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)