Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Address for the Blog

If you want to continue to follow this blog, please visit this site for future posts:
http://ogletown.org/blog/

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moving from "No-Names" to "Knowing Names," part 2

In trying to move from No-Names to Knowing Names, I recognize that there are several factors that contributed to where we now are as a church.  No 'one thing' pushed us away from each other, and no 'one thing' will effect a silver-bullet change.  However, we can take steps.

This coming Sunday evening at 6pm (9/18), I am anticipating a step in getting to know each other a little better.  We are launching INFOCUS.   This will be a gathering of Ogletown three times this fall, so that we can connect through the Word, testimonies, music, prayer, and fellowship.

I anticipate several ways that God could use this in the life of our church.
  • While our church has many subunits, often our church as a whole often feels disconnected. This would gather us together in one place at one time.
  • Our size (and subsequent formality) often doesn’t allow us to know each other in a more personal way through our Sunday morning worship service. In a less structured, less formal way, this would allow us to meet each other and hear from each other about how God is at work in our church.
  • We need avenues to pray for each other. This will provide an opportunity for us to truly pray for one another on the spot.
  • We need to get together more. Many Ogletown attenders spend 1.25 to 3 hours (of their 168 hour week) with other Ogletown people. This would open more quantity time as well as quality time.

I hope to see you here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moving from "No-Names" to "Knowing Names"

This past Sunday (9/11), I spoke to our church about our need to get to know each other.

It is not simply that we don't know everyone's name who is a part of the Ogletown family.  That would most likely be impossible for most of us.  I am more concerned that we are often not working hard to get to know those who God has brought to our church.  We see people here.  We pass by them, but to often they are "no-names" to us.  I believe as a church we have grown too comfortable going to church with hundreds of family members who we do not know.  We need to work hard on "knowing names."

So, where do we go from here?  I made a couple of suggestions on Sunday.
  1. Be here more often.  I am not sure how you can get to know more people, if you don't put yourself in a place to meet them.  I think that is the intent of Hebrews 10:24-25.

  2. Go out of your way.  You may have to suffer a little discomfort and awkwardness.  You may have to introduce yourself to someone.  You may have to write yourself a note to remember someone's name.  God will use the risk you take in this arena.  FYI, this article is a great catalyst to re-think how you prepare to meet with God's people.
  3. Don't just sit in rows, sit in circles.  In other words, attend a Sunday School class, attend a small group Bible study.  Learn some names of new friends.  Make yourself conspicuous rather than anonymous.
The potential results from a shift from No-Names to Knowing Names are mind-blowing.  And, as I have come to realize, I don't believe Scripture has given us an "opt-out" clause for caring about one another.


Monday, September 12, 2011

God's Big Picture - a study beginning this Wednesday

This Wednesday I am beginning a Bible study (6:30pm for those who are interested).  It is called God's Big Picture, and is taken from a book with the same name written by Vaughan Roberts.  We have several different classes on Wednesday night, and I thought I would share some things that brought me to this study.

I felt like this subject is useful for several reasons.
  • We often lack an overall biblical framework for understanding individual stories. There are some unifying themes that make individual stories make sense. This book highlights those.
  • We tend to miss the one Big Story of the Bible. The title of the study highlights this theme.
  • Because it helps in the process of understanding, this study could serve as a catalyst for reading more Scripture. If the Bible seems to be disconnected, confusing, or lacking cohesion to us, that may serve as a disincentive to read it.
  • Being with other believers for mid-week Bible study and fellowship provides encouragement for spiritual growth.
  • Because the atmosphere is more casual, it provides an opportunity to participate in the study, and benefit form others’ insight into Scripture. 

I also jotted down a few ways I think OBC could potentially benefit from the study.
  • Better understanding of the Bible’s storyline.
  • Ability to process individual portions of the Bible in light of the whole.
  • Weekly encouragement to be regularly treasuring and digesting God’s Word.
  • Meeting some more members of the Ogletown family. 
  • Encouragement through prayerful study of God’s Word with others. 


Monday's Reading Update, 9/12

This week I finished...

I am still reading...

I am reading with friends/staff/deacons...
  • Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris (with the staff)
  • The Trellis and the Vine by Col Marshall and Tony Payne
  • Think Orange by Reggie Joiner

Friday, September 9, 2011

Some Priorities (in retrospect), part 4, cont.

Yesterday, I spoke of our front door of membership. I also wanted to take a moment to look at our front door of baptism.

