Thursday, September 29, 2011

Classic story

Some stories in Ministryland just get around.  They're classics.  And they are so because they're so good.  This one is one of my favorites... (maybe you've heard it in its variations).

A pastor of a church in Oklahoma during the dust bowl days had been praying with his people for rain during the devastating drought.  The deacons suggested that they gather together for prayer Sunday evening before the service.  When the deacon body assembled, the pastor walked in, looked around, and promptly walked out.

Frustrated, the deacons dispatched one of their own to figure out why he was not joining them and leading them in prayer.  After some convincing, he rejoined the deacons who asked him, "Pastor, why won't you lead us in this prayer meeting?"

The pastor replied, "Why are we here to pray?"

"We need rain, pastor.  We came to pray for rain.  You know that."

"Then why didn't anyone bring an umbrella?"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Something in the pot

My wife says I'm a crockpot thinker.  I tend to throw things in and let them stew for a while before making a decision.  Fair enough judgment about me on her part.  Guilty as charged.

As to how this relates to the blogosphere and, in particular, this grand little experiment and wonderful discipline in my little corner of the blogosphere, I'll say that I've been thinking a lot about spiritual growth lately and will probably spend 3-4 days on in the days to come.  Something came out of me last week that said:
It strikes me that the difference between "being" and "seeming" isn't so much the distance between the two but the hard work or commitment it takes to make the transition.
I think there's a lot to explore there.

But that has nothing to do with today's post.  But this is my blog and I'll chase rabbits if I want to...

Today I want to let you in on a little practice that I've been doing (and have done before) for the past several weeks:  praying the psalms.  I mentioned this before in August, but I'd like to take it back up just for a moment.

The way that I've been doing this is taking a psalm each day and letting a particular phrase or line lodge in my heart.  Admittedly, sometimes I spend several days on a single psalm (try 16, it's gold).  And how do I let the phrase lodge in my heart?  I don't really.  The Holy Spirit is the Chief Lodger.  My role is to keep reading until He wields the sword.

So, if you'd like to try this, here are some practical things I've learned along the way...

First, time is of the essence.  What I mean by that is that if you won't take the time to sit quietly and still-ly and humbly and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and plead for God to speak, the psalms will remain strange Hebrew poetry that you know are good but can't get past the feeling of when you first encountered a Haiku in 6th grade English class.

Second, when God speaks (and He will), you have to let it be in your soul like a perfectly grilled filet mignon with just the right seasoning is in your mouth.  Linger.  Don't hurry.  Let it tumble in your brain.  I read the other day, "...through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved."  Steadfast love from God most high.  It's an anchor, holding me steady.  I dealt with that and dwelt on that all day.

Third, there will be parts you just don't get.  I have a theology degree and I don't get them all.  I especially don't get some of the language that relates to David's experiences with God.  I'm just not that astute.  But that doesn't bother me.  It actually encourages me.  It encourages me to pursue God more and harder and with greater ardor and zeal and focus.  What it says (when I don't get it all) is that there is more to be learned and experienced and enjoyed of God.  Who wants a God that I can understand fully after 150 chapters?  I'd rather get lost in a God that I'll never figure out.  The former I'd manage.  The latter I worship.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.  I'd be happy to learn from you too!

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Here's a video of the Kimyal people group in Indonesia receiving the New Testament in their language for the first time.  The whole video is 10 minutes and worth the watch.  If you have 3 minutes, fast-forward to the 3-minute mark and watch until the 6:30-minute mark.

They wept when they received it.  Maybe I should weep when I read it.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Post #501

Well, dear reader, I honestly never thought I'd see this day.  You probably didn't think you would either.  And if you're just joining us, welcome to post #501.  That's right:  yesterday's sermon notes post put us at the milestone and today moves us past it.  Crazy.

I never intended to write this much or this often.  The whole thing started as a two-fold experiment.  The first was to see if I could consistently say something worthwhile in the written format.  I try to say something worthwhile in the spoken format every Sunday.  But writing is another question.

