Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tombstone Options

Sunday we begin a new sermon series under the theme - One Month to Live. If you got word today that you only had 30 days to live, how would your life change? How would you spend your time? How would it impact your relationships? How would you prepare for eternity? What would you do that you’ve never done before? How would God want you to live those 30 days?

As a part of my preparation for the sermons in the series, I have spent some time thinking about what I would someday want on my tombstone. How would I want to be remembered - by family, by friends, and especially by God. That process led me to the "Tombstone Generator." It is a website that allows you to create your own tombstone. The process can be fun and can be serious at the same time. You can save the image. Go to: (About the Picture) One of our dear church staff members blessed me by placing this tombstone in my office. It makes for a lovely conversation piece.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Update to Earlier Post - Children Are Not The Problem...

By Staff Jan 28, 2009

WASHINGTON (BP)--In a victory for conservatives, House Democrats have removed more than $200 million that was targeted for "family planning" and contraceptives in the proposed economic stimulus bill, but those same conservatives say the bill still has pork, including $335 million for STD prevention education.

If I Hadn't Seen It Myself, I Wouldn't Have Believed It

Sunday we talked about biblical financial principles. One of those was to plan your spending. We would call that a budget. I budget is just telling your money where you want it to go instead of wondering where it went. Why don't we practice this discipline? What is the #1 enemy of planning?
We want everything NOW…we take part in what is called impulse buying. You go out and go shopping and you see something you really want and you buy it. You didn’t plan to buy it. It wasn’t in your budget to buy it. You just made an impulse decision. It is one of the major contributors to debt.
I shared an illustration the sermon that the entire advertising industry is geared toward impulse buying. They are trying to convince us consumers that we need everything now.
This week, an alert church member found an exception to this rule. It is a website that directs online buyers to possible sources for their purchases. At the top of their page they have this statement that amazed and thrilled me. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself.
"Shop responsibly. Have you put anything into your savings this month? If not then do you really need to buy something today?" Three cheers for these guys.

Children Are Not The Problem

Last Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on 'This Week with George Stephanopoulos'. As is usually the case on Sunday news programs, political leaders go on the shows to try and make a case for their policies and build support for upcoming initiatives. One portion of the Stephanopoulos/Pelosi interview bears our attentions.

Stephanopoulos asked the question, regarding the multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package, “Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?” This is Pelosi’s response, “Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is defending the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars of the forthcoming stimulus package are to be spent on “family planning.” Her argument is very simple. The economy is bad. Having babies costs money. Would-be parents need to save their money by not having babies. Fewer children being born means less strain on the economy in her thinking.

Do children cost money? Yes, they do. But the Bible says, “Children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD” (Psalm 127:3, CEV). On an occasion when people were holding children back from Jesus because they didn’t think children were important, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14, NIV).

Pelosi’s line of reasoning is troubling. Who else would she consider a financial drain on society? Would the sick, the elderly, the poor, or the handicapped create an additional financial burden on the “troubled economy?” Her view is selfish, shortsighted, and contrary to Scripture. It devalues human life created in the image of God and focuses instead on economic gain in the short-term…selfishness over people.

I think Speaker Pelosi might be more at home in the little village in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie that stars Dick Van Dyke. There is a character in the film known as the Child Catcher. Children are forbidden by law in the land of Vulgaria, and it's up to the Child Catcher to enforce this regulation. Under Pelosi, the position of “child catcher” might create new job opportunities for many like-minded people.

Today I say, “Thank you God for children.” They do cost money to raise and educate and care for. It is also true that children grow up to pay taxes, find cures for diseases, serve communities and families, and love and know God. Whatever cost they bring now is an investment in the future of our country.

Pray for our nation’s leaders in this time of transitions. Many of the choices being made just now are troubling and would lead to dangerous and ungodly places.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fifteen Pro-Life Truths to Speak

John Piper offers fifteen pro-life truths to speak. These make for good conversation points with Christians and non-Christians alike. From this site you can explore several recent articles from Piper on the topic of abortion.

