Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Bible Reading Plans

If you’re looking for ways to read the Bible more this year, here are some great new tools available at They've just launched more than 20 free Bible reading plans, which are available on the website as well as all mobile platforms. If you prefer a printed Bible reading plan and using your own copy of the Bible, our church website has several options.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Some Assembly Required

On this Christmas Eve I have much to be thankful for. One thing I am grateful for is that I don’t have to put any gifts together for Christmas this year. The kids are teenagers now and the gifts require more money but less assembly. I’m willing to make that trade.

Through Christmas past I remember long nights of assembling bicycles. My long tradition of minimal mechanical inclinations and unwillingness to read instructions probably contributed to the stress of those holiday seasons. A few years back, Lauren was into a set of plastic horses. Of course the horses came with dozens of accessories. One of those items was a barn for the horses. Carrying the box almost left me a broken man. As I unpacked the contents to begin Christmas Eve assembly, I found that the only thing I didn’t have to do was cut down the tree for the wooden materials of the barn. Considerable assembly was required. Hours later, it was finished and she was thrilled on Christmas morning.

If we are to really experience the true meaning of Christmas, there is at least one lesson we should remember from those “some assembly required” labels each Christmas. It is this: Follow the instructions and discover the main part. On the first Christmas the Bible says, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16, NIV). Follow the instructions – seek after Christ – He is the main part. Have a blessed, Christ-filled Christmas.

What Part of the Body Are You?

I enjoy listening to and reading Francis Chan, a gifted California pastor. I would encourage believers to read his book Crazy Love as well as Forgotten God. This is a one minute video from one his sermons that makes me laugh.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Am So Proud of Our Church...

First Baptist Church of Allen has wonderful ministries throughout the week on our campus. What is sometimes forgotten is how much ministry reaches out into our community and beyond week to week. This year, almost a half million dollars went to mission work around the world. In addition, over 200 children were sponsored this year by our church members through World Vision. We gave to a special offering and purchased thousands of Bibles through the ministry of the Gideons International. This list barely scratches the surface. Other ministries included strong support of Real Options for Women - our local crisis pregnancy ministry and the Samaritan Inn - our Collin County homeless shelter.

Our We Care Ministry is the umbrella name for our caring ministries in our community. This year through our We Care and holiday season ministries, I wanted to celebrate some totals:

  • We Care YTD has served 122 families paying out $38,810 for rent, utilities, insurance, and medical bills.

  • The Food Pantry is serving about 70 families (about 300 people) per month

  • Angel Tree assisted 60 families with over 500 gifts

  • Food Baskets given for Thanksgiving and Christmas was over 200

We are blessed by God to be a blessing. Thank you First Baptist Church for these ministries and for all the things you do individually and as Bible Fellowship Groups throughout the year!

Don’t Sink Your Success by Ignoring Relationships

I read an interesting article from LeadershipWired this week that speaks well to the value of relationships. John Paul Jones is regarded as The Father of the American Navy, and rightly so given his heroic courage in battle and his devotion to America's struggle for independence. Yet sadly, Jones alienated himself from the country he loved, dying penniless and alone in France at the age of 45. Why did the war hero's story end so dismally? The answer is simple: John Paul Jones never valued relationships.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Christmas Carol - Cliff Notes Version

For those who may not have time in this busy season to watch one of the many incarnations of "A Christmas Carol"'s a 90 second musical version to help you catch up on your Christmas to-do list.

Making Bible Reading Meaningful

James MacDonald has penned a good article with advice on how to benefit from reading the Bible.

Tiger Woods - Lessons Not To Be Missed

Al Mohler has written an interesting article on the Tiger Woods saga with some insightful comments.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are You Dangerously Tired?

The Christmas season is a busy time for many of us. Seasonal activities are added on to already full schedules. Even during more "normal" times of year the most common description people give of their lives seems to be "busy." Are you too busy? Dangerously busy?

I would encourage you to read this article. It is filled with simple questions to help evaluate whether we may be spinning out of control while living at the speed of life. How do you know whether it's time to simplify?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Season of Caring

These are not the happy images of children we usually think of at Christmas time. They are common images of children around the world. This photoblog shows pictures of just a few of the world's impoverished children. "Twenty years after the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, multitudes of children across the globe are still suffering from poverty, abuse, and disease."

Such images usually make us look away and think about something else. While I can't change the future of every child on the planet, through World Vision, I can touch at least one. Consider child sponsorship this Christmas.

