Monday, December 29, 2008

08 great commentaries/reference tools I acquired in '08

Here are some of the commentaries that have been profitable to me this year in preaching and teaching. I have also listed the series in which some of these commentaries are found.
  1. Solomon among the Postmoderns by Peter Leithart (Ecclesiastes)

  2. Luke by Darrell Bock (Baker Exegetical Commentary)

  3. David Garland on 1 Corinthians (Baker Exegetical Commentary) and 2 Corinthians (New American Commentary)

  4. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament edited by D.A. Carson

  5. Hebrews by William Lane (Word Biblical Commentary)

  6. 2 Timothy by John R.W. Stott (Bible Speaks Today)

  7. Philippians by Peter T. O’Brien (New International Greek Testament Commentary)

  8. Stories with Intent by Klyne Snodgrass (Parables)

Conferences / Churches I attended in '08

Conferences


Churches (of course, these were only when I was not blessed to be at OBC)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

08 great songs I heard for the first time in '08

Music is often a mixed bag, but here are some songs that were personally helpful and encouraging. Most of the links are iTunes.
  1. Remedy by David Crowder Band

  2. Jesus, Messiah by Chris Tomlin

  3. God of This City by Passion Worship Band

  4. Out of the Depths by Sovereign Grace

  5. Ransomed by Na Band

  6. Alleluia! Sing to Jesus by Lashey and Joyner

  7. Hear the Call of the Kingdom by Keith and Kristin Getty

  8. Speak, O Lord by Keith and Kristin Getty

Saturday, December 27, 2008

08 great books I read in '08

Not in any particular order...
  1. Christless Christianity by Michael Horton - Challenging book that I am still chewing on. I think he is dead on in most of his arguments.

  2. Jesus: Made in America by Stephen Nichols - This was a great read enlightening me as to how our society's perception of Jesus creeps into the church

  3. God at Work by Gene Veith - This gave me an understanding of what God desires from us in our calling and in our occupation.

  4. The Mission of God by Christopher Wright - I love Wright and this gargantuan book made me love God more, love my neighbor more, and understand God's design better.

  5. Created in God’s Image by Anthony Hoekema - This gave me a framework for an understanding of what being made in the image of God is all about.

  6. Whiter than Snow by Paul David Tripp - I read a portion of this almost every Sunday morning.

  7. The Reason for God by Tim Keller - Great apologetics book. Help cement some of my own beliefs in reasonable arguments

  8. Recalling the Hope of Glory by Allen Ross - I discovered my theology and thoughts of worship were way too small when I read this book.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thinking about '08

Over the next few days, I hope to give some things that I believe I will take away from this year. I have found it a fruitful exercise to think through what influences I have been exposed to, what I have read, where I have been, and the work that God has done in my life.

Be on the lookout for a few book lists (do you expect anything less from a book-aholic), a few song lists, a few places/churches, etc., and a few things I am looking forward to in '09.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

1 Corinthians 13 - An Adaptation

An old friend (let me clarify, a friend who is NOT old, but who I have known for a few years) sent this to me. I am not sure who the author is, but it is pretty good.

1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style
A True Love Story

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family - I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family - I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family - It profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids or grandkids to get out of the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust, running shoes will wear out. But giving the gift of love will endure—forever!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Your Christmas shopping may be over...

Your Christmas shopping may be over (FYI, mine is NOT!), but I ran across this list of children's books that will help kids in their understanding of the Bible and important biblical concepts. It may be something to put on the shopping list for 2009.

I have several of the books recommended and haven't been disappointed with any of them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, FAQ

Stan and I tried to answer some questions in this article we wrote for our monthly church newsletter.


Every Christmas season, while we give attention to the message of God coming to earth, we also challenge our church to give so that other people may hear that message. We do so through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO), and we thought it would be helpful to answer some frequently asked questions about this emphasis!

What is the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering?
The LMCO is an offering used to support Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the Gospel overseas. The offering represents nearly 50 percent of the International Mission Board’s (IMB) total income. In short, 100% of the offering is used to support overseas missionaries and their ministries in other countries.

Who was Lottie Moon?
Lottie Moon was a missionary to China from 1873 to 1912. Throughout her career, Moon wrote numerous letters home urging Southern Baptists to greater missions involvement and support, and her passion has fueled Baptists to love those apart from Christ.

Why give to the International Mission Board?
The basic role of the IMB is to lead and facilitate the international missionary involvement of Southern Baptists in partnership with overseas Baptists and other Christians who are fulfilling the Great Commission. More than 5,900 of the world’s nearly 11,600 people groups continue to live and die in darkness. Among these least reached peoples there are few, if any, Evangelical Christians and no one working to plant new churches. By giving to the LMCO, we can work toward reaching these people.

Who do we know that currently is an IMB missionary?
Mike and Jenny H. are currently serving in this role; sharing the gospel for many years in Africa. A couple of weeks ago Mike shared his heart with our congregation and Jenny is already a familiar figure; having grown up here at Ogletown. They are currently on stateside assignment and we have been blessed to have them here with us. Giving to the LMCO goes to support over 4,000 missionaries like Mike and Jenny.

How much has Ogletown contributed to the LMCO in recent years, and do we have a goal we are trying to reach this year?
In 2006 and 2007, we collected over $25,000 and $17,000, respectively. Our hope is that we would give generously toward a goal of $25,000.

If you have any questions or need more information concerning LMCO, please don’t hesitate to ask us!

So, we are ambassadors

I was reading this in a book called Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands by Paul Tripp. He is delineating the role of ambassadors and some questions they must ask themselves. Great stuff!

1. The message of the King. An ambassador is always asking, “What does my Lord want to communicate to this person in this situation? What truths should shape my response? What goals should motivate me?

2. The methods of the King. Here I will ask, “How does the Lord bring change in me and in others? How did he respond to people here on earth? What responses are consistent with the goals and resources of the gospel?

3. The character of the King. Here I ask, “Why does the Lord do what he does? How can I faithfully represent the character that motivates his redemption work? What motives in my own heart could hinder what the Lord wants to do in this situation?”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You know you are loved when...

You know you are loved when on a special day, you walk into your office, and it has been conveniently 'decorated.'

I will resist the urge to make any remark about how much collective hot air must be in the office to fill these balloons. I won't go there!

The reaction that my secretary heard was "Aww man!"

