Solus Christus Sola Scriptura Sola Gratia Sola Fide Soli Deo Gloria Solus Christus Sola Scriptura Sola Gratia Sola Fide Soli Deo Gloria Solus Christus Sola Scriptura Sola Gratia Sola Fide Soli Deo Gloria Christ Alone Scripture Alone Grace Alone Faith Alone Glory to God Alone Christ Alone Scripture Alone Grace Alone Faith Alone Glory to God Alone Christ Alone Scripture Alone Grace Alone Faith Alone Glory to God Alone

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As 2006 comes to a close, I'm sitting here thinking about 2007 and the future. This upcoming year is one in which I want to get closer to my Lord, my wife and my children.

I know that Jesus gives us all new starts and is gracious and merciful to us, but for some reason we only think that this is possible or only happens during New Year Day.

One of the most popular resolutions during this time of year is to lose weight. I've heard a statistic that in January, gym memberships are among their highest, but by summer, the parking lots are all but empty. Meaningful ideas that we start out with under our own power often fall short. I want to mention one thing that you can resolve to do that won't. Give or rededicate you life to Jesus. It will succeed because it will be something done under His power. It doesn't depend on our wilpower to be effective. That is the beauty of it!

So, if you haven't already done so, come to the tree and open the best gift of all; the one of eternal life.

For those of you who have languishing gym memberships, remember God is a God of second chances. If you are really looking to make a New Year's Resolution, make a commitment to God to be faithful and obedient to Him and for His glory.

Have a blessed new year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Reflections of Christmas

I hope that everyone had a great and blessed Christmas! I know that we did. I just love spending time with my family and the holidays give us such an incredible opportunity to take advantage of that.

I wanted to mention some books that I received, not for the sake of their importance, but for the sake of edification and education. In addition to the books, I received some really cool clothes and radio from my wife. My kids made awesome personalized ceramic tiles in school that were meant to be used to coasters, but I can't bring myself to set anything on them :)

I haven't read these books yet (since I just received them), but have heard a lot about them and have read innumerable reviews to know that they are a valuable resource, not just to someone aspiring to a become a preacher, but to any Christian who is serious in his or her walk with the Lord.

Anyway, these books are The 21st Century Pastor, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God and The Reformed Pastor. The following are reviews for them from's website.

The 21st-Century by David C. Fisher
In the 21st Century Pastor, David Fisher explores the apostle Paul's concept of ministry to offer a paradigm that is both biblical and relevant. Paul's view is fleshed out with examples from Fisher's own twenty-five years of pastoral experience, presenting a roadmap for today's pastor that is scholarly, practical, dynamic, and inspiring. The 21st Century Pastor first addressees crucial issues of pastoral identity, the significance of geography, time, and ecclesiology. It then explores Paul's metaphors for ministry (jars of clay, farmers and builders, servants and stewards, and others) to reveal an accurate portrait of an effective, biblical pastor--the kind who will speak to the heart of modern culture rather than languish on its fringes. Filling the rare role of a pastor to pastors, Fisher's sage insights help pastors answer their own identity questions, empowering them to minister to a deeply needy society. Says Fisher, "Pastors who know what time it is will, in the name and power of God, create communities of faith where the values of the Gospel are embraced, taught, and lived out."

Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J. I. Packer
In Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, J.I. Packer reveals that a faulty understanding of the Bible leads to the assessment that these doctrines are foes rather than friends. By debunking the erroneous view that "robust faith in the absolute sovereignty of God is bound to undermine any adequate sense of human responsibility" toward evangelism, the author adeptly moves through the obstacle course of tricky theology with ease and grace, allowing the reader a more complete understanding of the mystery of salvation. Packer manages to tackle an overwhelming piece of doctrinal truth and contain it within the subject of evangelism by concisely determining what evangelism is and what it is not. "It is our widespread and persistent habit of defining evangelism in terms, not of a message delivered, but of an effect produced in our hearers." This error is corrected when one is renewed in his or her knowledge of the sovereignty of God. Of course, fault is found on the other side as well, with those who so heavily rely on God's sovereignty to save the lost that they are lazy in obeying God's command to share the Gospel. Packer insists that love for God, at the very least, should draw one out of this stagnation and that the coupling of these seemingly diabolical doctrines will make one bold in speech, patient in God's timing, and prayerful for the salvation of others.