Another way to help address poverty in the world is to provide a means of making a living for the poor. World Vision's Gift Catalogue enables you to buy things like a goat or chickens to help the poor make a living. Our family just bought a goat. Consider doing the same.

When Your Child Is Disobedient

Z offers a list of 10 things to remember when your child is disobedient. It is a short, simple profound list for parents to ponder.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Perfect Interview Test

Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon, authors of I Hate People!, have figured out a quick way to interview job candidates. The solution is easy: watch how they cross the street. I find myself to be a "wader."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

15 Google Interview Questions to Make You Feel Stupid

Here are the kinds of questions you might be asked if you try to get a job with Google...

Be the Church?

I've long heard the statement "Don't go to church; be the church." Jeff Purswell has written an article showing why this is not good theology. "Now, despite the element of truth (God's people are the church), there are all kinds of things wrong with this statement. But behind the words is obviously someone's disappointment (and possibly disillusionment) with organized Christianity. And although I'd guess that many Christians would reject this false choice, their attitude to Sunday gatherings of the church may reveal a similar apathy."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Is Church Going to the Dogs?

Al Mohler wrote on an Associate Press article about American churches developing special services for congregants and their dogs. The story, reported by Gillian Flaccus, begins with Rev. Tom Eggebeen of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. Faced with an aging and declining congregation, the pastor decided to do something innovative — he started a service for both people and dogs, “Canines at Covenant.” Dr. Mohler's comments are helpful in the discussion of the topic.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guardian Angels

Randy Alcorn has written a great deal about heaven. On his website this week he addresses this question: Do you believe in guardian angels? He answers in the affirmative.

Stand By Me

This is a nice little video. The producers went around the world and recorded the song as performed by an international contingent of people.

Friday, October 23, 2009

In a Busy World...

This site offers amazing counters, showing just how quickly social media is growing. It boggles the mind. Our world and our lives are so very busy, noisy, and cluttered. We are bombarded by information. Into such a world comes God's truth. He says, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10, NIV).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Compassion Made Personal

A couple of weeks ago our church staff attended the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. There were a little over 12,000 church leaders in attendance. The speakers represented a wide spectrum of church sizes and styles. Several ministries were highlighted including Compassion International.

This video shares the work of Compassion in reaching out to the estimated 143 million orphans in the world with God's love and personal care and concern for their basic needs. At about the 3:45 mark of the video, you will see one of the most moving moments I have witnessed in a long, long time. You'll be blessed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tebow Sacked? USA Today calls his evangelical beliefs "unwelcome"

Mark Overstreet writes in his blog that Tom Krattenmaker, a contributor the the USA Today, who “specializes in religion in public life,” doesn’t understand much about it. In his op-ed column this week he blitzes Tim Tebow, his mission activity, his family’s mission organization, and other evangelical causes. Overstreet's article is a good response to USA Today's article.

Professor Claims God is Not Creator

Darrell Bock answers a recent article that claimed "Genesis 1:1 is not about creation of the material world but separation within it, removing God from being the Creator in line with the rest of the Bible and the literature of Mesopotamia." Dr. Bock's blog is an excellent resource for issues relating to Christian apologetics.

Review of the Greatest Show on Earth

During our current series on Christian apologetics, I have referenced Richard Dawkins, a leading voice in angry atheism. Challies Dot Com provides a review of Dawkins most recent book The Greatest Show on Earth.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How To Avoid Fatal Attractions

While written for ministers, this article would be helpful to anyone seeking to safe guard their marraige.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dan Brown's Errors

Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol, says that his books, while fictional, are grounded in fact. This article looks at 50 of his claims. Just a reminder that just because someone says "fact" does not necessarily indicate "fact." I personally enjoyed reading The Da Vinci Code. It's just important to be a discerning reader.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

International Blasphemy Day

Sunday we will share in a sermon - "If There Is a God, Why Are There Atheists?" - as we continue in a series on Christian apologetics. Al Mohler writes regarding a response to "International Blasphemy Day" and the darkness it embraces.

Ready for a day to honor blasphemy? According to press reports, September 30 is set as the observance of the first-ever International Blasphemy Day. This could be interesting.

The choice of September 30 looks back to that date in the year 2005, when the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad’s face sparked outcry and protests in the Muslim world and threats toward the West.

Now, as Religion News Service reports, the Center for Inquiry is planning a day of observances to mark the occasion. Ron Lindsay, a lawyer who serves as president of the Council for Inquiry International, said that the day was part of the group’s effort to expose religious beliefs to investigation. In the words of the RNS report, the goal is “to expose all religious beliefs to the same level of inquiry, discussion and criticism to which other areas of intellectual interest are subjected.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Definition of Success

Success can be hard to measure and maintain. I like this article from Mark Batterson in giving some simple, profound definition to succes: "Thought I'd share a few of my personal definitions of success. It's important to define success in biblical and personal ways. You need to know what you're aiming at or you will succeed at the wrong thing..."

