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Archive for December, 2007

I have been away from the blogging scene for most of the month.  First there was my PhD Cohort meeting at SBTS, which was awesome but made for an exceedingly busy couple of weeks.  Then I got back home in time to prepare for the holidays and travel to 3 families in 4 days for the Christmas celebration.  Besides all of this, I have been extremely busy with day-to-day church stuff…and you know how exhausting that all can be.  Anyway, I’ve missed this little blog site and am looking forward to getting back in the blogging loop now!  As I’ve said before, I like blogging because I have a voice and I believe that I can contribute to the wider discussion taking place in the blogosphere. 

For starters today, I want to post my (quickly written) church newsletter article that I threw together this afternoon in 30 minutes for deadline reasons!  It is written in simple language so as to appeal to a broader audience through our church newsletter, but the truths of the article are nonetheless helpful.  Actually, as I looked over this “list of 10” closer, I began to realize that these resolutions could be true for everyday of my life.  These ten commitments are the “meat and potatoes” of Christian living, and I hope that you will join me in committing to a better year in 2008 in respect to all of these disciplines. 

Here it is!  Until later tonight….

Recently, I have been very challenged by reading and praying through Ephesians chapters 4-6.  These chapters are packed full of extremely helpful, challenging and practical instructions for the living out of the Christian life.  The Christian who would seek to live out their faith should study these chapters diligently. 

One of the many helpful passages in these chapters is found in 5:15-17.  In these verses, the apostle Paul instructs the Ephesian Christians concerning the management of their time by instructing them to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil…so then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (NASB)

The Simple English Bible gives a helpful paraphrase of these verses by summarizing them in the following way, “therefore be careful how you live.  Don’t live like foolish people; live like wise people.  Take advantage of every opportunity, because these are evil times.  This is why you should not be fools. Instead, try to understand what the Lord wants.” 

Warren Wiersbe notes concerning these verses that their focus is upon living one’s Christian life in such a way that life is lived out in a precise and accurate way with “exactness.”  He notes that “the opposite would be walking carelessly and without guidance and forethought.”  He continues, “we cannot leave the Christian life to chance…we must make wise decisions and seek to do the will of God.” (Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary)

I find these verses to be very challenging as I face a new year.  Will this be the year that I make a “precise” and “accurate” decision to live unflinchingly for the will of God in my life?  Will this be a year in which I “redeem” the time and live wisely, or will this year be full of regrets?  Will this be the year when I stop living so carelessly and without forethought?  In other words, what will 2008 hold for me spiritually…great blessing?  Or great regret?  If Wiersbe is correct, then it seems that these verses are calling us to give greater attention to the way in which we use the time that God has given us.  We are called to be very deliberate in the ways we plan and then execute the Godly life. 

 Perhaps you are wondering the same thing as you look back on the failures, shortcomings and broken promises of 2007.  The New Year holiday always has a way of making us more reflective about our life-decisions and life-direction.  We realize at this time each year that the time is passing us by and the years are fading quickly.  This need not be a time of depression or regret or sadness, but rather it can be a time of great resolve and recommitment.  For the child of God, the decision to make 2008 a “better” year spiritually than 2007 should be a simple one. 

Will you join me in prayerfully approaching 2008 as a year of great revival?  Let’s work together as a church family to see to it that 2008 is full of excitement for our church.  Let’s commit ourselves to the work at hand and pray that great revival will come to our church, our families and our community. 

In thinking about our spiritual commitment in 2008, I want to offer the following ten spiritual commitments that every Christian should make for the new year.  If you will join me in all ten of these areas, or even in only a few, I promise you that this new year will be a year of great blessing and spiritual renewal for you and your family. 

1.      DAILY BIBLE READING-  (Ps. 119:11-12)  Make this the year in which you discipline yourself to read the Scriptures daily.  Make this the year that you read through the Bible cover-to-cover and pick up a reading guide in the church office.

2.      DAILY PRAYER-  (Philippians 4:6-7)  If you don’t already, set aside a portion of time every day to talk to God face to face.  Start small with something like 10-15 minutes per day.  Pray for your own strength, the needs of others and the advancement of God’s Kingdom in the world.

3.      FAMILY WORSHIP- (Deuteronomy 6:4-15)   Begin a time, either daily or weekly, in which you and your family have Scripture reading, singing, prayer and personal sharing as a family-unit.  If you don’t have children at home, begin this discipline with your spouse.  This is a difficult one to start, but very rewarding once begun!

4.      FAITHFULNESS TO CHURCH- (Hebrews 10:25)  Determine that in 2008, nothing short of serious sickness or providential hindrance will keep you from your church family.  Most churches today are weak because the people that make them up are not fully committed to the ministry of the church.  A church will only be as strong as the commitment of her people.  Decide this year that you won’t be a “spotty” attendee anymore, but will be present at every worship service.

5.      STEP-UP-AND-SERVE- (Ephesians 4:11-13)  Make this the year in which you finally “get involved” with your church.  Most folks in churches today sit on the sidelines and watch the church function then critique the church for not having enough programs, ministry, or energy.  This year, find the God-given gifts that you can use in the ministry of FBC and put them to work for the Glory of God.

6.      SHARE YOUR FAITH WITH THE LOST- (Matthew 28:18-20)  Commit yourself this year to becoming an active disciple-maker.  Start simple by sharing your own story of conversion to someone who you know needs to hear it.  Show up for evangelistic outreach once-per month and attend some evangelistic training offered at your church. 

7.      LEARN AND PRACTICE BETTER STEWARDSHIP IN 2008-  (Prov. 22:7, Romans 13:8)  Learn to be more content and less materialistic.  Save more.  Spend less.  Manage your present debt better and increase your giving to your church and other evangelical organizations in 2008. 

