Thursday, December 21, 2006
The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn't know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's angel spoke in the dream: "Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—'God saves'—because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:18-23, The Message
Monday, December 18, 2006
I read the book this movie is based on and really liked it. It's definitely not a preachy book. Rather, it allows you to watch the main character wrestle with good and evil in a believable way. The ending is quite surprising too. I highly recommend the book. I can't wait to see the movie! Click on title link and watch the trailer. It's cool! ripple)) Darien
THR3E, the best selling novel by Ted Dekker, is coming to select theaters on 01.05.07.
WHAT IS THR3E ABOUT?
When a young seminary student is targeted by a psychopathic killer, he joins forces with a criminal psychologist whose brother was murdered by the same madman. Together they must unravel the killer's riddles and catch him before he strikes again, but the closer they get, the more twisted the path becomes. This heart-pounding thriller will keep you guessing up until the final shocking scene! Watch the trailer now: http://foxfaithmovies.com/thr3e
WHY SEE THR3E?
Here is what Ted has to say about THR3E:
This film is an exploration of Romans 7 in which Paul describes the struggle with sin we all face on a daily basis by stating, "The good that I would, that I do not, but the evil I would not, that I do." It struck me while setting this story up that there are 3 personalities in this sentence, the good, the evil and the 'I', that soul struggling between good and evil. Much like the age old picture of a person with an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Over the last several months I have become much more aware of the AIDS pandemic. Yes, I have heard that AIDS is a problem. I think I just pushed it back in my mind as one of the many overwhelming problems world-wide that we are bombarded with daily.
However, God has been working on me on this problem. So I have taken the first step (or two)--Taking time to listen and learn more about the disease that is killing 8,500 people world-wide every day. This isn't 9/11. This isn't the tsunami. This is those two combined plus but every day. This is sobering.
I hope you will join me in opening our eyes, educating ourselves and praying in an effort to discover what it is that God wants us to do as a result.
From the Google Blog:
You might have noticed from the Google homepage that today (Dec. 1st) is World AIDS Day. We want to remember all those who have suffered from HIV/AIDS in the 25 years since it was first identified, and we want to support everyone working to eradicate this scourge: Today, there are about 40 million people living with HIV worldwide, and it is increasing in every region in the world. In Africa, it is the leading cause of death -- 5,500 Africans die each day from this insidious disease.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Thank you for your ability to know all--all the time. You can listen to everybody on the planet (over 6 billion) at the same time. Personally. Without missing any details. And remember it. And you can do that for every day throughout all of history and the future--at the same time. Because you are outside of time. Wow God.
Thank you for your creativity when see my 7 & 9 year old girls pictures or talk to them as they stall going to bed. I thank you for your incredible size as I look at the stars at night and realize that there are billions--and you know them by name; that you hold the universe in your hand like a mustard seed.
Thank you for loving me first. When I was so unlovable. Hateful, actually. Rebellious. Self-centered and self-absorbed. Arrogant and ignorant.
Thank you for your mercy as I realize that I don't even deserve to live a difficult life--much less a great, comfortable life like I enjoy. I actually deserve the results of my sin. Guilt. Distress. Death. But because you made a way for me to get back to you through the cross of Jesus Christ, I thank you for being the God who saves his people from their sin. I thank you for your son Jesus.
Thank you so much.
May the rest of my life be a living "Thank you" card from me to You. Thanks for being You.
"But God demonstrates His love in this; that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." ---Apostle Paul, Romans 5:8
Thursday, November 16, 2006
It was at this point in our discussion that our missionary guide piped up. He asked us, in the presence of this proud student, "Do you like canned food or homemade better?" No one really responded. He said, "I like homemade best. Made from scratch is just better. Somehow, I just think our sermons ought to be the same way."
I've never forgotten those words. They dovetail nicely with what Ruth Barton shared in her article (see below) when she wrote,
"Spiritual leadership flows from the leader seeking after God through spiritual disciplines. Solitude and silence are two such disciplines that enable us to experience a place of authenticity and invite God to meet us. In them, we are rescued from relentless human striving so that we can experience the life of the Spirit. We give up control and allow God to be God in our lives rather than being a thought in our heads or an illustration in a sermon." http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2006/003/14.75.html
I guess this hits home in my heart because for over 10 years I've struggled with the extremes of this point of view. Wanting to deliver a clever and profound word from God so badly that I would use content from other authors or preachers to make my own messages seem more...clever. As a result, I was just feeding my ego instead of leading people to the waters of community and intimacy with God through his word. In affect, I was relying more on the clever skills of my peers than on the Spirit of the living God.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."