Our front door of baptism – We also have adjusted our baptism practice at Ogletown. In truth, we are more in line now with our Baptist heritage. Traditionally, Baptists have taken the practice of baptizing believers very seriously (not surprisingly). Yet in recent days unfortunately in the US, often it has not been carefully practiced. In Scripture, baptism is not only a symbol of Christ’s death, but an ordinance that marks off who is a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. Our practice of baptism unifies our church. As we observe another Christian being baptized, we identify with the one who is identifying with Jesus Christ. He is our Savior as well.

We have started the practice of asking that those who are getting baptized prepare a testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ. We ask that either they share it themselves, or that they have someone share it for them. This happens right before they are baptized. Our entire church receives the blessing of hearing of faith in Jesus Christ directly from the person getting baptized. People come to Christ due to so many different earthly factors. Hearing these factors always amazes me. Since I have the privilege of participating in so many of these services, I can speak to the emotion of these moments. I rarely have a dry eye when leaving our baptism services. My faith is stirred, and I count it a privilege to be a part of a church that attempts to take baptism seriously.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some Priorities (in retrospect), part 4


#4 - Closer look at the “front door”

Throughout these series of posts, I have tried to think through what my initial priorities were in coming to Ogletown four years ago. Today, I want to share about the priority of the “front door” of our church. By the front door, I am referring to how someone enters our formally enters the fellowship of our church, whether it be through membership or baptism.

Our front door of membership – Over the years I have been in ministry, I have realized the importance of meaningful membership in a local church. Churches (Baptists, especially) have not always done a great job of marking off who is truly a part of the church and who is not. Often, our membership rolls are large, but many of those on the roll haven’t attended our church in a long time. Some of this could easily be a reality because the responsibilities and privileges of membership were not explained to them in the first place. They “joined the church” but never really knew enough about the church’s beliefs, covenant, practices, etc. to make the best decision. They responded well to some good spiritual impulses, but the church didn’t follow up in the best ways.

We have worked at Ogletown over the last few years to establish an ongoing Membership Matters class. In that class we talk about our core values and beliefs, our covenant, mission, and certain things unique to our church. We want to ensure that those who are entering the church have sufficient knowledge to make the decision to invest their lives with this faith family. By having this class, our membership process is somewhat slower, but I have a greater confidence that those who are coming into our church are ready to make a commitment to our church. We have begun to think of membership more as partnership and less of belonging to a club (paying dues and receiving benefits).

We have seen the rewards of this as a church. Those who have been through the class, who have invested the time to learn more about Ogletown, come with hearts ready to serve! We follow the class up with an ‘interview’ (a half hour or so) so that we can learn the story of those coming to unite with our body.  We then present the candidates for membership to our church family (often at our baptism service).  I am grateful for the way that God has used this ‘tweak’ to grow our church family.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Articles for 9/7 - Women Presidents, Doubt, Dudes, Steve Jobs, and Fundraising

Articles for 9/7 - Women Presidents, Doubt, Dudes, Steve Jobs, and Fundraising.

Russell Moore asks "Who's Afraid of a Woman President?"

Mart De Haan speaks candidly about doubt.

Kevin Miller transitions from a relevant dude to a spiritual father.

Matt Chan shares an infographic on the 10 Commandments of Steve Jobs.

Brian Kluth notes the differences between capital campaigns and a culture of generosity.

Some questions to ask in pursuit of being like Christ

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. - Hebrews 12:14

In the desire for being holy, there are some useful questions to ask to evaluate our heart at any particular time.
  1. What/Who am I trusting?  What are we relying on?  What do we count on to bring us security, stability, hope, etc?
  2. What/Who do I treasure?  What we value says a lot about what is going on in our hearts.  What do we fear losing?  What you would put in this blank shows where your treasure is:  If _________ were lost, I would not just be sad, I would be devastated.
  3. What am I attacking?  We are told to kill (put to death) sin (Romans 8).  So, what sins are you attacking?  Are there sins that you have "declared war on?"  Are you actively fighting, or have you temporarily laid down your weapons and chosen not to fight?
God, help us to grow in looking more like Your Son.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday's Reading Update, 9/5

This week I finished...

    I am still reading...

