Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End and New Year Inventory

Rather than make resolutions, how about some reflections.  I have 15 questions from my friend Chuck Thomas and 5 from me.  Worth thinking about as we start the New Year...


  1. Am I submitting to, and finding joy in God's sovereignty over all things?
  2. What are the recent evidences of God's grace in my life?
  3. Do I have an accurate view of God?
  4. Do I have any temptations or sins that are sinking deep roots into me?
  5. How are my closest relationships?  With Ginny?  Our kids?  The Church Staff?
  6. How am I doing with "temple care"?  Health?  Sleep?  Diet?  Exercise?  Energy level?
  7. What am I "feeding" to my mind?
  8. How is my dominion over technology?
  9. How is my stewardship of what God has entrusted to me?
  10. Who has sinned against me and how am I responding?
  11. Who or what is "filling" me?
  12. Who or what is "draining" me?
  13. What am I doing to advance the kingdom of God on earth?
  14. How is my flesh getting in the way of being an effective witness of God's grace?
  15. Do I love people?
  16. Is there a spiritual discipline I need to employ or focus on more this coming year?
  17. What was the most significant thing I read this year?
  18. What was the most significant thing said to me this year?
  19. What was my most significant answered prayer this year?
  20. What is one thing I'd like to say about 2011 next December?

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everyone

Confession:  I love the Hallelujah Chorus.  Another confession:  I love (most) flash mobs.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Snakes are Scary: British Rap Christmas Awesomeness

Merry Christmas everyone.  A little blogging break is ahead, so we'll see you in the New Year.  But enjoy!  Because I just can't do any better than this...

(I just figured out that it won't let me actually post the video here - so go view it here, you'll laugh!)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Freedom: Two views

From Doug Wilson (in point 6 of the blog entry), and a really good thought...

The way others are to view your liberty is not the same way that you should view your liberty. 
Other Christians should let you do what you want unless the Bible forbids it. That’s how we guard against legalism. 
But you should use your liberty differently—you should be asking what the reasons are for doing it, and not what the reasons are for prohibiting it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Church is like an Airline

This was too good and thought provoking not to repost.  It's posted in its entirety from Kevin DeYoung's blog.


Have you ever noticed that flying can feel like a really bad church service? I don’t mean that statement, or this post, as an indictment on all things and all people related to the airline industry (but probably some). My real concern is to help us see how the frequently miserable experience of flying may be what some people experience in our congregations.
It’s starts with a pervasive sense that everyone here would rather be somewhere else. Sure, you spot a few happy souls, but by and large this is a somber group just waiting for this experience to be over.
After waiting in a long line and getting herded through cramped quarters, you finally sit down, only to find that your seat has leg room enough for the Lollipop Guild and provides the kind of personal space only Richard Simmons could love. Straining against your entire personality and reason for being here, you feel obliged to make idle chit-chat with the complete stranger next to you.
In the seat in front of you are some old and odd looking materials. There’s a book or a magazine or something. Some information about this gathering too. The stuff is disheveled and disorganized, seemingly arranged by four year-olds and handled carefully by Rottweilers. You decided to leave it in the rack in front of you.
Further ahead you notice some kind of ritual going on. There’s a person holding some apparatus and talking on and on while no one pays attention. It’s clear they’ve all heard these instructions before. That’s not a problem in itself, but the person doing the ritual is clearly not passionate for the subject matter and they aren’t bothered by the utter lack of interest in the presentation. To make matters worse, while looking ahead you realize that the rich people at this event seem to get served sooner and better than everyone else.
Throughout the experience you encounter rules that make little sense and are never explained. Apparently this is the way things are just done around here. But it sure feels like the people meant to serve you are most interested in getting you to abide by their ticky-tack stipulations that probably don’t matter anyway.
The whole ordeal is an exercise in your patience. The temperature is never right. The bathrooms are always messy. The thing never starts on time. It always ends late. You’ll probably catch a cold just from being here.
And you never get to really meet the leader of this outfit. He keeps to himself, speaks sight unseen, and only appears at the end to wave goodbye.
Isn’t flying a pain?
Are we?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Heisman and the Manger

Robert Griffin III (or as his adoring fans and Baylor alumni know him:  RG3) has won the Heisman trophy.  I’m not sure if you knew that I was a Baylor alum or not based on my making fun of Aggies and wearing green all the time.  And I’m not sure if you heard me as I jumped out of our recliner and screamed with joy as the announcement was made.  Call me a proud Baylor alum who is happy for his school and for a great kid.

I have two favorite quotes related to all the Heisman noise.  First, Kirk Herbstreit saying that RG3 has brought Baylor football back to relevancy.  Ouch.  Second, from a friend of mine:  “I don’t know how to live in a universe where Baylor football is a winning program and we have a Heisman finalist [and now winner].”  Cracking me up.


And that brings me to the non-Heisman related point of this column.  Can you live in a universe where the God of the universe who is fully in control of everything becomes what is seemingly a helpless child?  Can you live in a universe where a unwed teenage mother bears the Savior of the world?  Can you live in a universe where a deity wins the day through a death penalty case?  Can you live in a universe where a backwater prophet predicts He will die and rise again, then actually does so?