1 Cor. 2: 3-5 (NIV)
Barton's words serve as a challenge to all of us who would settle and let the words of others replace the words of God in our messages. May we repent from spiritual arrogance and meet God needy and humble in the closet where he waits ready to speak to us words that nourish the parched and famished soul.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
"There can be no compromise. Those who look to us for leadership need us to be spiritual seekers. They need us to keep searching for the bread of life that feeds our souls so that we can guide them to places of sustenance. Rather than offering the cold stone of past devotionals, regurgitated apologetics, or someone else's musings, we must offer bread that is warm from the oven of our own intimacy with God." Is My Leadership Spiritual? by Ruth Haley Barton
Believe me, it is easy to get caught up in the urgent and forsake the important "baking time," if you will, of reading, praying and studying God's word. Pray for your pastor, youth pastor, elders, deacons, SS teachers, small group leaders, etc. that they wouldn't get trapped into just "preparing a lesson" but that they would truly seek intimacy with God.
For full article, click here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2006/003/14.75.html
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
It grieves me whenever leaders fail morally. We have such a great responsibility. So many are hurt by it. The name of Christ is drug through the mud.
I guess what's so scary is that we are all capable of such atrocious sins. So I hope we won't climb onto our high horse and start denouncing his actions self-righteously. I hope we'll pray for him and the hundreds of other leaders who are tempted in the same way each week. They need our prayers. Lord have mercy on us, your children.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Anita and I had just moved to Tampa, Florida, years ago, and were looking for the church we felt God wanted us to become a part of. We'd visited three churches that were okay. But we really weren't excited about any of them. Since we were tired of visiting, we tentatively settled on one.
Then one day we drove by a church we hadn't seen before. We decided to give it a try as we sensed that it had great potential to be our next church home.
Our first Sunday was very good. Joe met us at the car and walked us straight to the preschool area where we dropped off our daughter. He took us everywhere we needed to go until we were settled. Joe was terrific!
The service was warm, the people encouraging, and the music inspiring and Christ-centered. We were greatly encouraged by what we experienced that Sunday and settled that day on that church as our new church home.
There was a point in the service where I felt God's presence like I haven't felt often. I was singing a song and it's like it hit me: this is the church family God wants for my little girl; for my family. My eyes welled up with tears as I felt extremely close to God. Like He'd personally led me (us) to this place. That realization of what God did for us that day moved me to worship Him with great joy.
What's interesting about that day is that when what God did for me registered in my pea-brain, I was moved to worship. I mean, really worship. No, I didn't fall on the floor or even raise my hands. I sang the same songs that I had likely sung before. But my heart was full of joy and awe of who God is and with gratitude for what He'd done for us. Time seemed to stand still and I soaked in the moment.
In light of this joyful worship experience, why does the thought of worshiping God in heaven for eternity bother me? Let's look at our heavenly worship examples, angels, for a clue.
The seraphim (literally "flaming ones") kneel before God's throne crying out, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." (Isaiah 6:3)
The apostle John sees an army of angels, "numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:
'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'" (Revelation 5:11-12)
As a seminary graduate, long-time youth pastor, and now rookie pastor, I know that I'm supposed to worship God and really find joy in it. I realize that it's all over the Bible and that it's "the right answer" to love God by worshiping him with other Christians.
But sometimes I don't feel that way.
In fact, a lot of times I don't. And then to think about heaven I find myself not too excited because I think (wrongly) that heaven is just going to be one eternal church service. That would be a major bummer.
So here I am thinking about these angels. They are singing praises to God and are filled with joy. "You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly," (Hebrews 12:22) Wow. So why do they enJOY worship so much?
I'm just thinking out loud here but I wonder if it's kind of like my experience in Tampa. We'd been in several good churches there and had "worshiped" in each of them. But when I went to the last one, I worshiped deeply.
What was the difference? I think it was because I was more aware of God's presence in my life and His personal love for me and my family. As a result, I WANTED to sing praises to Him. My goodness, when was the last time I had cried in church during a worship song?!
So, as I think about praising God in heaven the thought occurs to me--will I enjoy praising Him more there? I think so because in heaven I will be much more aware of who He is, what He has done for me and how truly great He is. In other words, the distractions and lack of perspective that kills my worship so often here on earth will dissolve as I find myself in the presence of God Himself there in heaven.