The second reason was to see if I could say something worthwhile in writing that people would actually read.  Based on your comments to me personally and via email and occasionally on here, it seems that these thoughts at least provoke you to think about life (and hopefully life with Jesus) in some way form or fashion.  Whether or not it's written well I guess still remains to be seen.  I do try.

And so, dear reader, a sincere "thank you" for joining me in this 500-post journey.  I hope you'll continue to read, give more feedback than you've been giving (whether positive or negative), and think about life along with me.

I'll leave you with this thought:  writing and reading are perennially important.  I know this because Jesus Christ, the Word, communicated to us at the Father's bidding by the Holy Spirit through the written word of His apostles and prophets.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15.4)

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday, September 25th

Here are the notes from today's sermon from Philippians 2.12-18.  It was a quick one, covering a whole bunch of material in as short amount of time as possible.  To get these notes in PDF and find the sermon audio, visit  You can also find the sermon audio on iTunes via our podcast.

Part 6 – Ready to Grow
Philippians 2.12-18

What Salvation?
  • Biblical salvation has several components – it is more than forgiveness.
  • Biblical salvation has two major spheres:  legal and relational.

Why Work it Out?
  • The project of the renovation my life is not complete nor should it be stagnant.
  • We participate with Christ to work out what He has worked in us.
  • Grace is never opposed to our effort but our entitlement.

How is it Worked Out?
  • Relying on God’s initiative, direction, motivation, and energy.
  • Living by faith in God’s promises and in obedience to His precepts.
  • Taking up practices of spiritual disciplines that God uses to transform us.
  • Walking in perseverance during the everyday and extraordinary trials of life.

What are the Outcomes?
  • Greater desire for and actualized obedience.
  • Greater perspective and unity.
  • Greater pursuit of purity.
  • Greater witness in word and deed.
  • Greater willingness to sacrifice.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Stuff for sale

I'm not sure what the words mean in the background - my best guess is something related to a bookstore of his coming.  I zoomed in and saw that the biggest statue is $8500 (honestly, originally I thought He was "he," like a street performer or someone who holds still for money).  Either way, do you think He is happy?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Esse Quam Videri

I spent Monday through Wednesday morning with the Forge at Pine Cove.  If you've been a reader around here or know our family, you know that Pine Cove's family camps are a huge blessing to our lives and we're huge fans of their ministry.  So just about any time we can give back to them in ministry, we do.

The Forge is a 8-month discipleship and leadership training program where students live onsite and, through classes, experiences, and service, grow in an intense and intentional environment in the areas of spirituality, life skills, leadership, and ministry.  It's run by Matt Lantz and Jennifer Crouse who do an excellent job managing both the logistics of the 24 students and keeping a finger on the pulse of the individuals and the group.

One of the things I like most about the Forge is their tagline:  Esse Quam Videri.  Apparently (I had to ask before I left on Wednesday), that's Latin for "To be, not to seem."

I love that.  I'm praying for myself this year that I'd be authentic.  So I hope to have a lot more "be" and a lot less "seem" when it's all said and done.  And I pray of our church that we'd "be" and not "seem."  The lives of 24 college students who can "be" and not "seem" also benefit from that intention.

It strikes me that the difference between "being" and "seeming" isn't so much the distance between the two but the hard work or commitment it takes to make the transition.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't forget to let it be personal

In recent years, great strides in biblical theology and contemporary canonical exegesis have brought new precision to our grasp of the Bible’s overall story of how God’s plan to bless Israel, and through Israel the world, came to its climax in and through Christ. But I do not see how it can be denied that each New Testament book, whatever other job it may be doing, has in view, one way or another, Luther’s primary question: how may a weak, perverse, and guilty sinner find a gracious God? Nor can it be denied that real Christianity only really starts when that discovery is made. And to the extent that modern developments, by filling our horizon with the great metanarrative, distract us from pursuing Luther’s question in personal terms, they hinder as well as help in our appreciation of the gospel.  
J.I. Packer, In My Place Condemned He Stood, 26-27

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Danger and Necessity

Do you know what a personal legalism is?

If you've been around church much, you know legalism.  Rules that get applied across the board without regard for the situation or the people involved.  Call it Zero Tolerance with a Bible in hand.  Just as dumb.  Just as dangerous.