You do.



But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kleenex Moment

I'm an adoptive dad and I took way too long to pull myself together when watching.  Five minutes.  It's worth your time...


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sermon Notes from 12.18.11

Here are the sermon notes from my last sermon on Advent.  Find these notes on PDF and the sermon audio at sermons.heritagepark.org.  You can also download the sermon audio via our podcast on iTunes.


Christmas 2011 - Love
Isaiah 54.1-10
God has immovable love.
What kind of love is this immovable love?
    • Abounding (Numbers 14.18)
    • Atones for iniquity (Proverbs 16.6)
    • Better than life (Psalm 63.3)
    • Comforting (Psalm 119.76)
    • Crowns us (Psalm 103.4)
    • Cuts off our enemies (Psalm 143.12)
    • Earth is full of steadfast love (Psalm 33.5)
    • Endures all day (Psalm 52.1)
    • Gives us life (Psalm 119.88)
    • God will meet me in His steadfast love (Psalm 59.10)
    • Good (Psalm 69.16)
    • Holds us up (Psalm 94.18)
    • High as the heavens (Psalm 36.5)
    • Not removed from me (Psalm 66.20)
    • Precious (Psalm 36.7)
    • Preserving (Psalm 40.11)
    • Satisfies us in the morning (Psalm 90.14)
    • Saving (Psalm 31.16)
    • Surrounding (Psalm 32.10)
    • Watches over me (Psalm 61.7)
    • Endures forever (44 times in the OT)
How do we know His love is immovable?
First, because He promised.
    • But I’m not one in God’s favor (v.1-3).
    • But I don’t have anything to offer (v.4-5).
    • But I have too much baggage (v.6-8).
    • But God’s people didn’t love me, so He must not either.
Second, because He secured His promise.
    • Isaiah 52.13-53.12
    • He punished the Savior for your sin.
    • He dealt with the divide so you can be united to Him.
What is our response?
    • To love God in return.
    • To love others on His behalf. 
      • Because God’s love is immovable, we are free to love others knowing that the well from which we draw will never run dry. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Just because it's true...

I said last week that I'm now an owner of an iPhone.  So this had me laughing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Are you okay with...? Conclusion

So today I'll wrap up with this question.  It's probably the headiest and most theological.  On the surface, it might seem to be the most erudite and disconnected from life.  However, there are still beautiful pieces of pastoral fruit that hang down from the tree.

Are you okay with a God who...

  • Allows evil to exist,
  • Wills to permit evil in the world, 
  • And even wills to permit it (without stain on His character) localized evil that a greater good might come?
Some people really balk at this idea.  I don't know how they do theology without it, though.  I know people have attempted, but it just doesn't make sense to me.  I'd rather let the certainty fall on God's side and the mystery on mine than vice versa.

But anyway, back to the question.  I offer two examples...

Joseph of the Old Testament went through enormous trials and, yes, evil at the hands of all sorts of people, all of which was orchestrated by God for the saving of many (Genesis 50.20).

And then there's Jesus.  The greatest injustice ever done was done to Him.  The greatest evil ever perpetrated was His to bear.  The crucifixion of an innocent man.  The bearing of the sin of the world.  The horrendous death.  Yet, according to the Bible, it was God's premeditated plan (see Acts 2.23, 4.28).

God can tolerate and even will to permit localized evil in order to accomplish a greater good.  He can allow what He hates in a microscopic view to accomplish what He loves in a telescopic view.

And this is why, dear reader, I believe that we can say with confidence that Jesus reigns over everything.  If anything was outside of His will, we would have no assurance that it would be inside of His reign or His ability to redeem it.

Hard to understand.  Good to believe.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Are you okay with...? Pt. 3

Try this one on for size.  Discernment needed here, so think long and hard before you answer.

Are you okay with a God who has an incredible, seemingly unending amount of mercy?

A woman caught in the very act of adultery gets dragged into the middle of church, in the middle of the sermon no less, and is made to stand there in all her adulterous shame.  After a brief dialogue, she walks away with a lot less shame and a simple, "Go and sin no more."

A guy who has betrayed his people and joined forces with the oppressors and outsiders has made a killing doing so.  He's rich beyond rich.  He's also hated in every place he sets his foot.  God not only saves him but has dinner at his house beforehand.

A woman has spent her life running from man to man in a vain attempt to find someone who will love her.  Five husbands later, she finds herself shacked up with a guy who helps her survive.  But her soul is still thirsty.  A conversation beside a well has all the twists and turns of an animal caught in a trap but ends in salvation for her and becoming a missionary.

I could keep going.

So are you okay with that kind of God who rescues people in those kinds of situations and displays that kind of mercy?

My guess is that you, like me, are nodding and saying yes.  It's relatively easy to find ourselves in one of the above situations because we've all felt shame or ostracism or spiritual aridity.  So yes, we'd naturally be grateful for a God who shows us mercy in those moments.