So what? Well, now I understand that when I don't feel like worshiping God, it's not because God isn't worthy of my worship. It's because my perspective is blurred or obstructed making it difficult for me to appropriately praise Him.
Now what? I know that in my reading and studying of God's word, I need to be on the look out for all it says about who God is and what He's done. That's studying His character and attributes. An excellent book to help on this is Knowing God by J.I. Packard.
Sometimes I'll read through a Psalm and in my prayer journal write down all the attributes of God that I see in the passage. I learned this by using Louie Giglio's Thirsty Journal.
It also means that as a father I need to continually alert my girls to these attributes of God wherever I see them. When someone exercises mercy, I remind them that God is merciful. When justice is properly carried out in court, I remind them that God is just. When they receive an unexpected gift, they are reminded that God is the great giver and is gracious to all. When God blesses our family, it's a reminder that as He is a Blessor, so we are to be a blessing to others. And so on.
Reality check: If you don't know the God of the Bible, you won't feel like worshiping Him. So dig in and get to know Him. Then when you have a chance to worship Him with other Christians, reflect on who He is and what He's done and let your gratitude become joy as you praise Him together in Christ.
If you need help with knowing Him, click here.
"God help me join the angels in true worship more regularly. Help me rejoice continually in who You are! Help all of us truly connect and worship You as You designed us to do. I pray this in the name of God's Son and ultimate gift to humanity, Jesus Christ, amen."
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory."
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," Hebrews 11:1, NIV
What is Faith?
"Faith is believing what you want to believe, yet cannot prove."
Sadly, many people, including some Christians, live with this definition of faith. For some it feels liberating. It means being able to believe in anything you want to. No explanation is required; indeed, no explanation can be given--it is just a matter of faith. For others, such a definition is sickening. Embracing faith means you stop thinking. As faith increases, reason and meaning eventually disappear. No explanations can be given, and none can be expected. Thus, living in faith is living in the dark.
For both groups, the problem is the same. By starting with the wrong definition of faith, they have asked the wrong question, are dealing with the wrong problem, and so have ended up with the wrong answer. Faith is not wishful thinking. It is not about believing in things that do not exist. It neither makes all things believable, nor meaning impossible.
So what is the right definition of faith? "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," writes the author of Hebrews. A few verses later faith is similarly defined as knowing that God exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
Perhaps the best word we can use to translate the Greek word pistis (usually translated faith) is the word "trust" or "trustworthy." Suppose you tell a friend that you have faith in her. What does that mean? It means two things. First, you are sure the person you are talking to actually exists. And second, you are convinced she is trustworthy; you can believe what she says and trust in her character.
It is in this way that the writer of Hebrews talks about faith in God. Faith is knowing that God is real and that you can trust in his promises. You cannot trust someone who isn't there, nor can you rely on someone whose promises are not reliable. This is why faith is talked about as the substance of things hoped for and as the evidence of things not seen. Both words carry with them a sense of reality. Our hope is not wishful thinking. Faith does not make God real. On the contrary, faith is the response to a real God who has made Himself known to us:
"I am the LORD, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
men may know there is none besides me" (Isaiah 45:5-6).
Ever since the Church began, the refrain has always been the same. It has never appealed for people to leap into the dark; no such invitation is found anywhere in Scripture. Instead, we are called to step into the light. The Christian gospel is not a message that revels in ignorance. It is the revelation of God in the person Christ, so that we might know there is none besides Him. The Christian is called to see things as they really are, and not as he would simply like them to be. We trust in a God who has revealed Himself. We believe because He is real.
The Christian Gospel invites you delve into reality. It commands you to be honest in your commitment to know that which is true. Is Jesus real? Who did he claim to be? Is he really alive today? Faith comes in response to knowing the answers to these questions, even as Christ is calling you near. But don't stop after the initial introductions! Just as you are able to put more trust in someone as you grow to know him, so faith increases as you grow in your relationship with Christ. There is a God who is real and true, and He is calling you unto Himself. The great joy of the Christian faith is found in the person who invites us to trust and believe.
Michael Ramsden is European director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in the United Kingdom.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
My afternoon session was with Mark Buchanan, author of the most excellent book The Holy Wild. He talked about the idea of resting in God to discover the rest of God. Pretty cool. I have a lot to learn on this. I was going to say I have a lot to do but that was kind of the point-it's ok not to do all the time.
