Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Reflections

Rather than make resolutions, how about some reflections.  I have 15 questions from my friend Chuck Thomas and 5 from me (and yes, if you're keeping score at home, these are the exact ones I posted last year).  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 2013 next December?

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sermon Notes from 12.30.12

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 12.30.12.  I normally preach on prayer the Sunday after Advent ends, and so it is again this year.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also download the sermon audio on our podcast via iTunes.

Expectant Prayer
Prayer Sermon 2012
Acts 12.1-17

Why be Expectant in Prayer?

God does hear
  • The testimony of the Bible teaches us that God hears. 
  • The story of our experience reminds us that God hears.
  • His willingness to hear reveals His heart.

God will answer
  •  He will answer for those not expecting it.
  • Objection:  If God is going to act anyway, why pray? 
  • Prayer is the means by which God acts.
  • He will answer in surprising ways.
  • Objection:  Why didn’t God answer the way I prayed? 
  • We do not pray so that He’ll be good to us but because He is.
  • There is a clear distinction between praying with expectations and praying with expectancy.

o   One counsels God on how to act – one confidently believes He will

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

M'Cheyne Bible Reading

I don't know if you've ever heard of the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, but it's been a gift to me this year.  It's based on the devotional life of Robert Murry M'Cheyne, a Presbyterian minister from Scotland.  His plan takes you through the Psalms twice, the New Testament twice, and the Old Testament once.  It's about 4 chapters per day from various parts of the Bible.

As a side note, D.A. Carson's devotional books called For the Love of God (vols. 1-3) are based on these readings.  There are also apps on the App Store that you can download for free that will let you start on any date you desire (I have one that's pretty awesome called ReadingPlan).

If you're looking at challenging yourself to read the Bible through in the new year (which is always a good challenge to take), this is an interesting way to do this and one I highly recommend.

As always, the best Bible out there is the one that's read, no matter its translation or condition.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Fecal Garage

I woke up to the day after Christmas hangover.  You know the one - where trash and boxes and paper and little pieces to toys are still on your floor and still need to be picked up.  (Caveat:  would've been a lot worse had the Queen not directed us to make a couple of loads yesterday.  All hail the Organized One)

But I also woke up to something a little less pleasant.

Max the Dog had to sleep in the garage last night because although the day started at 70+ degrees, it finished in the low 30's.  I moved Max the Dog and the nice bed he sleeps on into the garage.  He's getting old now, and so a nice comfy bed in a nice warm garage is a good deal.

Until he poops on the floor.

And not just any poop, but the you-shouldn't-have-given-me-that-fatty-piece-of-leftover poop.

And so at 6-something this morning, I was hosing out my garage and using my hands on the broom's head to get the poop out.  Just what I wanted to be doing at 6-something when it's 30 degrees outside.

So as I'm thinking about Max the Dog and how much I love him (where's the sarcasm font?), that little voice rises inside of me.  He says something about how much fun this is to watch me doing this and how sometimes He enjoys doing that as much as I am enjoying it right now.

Because the truth is my garage is a little messy.  It could use some straightening.  But it also had (until this morning) some really gross, unhealthy, foul-smelling stuff in it.  That had to go too.  Can you imagine me picking up a few toys but leaving the feces?  The toys would be easier.  The toys would be cleaner.  The toys would show a quick improvement.

But they wouldn't deal with what really needed to be dealt with.

And so it goes with our hearts.  What are the little things that are easy to clean up in your heart?  Words to a spouse or child?  Not fudging an expense report at work?  Giving a little more on Sunday?

How about the really stinky, unhealthy things though?  Mismanaged (or unmanaged!) desires?  Jealousy?  Greed and materialism?  Those don't show near the improvement, take a lot more scrubbing, and are just plain gross to reckon with.  But they move the garage toward cleanliness, or in this case, the heart toward holiness.

One is easy to see, but the other is better to tackle.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Video

Whatever you do on this Monday, Christmas Eve, go spend 6:31 with this video.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 12.23.12

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 12.23, the last Sunday of Advent.  To get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio, please visit  You can also find the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Advent 2012
4th Sunday of Advent:  Love
Zechariah 12.10-13.1

Three gifts given by God

Gift #1:  God gives a new spirit
  • God is the primary actor here – He must accomplish this for them 
  • The people are in no position to help themselves
  • The people have no power to help themselves
  • The people have no proclivity to help themselves.

Gift #2:  God gives new eyes
  •  The fact:  they will look upon the Pierced One
  • The feeling:  they will mourn over their part

Gift #3:  God gives new standing
  • From the Pierced One comes a fountain
  • In it they are cleansed from their sin

And He has…
  • Given People a New Heart
  •  Given People New Eyes
  • Given People a New Standing

It started in Jerusalem and has been unstoppable since.