But that's not the real test.

The real test is when God shows mercy to someone else.  Someone who disrupts our worship service.  Someone who oppresses us.  Someone who is of ill-repute in our town.  What if God had saved Usama bin Laden because of His incredible mercy?  That's when you know that you're really okay with a merciful God.  When you don't have those thoughts that flow from the mindset that might say something like, "But wait a minute.  He didn't deserve that.  He probably ought to pay a little for that."

But payment negates mercy.  True for me.  True for you.  True for "them" too.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Are you okay with...? Pt. 2

So how about this one...

Are you okay with a god who can handle your honesty?  What about one who even invites it?

There's a horrible psalm that I don't like reading at all.  But I read it every so often to remind me that God can handle my honesty and does actually invite it.  The closing line in the psalm says, "Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rocks."

That's horrible.

Can you imagine praying that in your small group or Sunday School class?  What if your pastor prayed it during Sunday morning worship?

Without getting into too much detail on the psalm itself, let's just say that they were in a bad place when it got composed.  The crazier part, to me, is that it's in the canon.  God actually inspired that text.  And I can't think of another reason than that He is inviting our honesty.  He not only can handle it, He put a psalm in the Bible to invite it.

Think about it, though.  He already knows what's going on in our hearts and thoughts anyway.  We might as well talk to Him about it and deal honestly with Him.  Most people forget that God already knows it all and so their prayers about themselves are religious but not honest, filled with platitudes but not authenticity.

And that's why they miss intimacy with Him.

Our honesty is the predecessor to our intimacy with God.  If we're not willing to be honest with Him, we will never be intimate with Him.  But it's also true that the more intimate we are, the more honest we'll be with Him too.  Don't believe me?  Look at some of the prayers of the saints who have gone before.  The closer they got to God, the bolder they became in their requests.

The pastor in me has to say here that honesty is a two-way street.  When we're honest with God, we have to be ready for Him to be honest back.  And sometimes that really hurts.  So be ready for that, but it's so worth it.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are you okay with...?

Alright, I'm a pastor and have some moments where I have to honestly assess my heart and ask myself the above question:  am I okay with ________ ?  These are things in the Bible or revelations about God that I might not have as my go-to sense of God or of how things ought to be.

So this week, I'll try to ask the question and let you do the heart examination.  Ready?

Are you okay with a God who shoots back?

Psalm 64.7:  "But God shoots His arrows at [His enemies]."  They shot first, God shoots back.

Our modern invention of a God who is love (to the exclusion of everything else, like holy or righteous) doesn't have much room for a God who shoots back.  I'm 10,000% for a God who saves sinners because of His great love for them.  Thank you, Jesus, for that.

But according to the Bible, that same God who saves sinners is also a God who will aim and fire when it's time.  He will not trifle with His enemies (though we once were in that boat ourselves until He saved us).  He will shoot back.  He will conquer.  He wins in the end.

Seems a little violent, don't you think?  In our PC, perfectly polite world, that God doesn't fit really well.

But that's the God who is.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sermon Notes from 12.11.11

Here are the sermon notes from the third Sunday of Advent.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at sermons.heritagepark.org.  You can also download the sermon audio from our podcast on iTunes.


Advent 2011 - Joy
Isaiah 35
Candle of Joy is different color b/c it’s a different concept.  
    • Hope is a byproduct of seeing God.  Peace is a byproduct of seeing God. 
    • Joy is something we pursue in God.  He’s not glorified by teeth-clinched duty (unless it’s repentant, sorrowful duty).  
But Christmas isn’t joy for everyone.
    • Grief and loss - Reminder of what you don’t have or who you don’t have anymore.
    • Family - dysfunction, bitterness, frustration, etc.
Promises
  • The dry places will experience refreshing and fruitfulness (v.1-2).  
  • Transformation will come to individuals and places (v.5-7).
  • God’s people will be with Him forever (v.8-10)
The one word that is associated throughout this passage with His promises is joy.
Purchase
  • As promised, God came to save His people.
  • All His vengeance and reward for sin was satisfied at the cross.
  • Everyone who turns to Him will be received. (v.3-4)
      • Spiritually barren?  
      • Weak and feeble?
      • Anxious b/c of your past?
Result
  • Joyful songs come from joyful hearts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thank you, Bob Costas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Read, How to Hear

My friend and I hit the YMCA down the street from us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at o-dark thirty.  One of the funnier things that comes out of that is the music selection in the workout area.  To their credit (at least in my opinion), they play Christian music.  To the music station's discredit, they rock it out old school.

When I'm bench pressing, I don't want to hear My Father's Eyes.

Context matters.  Nothing inherently wrong with that song, although it was ruined for me by umpteen preteens and teens in camp talent shows.  Hearing that song is fine.  It just doesn't fit while I'm working out.

In the same way, there are times when I read the Bible that I don't get very much out of it.  Please don't tell anyone because I'm a pastor and I probably shouldn't say things like that.  The secret needs to remain between you and me.

So when that happens, here's what I try to do.

