the future.

There are three ways you can be involved.  Consider all of them.

First, you can go.  Although this trip is generated by the church I serve as pastor, Heritage Park, we are partnering with another church in Houma, LA and also have at least one crazy person from Oklahoma committed to go who's not a member of either church.  I even have two neighbors considering going with me.

Second, you can give.  Building the concrete house is a $3000 endeavor, over and above any trip-related expenses.  Anything we don't raise for the house we will divide among team members.  If you want to jump on board, our church is collecting the money.  Send a check to Heritage Park (address at bottom of page) with "Haiti" in the subject line.  My wife has also taken up a project of taking pictures for families on a donation basis to raise money for the house (info here).

Third, you can pray.  Haiti remains one of the darkest spots in the western hemisphere.  Relieving suffering and doing good in Jesus' name will not push back the darkness alone.  Prayers lobbed from Illinois and California and Waco and West Palm Beach will put the enemy on notice and hopefully to flight.  Thanks in advance.

If you want any information on any of the above, please email me:  trent at heritage park dot org.  (I had to spell it out so spammers don't sweep this page and send me a bunch of junk)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tozer on Living

To say [every act of life is sacred] is not to bring all acts down to one dead level; it is rather to lift every act up into a living kingdom and turn the whole life into a sacrament.  The Pursuit of God, Ch. 10

We just finished reading this book together as a staff.  I think it's probably the 8th or so time I've read it.  Tozer is a modern-day prophet, and the words he wrote 50-60 years ago still ring amazingly true.

The thing I love about how he closes his masterpiece, The Pursuit of God, is how he de-mystifies the mystical.  Throughout he talked about having experiences with God, seeing God, knowing God, walking with God.  All of it (rightly) has taken on mystical qualities.  When I first read Pursuit, that's the big lesson I  walked away with:  God is meant to be experienced, not just theologized or spoken about.

But chapter 10 brings it out of the ether and into the day-in and day-out rhythm of life.  Tozer even gives some pastoral counsel as to how to do it (I'll let you read it for yourself rather than summarize and rob it of any life-changing power it might have over you).

One thing I love about the quote above:  every aspect of life is included.  If we eat or drink or do anything else, it is all to be done to God's glory (1 Cor. 10.31).  That means even the normal, even banal, things of life can be done in such a way as to honor God.  The most humble and common of acts can be worship.  The most human things we do - eating, drinking, talking, relationships, sexuality, vocation, reading, cooking, mowing, laundry - all can be done as worship.

The demarcation between worship and activity is motive.  "Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act.  All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."  (Pursuit, Ch. 10)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I decided to know nothing...

I was speaking with a friend of mine yesterday about an encounter he had with a Mormon.  The elders who are out on the bikes with the long pants, white shirts and ties are dedicated individuals (as well as slightly crazy for wearing long pants in the Houston heat).  Most of them are also incredibly polite and nice.

The conversation involved why my friend believed what he believed and the typical Mormon retorts, such as the Book of Mormon isn't meant to change the Bible, just help it be clearer, etc.  In my conversation with my friend, I tried to encourage him that our calling is Christ and Him crucified.  Paul entered Corinth with a plurality of viewpoints, worldviews, and problems facing him.  He had resistance and immorality and divisions.  In the midst of all of it, "I determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  Apparently, that was enough.

Certainly Paul argued well.  I'm sure he did apologetics and logic.  But his arguments and apologetics and logic served to make the belief in Christ plausible.  The message of Christ crucified still has to be received in the heart by faith.  And that's the message from which we cannot stray for unbelievers and believers.

The Gospel is how we live.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Faithfulness - always

I was told a story yesterday.  It involves me and a person that I'm not sure would want the press, so I'll refrain from details and such.  But what a cool story.

I don't know how you feel about prophetic words or God speaking in ways that are clear or such things as this.  If you're not into that or don't believe it happens today, please quit reading now.