The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter

Baxter's time was not too unlike our own. Despite there being a large theological agreement that there must be discipline within the Church, very few leaders in the church are willing to carry it out. Baxter reminds us, and convincingly so, that we must do so for not only the good of the soul of the individual, but for the rest of the Church, and even ourselves. Most of the book rotates around the subject of discipline in the pastoral ministry. It also contains many other details concerning the ministry that would be good for any aspiring, or current pastor to read.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Glory to God in the highest for His wonderful gift of our Saviour! I pray that everyone stops for a moment to reflect on this beautiful gift of life that our loving God had provided.

Jesus' Birth in Bethlehem (from Luke, Chapter 2)

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

"This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Service

This morning, we had an incredible Christmas service. It involved traditional carols as well as a complete presentation of the birth of Jesus tied into the Gospel message.

Sometimes during the holiday season, I think that some pastors or churches present the "Chirstmas message", but are guilty of not presenting the message of hope or the reason for Christ's birth that accompanies it.

Statistics tell us that Christmas and Easter are the two greatest times when unbelievers visit a church. This could be due to a child or grandchild in a play or simply due to tradition. I remember that my parents, who were non practicing Roman Catholics would make sure that we went to Easter and Christmas service at the church. It seemed that God was OK with us not attending the rest of the year if we could just make it on the big two.

Anyway, I digress. Our pastor's message was rich with the hope and joy of the message of Christ's birth, but was as equally balanced with the reason for the need of a Saviour.

Well done, Brother Pat!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

P.E.A.C.E. on Earth?

I recently read an article in Christianity Today that included an interview with Rick Warren . I was interested in it because it referrenced the upcoming Saddleback Christmas special, "The Purpose of Christmas with Rick Warren." In sifting through the content, I came across the question...

What's the text you're going to be preaching on during
Christmas services?

Rick Warren's answer was...

This year, I'm going to preach on the purpose of Christmas. The three purposes of Christmas are in the three statements that the angel made at the very first Christmas.

First, he said, "Fear not for I bring you good news of great joy." Then he said, "For unto you is born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord." Then he said, "And peace on earth, goodwill toward men."

Now that's the three purposes of Christmas. The first purpose is celebration, the second purpose is salvation, and the third purpose is reconciliation. At the end, I'm actually going to talk about the PEACE plan and how to keep Christmas going all year—just do the 5 things Jesus did.

There's peace of God and there's peace with God and then there's peace with Man, once you have the first two.

Hmm... it'll be interesting to see how this plays out, but the all-inclusive P.E.A.C.E plan sends up a red flag for me.

Twelve Reasons for Christmas

In church last Wednesday, one of our pastors passed out a 1/2 page flyer on the 12 Reasons for Christmas. I think that it's helps people (myself included) to look beyond the "child in the manger" to comprehend the fullness and totality of what that night really meant.

It's from John Piper's Desiring God website and is pretty cool, so I wanted to post it here.

Twelve Reasons for Christmas
By John Piper December 25, 2002

1. "For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth." (John 18:37)

2. "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8; cf. Hebrews 2:14-15)

3. "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)

4. "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)

5. "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

6. "God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:5)

7. "For God so loved the world that whoever believes on him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16).

8. "God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." (1 John 4:9; cf. John 10:10).

9. "The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15).

10. "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against . . . that the thoughts of many may be revealed" (Luke 2:34f).

11. "He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed." (Luke 4:18)

12. "Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." (Romans 15:7-8; cf. John 12:27f).