First, I need to make sure I'm spending enough time lingering so that I'm not in a rush.  Small kids make that hard sometimes.  Attention-demanding smartphones do too.  But that's a good starting point.

Second, I try to make sure that I'm genuinely open to reading and hearing from the Lord.  Sin makes that hard sometimes.  So does approaching it as a duty.  Both require repentance.

Lastly, if I can get past those two and it's still bone dry and Saharaesque, one of the things that it's good for me to remember is the Now and Later principle (or at least that's my name for it).  Some things I read are for Now and pierce me to the core or call me to pray or encourage me for this moment.  Some things I read are for Later and should be mulled over and thought about but not applied until the context is appropriate.  My Father's Eyes doesn't necessarily fit every context.

It's the same way when hearing a sermon.  Not every word from the Lord is for this moment.  Some are for moments to come.  One of the marks of maturity is learning to hear from the Lord and hold onto that word until it's ready to bear fruit in a situation.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Working on a Bed

Don't tell the Peanut, but we have a surprise for her on her birthday.  Actually, you can't tell her because she already knows.  You can't miss it.  My garage smells like a lumber yard (thanks to Mr. Gregg Slone at Slone Lumber, for all your woodworking needs...free commercial).

Anyway, I'm building a castle bed for a princess.  I'm about 10 hours into it and probably more than 1/2 way done.  I like doing stuff with my hands, which brings met to the point of this blog.

Sometimes I just have to do something with my hands to start something, see it through, and make sure it's done and done well.  I like doing that because so much of my work in pastor-land is invisible and immeasurable and, quite frankly, unattainable.  You can see progress, but it often takes a while.  Something about seeing a project started, seeing it progress, and seeing it completed is good for my soul.

My wife says it's because I'm so much like Jesus.

Wait.

Maybe that was just me thinking she'd say something like that.

All joking aside, be encouraged today that what you do matters no matter if you can see it or not.  And do whatever it is you do with your eyes on Jesus.  And do what you do with all your heart, like you're working for and serving Him (see Colossians 3.23).

When we know He's with us, we can live with a sense of purpose in every moment that He gives us.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sermon Notes from 12.4.11

Here are the sermon notes from the second Sunday of Advent.  You can view these notes in PDF and download the sermon audio at sermons.heritagepark.org.  You can also find the sermon audio on our podcast in iTunes.


Second Sunday of Advent:  Peace
Christmas 2011 
Isaiah 9.1-7
Peaceshalom, a sense of wholeness, togetherness, and well-being. 
What is the nature of this peace?
  • Reigning peace - intricately connected to His sovereignty.
      • From an abundance of His rule shall come an abundance of His peace (v.7).
      • The Kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14).
      • As guaranteed as His zeal (end of v.7).
  • Lasting peace - enduring because His reign is forever.
      • Isaiah 11.1-10
      • We talk about “now” nature of the Kingdom, but there’s a forever nature too.
  • Public peace - flowing from what is just.
      • Isaiah 10.1-4
      • Public Justice in the law (v.1)
      • Practical Justice in society (v.2-4)
  • Personal peace - abiding in the heart and mind of those who look to Him.
      • It’s not an absence of insanity - it’s a sense of clarity in the midst of it. 
How does He bring peace?
  • He brings it, not sends it.
      • No mailing, but delivering.  No greetings.  No card.  It’s hand delivered, not left on a doorstep.
  • He comes with it because He is Immanuel:  God with us.
      • Maybe better stated:  it comes with Him.
      • God is near.  The Prince of Peace is near.
      • Every ounce of authority and power and mercy and grace that is God is near.
  • He offers it through the sacrifice of the One who came.
      • Isaiah 53.5
      • But we’re NOT at peace - so how do we get it?
      • What should’ve been ours fell on Jesus instead - OUR SIN
      • Only way to peace (Rom 5.1)
      • Not for everyone, though anyone can receive this...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Be warm and pray...

I am not making this up.  You can find this on Lifeway.com, the resource arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Here you have it, friends:  the prayer snuggie.

The description from this link:

This plush maroon Covered in Prayer Snuggie features a large front pocket, oversized comfortable sleeves, and a cozy fleece design. Buy them a gift that can be used all year long! Includes a free bookmark. One size fits all.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Interracial Marriage and the Cross of Jesus

A little late in posting this morning...

A church in Pike County, Kentucky has voted to ban interracial couples from membership or participation in worship services.  This after a lady who grew up in the church got engaged to a man from Africa.  The man was invited to sing a solo as a part of the congregational worship.  After the service was over, the church voted 9-6 to never let that happen again.  Full story here.  Quick video below.



This is wrong on so many levels.

For many years, prejudicial and racist people used a passage from Nehemiah to justify their belief that no interracial couple should ever marry.  Bad idea.  When you mishandle the Word, you face the consequences (a threat of which I am all too familiar and of which I remind myself consistently).

But for those who are believers in Christ, racial divisions have been made void.  Jesus has made both Jew and Gentile into one new man, establishing peace (Ephesians 2.11-18).  Should a church vote to make void what the Son of God has purchased?