    I am reading with friends/staff/deacons...
    • Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris (with the staff)
    • The Trellis and the Vine by Col Marshall and Tony Payne
    • The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson
    • Think Orange by Reggie Joiner

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    8 reasons why I think you would benefit from our upcoming parenting class

    Last night I announced a class we are beginning a parenting class this fall on Wednesday evenings (beginning 9/14). I think it will be an awesome opportunity for the parents of Ogletown, and I thought I would share some of my thoughts as to why.
    1. Good parenting doesn’t just happen. We need a vision for what God wants, and strategies that move us toward those goals. I believe that this class will set before you some big picture goals, and some short-term objectives.
    2. Whenever I have taken a closer look at parenting, I realize that my kids’ biggest challenge is their imperfect dad. That has always put my heart in a posture of prayer, asking God for His help in MY life, not just theirs. I expect this to happen in this study as well.
    3. This study concentrates on God’s work in a child’s heart, not merely temporarily correcting some bad behavior.
    4. Parents need to be connected to other parents. Often, we feel isolated and wonder if anyone else can relate to what we are experiencing. With so many parents at Ogletown, we are missing a HUGE opportunity if we stay isolated from each other.
    5. While you are participating in the class, your kids will have some top-notch teaching and fun!
    6. The couples leading the study are imperfect parents of imperfect kids. The study assumes this will be the case. The motto of the course could be “no perfect parents allowed!” Seriously, it does no good to pretend that we are perfect parents, or that by following a few parenting techniques we could have perfect kids.
    7. As part of this study, there will be some specific Q and A nights to encourage, enlighten, and help us in our callings as parents.
    8. If you have not been at Ogletown very long, this would be a great place to make some friends and learn more about our church. The class is open to members and those who have not (yet!) joined.
    There is no cost for the class, but we would appreciate if you would register so that we know the amount of material to prepare.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Irene

    So, Irene has come and gone. Not without a lot of hype, and a truckload of rain. Rain which made its way through a window and into my basement late Saturday night. Rain which caused some damage to some of the ‘stuff’ that is in the house. But, a few days later (and a few hours of sleep recouped), I have found myself grateful for several reasons.
    • My kids weren’t present. Shawna had taken them to Pennsylvania to spend time with her parents. I have not tried to picture what it would’ve been like if they had been there.
    • Because we had flooding recently with a previous hard rain, our basement had been “rearranged.” If it had not been...ugh!
    • I "happened" to be in the basement (due to a tornado warning) which allowed me to hear the water coming (trickling then pouring then gushing) in the basement window. If I hadn’t been down there, much more damage would’ve been done.
    • My neighbor is willing AND able to help at any time for any reason. He made the trek down to my house amid a tornado warning. I feel sorry for the rest of the world that doesn’t have the neighbor I have. I feel blessed beyond words.
    • Our electricity never went out. Messing with flooded basements in the dark would’ve been a big-time bummer.
    • Our sump pump which had not needed to run for the previous 3 years we have lived in the house actually worked!
    No furniture was damaged. Not much was lost (nothing that really matters). Thank you God.

    Ironically, Irene is a family name of Shawna's family (and now ours). The name has more significance now than ever.

    Some Priorities (in retrospect), part 3

    Continuing on from a series of posts (part one, part two)

    “There really is no such thing as a herdsman who takes care of a generic herd.” I think those were the exact words that my friend Mike used when describing West African herdsman. He should know. He has lived there for a long time. The herdsmen know their herd, know their cows/animals individually, know who’s a part of the herd and who’s not. If they don’t know their herd, they really aren’t herdsmen! I’ve not forgotten the conversation. It reminds me of the calling I have to Ogletown, and certainly has shaped my priorities in being here. I was not called to pastor a theoretical flock, or a generic flock, but was called to be here, with these particular sheep that comprise our church.

    I have mentioned in recent days that the process of being called here was somewhat of an “arranged marriage.” I didn’t know the congregation well, and the congregation did not know my family well. However, in one day (and one vote) our spiritual lives were knit together. In an arranged marriage (at least some of them), I would imagine that it takes some time to get to know each other. I KNOW it takes time, because my marriage wasn’t pre-arranged by my parents, and it has taken me time to get to know Shawna.

    The last four years that I have been at Ogletown have been a season of getting to know each other. It hasn’t been entirely easy because of size and the fact that we live in four states. There are a lot of people who call OBC home, and often my only interaction with many of these people is on Sunday morning (which always seems busy). Every now and then, I will be able to sit down during the week with someone and hear their own personal story of faith, and many aspects of their journey. I have valued those times, and believe that God has drawn me closer to this congregation as a result. I am glad for the times when I can speak to individuals. My prayer (and hope, and ambition) has always been that I won’t fall in the rut of being a “generic” pastor.

    In addition, I have prayed often that God would give me insight into OBC as a whole: that I might be able to discern our church’s strengths and weaknesses. That I might know when we need still waters or the rod/staff. That I might have understanding as to why God has placed us here and what specific purpose we might fulfill (as well as the purposes that God has called all churches to fulfill). I feel like if I am just someone who can ‘plug and play’ readily in any church environment, I would miss a vital aspect of my calling here. I am called to THIS church for THIS season to grow together with THESE sheep. I am grateful for the opportunity.

