Monday, December 21, 2009

Prayer thoughts

This morning I read a great definition of prayer...
Prayer is asking God for something.
So, based on that, what are you praying for today? I also ran across 5 characteristics/attributes of God that invite our prayers to Him.
  1. He is able.
  2. He is Father.
  3. He is personal.
  4. He is holy.
  5. He is merciful.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Our Christmas Program has been rescheduled for the 27th.

In addition AngelFood distribution has been rescheduled for tomorrow, the 21st at 6pm.

Thanks for your flexibility.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


We have decided to cancel the Sunday morning services.

Please be safe and enjoy the day with your family! Don't waste the opportunity to worship God even without being at 316 Red Mill!

We will make a decision tomorrow morning on whether we will still be able to enjoy our Christmas Program with our choir.

God bless you.


The Christmas Program dress rehearsal scheduled for today has been canceled.

The distribution for AngelFood has been postponed until tomorrow at 4 pm.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Outlook for OBC's services on the 20th

Our church staff is closely monitoring the snow storm predicted for this weekend. The initial forecast seems to be calling for a significant amount of snow. In light of this, we will try to make a determination as soon as we can regarding services on Sunday morning.

Please keep checking the blog for more details, or you can visit our "winter cancellation" page for information on local radio stations.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

God's Big Mission - Resources

On Sunday, I spoke about God's Big Mission and I alluded to several websites and organizations and resources
I would be the first to say that these are only a few of MANY things that are helpful in us being and becoming world Christians.

Monday, December 14, 2009

God's Big Mission - Verses

Someone asked about the verses that I referred to yesterday. Here is the list...
  • Psalm 67
  • Luke 2:10
  • John 3:16
  • Isaiah 56:7
  • Revelation 5:9-10
  • Matthew 28:19-20
  • Mark 16:15
  • Luke 24:46-47
  • John 20:21
  • Acts 1:8
  • Numbers 6:24-26
  • Genesis 12:1-3
  • Exodus 34:6-7
  • Matthew 1:21
  • John 1:14,18
  • Titus 2:11-14, 3:5
  • Psalm 22:27
  • Psalm 98:1-4
  • Romans 10:13-14
  • Psalm 51:12

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

I wish I could write a personal letter to the hundreds of people who call Ogletown their home church. If I did (in the spirit of the first part of Colossians 1), it might say something like this...
Dear OBC,
I want you to know that I thank God for you. Many of you I know by face, many of you I know by name, but it is a privilege to be a shepherd to you all. I am blessed, actually we all are, to be at a church where God is moving. When I hear of people coming to Christ, when I hear of parents teaching their children, when I see people loving their neighbor, when I sense the desire to be a part of God's plan for the nations, when I hear the congregational singing, when I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in our services, when I know people are crying out to God in prayer, when I talk with those who are sharing their faith, when I see people suffer in a God-glorifying way, when I talk with people who have laid down personal preference, when I see a humble, submissive heart, when I know people are giving generously and sacrificially, when I watch a teenager humble themselves before God and their parents, when I know of college students who are boldly stepping out in faith, when I see people sacrificing time, money, energy for the sake of Christ and his church, just know I am blown away to share this time with you as your pastor. I could say more, but I never could say "thank you" to God enough for Ogletown!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fighting self-centeredness and pride

I was reminded yesterday how easy it is for us to be consumed with ourselves. Pride is such a subtle thing, that we often don't notice it until we are affected by it.

But, there is a way to weaken the indwelling pride in our lives. Actually, I think there are many ways, but I will mention two here (it is very likely that I have heard these elsewhere, but I don't know who to give credit to - so these are unoriginal to me, but very helpful).
  1. Be filled with gratitude and express it. It is hard to be prideful when you realize that you are in the debt of many people. I find that expressing gratitude to others shows me (1) that God is at work in others' lives, and (2) He desires to work in my life to reflect Christ.

  2. Attempt to look at what you would be without Christ. Not a pretty picture. Self-centeredness is such a downward spiral that eventually pushes every one away, turns inward, and destroys. Thank God that He has rescued us from ourselves!
Both of these things quickly blaze a trail to the cross, where I am grateful and reflective, not desiring to boast in anything except Christ, my God!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I am thankful for people I don't know

Sometimes, you are influenced by people you don't know very well or have not met (or who are dead). I thought about how I am thankful for

  • Pastors whose messages I have listened to
  • Professors whose books I have read
  • Puritans whose prayers I have prayed
  • Theologians whose thoughts I have studied
  • Missionaries whose compassion has inspired me
  • Followers of Christ whose passion has stirred me
  • Martyrs whose dedication has humbled me

And the truth of it is they never knew of that impact on my life. Thank God for what we may not know or see in this life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I am thankful for vets

I was listening to sports radio on the way to work this morning, and one of the people being interviewed spoke of one of the most outstanding qualities of veterans and their families. That quality is selflessness. In reading about veterans from several American wars, I always come away impressed at their bravery, their ingenuity, and their leadership. But, I also am impressed greatly by their selflessness as well.

The sacrifice of many men and women (and their families) has given us so many freedoms. One of the greatest of these is the ability to worship as the people of God without fear of harassment or punishment. Thank God on this Veteran's Day for those who make such sacrifices.

My prayers are with several friends who are overseas serving our country, as well as many Americans that I don't know!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tasks waiting to be done

In preparing for today's message I came across this thought from John Stott. How challenging!
We still regard security as our birthright and 'safety first' as a prudent motto. Where is the spirit of adventure? Where are the Christians who are prepared to put service before security, compassion before comfort, hardship before ease? Thousands of pioneer Christian tasks are waiting to be done, which challenge our complacency, and which call for risk. Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross.
John Stott, The Cross of Christ, 288.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I am thankful for my wife

Without question, the best thing that happened to me (this side of Jesus and eternal life) was marrying Shawna.

I am thankful for her parents. I am privileged to have godly in-laws. But I am also grateful for so many things about her...
unpretentious love for Jesus, sensitive conscience, ability to nurture our children, patience with my job/calling/ministry, humble spirit, creative and artistic ability, desire for obedience, flexibility, patience with me in general, a great home-keeper, a super teacher, sacrificial

also, she is not (or at least hardly ever)
a person who runs late, high maintenance, moody, domineering, prideful, boring

No one is perfect, so they say, but I think Shawna is as close as you can come. She embodies the fruit of the Spirit, and I am overwhelmed that God brought us together.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I am thankful for a new heritage

I don't come from a long line of Christians. My parents both came to faith in Jesus as adults. So, my heritage is not of an earnest praying grandmother or a godly grandpa.

Instead, my heritage is that of parents who were walking in darkness, until God's light shone on them and they repented and believed in Jesus. I was 4 months old at the time. But, I am grateful for what God has done in our family. Although most of my grandparents, and other relatives etc. lived their lives as unbelievers, I now have
  • a dad who has walked with God, taught Sunday School classes, led Bible studies, witnessed for Christ, given to the church faithfully and generously, ministered to handicapped adults
  • a mom who prays earnestly, who knows the Bible well, who has taught thousands (literally) of children the Bible, who has played the piano for people in nursing homes and homeless shelters, who has led dozens of people to Christ (even one in the last few months)
  • a brother-in-law and sister who serve faithfully at a church
  • a brother-in-law and sister who work at a camp that had a huge impact on Shawna and me
  • nieces and nephews who have come to faith in Christ and been baptized
That is only the tip of the iceberg. Thank God for a heritage like that. I am face-in-the-dirt humbled by a God who would be so good!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I am thankful for...