Digging out of Debt

In Sunday's sermon we talked about "Finding Financial Freedom." Specifically, we need to be free from debt. While illness and job transtions can move us into financial crisis, most of the debt problems people face come from simply spending more money than we make. Those expenses that drive us into debt are not so much house payments, car payments, and electric bills. Debt is more likely to come from eating out, buying toys (for adults this may include bigger TVs, fancier phones, more shoes) and one Diet Coke or Starbucks purchase at a time.

Sunday we used a video clip of an old Saturday Night Live skit with Steve Martin. It can be found in several places. Here's one link you can follow just in case you missed it or wanted to seee it again

I’m talking about more than just financial problems. This issue has eternal implications. There’s a far more important reason in dealing with this subject we’re going to look at than just relieving the stress in your life. Did you know that the Bible says God measures your spiritual maturity by how you handle money? Did you know that the Bible says that God measures and evaluates how much He can trust you with spiritual blessing according to your money, how you handle your finances? Did you know that what you do in heaven – the assignments and rewards and responsibilities you’re given in heaven – are in direct relationship by how wise a manager you are of your finances and possessions you are while you’re here on earth? It’s true. I didn’t say this. Jesus did. "So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?" (Luke 16:11, NIV).

The Bible says that the way you manage your money influences how much God blesses you spiritually, how much He trusts you with spiritual blessings. He says if you’re not responsible with your pennies and your dollars and you’re not very responsible with the physical and material possessions God gives you then He looks at you and thinks, “Then I can’t trust you with spiritual truths and spiritual blessing and spiritual responsibilities not only here on earth but for forever in eternity.” How you manage your money has eternal implications. It’s a big deal.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Early Leader for 2009's Weirdest Headline

This story comes from Fox News. It explains a lot about the current condition of France. The headline is, "Clinically Depressed Poodle Mauls Former French President."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Do You Need A Do-Over?

Having officiated at weddings for many years now, I do feel for President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts in their struggles with the oath of office at Tuesday's inauguration. I know that a nervous bride or groom have great difficulty repeating vows. My policy is to only give them three or four words at a time to repeat (and back up to one or two words in some situations of nervousness). Repeating the presidential oath of office must surely inspire a case of nerves nearing the level of a new bride and groom.

The news story today reads, "WASHINGTON – After the flub heard around the world, President Barack Obama has taken the oath of office. Again. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the oath to Obama on Wednesday night at the White House — a rare do-over. The surprise moment came in response to Tuesday's much-noticed stumble, when Roberts got the words of the oath a little off, which prompted Obama to do so, too. Don't worry, the White House says: Obama has still been president since noon on Inauguration Day. Nevertheless, Obama and Roberts went through the drill again out of what White House counsel Greg Craig called "an abundance of caution."

Sometimes it's nice to have a chance to start over, to start fresh, to begin again. Through relationship to Jesus we have just such an opportunity. We have multiple opportunities all along the way in life. The only problem is we don't "do the do-over."

President Obama didn't have to take the oath of office again. He had plenty of other things he needed to do yesterday in his first working day as President of the United States. He could have said, "It will all work out." He could have leaned on pride and said, "I'm going to just pretend the flubs didn't happen." He could have said, "I have other things I need to attend to of greater importance just now." He stopped and backed up and got it right (though I do wish he had done it with his hand on the Bible the second time as well).

What do you need to "get right" today...with your friends, your family, your spouse, your past, your present, your future, your God? You can put it off because you are taking care of more pressing matters; too proud to admit there is a problem that needs addressing; or maybe you just think it will somehow work out on its own.

What do you need to "get right" today? What's stopping you? What will you do about it?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Every Prayer is Not Necessarily Prayer

This was the much publicized "other prayer" connected to the Presidential Inauguration. He doesn't appear to know to whom he is praying nor much about the truth found in the Word of God. We have long played a game with our kids in things like this called "Find the lie." The challenge we give them is to find the things that are contrary to God's truth. They may be cleverly hidden. So...find the lies.

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
Opening Inaugural Event Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…
Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

Fireproof (the movie) 60 Seconds

You may have already seen the movie "Fireproof." It is a powerful presentation with a message marriages need. We will share the movie at our church on Saturday, February 7. The producers of the film have put together a sixty second version of the movie. It will give you some idea of what to expect. It's the "Cliff Notes" version.