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Monday's Reading Update, 8/29

    This week I finished...
    • Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson
    • The Word Became Fresh by Dale Ralph Davis

    I am still reading...
    • Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch
    • Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones
    • Revival by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

    I am reading with friends/staff/deacons...
    • Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris (with the staff)
    • The Trellis and the Vine by Col Marshall and Tony Payne
    • The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson
    • Think Orange by Reggie Joiner

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    In light of services being cancelled tomorrow...

    A few suggestions...
    • Take the time to read Scriptures (either by yourself or your family). Sing. Pray. Worship is not limited to a space. God shows Himself to be a powerful God in the wind and in the calm.
    • Take the opportunity to make friends of your neighbors. Nothing seems to open doors for conversations and friendship like severe weather.
    • Realize your opportunity to serve others. As Scripture reminds us, we are our brother's keeper, and these days could create opportunities to serve others that might not have otherwise been available.
    Let's pray for God's grace and mercy to be shown even in the midst of severe weather. Stay safe.

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    Some Priorities (in retrospect), part 2

    A few days ago, I shared that one of the priorities that I had in coming to Ogletown was to lay a gospel foundation for future ministry. But, there have been other priorities as well.

    #2 – Preaching the Word and Sturdy Theology
    Because of so many good influences on my life, I had many opportunities to speak and preach even before I became pastor of Ogletown. And yet, the preaching here has been different.
    • First, I feel much more of a weight of responsibility for giving God’s flock at Ogletown a steady diet. I realize that as a teaching pastor here, it is my privilege and charge to lead God’s people to green pastures and still waters. Those pastures and waters are found in God’s Word, not my own personal experiences. I have tried to make sure that the teaching ministry of Ogletown provides a balanced diet. Mostly I have taken chunks of Scripture (i.e. in 2011 we have been in Ruth, Proverbs, Mark, and Revelation) from both the Old Testament and New Testament, and worked through them in the Sunday morning teaching time. However, a balanced diet also means preaching to the head, the heart, and the hands. So, there are times God wants us to think differently, and times God wants us to value/desire/feel differently, but there are times God wants us to act differently. Scripture points us to all three.

    • Preaching at Ogletown has also been a unique experience in that on any given Sunday morning there are likely to be godly, retired pastors in our congregation, sitting near or next to agnostics, skeptics, and even atheists (and everything in between). There are many who would classify themselves as religious, but there are many who would not. The same message from God’s Word is heard by all. That has been challenging, but it has also been very rewarding. It pushes me to make sure I am respecting another’s opinion and even understanding it accurately, while maintaining core biblical convictions. Ogletown does not have the option of just preaching to the “already-convinced,” and I am grateful for that.
    In essence, my goal in both preaching and teaching has been that this ministry be built upon something sturdy (much like Josh Harris speaks about in Dug Down Deep). Life is too hard and complex for simplistic answers or Christian clich├ęs. God’s Word gives us more than shallow thoughts. There are deep life-sustaining truths, and honest stories. The characters in the Bible, and the propositions of Scripture reveal to us a God who does not shy away from hard questions, apparent inconsistencies, and a painful world (e.g. Job, Psalms, and Lamentations). The message of the gospel itself is not simplistic, but profound, and it does Christians a disservice when we don’t push ourselves toward sturdy truth.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Some Priorities (in retrospect)

    As I reflected on serving at OBC for the last four years, I took some time to look back on what some of my priorities have been. I really didn’t come to Delaware with a clearly defined 5-year action plan of programs, change, and transition. But, I did have some core convictions and philosophical bents, and as I look back those have (hopefully) been evident.

    #1 – The Gospel
    Because of what I believe in my heart and what Scripture convinces me of, I have desired to keep the gospel in a prime place in our church. I knew this would not be unfamiliar to Ogletown, but still I felt convicted that our gospel-legacy should be held in tact. As I look back on how I tried to make it a priority, it has come out in a number of ways (here are just a few):
    • The message I shared on my first Sunday was called “Of First Importance” and the text was 1 Corinthians 15:1-3. It seemed then, as it does now, that if we get the gospel (the good news) wrong, we are vulnerable to many other distortions of Christianity.
    • On Wednesday evenings last summer, we spent time in a series called “The Gospel-Centered Life.” This summer, we grew through a series called the “Gospel in Life.”
    • Each week we sing the gospel, pray the gospel, teach/preach the gospel, and many weeks we ‘see’ the gospel (through baptism and Lord’s Supper).
    • On our Book Table each Sunday, you can purchase books that describe and define the gospel, that apply the gospel to life, to marriage, to discipleship, to parenting, to church life, to relationships, etc.
    • As we speak of the gospel in our Membership Matters class, we share that the gospel is not just the ABC’s of salvation, but encompasses the A-to-Z of the Christian life.
    • This past Sunday, I alluded to an identity statement that said “Ogletown Baptist is a family of redeemed sinners seeking to display the glory of God among our neighbors and nations by being a gospel-shaped, gospel-sharing people.” Shaped by the gospel and sharing the gospel describe what our culture and mission should be as a church.
    The reality is all that passes for truth is not truth, all that passes for ‘Christian’ in a Christian bookstore is not Christian, and all that passes for the gospel is not the gospel. There are watered-down gospels, prosperity gospels, do-better and try-harder gospels, political gospels. The gospel has almost become a buzz-word that is misused, misunderstood, and ill-defined. But, simply stated, the gospel is a simple message about the promised God-man who lived perfectly, died on the cross as a substitute for our own sin, came back to life on the third day, and offers forgiveness from sin, refuge from God’s wrath, and reconciliation with God the Father for those who turn to Him and trust. This has revolutionary effects on our life, on our church, and on our world.