Good times.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Beyond perpetually casual relationships

I think OBC will be hearing much about resources for redemptive relationships in the days to come, but I can recommend two books that have been helpful to me in thinking through the task of removing friendships from the "perpetually casual" status.
Both do a great job at getting to the heart, and explaining Scripture.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Ogletown first (at least for me anyway)

What a beautiful morning! For the first time since I came to Ogletown, I had the privilege of driving to church this morning with snow on the ground.

What a beautiful sight, we're happy tonight... Someone ought to write a song about that!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Just a little bit off

On the way home tonight, our happy family was listening to a song about David and Solomon.

I hear from Canaan in the back seat, "Solomon was the one who had a bunch of moms from different countries."

Close, Canaan. Really close!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.

As I think about it, I am most thankful to God for His grace, my family, so many friends, a loving church, God's Word, good books, freedom to worship, a great place to call home, really there are too many things to name.

But God has been TOO good to me.


P.S. I would even be grateful if the Cowboys could pull off a win today! (But, I am not holding my breath. I've watched the Cowboys too much to be cocky.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why church matters

The last few weeks I have been talking about "Church Matters" in our Sunday morning gatherings. I came across these verses this morning in preparing for this Sunday's message.
Ephesians 3:8-12 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
Some thoughts
  • God uses the church to display His wisdom.
  • The wisdom of God displayed by the church is put on display for heavenly rulers and authorities (my understanding is that not all of them would be angels, some would be of spiritual darkness).
  • God's plan is NEVER a "plan B." His plan is eternal. As a matter of fact, 'plan' is probably a poor word to use. 'Purpose' is much better.
  • All of this should lead us to greater confidence in our access to Him. Reminds me of Hebrews 10:19-22!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Prayer and care

It's only Tuesday, and I am already looking forward to Sunday! "Why?" you might ask. Because of what I have been studying in Ephesians 6:10-24.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. 21So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. 23Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

We are going to be talking about the subject of prayer, and the role it plays in stirring each other up to love and good deeds (i.e. Hebrews 10:24-25).

Appreciation Days

This past Sunday, the staff of OBC was treated to a "Staff Appreciation" reception. I was talking about it with another staff member today. We were realizing how appreciative WE are as a staff to serve the people of Ogletown.

Nothing would happen here apart from God working in the lives of people. As we talked, I was freshly reminded that it is a joy to serve the congregation of Ogletown. And in this season of Thanksgiving, I am overwhelmed by gratitude for the people who are worshipping, walking with, and working for Jesus at this place.

I am certainly blessed, and I thank God for you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chili Cook-Off 2008

I mentioned that I was in need of 'prayers' this past Sunday. Well, all went well, and my stomach has fully recovered from judging and eating 17 varieties of chili.

Seriously, it was a great time. Steve Chopko brought home the trophy for the best chili. As best I can tell, there are some OBC men who take their chili-making skills pretty seriously. I detected the evil eye from some when they were not announced as the winner. Could this be pride? I am not sure! Fortunately, there have been no threats made to me or any of the other judges.

Good times.

Impact on others

In preparing for tonight's Bible study, I came across Malachi 2:7-8:
Malachi 2:7-8 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts.
The verses reminded me of the importance of godly leadership. It reminded me of my responsibility to guard my soul from "turning aside from the way of the Lord." If I don't, then the impact will most likely (1) impact others and cause them to stumble, and (2) reflect poorly on the character of Jesus Christ and His good covenant.

Serious things to think about!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Come thou fount

Sometimes, hymns have really rich expressions of truth. We sang this one (Come, Thou Fount) in both of our services yesterday. There are some verses we did not sing yesterday. They are pretty instructive as well. Maybe we can work them in the next time we sing it.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Privileged position before God

I read something so encouraging this morning that reminded me of the highlights of what we have in Christ.
Far greater than living longer and enjoying ourselves and our circumstances is the unfathomable richness of our life together with God, reconciled even while we were enemies, made alive even while we were spiritually dead, brought near even while we were strangers, and adopted as coheirs of the entire estate even while we were hostile to the things of God. Even now we begin to enjoy a foretaste of this feast, as those for whom “there is therefore now no condemnation.” --Michael Horton in Christless Christianity
That truly is good news. And that is what Jesus accomplished for those who repent and believe in Him.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Prayers for the pastor

On Sunday afternoon, I will embark on a new journey. A new role for me. That's right. I will be filling the highly coveted position of "Chili Judge" at our Men's Chili Cook-off.

I request your prayers. Not for wisdom in judging, but that my stomach will not revolt against eating 17 different varieties of chili. My hope is that the men of OBC don't get carried away with the hot sauce, but I think that hope is in vain!

All joking aside, I am looking forward to a fun afternoon and a great time with the men of OBC.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Recommendations: book and blog

The book...I read Sunday from a book by Paul David Tripp called Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy. Using Psalm 51, he calls out sin (which is painful) and he illuminates God's mercy (which is healing). I think the worth of this book could be amazing in the life of Christians.

The blog...I have been reading Been Thinking About for a few years. I am always provoked and interested in Mart De Haan's musings. Always well worth my time.

Some things are too good not to share.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Uniqueness

Some blogs are pretty unique. I keep up with one written by Abraham Piper. It is called 22 words and a recent post about 'spanking' brought back some good memories (I played countless hours with Fisher-Price people back in the day), and some smiles as well!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Why I love Bradford Pear trees

How to get rid of a large tree in your front yard in three easy steps.







Gotta love that nice gentle breeze in Delaware.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on November 5th

So, the election is over, and God's will has been done. There will be much said concerning this election. I read an article from the president of one of the schools I attended.

The article is lengthy, but helpful, and I think could be instructive to all Christians. Here is the closing paragraph.
America has chosen a President. President-Elect Barack Obama is that choice, and he faces a breathtaking array of challenges and choices in days ahead. This is the time for Christians to begin praying in earnest for our new President. There is no time to lose.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mind-numbing, but I appreciate it

One of the great benefits of living in a technologically advanced age is the sheer amount of resources that are available. Sometimes, it can be a distraction, but most of the time it is extremely valuable.

As I thought about the morning and early afternoon, I realized that I had...
  • listened to an audio interview of David Powlison
  • read a commentary on Mark by David Garland
  • listened to a podcast discussion of the Sovereign Grace leadership team on "The Pastor and Time."
  • read a commentary on Mark by R.T. France
  • read an online article about premarital counseling by Winston Smith
  • skimmed a couple of pages in a book on 1 Corinthians 12-14 by D.A. Carson
  • listened to a couple of podcast episodes of "Ask Pastor John" by John Piper
It is amazing the resources at our disposal. God will surely hold us accountable for our stewardship of them.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A couple of reminders

Sometimes, you get reminded of truth in a couple of different ways. I was reminded of some of the great words of Psalm 130:6 today. The psalm is so helpful in reminding us of our need to wait on the Lord for everything.

Here is where I got the reminders...
I definitely recommend both of these and have appreciated their ministry to me.

I Stand in Awe

I have talked about some 'lost verses' of hymns. I also came across the second verse of a newer song. Mark Altrogge, who wrote the song, added the second verse years after it was originally recorded, but I love the emphasis on the cross and the scriptural imagery.

I STAND IN AWE

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom
Who can fathom the depths of Your love
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty enthroned above

And I stand I stand in awe of You
I stand I stand in awe of You
Holy God to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of You

You are beautiful beyond description
Yet God crushed You for my sin
In agony and deep affliction
Cut off that I might enter in
Who can grasp such tender compassion
Who can fathom this mercy so free
You are beautiful beyond description
Lamb of God who died for me

Prayer for the election - 5

We should pray that God would make His body wise in applying Scripture to our privilege and responsibility of voting.

We should be the last ones to be swayed by uninformed political emotionalism.
Ephesians 5:15-17 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What a prayer

I was just reviewing some verses that I plan on teaching through tonight.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
As I read them, I began to be blown away at how Paul communicated something so incredible in a few words.

Some thoughts...
  • Paul prays that Jesus Himself would do all these things. Not an angel, not another person.
  • Jesus and God are presented on an equal platform. They are both God.
  • God loved us. John 3:16 may be quoted often, but it is always powerful.
  • He gave us eternal comfort and good hope.
  • The comfort and hope come through the means of God's grace, the undeserved riches of Christ, that are mine because of His death.
  • Our hearts can be comforted
  • All of this results in the fact that we can have a life filled with good words and good deeds.

Prayer for the election - 4

We should pray that God would use us (as His body) to provide relief, support, and love for people when they look for it to come from other sources like the government.

Too often the government has failed at what the church has been commissioned to do which is to share the good news with accompanying good deeds.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Galatians 2:10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Prayer for the election - 3

We should pray that God would show us how to think, live and love in a kingdom that is not yet of Christ.

Since there is no earthly government that is not flawed, we need wisdom from above to engage in this world in a Christ-honoring way.
Revelation 11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

1 Peter 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Prayer for the election - 2

We should pray that God would keep us from trusting in government or earthly leader to be our Rescuer.

If our confidence is in the policies of a political party or the vision of a politician, we will be regularly disappointed. God alone is our Rescuer who in Christ can save us, give us hope, and be ultimately worthy of our confidence.
Psalm 33:17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Prayer for the election - 1

I mentioned in a previous post that I would be sharing how I am praying for the election.

We should pray that God would give grace to submit to His will and to our God-ordained leaders.

We must recognize that God has a plan for November 5, January 20, and every day following. It is our duty and privilege to submit to it, regardless of who is in office.

1 Peter 2:17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Romans 13:1-5 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

1 Timothy 2:1-5 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Your kingdom come, your will be done

Over the last few weeks, many organizations and individuals have asked for the church to engage in the political process of this election. As I have prayed about what our role as a church (not just individual Christians) should be, I have felt led to pray in these directions. So, rather than distribute a “voter guide” or other political material, I feel compelled to share with you a resource that will guide my prayers over the next several days. I will begin sharing each day until the election, a way that I am praying. The first requests will be for our lives to honor Christ, and the next set of prayers will focus on the gospel being spread.

If you desire to have a voter guide, I am quite sure there is no shortage of them on the internet. Here is one that deals with issues related to Delaware. Additionally, I have in a previous post called attention to a forum that the candidates for president participated in that was very helpful to me personally.

May God use this election (and every event of life, for that matter) for us as the people of God to show our love for Christ and our obedient loyalty to His Word.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Home

A personal friend (as well as a brother in Christ at OBC) went 'home' this week. The Lord gives us words of comfort. They are words that we need for the moment! I believe this is His grace to us, and I wanted to share some of those verses that have been running through my mind in thinking about death and (eternal) life.
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
What a hope! There is more to life and death for the Christian than the years God gives us on earth.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another hymn peculiarity

I ran across a translation of the German hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" that is different than what most Christians sing. I think I like the standard translation better, but it is still neat to see different words express the same thoughts.
A mighty fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon;
He helps us free from every need that hath us now overtaken.
The old evil foe now means deadly woe; deep guile and great might
Are his dread arms in fight; on Earth is not his equal.

With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, who is this? Jesus Christ it is.
Of Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.

Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none, he’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.

The Word they still shall let remain nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife,
Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Opportune time

Call me a bandwagon jumper, a front-runner, or whatever you want, but I am glad to have jumped on the Phillies train this year (please refrain from suggesting I should jump on the Eagles train).

162 baseball games are a bit much for me, but playoff baseball is a good time. Especially when Sabbathia gets rocked, and Manny can't hit enough home runs.

Good times. Go Phillies. Can't wait until Wednesday.

FYI, the picture is of my dad and me at a game this summer against some minor league team from Atlanta. :-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hidden hymn verses

I am a big music buff. I love it, and it sometimes can be an idol in my life, so I have to ask for the Spirit's help to keep it in proper perspective. I really enjoy a lot of different genres of music as well. One genre that has been a part of my life for 31 years are hymns.

What is humorous to me is that I grew up almost always singing the first, second, and fourth verses of the hymns. Why was the third stanza the castaway? Who knows? But, I have come to discover another hymn phenomena. Verses of hymns are often left out of our modern hymnals. Why have these verses been 'left behind?' Once again, who knows? But, it is like a treasure to me when I recover an old verse of a hymn I love. One of my favorite hymns is And Can It Be. I found a couple of verses that are not in our hymnal. Shame on us for not singing them, and shame on the hymnal maker for not printing them (haha - only kidding). I have highlighted the verses that were 'left behind.'

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Accountability encouraged

I am not sure that we could emphasize accountability enough at OBC. I think it is essential for all Christians to have other believers who can spiritually challenge and encourage us to be more like Christ. I think it is also essential for some of these relationships to drill down beyond formalities, to really help us evaluate our hearts before the Lord.

I have said before that we are our own WORST accountability partners. We will deceive ourselves into thinking we are okay, when we really are not. So, one of God's means of grace to us is in the form of other believers who watch over our soul, and help us do the same.

Emily, our college minister, pointed the rest of our staff to some pages of accountability questions. They are great, and could be used by groups of 2-3 in our church to encourage each other in the gospel. My hope is not in the questions, but I think they could be an aid for the Spirit's work in making us more like Jesus.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A verse to memorize/meditate on

I have memorized this verse before, but I am working on recommitting it to memory this week. Check it out.
For we have this treasure [the treasure of the gospel] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. --2 Corinthians 4:7

So, several reasons to be grateful for this truth:
  • We didn't earn the treasure. It was give to us.
  • The gospel is a treasure.
  • Our bodies (jars of clay) are insignificant, in compared to what is contained within.
  • We don't have power in and of ourselves.
  • Christ is all-powerful. He can be relied on!

Back to the basics?

I have become increasingly convinced that I need to look and listen to the gospel more and more in my life. I have been slowly reading through The Gospel and Revelation by Graeme Goldsworthy.

A couple of quotes stand out...
  • "The gospel is the only means we have of beginning, continuing and persevering in the Christian life."
  • In contrast to that: "[Many have] the idea that the gospel is the gateway to Christian experience, and thus to eternal life, but once we enter that gateway we move on to another more solid reality by which we progress."
He closes the chapter by reminding believers:
  1. Christ is the meaning of Creation.
  2. Christ is the meaning of the Old Testament Covenants and Law.
  3. Christ is the meaning of prophecy.
  4. Christ is the meaning of Christian existence.
  5. Christ is the meaning of the Second Coming.
Good reminders to begin the week!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How are we doing at listening?

I encouraged OBC Sunday to make sure we are good listeners to God's Word. A book that I have recently read deals with the subject. It is called What Is a Healthy Church Member? and it is written by Thabiti Anyabwile (say that 3 times fast).

The first chapter is about listening to God's Word, and he reminds us...
Just as the pastor's preaching agenda should be determined by the meaning of Scripture, so too should the Christian's listening agenda be driven by the meaning of Scripture. When we listen to the preaching of the Word, we should not listen primarily for "practical how-to advice," though Scripture teaches us much about everyday matters. Nor should we listen for messages that bolster our self-esteem or that rouse us to political and social causes. Rather, as members of Christian churches we should listen primarily for the voice and message of God as revealed in His Word.
Good things to think about.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Update on my teams (if anyone cares)

Football
  • OU is #1. All I can say is that I love their offense, am concerned about their defensive secondary, am glad that Bradford is QB, and am glad that Stoops is on the sidelines. Boomer Sooner!
  • Dallas is....Dallas. A great team to watch, but they can drive me crazy (a.k.a this past weekend). T.O., PacMan, Tank...what's not to like?

Baseball
  • I think I am the good luck charm for the Phillies. I move here and they go to the playoffs. I am here for a year, and they win a playoff game (which is more than Dallas can say for the last few years).

WNBA
  • You didn't REALLY think that I follow this closely, did you?

Not that any of this matters, but it is fun to follow.

A great parable

This Sunday, we will continue our journey through Mark by taking a look at the parable of the sower (4:1-34). As I have studied, thought through, and prayed about this parable, I have come to appreciate the simplicity of the parable as well as its depth. I also have been challenged by its message.

A few questions I am asking are...
  • Am I attentive to God?
  • Do I recognize that He is speaking to me through His Word?
  • Do I desire other things more than God?
  • Is my heart hard or soft to the things of God?
As you can imagine, it has been a convicting week! Hopefully, the Spirit will use Sunday to help us listen to God more closely than we ever have before.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More exotic wildlife

Apparently, the Hills do have friends. To add to the wildlife collections that I have mentioned before, some friends dropped off some other exotic birds.



Charis looked out the front door today, and saw these. She is still confused!


In the mums was a nice touch. Thanks guys!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

You need to listen to this

I recommend resources all the time, but I especially want to point you to some messages done by Francis Chan (and his wife Lisa). He is pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. The messages are primarily aimed at married couples, but as you will see when you listen, there is a great amount of benefit for any Christian. Francis loves Jesus, and it is evident in these talks.

So, here is what you do...
  • Go to the Cornerstone website
  • Click on "media."
  • Click on the quicklink "get a sermon"
  • Go to the messages preached on 7/27, 8/10 and 8/17.
  • You can download video, audio, and study notes.
Or if you are iTunes savvy, you can link to Cornerstone Church's podcast.

Great stuff. Seriously, you have to listen to these!

Great thoughts concerning preaching

In getting ready for a Bible study tonight from 1 Thessalonians 2, I ran across this quote by Leon Morris in his commentary on the book.
[Paul's] work was to pass on a message, not to produce some high-flown oration elaborately adorned with ear-tickling phraseology, nor even to give a simple message to meet the need as he saw it. The fact that this [meaning the phrase ['proclaiming the gospel'] is a favorite way of referring to the activity of the Christian preacher in the New Testament puts stress on the divine nature of the message. The gospel preacher is not at liberty to substitute his view of the need of the moment for the God given message of the cross.

Daniel and the next generation

Today, I had the privilege of sharing a message at the chapel of Red Lion Christian Academy.

As I thought of all the students, and all the potential of a coming generation, I was struck by some Bible reading I did several months back. I was reading through the stories of Daniel in the lion's den and the 3 Hebrew young men being thrown into the fire. Their courage and faith is staggering to me.

And yet, what struck me in those stories for the very first time is their preparation. In other words, God used them to stand before the king. But, before they got that opportunity, they had lived of life of discipline and learning that had prepared them for that moment.
Daniel 1:3-7
Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
So, God used their preparation to place them in the heart of a pagan nation, so that they might make a strong statement of their faith in the one true God! It reminds me that God has many people in our OBC family who are good at a host of different things, who can use those things to impact many lives for his kingdom.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

That time of year again

I was on my front porch this morning, enjoying the beautiful cool weather. Although I know things like the weather shouldn't control my emotions, I don't think the Lord minds the happiness I feel when it is a chilly morning.

It reminded me that fall is coming (hopefully it is here for good). It also reminded me that while the seasons change, God doesn't. It also reminded me that every season marks another time period of life in which God has been faithful and helps me look forward to a new period of time where God will demonstrate his faithfulness again.

It reminds me of a great song...
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thanks for the patience

The blog has been 'offline' but not forgotten. I will be posting again soon!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The truth hurts...and helps

I ran across some verses in prep for Sunday's message. Then, I heard them referred to in a podcast I listened to.
Colossians 3:1-4 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The rest of the chapter is incredible as well, but I couldn't get over the truth of these four verses. I began asking myself all kinds of questions...
  • Am I seeking 'above' things or 'here' things?
  • Is my mind set on Christ? Or do I set my mind on all-things-Curtis?
  • Do I realize that I have died to a life of sin? Or am I still consumed by the guilt or practice of it?
  • Do I realize that my life is hidden with Christ in God? So, Christ is living His life out in me. I am hidden, so that He might be exposed.
  • Do I understand that my identity, my life is in Christ? Or do I seek my identity from my family, my friends, my job, my_____ and my ______?
  • Do I look forward to His appearing? Or am I pretty amused and consumed by things that are here?
  • Do I grasp that His return means a change in my existence from temporal to eternal? If so, am I living in line with the truth? Do my actions demonstrate that my life is not pointed to things on this earth?
Powerful stuff from what could be my letter Paul wrote to a church. I might change my mind tomorrow and claim 2 Corinthians as my favorite, though.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Where is God at work?

In recent days, I have received emails from several friends who are making disciples throughout the world. So, what is God up to?
  • In the Middle East - God is working in the lives of government officials, granting favor to some friends who are seeking to open a community center.
  • In West Asia - God is providing grace to friends who are adjusting to culture and learning a language
  • In Brazil - We are asked to pray that God break the stronghold that false religion has on the Gaucho people.
  • In Ireland - God is using basketball camps to reach kids who have rarely been in any church.
So, yes God is at work, and not just in the 50 states!

The Lord is my shepherd

We sang a version of Psalm 23 this past Sunday. I ran across this article by David Powlison that talked about the "Antipsalm 23." It highlights everything that Psalm 23 promises, by emphasizing what life would be like if it were not true.

I'm on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing's quite right.
I'm always restless. I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It's a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It's a desert — I'm thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can't fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life's confusing. Why don't things ever really work out?
I'm haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I'd rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I'm alone ... facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can't really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I'm so much all about ME, sometimes it's sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I'm left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
I have to add, "Hell is also myself."
It's a living death,
and then I die.

Question three: Are you more loving

Part two of a series of blogs through the book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (Intro, Part 1, Part 2).

ARE YOU MORE LOVING?

Whitney begins the chapter with numerous Scripture references that make our responsibility to love one another very clear. He mentions that love "is the badge and character of all Christianity."

I found that this chapter had some powerful (and convicting) quotes:
  • "We're not growing in love when we have time for projects but not for people."
  • "You do not love others if you will let them ruin their lives, their testimony, their reputation, and bring shame upon the church and the name of Christ, and you are unwilling to rescue them according to God's plan from the sin that has deceived them."
  • "Many people are congratulating themselves for what amounts to merely being human, and they conclude that this innate love testifies of spiritual health."

He also suggests three areas where our love can develop:
  1. A love for other Christians - 1 John 3:14
  2. A love for the lost - Luke 6:27,32
  3. A love for your family - Ephesians 5:25

In closing, he gives several practical instructions concerning love. One that may be beneficial to all of us is "Identify those relationships where you most need to grow in love."

God, help us to be more loving!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A couple of verses

I was reading in Lamentations this morning. Overall, the book is certainly in a 'minor key,' as the name would give away. I do find that the book expresses what happens to those God-followers who (1) don't act like God-followers and (2) don't really trust in God with their lives, even though they profess to do so with their lips. What happens? Their life is wrecked, their hope in other things is demolished, and they (we?) are left with nothing else to turn to but God Himself.

Listen to this verse
Lamentations 4:17 Our eyes failed, ever watching vainly for help; in our watching we watched for a nation which could not save.
Do you hear the disappointment? A nation could not save them. Those are words to think about, as we listen to two political parties who promise to relieve the 'suffering' we experience currently in the USA. Can we put our hope in a candidate to do this? Do we think that a change in economic or foreign policy gives us the security that only God can give? Does someone's experience on the Senate floor deserve our ultimate trust for hope, refuge and relief for our souls?

Another verse follows
Lamentations 4:20 The breath of our nostrils, the Lord’s anointed, was captured in their pits, of whom we said, “Under his shadow we shall live among the nations.”
This verse talks about the king (who was part of the family of David) who was deposed as king. It was a blow to the nation. The king was their hope. They thought they could live prosperously among the nations, because the king had family relations to David. The result: major disappointment. Why don't we learn? Why do we think that attending church, giving money, listening to Christian radio, reading Christian books somehow gains us immunity from realizing the consequences of our lack of faith in God?

Our hope, our rescue, our deliverance, our relief, our shelter, our sanctuary, our refuge, our security, our future, our success, our prosperity, our salvation can only be found in the one who came to be the Savior of the world. God, help us to learn this!

Short video about the ESV Study Bible

I ran across this video. It is helpful, and I am looking forward to the release of the Study Bible. (FYI, I have mine pre-ordered)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Get to work

Get to work. That is what we are finally going to get to this Sunday as we look at what Ecclesiastes says about work, our calling, our vocation, and how we spend our time.

I have been overloaded with good stuff in preparation.
I can't wait until Sunday.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Follow-up resources from Sunday

I mentioned in Sunday's message a couple of things that I wanted to give some more attention to.
  1. I mentioned the Forum that Rick Warren hosted with the presidential candidates. Trevin Wax has compiled the video, transcript, and question-by-question comparison of the answers. Good stuff! It is worth your time to read it, if you intend on voting for either of these men in November.

  2. I also mentioned a Time article about Beer Pong. Someone after the message clarified that the intention of the game is to get others drunk, not yourself (I didn't ask how he knew. Maybe he read the article like I did!). For some reason, I am pretty sure that playing a game to get someone else drunk doesn't mean (1) you wouldn't get drunk in the process, or (2) this is a good way of loving your neighbor. Just a thought.
One thing I mentioned a couple of weeks ago was a quote by David Powlison. He has written a little booklet that is called "Pleasure" that could be extremely helpful in thinking through other aspects of pleasure that we did not get to.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

You may know this already, but...

Sometimes, people ask me if they can get an audio recording of a message at Ogletown. I imagine that they are having sleepless nights, and just need a little help dozing off.

Seriously, you may already know this, but all of our audio (regardless of the speaker) is posted on our website. In addition, you can podcast the messages (i.e. get them downloaded onto your computer) every week, if you have iTunes. They are usually up by Tuesday. I recognize that not everybody can come every week, so this little piece of technology is a beautiful thing.

FYI, some other podcasts that I regularly listen to are:
Matt Chandler at The Village Church
Ask Pastor John by John Piper
Sovereign Grace Leadership Series
Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Bible Church

Any other podcast recommendations? Post a comment!

Question two: Are you governed increasingly by God's Word?

Part two of a series of blogs through the book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (Intro, Part 1).

ARE YOU GOVERNED INCREASINGLY BY GOD'S WORD?

A few reasons that I am really encouraged and really convicted by the question:
  • It leaves room for growth. None of us have arrived.
  • Governance = Lordship, and Jesus had a lot to say about that.
  • It deals with obedience, not just knowledge.
  • It maximizes the influence God's Word should have on our lives.
Whitney begins the discussion with Scriptures that compare God's Word to things as basic as water, food, fire, tools, weapons, and seeds.

He also stresses something important about our growth as a Christian. Concerning being governed by Scripture, he reminds us that (1) this will be a general characteristic of a true follower of Jesus, but (2) it will also be something that increasingly characterizes the growing Christian. We HAVE to leave room for God to work in people's lives.

He answers the question of how we can develop a dependence on God's Word.
  1. Deepen our desire for it. Listen to it preached and taught. Use internet resources as needed. Meditate on Scripture. Concentrate on a particular verse, phrase or word, that is applicable to your life.
  2. Make time for God's Word. Just as you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, set aside scheduled times for feeding on God's Word.
  3. Read the Bible daily and do not close it until you know at least one thing God would have you do in response to your reading.
  4. List at least five areas that you have not considered from a biblical perspective. Search the Scriptures and prayerfully consider one area each day for the next five days.
  5. Train yourself to ask "How does the Bible speak to this?"

In reflecting on the chapter, I believe Whitney has the right order, even in his first two questions. A hunger for God will inevitably produce a desire for His Word. When the Bible is read with a thirsty heart, it will yield obedience.

As I said, encouraging and convicting at the same time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One year ago

One year ago, I was standing up on a Sunday morning at Ogletown for the first time. Ballots were in the bulletins, saying "Yes, I am in favor of calling Curtis M. Hill to be the next senior pastor." Nothing like preaching with a little bit of pressure!

I love the time markers that God gives us. It reminds me of His faithfulness over the year. I was excited on that day, and I have found that excitement continues to grow. I felt loved on that day, and I feel that love is growing. I felt love for the congregation, and I know that love is growing. I felt humbled on that day, and I feel more humbled now. I sensed a desperate need for God, and that has grown as well. I sensed that God would do something special at OBC, and I believe it even more today.

I will be honest (not that I am normally deceitful, haha). In my mind, there are a few more things that I wish we could've accomplished this year. There are a few areas that I wish we would have grown in. There are personal weaknesses in my own life that I hoped I would have addressed better. There is a desire I have for our church to be growing and maturing in our pursuit of God, and I don't always see it as much as I would like to.

HOWEVER, God does not consult my time table. When I am tempted to look at where we are not, I am reminded of who He is. I am reminded that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. I am reminded that sanctification does not come immediately or even quickly at times. I am reminded that the one who called us is faithful to finish what He starts. I am reminded of advice someone gave me, "Often, you will accomplish less in one year than you think you can, but you can see more accomplished in five years than you think is possible." Words of wisdom, I believe, even though I know it doesn't depend on what I (or we) accomplish, but how the Spirit works and our loving obedience to Him.

So, some good reminders as a stake goes in the ground marking one year that I have had the privilege of a lifetime in pastoring Ogletown.

I am not sure how long Paul spent at Corinth (I am sure that it was more than a year), but I want to echo his words: "I want to let you know the abundant love I have for you." (2 Corinthians 2:4)

Prayers

Yesterday, in our staff meeting, we took some time to pray for those in our church family who are single parents. I know that I can barely understand what it must be like to attempt to be dad and mom, employee, shuttle-driver, cook, tutor, etc. So many dads and moms work hard to do this every day, and our desire is that God's grace be on their lives, so that they may do it with hope in Christ!

So, if you are a single parent reading this, know that (1) you are loved at OBC, and (2) you are being prayed for this week by your staff!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday morning follow-up

The results of Sunday's messages are pictured here. This is the desk I came into this morning.

I just wanted to let you know that I had several volunteers who asked to serve their pastor in enjoying pleasure from the remaining Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (not the miniatures, white chocolate, dark chocolate, etc.).

Some of the statements were a little harsh...
  • "There is PLEASURE in giving things away. Why didn't you try to experience that pleasure?"
  • "Why don't you share the PB cups with missionaries?" This request sounds noble, but it was made by a missionary. Hmmmm. A little self-serving I think.
  • "Hey, I thought you were going to give them away as we left today!"
  • "Are you really going to eat 3 packs?" Good question. let me think. hmm. Uh, YES!
  • "PB Cups and Pepsi together? Gross!" They were just jealous.
  • "I will be glad to eat the rest of those, pastor." This came from one of our fine students.
  • "Uh, I brought my own candy to church. So, I ate it when you were eating yours!" Another one of our fine students!
All in all, it was a pleasurable Sunday.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Two things

Many of you will read this after Sunday's message, but I thought I would give a little 'taste' of what might be coming as we study Ecclesiastes 2 concerning pleasure.




This will also serve as a reminder of the message, and a not so subtle hint if you read it afterward.
:-)

Please, please, please

"Please, please, please." Those were some of the words I found myself using this morning in prayers to God concerning an aspect of the ministry at Ogletown. I don't always find my prayers have a sufficient level of desperation. Yet, today as I was thinking about something that I believe God has set in my heart, I realized that (1) only He could bring it to pass, and (2) although I can work in the direction of facilitating it, God has to work to accomplish it.

Praying desperate prayers is both humbling and exciting. It is humbling because you have to come to the end of yourself, and rely on Him. It is exciting, because God REALLY likes faith. I don't mean that in a trite way. Faith/dependence/reliance/trust in God is something that He has told us (countless times) really pleases Him.

So, OBC, let's pray desperate prayers to an all-powerful God who can do anything He wills to do!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Question one: Do you thirst for God?

This is the first question (from 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Don Whitney) in a series of posts that I described a few days ago.

