Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Daniel resources

In preaching through Daniel, I have been blessed to find several study helps.


Bible Study Guides

Other Relevant Books

9 reasons why Daniel and the Lions Den is worth a re-reading

I was studying for Sunday's message and I came across a summary of some of the highlights of the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den in Daniel 6.
  1. Daniel was faithful even in old age (he was near or over 80)
  2. Daniel is a godly example (v. 5)
  3. Daniel was faithful to pray (10)
  4. Daniel was faithful in trials (16)
  5. Daniel was faithful in his testimony to God (16, 20)
  6. Daniel was rescued by God (22)
  7. Daniel saw a special manifestation of God (22)
  8. Daniel had a platform for a strong witness to God's rule (26-27)
  9. Daniel was blessed for his obedience (28)
Not too shabby of a story. Is it any wonder that kids (and grownups) love it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Painful times, encouraging words

I was reminded yet again yesterday that life can be very tough, and sometimes we struggle with knowing what God is doing and where God is taking us.

One of the OBC family has shared some strong, faith-filled words as she wrestles through living in a world that hurts. I am so grateful for the hope she shares from Romans 8. And I am grateful for faith that can persevere in and through pain.

The God Who...

I was reading in Deuteronomy this morning. I think I grow in my appreciation of that book every time I read it. Chapter four seemed to really challenge my heart today. Two verses stand out from that chapter.
(7) For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? (8) And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
So, this is the God we have. According to these verses we have a God who hears and a God who speaks. Is it any wonder that followers of God (and His Son Jesus) have continually stressed the need for prayer and Bible intake.

These are not just religious disciplines. They are connected to the very character of God!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Q and A, part three

This is part three in an interview I did (part 1 is here and part 2 is here).

What single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your effective use of time?

I think of two things. (1) Do the things that are most important at a time when you are at your best. So, I try to study in the morning. (2) A series of posts by C.J. Mahaney on roles, goals, and scheduling. In addition, I am trying to grow in my understanding of a New Testament application of the Sabbath. I have benefited in this from a message by Darren Patrick.

What single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your leadership?
I think that this comes from Robert Murray M’Cheyne, but it is this: “The greatest gift I can give my church is my personal holiness.”

Where in ministry are you most regularly tempted to discouragement?
Mainly on Sunday afternoons realizing that (1) I didn’t communicate something well, or (2) what I did communicate had little impact.

Do you exercise?
If so, what do you do? If not, why not? Unfortunately, no. However, I am trying to get back into it (I have said that for a long time). I really need a running partner, and it just hasn’t materialized.

Currently, what sport do you like to play and/or watch?
I love watching football and golf. I used to love watching a truckload of college football on Saturday, but sermon prep has diminished that. I enjoy playing golf, but I hate that it takes more time and money than I have to be good at it.

What do you do for leisure?
Read. Enjoy the family. I am currently enjoying watching the mini-series on John Adams.

If you were not in ministry, what occupational path would you have chosen?
Most likely it would not be public speaking, other than maybe teaching. Tough question. I think that it might be in the computer field.

Respectful resolve

This past Sunday, we looked at Daniel 1 (especially verse 8), and we noticed that Daniel had a resolve to live for God in Babylon. The Bible tells us that he resolved not to defile himself. We also saw that he was respectful in his requests to the king and his court.

I prayed specifically Sunday that OBC would be a people of respectful resolve. That we would not be defiled as we live in Babylon. But, as I have prayed that more this week, I realize that is impossible. We will be defiled, despite our good intentions, and despite our respectful resolve. We will blow it. Even Daniel wasn't perfect (although I cannot find a blemish on his character in Scripture). So the truth is that we still need (and Daniel needed) someone who did not defile himself to make us righteous before God. We need a rescuer who is pure and spotless. We need someone who resolved not to sin, and never failed in that resolve.

That is who Jesus Christ is for us, and that is certainly in the "good news" category!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sharing your faith (with your five year old)

I always have been a little nervous with sharing the gospel with kids. Why? Because I want to be certain that they understand what is going on. I have seen a few presentations of the gospel that ended with 20 four-year olds who were prepared to "ask Jesus in their heart" so that they could "be with Jesus (and their mommies and daddies) forever" and so they wouldn't spend forever "burning in hell." The result: 100% buy-in by the scared-out-of-their-wits four year olds. I thought, "Surely there is a better way."

...And then I had my own kids. And the pressure to do a good job of sharing Jesus Christ and the message of the Cross seems to have gotten a lot more personal. I realize that I have 4 little eyes watching me to see if I look like the Jesus I profess (intimidating thought)!