Is God Dead? - Time Magazine (1966)

In light of our current sermon series on apologetics, Al Mohler's article is appropriate for this week. He writes, "John T. Elson's most famous article for TIME magazine appeared over 40 years ago, and it largely defined his journalistic career. His April 8, 1966 cover story, "Is God Dead?," became an icon of the rebellious and increasingly secular sixties..."
I enjoyed, years ago, getting to hear S.M. Lockridge address this issue. S. M. Lockridge, who preached in San Diego from 1953 to 1993, challenged the “God is dead” philosophy by saying, “Well, if God is dead, who assassinated him? What coroner was called? Who signed his death certificate? Who was so well-acquainted with the One pronounced dead that he could identify the deceased? In what obituary column did you find his name? And why wasn’t I notified? I’m one of the next of kin!”

Be Like David...Not Like Mike

Interesting article regarding a comparison of the Hall of Fame acceptance speeches of Michael Jordan and David Robinson from Voddie Baucham's blog: "There was a stark difference between the two acceptance speeches. As I listened to the two speeches, all I could think of was the old commercial catchphrase, "Like Mike... If I could be like Mike." Unfortunately, in this instance, Mike was the last person anyone should aspire to be like. This was definitely not a Michael Jordan highlight. Jordan's Speech was self-centered, indulgent, arrogant, and at times embarrassing. In contrast, David Robinson rose to the occasion and made a brief, inspiring, encouraging speech (see his speech here) that made his family, his team, and his friends proud. "

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

God Speaks

I ran across a set of photos taken by storm chaser, Jim Reed. The photo that accompanies this article is one example from the set. Like a great work of art, I pondered what this image said to me today. My first thought took me to the Bible verse that says, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10, NIV). Of course, the companion thought to that verse is, "He is God and I am not." I'm sure the officer in his patrol car felt a bit of that when he found himself facing off with the storm.

My second thought drew me to the verse that says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1, NIV). God's power and majesty are on display through His creations - "the Bible of His handiwork" - as one professor of mine put it.

The third thing to come to mind was the hymn God Leads Us Along. Bill Dagle wrote the background story of the hymn which adds further richness to it's meaning. He wrote, "It’s a fact of life that bad things do happen to good people. The challenge is to find the Lord, through the experience, and where He might be leading. Many times, our stubbornness and pride block the leading of the Lord in our lives. A crisis has a way of redirecting our steps, reorganizing our priorities, and giving us the opportunity to pave the road of life with lessons that might guide others who follow. Many hymns that we enjoy today were born out of the sorrows of yesterday.

In 1903, a song was published by preacher George Young entitled, God Leads Us Along. In the chorus, Pastor Young revealed the catalyst for the writing of the song when he wrote these words, "Some thru the waters, some thru the flood, some thru the fire, but all thru the blood, some thru great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long."

After many years of sacrifice, this country preacher and his wife had saved enough money to build a home of their own. Pastor Young was handy with a hammer as well as with a Bible so, in short time, a new home was completed. The many years of low pay and thankless hours would be but faint memories now. A dream that often seemed impossible had come true. The Young’s loved their new home, but loved the Lord all the more; and because of this, they continued their ministry of traveling and sharing the good news. It was during one of these trips that disaster struck. Someone, not in favor of Pastor Young’s ministry, set fire to the family’s home while they were away. When George returned, he found a pile of ashes. All his earthly possessions were now gone. Then Pastor Young remembered the priceless things that fire cannot destroy. In his suffering, he could see God’s leading and a greater appreciation of what really counts.

A bad thing had happened to a good person because of someone else’s sin. Like Job, this was an attack of Satan. Yet God was still leading, leading Pastor Young to write a song that has comforted untold thousands for over 100 years:
Tho sorrows befall us and Satan oppose
God leads His dear children along.
Thru grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes
God leads His dear children along."

My final thought on the photo was fairly simple - God says, "Don't go this way. Back up." God is always speaking and sometimes with great clarity and authority. Listen always for God...whether in the storm or in the "still, small voice."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years After 9/11

Michael Yon posts an interesting photo essay of the war in Afghanistan, eight years after 9/11.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Obama School Speech Controversy

The controversy over President Barack Obama’s speech to America’s school children continues to incite controversy. On the surface, this seems incredible. Why would a speech calling for students to remain in school and set personal goals for themselves incite any controversy at all? Is this just another eruption of the Culture [...]