© Desiring God

Friday, December 22, 2006

Il est ne, le divin Enfant!

"What's that?," you say. It's a traditional French Christmas Carol that I learned in High School. Yes, I took French and yes we were "allowed" to sing songs about Jesus.

For some reason, this song pops into my head at Christmas time. It's very catchy (OK, you'll have to trust me:) )

The chorus goes:

Il est ne, le divin Enfant,
Jouez, hautbois, resonnez, musettes;
Il est ne, le divin Enfant;
Chantons tous son avenement!

Translated, it means:

He is born, the divine Christ Child.
Greet Him with gaily resounding pipe and drum.
He is born, the divine Christ Child.
Join in song, for the Lord has come.

What a glorious thing it is to think upon the graciousness of our Holy God and of His love and mercy for us that He would condescend to be born in a lowly manger and give His life as a ransom for our sins.

Happy Birthday, Jesus and thank you for your love!

These Are The People In Your Neighborhood

From what I've been reading, it looks like the current Small Group model is having some problems. As a result PD churches are now turning to "neighborhood small groups"

Before, I continue, I would like to say that we used to be involved with a small group for some time, but now I teach adult Sunday School at our church. I love the concept of getting to know a group of believers and "doing life" with them. Heck, our class motto is "Doing Life Together, Not Just Church". We laugh together, cry together, go to birthday parties and baby showers, etc.

One other thing that we also do is learn together. We are a Sunday School class and we have biblically based lessons, not topical conversations based upon the general consensus of "truth". The Bible is the final authority, period.

OK, I'm off my soapbox, but with that being said, here is why they have problems:

Time - In church, there are set times. People that are there are people that can generally be there "at that time" to meet. Outside of church, not everyone gets off work at the same time; then there is extracurricular activities and travel leading people to generally have a group meet at 7:00 or so at night. If a group meets for 2 hours (1 for study and 1 for fellowship), as it gets later, children get fussier, still have to have baths, do homework, etc.

Granted can be made to work during Friday or Saturday evenings or Saturday or Sunday afternoons, but even then, there are the other factors mentioned below.

- When we had a small group, we had 20 people with 20 kids. Where can that size of group meet? Our houses were swamped, families rushed to clean house before and after meetings and were left tired after "hosting".

- This is actually a combination of things. In drawing people from a large church into a small group environment, people come from all over the city.

Does the small group rotate from member's house to member's house?
Do they live at opposite sides of the town?

A comment from Evanston Vineyard Pastors Blog says a lot...

But think about when the average housegroup takes place: about 7:30 at night, right around when kids need to go to bed. Unless you’re holding a sleeping baby, only one parent can make it to a housegroup with any consistency, while the other one watches the kids. So on a typical night, one or both parents come home from work about 5-6 p.m., dinner is made and served, dishes need to be done and kids need help with homework, and if you have any outside of family hobbies or interests, the only time to pursue them outside of the house is after dinner, and little kids seem to not like their parents being gone several nights a week before they go to bed. Whew!

Who has time for a housegroup where you can’t bring your kids? When would you have a housegroup where you could bring the kids? Not on Saturday afternoon, which is often the only time the whole family can do things together. Not on Sunday afternoon; you already had church in the morning and any errands you didn’t get done on Saturday have to get done.

My two year old is on my lap as I’m writing…our kids like to have us around, go figure. The only way they would tolerate (by tolerate I mean not be in tears when we left) an average housegroup (starting at 7:30 p.m.) was if it were at our house after they went to bed…which for us means ensuring a clean house, having a late night of clean up, nothing loud (no singing!) so they could sleep, and kicking people out at a certain time so we could get to bed to be ready for work (I get up at 4:30 a.m.) and for school (Cindy gets up at 6:00 to get our daughter ready). It’s too much.