So, in thinking through what to say (and what not to say), and how to say it (and how not to say it), my wife and I have worked through some ideas. I want to think through a couple of those, and maybe save some for another time.
  1. This privileged parental responsibility of sharing the gospel has caused us to humbly rely on the Spirit to do His work. That's never a bad place to be (understatement of the year). Crying out to God for people to believe in the message and work of Jesus Christ on the cross. So, if you are a parent, a grandparent, a friend, a teacher, a Bible study leader, maybe this could be a reason to cry out to God that he would save that person who is so special to you. God surely enjoys hearing our prayers, and we are assured that He delights in people coming into the knowledge of the truth.

  2. Although we feel very imperfect and inconsistent at doing this, we do have a beginning point for gospel discussions with our son. We try to remind him that God is the boss of everything. God made it all and He is the king. He is the one in charge (not us). He rules the world. We want our son to have that burned in his heart.

  3. But, I don't feel that you can stop there. I think it is also our responsibility to share with our kids that God is a GOOD king, not a selfish king. God made us, God made parents, God made a beautiful world, and he placed them in it. All these things point to God's goodness. "God is really a good God, isn't He?" I hope my kids hear me say that 1000 times in a week.

  4. We also try to regularly draw out the connection that because God is king we ought to do what He says. And where do we find what He says? In the Bible. By doing this we are trying to connect God's rule over everything with His goodness. We also want them to see that God's rule over everything and His goodness means that we should obey Him. We also want a connection made between God's loving authority and His perfect, infallible meant-to-be-obeyed Word.
So, that is the starting point of parents who feel inadequate, but still called to make disicples (Jesus lovers and followers) of our children (Matthew 28:18-20). It is work to teach those kind of things to a young boy who has the attention span of a five year old. But, I also stay encouraged by realizing that those truths can sustain him for eternity. I can't wait for my daughter to be able to process the good God that she was made to worship.

We start there, and I (Lord-willing) will share more at another time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why Daniel? Why now?

I am beginning a series on Daniel tomorrow in our morning worship services at OBC. Someone recently emailed me asking me why I chose that book at this point. It was a great question, and if I didn't have an answer, I am not sure that would be a credit to my preaching and pastoring! :-)

Truth be told, I am confident that all Scripture is profitable for use in the lives of believers, but in reply, I jotted down some of the particular reasons as to why we could profit from taking time to look at Daniel at this time.
  1. The first part of the book to me shows a path forward for Christians to engage in their Babylon. It challenges our categories of political and cultural involvement.

  2. Similar to above, every day I believe people at OBC are challenged with living in “exile” in “Babylon.” I am hoping that Daniel will give us courage to see our lives as examples and influences even in a culture that is not distinctly Christian. If we need the culture to be Christian for us to live out our faith, I don’t think that says good things about our faith.

  3. In light of our current economic, moral, and social crises, I believe we need to hang on to something substantial. Daniel and his friends obviously did this well. I believe their ‘secret’ lies in a strong faith in God’s deliverance despite the appearance of things.

  4. The rescue stories of Daniel are familiar, but I think all too often we have made the men into heroes, and I want people to see that God is the hero in the story. He is the Rescuer. However, I think the men in Daniel are ones we can pattern our lives after.

  5. I want our church to grow in their understanding of the major themes of prophecy (Daniel 7-12, I believe, have as many prophetic and apocalyptic themes as you could desire), and realize that these chapters point us to (1) the sovereignty of God, (2) our need to repent before God, (3) an understanding of the eternal conflict that is ongoing between God and evil, (4) an appreciation for the end of that story – the righteous are eternally rewarded, the wicked are eternally punished.

  6. I haven’t preached through a book of the Bible in a couple of months (even though I did highlight some Psalms in January), and it has been a while since we have done a book study from the OT.

  7. I want OBC to see some of the connections that I have seen in 1 Peter with the story of Daniel. I may write these out in an article sometime, but after reading 5-6 commentaries on Daniel, and reading the book 15 times, I was blown away to view 1 and 2 Peter as books written with similar themes to Daniel (plus the cross is in the picture because Jesus had come).
I will say that I have been looking forward to this series for a couple of months, and I can't wait to see what God does with it in the life of our church. I have already been challenged and encouraged by it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Q and A, part 2

This is part two in an interview I did (part 1 is here).

If you could study under any theologian in church history (excluding those men in Scripture), who would it be and why?
Probably D.A. Carson or Wayne Grudem. They certainly aren’t ancient, so they might not count. I probably pick these men, because I haven’t read as much as I should in the area of ancient writings. However, these men and their books have become trusted teachers. Another pastor (from church history) that I would love to spend time with would be John Bunyan. Pilgrim’s Progress bleeds Scripture.