But there are personal legalisms that are actually helpful.  And some of the time, they're necessary.

Consider the helpful ones.  I'll give two examples from my life.  I have a rule that I don't ride in the car by myself with a woman who's not a relative.  To my knowledge, I've only violated that rule twice.  All were by necessity.  Another example:  I have accountability software on my computer to make sure if and when I am tempted, I don't go off and do something destructive to my life, my family, and my ministry.  Okay, one more example - consider it a bonus.  I put the biggest darn window I could in my office door as soon as I became the pastor at Heritage Park.  I didn't have anything to hide.  And just in case I did, I didn't want to be able to hide it.

But they're just personal.  That's the way I've decided to do life.  I won't force those on you.  I might point to them as the ways of wisdom and talk about how they've been helpful.  But when what's helpful to me becomes a hard and steadfast rule for you, that can get dicey fast.  It can bind you up in thinking that you're right with God because you are doing these things.  Wrong wrong wrong.

So think about the helpful and the dangerous legalisms in your life.  Apply them with wisdom.  Share them with kindness.  And be careful.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Compare and Contrast and Get Angry (aka a Tale of Two Robertsons)

This is a long post.  But I'm just plain mad.

Compare this to the article that follows (reprinted from Christianity Today in its entirety).

After his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, college and seminary president Robertson McQuilkin found himself torn between two commitments, two divine callings. At the request of the CT editors, he shares the story of his struggle:
It has been a decade since that day in Florida when Muriel, my wife, repeated to the couple vacationing with us the story she had told just five minutes earlier. Funny, I thought,that's never happened before. But it began to happen occasionally.
Three years later, when Muriel was hospitalized for tests on her heart, a young doctor called me aside. "You may need to think about the possibility of Alzheimer's," he said. I was incredulous. These young doctors are so presumptuous—and insensitive. Muriel was doing the same things she had always done, for the most part. True, we had stopped entertaining in our home—no small loss for the president of a thriving seminary and Bible college. She was a great cook and hostess, but she was having increasing difficulty planning menus. Family meals she could handle, but with guests we could not risk missing a salad and dessert, for example.
And, yes, she was having uncommon difficulty painting a portrait of me, which the college and seminary board—impressed by her earlier splendid portrait of my predecessor—had requested. But Alzheimer's? While I had barely heard of the disease, a dread began to lurk around the fringes of my consciousness.
When her memory deteriorated further, we went to Joe Tabor, a neurologist friend, who gave her the full battery of tests and, by elimination, confirmed that she had Alzheimer's. But because she had none of the typical physical deterioration, there was some question. We went to the Duke University Medical Center, believing we should get the best available second opinion. My heart sank as the doctor asked her to name the Gospels and she looked pleadingly at me for help. But she quickly bounced back and laughed at herself. She was a little nervous, perhaps, but nothing was going to get her down.
This time we accepted the verdict. And we determined from the outset not to chase around the country every new "miracle" treatment we might hear about. Little did I know the day was coming when we would be urged-on average, once a week-to pursue every variety of treatment: vitamins, exorcism, T chemicals, this guru, that healer. How could I even wife 1 look into them all, let alone pursue them? I was grateful to friends who made suggestions, because each was an expression of love. But for us, we would trust the Lord to work a miracle in Muriel if he so desired, or work a miracle in me if he did not.
One day the WMHK station manager, the program manager, and the producer of my wife's morning radio program, "Looking Up," asked for an appointment. I knew an occasional program she had produced was not used, but the response to her monologue of upbeat encouragement continued to be strong. Though the program was designed for women, businessmen often told me how they arranged their morning affairs so they could catch the program.
As the appointment began, the three executives seemed uneasy. After a few false starts, I caught on. They were reluctantly letting me know that an era was ending. Only months before they had talked of national syndication. I tried to help them out. "Are you meeting with me to tell us that Muriel cannot continue?" They seemed relieved that their painful message was out and none of them had to say it. So, I thought, her public ministry is over. No more conferences, TV, radio. I should have guessed the time had come.
She did not think so, however. She may have lost the radio program, but she insisted on accepting invitations to speak, even though invariably she would come home crushed and bewildered that her train of thought was lost and things did not go well. Gradually, reluctantly, she gave up public ministry.