I thought it might be worthwhile to take some time over the days of this month to post what I am grateful for. The list could undoubtedly work its way into 2012, but I will have to be content with a few.

I am grateful to God for the "good news" that He made me to see and understand, and then believe and be changed by. I have heard of Jesus nearly my entire life, but it does seem that I have grown in my appreciation for what Jesus Christ did on the cross for me and my sin. It seems like lately God has regularly brought me to the place of "surveying the wondrous cross."

I could be without hope. I could have a miserable life. I could be spiritually dead in sin. I could be without God in this world. I could be enslaved. I could be an unbeliever. I could be blind to what Christ has done. I could care less.

But, I am grateful for God's work of grace in my life.

Friday, October 30, 2009

3 new songs

There are few things as enjoyable to me as finding an interesting new author. I would probably rank finding a new song up there as well! Here are a couple I have been introduced to in recent days.
For $2.97 they could be yours through iTunes!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blogging break

For a host of reasons, I have been on a blogging break, but I do anticipate being back soon. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Much worse and much better

In preparation for a Bible study I am leading tonight I came across this...

The true Christian message never simply preaches a list of 'dos and don'ts' because we can never be saved by righteous things that we have done. The Christian message is much worse news and much better news than that. A Christian has come to understand that, in the past...
  • they deserved God's punishment but now they have received God's kindness, love and mercy.
  • they messed up their life with selfish, hateful, rebellious sins, but they have been given a clean new start
  • they were guilty of sin, but now they have been justified
  • they were headed for death and judgment, but now they can look forward to eternal life.
taken from The Holy Spirit: Understanding His Work in Our Lives by Pete and Anne Woodcock

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sometimes the truth is a little too close for comfort

Rarely, do I link to a YouTube video from the blog, but this might be worth your time. It is a video of Josh Harris called "Hold that thought, God, I need to check my email."

Some reading

I have not been a big Eugene Peterson reader. I have periodically read The Message, and realized that he is a pretty creative writer.

However, in preparing for the series of messages I am preaching on now, I decided to pick up one of his books. It has led me to read 2 others. Every now and then a writer grips me with fresh thoughts about the Bible, Jesus, ministry, and other stuff. It is not so much that they have new ideas, but rather that they have old, familiar ideas that have come to life. Such has been the case with...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mark 9 and Exodus

There are some amazing connections between the Transfiguration account in Mark 9, and Moses'/Israel's Sinai experience described in a few places in Exodus. Too many connections for me to think, "Hmm, that's just a coincidence."
  • They both took place on a mountain (Ex 24:12-15)
  • There is a reference to 6 days (Ex 24:16)
  • There is a reference to 3 people who go with them (Ex 24:1-9)
  • Moses' face shines, as does Jesus' clothes (Ex 34:29-35)
  • Response of fear (Ex 34:30)
  • Overshadowing cloud (Ex 24:16)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The same God

The same God
The same One who says, "Follow me"
Is the One who enables obedience to that very command
The One who says "Don't save your life"
Is the One who gives grace in the moment
The moment in which we waver
The moment in which we hold on to our lives
The moment our value system is more earthly than eternal

The same One who says "Deny yourself"
Is the One who denied Himself
The One who then works in His people
The One who impresses on their hearts
a Life that counts
a Life that is more than 'the abundance of things we possess'
a Life that leaves no regrets
Supplying grace to live a life that costs us something

The same One who says "Take up your cross"
Is the One who took up His willingly
The One who then calls to his followers
Live your life crucified with me
Give your life to me in faith
Faith that sees beyond public humiliation
Faith that looks forward to Christ's ultimate vindication
Faith that hopes in victorious resurrection

God commands. God enables.
God exemplifies. God enables.
God calls. God enables.
The same God

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Follow me" to where?

This past Sunday, we looked at the command of Jesus to "follow him." It struck me again this morning how that must have landed in the ears of the disciples who heard the command (in Mark 8).

"Follow me," he says. But he has already indicated to them an idea of the circumstances that would confront him in the immediate future. He told them he would suffer. He pulled no punches in telling them that he was about to be rejected by authority figures. The suffering would result in death (and a later vindicating resurrection). And then he says, "Follow me!"

Is it any wonder that Peter had some hefty reservations, and then verbalized them to Jesus? Is it any wonder that the disciples were confused? Is it any wonder that often our heart would rather serve ourselves than deny ourselves? Is it any wonder that we resist the offense of the cross? Is it surprising that Jesus would say in Matthew 7, that actually only a 'few' would walk on the path that he walked?

I want to follow him. I honestly do, but I want to be careful to search my heart with Spirit-filled discernment (and not make boastful statements assuring Jesus that 'although everyone else may leave him'...), I want to look closely at where his steps lead, and then follow him all the while trusting the Good Shepherd to not abandon me even as he leads me through the valley of the shadow of death.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cheap grace?

In preparing for Sunday's message, I came across this...
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer - The Cost of Discipleship

Revisiting a discussion

A couple of weeks ago, we had the privilege of recording an interview with the speaker of our upcoming Marriage Conference. I came across some of the notes of the discussion that day with Winston Smith. Winston had some great insights and pulling these notes our reminded me of how beneficial that conference could be for our church.
The words vision, love, hope capture the 3 dimensions and 3 critical ingredients essential to change in marriage.

Vision--People often come hoping for a dramatic fix to problems in their relationship but more often the pathway to change is a long path. They need to get a bigger picture of what marriage is about. Laying down one's life for another in marriage is an act of worship to the Lord and we need to learn to be excited about that.

Love--People need to see the intersection between the love of Christ for me and the details of my life with my spouse. We need to ask ourselves what the love of Christ has to do with communication, conflict, and other marital issues.

Hope--People need to learn to love for the long haul. It isn't about responding well to your wife 5 times but 50,000 times. Around the 10,000 mark real change begins. Christ gives us life giving manna but it just tastes like bread sometimes and we have to manage our expectations to be in it for the long haul. We need to see eternity in the things we are doing now. Even when our spouse is being unkind or unreasonable we need to know the love of Christ and be OK with that.
Great thoughts, and I think that only whets our appetite for the Conference. If you haven't registered, you can do it today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why Mark? Why Now?

I cannot believe I am entering year 3 at Ogletown. The time has gone by quickly in some respects, and yet in other ways, it does seem like I have been here for a while.

This coming Sunday I am going to begin a new series that is installment 3 through the book of Mark. The first year I was here (2007), we covered the first 2.5 chapters in a series called "When Jesus Said the 'Wrong' Thing." Last year (2008), we looked at chapters 3-8 in a series called "Defining Jesus." This year we will pick up again in chapter 8 and go through chapter 10.