What's more, in heaven where every tribe, tongue, nation and people will worship together and experience intimacy beyond the shadow that marriage offers now, there will be a uniting of races in praise (Revelation 7).  And if heaven will culminate in that, why not allow it here in the earthly picture of marriage?

So to the good folks at Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church, please repent.  The Lord Jesus commands you to do so.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Great practical advice on time with God

The church staff is reading Desiring God by John Piper.  It's one of the five books that have deeply shaped my life and understanding of who God is and what He wants from us.  We discussed this yesterday in staff meeting and I cannot believe I haven't posted this practical advice here before.  It's a little lengthy but oh-so-worth-it.  This from George Muller, who cared for orphans in England...
While I was staying at Nailsworth, it pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost, though now. . .more than forty years have since passed away. 
The point is this:  I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord;  but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.  For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world;  and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit. 
Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer, after having dressed in the morning.  Now I saw, that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed;  and that thus, whilst meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord.  I began therefore, to meditate on the New Testament, from the beginning, early in the morning. 
The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord's blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God;  searching, as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it;  not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word;  not for the sake or preaching on what I had meditated upon;  but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.  The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication;  so that though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. 
When thus I have been for awhile making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it;  but still continually keeping before me, that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation.  The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart.  Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, very soon after, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man. 
The difference between my former practice and my present one is this.  Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time.  At all events I almost invariably began with prayer. . . . But what was the result?  I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.;  and often after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray
I scarcely ever suffer now in this way.  For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father, and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. 
It often now astonished me that I did not sooner see this.  In no book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me.  No private intercourse with a brother stirred me up to this matter.  And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man
As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time, except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man.  We should take food for that, as every one must allow.  Now what is the food for the inner man:  notprayer, but the Word of God and here again not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts. . .  
I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow-believers to ponder this matter.  By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials in various ways than I had ever had before; and after having now above forty years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it.  How different when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials and the temptations of the day come upon one!


(Autobiography of George Mueller, compiled by Fred Bergen, [London: J. Nisbet Co., 1906], pp. 152-154].

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Encouragement on a Tuesday

One of our first graders in church was asked by her mom the other day what she was most thankful for this year.  Her reply, without a hesitation:  "I am thankful, mommy, for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Now, what's cool about that to me as a pastor is manifold...

We baptized both of her parents not too long ago.  God has done an incredible work in their lives, drawing them to Himself over a period of time and through the love of our church and clarity of His Word.

Her phrase, "Eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord," is straight out of Romans 6.  Where did she pick this up (as I don't know a 6-year old who talks like this normally)?  Our AWANA ministry is helping her memorize and retain the Scripture.

She's connecting that modeling from mom and dad and the teaching from the church to her life.  And she probably can't explain the depths of the Trinity (neither can I wrap my brain around such a mystery), but she can articulate and no doubt knows that the kind of life she wants comes through trusting Jesus.

"Truly, I say to you:  whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child cannot enter it." (Mark 10.15).

So be encouraged on a Tuesday.  God is very much at work all around us.  In little ones.  In families.  In places where we may not normally look.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dude: don't wear the shirt

My family spent a couple of days at an amazing resort over Thanksgiving, the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas.  We had a blast.  But that brings me to a story...


A guy had on this shirt...


The problem wasn't the shirt.  The problem was that he wouldn't get in the water to pull his daughter out when she had fallen off the lily pads.

Here's the story.  The Queen and Bear were off doing tube slides together.  I was playing with Peanut, practicing swimming while my Monkey (pictured above) was doing the lily pads.  My back was to the struggling daughter until a dad jumped in past me and I turned around with my daughter in my arms.  I saw T-Shirt Dad saying, "You can do it," from the side of the pool.  She wasn't doing it.  She was really struggling.  Jumping Dad grabbed the girl about 1 second before the Great Wolf lifeguard got there.

The girl was fine, but Jumping Dad and I exchanged a look and a couple of words that expressed our disbelief that T-Shirt Dad would call from the sidelines and not get in the pool.

T-shirts might be conversation starters or thought provokers.  But following Jesus isn't about either.  It's about doing the right thing when it needs to be done.  Do justice.  Act mercifully.  Walk humbly.  Don't sit on the side of the pool.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving


My family.  My Bible.  Friends.  Neighbors.  Neighbors who are friends.  Cooler temperatures.  Cars that drive.  Giggles from children.  Generosity from others.  Church that's family.  Choices that matter.  Parents.  Parties.  A good night's sleep.  A great country to call home.  Projects that help others.  Precious moments with one of my kids.  Golf.  Gotcha Day.  Parents.  Parenting (at least most days).  An incredible wife.  A more incredible Savior.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Trent

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking a few days off...

Dear Devoted Followers and the rest of you,

I'm taking a couple of days off from blogging to spend time with the family and do the Thanksgiving holiday, etc.  See you next week and a very happy Thanksgiving to you.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Calling Evil what it is: Evil

David Brooks, a NY Times columnist of some renown, is interviewed on Meet the Press.  In the brief exchange below, notice how clearly he speaks of evil.