Dr. Al Mohler comes through with a level-headed explanation of why there is so much controversy surrounding President Obama's speech to the students of America.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Greenback Effect

Warren Buffet, in an op-ed at the New York Times, shares some staggering facts. "Congress is now spending 185% of what it takes in; the deficit is a post WWII record of 13% of GDP; the debt is growing by 1% a month; the US is borrowing $1.8 trillion a year."

Wearing the Disguise of Faithfulness

Al Mohler writes in response to the recent vote of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

"Meeting barely a month after the Episcopal Church voted to end its ban on the consecration of openly homosexual bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] has taken similar steps. Meeting last week in Minneapolis, the Lutherans voted first to adopt a comprehensive statement on human sexuality that [...]

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The World of this Year's College Freshmen

This is the 12th year that Beloit College has assembled observations that help to identify the experiences that have shaped the lives—and formed the mindset—of students starting their post-secondary education this fall.

The Mindset List is not a chronological listing of things that happened in 1991, the year they were born. It is instead an effort to identify the worldview of 18 year-olds in the fall of 2009. Of course, our students come from many backgrounds and different traditions and these generalizations may not apply to all. The list identifies the experiences and event horizons of students and is not meant to reflect on their preparatory education.

It is also not deliberately designed to make readers feel really old!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fantasy Church League

Thanks to Trent for passing on this site...evidence of creative minds at work. There are fantasy leagues for everything else...

The site begins: "Churches have lost legions of men this year to the Football season. Your church numbers are down, you want to find a way to bring them back. Now you can! Offer the same level of excitement with Fantasy Church League. No longer will your congregants stay at home to watch the game to see how their players are doing. They'll be at your service, front and center, to make sure they get every amen and altar call stat they need for a winning season!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Questions/Answers on Reading the Bible

The newest Bible Study Magazine features an interview with John Piper. It might be helpful and encouraging to you in reading the Bible.

They ask him...
How do you keep from growing indifferent to the Bible when you're so familiar with it?
How do you approach the Bible?
How can we make time for the Bible?
How do you memorize Scripture?
Is the Bible easier for you to understand than for other people?
What would you say to someone who hasn't read their Bible in a long time?
Download the article to read his answers.

A Hymn for Ordinary Christians

Bob Kauflin writes about "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." "The story behind Great is Thy Faithfulness should encourage every Christian who thinks of their life as ordinary. There's no tragic story (think "It Is Well" by Horatio Spafford) associated with this hymn. It's just the fruit of a faithful man with a simple faith in a faithful God."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Hole in our Gospel

I just finished reading one of the most difficult books I've ever taken on. It is not for the "faint of heart." The author is Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S. since 1998. The title is The Hole in our Gospel. The idea behind the book is that American Christians must get beyond their insulated, isolated church buildings and Bible studies. They must get beyond themselves and genuinely, tangibly care for the rest of the world in Jesus' name.

Having spent time in the third world again earlier this year, I found that his descriptions are all too true. The issues of disease, famine, poverty, lack of education and spiritual darkness are all too real. The book challenges readers to step beyond feeling bad for the poor or simply changing the channel when the images come on the television screen. We must give and we can go and we all can pray. Let me share a few paragraphs from a concluding chapter. I challenge you to pick up a copy of the book and prayerfully read it.

Stearns challenges, "When historians look back in one hundred years, what will they write about this nation of 340,000 churches? What will they say of the Church's response to the great challenges of our time--AIDS, poverty, hunger, terrorism, war? Will they say that these authentic Christians rose up courageously and responded to the tide of human suffering, that they rushed to the front lines to comfort the afflicted and to douse the flames of hatred? Will they write of an unprecedented outpouring of generosity to meet the urgent needs of the world's poor? Will they speak of the moral leadership and compelling vision of our leaders? Will they write that this, the beginning of the twenty-first century, was the Church's finest hour?

Or will they look back and see a Church too comfortable, insulated from the pain of the rest of the world, empty of compassion, and devoid of deeds? Will they write about people who stood by and watched while a hundred million died of AIDS and fifty million children were orphaned, of Christians who lived in luxury and self-indulgence while millions died for lack of food and water? Will school children read in disgust about a Church that had the wealth to build great sanctuaries but lacked the will to build schools, hospitals, and clinics? In short, will we be remembered as the Church with a gaping hole in it's gospel?..." (p. 238-239).