Still, she could counsel the many young people who sought her out, she could drive and shop, or write her children. The letters did not always make sense, but then, the children would say, "Mom always was ,a bit spacy." She also volunteered to read textbooks for a blind graduate student. The plan was to put them on tape so that others could use them. I was puzzled that those responsible never used them, until it dawned on me that reading and writing were going the way of art and public speaking. She was disappointed with each failure and frustration, but only momentarily. She would bounce back with laughter and have another go at it.
Muriel never knew what was happening to her, though occasionally when there was a reference to Alzheimer's on TV she would muse aloud, "I wonder if I'll ever have that?" It did not seem painful for her, but it was a slow dying for me to watch the vibrant, creative, articulate person I knew and loved gradually dimming out.
I approached the college board of trustees with the need to begin the search for my successor. I told them that when the day came that Muriel needed me full-time, she would have me. I hoped that would not be necessary till I reached retirement, but at 57 it seemed unlikely I could hold on till 65. They should begin to make plans. But they intended for me to stay on forever, I guess, and made no move. That's not realistic, and probably not very responsible, I thought, though I appreciated the affirmation.
So began years of struggle with the question of what should be sacrificed: ministry or caring for Muriel. Should I put the kingdom of God first, "hate" my wife and, for the sake of Christ and the kingdom, arrange for institutionalization? Trusted, lifelong friends—wise and godly—urged me to do this.
"Muriel would become accustomed to the new environment quickly." Would she? Would anyone love her at all, let alone love her as I do? I had often seen the empty, listless faces of those lined up in wheelchairs along the corridors of such places, waiting, waiting for the fleeting visit of some loved one. In such an environment, Muriel would be tamed only with drugs or bodily restraints, of that I was confident.
People who do not know me well have said, "Well, you always said, 'God first, family second, ministry third.' " But I never said that. To put God first means that all other responsibilities he gives are first, too. Sorting out responsibilities that seem to conflict, however, is tricky business.
In 1988 we planned our first family reunion since the six children had left home, a week in a mountain retreat. Muriel delighted in her children and grandchildren, and they in her. Banqueting with all those gourmet cooks, making a quilt that pictured our life, scene by scene, playing games, singing, picking wild mountain blueberries was marvelous. We planned it as the celebration of our "fortieth" anniversary, although actually it was the thirty-ninth. We feared that by the fortieth she would no longer know us.
But she still knows us—three years later. She cannot comprehend much, nor express many thoughts, and those not for sure. But she knows whom she loves, and lives in happy oblivion to almost everything else.
She is such a delight to me. I don't have to care for her, I get to. One blessing is the way she is teaching me so much—about love, for example, God's love. She picks flowers outside—anyone's—and fills the house with them.
Lately she has begun to pick them inside, too. Someone had given us a beautiful Easter lily, two stems with four or five lilies on each, and more to come. One day I came into the kitchen and there on the window sill over the sink was a vase with a stem of lilies in it. I've learned to "go with the flow" and not correct irrational behavior. She means no harm and does not understand what should be done, nor would she remember a rebuke. Nevertheless, I did the irrational—I told her how disappointed I was, how the lilies would soon die, the buds would never bloom, and please do not break off the other stem.
The next day our youngest son, soon to leave for India came from Houston for his next-to-last visit. I told Kent of my rebuke of his mother and how bad I felt about it. As we sat on the porch swing, savoring each moment together, his mother came to the door with a gift of love for me: she carefully laid the other stem of lilies on the table with a gentle smile and turned back into the house. I said simply, "Thank you." Kent said, "You're doing better, Dad!"
Muriel cannot speak in sentences now, only in phrases and words, and often words that make little sense: "no" when she means "yes," for example. But she can say one sentence, and she says it often: "I love you."
She not only says it, she acts it. The board arranged for a companion to stay in our home so I could go daily to the office. During those two years it became increasingly difficult to keep Muriel home. As soon as I left, she would take out after. me. With me, she was content; without me, she was distressed, sometimes terror stricken. The walk to school is a mile round trip. She would make that trip as many as ten times a day. Sometimes at night, when I helped her undress, I found bloody feet. When I told our family doctor, he choked up. "Such love," he said simply. Then, after a moment, "I have a theory that the characteristics developed across the years come out at times like these." I wish I loved God like that-desperate to be near him at all times. Thus she teaches me, day by day.
