Monday, March 31, 2008

The Challenge Before Us

I read some great stuff in a "rediscovered book" on my shelf, The Contemporary Christian, by John Stott. He is trying to put his finger on the how of living authentically in the world without practicing worldiness. In 1991, when Stott wrote this book, it was cutting edge. Now 17 years later, it is still appropriate -- maybe even more appropriate -- for us as church leaders to examine these possibilities. Chew on this today with me!

"Can we preserve Christianity's historic identity intact, without thereby cutting oursleves adrift from our contemporaries? And can we communicate the gospel in exciting, modern terms, without thereby distorting and even destroying it? Can we be authentic and fresh at the same time, or do we have to choose?"

Stott, p. 11

Chewing, tasting,


The Challenge Before Us

I read some great stuff in a "rediscovered book" on my shelf, The Contemporary Christian, by John Stott. He is trying to put his finger on the how of living authentically in the world without practicing worldiness. In 1991, when Stott wrote this book, it was cutting edge. Now 17 years later, it is still appropriate -- maybe even more appropriate -- for us as church leaders to examine these possibilities. Chew on this today with me!

"Can we preserve Christianity's historic identity intact, without thereby cutting oursleves adrift from our contemporaries? And can we communicate the gospel in exciting, modern terms, without thereby distorting and even destroying it? Can we be authentic and fresh at the same time, or do we have to choose?"

Stott, p. 11


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Glorying in Grace

Every once in awhile God will begin to highlight a really key area in my life. Then, so I don't miss it, he will bring a ton of confrontations and intersections with that truth. For me, right now, it seems to be "grace". I know that I have a theological definition of that word and can articulate clearly that "Grace is God's riches at Christ's expense" or "Grace is God's unmerited favor towards me". These definitions are seeming too trite to me recently. They are simple and easy to remember -- maybe too simple.

I hope that your understanding and appreciation of grace is growing as you study and search the Scriptures to understand what God is doing and how the doctrine of grace fits into that picture. The prophets, as they wrote Scripture, understood that God had a still-to-be-revealed plan. They got a whiff of it and couldn't get it out of their systems. They knew that smell -- it was a beautiful fragrance -- it was a scent of hope and empowerment and faith to handle whatever hardness that they might face -- it was "grace".

See if this lexicon definition of GRK charis helps you appreciate grace any more!
  1. grace -- that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech
  2. good will, loving-kindness, favour -- of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
  3. what is due to grace -- the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace; the token or proof of grace, benefit
  4. thanks (for benefits, services, favours) -- recompense, reward
Then read 1 Peter 1:13-16 to see how grace affects us:
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

So my definition is growing.
Grace is anything beautiful that you see in my life, which is exclusively the result of God's gift to me because He loves me dearly; I receive more of it every day as I place my trust in Him and He, in turn, conforms my heart towards His and away from my own fleshly desires.

And yet, this is still probably still too simple. I am willing to continue studying and growing in my appreciation of grace. This is one study that I am convinced I will never grow tired of.

Bathed in grace, the fragrance of Christ for men,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How to Drink Timmy Ho's to God's Glory

John Piper has challenged the 1 Cor 10:31 principles to the level of the ordinary. So, my trip to Tim Horton's may be either God-worship or idol worship!

Good challenge!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Proof That You Have Arrived

I just finished reading Yancey's book, What's So Amazing About Grace? He provides a great summary statement in his discussion of "Grace Avoidance" or legalism.

"In other words, the proof of spiritual maturity is not how 'pure' you are but awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door for grace."
Yancey, p.198

This quote, and this book, are good balancers for the lats post on testing your growth in teh area of wisdom. Unfortunately, we can get caught in the pursuit of the quantity rather than the quality. Wisdom pursuit, like humility pursuit, like holiness pursuit is a fleeting chase. As soon as we think that we have achieved our goals, we look and find that there is much work to do from here. Paul said it this way:

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-15

Still working at it (exercising my faith),
while the sanctifying Spirit guides/shapes/teaches me,
and until I get obedience of Christ to perfection,

Monday, March 24, 2008


I hope that your Easter was great and that you included some corporate celebrations of the greatness of resurrection. To celebrate our Savior and His sacrifice for us is so central for worship.