We need more of his ilk in churches and media.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

No sermon notes today...

I'm not posting sermon notes from this Sunday because it was our "State of the Church" message and not really a teaching.  Thanks so much for hearing God's Word and seeking to obey it along with me.  I'm grateful to teach and look forward to starting the Advent Season.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Jesus can get you stuff at Walmart

If you purchase the Jesus gift card, do you get some sort of bonus?



No words.  Absolutely no words.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PLAN to be generous

Here's a blog post from another pastor named Kevin DeYoung.  It's posted in its entirety.  Worth thinking about this morning...


P – Pray for a generous heart.  Make people a priority over prosperity.  Don’t think: “How much do I have to give away in order to be obedient?”  Ask: “Give me opportunities to sow.”
L – Lifestyle cap.  As we earn more, we should give more. If you are wealthier than you used to be, have you done more to increase your standard of living or your standard of giving?
A – Accountability.  Set goals and find someone you can trust who won’t be threatened by talking frankly about finances. Sex and money–we don’t talk about them nearly as much as Jesus did.
N – No less than a tithe. Whether the Old Testament requirement is a binding prescription or not, I find it hard to imagine that Western Christians who have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ and enjoy great prosperity, would want to give less than was required of the poorest Israelite.  Statistics consistently show that Protestants give less than 3% of their income to their churches. A tithe, for most churchgoers, would be a huge step in the right direction.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Environmental Hypocrisy

I had a funny moment with the Ninja today.  He has a wall at his school called the "footprint wall" that exhibits ways he can help reduce the environmental footprint of his life, etc.  I'm certainly not Al Gore, but we do recycle and so forth.  I do enough not to feel guilty, I suppose.

So Ninja wants to put a HEB bag on the wall.  He cuts out the plastic HEB label on the HEB grocery bag and then...

wait for it...

wait for it...

...he throws the rest of the bag in the trash.  And it struck me just how funny that was.

And then I thought about all the times I fully intend to try to do one thing and just flat out screw it up.  I set out to do the right thing and it doesn't go great.  And sometimes I have the wisdom of a 6-year old who doesn't think through every decision and the implications thereof.

God grant me wisdom to lead my life, my family, and your church and help me become who you want me to be.  Amen.

Wait.

Did I just hear you pray that prayer too?

We all need it, don't we?

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Family Update

A bunch of you have asked, so first of all:  thanks for asking.  It's good to be cared about and cared for as a family.

I took the Peanut up to Dallas to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children this past week.  The Bear and the Ninja stayed home with the Queen and went to school and did things that kids their ages do.  Yes, they got to go shopping for new jeans and so forth too.  I know.  I know.  Excitement abounds.

But I digress...

The point of the visit to Scottish Rite was to have an MRI done to see what was up with Peanut's arms, her muscles, her joints, etc.  Some may not know that she was born with arthrogryposis and has complications pertaining thereto.  So the question that we were hoping the MRI would answer is whether or not the tricep-tendon transfer surgery would work.

I heard a phrase I've never heard before:  evacuated anterior cavity.  Peanut has no bicep.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.  Zip.

The good news?  The surgery is a go.  Can you call surgery good news?  I guess so.  And in this case, we're praying for a good outcome which will mean she gets a whole new level of function that she's never had before.

Now the question that haunted me throughout this deal was answered by my completely awesome, Doctor of Physical Therapy wife:  how can a tricep tendon help us out because it seems that the triceps muscle would work against itself when it fired.

Ready for the answer?  You're not ready.  Get ready.

This particular tendon is innervated by a different nerve.  The rest of the muscle has another nerve completely.  Peanut will learn to fire that nerve only and it will contract her triceps but flex her elbow.

HOW COOL IS THAT?

When my wife told me that, I literally thought, "I know who made it like that.  I know who did that!"  I knew that when God wired the body together, He knew that one day my Peanut was going to need a functional bicep.  So a little extra wiring and booyah.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Quick Devotional Idea

Just a quick family devotional idea that we pulled off last week around the dinner table.

Question 1:  What gifts have we been given that we think are incredibly cool?

Each person gets to share, talk about the gift and why it's cool, etc.

Follow-up:  Where did those gifts come from?

Again, each person gets to remember how the gifts got there.

Scripture:  James 1.17 - every good and every perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of Lights.

Application:  every gift is from God.  So just as we tell others thanks, we can live as a grateful people because everything is ultimately from Him.


Question 2:  What have we worked for and bought that we think is incredibly cool?

Again, sharing.

Follow-up:  Where did our money to buy those things come from?

Again, sharing.

Scripture:  Deuteronomy 8.18 - the ability to make wealth is a gift from the Lord.

Application:  even when we get paid, it's a gift from God.  So even then, gratitude is an appropriate response.

Whether we earn it or someone gives it to us, everything is a gift and God deserves our thanks.

(You can also do this over two nights...)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday 11.13

Here are this week's sermon notes from Philippians 4.10-23.  We finished the book of Philippians and it was a tremendous study.  To hear the sermon audio and get these notes in PDF, visit sermons.heritagepark.org.  You can also get the sermon audio on iTunes via our podcast.