So here's the cool story:  I have known this person for the better part of 20 years.  About 15 years ago or so God spoke.  It was clear.  It was authoritative.  And it was out-of-this-world insane.  I don't mean a little bit crazy.  I mean, "Are you kidding me?" crazy.  It was like God telling Abraham and Sarah that they'd have a kid as they approached the century mark.  It was Isaiah prophesying about virgins conceiving and the government resting on a child's shoulders.

Okay, so that might be a little bit overstated.  It probably shouldn't go down as canonical.  But it was that crazy.  And here's what's crazier:  15 years later, it came true.  God did it, exactly as He said He would.  He saw it through.  He made it happen.  He fulfilled His promise and concretized His prophecy.

And then I read in Isaiah this morning about the messianic prophecies in chapters 7 and 9.  And then I thought about Abraham and laughing Sarah.  It took years for Abraham and Sarah to conceive the promised child.  It took 800 years for Isaiah's prophetic words to be fully fulfilled.  It took about 15 years for my friend's word to come true.

But they all did.  And that's where the encouragement lies for you and me.  Be of good courage and don't lose heart.  The God who promises is the God who fulfills His promise.  No matter what you've been waiting on, heard from the Lord, or have petitioned Him for more times than the widow before the judge in Luke 18, God is faithful.  He answers in His timing and according to His plan, which is always best.

He who calls you is faithful; and He will surely do it.  (1 Thessalonians 5.24)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 8.8.10

Here are the sermon notes from today.  In examining so much and taking the approach I did, my hope was to overwhelm us with the reality that Jesus is God and it matters immensely.  For many of the original hearers, their lives are overwhelmed right now.  A God who is big enough to handle it can also satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

As usual, our webmaster extraordinaire will have the audio and these notes in PDF posted soon.  You can find it at sermons.heritagepark.org.

Walk on the Water
Mark 6.45-56

There are two ways to approach this story:  details or arc.

Evidence for Jesus’ claim to be God
  •         “Walking on the Sea” (Job 9.8; Ps. 93.3-4) 
  •         “Pass them by” (Exodus 33.18-34.6)

Objection 1:  He’s not God, nope, no way. 
Objection 2:  He’s one option among many gods.
Objection 3:  He might be God, but who cares?

Jesus reveals God to us.  (John 1.18)

Jesus ushered in the Kingdom. (v.53-56)

Jesus lived sinlessly. (Hebrews 4.12)

Jesus demonstrates the love of God. (Romans 5.8)

Jesus bore the wrath of God. (2 Corinthians 5.21)

Jesus beat death. (Acts 2.24)

Jesus mediates for us. (1 Timothy 2.5)

Jesus will return victoriously.  (Revelation 19.11)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Little things...

Here are some little things I'm grateful for this morning.  All of these come from the Giver of Good Gifts.  And you're welcome to join me in the worship...

  • The smell of ground coffee as it starts to brew
  • Duct tape
  • Air-conditioning
  • Lawn chairs which let me sit outside and watch kids play
  • The way a kid smiles when he "surprises" you ("BOO!" *grin*)
  • Fridays off
  • The way my wife says, "I love you"
  • Skype
  • Just the right time for a conversation
All of those have happened in the past 12 hours or so.  How about you?  What are you thankful for?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Full Disclosure

Some have been up in arms about the overturning by a federal appellate judge of the "Proposition 8" amendment to the California constitution that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

My question is this:  do you think anyone's covering the angle that the federal judge is gay?

Here's the link.  The morality of it all and legality of it all aside, I thought you'd want to know.  Does it matter to you?

And just in case some of my more progressive friends might think I'm bashing someone here, I'm not.  But if a former oil exec was on the federal bench (thus having a life-time guarantee of a job) and was hearing the BP oil spill lawsuit, wouldn't you want to know?

Celebrity (?)