Nine Things I Learned About God From Planet Earth

This is an insightful article summing up insights gained from the nature series Planet Earth. This summer, I hope you have opportunity to celebrate the beauty of God's creation. It is the Bible of His handiwork. The article begins:

"Planet Earth is widely regarded as the greatest nature or wildlife series ever produced. Says David Attenborough in the opening moments, “A hundred years ago, there were one and a half billion people on Earth. Now, over six billion crowd our fragile planet. But even so, there are still places barely touched by humanity. This series will take you to the last wildernesses and show you the planet and its wildlife as you have never seen them before.” And it proceeds to do just that, finding and filming some of the most exquisitely beautiful locations on the planet. The scenery, the panoramas, the creatures are absolutely breathtaking.
While the producers of the series are not Christians (or do not claim to be Christians) and while the films were not meant to draw attention to God, as I watched them I was continually drawn to marvel in the greatness of the Lord. As the films provided a tour of so many beautiful locations and as they gave close-up shots of such incredible creatures, I saw the hand of a Creator. I saw it everywhere.
I’ve since often reflected on what I saw in the series and eventually wrote down a list of some of the things I learned about God through Planet Earth. And today I’ll share that list with you.
I learned that our God is…"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The New Shape of World Christianity

Challies shares an interesting book review and summary from The New Shape of World Christianity by Mark Noll. The article begins, "Those of us who are Western Christians continue to hear reports that the church is migrating to the south and to the east--that as our nations increasingly turn their collective backs on God, God begins fresh work in other parts of the world. Says Mark Noll in his new book The New Shape of World Christianity, "It is as if the globe had been turned upside down and sideways. A few short decades ago, Christian believers were concentrated in the global north and west, but now a rapidly swelling majority lives in the global south and east...." Find the rest of the review here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Tech Bill of Rights

Interesting article from Fortune Magazine:
"Where is the line when it comes to appropriate cell phone behavior? Is it ok to talk in a crowded restaurant? An elevator? How about interrupting an actual, you know, face-to-face conversation to answer a call? Then there's non-voice communications: Is it acceptable to walk while emailing, bumping into people on the sidewalk en route? Texting at the urinal: It's potentially messy and definitely gross, but is it acceptable? Is it rude to keep reaching into your pocket whenever your BlackBerry buzzes?" There are some interesting stats here about how many of us feel others are being rude with their cell phone behavior but how few of us think we are being rude ourselves...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Laminin and Colossians 1:17

Sunday I shared an illustration for Colossians 1:17. It describes Jesus as the the One who "holds all things together." The illustration came from Louie Giglio. He is an excellent gospel communicator that never fails to bless my heart. There is a portion of one of his message on YouTube that has gotten a lot of play. It relates to this point from Colossians. It is the amazing application point regarding LAMININ.

Here is a simple definition: “Laminins are a family of proteins that are an integral part of the structural scaffolding of basement membranes in almost every animal tissue.” You see....laminins are what hold us together....LITERALLY. They are cell adhesion molecules. They are what holds one cell of our bodies to the next cell. Without them, we would literally fall apart.

This isn’t evidence the Bible is true or something like that but it makes a good point. What holds our bodies together is laminin. The Bible in Colossians says that in Jesus “all things hold together.” This YouTube Video has Louie sharing the story.

Ambidextrous Worship

Mark Beeson, pastor of great Granger Community Church in Granger Indiana, wrote a brief, inspirational article on "Ambidextrous Worship." It is a great reminder of the wholeness of biblical worship. It's much more than singing songs. It's pleasing the Lord God.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is Jesus God? - Sunday Sermon Follow-Up

Sunday we talked about the supremacy of Christ from Colossians 1:15-23. It is a powerful set of verses describing who Jesus really is. As a part of our discussion, I mentioned that there are religious groups today (as there were when Paul wrote Colossians) who dispute the core teaching in the Bible regarding who Jesus is. When examining any group, it is important to determine what they believe and teaching regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I mentioned the group known as Jehovah's Witnesses as one such group. While they are usually very nice people, they deny that Jesus is God. If they come to your door, they will often take you to Colossians 1:15 as a part of their argument. In that verse, Jesus is referred to as "the first-born over all creation."

David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas talked about this in a very clear and simple way. Let me share how he addresses this issue:

"At the time Paul wrote this letter, there were heretics teaching that Jesus was not God, but merely a super-human created being. Those kinds of heretics are still around today; and one group of them is called Jehovah’s Witnesses. There’s a good chance that at some time, you’ve had a couple of these friendly people knock on your door. They call themselves Christians, and they want to teach you the “real truth” about Jesus, and even give you a copy of their translation of the Bible. But they are heretics, because they do not believe Jesus is God.