Why do we take time each year to go through a portion of a gospel? A couple of reasons.
  • I love the discipline of "coming back to Jesus" every year. Of course, the ENTIRE BIBLE is about Him, but there is something special about reading the theological biographies of a gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). I see things about Him every time that make me stand in awe, and come to Him for grace.
  • I do try to preach through different portions of Scripture, but if there is one portion that cannot be missed it's the life, ministry, and death of Christ.
  • I have chosen to divide the portions of Mark into 4-5 sections, because I think it may be a little too much right now for me to preach 60 weeks on the book of Mark. A little bit each year helps me process the book in pieces and understand it as a whole. I remember someone in seminary sharing this approach, but I don't remember who it was, so I can't give them credit (I am told your memory fails you as you get older!).
  • This particular section emphasizes what it means to follow Jesus. I am calling the series "The Shape of a Disciple," because in this section Jesus spells out what it looks like when we are following Him. I think I need to hear this, and I think our church needs to hear it. We owe it to the glory of God to look more and more like Jesus, but I am also impressed that the world needs to see us really following Christ.
So, I cannot wait for Sunday, as we begin by looking at Mark 8:22-9:1.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Resources on being single

This morning we are studying together Paul's teaching from 1 Corinthians 7 concerning those who are single. Each of the resources below have broadened my understanding of God's design, particularly with those who are unmarried.

Singleness Redefined - This was one of the more personal books that I read from a single woman at Tim Keller's church in Manhattan. It was easy to read, but extremely useful for personal applied theology.

With One Voice - This particular book was helpful in thinking through singleness, but also what dating and marriage could and should look like for the believer.

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood - I read through several pages of the preface and it seemed helpful in laying foundations for understanding God's design in people being single and being married.
- In various things that I have read, I have been directed to this site and have never been disappointed with its content.

The Rich Single Life - This book seemed to emphasize the wealth of opportunities available to those who are single. It focused on moving from the mindset of 'coping' with a stage of life you wish you want to change, and seeing things with a strategic view. This is available as a free PDF.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The 3 P's

I was reading an article written by Jean Williams and came across the 3 P's that often hinder ministry.

They are pride, perfectionism, and people-pleasing. In pride, I am showing that I love to steal God's glory for myself. In perfectionism, I am showing that although I profess to know grace, I still feel that I have to prove myself. And in people-pleasing, I am showing that I value people's opinion more than God's.

So what can counteract these? Jean suggests these things...
  • For pride: All that I have, I have from God, and it is all for His glory.
  • For perfectionism: I am perfect in God's eyes, clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
  • For people-pleasing: What people think of me doesn't matter; the only thing that matters is what God thinks of me, and he cares about faithfulness, not success.
Some great things to think about.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Memorizing and meditating

While I understand and appreciate and seek to apply many of the spiritual disciplines in my life, it seems like I have varying degrees of obedience in the area of Scripture memory.

However, God is good to remind me of my need to pursue Him by memorizing and soaking on His Word. In particular, I pulled out some of my memory cards, and came across these verses.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The flame will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. - Isaiah 43:1-3a (fyi, I typed that from memory, so I might have missed a word or two, but progress is progress)

I was reminded by these verses of so many good things.
  • My identity is that I am His. I bear His name. I need nothing else than His redemption.
  • I will pass through rivers and fire. It is a 'when' question, not an 'if' question.
  • God is MY God, and MY Savior. As all-powerful and sovereign as He is, He still is a personal Savior.
Good words to meditate on.

Interview with Winston Smith

We have put on our website (and on our podcast if you are subscribed) an audio interview I did with Winston Smith, who will be speaking at our marriage conference coming up in October.

The interview is about 20 minutes and we answer some questions...
  • Who is Winston Smith and what does he do?

  • What are some issues that the conference will address?

  • What is the big vision for the conference?

  • Why should people with healthy and unhealthy marriages be there?
You can download the audio interview.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A dangerous place to be

I cannot think of too many more dangerous positions for a person to be in than when they refuse to accept correction. When a person consciously or subconsciously pushes correction and rebuke away, it seems like that person is destined for heartache and future failure.

Why is this so dangerous? Because normally the only people who will go to the painstaking task of correcting you are your friends. They are the ones who love you enough to speak to you. Most of us love ourselves enough to avoid conflict at all costs. But, when a person lovingly confronts and corrects that says a lot about their care for you. And when you won’t listen to them, who will you listen to?

So, what should we do? How can we best set ourselves up for future obedience?

Can we adopt a posture where we receive and even invite correction? The timing of adopting this posture is crucial. I think this is a decision that has to be made when we are not receiving correction. When someone begins to call us out on something, we generally will be defensive, if we have not cultivated a humble spirit long before correction comes.

Can we purpose in correction to be quick to hear and slow to speak? Can we sensitize our heart to perceiving our own defensiveness? Can we get past the “Yeah-well-look-at-the-speck-in-your-eye” syndrome?

I think we can, but it will certainly only happen with a great measure of God’s grace. We can look to and think of Christ who when He was insulted, did not hurl insults back even though He was always in the right. He is our only hope of salvation in this area.

Marriage resources, part 3

Another resource for marriages at OBC is the upcoming Marriage Conference on October 16-17. I will mention more about it on the blog, but I don't want any couples to miss this opportunity. Yesterday, I got to spend some time with Winston Smith, who will be leading the conference, and I was so encouraged about the opportunity we have to listen to him that weekend.

You can get more details and even register on our website.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Marriage resources, part 2

I have enjoyed and been helped by 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 "Listen to Messages"
  • Go to the messages preached LAST YEAR on 7/27/08, 8/10/08 and 8/17/08.
  • You can download video, audio, and study notes.
Or if you are iTunes and podcast savvy, you can link to Cornerstone Church's podcast.

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

Is Cain my worship leader?

I was reading in Genesis 4 (with some insight from a book called True Worship) this morning. As I began to search my heart in the area of worship, I wondered if at times my worship resembles Cain's rather than Abel's.

Both of the brothers brought 'offerings.' Both seemed to come at the same time. Both seemed to come to the same place for the presentation of the offering: God's presence. And yet, God's response was radically different to each of the men.

It makes me think. Could it be that I am in the same room with people, singing the same songs, hearing the same Scripture, being led in the same prayers, and could I be distant from God?

Am I too often like Cain? Living my life consumed with my desires, and then frustrated when God calls me on it. Is my heart in a place where (1) I know what God desires for me to offer Him, (2) I trust God to have my best interests at heart, and (3) I submit to God's authority for how I worship Him.

If worship takes place 24/7 in our body which is the temple (1 Corinthians 6), it means that I need regular heart check-ups.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Marriage resources, part 1

This week I am going to highlight a couple of things that have been helpful to me in thinking about marriage. To start off, here are some books that have been useful for me. They have served as a 'tune-up' or as a 'front-end alignment' for my thoughts and practices in marriage.

  • When Sinners Say, "I Do" by Dave Harvey - I have read this through a couple of times and have always benefited from it. Pretty easy read.

  • This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper - New book from Piper. Often his writing can be 'varsity' level, but this book he seems to come down from the stratosphere a little bit.

  • Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas - I am about 50 pages into this book, and it has been so encouraging to me, in the convicting 'I-need-to-listen-to-this' kind of way.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday Night Prayers

A friend shot me an email with an account of their family's Saturday night prayer time.
"Dear Jesus, I pray that you help Pastor Hill make sense tomorrow when he talks, and that when the people listen, that they listen right. Amen."
Awesome! I hope I made sense, and I hope you "listened right"!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How big is the world and the gospel

I am convinced that I need to live in a bigger world and share a bigger gospel.

Bigger World - We shouldn't live or minister in a world that is small. The world is a big place. There are thousands of people groups and billions of people. There are millions of struggles. There are innumerable things that people are going through. There are countless fears and hopes that people have. Somehow, we have to keep pushing ourselves to live in a big world. Our kids need to grow into a worldview that encompasses more than the few square miles of New Castle County. Sometimes, I fear that the church gets focused on a little world, where there a few issues that we speak about, and a few people we speak to, and a few things we do well. But, I believe that verse like John 3:16 (God so loved THE WORLD), and Mark 16:15 (Go into all THE WORLD) reminds us that our omnipotent, omniscient God is bigger than we often think. And certainly he is up to something that is bigger than we can imagine, which reminds me of the next thing and that is we need a...