When you're a celebrity / It's adios reality (Brad Paisley, Celebrity)

I got an email which pointed to a website which was confirmed by a friend and so forth.  A major worship leader or lead-worshipper has fallen and apparently has fallen hard.  Not that any falls are easy.  This one appears pretty messy and the truth probably hasn't come out fully yet.  It may never and if it doesn't, I'm not entitled to it.  The church he's associated with along with his label have kept it basically under wraps.  So, no names and no gossip.  Just reflection.  But, man, this is a bitter pill.

Billy Graham is often quoted as having prayed, asking for God to kill him before he would do anything stupid to profane Christ's name.  I pray the same prayer and pray it often.  If you're in ministry, I challenge you to take up the same prayer and find a copy of the Modesto Manifesto.

My 2-week reflection on this whole mess revolves around celebrity.  It appears that we have made worship leaders and pastors and other "up-front" ministry types into celebrities.  Faces appear on billboards.  Conferences sell books and CD's.  Tours of both musician and speakers are on the books (did you know you can get Joel Osteen tickets on Stub Hub?  JoelOsteen.StubHub.com).  How is this different than Kanye or Bieber or the band of the moment?

Well, I guess it's because Jesus is attached.  But I'm not sure He really is.  And all of this makes me sad for church, for evangelicalism, for movements of the Spirit, for the celebrities, and certainly, in this case, the families.  And more than anything, it makes me sad for Jesus.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tradition or Traditionalism? Redux

God has moved in history and it's wise to study His ways.

Consider how many times the psalmist calls the worshippers to remember the works of the Lord and how He has moved, delivered, saved, rescued, judged, blessed, and acted (cf. Psalm 111.3, for example).  His action in history is revelation of Himself.

We, as the heirs of what God has done before, have to pay attention.  Tradition is what we inherit, though it has gotten a bad rap by those too unwise or immature to listen to it.  Throwing it out the door sets us up for all sorts of silliness of the doctrine and practice varieties.  Just look at those trying to "re-think" Christianity and give us a New Kind of Christianity which isn't Christianity at all.

I am for critiquing methods.  I am for making changes.  But we also have an inheritance, a faith passed down and hammered out through trials and persecution and council.  It's in the Bible and articulated in statements like the Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed.

Tradition is vital to our staying rooted.  We're not on our own but part of God's story through history.

Last thought:  it tends to be older souls (no matter the age of the body) who embrace tradition.  They can fall into traditionalism easily.  Be careful.

It tends to be younger souls who critique traditionalism.  The can reject tradition easily and find themselves disconnected from what is real in the name of relevance.  Be careful.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tradition or Traditionalism?

I read this the other day but don't know its origin:  tradition is the living religion of the dead; traditionalism is the dead religion of the living.

You find traditionalism among the people for whom religion is more important than relationship, where the religion itself has become the idol of their hearts.  Jesus encountered these people a lot in the group of the Pharisees.  Their lives revolved around the sheer determination of keeping the law.  As long as their outside acts conformed with the rules they deemed important, they considered themselves righteous.

So much is wrong with that approach to God.  First, outside acts are not His primary concern.  If you've heard me teach before, you've probably heard me say that God doesn't want us to obey but transform us into the kinds of people who normally obey.  The issue is the human heart, always targeted by God and those who truly speak for Him.

Second, who gave them (or me or you) the authority to decide which rules were important?  God is holy and just, He alone being qualified to judge what is right and wrong, good and evil.  All of His instruction is important, because it rejoices the heart and restores the soul (Ps. 19).

Last, we might consider ourselves righteous because of our acts, but we don't get the last word on that judgment.  God does.  And the righteousness He's concerned about is His standard of righteousness - the supreme value of the supremely valuable.  We must receive this righteousness from a source alien to us and can through confidence in Jesus Christ.

More on tradition tomorrow.  It's not as bad as some have made it out to be.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Least Common Denominator of Ministry

We need appetites for Kingdom things.  Those come when we get more than we can handle.