Friends and family often ask, "How are you doing?" meaning, I would take it, "How do you feel?" I am at a loss to respond. There is that subterranean grief that will not go away. I feel just as alone as if I had never known her as she was, I suppose, but the loneliness of the night hours comes because I did know her. Do I grieve for her loss or mine? Further, there is the sorrow that comes from my increasing difficulty in meeting her needs.
But I guess my friends are asking not about her needs, but about mine. Or perhaps they wonder, in the contemporary jargon, how I am "coping," as they reflect on how the reputed indispensable characteristics of a good marriage have slipped away, one by one.
I came across the common contemporary wisdom in this morning's newspaper in a letter to a national columnist: "I ended the relationship because it wasn't meeting my needs," the writer explained. The counselor's response was predictable: "What were your needs that didn't get met by him in the relationship? Do you still have these same needs? What would he have to do to fill these needs? Could he do it?" Needs for communication, understanding, affirmation, common interests, sexual fulfillment—the list goes on. If the needs are not met, split. He offered no alternatives.
I once reflected on the eerie irrelevance of every one of those criteria for me. But I am not wired for introspection; I am more oriented outward and toward action and the future. I even feel an occasional surge of exhilaration as I find my present assignment more challenging than running an institution's complex ministry. Certainly greater creativity and flexibility are needed.
I have long lists of "coping strategies," which have to be changed weekly, sometimes daily. Grocery shopping together may have been recreation, but it is not so much fun when Muriel begins to load other people's carts and take off with them, disappearing into the labyrinth of supermarket aisles. Or how do you get a person to eat or take a bath when she steadfastly refuses? It is not like meeting a $10 million budget or designing a program to grasp some emerging global opportunity, to be sure. And it is not as public or exhilarating. But it demands greater resources than I could have imagined, and thus highlights more clearly than ever my own inadequacies, as well as provides constant opportunity to draw on our Lord's vast reservoir of resources.
As she needed more and more of me, I wrestled daily with the question of who gets me full-time-Muriel or Columbia Bible College and Seminary? Dr. Tabor advised me not to make any decision based on my desire to see Muriel stay contented. "Make your plans apart from that question. Whether or not you can be successful in your dreams for the college and seminary or not, I cannot judge, but I can tell you now, you will not be successful with Muriel."
When the time came, the decision was firm. It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised, 42 years before, "in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part"?
This was no grim duty to which I stoically resigned, however. It was only fair. She had, after all, cared for me for almost four decades with marvelous devotion; now it was my turn. And such a partner she was! If I took care of her for 40 years, I would never be out of her debt.
But how could I walk away from the responsibility of a ministry God had blessed so signally during our 22 years at Columbia Bible College and Seminary?
Not easily. True, many dreams had been fulfilled. But so many dreams were yet on the drawing board. And the peerless team God had brought together-a team not just of professionals, but of dear friends-how could I bear to leave them? Resignation was painful; but the right path was not difficult to discern. Whatever Columbia needed, it did not need a part-time, distracted leader. It is better to move out and let God designate a leader to step in while the momentum is continuing.
No, it was not a choice between two loves. Sometimes that kind of choice becomes necessary, but this time responsibilities did not conflict. I suppose responsibilities in the will of God never conflict (though my evaluation of those responsibilities is fallible). Am I making the right choice at the right time in the right way? I hope so. This time it seemed clearly in the best interest of the ministry for me to step down, even if board and administrators thought otherwise. Both loves-for Muriel and for Columbia Bible College and Seminarydictated the same choice. There was no conflict of loves, then, or of obligations.
I have been startled by the response to the announcement of my resignation. Husbands and wives renew marriage vows, pastors tell the story to their congregations. It was a mystery to me, until a distinguished oncologist, who lives constantly with dying people, told me, "Almost all women stand by their men; very few men stand by their women." Perhaps people sensed this contemporary tragedy and somehow were helped by a simple choice I considered the only option.
It is all more than keeping promises and being fair, however. As I watch her brave descent into oblivion, Muriel is the joy of my life. Daily I discern new manifestations of the kind of person she is, the wife I always loved. I also see fresh manifestations of God's love-the God I long to love more fully. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday, September 18th