Bigger Gospel - I recognize that the gospel is what it is, and really cannot be quantified in bigger and smaller times. And yet, the incarnation of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the restoration of all things under God's dominion is pretty HUGE. Sometimes, I fear we make the gospel a prayer you pray rather than the gargantuan good news that it is. God is doing something great with this world. When we witness to unbelievers we hold out to them that their faith and repentance toward Jesus Christ is not some small transaction, but is something that is placing them in God's eternal family, and is obedient to God's eternal plan.

God capture our hearts. May we grow in our understanding of how great You are. May you help us to remember that You are not a tribal deity over our people, but a God over all the world. May we remember that Your good news is not some small self-help strategy, but Your perfect plan for the rightful recognition of Your Son for eternity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back to blogging

I took a month or so off of blogging. Somewhat intentionally, although I was on a vacation for a good part of it. I don't have 50 things that I am prepared to blog about, but I have some thoughts running through my head this morning.

I am...
  • HUMBLED by the fact that God sent His Son to change my life, show his forever-love to me, and rescue me from sin and myself.

  • DEPENDENT on Him. This morning was a morning in which I took a deep breath and thought, "Work in me, on me, and through me today God for your glory."

  • ENCOURAGED by emails, facebook messages, etc of people who are hearing God's Word, and obeying it. It is a simple thing really.

  • BLESSED to serve God, my family, my OBC family. I count it a privilege to pull into the Ogletown parking lot, look through the Ogletown directory, and realize that this is where God has called me.

  • CONFIDENT that God's work in me will take a LOT of time. As David Powlison says, "Sanctification is a direction" and "Repentance is a lifestyle."

  • CONVICTED that often I don't enjoy God like I should.

  • LOVING what God is teaching me through His Word, especially Psalm 119 and 1 Corinthians 5-7.
So, that's where I am this morning.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sometimes a Light Surprises

Here is a hymn written by William Cowper called Sometimes a Light Surprises. The last stanza is a summary of the text we looked at this morning. Although Cowper battled depression in a huge way, still we are fortunate to hear his words of hope in the midst of suffering.

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing but He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens, no creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice.

Some follow up questions from Sunday's message from Habakkuk

A Sunday School class is following up the message on Sunday with a discussion and application of some of the main points of the message. Here are some of the questions from this morning's message.

<>< <>< <>< <><
Habakkuk wrestled through his answers to the “how long” and “why” questions of Habakkuk 1:2-3.
  • What are reasons that Christians/non-Christians might give (accurate or not) for “how long” and “why” God is doing something?
  • How might these types of questions strengthen our hope in God?
  • How might these types of questions weaken our hope in God?

Habakkuk struggled because it seemed like 2 of God’s attributes were in conflict (1) His almighty power and (2) His perfect character.
  • When you are going through pain which of these are you most likely to question? Why?
  • Which of these are you more likely to hold on to? Why?
  • What is your biblical basis for holding on to these things?

Verse 2:3 implies that patience will be needed for Habakkuk as he wrestles through life. How is patience cultivated in your life?

He speaks of idols in 2:18-20. An idol, according to Ken Sande, is “something other than God that we set our hearts on, that motivates us, that masters/rules us, and that we serve.”
  • Can you identify the idols of our culture?
  • Can you identify your own idols?
  • How do we glamorize our idols (2:19)?
  • How does glamorizing our idols lead to further destruction?

He asks for God to remember mercy even in wrath (3:2) Do you view these 2 traits to be incompatible? Why or why not?

How is your vision of God corrected by chapter 3?
  • What did you already know about God?
  • What incomplete or inaccurate thoughts have you had?
  • Should the strong statement in 3:17-19 be considered as optimistic, pessimistic, and/or realistic? Why?

MORE PERSONAL QUESTIONS to be asked with accountability relationships in mind.
  • What deep struggles have you had that make you ask big questions of God?
  • Have you asked those questions in faith or unbelief?
  • What Christian brother or sister can walk with you through these times?
  • What Christian brother or sister needs you to walk with them through these times?
  • What is your role in personal ministry?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Until all have heard

"Until all have heard, ___________"

That was the way an email I received recently ended. The email was from friends who are committed followers of Jesus, committed to spreading the message of his love, his death, and his life for sinners. What a reminder of the "Share" in the "Build-Share-Introduce" strategy I mentioned on Sunday.

Of course, we want all to "repent and believe," but they can't and won't repent or believe until they have heard. And they won't hear unless someone tells them. And they won't go, unless they realize they have been sent by Christ and His church. Seems like I remember Apostle Paul telling us that in Romans 10.

So, part of what we have to be doing at Ogletown is to be reminding ourselves that we have permission (and much more) to follow God's mission!

Who will hear today, as a result of our sharing?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Building real relationships - ordinary life

Surely, we often make entry-level evangelism harder than it really is.

I have learned from some friends as well as authors and speakers how to make room in my life of unbelievers. It is not always easy, especially when the super-majority of your friends are in the church!

One way is to go to some of the same locations for weekly tasks (i.e. the cleaners, coffee shops, restaurants, gas stations, etc.). That often puts you in contact with the same people. So, I frequent a specific Dunkin Donuts and have enjoyed a growing friendship with the two people behind the counter. I was convicted one day that too often I view people as if they are only there to serve me, so now when I go into DD particularly, I try to think of ways to serve them. I have been blessed in the process.

Another way to meet people is to walk and play. Seriously, one of the secretaries at our church talked about how many people she and her husband had met as a direct result of walking their dog. And what about playing? My good friend Ben encouraged me to play with our kinds in the front yard instead of the back yard. It is amazing how many of our neighbors we have come to know, love, and appreciate because of that little step.

Simple, ordinary, but I am praying that God would use my life for His extraordinary purposes.

Building real relationships - beginning steps

Last night at our evening service for the Love Your Neighbor Initiative, Stan asked the students (and adults) to think back through their day considering whether they had
  1. Noticed someone
  2. Prayed for someone
  3. Listened to someone
  4. Shared their life with someone
Basic questions? Sure. But, it does give a starting point for the first point of the plan for evangelism we talked about Sunday, and that is we should be building real relationships with people.

So, think through those questions each day. Ask them to yourself (or others) each night.

Jeremiah in the morning

While reading through the book of Jeremiah can be difficult, it is also challenging. You hear God's voice as He calls out a nation's sin, and then you look inside your own heart, and realize He is calling out your sin! Here are some challenging verses I read this morning from the first three chapters
1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

1:19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”

2:5 Thus says the Lord: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?

2:8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me;

2:11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

2:22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.

2:35 You say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’ Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’

3:10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.”

3:13 Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the Lord.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Quote from Spurgeon

A word from C.H. Spurgeon (an old English Baptist preacher) on our subject this morning.
"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for. "
God, fire up our hearts to see people and love people like this.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thanking God for our staff

I rarely write about our staff on this blog. That certainly is not because I don't appreciate what they do. Truth be told, I think the main reason why I don't write more is that I hesitate using the blog for any type of self-serving hype or self-promotion. However, I do know that God's Word says to give honor where honor is do.