At Wyoming, we used the morning to celebrate the changes that the grace of God have accomplished in the lives of two couples. I was again impressed with the variety of the paths that God has led people along in. Each path has a shockingly similar crisis point. And then the paths diverge again. But each story has a common cord woven throughout -- the grace of God!

Then, as if to highlight these things, I finished the day reading "What's So Amazing About Grace?" by Philip Yancey. He discusses a great section of Paul's letter to the Romans (6-7). As Paul talks about grace, he knows that there are some people who are going to try and exploit grace-- to keep on sinning so that more grace can be given to them. Paul responds with some very pointed expressions -- "GOD FORBID!" Yancey summarizes/paraphrases this expressive thought in this way:

"No Christian resurrected to new life should be pining for the grave. Sin has the stench of death about it. Why would anyone choose it?"

-Yancey, p.186

and then

"Similarly, if we approach God with a 'What can I get away with' attitude, it proves that we do not grasp what God has in mind for us. God wants something far beyond the relationship I might have with a slave master, who will enforce my obedience with a whip. ... God wants something more intimate than the closest relationship on earth, the lifetime bond between a man and a woman."

- Yancey, p.190
Yancey then makes a quote from another writer, Clifford Williams,

"Discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace."

Wow. Amazing.

O Father,
Your grace still amazes me. Help me to allow my discipleship to spring from the seedbed of your grace and not my ability.

Springing up,


Thursday, March 20, 2008

When God Gives You a Boost

I love it when God gives you an affirmation that you are not crazy. Every once in a while, as I am out doing ministry, I get that feeling of "I wonder if I am heading in the right direction?"

You know, this is the the same kind of feeling that comes with a drive down an unfamiliar stretch of highway, heading for a critical meeting with zero minutes to spare, reading MapQuest directions that you are unsure about. And then you see it, your exit ramp sign or another clue that you are headed in the right direction and are on schedule. "Yes!" you say, and get excited about the trip and the destination all over again.

I got one of those "yep, your right on track" spots today at a pastor's seminar in Watkins Glen, NY. The speaker, Dr. Milo Thompson, formerly president of Baptist Bible College & Seminary, shared some key thoughts about how to navigate the culture around us. Here are just a few of the take-home ideas I got:

1. In many areas, God has said alot about function and not so much about form -- leaving us, and our creativity to figure it out for the people that we are trying to reach.

2. Everything that is healthy grows; not everything that grows is healthy.

3. People only make life change when they hear the challenge given to them in their heart language; we need to learn to speak their language.

4. We are too busy making cosmetic changes and not busy enough making systemic changes; systemic changes are the most important to moving forward in a changing culture.

5. Is it possible that we have become more separated than God is?

6. Contamination is not environmental. The best way to protect against contamination from the world is not isolation, it is vibrancy of yoru relationship with Jesus Christ.

7. A refusal to change or a holding on to the old ways of doing things limits your ministry, the size of its sphere of influence, and the number of people that you can reach.

I want to work feverishly to help Wyoming Baptist be a place of balanced Biblical outreach and ministry. I want to be about the work that God has called me to. I must be an active student of the culture around me -- not just the people who are like me. I am headed the right direction, but there is no road-side rest areas for me until I get to the destination!

Holding fast the faithful Word without compromise,


Monday, March 17, 2008

Why Do I Serve?