Being Pro-Life Christians Under a Pro-Choice President

This link (click on the article title) will take you to a sermon preached by John Piper after Bill Clinton was elected President. It's message again speaks well as we enter into the "pro-choice/pro-abortion" Obama administration.
The new White House website, shares the President's position on abortion ...along with positions on gay marriage and other issues of importance to citizen believers.

Facebook is Everywhere...

Rick Warren Inauguration Prayer Transcript

Almighty God -- our Father. Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.’ And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African-American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King, and a great cloud of witnesses, are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice-President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.
Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom, and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes -- even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation, and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day, all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.

We now commit our new president, and his wife Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life -- Yeshua, Isa, Jesús, Jesus -- who taught us to pray: Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"I do solemnly swear..."

This morning, my son Austin is somewhere under the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. with a school group. He is enjoying the cold and a unique event in the history of our nation. "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." This is the presidential oath of office, as specified by Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution. When Barack Obama repeats these words as intoned by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts this morning, he will become our nation's 44th president.
Today, there are enormous crowds applauding and a series of inaugural celebrations to fill the rest of the day. There is the excitement for the new first family of moving into the White House. Today is an amazing day in the history of our nation as the first African American takes the oath of office. We live in a great land and at a great time in history.
Tomorrow, the excitement of today will yield to the realities of "being" the President of the United States. President Obama will inherit two wars, a broken enonomy, an unstable Middle East, an ineffective Congress, the rising threat of radical Islam, and a host of other domestic and international issues that will call for his immediate attentions.
I've often told young couples that "being" married is a whole lot more fun than "getting" married. As hard as the presidential campaign has been, being president will be much harder than running for president.
God calls us to pray "for kings and all those in authority" (1 Timothy 2:2). Have you prayed for our new president this morning? He will surely need our prayers in the days ahead. Max Lucado has produced a simple list of things to pray for Mr. Obama as he taeks office. You may find it helpful in guiding your prayer for him.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Debt is Not Your Friend

The sermon on Sunday continues a series on managing our money in biblical ways. Getting a handle on debt is vital to honoring God with your whole life. The Bible says, "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7, NIV). The word translated "servant" could also be translated "slave." Debt is a cruel master and it does tell us what we can and can't do.

Here's a counter-cultural statement: "Debt is not your friend." Lot’s of people want you to believe debt is your friend. It enables you to buy a house and a car and lots of other stuff. It must be your friend…right? That line of thinking is why you may be a slave to debt. If you are going to defeat the debt monster you have to come to believe that debt is your enemy and you must attack it.

If you are in debt let me make some suggestions:

  • Make a commitment…in writing to yourself, your family (if you have one), and to God that you will begin today to climb out of your financial hole.
  • Find a plan that works for you and stick to it. We are offering Financial Peace University as a great way. There are other such resources too. You need a plan.

  • Spending money can become an addiction…a way to medicate pain. Seek help with your pain.

  • Give up your credit cards if you are not paying them off at the end of the month or not aggressively paying them down.

  • Identify your addictions and put that money toward debt reduction – Starbucks, Diet Coke…the big money for debt reduction is in the little money.

  • Record every penny in a spending log. You can't get a handle on debt until you know where your money is going. See the truth, evaluate it. Develop a strategy. Most money problems come from troubles with the “miscellaneous” budget category.

  • Commit to a 30 day extra purchase wait list. Impulse purchases are a huge contributor to debt.

  • Do for yourself what you are currently paying someone else to do such as yard, house cleaning, storage building rentals, etc.

  • Determine the difference between needs and wants.

  • Take full responsibility for your own financial future. Don't blame everyone else.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Praying for the President-Elect

We are now one week away from the presidential inauguration. There are many questions swirling around the new administration. What will come with the first 100 days? How will the war in Iraq and Afganistan be impacted? What will happen with the economy? How will the president deal with international crises like Gaza and Iran?

More than ever before, President-elect Obama needs our prayer support. Regardless of our political leanings, we have an obligation before God to pray for our nation's leaders. If God's people aren't praying for the president, who will?

Max Lucado has produced a simple list of things to pray for Mr. Obama as he prepares to take office. You may find it helpful in guiding your prayer for him.