I am grateful for our staff for several reasons:
  • They see their role as a ministry, not just a job.
  • Because they love each other, the office is not a place of drama where so-and-so is not speaking to so-and-so. I am telling the truth when I say I haven't seen ANY of that in the 22 months I have been here.
  • There is an environment of teamwork and friendship.
  • They accept loving correction, and desire to constantly be improving.
  • They do not gossip. They care more about people than information.
  • They are extremely resourceful with being good stewards of our resources.
  • They manage the stress of changed plans, managing volunteers, and a pastor who is trying to learn to communicate better.
  • They love and listen to people.
  • They work hard when no one is watching.
  • They have a heart for people who don't know Jesus Christ. We pray for friends/family often to come to Christ.
  • They make leadership a joy (see Hebrews 13:17).
  • Because they serve well, I believe that our church leaders are free from distractions, and able to serve Christ with all their heart. What a blessing.
Having said that, our staff is not perfect. We all have areas of growth. We all are, God-willing, increasing in our sanctification. No one knows that more than we do. Their 'boss' is CERTAINLY not perfect, just ask them. But, God's grace shines through them. Continue to pray for us. And thank you for supporting OBC in such a way that it allows our staff to serve Christ and you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Everything we need

This past Sunday, we looked at 2 Peter 1 that reminded us that we have everything we need to live a godly life. I thought about that in light of people.

In a 'positive' way, I believe that some of the resources God gives us to enable us to live a godly life are other believers who help us. We will not persevere until the end with our faith without people encouraging us along the way, not to lose hope.

In a 'negative' sense, I think we have to recognize that we cannot use the excuse of people as to why we don't live a godly life. If a sovereign and omniscient God has given us everything we need, then we can rest assured that He has provided us what we need to deal with difficult people. So, our lack of following and obeying Christ cannot be justified because the people with whom we cross paths are not acting godly. The implications of that are staggering when we think how that applies to our spouses, our kids, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers. In other words their lack of godliness does not mean I am prohibited from manifesting Christ in m life. No excuses. Unlimited resources. Sounds like we need God's gracious work in our lives!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Praying for Stan today

Stan Gibson, our associate pastor, mentioned on Sunday that his friend was recently killed. It was covered recently in the Chattanooga News. Stan shares the message and love of Jesus Christ in a powerful way.
He is in our prayers today, as the funeral is at 2:00pm.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thinking about heaven

What will it look like to enter heaven? Let me add one more word to the question. What will it look like to enter heaven well?

Two passages have been ringing in my ears (and heart)...
Mark 10:28-31 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

So, it makes sense to me why Peter would have written this years after Christ said this to him.
2 Peter 1:8-11 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Too much and too little

My heart has been challenged and convicted by...

The 'little' that we make too 'much' of:
I could tread lightly here for fear of being misunderstood, but it is amazing what captures our attention. We 'tweet' and 'update our status' with things that surely could not handle the weightiness of standing before a holy God someday. We "mourn the loss" of a comedian that we have never met whose only contribution to our lives has been some late night entertainment. We diligently follow a celebrity couple that we have never met and our eyes are glued to the messy details of their impending divorce. We celebrate that someone can "look so great, even at the age of 40." What does any of this matter in our lives and in our pursuit of the Almighty God and His Son? Are we any more obedient, loving, or serving as a result? Is the fruit of the Spirit flowing in abundance because of this? This speaks to the shame we should have before God. If "you get what you celebrate," what do we have in our lives and in our churches? What are we celebrating and consequently getting?

The 'much' that we make too 'little' of:
Do we realize what it means in the sight of God that His people serve Him faithfully? Is it significant that people would put comfort, security, ease, and applause on the line for a Man (who is the God-man) and a message (which is the hope of all mankind)? Is that important to us? Does that hit our radar? Are we impressed to be obedient and faithful? Is it newsworthy? Do we think it is a big deal that a husband loves his wife? Is it important that a mother trains her child to love Jesus more than cartoons? Is it significant that someone decides to not 'gain the whole world,' and gives his life for Christ's sake and the gospel?

I realize that God has not called us to live a monastic lifestyle, and I also realize that we do live in the world (even though we are not supposed to be 'of' the world), but God help us to evaluate our priorities in the areas of much/little. Especially if "this world is not our home, and we just are passing through..."

More questions than answers

Sometimes, in thinking about what God is calling our church to do, I am struck by the 'bigness' and the 'littleness' of our role in God's good agenda. It is big because there is nothing greater than being obedient to the Creator of the ends of the earth. It is little because our time on earth is limited, our resources are limited, our faith is often weak, our lives are often affected by sin (ours and others).

So, in wrestling through that, I find myself asking questions about what God is calling our church to do. Here are some of the 'how' questions...
  • How do we accomplish what God wants?
  • How do we equip people for this?
  • How do we staff God's vision?
  • How do we fund ministry for this?
  • How do we effectively pray?
  • How do we send people?
  • How do we communicate what is needed?
  • How do we celebrate what God has done (and is doing and will do)?
  • How do we partner with others?
Just thoughts on a day when I desire more than ever that God use His church universal, Ogletown, my family, and me personally to further the glory of Jesus Christ among our neighbors and the nations.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One more (helpful) thing in your inbox

I have been reading a newsletter for a few weeks now that has proven to be interesting, convicting, challenging and encouraging.

It is from Shepherds Press, you can go to this page and subscribe to it, if you would like. The newsletter promotes books, but it is far more than that. The thoughts in the newsletter regularly direct my attention to how the Bible and the gospel should be shaping my understanding of culture, the family, parenting, and life in general.

Read it and be edified!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hearing AND doing

A theme that has come up in conversations and other arenas of life recently is that of not only hearing God's Word, but also obeying it. So, although we might be growing in our knowledge of God's Word (which is a GREAT thing), there is still a disconnect if we are not putting it into practice.

I thought of a couple of ways I try to do this (emphasis on the word 'try')...
  1. If I stop to pray about what I have just learned, then I am more likely to be impacted by it. So, I was studying 1 Corinthians 7 recently (I will use this chapter, only because it is fresh on my mind). I found myself connecting that chapter with prayer and so in my heart, I believe that God was driving much of that chapter home in my life.
  2. In addition, I found myself not only praying about 1 Corinthians 7, but also praying FOR PEOPLE with requests shaped by 1 Corinthians 7. So, I began to think of names and faces which once again made God's Word come alive to me.
  3. I also have felt impressed to talk to others about what God is teaching me there. I find that as I talk through things with other believers, I am more inclined to be shaped by God's Word as well. (In addition, they may share insight into that arena, or be impacted themselves).
  4. I try to look at my life and see if there are any shortcomings in which I by the grace of God needs to change. I have found a couple of pointed time-specific ways of working toward change in those shortcomings.
  5. If possible, I may try to write in a journal some of the things I am learning about God, myself, and others. It documents what God is teaching me. It also serves as a reference point to come back to in the future.
I am sure there are more ways, but in summary here are some questions: (1) Have I prayed about this? (2) Have I prayed for people about this? (3) Have I talked to others about this? (4) Where can the gospel work change in my life, (5) Have I tangibly recorded anything about this anywhere?

Any other thoughts?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

2 questions worth asking yourself today

In reading today, I ran across a couple of questions that made me pause and reflect. Here they are...
  1. As the flock of God (and as being a sheep in that flock), what is our mission?