    We cannot improve on this message. We should not try. We need not soft-sell it or think it needs to be made more palatable. It is the power of God to save us (Romans 1:16).

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Monday's Reading Update, 8/22

    This week I finished...
    • Am I Really a Christian by Michel McKinley
    • Leading with a Limp by Dan Allender
    • Gospel for Life by Tim Keller

    I am still reading...
    • Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch
    • Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson
    • Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones

    I am reading with friends/staff/deacons...
    • Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris (with the staff)
    • The Trellis and the Vine by Col Marshall and Tony Payne
    • The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson
    • Think Orange by Reggie Joiner

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Looking forward to Sunday


    This Sunday, I begin a series of messages called "Where Do We Go From Here?" Last night, I was going through some of these things with my wife. She asked, "So how long have you been working on this series?" I don't think the answer surprised her. I guess in some ways, I would have to answer that I have had these things in my heart and in my mind this entire summer. But, even beyond that, I believe a lot of what I hope to share has been shaped in my heart over the last four years (since I first had the privilege of serving as pastor at Ogletown).

    So, as I look forward to this weekend, and beginning a discussion with our church family, I find myself grateful for several things:
    • The person who reminded me of Psalm 146. That Psalm brought me fresh joy yesterday in God who is my help and my hope. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down!
    • The support I feel from so many who are a part of the OBC family. I don't just have fellow church members here. I have friends that feel more like family than mere acquaintances. Unfortunately, I imagine that many (most?) pastors do not have the privilege of being loved (and having their family loved) as I do. I am grateful.
    • The encouragement I get from other pastors in our area. I emailed a few friends who are pastors of sister churches in our area. I asked them to pray for me, and pray for our church in the upcoming weeks. ALL of them responded with assurances that they have prayed and will continue to pray that God works at OBC. Sadly, churches often compete and try to one-up another church. Yet, the humble spirit of these men means they are more interested in the kingdom expanding, than they are building their own empire. Thank you, Jesus for these friends!
    • The clarity that I have felt. Ideas, concepts, word-pictures, Bible reading, conversations, emails, have all been helpful in sorting through my thoughts. When you have a lot you want to say, it is a blessing to get clarity on how to say it (and how NOT to say it).
    • The confidence I can have in a God who is more interested in our church, me, my family, than I am. He has promised His church will succeed, and has promised to be present as we live out gospel-shaped, gospel-sharing lives.
    I look forward to Sunday, mostly because it seems like we are turning a fresh page in the story of God's church here at Ogletown.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Monday's Reading Update, 8/15

    This week I finished...
    • To America by Stephen Ambrose
    • The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton

    I am still reading...
    • Am I Really a Christian by Michel McKinley
    • Leading with a Limp by Dan Allender
    • Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch
    • Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson
    • Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad by Fergus M. Bordewich

    I am reading with friends/staff/deacons...
    • Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris (with the staff)
    • The Trellis and the Vine by Col Marshall and Tony Payne
    • The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Monday's Reading Update

    This week I finished...
    • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

    I am still reading...
    • To America by Stephen Ambrose
    • Leading with a Limp by Dan Allender
    • The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton
    • Am I Really a Christian by Michel McKinley
    • Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch

    I am reading with friends/staff/deacons...
    • Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris (with the staff)
    • The Trellis and the Vine by Col Marshall and Tony Payne
    • The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    More follow up from Sunday: (3 plus one)

    On Sunday I encouraged OBC to grow in our relationship with God in three ways: (1) Pray a bunch of mini-prayers, like 'help me, save me, rescue me, give me strength,' (2) To find a window of time, anywhere from 5-10 minutes to speak to the Lord, realizing that He welcomes us into His presence, and (3) to talk to another believer about where we are in this area of prayer, and where we would like to see change.