8.      PRAY FOR MISSIONARIES AND THE NATIONS- (Ephesians 6:18-20)  Become a part of God’s plan for worldwide Kingdom-expansion by taking up the cause of faithful prayer for missionaries, nations and world leaders.  Communicate with a missionary regularly and pray for their needs.  You may find God meeting your needs in a more precise way right here at home.

9.      READ FOUR CHRISTIAN BOOKS THIS YEAR BESIDE THE BIBLE-  Make the decision to read something every quarter from our church library that will increase your knowledge about theology, church history or Christian living.  Read some of the amazing biographies available in our church library and see if they are not an amazing blessing. 

10.  IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH IN SOME MEASURABLE WAY IN 2008-  Start small and be realistic, but determine something you can do this year that will improve your quality of life and your usability in Kingdom service.  The Bible says “bodily exercise profiteth little…(1 Tim. 4:8)” but it doesn’t say it’s no profit at all.  Walk more.  Eat better.  Lose some weight.  Sleep more.  Ask God to lengthen your days for HIS glory in 2008. 

Let’s set some goals together in 2008!  Let’s work together to see to it that we “walk wisely” in this upcoming year and do all that we can as a church and individuals to bring glory to God with the passing time that He gives us! 

Make this year a year of blessing…and revival!

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Even though I have just recently ventured into the blogosphere, I regret to inform my faithful 3 or so readers that I will be signing off for a couple of weeks.  I am not quitting, for I still feel that I have much to say and express through this medium.  Furthermore, it is evident through my counter and through some other indicators that some folks are reading my postings and even if they don’t agree with me, they are at least getting to hear and respond to my voice.  For that I am thankful, and will continue to blog.

However, I am leaving Sunday to venture to Louisville to spend 2-weeks on the campus of SBTS with a wonderful cohort of men with whom I am working on a PhD degree.  I will almost certainly be occupied the entire time I am there and will probably not have any time to post. 

If I get a moment though, I will be sure to check-in. 

Keep reading…and (in the immortal words of the REAL Batman, Michael Keaton), “tell all your friends about me!”

I’m coveting your prayers, Terry. 

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Tonight, God used an incident involving the innocence of one of my own children to remind me of some very deep and real spiritual truths.  The incident went something like this…

My lovely oldest daughter, Lindsey (8), recently began making her own pottery on a beginner’s wheel that we obtained.  Lindsey is a remarkably talented child who has a special love for anything “crafty” and artistic.  She is also homeschooled, so we try to nurture and encourage her love of all things artistic in order that she may develop otherwise untapped talents. 

Her first creation on the wheel was a small bowl, which she lovingly and diligently crafted over days; in fact she was sorely disappointed when we told her the clay would have to harden for days before she could decorate the bowl.  Nonetheless, she patiently waited for the bowl to dry and then set about painting it and adorning it with various “jewels” and other ornamentation until the bowl was finished to her liking. 

She was very proud of her first bowl.  It was on display on our kitchen counter and Lindsey was looking forward to showing it off tonight to some of our church family and neighbors who were coming over for our youngest daughter’s birthday party. 

Enter Terah, the terrible.  Terah is our reckless, untamable two-year-old who is at that phase in her development where she is into literally everything.  She walks that fine line between being ‘oh-so-cute-and-loveable’ and intolerable in her inquisitiveness sometimes.  She approached the kitchen counter and attempted to pull something down from the counter, in the process pulling the bowl on to the floor and breaking one whole side of the bowl into chips and dust on the floor.  She took off running…Lindsey looked on in horror. 

I will never forget how painful it was to see her scooping up various pieces and assessing the damage before she ran off into the next room, weeping openly.  I looked at her tear-strewn face and could see the pain in her eyes.  She wasn’t angry, in fact, she immediately ran to Terah’s defense and told her it was just an accident…it was OK.  But it really wasn’t OK for Lindsey.  I looked for a teachable moment as I held back my own tears.  I went to her and reminded her that the next bowl she made would doubtless be a little bit better than the first one, and that this first bowl was just the beginning of a great “potter’s career.”  Still, she was inconsolable, and she told me how she loved the first bowl and wanted to keep it forever to remember what her first one looked like. 

It was a heart-wrenching few moments as I held her and assured her that it would be OK. 

Moments later, as I swept up the floor amidst muffled cries, my mind flashed to the passage in Jeremiah 18:1-6, where our Lord spoke to his disobedient people in illustrative language which they could understand, using the image of the potter and his vessel. 

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”  3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.  4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.  5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

I thought about Genesis 3, and how much it must grieve God to look upon humanity today and see just how far we have totally fallen from his design for us in creation.  I thought about my own life and how broken I am, and how daily I am like that chipped bowl, broken and ugly compared to the way in which I was made in the image of God. 

All of this caused great conviction to well up inside of my heart as I pondered my own sinfulness, my own brokenness, my own marred life. 

But then I drew comfort from the very words that I had used to comfort my distraught daughter.  I remembered that in Christ, God is working to make me into a new man, a new image, a new vessel (2 Cor. 5:17-21).  I remembered how much my “potter” really loves me and wants to “remake” me in His own image.  I remembered how quick He is to pick up the broken pieces of my life and take me into His arms so that he can “remold” and “remake” me by His Spirit. 

I thank God for the comforts that His word brings, and I thank him for his lovingkindness and tender compassion, that He would be patient and longsuffering with such a broken vessel as me. 

Most of all, I thank Him for his ability to speak to my heart through the very vessels that mean more to me than almost anything else in the world…my children.  I thank Him for His wisdom in taking the hurtful situations of everyday life and communicating truth to me.  I thank Him for preaching to me through an 8-year-old angel…and a 2-year-old terror.

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