  2. As the flock of God (and as being a sheep in that flock), what is our destiny?

If we asked those questions daily, can you imagine what God might do in us and through us?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Overhearing Job

I have too often been guilty of thinking that the book of Job really had three significant chapters (1-2, 42). Those chapters form the basic storyline of the book. I have reasoned that the middle ‘stuff’ of the book contains a few verses worth quoting, but not a consistent dose of inspirational or motivational material. “Let me get on to Psalms and Proverbs” has been more of my mindset.

And I have too often missed it.

I have missed the emotions of Job. I have missed the theology (some good, some poor) from Job’s friends. I have missed some of the self-assertions of God. Truly, I should have paid more attention to a theology course whose instructor is God Himself. In chapter three alone, I have missed some things.

I have missed the ‘whys’ of Job. Why did I not die at birth? Why was I not as a stillborn child? Why is light given to him who is in misery, but it comes not to the one who is digging for it? Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? Some pretty significant ‘whys.’

I have missed the depth of Job. A person who will write in poetic form about the most painful things in life is experiencing and communicating things that I need to hear. A person who will describe gloom with seven different metaphors deserves more attention than I have given him.

I have missed the raw and real emotion of Job. Job speaks of his sighing, groaning, fear, dread, lack of rest, noisiness, and being ill at ease (24-26). Job speaks of his pain, and I am too often like his friends who were supposed to be the ‘sympathizers.’ I don’t have enough time to listen to Job, or I am forming my theological opinions before I have really heard him out.

I am convinced that my ‘missing’ the heartbeat of Job may be symptomatic of the way I miss others. Am I too quick to have solutions before I have shared in someone’s pain? Am I full of my own schedule that I cannot fit room in for one more broken heart?

So Job, please keep talking. Holy Spirit, help me to be listening.

More about Love from 1 John, part two

Here are some more aspects of love according to John...

4. Love for other believers is an evidence of God’s saving grace in our lives.

If you have experienced the radical transition from death to life, John says, it should have visible results (3:14). And one of those results will be a love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. This gives believers a reasonable cause for certainty in our conversion and eternal salvation. God’s grace has worked in our lives and so we have an example, motivation, and means for showing love in the lives of others. Even though unbelievers certainly can love, Scripture reveals that we are capable, empowered, enabled to do this in a way in which we previously could not, and did not.

5. We can know love by looking at Jesus’ voluntary death on the cross.
When John reveals that “you know love by this,” we should take note. In particular, He uses the voluntary death of Christ on the cross as a supreme example of love (3:16). But, John is not content for us to simply marvel at the example of love. He might well agree with the statement that “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, and my all.” The voluntary death of Christ serves as an example to love. Christ’s visible demonstration of love is meant to have an impact on the way that we show sacrificial love. It is our motivation, our cause, and our reason for loving. It also serves as the source of what becomes a natural outpouring or result of love.

6. True love is not adequately shown through words.

In one of the most practical, poignant instructions in the book, John paints a picture of a person who is in need, and speaks of another believer closing their heart against him (3:17-18). So, the sacrificial love described is meant to be active. So, we cannot simply be truly grateful for the sacrifice of Christ. Truly, our love for Christ will manifest itself in love for our brothers and sisters in Christ which will assuredly involve many small sacrifices.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More about Love from 1 John, part one

The book of 1 John coupled with the other writings of John flesh out a clear theology of God’s love for us and our love for others. As we consider how we should understand God’s love, and then as we are challenged to show and share God’s love, we can learn much from this Beloved Disciple. Although these foundational aspects of God’s love are not comprehensive (even for the Epistle), they are an attempt to represent the core teachings of John in this Epistle.

1. Love can be characterized by “actively seeking the good of the other person, even at the expense of my own good.” This definition is rooted in the original meaning and use of the word. It stresses several important elements of love. John repeatedly demonstrates that our love should be active. Also, this love is not mere sentimentality, but a desire to seek the good for another person. The definition also carries the important connotation of self-sacrifice which is a clear mark of God’s love, and is meant to be evident in ours.

2. We should stand in utter amazement at the love of God. John is writing this epistle, and at the beginning of the third chapter, there is this exclamation, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us (3:1).” It is an expression of amazement, as if this love that God has for us has come from a different planet. John seems to be vigorously drawing our attention to a love we have never seen before and could not imagine. This love has a result of us being made to be God’s children. We have a new nature, we are born into a new family, and we have a new family likeness.

3. We have a command from the beginning to love each other. John stresses this command in a few places (3:11,23; 4:21) and highlights a couple of important things. First, this is not a new command, but rather from the beginning. Even in chapter three, as he stresses that the origin of this command is ancient, he also points out that the bloody violation of this command has its roots in the first family as well. But also, he stresses that this is a clear command. This is not optional for the one who professes to believe. In stressing this longstanding command he is giving the next instruction about love, but not new instruction. He is going to the heart of what it means to follow God and delving into the heart of Jesus’ instruction.

I am praying for John Lose today

I saw this short video on Philadelphia's NBC affiliate.

It is about 5 guys (one of them, John Lose, who was baptized last month at Ogletown) and their effort of rowing 1500 miles to raise money for Autism Awareness. I should say their SERIOUS, UNBELIEVABLE EFFORT to raise money for Autism. God bless you, John, you are in our prayers.

Here is the site for Rock the Boat.
More Rock the Boat stuff.

Three things on my mind, and maybe more later

  1. How is the Proverbs challenge going? Are you caught up? Today's reading is Proverbs 9.

  2. I read this quote in preparation for Sunday's message: "We tend to have permanently casual relationships that never grow into real intimacy. There are things we know about each other, but they fool us into thinking that we know the human beings who live within the borders of those details." (Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands)

  3. I also was helped this morning by another book called How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. I am pretty sure you can pick up How to Read and Instruments at our resource table on Sunday morning.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Practice what you preach

I read this passage this morning and was reminded by the thought that I had better practice this week what I preached on Sunday.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But encourage one another EVERY DAY, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12-14)
So, will that happen this week in our Ogletown family? May God grace us with His power to do so, and may He start with me!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Proverbs 5-7

For the next few days of the Proverbs challenge.

Proverbs Five
Proverbs Six
Proverbs Seven

I have heard good things from people reading. Keep up the good work!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Home @ theHappyHills

Hey, you ought to check out my wife's new blog.

It's less on the theology/ministry stuff and more on the interior decorating side of things. I readily admit, that is not my area of expertise.

She has some pictures of some pretty awesome projects she has done around the house! The blog is a reminder that she is the better half of the Hills!

Proverbs 4

Are you keeping up with the Proverbs challenge? Today, is chapter four!

I am encouraged to have talked with a bunch of you who are doing it! I am praying God makes fruit abound from it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Proverbs 3

Day 3 in the Proverbs Challenge

Proverbs 3
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew. My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you. Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm. Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways, for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence. The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace. (ESV)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On the road to Sunday...

Anyone who has ever prepared a talk probably can relate to how I feel on most Tuesday afternoons.

After digging in God's Word, I feel like there is more there than I could possibly share with people in a limited amount of time. I have felt that way reading through 1 John today. I am getting prepared for the LOVE section of our study of In and Out: Love-Know-Speak-Do.

Here is a little gem I picked up from a Bible study guide on 1 John 2:28-3:2 from the GoodBook Company.

In the New Testament Christians are often told:
  • to be what we are: we are children of God so we should show the family likeness;
  • to become what we will be: we will be like God in the new creation, so we should be like Him now.
A little bit deep, but really encouraging.