Here are the notes from today's sermon from Philippians 2.3-11, often called the Philippian hymn.  Hopefully it will remind you, as it did me in study, of God's amazing character and His passion to be glorified in His people.  To get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio, visit  You can also find the audio on iTunes via our podcast.

5 – Sing an Old Hymn
Philippians 2.3-11

Humility looks after the interest of others instead of pursuing rivalry with them.

Humility considers others more important instead of letting conceit reign.

You don’t find humility by searching for it but by losing yourself in something larger.

Jesus Christ is…
  • Full of integrity – He asks what He is willing to do Himself.
  • Fully God – many ascribe many attributes, but He is divine.
  • Fully Human – He spoke our love language.
  • Obedient in Sacrifice – He lived perfectly and died cruelly as the perfect sacrifice.
  • Exalted – living today as the Resurrected King.
  • Worthy of Worship – the question is when knees bow and tongues confess, not if they will.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Powerful Picture

While we were in Rome, we got to visit St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.  Lots of overwhelming moments while there.  Lots.

None more so than when this sculpture came into view.  It's titled Pieta (which means "Passion," the old term for Jesus' suffering and crucifixion).  Mary holds her Son.  The world has a way to be made right with God.  Stunning.

Photo by my completely awesome wife.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Marriage Investment

This is a brief post for all who are married or want to be married some day.

Getting away with your spouse is crucial for your marital health.  My wife and I just did for the first time in 2+ years (aka since the adoption of our daughter).  It was so refreshing and renewing for us and our relationship.

You don't have to go far.  You don't have to go expensively.  But do go.  Get out and do something together that you can enjoy.  When you do this, don't schedule a bunch of stuff that keeps your individual preferences at the forefront.  The biggest thing is to carve out the time it takes to really be together.

The guy who did our premarital counseling told us:  "Your quality time will come in the midst of your quantity time."

So true.

So plan some time and get away.  Renew.  Reconnect.  Refresh.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Get 'em and Keep 'em

While on our cruise, we got to stop at Ajaccio, Corsica. It's an island in the Med and its claim to fame (or infamy) is its role in history as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. The man who wanted to rule the world was born on an island in a good-sized house on a street that, quite frankly, was a little hard to identify and find. I don't desire to hyperspiritualize everything from the trip. I actually find that quite loathsome. However, I couldn't help but think about another Emperor-to-be who was born in a backwater place that was a little hard to find.

Napoleon wanted to conquer the world. He made a pretty good run at it. Yet, you keep empires like you build empires. Forceful conquering requires even more force applied to rule. It becomes unsustainable over time. That's proven true throughout history.

It's the same way in church life and ministry. One of my mentors in ministry says, "You keep 'em how you catch 'em." If it's lights and coffee and coolness, you have to find more lights and better coffee and hipper coolness. If the ministry model is simpler (for which I obviously advocate and lead), you can sustainably do the simple things of ministry: sing, proclaim, care.

You keep 'em how you catch 'em. It's true in a lot of life.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Few Old City Blocks

My wife and I just got back from the vacation of a lifetime. We went on a European cruise of the western Mediterranean Sea, departing from Genoa (or Genova if you're Italian), then to Cannes, Corsica, Barcelona, and disembarking in Rome. I'll post a few reflections along the way, but this morning I wanted to take just a moment and comment on history.

We had 24 hours in Rome and I was so consistently stunned by the age of everything around there. When people have asked about it in the couple of days since we've been back, my attempt at humor in reply is that we could pick up a rock in Rome, throw it any direction, and hit something significantly older than our country. And that's not really a joke. It is more or less true every place where we set foot in Rome.