But WHY?
Romans 5.8:  because of His great love, even while we were still sinners Christ died.
o   Greater than the story of a dad who loved his daughter so much that he put on his police uniform and spent 7 hours with her is a God who put on skin and came to earth to give His life so we could spend forever with Him

Friday, December 21, 2012

Snakes are Scary: Jesus Snowglobe

This...well, I'm not sure what to say about this.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

C.S. Lewis: the prophet(?)

In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
From the Abolition of Man, 1943

That should immediately affect my parenting and pastoring.  How about you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seeing but Ignoring

The Queen and I had the opportunity to vacate for a few days and, thanks to some vouchers that expired at the end of the year, ended up in Paris.  It's a beautiful city, full of a lot of nice people and a few stinky ones.  We managed to be on the subway with the latter, but encountered a lot of the former too.  But I digress.

I hit the Louvre one afternoon while the Queen was unjetlagging (aka napping) and found it as overwhelming as most people do.  I'm not a big art guy, but I'm in Paris and so I can't not go to the Louvre, right?  Yes, I saw the Mona Lisa.  Yes, Venus de Milo too.  And as a sheer painting from a non-art guy, the Wedding Feast at Cana piece at which the Mona Lisa perpetually looks was far more impressive.  A close second were all the Greek statues.  But, again, I digress.

Here's what really struck me from the Louvre.  I walked by dozens of paintings (and maybe more) that depicted the crucifixion of Jesus.  Dozens.  And hundreds of people were there right beside me looking at them too.  They took pictures.  They posed in front of them.  They read the descriptions.

And they moved on.

Here is the singular event that changed history.  It is rivaled by nothing.  It is reflected in the multiple pieces of art hanging in the most important museum in the world.  Some pieces were beautiful.  Some were brutal.  All told the story.

But they moved on.

God forbid it that I ever get to that place, that my family members ever get to that place, that our church ever get to the place where we see it and just move on:

Other parts are happier, so I'll think about them...

It demands so much, so I'll think about something lighter...

I've heard that one, so give me something new, better, deeper, shinier...

I'm not really that bad, so let's talk about...

He died for what my heart is desiring right now, so I'll go ahead because He'll forgive me...

If we move on from the cross we miss Christianity all together.  It's not the door in, it's the entire path.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Supreme Court and Gay Marriage

Well, SCOTUS has granted a case to be heard in its austere hall regarding the issue of gay marriage.  Everyone will, of course, be watching and who knows what will happen come June or so.

But what led us here?

Some say the normalization of homosexuality in culture has led to the decline of the family and awful fatherhood statistics, etc.  Some say the two simply dance a tango, with the decline and the rise happening without causal relations with one another but certainly with accompaniment.

But I'm offering another explanation.  I'm willing to be wrong here, but I'm not sure I am.

What if the decline of marital fidelity and nuclear families is what has given rise to the normalization of homosexuality?  Sociologically, I think the argument can be made - though because I'm not a sociologist I won't attempt it.  Theologically, it seems that Romans 1 teaches this.  Homosexuality is not the curse of God's judgment against a people in itself.  It is a sign that the restraining moral influence has already been removed - the kind of passive judgment (if there is such a thing) that Romans 1 describes.

Maybe, just maybe, we have a lot more blame that is ours than we have thought before.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Advent?

It's a good question:  why do we (the Baptist church I pastor) celebrate Advent?  Isn't that on the calendars of Catholics and Episcopalians and a few Methodists?

Good question.

It's true, lower church traditions (meaning less formal than more liturgical/tradition-oriented denominations like the ones mentioned above) are not known for celebrating Advent.  But I think it's important and I can sum up why in a single sentence:

Black Friday and Super Bowl Sunday ought not be the major anticipations of our holidays.

Cynical?  Probably.

But the key for me and what I hope to communicate to Jesus' church is that this rhythm of expectation is a good thing.

The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Hope:  we look forward to His coming.

The second Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Peace:  we look forward to His benefit.

The third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Joy:  we look forward to our response to His causation.

The fourth Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Love:  we look forward to knowing it fully, demonstrated 30-something years later outside of Jerusalem.

So that's why we celebrate it as a church.  But I think the rhythm of expectation is important - even if we can't articulate all the reasons why.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Friday, December 14, 2012


What do you say about Newtown?

It's horrible.

Satan is real. It's not just psychology. There are spiritual issues at hand.  That kind of evil comes from him.  It's not just brokenness - it's evil.

Jesus can redeem this horror.  Pray that he will.

Saying nothing can be better than saying something stupid, especially in grief (reporters: take note).

Hug your kids tightly.  Life is too short and too fragile.

This makes me long for Jesus' return.

The fact that it's a universal response of horror points to the powerful sense of Ought that is in us because of the image of God that is also in us.

It's horrible. No other word.

Snakes are Scary: A Bible Story Retold

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tolerance: A One-Way Street?

This has been reported on the Huffington Post, so it's not just some pastor having a midlife crisis.