Proverbs 2

Another day, another chapter in Proverbs.

Proverbs 2
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways. So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it. (ESV)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Proverbs Challenge - Proverbs 1

As promised, I am posting the text of Proverbs 1 (I used the ESV translation).

In case you missed yesterday's message, I am challenging our church to read through the book of Proverbs during the month of June. It is a part of the In and Out series we are going through on Sunday mornings.

One more thing...please feel free to share your thoughts with the rest of the blog readers by posting a comment below. I think we could all benefit from the insights each day that the Spirit gives us into God's Word.
Proverbs 1
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”— my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors. Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” (ESV)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

3 questions I find myself thinking about on Sunday mornings

So here are the 3 questions I find myself thinking about on Sunday mornings (and truth be told, Mon-Sat as well).

  1. Has what I am about to preach made any affect on me personally? Has it stirred my affections for Jesus Christ? Has it produced humble, repentant fruit in my life? Can I think of tangible ways in which I am different for having poured my life into it the previous week? The LAST thing the church needs is a hypocrite preaching to them about things that ultimately have been of no lasting value in his own life. God forgive me when I have done that!

  2. Have I given careful attention to the gospel concerning what I am bout to preach? I cannot just assume this will happen. I have to think, "Am I preaching a message that could be given at a civic club, a mosque, or a synagogue with a few minor tweaks?" Or is what I am preaching the radical nature of a gospel that fundamentally changes everything? Have I considered how the life of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ has changed the discussion on this topic?

  3. Have I considered how this affects "us" not just "me" or "you" (in the singular). In other words, much of the New Testament is given to an assembly of people, not just an individual. Even the portions that were given to individuals were often meant for a larger community. Have I paid attention to that? Have I considered that this passage speaks to a greater church community, not just isolated individuals?
I think I do better when these 3 questions have done work on my sermons.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Does grammar impact prayer?

As I was thinking more about what I shared in the last post, I ran across another helpful insight into my prayer life.

Paul uses a verb form in the prayers of verse 5 (May God grant you) and verse 13 (May God fill you) that really functions as "an appeal to the will" of God. Wallace says that this request is a "polite request without a hint of doubting what the response will be." While the verb form itself may indicate a request or prayer is merely a possibility, because we know who God is, and what He is like, that possibility becomes a reasonable expectation and something worth setting our hope on.

Imagine what that meant to Paul. Imagine what that means to you when you pray these types of prayer.

Wallace goes on to say that "prayers offered to the semi-gods of Athens could expect to be haggled over, rebuffed, and left unanswered. But the God of the NT was bigger than that. The prayers offered to him depend on his sovereignty and goodness. If uncertainty is part of the package, it is not due to questions of God's ability, but simply to the petitioner's humility before the transcendent one."

So, we can approach God with confidence asking Him to fill us with joy and peace, and for Him to grant us endurance and encouragement. We can know we are not trying to force his reluctant hand to act on our behalf. He is gracious and glad to give good gifts to His children who ask for them.

The God of...

I am stuck in Romans 15 again, but my attention has just been drawn to several aspects of God's grace found in this chapter.

He is said to be the
  • God of endurance (5)
  • God of encouragement (5)
  • God of hope (13)
  • God of peace (33)
According to one of best resources I know on the subject, we can legitimately substitute "who produces" in the place of "of" in the phrases above.

So, then we have a
  • God who produces endurance
  • God who produces encouragement
  • God who produces hope
  • God who produces peace
Sounds like exactly what I need. A God who works in me and on me as I follow Him. A God who changes me from the inside out. A God who sees my woeful lack of being able to produce internally anything of lasting result.

I think I know how God desires me to pray today!

Is it even possible

Is it possible for us to live in a growing, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ, but still have unresolved, unrepentant issues with another brother/sister in Christ?

My first inclination is to put up my defenses, and think of how I might have been sinned against, or misunderstood, or essentially have no guilt in a relationship that has gone sour. But, I don't think that I can stop there. I believe that I have to make effort to make sure relationships are reconciled.

Romans 12:18 reminds me of this...
If possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
In preparing for this Sunday's message, I ran across the prayer of Paul in Romans 15 which says
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In harmony with each other, in accord with Christ Jesus. Not separated at all, except for the comma. In other words, God's good plan for Ogletown is a joyful harmony that extends from what we share in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Too good not to share

There is nothing like telling someone that you love about something great they can enjoy and find useful. I feel like that when I think of a resource I have found in recent days. It is printed by a company (The GoodBook Company - I love the name!) from the UK, who recently opened a base of operations in the US.

The resource is called TableTalk, and essentially is a family devotion tool. We have started using TableTalk recently with our family (my wife, and children, ages 5 and 2). God has used it to provide some consistency in an area where we have often come up short. Why is it so helpful? Several reasons.
  1. The Bible is OPENED, and real text is read. I appreciate and use The Big Picture Story Bible and the Jesus Storybook Bible, but there is no substitute for reading the very words of Scripture.
  2. The portions of Scripture are truly “bite-size” allowing our kids to focus for a short amount of time.
  3. There are interactive portions that help the Bible come alive.
  4. Each day ends with a focused prayer time. It brings me joy that my son is learning a variety of things to pray for.
  5. There is some continuity to the study, so that every night we are not jumping to a new unrelated story to what we looked at the day before.
  6. The big story line of the Bible is always in view. It highlights the gospel themes of God’s rule, our sin, Jesus’ death, and our redemption almost every day.
  7. Although we are not using a complementary resource just yet, I am also thrilled to know about the XTB (eXplore The Bible) series that is for kids (who are readers) to do their personal devotions on the same Scripture that TableTalk uses for that particular day.
I could say much more, but this resource has helped my wife and I fulfill our responsibility to teach our children to be disciples of Christ. I think I would pay 5 times what they charge, knowing the value of what it has brought to our house.

Do we talk about hope enough?

As I was preparing this morning for Sunday's message, I ran across several references to "hope" in Romans 15.
  • Verse 4 - Scripture was written that we might have hope.
  • Verse 12 - The Gentiles will find hope in the root of Jesse (Jesus Christ).
  • Verse 13 - God is the God of hope.
  • Verse 13 - The power of the Holy Spirit makes us abound in hope.
So, do we find ourselves hoping in Christ? When our world blows up, do we look to the Spirit to help us abound in hope? Do we turn to the Scriptures to give us hope? Do we let our hope in God fill us with joy and peace because we believe in Jesus?

I think I need to adjust some of the ways I encourage people. I need to remind them more often to not lose hope. I also need to remind myself of that and pray that God will bring ministers of hope in my life.

For the Christian, our hope is not just wishful thinking, or pie-in-the-sky fairy tales. It is hope rooted in the love of the Father, the cross of the Son, and the working of the Spirit.

So this is my prayer for Ogletown today. It was actually the prayer of Paul for the church at Rome, and I am positive I cannot improve on it.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Words from "A Broken Heart"

As I was reminding myself this morning of the good news of Jesus Christ, I came across these short powerful lines from a prayer in The Valley of Vision called "A Broken Heart."
I am guilty, but pardoned
I am lost, but saved
I am wandering, but found
I am sinning, but cleansed

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Men's Bible Study

I normally don't use the blog for shameless promotion, but there are exceptions to most everything, or so my Greek professor led me to believe.