I bring them up, because this verse, Colossians 1:15 is the main bullet they load into their false doctrine gun. They ask you get your Bible and turn to Colossians 1:15. Then they say something like, “See? It says doesn’t mean that Jesus IS God. It says He was the image of God.” Then they may show you a photograph of a person and ask, “Is that the person, or just an image of that person?” Then they have you read those words, “firstborn over all creation,” and then they say, “See, that proves Jesus can’t be God. It says he was the firstborn over all creation; that proves he was created and if he was created, then God created Him which means he can’t be God.” “Jesus was the image of God, just like we were created in the image of God, and he was a created man just like we are.” And a lot of scripturally ignorant church members say, “Hmmm, you may be right.”

Come on, church! All you have to do is read the next seven words and their false doctrine about Jesus crumbles like a house of cards. It says, “For by him all things were created.” No, the word “firstborn’ has nothing to do with act of being born–it’s all about position and privilege. The firstborn in a Jewish family received the inheritance. When Paul wrote that Jesus was the firstborn, he meant Jesus has the right to claim everything that belongs to the Father– even His deity! He is the firstborn OVER all creation. That means He’s the boss, the ruler, the king."

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Death is Not Dying"

Rachel Barkey, whose message titled "Death is Not Dying" became a bit of an internet phenomenon, went home to her Lord on July 2, 2009 at 37 years of age. If you have not yet heard "Death is Not Dying," this is a good time to do so. The video link is a message Rachel shared, knowing she only had a few weeks to live, having fought cancer bravely for some time.

This description appears on her website:

Rachel's story is not unlike what thousands of women around the world have experienced. A diagnosis that changes a woman's life and inevitably takes from her what we consider to be most precious. After four and a half years of vigilantly fighting breast cancer, the 37 year old wife and mother of two was diagnosed with terminal cancer. But for Rachel the essence of life is found in her relationship with God through Jesus. And that's why Rachel is convinced that death is not dying.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

God Bless America

Today we continued our series of messages in Colossians. The conclusion was a prayer for God's blessings on America. Here are the things included in that prayer:

· God bless America with a conviction of our own sinfulness.

· God bless America with enough pain and difficulty to awaken our need for God.

· God bless America with a love for Jesus Christ and desire to be like Him in all things.

· God bless America with a compassionate heart for the spiritually lost, the financially challenged, the forgotten, forsaken, the last, the least, and the lonely.

· God bless America with a caring heart for the world…that is poor, uneducated, the hurting and helpless…diseased and downcast.

· God bless America with a love for the things that God cares about most rather than just what profits and benefits us.

· God bless America with a clear sense of stewardship of our many blessings and an openness to sharing our blessings rather than hoarding them.

· God bless America with a moral compass to know what is right and wrong before God and the personal integrity to do what is right.

· God bless America with another chance to be a nation where the cross is central, Christ is worshipped and the church is making a difference in our land and in our world.

· Dear God…not because we deserve it…not because we’ve earned it…but I pray that as our hearts as your people…called by your name…humble ourselves and pray and turn back fully toward you…in your grace…that you would heal our land…we ask as we join together today…may Christ be exalted in us.

Founding Fathers

On a Fourth of July weekend, Mark Batterson, who pastors a church in Washington, D.C., offers a great perspective on the founding fathers of our nation.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Church: Love It, Don't Leave It

This is a well-written article on the place of the church in our modern America. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck are guest voices in the Washington Post, talking about the church. "Here's what Bono, Oprah, and the guru speakers on PBS won't tell you: Jesus believed in organized religion and he founded an institution. Of course, Jesus had no patience for religious hacks and self-righteous wannabes, but he was still Jewish. And as Jew, he read the Holy Book, worshiped in the synagogue, and kept Torah. He did not start a movement of latte-drinking disciples who excelled in spiritual conversations. He founded the church (Matt. 16:18) and commissioned the apostles to proclaim the good news that Israel's Messiah had come and the sins of the world could be forgiven through his death on the cross (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:14-36)."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Richard Dawkins Jumps The Shark

Al Mohler shares an interesting article on the world's most famous living atheist - "News out of Great Britain indicates that Richard Dawkins, perhaps the world’s most famous living atheist, is setting up a summer camp intended to help children and teenagers adopt atheism. As The Times [London] reports: 'Give Richard Dawkins a child for a week’s summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life.'..."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How Rude Was Jesus?