    Someone suggested a fourth recommendation and that is to find a way to capture prayers on paper through a journal or cards, etc. I think that is excellent! It involves the senses of seeing, and touching, which is an excellent weapon in the fight against distraction!

    One more thought I would add to this. Over the last 24-36 hours, my mini-prayers have often not just been 'help me, save me, bless me, etc.' Often, I find myself thinking about someone in our church (or a friend or family member), and I find that my mini-prayer is directed toward them. It has gone something like this..."Give ________ wisdom. Give _________ strength. Give __________ a real sense of your presence and pleasure."

    Follow up from Sunday

    This past Sunday I spoke of the welcoming heart of God. I wanted to share some other thoughts that have been spurred on by helpful conversation with some in our congregation.

    I spoke on Sunday of the truth that God always welcomes humble(d) sinners into His presence. Often, He is the direct source of our humbling, even though we most often experience humbling in indirect ways. Still, I think it needs to be recognized that the proud in heart do not have that same confidence of acceptance in His presence.

    We are often easily deceived. Our hearts can convince us that we are right where we need to be spiritually. We can often easily dismiss our callousness or lack of change. We can measure up (in our minds) better than the next person, so therefore we assume all is well with God. What a dangerous position to be in! "God, help us from the deception that keeps us from being unable to realize our distance from you."

    Embedded in Matthew 11:28-30 is our personal ownership of our weaknesses and sins. These very things shouldn't drive us away from God's presence, but rather to it. We are in need of grace.

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Proverbs 16

    1. In no uncertain terms, this chapter in Proverbs demonstrates that we are too often bent on getting our own way. We have ways that are 'pure in our eyes,' and ways that 'seem right' (16:2, 25). But both of theses verses remind us of two important things (a) the way of our choosing may result in death, and (b) that God tests our motives and intentions.
    2. Verse 17 speaks of "guarding our way." At some point in time, I heard someone give this wise advice for those who struggle and wrestle with sin, "Sometimes you must plan NOT to sin."
    3. Verse 24 reminds me of the powerful effect that positive words can have on others. Although Proverbs speaks so much of negative speech, I wonder how many opportunities we miss to build others up with our affirming speech.
    4. I cannot read too far in this chapter without being reminded of the total sovereignty of God (i.e. 1,3-4,9,33). And yet, God is not a distant sovereign, but One who is involved in every day issues of life.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    A few more thoughts on Proverbs 10 from a friend

    From my friend Bethany Bracht:

    Starting with Proverbs 10, the next 12 chapters contain seemingly random pieces of wisdom that have the ability to convict, guide, encourage and warn. I didn't need to get very far into chapter 10 to receive that all too familiar conviction and unpleasant realization of my own self-righteousness. As I read Proverbs 10:1..."A wise child brings joy to a father, a foolish child brings grief to a mother"...I thought...EXACTLY! My kids soooo need to read this. And then I thought...."Oh...okay God...You're talking to me, aren't You?. How often do I behave like and have the attitude of a foolish child?

    One of our family sayings is: Are you going to be like an Israelite OR are you going to obey with a happy heart and without complaining? Israel was a great example of the "foolish child" that is made example of in Proverbs 10. God, being our Heavenly Parent, delights in our obedience and attainment of wisdom. After all, He tells us to seek wisdom and even ask Him for it (James 1:5). So, how can I be a wise child of God who brings joy to my Father in Heaven?

    Well, if wisdom is making the best use of our knowledge...and the foundation of knowledge is fear [respect] of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7)...then I suppose sitting at the feet of Wisdom Himself, seeking Him in all we do, asking Him for guidance and loving Him with all of our heart, mind and strength puts me on the path of being a wise child. Lord, help me walk that path!

    So today...how am I going to choose wisdom over foolishness? Reading Proverbs is a good place to start!

    From Proverbs 10

    Proverbs 10
    1. Count the number of times 'righteous' or 'righteousness' is used in this chapter. Clearly, God is trying to tell us something.
    2. It is also significant to me that there are so many words concerning speech (lips, mouth, etc.) that are connected to the instructions on being righteous. Verse 19 especially gives me some caution.
    3. I am reminded of the value of hard work in 10:3-4. Sometimes what is lost in our 'have-it-right-now-without-working-too-hard culture' is some of the wisdom found in these verses.
    4. Verse 25 speaks of the tempest coming and the results that come from it. As other Scripture teaches, things such as storms, disasters, pain, etc. come to not only the wicked but the righteous. Those who are believers aren't exempt from pain.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Some more thoughts on Prov 9

    These are some words that Goodwin Cobb shared with me and our Facebook group.