What single piece of counsel (or constructive criticism) has most improved your preaching?
Probably what was burned in to me in my doctoral studies and that is if you feel compelled to preach on a certain subject, don’t force it on a text. If your subject is truly biblical, then use the text that teaches it.

What books on preaching, or examples of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
So many have played different roles. I would say I get a high view of preaching from John Piper (The Supremacy of God in Preaching). I strive for a conversational tone because of Andy Stanley. My theology of preaching is shaped by John Stott (Between Two Worlds). I also really value Tim Keller and his emphasis on the gospel. Mark Dever’s preaching has also given me the freedom to attempt to tackle larger chunks of Scripture in one message. Haddon Robinson’s work on Biblical Preaching also introduced me to a good conception of expositional preaching. I try to read a preaching book on a regular basis to keep things fresh.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Morning reflection

In just a few hours I will have the awesome privilege of ministering the Word of God here at OBC. That responsibility always instills a little fear in me. I hope that fear never goes away, it seems to me that fear (in this case) is a healthy emotion.

And yet, I would have to say that the feelings I have could be described as a fearful confidence. Does that even make sense? How could you be confident about something that creates fear. I guess it is because of the "foolishness" of proclaiming God's words. (1 Corinthians 1:18) It seems foolish to think that a sinner could tell other sinners about living right, and yet God ordained it. It seems foolish to think that I could dare speak for God, and yet we have examples in Scripture of people who did it. It seems foolish that God would use someone who feels pretty inadequate to the task, and yet He does. Speaking for God and being a human seem to be incompatible, and yet God does not view it that way. He calls us to do it.

So, I found great encouragement in reading 2 Corinthians 5:19 which seemed to speak so plainly to me this morning, "God in Christ, has reconciled the world to himself (not counting their trespasses against them), and has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation."

That is what makes me tremble. I want God to be pleased with my effort to make clear His reconciliation with sinners. I am supremely confident in Him, and not too confident in my oratorical ability.

These feelings and thoughts only find relief by knowing that God has put them there so that I may rely not on myself, but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Q and A, part 1

I recently was asked to fill out some questions for an interview. For what they are worth, I thought I would post them on the blog.

Please describe your morning devotions. What time do you wake up in the morning? How much time do you spend reading, meditating, praying, etc.? What are you presently reading?

I wake up between 5 and 6:30 most days. I normally don’t do my personal devotions at that time. Normally, I try to do that around 8 or 9. I feel awake then. My time in Bible reading (apart from sermon prep) ranges from 15 minutes to 45 minutes on most work days, and varies on my day off. I am currently on a plan by the Navigators, so I am reading in Matthew, Numbers, Psalms, and Romans. I am being fed by the Psalms. In praying I am trying to grow. I feel like I have made progress in intercessory prayer, but need to grow in my stillness before the Lord.

What book(s) are you currently reading in these three categories: (a) for your soul, (b) for pastoral ministry, or (c) for personal enjoyment?

(a) I just got done with Feel by Matthew Elliott. He pushed me in some pretty neat ways. I also read The Heart of a Servant Leader by Jack Miller, which I think could feed me and shepherd me for years.
(b) I am reading two commentaries on Daniel to prepare for an upcoming sermon series (by Wallace and Longman). I am also reading Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson for the same series. We are also reading Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis as a church staff.
(c) I am reading Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. It is a book written nearly 70-80 years ago that seems to be helpful in deciphering current issues. My fun reading normally comes through the newspaper or through GolfWord, the best weekly news magazine. I also subscribe to a couple of Christian periodicals (Leadership, Touchstone, and the Briefing).

Apart from Scripture, what book do you most frequently re-read and why?

A couple. (1) The Cross Centered Life by Mahaney, because it is readable, short, convicting and encouraging. (2) Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament by Chris Wright, because it makes me love Jesus more, the OT more, and the NT more.

I will post some more of the questions another day.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Follow up from this morning...

I mentioned a couple of organizations this morning. Here are links to their sites.

I am praying that God will launch Ogletown into a tangible display of love for Him and love for our neighbors, and each of these organizations would have multiple ways to facilitate that.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More on today's message

I preached this morning on repentance and I found a couple of free online articles that were helpful in digging deeper on the subject.

One is called "All of Life Is Repentance" by Tim Keller The other is by Michael Horton and is called "The Long War."

Both are pretty insightful and could be fruitful as we seek genuine, biblical, life-giving repentance.