Monday, January 12, 2009

285 Years Ago Today

I read an article by Mark Batterson this afternoon. I had heard these things before and wanted to pass them on today. On January 12, 1723, Jonathan Edwards made a solemn dedication of Himself to God. It was one of the defining moments of His life. And

Few people have left the kind of legacy that Jonathan Edwards did. He is famous for his sermons, including Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, that helped spark the Great Awakening. He graduated from Yale at 13 as valedictorian. After graduating, he is said to have studied thirteen hours a day. He also served as President of Princeton. But the thing I find most impressive is that he spent one hour every evening with his eleven children. He prioritized his family and the results speak for themselves. Of his known descendants, more than 300 have become ministers or missionaries; 120 became university professors; over 100 became lawyers; 60 became prominent authors; there are 30 judges, 14 college presidents, 3 members of congress, and 1 vice-president.

How would you like to leave that kind of legacy?Back to January 12, 1723. Edwards gave himself to God with these words: "I made a solemn dedication of myself to God, and wrote it down; giving up myself, and all that I had to God; to be for the future, in no respect, my own; to act as one that had no right to himself, in any respect. And solemnly vowed, to take God for my whole portion and felicity; looking on nothing else, as any part of my happiness, nor acting as if it were; and his law for the constant rule of my obedience."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Money, Money, Money

Are you trapped in the tyranny of things? It can happen to any of us at any age. A wealthy man was moving into a new house, and his next-door neighbor happened to be a Quaker. The Quakers, as you know, believe in simplicity and plainness of life. The Quaker neighbor watched as the movers carted in numerous pieces of furniture, a great deal of clothing, and many decorative pieces. Then he walked over to his wealthy new neighbor and said in his quaint Quaker way, “Neighbor, if thee hath need of anything, please come to see me and I will tell thee how to get along without it.” Jesus would have agreed with that advice, for He said one day, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15, NIV).

It is easy to get wrapped up in our stuff. It comes naturally to us to be materialistic. We want more stuff, better stuff, newer stuff, the stuff our neighbors have and the stuff we see advertised on television. We spend huge amounts of time and energy worrying about our stuff, protecting our stuff and caring for our stuff and cleaning our stuff.

Today we began a January sermon series to try and address our obsession with the "kingdom of thingdom". We are in uncertain times economically. One thing that can happen in such times is that anything we don't have tied down tight...anywhere in our financial life where our house is not in order, our shortcuts are revealed quickly.

We want to do all we can as a church to provide practical help for getting our financial health in place in 2009. In addition to our sermon series, we are offering Financial Peace University. We have tapes of our friend, Bruce Ammons and his Conquering Debt God's Way seminar available for check-out. Here are some good Christian websites with abundant resources to help as well:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christian Testimony on the National Stage

If you watched the Orange Bowl National Championship game, it was hard to miss the Christian testimony of Tim Tebow. Every close-up on his face from the beginning of the game to the interviews at the end showed "John 3:16." He shines for Christ when the cameras are on him and when no one else is watching. He is the real deal when it comes to living out his Christian life.

A couple of recent articles tell more of his story, you might be interested in hearing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The "Atheist Bus Campaign"

This morning's New York Times tells us about an atheistic advertising campaign being waged on city buses. "There's probably no God," the ads say. "Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." For a great response to the "Atheist Bus Campaign" you might like to visit this article byAl Mohler

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tuned In To God in 2009

What difference would it make in your life in 2009 if the first thing you did every morning as your feet come out from under the covers and hit the floor…what if you said to God, “Lord, today You will have all of me there is to have.”

C.S. Lewis said, “The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”

Prayer first thing just sets my life in order for the day. It establishes that God is in control and His voice is the one I’ll be looking for all day. I usually begin, even before I get of bed in the morning with my “Snowflake Prayer.” It goes, “I give myself anew to You this day; All that I am and all that I have; To be totally and unconditionally Yours for Your using. Deliver me from myself. Mold me into the image of Your Son. And use me up today. As You will, when You will, where You will, with whom You will. Be glorified in my life this day.”

John Bunyan wrote, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” When should you pray? I have found that I should pray every day and early in the day…lest the day get away from me and I get away from God.