I had the opportunity to teach this weekend to about 80 people (teens and adults) on the topic of "Service". I taught the seminar 3 separate times. In the first 10-15 minutes of my session I laid the Biblical foundation for a life of full-time ministry for every believer. (Note: not the paid professional kind that I get to enjoy! LOL)

Q. Why should you serve in your local church?

A. It's just what Christians do.

Q. Why should Christians serve?

A. Because Christians are...

  1. Servants -- Because I have been redeemed by Master, I now no longer serve myself; I serve Christ! (Mt. 25:21,23; Ac. 27:23 + Ro. 1:1 (et al); Ga. 2:20)

  2. Disciples -- I am attempting in every way to more accurately reflect the character and actions of Christ, the True Servant. (Mt. 12:18, 20:28; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 22:42; Jn. 13:15-16)

  3. Worshipers -- My life is a continual active praise session to God who is worthy of my loyal service. (Ro. 12:1, 11; Co. 3:15-17)

  4. Witnesses -- By serving others, I am distributing the same kind of grace that I have recieved and building a bridge to those around me who need to hear about my Gracious Savior. (Mt. 5:16, 1 Co. 9:19; 2 Co. 9:12-14; Ja. 1:26-27)

  5. Members of the Body -- God has placed me in my spheres of influence (including my local church) for the purpose of exercising fellowship and connection. (Ro. 12:4-5; 1 Co. 12:18; Co. 2:19)

So, if you are not actively involved in the ministry team of your local church, why not? If you are a Christian, you have no legitimate excuse. If you choose to simply come and sit and soak in the same seat every week without exercising your faith in ministry opportunities all around you, then you are a "Christian cripple", handicapped only by your choice to be uninvolved. Be warned! God is not pleased! Church ought not to be a spectator's arena. Join in the ministry of your local church today! There are no exemptions from ministry.

Actively serving the Master,


Thursday, March 13, 2008

This is Only a Test

Have you ever fallen asleep watching that all-night John Wayne Movie Marathon and been wakened in the wee hours of the morning by the annoying sound of the emergency broadcasting system check? Drool running from the corner of your mouth, contacts dried onto your bleary eyes, and ears still ringing with that annoying tone (beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep), you wonder to yourself and maybe say out loud "What was that all about? Why did I need to go through that painful experience? Can we get back to the Duke here?"

No one likes to get into painful situations. However, painful situations will happen as you journey. The Israelites hit such a bottom point only three days out from the Red Sea. At the end of Exodus 15, they came to a spot on the map where they were without water and they found a shallow, small hole in the wilderness called Marah. Marah means "bitter" and this drinking hole was the reason for the name on the sign. As the Israelites got to this low spot in their spiritual walk, a couple of things happened:

1. They lost faith in God -- 14:31 said that they had faith in God and in Moses. then 15:24 declares that they complained against Moses. They couldn't see past the bad taste in their mouth. Moses fortunately doesn't join in on their chorus; he prays and talks to God about the situation.
2. God did something miraculous -- 15:25 says that God helped Moses know what to do next in this low spot of intense trouble. And Moses obeyed, thereby opening the floodgates for a miracle to occur.
3. God used this hardship to teach the Israelites a valuable lesson -- This place, Marah was a test point. It was intended to strengthen faith. The faith that was dropped as soon as the way became bitter was not genuine -- it was "blue skies and sunny" faith. The "blue skies" faith is a common commodity -- lots of people have that. The "bitter water" faith is fairly rare. The only way that you get it is at the low, hard spots of life.

The lesson that God was instructing the Israelites on was the standard by which God blesses or chastens his children:

"If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer." Ex. 15:26, NASB

One of the parts I love about this verse is that the LORD gets a new name -- Healer. He is saying that this test will determine whether I have to spank you or not. And if I do have to spank you (you failed the test) I will work to restore you and forgive you and make it whole again. He wants to heal us after He does the surgery necessary. He exposes the needs we have for surgery at the Marah test sites. He shows us that we are still immature or even diseased and then He sets about to bring correction and healing. What a great Physician!