    The Ultimate Encounter: Wisdom or Folly Wisdom is the ability to see life from God's perspective and then to know the best course of action to take; the ability to make good use of knowledge; to recognize right from wrong.
    When we read Proverbs, we will encounter over and over the cognate word for “folly” or “simple.” This particular word for “folly ”occurs nineteen times in the whole Bible and fifteen of them occur in Proverbs. We come to see that it is a major word for understanding Proverbs.
    We hear two women call out. One woman is called “Wisdom.” (This is the wisdom of God that created the universe). The other woman is called “Folly.” The calls of these two persons are both calls for our maturity in whatever way we may be immature.
    No matter how old we are, becoming a mature person in its truest sense is a topic that applies to us. In that sense then, what is written in the text should have something to do with every single one of us.

    From Proverbs 9

    Proverbs 9
    1. The imagery distinguishes two banquets. One prepared by 'Lady Wisdom,' and the other prepared by 'Woman Folly.' I think by using the banquet analogy, we are helpfully drawn into the discussion.
    2. The picture of the house that is well built by wisdom (9:1) certainly gives insight to the work done by wisdom. Wisdom seems to have an industrious quality about it.
    3. Concerning verse 10 Waltke says "The wise who deserve to sit at Wisdom's table, begin their educability with their submission to the highest Authority, the Lord." (9:10)
    4. When encountering God, the appropriate response is fear, as well as trust for those who are rightly related to Him. Both fear and trust then lead to a willingness to follow and obey what He says.
    5. Foolishness is pictured in so many negative ways. Not only is the "Woman Folly" loud and ignorant (13), but she is pompous and brash (14). There is no desire for her to leave her foolishness or ignorance.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Proverbs 5

    From Proverbs 5...

    1. Verse 2 is a somewhat startling reminder that you have to guard discretion/wisdom. It is a commodity that could be lost if we are not careful. In what ways are we protecting this?
    2. The Bible often gives not-so-subtle reminders that the initial promises made by sin are really lies. The promises do not deliver, the heartache and ruin is the result that is often hidden.
    3. Verse 11-14 paint a pretty vivid of remorse/regret being verbalized. What a public spectacle! It would be hard to give a clearer picture of what that might look like than these verses do. As I read the verses it seems like these are the kinds of things that could result in many sleepless nights.
    4. This chapter also reminds me that part of the safeguard against immorality is an intimate marriage that is more than a mere 'business arrangement.' Few marriages begin that way, far too many devolve into that.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    From Proverbs 4

    A few thoughts from Proverbs 4...

    1. It is hard NOT to notice the generational impact described in vss 1 and 3. One commentator portrayed this as 'grandpa's lecture.'
    2. I read this quote in Waltke's book on Proverbs, "Parental authority is a channel for communication of God's will." While sometimes we think of parental authority and God's authority as separate things, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
    3. Proverbs encourages us to 'get' or to 'buy' wisdom (vs 5). By understanding this, it is clear there is a cost to getting wisdom. However, the reward/benefit far outweighs the cost involved.
    4. Verse 15 reminds me that we should not just merely seek to avoid sin. Rather it is wise to plan NOT to sin. In other words, it would be good for our lives to foresee potential temptations or struggles, and plan in advance how we might be dependent on God and obedient and faithful.
    5. I appreciate Proverbs 4 because it makes things so concrete. It speaks of eyes, hears, feet, etc. Most importantly, it speaks of the heart as the director of all these things.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Proverbs 3

    A few thoughts from Proverbs 3.

    1. We need to read Scripture in full rather than in isolation. If we were to only read vs 8 and vs 10, we could easily conclude that the gospel of God is only health and wealth. Yet, a reading of vss 11-12 remind us that God also disciplines and reproves.
    2. Bruce Waltke describes those who are blessed (13) as the ones who are "living life as the Creator intended."
    3. While most of the verses from 13-35 have the short-term or long-term future in view, that future depends on our current relationship with God. (W. Janzen)
    4. Verses 14-15 remind us that there are things that accomplish more than money. Money has its limitations, and yet because of its attraction we often believe the lie that just a little more money will make a better life.
    5. In Proverbs, wisdom seems to be often taken back to the creation of the world (19). I believe that God is encouraging us to take a good look at the Garden of Eden before the sin of Adam and Eve. "THAT is what I desire for men and women," God seems to be reminding us. I am grateful that we can live in light of the Paradise that will one day be restored according to Revelation 21-22. Eternity (future) will be life as God always intended for His creation.