We stood looking out over the Forum. Just to the left was the Imperial Palace. Farther left was the Colosseum. So much of the world was ruled from those 2-3 city blocks and for such a long period of time. What's more, so much of what has influenced law, thought, philosophy, ethics, and government in today's world has some roots that reach back to a few old city blocks on the Via del Fori Imperiali. Gorgeous, meaningful, old ruins.

And then it hit me.

For all the influence of a few old city blocks, there's another hill in another city in another country for which we have no ruins and only an archeological best guess. From it a King established a kingdom that has transformed everyone in whom it takes root. It will last long past a few centuries. It cannot be sacked by Germanic hordes and invading forces. Earthquakes, fires, hardships, hurricanes, and anything else that tries to lay it waste only prove that it's a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday, September 11th

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon on Philippians 1.27-2.2.  To get these notes in PDF and find the sermon audio, visit  You can also find the sermon audio on iTunes via our podcast.

4 – Worthy of the Gospel of Christ
Philippians 1.27-2.2

Motivations matter in the Kingdom of God.
  • Higher:  who God is, what He has done, and who He has made us to be.
  • Lower:  warning, guilt and shame.
  • Lower motivations can keep us from unrighteous acts but do not produce a righteous life.

3 Expressions of Walking Worthy of the Gospel

Standing firm in one spirit.
  • Through the Gospel, Jesus creates equality among humanity.
  • Through the Gospel, Jesus creates community for humanity.
  • Application:  talk to people before you talk about them.

Striving side by side
  • The church Jesus creates through the Gospel is the main method of spreading the Gospel.
  • “I am not gifted for evangelism.”
  • “I don’t know any lost people.”
  • “I don’t know how.”
  • “I can’t answer all their questions.”
  • “I can’t answer all their objections.”
  • “I don’t have an opportunity.”
  • Application:  tell your story.

Not frightened by opponents
  • It is a sign of their destruction because it signals that there is more to love than your own life.
  • It is a sign of your salvation to others and yourself because of the courage you display by His grace.
  • Application:  fight to live securely.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Snakes are Scary: They took the FUN out of Fundamentalist.

This is an actual picture of the Bob Jones University student handbook from the 1990's (actual year cannot be determined).  This part killed me:  "Students who date outside of their own race will be expelled."  Seriously?  And these folks claim to be Christian?

You may have to zoom in to really see this.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Today is my wife's birthday

Today is my wife's birthday.  Don't ask her how old she is because she (in all honesty) may not remember. But today is her day and I celebrate God bringing her into the world.

Whenever I think of her, this is not far from my mind:
He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD (Prov. 18.22)
She is, without a doubt, a most certain sign of God's favor on my life.  Whenever I wonder what God's disposition toward me is, I don't have to look any farther than the beauty who wears my ring.

Happy Birthday, my love.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

These Broken Hands...

For all in ministry, whether full-time or a wonderful, faithful volunteer to the 2-year old Sunday School class, here's a reasonably good prayer and one that resonates in me.

I don't know the guy who's singing.  I know his picture looks a little (or lot) dorky.  And the lyrics aren't fully applicable, but the gist is worth getting...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So funny that I couldn't not share it...

Stunningly funny. And telling. And did I mention it's funny? Can you find yourself in this video?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Glad to have a team!

Kyle Jackson, our youth pastor, preached yesterday on Philippians 1.19-26.  I haven't heard it yet but I know it's going to be good because Kyle loves Jesus and studies well and is gifted by the Spirit of God.

All of that to say, it's good to have a team to do ministry with, to have co-laborers.  Paul was glad to have friends along to accompany him.  Peter had coworkers in Jerusalem and in other places.  Life is meant to be done together.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Quote from Thomas Paine

I don't think Thomas Paine was a friend of Christianity in any of its forms (during his day nor would he be in ours).  But this quote is worth hearing and has some inherently Christian thinking in it.

Not a man lives on the continent but fully believes that a separation must some time or other finally take place, and a generous parent should have said, ‘If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace’; and this single reflection, well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty.
The kind of call to duty mentioned here means we take responsibility for what needs to be done, for getting it done, and for making the world a better place.  It means living courageously and, at times, ferociously to protect those who need it and will come after us.

Seems pretty biblical to me.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...