This week Mounce looks to Jesus' words to his mother at the wedding of Cana to seek to understand whether (as many have said) those words were rude. It's a question I have been asked several times and Mounce addresses it well in this article - How Rude was Jesus?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson's Love

The death of Michael Jackson is a tragedy on a number of levels. I may have more to say at some point but for now...this short article is a good thought-starter.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Prayer Challenge

Mark Batterson is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. He's doing a great work for God in a unique ministry environment. This week he shared a challenge with his congregation to pray this prayer every day. I wanted to share it and take it on myself:

"Lord, I pray for an opportunity to share my faith with someone in some way. It’s not up to me to decide who or when or where. But I know why. Because you love them and want a relationship with them. So Lord, surprise me with opportunities to share my faith. Forgive me for trying to do your job for you. You are the one who convicts of sin. You are the one who draws to Christ.

But help me do my part as salt and light. Help me see those opportunities to react compassionately or listen patiently or speak kindly. Through word and deed, help me plant seeds of love in the lives of others. Give me boldness when it’s time to speak. Give me restraint when it’s time to listen. Give me words to say. But more importantly, give me ears to hear. Lord, help me be sensitive to the prompting of your Holy Spirit so I can see the divine appointments you send my way. Help me not to be afraid of questions I cannot answer. Help me not to be afraid of people’s reactions or rejections. Lord, help me preach the gospel every day, when necessary, with words. In Jesus name, amen!"

Driving While Texting

Car and Driver Magazine tested how long it take to hit the brakes "when sober, when legally drunk at .08, when reading an email, and when sending a text." Here are the results: Unimpaired: .54 seconds to brake; Legally drunk: add 4 feet; Reading an email: add 36 feet; Sending a text: add 70 feet." I don't feel safe in my car anymore....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gossip Affects Your Spiritual Waistline

Chris Brauns: "Bits of gossip are like chocolate nuggets: smooth and creamy, they melt in your mouth: it tastes good to be in the loop; it is sweet to hear someone else notice the same weaknesses in another that have frustrated you; it feels spiritual to ask for prayer - - gossip and grumbling and complaining are a tempting treat."

How To Live Well Financially

Randy Alcorn offers wise counsel about making wise financial decisions. His site has great resources on topics relating to heaven as well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Enriching Prayer

Here is a great Puritan prayer, calling on God to allow the Christian to live a life filled with prayer, filled with grace, filled with the Spirit. Perhaps it would help give voice to your own devotion to God

Great God, in public and private, in sanctuary and home,

may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication,

each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood.

Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing praise.

Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence,
worshipping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.
I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee,

but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities,
rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice.

I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace,

that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment

because done against an infinite God,

yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible,

there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep.

Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits,

by causing Thy goodness to pass before me,

by speaking peace to my contrite heart;

strengthen me to give Thee no rest untiI Christ shall reign supreme within me

in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart,

overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee,

and ever clings to the cross. AMEN

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Source of Inspiration

I would encourage you all to visit the blog site of Stacie Smith. She and her husband, Jeff, are amazing people and incredible parents. Their son Gavin is in a battle with cancer. Stacie is an excellent writer who regularly challenges me in my walk with the Lord. Their family journey is a powerful testimony to the grace of God. You will want to read beyond this post and keep them lifted up in prayer.

Religion on the Brain

This article by Albert Mohler, addresses well an interesting article from Monday’s edition of USA Today. Readers were treated to an introduction into the sociobiology of belief. Mohler says, "Interestingly, this article appeared in the opinion pages of the paper — which is right where the article belongs. Andrew Newberg, associate professor of radiology and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that religion can be a force" [...]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Fire

Here is an earnest plea for people who are convinced they are Christians to examine themselves to determine if they truly love the Lord.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fun with Senior Adults

Sunday we talked about Caleb and his example during out sermon time. What a great man of God. He was still taking on mountains and giants at 85 years of age. The sermon began with a series of stories. Here is the humor section of the message:

Let’s take a quick look at what it means to be getting older:

· When I was a boy the Dead Sea was only sick. - George Burns
· I’m so old that when I order a three-minute egg, they ask for the money up front. - Milton Berle
· I don't feel old. I don't feel anything till noon. That's when it's time for my nap. - Bob Hope
· I’m so old that when I went to school they didn’t have history.
· You know you’re getting old when everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.
· You know you’re getting old when you try to straighten out the wrinkles in your socks and discover you’re not wearing socks.