Are you in a Marah location right now? God wants to use it to expose the bitter and make it sweet. He wants to heal the junk that you are carrying inside. Let him make the corrections so that the next time this comes up, you pass the test! Don't be like King Beltshazzar who was weighed and found wanting!

Do your work and then heal me, LORD,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Praise & Worship in Exodus

This morning in Bible Study, we read a portion of Exodus 15. For those of you who haven't been studying Exodus with us, Ex 15 is a song/psalm. It is abruptly inserted into the narrative immediately following the Red Sea crossing. The song is sung by Moses and the Israelites with a ladies' back-up tamborine choir led by Miriam.

The singers sang a song that I believe fits in the "Praise&Worship" genre. It has these features:

  1. It encourages group participation (not spectator sport)

  2. It celebrates God's character

  3. It celebrates God's activity on behalf of the singers

  4. It allows the singers to rehearse God's future plans for them and take ownership

  5. It builds, strengthens faith

  6. It calls God by His name (so that there is no chance that this can be a crossover love song)


  • What is your favorite praise and worship song?

  • How has God demonstrated his mighty arm in your life recently?

  • What aspect of God's character means the most to you right now?

  • What would you say that the difference between praise and worship is? Are they verbs or nouns?

Just remember, the words of this song should have been a great encouragement and a deterrent of any fussing or complaining about anything that might have happened on the path. But only three days later, the children of Israel are all in a knot because the water is bitter. Keep singing the songs of worship throughout the week! Praise and worship is not simply a Sunday activity!

Singing, making melody in my heart,


Monday, March 03, 2008

Check Out the Rebelution

Thanks to Todd for the link to a great site about two guys trying to change and grow radically.
Here's what they said that I think bears reprinting:

"But this is where the idea of “working for the Lord and not for men” comes in. We should never be doing hard things for the recognition and admiration of men, but only for the glory of God. Despite the numerous earthly blessings that accompany doing hard things our ultimate reward is in Heaven when we stand before our Maker and hear Him speak the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

God knows better than we do what a great reward looks like. He knows those who have already been rewarded by the praise and adulation of men, as well as those who have served quietly — far away from the limelight.

The point, however, is not to seek recognition or obscurity, but rather to seek the glory of God. A heart that longs for the praise of men more than the praise of God — whether prideful in receiving it or resentful in lacking it — does not honor God."

I think that was well said!
Here are some interaction points:
  1. What ministry do you enjoy that is really hard for you?
  2. What is it about that ministry that brings you the most joy?
  3. Are you content to have the glory of God (and the future glorification at that) be the only outcome?
  4. What area needs to be recommitted to the glory of God and not me?

Thanks Todd for the challenge to excellence. I hope others will join with us on this path of humble service given through gratitude!

Exploration via the internet

Hey readers (I hope that I still have some). I have been away on a long journey. It has included some really incredible moments and some really difficult moments. But I have been listening and growing and changing as I journeyed.

One of the things that I have learned as I have journeyed is that there is a lot of good stuff to be tapped in the information explosion called the internet. I think that we may have spent so much time railing against the darkness (please do not be hearing me to say that there is no darkness on the internet) that we have not been very creative about the proper and helpful use of the tool!

I have discovered facebook as I have been away from you all here at OpenMike. (Check out my profile!) And I have been dialoging with friends via blogs about stuff like the will of God, fasting, and churchplanting. I have had a music discussion with a new friend/potential ministry partner in Ithaca. I have downloaded podcasts about fasting, worship, etc. I have been involved in my local church and in Bible studies (where we actually turn the pages of the manual!!).

I am indeed a life-long learner! I love to connect ideas and see new insights in old familiar places. I love to make friends and challenge each other. These are a few of my favorite things (I feel a song coming on!!)

Thanks for coming back and checking on me. Thanks for not giving up on learning or growing. Thanks for being a part of the fabric of my life!

Learning, living, loving,