My evening session was quite interesting. Chris Seay and Rick McKinley, pastors of Ecclesia (Houston) and Imago Dei (Portland) respectively challenged the CEO mindset of pastoring churches. They talked about leading "Missional churches" to do "Incarnational" ministry. The challenge of course is how do you do that. The convicting and challenging answer to me is: Lead by example.
Here it is in God's words:
John 1 (NLT)
1In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make. 4Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. 5The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
6God sent John the Baptist 7to tell everyone about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8John himself was not the light; he was only a witness to the light. 9The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world.
10But although the world was made through him, the world didn't recognize him when he came. 11Even in his own land and among his own people, he was not accepted. 12But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan--this rebirth comes from God.
14So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.[a] And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.
15John pointed him out to the people. He shouted to the crowds, "This is the one I was talking about when I said, `Someone is coming who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before I did.' "
16We have all benefited from the rich blessings he brought to us--one gracious blessing after another.[b] 17For the law was given through Moses; God's unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. But his only Son, who is himself God,[c] is near to the Father's heart; he has told us about him.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
"Apart from faith in Christ, there is no explanation for such a life." Quote on grave marker of William Border. (See link for mini bio)
Born in 1887 William Borden was set for life. He was heir to the Borden Diary empire and a millionaire before he went off to Yale University. But that would not satisfy this follower of Christ...
Long story short, after graduating and enjoying an international trip, he decided he would follow God's calling to become a missionary to muslims in China. On his way out he stopped to study Arabic in Egypt. He was there 4 months before he died of spinal meningitis--at the age of 25.
His grave is there in an overgrown missionary graveyard.
Not far away is another grave of sorts. At the Egyptian National Museum is the King Tut exhibit. King Tut believed in an afterlife as well--one in which he could take his great wealth along with him. Tragically, he was wrong as can be seen in this exhibit. Literally tons of gold pulled from his tombs are still here.
While William Borden left nothing behind, he sent quite a bit ahead. All his service and sacrifice built up a reward that was waiting for him as he went to be with the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. King Tut would find that not only could he not take anything with him, he didn't send anything ahead either. In fact, to die apart from Christ is die without hope.
William Borden got it. He lived the selfless life where he invested in eternity instead of his own comforts and desires. He is an inpsiring example to me.
So who are you living for? Are you investing in the here and now, or eternity?
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Jesus, Matthew 6:19-21
Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn
Monday, September 25, 2006
--Jesus, Parable from Matthew 13:44
National Treasure. Pirates of the Caribbean. Raiders of the Lost Ark. We love the thought of finding hidden treasure, it seems.
Whether it's becoming a workaholic or buying Lotto tickets, we seem to be preoccupied with accumulating wealth. I guess it's the idea that we will be happy one day when we get enough. Really?
Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on earth. No surprise here. Then, Jesus tells us to store up treasure in heaven. No surprise here either. Or is it?
I didn't expect Jesus to say anything about storing up treasure. What's that about. I mean, aren't we supposed to give everything away and live in poverty like Mother Theresa did?
Well, it's God's way of saying that he wants us to be rich. And those trusting in Christ for eternity will be rich...if they are sending it ahead.
Randy Alcorn has coined the Treasure Principle which says, "You can't take it with you, but you can send it ahead." (Treasure Principle)
Jesus wants us to store up treasure--he just wants us to be smart about it. He wants us to store up treasure...that will last.
Treasure in heaven will last. Treasure on earth...well it will rust, rot, decay, break, get used up, get stolen, or just be given away when we die. "There are no U-hauls behind limos." King Tut thought he could take it with him. But it's still here. Tons of gold. Wonder where he is...
Don't buy the lie. Pursuing the best this world has to offer is chasing after the wind. It's futile. Are you investing in your eternity. The benefits are out of this world.
Friday, September 15, 2006
"Purity paves the way to intimacy." -Andy Stanley
"Drink water from your own well--share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in public, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Don't share it with strangers." Proverbs 5:15-17, NLT
It's time we got serious about keeping our selves sexually pure. I'm not just talking about pre-marital or extramarital sex but viewing online porn. If you are ready to get serious about being accountable, here is a great way to deal with it.
This software isn't a filter that prevents you from going anywhere. It is a log that sends info to your accountability partner or parent. It creates an opportunity for real conversation about where you're surfing and why. There is a free version and it's incredibly easy to install. You just have to find somebody who will confront you if they see you've gone to questionable websites. Somebody who will confront you but also pray with you about it. This is the one I use. I hope you'll use it and spread the word about it. It's time to get serious about purity. dg
What Is X3watch?