I mentioned on Men’s Night and on Sunday morning that I would be leading a men’s Bible study. I have felt led for some time to lead this kind of study, and God seemed to open a door here for me to do it.

Essential details: we will meet at the OEx at 6:30am, and it will be for 5 weeks, beginning tomorrow morning. My prayer is that we will take some time to hear from God’s Word together, humbly work it out in our own lives, and pray for each other. Don’t feel obligated to be there every week if you have other commitments. I am hoping that God will use these weeks in my life to shape me into the image of the perfect man, Jesus Christ.

You are in my prayers, and I would love to see you tomorrow. If you have any questions, please email me or give me a call.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What does justice look like?

When I was preparing this morning for a look at the parable of the "Workers in the Vineyard" in Matthew 20, I ran across this thought
Justice [is not] a passive idea waiting to be violated, and it certainly is not to be defined by self-centered interests. Justice requires positive action seeking the good for all persons, especially the poor. True justice - at least God's justice - seeks mercy and ways to express love.
Stories of Intent by Klyne Snodgrass, p. 378

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Baptism on Sunday

I am looking forward to Sunday, and I want you to be a part of our services. We will have a joint baptismal service between services celebrating together God’s work in the life of our Ogletown family. It will serve as the conclusion of the first service and the beginning of the second service. So, if you normally attend the 9:00 service, we will invite you over to the Sanctuary as we celebrate God’s work in the lives of several people at our church. If you normally attend the 10:30 service, we ask you to come a little early to church.

The logistics may be a little crazy, but I think it will be a day in the life of Ogletown we won’t soon forget. I can't wait to see you Sunday.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

There's a Wideness in God's Mercy

Here is a beautiful hymn that expresses in a powerful way some of what I said in this morning's message from Daniel 9.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.

’Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
It is something more than all;
Greater good because of evil,
Larger mercy through the fall.

If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
’Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Was there ever kinder shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us
Come and gather at His feet?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Biblical productivity

How do you balance time? How do you determine priorities? How do you practice good stewardship of the 168 hours that God gives you each week?

A thought-provoking, gospel-oriented series of posts by C.J. Mahaney helped me think through some new categories. They have been compiled into a single pdf document.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good news and bad news

Could God be a nice God and not hold anyone accountable? For the good news to be good, does there have to be bad news as well? This comment was insightful.
Without the concept of judgment one does not even need salvation, and any urgency about life and its importance, about justice, or even about God is, if not lost, at least greatly diminished. Grace is only grace if the outcome should have been otherwise, and the significance of life depends on accountability for life. We may not like judgment, but it is a central and necessary message of both Testaments and especially Jesus' teaching.
Stories of Intent by Klyne Snodgrass

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Small group or Sunday School class primer

One of the things that I think would be a BIG help for the people of OBC is to be involved in some smaller group of believers organized and prepared to share God's Word and to share life together. I came across some helpful suggestions if you are in such a group.
  • Praying earnestly for God’s blessing on others, the leader and myself.

  • Depending upon the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures.

  • Looking to God to speak to me personally.

  • Approaching the Bible in true humility, not to criticize but to be criticized by God’s Word.

  • Avoiding preaching sermonettes to the group.

  • Endeavoring to participate whenever I can in sharing thoughts or by asking questions.

  • Not monopolizing the study in talking too much.

  • Giving loyal support to the leader and encouragement to others.

  • Being ready, with grace and humility, to agree to differ from others.

  • Never discussing adversely the leader or other members of the group in their absence.

Stay in touch

I am grateful for those who read the blog. I also try to stay connected to people in some other ways, so FYI...
  • You can reach me at Facebook

  • I am also trying out Twitter. So far, I think it is pretty cool.

  • Also, my email address is chill AT ogletown DOT org

Members Meeting last night

In case you missed the Members Meeting last night...

It was great to hear that our church gave over $10,000 to do work through the North American Mission Board. Awesome job! I am glad our church is prepared to give to the cause of missions!

In addition, we heard that we are in a favorable position to offer help to those who are in need in our church family (and extended) through our benevolence fund.

Our "Love Your Neighbor Initiative" which will involve bringing pillows and pillow cases (lots of them) on Sunday for the Sunday Breakfast Mission, is looking like an awesome opportunity for us to bless our community.

We also mentioned that as a result of our discipleship, membership classes, and most of all the Spirit's work, we are looking forward to Sunday, May 17, where several will be baptized and several will be presented who desire to join the OBC family. I cannot wait!

I mentioned that I am "recommitting" to some of my pastoral priorities...
  • Ministry of the Word - I spend a good amount of time studying God's Word. I am appreciative of the privilege of doing that. I am trying to maximize my stewardship of God's Word, by preparing for Sunday morning (my opportunity to impact the most people in one setting). But, I am also committed to using my study of God's Word through many other means like Bible studies, counseling appointments, personal discipleship blog posts, etc. We don't do the body of Christ any good if we only 'intake' the Bible and don't pass it along.

  • Prayer - I am committed to praying better for the congregation. I have to grow in my discipline. This week, I have prayed for many people in the OBC family by name. I am praying that God will grow me in that area, as I submit and obey.

  • People - In a congregation our size, it can be difficult to know where to start in that, but I am committed to shepherding people. I love the family that God has called me to at OBC, and I am praying that God will open some doors for me to tangibly show it!

  • Oversight - I recognize that part of my call and New Testament responsibility is to oversee the congregation. My prayer is that as I do the first 3 priorities well, God will open doors for me to do this one well, as well.
I am grateful for those who were there, and also for all those who care about how God is working at OBC.

Success is...

Success is often measured for us, isn’t it? If you get a certain GPA, you have had a successful semester. If you improve your time in a race, or improve your golf score, you can easily look at it as success. If you attain a certain position in a company, many will view you as successful.

But, a question might be, “What does a successful church look like?” Of course, we could look at some outward indicators like the number of attenders, size of the building, or even the amount that the church collects. And surely, those things have their place, but at the end of the day, I am not sure that God is overwhelmingly impressed with any of them.

But, I do think when God looks at Ogletown, He is pleased to see…
  • A child growing in their understanding of the God who loves them more than they could imagine
  • A small group or a Sunday School class experiencing a level of authenticity or transparency that they have not had before
  • A person using their gifts to serve the body of Jesus Christ, sometimes when no one is looking
  • A couple who decide to follow biblical commands of hospitality, and open their homes to neighbors as well as to brothers and sisters in Christ
  • A teenager who ends up choosing to do what is right, despite the ridicule or embarrassment for not going with the flow
  • Parents who have chosen to do the hard work of shaping their child’s heart, and who do so even when it isn’t convenient
  • People who gather early on Sunday morning to pray (and those who pray throughout the week for our body as well)
  • A college student boldly and lovingly sharing their faith
  • A family who begins to develop a heart that makes them love their neighbor in tangible ways
  • A person who sees their business as more than something to enhance their earthly security, but rather sees it as a platform to share God’s grace
  • A student who takes an extended period of time in their lives (with a measure of personal sacrifice) to invest it in the lives of others

These things are happening at Ogletown, and I believe God is pleased. It seems to me that success can manifest itself in 100 different ways, and sometimes it is hard to measure. But, I take great comfort in knowing God sees all, and is working out His perfect will in our lives. Are we perfect? Far from it! Are we successful? I think we are, at times, but there is always room to grow. Are we dependent on Him for everything we need for life and godliness? You can rest assured we are.