A quick word about babysitters: They cost at the very bottom end $5 and hour. So a night with a sitter will cost you $15-20. That’s $45-60 a month for three housegroups. For us, especially when we hardly have any dates as it is, it’s a lot of money.

What we end up doing is what it seems all parents of small kids end up doing wherever we have been going to church: We get together on our own with other parents of small kids, on an irregular basis, with our kids, sometimes the whole family, sometimes just one parent and the kids. We hope the kids play togteher so the grownups can talk. Or we call each other on the phone in hushed tones at night, usually after a few nights of phone tag, and talk and pray together. We email a lot. We DON’T talk at church, which is too crazy. But we do many of the things Steve mentioned above, like celebrate (usually kid) birthdays (or marriage anniversaries!), go on family-oriented outings, eat together.

The answer to this is forming Small Groups amongst the people that are already close to you; the ones in your neighborhood. This brings a whole new set of things to be delt with that I'll discuss in a later post.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

U2 can go to our church

No, I'm not text messaging. This past Sunday, our "worship" team led the congregation in "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", a U2 song. When it was sung, something didn't seem right in my spirit. In reviewing the lyrics and taking into account the lives that Bono and U2 lead, although several of their songs are "spiritual" in nature, they don’t glorify our holy God in the least.

It seemed out of place to have a secular song with it's worldly undertones, being used for a message of hope for the world.

Our worship team usually does an awesome job in leading us into the presence of the Lord. It's the highlight of Sunday for us, but this was disconcerting to say the least.

For those not familiar with the words, here they are...

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I wrote an email to our worship pastor about it and am awaiting his response.

Passion for service cannot take the place of passion for truth

The fact that we are overrunning ourselves seems to be a very present issue that the church is currently facing. We gather people, connect them in community and live life, but are we missing one VERY IMPORTANT aspect of all of this? We help out, are there for each other, etc., but how are we doing on God's report card when we look at our passion for Him, His Word and Truth?

I'm not saying that we should not be concerned with people, by no means. Jesus died for us. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, but are we more concerned with the business of "God's kingdom" and not concerned enough with God Himself?

Benjamin Warfield said, "The grounds of religion must be taught and learned as truly as the grounds of anything else. Let us make no mistake here. Religion does not come of itself; it is always a matter of instruction. The emotions of the heart, in which many seem to think religion is too exclusively to consist, always follow the movements of thought. Passion for service cannot take the place of passion for truth, or safely outrun the acquisition of truth, for it is dreadfully possible to navigate sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, to find we have made him only a "son of hell".

This is why God establishes and extends his Church by the ordinance of preaching; it is why we have Sunday schools and Bible classes. This is why God has grounded his church in revelation. He does not content Himself with sending His Spirit into the world to turn men to Him. He sends His Word into the world as well. Because it is from knowledge of the truth, and only from the knowledge of the truth, that under the quickening influence of the Spirit true religion can be born."

From: The Chief End of Man (book intro, 19th century)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Following God

I recently came across a blog post that talked about the way to be a Christian is to leave the flesh and the world behind. The article talked about entertaining practices of some churches to make church seem more relevant, especially to younger people who may view "traditional" church as lame.

The article has well said that "In these churches, Christ doesn't call us to die to ourselves and the flesh, he comes to make the flesh happy. There is no call to a holy life through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not a movement that produces martyrs."

Last night I was reading a little through Foxe's Book of Martyrs and in reading through some of the persecutions that those saints of God went through, I wondered where people like these are today. It made me think, "Would I have the courage and conviction to stay true to my beliefs when faced with uncertain and unexplainable persecution and death?" I pray that the Lord would keep me strong enough in the faith and in Him to glorify Him should I ever be in a similar situation.

But I digress a bit...

Is this the generation that we are raising in church?
Is this the generation that we are?

...if not, we need to be.

There's an old song that goes like this...

I'll go with God and leave the world behind,
I'll go with God, in Him all things I find.
I've made my choice, His will I must obey,
I'll go with God and walk the narrow way.