Philippians
Contentment, Christ and Our Credit
Philippians 4.10-23

Contentment (v.10-11)
  • Defn:  State of satisfaction of the soul despite circumstances.
  • Everything in our culture pushes us away from contentment.
  • Satan continually feeds us lies to keep us from contentment.
  • The Truth:  we deserve hell and Jesus has saved us - everything else is bonus.

Christ (v.12-13)
  • The secret of contentment is Christ. 
  • In abundance:  Christ has strengthened me to work, earn, and save.
  • In need:  Christ is giving me strength that food and freedom never could.

Contentment can birth generosity (v.14).

Credit (v.15-23)
  • We provide for the ministry of others (v.15-16). 
  • We invest in eternity (v.17).
  • We meet practical needs (v.18).
  • We worship the Lord (v.18).
  • We receive what God supplies (v.19-20).


Friday, November 11, 2011

Snakes are Scary: I hate Xmas!

And yes, I typed "Xmas" on purpose...


Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Father's Heart

I recounted yesterday the story of an encounter with Child.  You can catch the backstory there.

The way the story ends (for all concerned, especially you grandparents) is Child making the choice to do the right thing.  But there's some good stuff that happened in between the cliffhanger yesterday and the sentence written above.

My heart was breaking.  It really was.  To think that Child could try to pay me back was both offensive and saddening.

It was offensive because I didn't give Child the backpack and lunchbox because I expected something in return.  I did so because I loved the kid.  How dare Child impugn the character of my love by thinking I can be paid back by money.  So I said, "The way you pay back love is love."  That's a quote.  You can write that one down.

It was saddening because I could afford to buy Child a thousand lunch boxes and backpacks.  But what I wanted was a confession, some humility, and the restoration of the relationship.  So I reached out and hugged Child, letting the tears from sweet cheeks that I've kissed many times fall on my arm.

And I think that's when the brokenness set in.  Smack in the middle of my embrace of someone who was so wrong.

And all the sudden, I knew what it felt like for God's kindness to lead me to repentance (Rom. 2.4).

In the embrace of someone who is so often so wrong, there's the Father's heart.

Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Atonement by Sacrifice

I had a great lesson in parenting the other day which I will gladly share because I'm sure you can all learn from my parenting expertise.

I was in the car with one of my kids (who shall remain nameless, lest we trade this one for a player to be named later and shall heretofore be known as Child).  Child threw an absolute fit.  It happened because dad saw Child make a mocking face - think:  after someone says something and they do that parroting thing back with a sarcasm written all over their face.  Bad move.

After my comments about how ungrateful Child was being, it broke loose.  There were some things at work that went into effect immediately...

  1. The relational distancing between Child and dad.  Moving over in the seat.  Huffing and puffing.  Folded arms.  You name it.  Present and accounted for.
  2. The pride which won't let me admit I'm wrong even though I know I probably am and is keeping me from getting right with the person with whom I need to get right.
  3. The atonement by sacrifice of giving back my lunch box and backpack so dad can sell it and get his money back because it's better than me humbly saying thanks.
I don't know about you, but I recognized those immediately because I do them in my relationship with God.  I distance myself.  I soak in my pride.  I try to make sacrifices to get God off my back instead of humbly coming to Him.  

Whoa.  

I recognize that presentation because I am that person.

And here's a great reminder for me (and maybe you too).  There is a sacrifice that makes me right.  But it doesn't come from me.  There's only one way to be made right with God and it comes through Jesus.  No amount of backpacks sold or lunch boxes sold will make up for the debt.  No amount of pledging to do better next time and trying harder will get it done.

Only faith.

Only faith in Jesus.

Only Jesus.

Amen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Review: Bohoeffer by Metaxas

Okay, another few words on a biography I read lately.

Eric Metaxas wrote a biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  Weighing in at a substantial number of pages, it's a long read but a good one.



The short:  Bonhoeffer was a brilliant theologian and professor and pastor in the late 1920's and 1930's.  As the son of a well-to-do family, he had access and the ability to stand against the rise of the Fuhrer and the Nazis.  He did so, even to the point of participating in an assassination plot.  He was eventually caught and executed in 1945 a few days before the camp where he was held was liberated by the Allied Forces.  In the midst of that, he had underground seminaries running and wrote two Christian classics, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.

Metaxas caught a lot of grief for this book from those who want Bonhoeffer to remain a more liberally leaning, neo-orthodox pacifist.  I don't know everything about the man, pastor, martyr, prophet, and spy, so you need to read what I'm about to write with that in mind...

I have no idea how the author caught so much grief.

Metaxas used multiple quotations from personal letters and other writings, including journals.  He had quotations from sources that knew Bonhoeffer.  It seemed every page had some sort of block quote from someone about something that was happening, and most of them were quite extensive.  Either he jerked absolutely everything out of context or others had Bonhoeffer painted in Impressionism instead of Realism.  If someone can prove something different, please contact me.  I'd love to hear it.