X3watch is an accountability software program helping with online integrity. Whenever you browse the Internet and access a site which may contain questionable material, the program will save the site name on your computer in a hidden folder. A person of your choice (an accountability partner) will receive an email containing all possible questionable sites you may have visited within the month. This information is meant to encourage open and honest conversation between friends and help us all be more accountable.
Friday, September 08, 2006
neirad's Xanga Site
On the eve of the 5th anniversary of 9/11, we have two approaches we can take. Ok, three.
1. We can fall into depression and fear cowering in and pitying our circumstances,
2. We can rest confidently in the fact that our God is ready, able and willing to help us with anything, and sharing that message of hope with those around us, or
3. We can ignore it.
God tells us in the Bible that He is with us! That is an encouraging truth to the family of God!
What will you do this week?
"God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear..." Psalm 46:1-2a, NLT (emphasis mine)
Whether you're looking for a particular ministry, biblical commentary or just a particular verse in the ESV Bible, you can find it at this terrific website.
I've been using Gospelcom.net for years and it's the most useful website for me that I've found. It's been especially helpful to me when doing Bible study and research.
I have also enjoyed the "ThinkChristian" blogs. Several great thinkers write there giving you opportunities to read their thoughts and even respond.
Potentially the site's best features revolved around it's large number of website tools. They have assembled an impressive array of tools and articles on how to create websites that communicate your message best.
Check it out today!
Monday, August 07, 2006
A great story in the "History of Grace" as God continues to unfold His plan-this time in Wilson, NC.
As I read Justin's blog, I couldn't help but smile at the goodness and beauty of my great and mighty God.
It's even more special to me as I reflect on my stop at that same crossroad not long ago where God said, "Not here. Not yet." Within a few months God revealed the place He had for my family and I here in Summerville, SC. (www.GraceToday.net)
And so once again I am awed and thrilled at this journey called life and that I get to be a tiny part of it. I'm stoked and pumped for Christ Baptist Church and can't wait to hear how God is going to answer our future prayers in and through this sweet fellowship!
I look forward to getting to know this new fellowship as we serve our great and mighty King together!
Thursday, April 13, 2006
On Sunday, April 9th, I accepted the call to go and pastor Grace Christian Fellowship in Summerville, SC. Our family is excited about this new work that God is calling us to and we are eager to get started. We would appreciate your prayers for us in this new chapter of our lives.
While we are excited to go, we are not excited about leaving. We were happy at Raleigh Road so we weren’t looking for a new place to go (I didn’t even have a resume prepared). But God came looking for us. We are already dealing with the grief that comes when you say goodbye to people who mean so much to you. God has blessed our family the past 8-1/2 years at Raleigh Road. When that happens you don’t just pick up and leave without feeling the way we do. We have been loved by God through you.
Thank you students who have been more than just youth to us—you’ve become life-long friends. You’ve babysat for free, you’ve loved on our girls, you’ve encouraged us with notes & emails and hugs, you said, “Thanks for driving”, you bought me Rolos, you confided in us, you shared your dreams with us, you’ve made us proud by serving us and others selflessly, you’ve forked our yard, you’ve shrink-wrapped my truck, you’ve eaten our food . . . err, well, you get the idea . . . thank you for loving us and encouraging us. That meant more than you can know.
My last day will be Sunday, April 23rd. There is already a detailed plan in place to carry-on our youth ministry. That will be done mostly by the same trusted adults who have been serving you for years. Those leaders (called the Ateam) are equipped, experienced and ready to serve you during this time of transition.
In addition, my assistant, Barbara Moore (BarbaraMoore@raleighroad.com), will continue to handle the day-to-day details essential to keeping us moving forward. She is available to call or email whenever you have questions or need more information at 243-0383.
Also, Paul Maynard (PaulMaynard@raleighroad.com) will serve as our full-time summer intern to help us coordinate our summer activities, trips and regular schedule. He will work with Barbara and the Ateam to lead you all forward as the search for my replacement continues.
So our trips to summer camp will still happen. Our trip to Gulfport, MS will go on. The bus will continue to run to Lucama. The youth banquet will be even better. Hosting the WAYnet One Event May 3rd will impress you. Christ will still be taught in Sun. school and small groups will continue until May 7th. You can find more detailed information at www.raleighroad.com/youth.
Once my contact information changes, I will share that with you. My email will continue to be firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll continue blogging at here as well.
Ultimately, we don’t want this to be about me or my family or either church. We want all that we do to honor Christ bringing glory to God. I hope you’ll join us in that prayer.
Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ,