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).


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)


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.


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.