I don't think you can (or should) go to the ends that some would want, making Bonhoeffer a white southern Republican Evangelical.  He was a German.  He was more or less neo-orthodox.  But he sure didn't seem like a liberally leaning pacifist.

He was involved in a plot to assassinate a head of state, after all.  I don't see Gandhi getting in on that action.  And he didn't get swept up into it - he thought about it, prayed about it, calculated it, and participated in it.

The narrative did seem to get a little effusive at times.  I'll give the critics that.  But the rest of it was just plain good.  It was well-told.  It seemed to be well-researched.

I have a friend who is a Grade A history professor at Baylor.  I asked him about the book before I dropped my money on it.  He said, "Well, Trent, I'm sure you won't be the worse for reading it."

He was right.  I wasn't.  You won't be either.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Half the Sky - a worthwhile effort

My wife and I sponsor a child through Half the Sky Foundation, founded by Jenny Bowen.  Here is the video showing a brief clip of their ministry and work.  If you're looking to be involved with orphan care that's not direct adoption, HTS is a great option.

We owe a lot to HTS because they took care of our Peanut when she was in the orphanage and in need of a great amount of care.  We're fans.  You'll see why...


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sermon Notes from 6 November 2011

Here are the sermon notes from this Sunday's sermon on Philippians 4.8-9.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio by visiting sermons.heritagepark.org.  You can also find the sermon audio on iTunes via our podcast.  Both sites should have the files by midweek.


Philippians
Think and Live
Philippians 4.8-9


Transformation is an inside-out process.
  • Renewal of the mind is its method (Romans 12.2).
  • We are barraged with ideas, images, and information – but do they renew our mind?

Objection 1:  it’s not affecting my life because it’s only “entertainment.”
  • It’s hard to condemn what you enjoy.

Objection 2:  it’s not affecting my life because I can discern the difference.
  • But advertising works and Satan works even better.

Objection 3:  it’s not real life to go through my day thinking about the Bible.
  • Christianity is the most real-life religion on the scene.
  • In fact, Christ doesn’t want you to withdraw – you miss a lot and lose the mission. 
What you behold is what you become.
  • We discipline ourselves so that we dwell on Him.
  • When I encounter the opposite, I envision the good.

Practice what works.
  • Teaching:  what I have learned, received, and heard.
  • Modeling:  what I have seen.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Press Secretary's and Misquotations

In the land of politics, all is fair game.  So when the President of the United States blisters the Republicans in Congress for passing a bill affirming the use of "In God We Trust" as a national motto instead of working on his jobs bill, you can expect some controversy.

President Obama said, "I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.

All fine and dandy, right?  Whether or not you agree with the approach, you can agree with the sentiment that God's not going to magically fix the economy without our participation.  We have some debt-slashing and spending-cutting to do.  There might even need to be higher taxes so our grandkids aren't crushed under today's decisions.  Whatever the solution, you get the sentiment.



Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, picked up on this theme in a presser later that day.  In it, he said, "I believe the phrase from the Bible is, 'The Lord helps those who help themselves.'"

Uhm.  Awkward moment here.

It's not in the Bible.  

Not anywhere.  Nowhere.  Not in Genesis.  Not in Revelation.  Not in any book in-between.  Nope.  Not present.

Present in culture?  Yes.  A "phantom teaching" of the Bible?  Yes.  Actually representative of anything the Bible has to say?  Not at all.

The message of the Bible is very clear:  God helps those who cannot help themselves.

That's what makes salvation so stunning and grace so amazing.  It's also what makes pseudo sayings like this one so scary.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cynicism and the Transformation of Others

A brief warning shot across the bow of all of us cynical types (me, the guiltiest of all - and that's no humblebrag).

It can certainly sound prophetic to speak, rail, fuss, preach, teach, declare, or narrate against emotional experiences in the Christian life and how they don't make up the commitment that Christ requires.  I will say from the outset that if you say such things, you're absolutely right.  But that's not the whole picture.

It's true that some "Christians" (whether or not they truly are is, at best, a guess of mine and certainly not a definitive statement) live like Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine.  In modern Christianity, they go from one experience (conference, camp, DNow, retreat, getaway, worship experience) to the next and live on the momentum provided by those things.  When the momentum runs out, they must quickly jump on the next vine to keep making "progress."  Again, whether or not they are is a question of the fruit of their lives.

But to throw out the baby with the bathwater is silly.  God has used and still uses and probably will use in the future experiences to shape and form us.  Indeed, the God we encounter in worship has ordained that worship to be a transforming force in our lives.  Yes, it might not be God we're worshipping but instead our emotions or desire for experience.  True.  But it might be.  And if it is, God changes the worshipper.

I've written an earlier blog about how the affections of the soul can promote the allegiance of the heart.  It is true.  We don't need to be cynical about it.  We can (and should!) rejoice in it and challenge people to bear fruit from it.

And always help those who are weak and in doubt, showing mercy without fear, snatching them out of the fire (Jude 23).

But that's just me thinking thoughts...