The Washington Post asked senior readers to address how different things were in their day. We’ve all heard the stories but maybe not these that were contest winners:

In my day, we couldn't afford shoes, so we went barefoot. In winter, we had to wrap our feet with barbed wire for traction.
In my day, we didn't have hand-held calculators. We had to do addition on our fingers. To subtract, we had to have some fingers amputated.
In my day, we didn't have water. We had to smash together our own hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
Back in my day, '60 Minutes' wasn't just a bunch of gray-haired, liberal 80-year-old guys. It was a bunch of gray-haired, liberal 50-year-old guys.
In my day, we didn't have video games. If a one-eyed razorback barbarian warrior was chasing you with an ax, you just had to hope you could outrun him.

Three older ladies were discussing the trials of getting older. One said, “Sometimes I catch myself with a jar of mayonnaise in my hand in front of the refrigerator and can’t remember whether I need to put it away, or start making a sandwich”. The second lady chimed in, “Yes, sometimes I find myself on the landing of the stairs and can’t remember whether I was on my way up or on my way down.” The third one responded, “Well, I’m glad I don’t have that problem; knock on wood,” as she rapped her knuckles on the table, then told them, “Someone’s at the door, I’ll get it.”

Speaking of aging, I came across a comedian’s take on aging that I really like. It says, “Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we’re kids. If you are less than ten years old you are so excited about aging that you think in fractions. How old are you? I’m four and a half. You are never 36½ . You are four and a half going on five. That’s the key. You get into your teens and now they can’t hold you back. You jump to the next number, even a few ahead. How old are you? I’m going to be 16 and you could be 13, but hey you are going to be 16. Then the greatest day of your life. You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony. You become 21. Yes, but then you turn 30. Ooh, what happened there. Makes you sound like bad milk. He turned, we had to throw him out. There is no fun now, you just soured. What’s wrong? What’s changed? You become 21. You turn 30 and then you are pushing 40. Whoa, put on the brakes. It’s all slipping away. Before you know it you reach 50 and your dreams are gone. But wait, you make it to 60. You didn’t think you would, but you make it. So you become 21, turn 30, push 40, reach 50 and make it to 60. You built up so much speed now that you hit 70. After that it’s a day-to-day thing. You hit Wednesday. You get into your 80’s and every day is a complete cycle. You hit lunch. You turn 4:30. You reach bedtime. It doesn’t end there. Into the 90’s you start going backwards. I was just 92 and then a strange thing happens if you make it over 100 you become a little kid again. I’m 100½.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Little Evils, Little Sins

A great article making a comparison between the Pacific Campaign of the Second World War and our own personal efforts at overcoming sin in our lives.

The Gospel and the Gosselins

For followers and fans of Jon & Kate Plus Eight this article from Christianity Today provides interesting perspective.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Comfort Zones

Sunday, Jimmy Smith preached a great message - "You Have To Do Something" from James 1:22. I found it challenging and encouraging. Today we met for staff meeting for the first time in eleven years without Jimmy at the table as our Student Minister. I will miss having him in the office (and sitting beside me at staff meetings). I thank the Lord for his testimony of following the dynamic of God's calling on his life and the blessing he has been to my children and to me.

I heard his message twice since I was in both worship hours Sunday. I was reminded that there is benefit to hearing a great sermon and also to meditating on it later. He began by talking about things that keep us from making a difference and he addressed "comfort zones."

In my reflection on the message I jotted down several things this morning that I've observed and experienced about comfort zones. Someday this will become a sermon unto itself. Today it's just some quick observations:

Busyness keeps us from moving out of comfort zones. When we're too busy to think new thoughts and dream new dreams, we'll seldom take new ground for Christ.

Sinfulness keeps us from moving out of comfort zones. Jesus said that "men loved the darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil." Sin will leave you stuck in a dark comfort zone.

Selfishness keeps us from moving out of comfort zones. In the parable of the sower the word is sown but the "worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful." When it's all about "you" there's not much room for next steps with Jesus.

Fearfulness keeps us from moving out of comfort zones. Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water with Jesus until fear made him sink. The other disciples never stepped out fo the comfort zone of the boat.

Materialism keeps us from moving out of comfort zones. "The love of money is the root of all evil." How many steps of obedience are hindered by love of money?

Past successes keep us from moving out of comfort zones. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome is what worked really well in the past. I think of Samson after his "haircut." He awoke and said, "I will go out as before." Times had changed and what worked in the past was no longer possible. "He did not know the Lord had left him."

There's more to the list I'm sure. Feel free to offer suggestions.