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  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  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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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 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.


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  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, 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...