There is something that frustrates me in Christian Ministry.  We have the capacity and even tendency to appeal to the least common denominator.  Don't believe me?  Some experiences from the past two months might sway you...

I was at a youth camp in Texas.  The music was okay.  The preaching was okay.  The appeals from the stage were okay.  Everything about the darn thing was okay.  But nothing was outstanding.  Nothing pushed the students and adults far beyond their capacity.  There were challenges, but even those were just okay.

I watched a preacher on television.  That was Mistake #1, I know.  But this guy talked about having faith and blessings.  No repentance.  No glory of God.  No cross.  No sin.  Hardly any Scripture.  But faith and blessings?  Yep.  No wonder we're shallow.

I listened to KSBJ, our local radio station.  They play the song too, but it was on the 20: The Countdown Magazine program - which is the Christian version of the Top 40.  The song was by a group called Kutless entitled What Faith Can Do.  The chorus:  I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains / Hope that doesn’t ever end / Even when the sky is falling / I’ve seen miracles just happen / Silent prayers get answered / Broken hearts become brand new / That’s what faith can do.  My issue, which I passionately told the radio about, is that it's not faith that does those things.  IT'S GOD.  God heals, answers prayers, sustains the saints, delivers, mends broken hearts (Ps. 147.3 for instance).  On and on I could go.

I'm griping.  I admit it.  But I don't think I'm wrong.  And what's more, I think this entire situation is reflective of a mindset where the least common denominator is our target.  That sure seems to me to dishonor God.

I told this story at church a few weeks ago, so forgive me if you were in the audience.  I was in 9th grade and my friend C.J. and I played basketball, worked out, and went to Mr. Gatti's just about every day in the summer.  He had a car, so he was the driver.  It was a great time.

Working out and playing ball burned a ton of calories.  We did about 4 hours per day of this, so when it came to be lunch time, we were not just hungry teenagers, we were really hungry teenagers.  We ate a lot of pizza from the buffet.  We decided to see how many pieces we could eat and, by the end of the summer, we each ate 28 pieces of pizza.  In a single setting.  With Dr. Pepper to wash it down.

That's gluttonous.  I know.  I'm not holding myself up as an example.  But there is something worth learning from that story:  the more you eat, the more your appetite can grow.

It's absolutely true in ministry.  The more you take in, even if you don't get it all, understand it all, process it all, like it all, or apply it all, the more you can take in the next time.  Ministry should create appetites in the people being ministered to, not just shoot to give everyone a little bit.  

One place I've seen it happen in the past year is with our students at church.  Kyle, our student pastor, has done a great job teaching them the Bible and giving them way more than they can handle.  But our students have grown tremendously from it.  Their knowledge and experience are proof that shooting for the lowest common denominator so as not to offend someone doesn't have to be the only ministry model available.  It may sell books, it may get records to #1, but does it really produce disciples of Jesus Christ?

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sermon Notes 8.1.10

Here are the notes from the sermon I preached on 8.1.10 on Mark 6.30-44.  As usual, our webmaster extraordinaire should have the audio up and running early in the week.  My thanks to him for that (I used to have to do that myself!  Now I can just blog about it.)  Find the sermon audio and these notes in PDF form at sermons.heritagepark.org.

Mark 6.30-44

3 Reflections

God cares about your life.
  • Some treat Him as a spiritual-only or physical-only God.
  • There are times when our inconvenience is His sanctification.
  • Nobody should have to leave God’s Presence for needs to be met.

God leads in perplexing paths.  
  • He commands what we cannot accomplish.
  • Our best response to confusion is curiosity. 
  • He participates with us when we bring what we have.
  • He reigns over everything and can accomplish whatever He deems best. 

God provides so we can perceive. 
  • He desires that we see Him as He is and enjoy Him for who He is.
  • He may not provide in ways we think best, but His provision is still for our perception.
  • He may not provide in ways we think best, but our needs are not the same as our wants.
  • Big Lesson for the Twelve:  only God provides bread in the desert.