DO YOU THIRST FOR GOD?

A few Scriptures...
  • Paul expressed a desire to know Christ (Philippians 3:10)
  • The psalmist wrote comparing his thirst for God as a deer panting for water (Psalm 42:1-2)

Don Whitney tells us that there are three types of spiritual thirst:
  1. The thirst of the empty soul: the soul that is devoid of God who is seeking things to satisfy, but ignoring the real need
  2. The thirst of the dry soul: someone who has experienced the satisfaction of God, but has left it for various reasons
  3. The thirst of the satisfied soul: the one thirsting for God precisely because he is satisfied with God.
These are extremely helpful to search the soul with. I find myself in category #2 far too often. This happens because I can be satisfied with other things that end up depriving me of spiritual satisfaction. I also find myself there when I am fatigued or stressed out.

He also gives some practical steps for 'thirsting after God.'
  1. Meditate on Scripture - not simply read, but think through a particular verse, phrase or word
  2. Pray through Scripture - use the thoughts and language of Scripture (particularly the Psalms) to speak to God with
  3. Read thirst-making writers - He recommends writers such as John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, A.W. Tozer, Charles Spurgeon, as well as some old books such as Pilgrim's Progress and The Valley of Vision.

I think that overall, I am most convicted of a few things. (1) I seek satisfaction in small stuff (i.e. my day going well, my kids behaving, ESPN, reading a book, good weather, etc.) not in 'God-stuff.' (2) I don't do enough to cultivate my thirst for God. (3) There are things in my life that can be used in the pursuit of passionately following God, and there are things which detract from it. (4) I don't search my heart enough to see whether I am thirsting for God.

Father, I am too easily satisfied with too little.
Too often, I stop short of my pursuit of you.
Too often I care more about news or sports (or this and that) than you.
Forgive my sinful heart, and restore to me a joy in you and you alone.

I want to be satisfied only when you are glorified
I want to be joyful in the greatest things
Change my heart

Thank you God for meeting my needs, satisfying my heart, and loving my soul
Thank you for pouring out an inexhaustible supply of good things for us
Thank you for being the living water that NEVER fails to quench our deepest thirst

May Jesus Christ, our only sufficient source of satisfaction, be praised! Amen.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pre-op questions

I was reading a book by Dave Harvey called When Sinners Say, "I Do." The book (which is extremely beneficial, by the way) encourages spouses to encourage each other and help each other grow by lovingly confronting areas of sin that we may detect.

He refers to this with an extended metaphor of surgery, and in doing so asks some great pre-op questions for those doing the 'surgery' of correction:
  1. Have I prayed for God's wisdom and acknowledged my need for his help in serving my spouse?
  2. Are my observations based upon patterns of behavior or merely a single incident?
  3. Am I content to address one area of concern, even if I am aware of several?
  4. Am I committed to making incisions no larger than necessary?
  5. Am I prepared to humbly offer an observation rather than an assumption or conclusion?
  6. Is my goal to promote God's truth or my preference?
Although Harvey uses these question in the context of correction in marriage, I think they are too good not to consider for every day correction in other relationships.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

An American living in America

In the last couple of days, I have been reminded of my earthly citizenship. Of course, to the believer it is secondary to where we will spend eternity, but it does affect life on this planet.

Specifically, I have had a couple of thoughts:
  • Watching the Olympics last night reminded me of the privileges of being able to pastor an evangelical church without fear of my occupation being viewed with suspicion. I can follow my calling and not be a lawbreaker. The same could not be said of every nation in the 'parade of nations' I saw in Beijing last night.

  • I also had the privilege of seeing some of the sites of Colonial America (pre-Revolutionary War). Even here in America, many times there was only 1 sponsored church (the church of England), and other churches/denominations (such as Baptists) were considered renegade and faced forms of persecution.
Certainly, we can thank God for freedom to declare His Word openly with joy. With that privilege comes huge responsibility, but it is still a freedom that I am grateful for.

Blogging through a book

As anybody who knows me could probably guess, I am always up for a book recommendation. I ran across the book 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald Whitney. The premise of the book is that there are a lot of 'tests' that can help us diagnose our physical health, but we often do not take the time (or simply do not know how) to give ourselves a spiritual check-up. I got a couple of pages into the book, and realized that it might be beneficial to think through the book "out loud" here on the blog.

My thoughts on it, you can take or leave. But, the questions in it are extremely helpful. So, over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to try to blog through each chapter. I pray that God will use the book to draw us closer to Christ.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reading in Ecclesiastes

More books that I am reading as I study Ecclesiastes. (Oddly enough it is in Ecclesiastes that we read the words, "Of making many books there is no end!")
  • A Time to Tear Down and a Time to Build Up by Michael Fox (expensive, and written from a Jewish perspective, not Christian)
  • Ecclesiastes by Tremper Longman (Great commentary)
  • Solomon Among the Postmoderns (recent book that is extremely helpful in analyzing current culture through the lens of Ecclesiastes)
  • Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller (I am pretty sure Donald would like Ecclesiastes)
  • Against the Grain by Ray Waddle (essays and thoughts related to Ecclesiastes)
  • Ecclesiastes by T.M. Moore (helpful interpretive paraphrase)
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1920's version of Ecclesiastes minus the hope in God)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Is life meaningless?

This Sunday, we are going to begin a journey through the book of Ecclesiastes called MEANING(LESS). I have been reading through the book for several months, and am excited to learn more of the mind of God through this study. It seems like I haven't heard too many messages on the book, but it really has so many things in it that are extremely valuable for shaping our lives in our current culture. Each week we will look at things that promise to have meaning, and analyze them through the lens of God's Word and God's Son.

We will be starting off in chapter one. FYI, I didn't know this until the other day, but Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises begins with a quote from this chapter.

See you Sunday!

Good thoughts

I heard a quote today that made me think...
Nothing impacts a kid like what they do daily.
I think that is right, and I think more than kids may be included in that statement.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just walk across the street

I have a book on my shelves (that I have only skimmed) by Bill Hybels, and the title of it is Just Walk Across the Room. It is a book that is instructive and motivational concerning personal evangelism.

I think after the last two nights, I feel like I have been impressed to "Just Walk Across the Street." What am I talking about?