My problem here is the one-way nature of the tolerance.  When did caring for the poor, the needy, the homeless, the downtrodden, and the forgotten become a bad thing?  And did I miss all of the GLBTQ organizations that are doing this?  Apparently so.

Or is their tolerance merely a one-way street?  I know Christians (particularly evangelicals) have had their issues with tolerance, protests, boycotts, and other stupidity.  If I can and do call out the evangelicals when we commit a foul, it goes both ways.

Judgmental?  Only if I'm not looking at both sides.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Upward Basketball Coaching

I coached my first Upward basketball practice last night.  A group of eight 7-year olds were mine for 55 minutes.  Here are some things I learned...

At 39, I'm not 18.  Enough said.

The key skill for children's basketball is dribbling.  Think of it like chewing.  Yes, it's that necessary.  No, it does not come that easily or automatically.

Parents who jump off the sideline to help with drills are how I know the truth that I just might be entertaining angels unaware (Heb. 13.2).

Though we don't keep score in most smaller kids leagues, competition is healthy.  I'm not sure I'm a fan of not keeping score - but I'm not in charge and so am glad to play by their rules.

Upward, as an organization, is very well run and organized.  Kudos to them and I'm glad we're a part of it.  For all who can participate and can bring a friend, I recommend it!

I pushed hard during my workout yesterday morning, the morning before the basketball practice.  Did I mention that I'm not 18 anymore?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Social Injustice and Spiritual Rebellion

I preached on Micah 5.1-4 for the Second Sunday of Advent yesterday.  One of the things that struck me that I hadn't particularly seen before (and you can blame me for that, though my professors might have landed on one and not the other) is the clear prophetic word against both the social injustice of their day as well as the spiritual rebellion.

It's particularly en vogue to address and speak out against and work for the eradication of social injustices in the world.  Rightly so!  There are many!  Corrupt politicians and business leaders.  Sex trafficking.  Cyclical poverty.  Drugs and crime.  On and on and on.

But the thing that struck me in studying Micah was how he addressed both, and seemingly evenly.  What's more, there were some particularly harsh words for priests who ministered with a wage instead of the Lord in mind and prophets who gladly said whatever garnered them some sort of gain.  You can check me out in Micah 3.9-12 as an instance.

Even more, having reflected on it, I can only speak to our church and to our culture and point out that if you get the two out of order, you will cure neither.  Social injustices are direct results of spiritual rebellion.  So to address the former requires addressing the latter as a priority.

And all of that's fine and good in the broadest of terms.  But let me bring it down:  where are my rebellions and how are the affecting the social justice within my own family? neighborhood? circle of friends?

Societies get changed by changing the people within them.  And that's not "those" people - it's this person.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 12.9.12

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon on Peace, being the Second Sunday of Advent.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also get the sermon audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Christmas 2012 
Part 2 – Peace 
Micah 5.1-4

God is at work even in the darkest days.

  • Judgment is coming because of their sins of social injustice and spiritual infidelity (3.9-12).
  • The judgment comes in the form of captivity (4.10)
  • There is no escaping or saving themselves from it (5.1)
  • God seems to make most specific promises during toughest times.

God is at work in surprising ways.

  • The Messiah will come out of a surprising place.
  • The Messiah will come for a surprising reason.
  • The Messiah will come from a surprising origin.
  • The Messiah will come with a surprising outcome. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Snakes are Scary: SpongeBob on Christmas

Somehow, this is funny to me...

To link to the original Snakes are Scary post that explains the Friday insanity, please click this link.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jared Stevens

Two pretty awesome stories on a Thursday.  Same kid.  Get your tissues if you're kinda weepy...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What would you pay to sleep well at night?

Brian Davis paid $400,000 (give or take a few pennies).  I have no idea where he stands spiritually, but his testimony to integrity is powerful.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sheep Droppings

I read this on a blog and couldn't help but think about its truth:

"You want me to tell you how you can know if you're a good pastor?  I'll tell you.  Slip off the shoe and smell the sole.  If you can detect the fragrance of sheep droppings, then you're a pretty good pastor."

Pastoring means being involved in people's lives, even the messy parts.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The first Sunday of Advent was yesterday.  I've watched this umpteen times.  Still my all time favorite flash mob.  I'm a little biased because Handel's Messiah is my favorite Christmas music.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sermon Notes from Sunday 12.2.12

It's the first Sunday of Advent.  We talked about hope from Genesis 3.15.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also get the audio on our podcast via iTunes.

First Sunday of Advent 2012
Genesis 3.15

Two Aspects that make this Promise so incredible

Context of the Promise

  • God knows of the deceit and disobedience.
  • Before He addresses their sin, He makes them a promise.

Content of the Promise

  • Warrior
  • Person
  • Promised
  • Wounded
  • Conquerer

Who could that be? Only Jesus!
  • Only Jesus is the Promised Person
  • Only Jesus is the Wounded Warrior
  • Only Jesus is the Conquering King