Just Walk Night One - On Monday night, our church hosted a party at Pride's Court Apartments (for those not from DE, the apartments are literally 20 yards from our property). With the ENORMOUS assistance from the group from Biltmore Baptist, we threw a party in the middle of the courtyard. Party = hamburgers, hot dogs, snow cones, slam-dunking show, inflatable games, concert, open mic talent show. It was a good time. Those who are residents in the apartments came out to see what was going on, and from all accounts had a great time. As part of the night, John Mark from Biltmore shared the hope that is in Jesus Christ, and Stan our associate pastor, shared OBC's desire to love our neighbors. Both were well received. I will share more thoughts about this another time, but it was a great first step in visibly demonstrating that we care about our neighbors, and don't just want them for what they can do for us.

Just Walk Night Two - Last night, I had an experience at my house. I was mowing my lawn (not my favorite thing to do), and I saw our across-the-street neighbors out in their front yard. They have a child about Canaan's age, so the two of them began playing. We ended up getting to talk with the couple, and hopefully began a friendship.

How many times do we miss opportunities to make new friends because we play in the backyard rather than the frontyard?

How many times do we wish our church could reach people, but we don't realize that sometimes all we need to do is "walk across the street." It is not an "end-all." But, I cannot think of a better first step to sharing the love of Christ! Just walk across the street!

Why do I need to..., part three

We are going to look at one more "Why Do I Need to_____" questions.

This week the question will be, "Why do I need to forgive?" I cannot wait to share with you the things that God has brought to my attention. I have never appreciated my forgiveness from God more than I have this week. I have never understood it like I do having spent some time meditating on the subject.

Just a few of the passages of Scripture and resources that have been helpful to me this week:
  • Matthew 18
  • Ephesians 4:32
  • When Sinners Say 'I Do' by Dave Harvey
  • The Reason for God by Tim Keller (especially his chapter on the true story of the cross)
  • What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey
  • Love in Hard Places by D.A. Carson
  • Whiter Than Snow by Paul David Tripp (this has been out less than a week)
I cannot wait to share with the OBC family the blessings of knowing that we are forgiven, and the hope and strength we have in Christ to forgive others.

Pray that God would use His Word to shape our hearts!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

50 years in the books

There were too many highlights from this weekend (our 50th anniversary weekend) to write them all down, but here are a few that come to mind...
  • Seeing the slides of the history of Ogletown Baptist.
  • Listening to Marvin Ford and Otis Doherty, former pastors of OBC, at the banquet. They are men of great faithfulness.
  • Seeing the OEx change from a banquet hall into a worship venue with the help of many OBC'ers. Great job.
  • The buses from Biltmore Baptist rolling into the parking lot (150 people!). I don't know if there could be a more joy-filled, servant-minded group in the world. Thanks guys for coming to the cool Mid-Atlantic.
  • Hearing our congregation sing, "The Power of the Cross" this morning.
  • Being reminded of the Hill family heritage by my dad's and mom's Bible.
  • Seeing the look on Canaan's face when he looked at the pig that had been roasted.
  • Downing 10 bottles of water at the picnic.
So many people did so many things to make this weekend possible. It was a ton of fun.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

God's Word at work

My most recent Scripture memory passage is 2 Corinthians 1:8-14.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledge and I hope you will fully acknowledge— just as you did partially acknowledge us, that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

There are some great things that God has brought to my attention.
  • Paul was burdened beyond his own strength. But, this was to make Him rely on God. We sometimes think that God won't give us more than we can handle, but this seems to tell us that is exactly what He does! He wants us to rely on Him.
  • When God speaks of His power, it is often connected with raising the dead. The resurrection is significant.
  • Our hope HAS to be set on Christ for anything. We are not our best hope, He is.
  • We can help others through prayer. It is effectual in accomplishing God's purposes.
  • Our best behavior is based on the grace of God, not our works.
Just a few thoughts from a rich passage.

Meeting last night

Some of my favorite parts of last night's business/members/family meeting.
  • Eating real Southern BBQ (prepared by our friends at Eastaboga Baptist) in the 'pre-game' meal.

  • Talking through our plans to move our congregation to two services beginning in September, and what that will mean for us as a church. Jeff did an incredible job of helping us understand the audio and visual needs of the space at Ogletown Exchange. I am grateful for his sacrificial use of time.

  • Watching Stan lead our congregation in hand motions to help us understand his burden for making disciples here at OBC. I am pretty sure that is the first Baptist business meeting where that has ever been done.

  • Thinking through the implications of the passage of 1 Corinthians 12:12-28. We all truly are members of the body of Christ.

  • Hearing what God is doing in the immediate community, as well as in our county, and region.

  • Realizing that God continues to bless OBC with people who generously give to meet the needs of our budget as well as supplying resources for our expansion project, and other needs that arise. He is a faithful God!

  • Seeing some from our community playing basketball at Ogletown Exchange, and also feeling the excitement of our members about our opportunity to influence their lives. Great stuff.

  • Listening to Connie's excitement in talking about some new environments for Sunday School beginning in September.

  • Watching as people talked and shared after the meeting. I love seeing God's people enjoy each other's company. Truth be told that doesn't always happen after business meetings.

  • Hearing the worship team preparing for Sunday's gathering in the 'post-game' activities. We are in for a great day for our 50th Anniversary.
If you missed the meeting, you missed a great time where we felt that God indeed is working in this place! God is good, and we are blessed to be a part!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Two thoughts about God's will

I posted a while back concerning God's will, but as I was leading our staff in a devotion, some thoughts came to mind. We were reading in Ephesians 1 (always an awesome place to read), and I realized:
  1. God has made the mystery of His will known to us. How so? In Jesus Christ, who provides redemption, forgiveness, and reveals the grace of God. The plan for His will is to accomplish a complete restoration of this world through His Son. That has been revealed, and the mystery has been made known.

  2. Much of God's will is not 'lost.' We often pray that we might be able to find God's will, and yet references like Romans 12:1-2, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and 5:18, and 1 Peter 2:15 tell us that God's will, although once a mystery, has been revealed to us.

Pumped up

I had the privilege of reading in the Psalms this morning. Fewer places in Scripture elicit the praise of God and ignite a passion for God that this book does! So, here are some God-thoughts that I enjoyed today. So, I will pass along the blessing I feel.
  • Psalm 135:6 Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
  • Psalm 138:6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.

  • Psalm 141:5 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

  • Psalm 143:8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

  • Psalm 145:4 One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

  • Psalm 145:9 The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
  • Psalm 146:5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God,
  • Psalm 147:1 Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
  • Psalm 147:11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.