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    From Proverbs 2

    Here are a few thoughts/observations from Proverbs 2.

    1. As with many things in our Christian life, wisdom can be approached as both a gift and a task. This is clear from the first four verses. In vs 1-2, wisdom is something that is received and stored up. In vs 3-4 wisdom is something we should pursue with all of our strength.
    2. We are told to 'treasure the commandments' in vs 1. The meaning of treasure in this context is to store something up for its usefulness in the future. What would it look like in our lives if we treasured the instruction God has given to us? It would probably mean a lot more memorizing, reflecting, and meditating on it.
    3. The first part of this proverb seems to indicate that allegiance/loyalty to God precedes understanding, not the other way around. (4-5)
    4. Wisdom is not merely connected to facts, but also is strongly connected to morality as well. (9-15)
    5. Proverbs seems to speak not only to decisions, but also to their results. They are inseparable.

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Observations / Questions from Proverbs 1

    In the first installment of reading the book of Proverbs together...

    From Chapter One
    1. Wisdom seems to have several ‘cousins’ described in vs 2-7. What do you think the nuances are of each word? Is there something worth learning in distinguishing between the synonyms?
    2. What does it mean that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge? Waltke has summarized it like this, “What the alphabet is to reading, notes to reading music, and numerals to mathematics, the fear of the Lord is to attaining the revealed knowledge of this book.” (Proverbs, 181)
    3. The application of acquired wisdom (8-9) seems to result in both beauty (pendant) and authority (garland for your head).
    4. What do you think it means to set an ambush for your own life (18)? Isn't it ironic that the the same people who are setting an ambush for someone else are actually ruining their own lives?
    5. The words of verse 19 seem to echo the message of Jesus that it is possible to gain the world but lose your own soul.
    Any other observations?

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    How the World Works begins on 5/1

    We are beginning a new series at Ogletown. It will be a look at some themes in Proverbs. During the month of May, I am asking the church to read through the book of Proverbs. I believe that God will speak to our church as we do this. I have also asked some people in our church to weigh in with some observations on each chapter, so I will be sharing that.

    Join our OBC Facebook group for the sermon series.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    How's it going?

    One of the humorous things of stepping out of your culture is to be able to see things that are 'normal' in your own culture but foreign in another. The opposite is true as well. It is always useful to look at another culture and see what is a part of daily life there, that is often foreign to your own culture.

    One such thing for me in Africa was the way in which greetings were done. I find that greetings here are often short, sweet, to the point. They are efficient, they communicate what is necessary, but seldom more (I'm Curtis, I work at Ogletown, my family is fine). On the other hand, when I have visited other cultures, it has always stood out to me that there is significant time given to greetings. There is a commitment to the relationship, and therefore a commitment to greeting as well. I have seen 'important' discussions interrupted because someone new joined the discussion, and 10 minutes were taken to make sure proper greetings were done. (Is that efficient? Does it matter?)

    While in our culture we may have little time for 'small talk,' still small talk may be a profound way of hearing and being heard by another person. I find that I may need to slow down a little bit and enjoy the "hello, how's it going, everything's okay, etc" a little bit more.

    Monday, February 28, 2011

    Acts 17 in HD

    Acts 17:32-34
    Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
    It might serve well to talk and walk through the preceding verses (of Paul’s ministry in Athens) another time, but these verses stood out in my mind as we were sharing the good news of Jesus in Africa. As we shared, there were those who had little time for what was being said. They were hardly interested. However, others requested another hearing. What they heard arrested their attention enough to want to hear more. I believe that is the Spirit at work. Still others had believed the good news.

    I love the way this passage describes this happening in Athens. I love that the names Dionysius and Damaris are mentioned. Truly, when you see new life born (or I could say born again – John 3), the name of the individual means a great deal to you. It meant enough to Luke to record these names.

    So, we have the responsibility to share. We have the responsibility to make a presentation of the gospel that gives glory to God. We have the responsibility to be as clear as possible (Colossians 4). Having said all of that, as the Spirit works, some will believe, some will mock, some will want to hear more. Evangelism is the work and privilege of every believer and every church.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    A reality check

    Sitting on a mat in front of a man who has no knowledge of the biblical teaching concerning the person and work of Jesus, you are confronted with a few things. One of my sole reasons for being thousands of miles away from home and family, was for these kinds of moments. I recognized that this indeed was a moment of privilege for me.

    And yet, as I sat there, I was drawn to these bare facts. The message I wanted to share with this new friend was that what a Jewish man had done on a Roman cross nearly 2000 years ago had major relevance to him. I wanted him to know that this Man had made a difference in my life and could make a difference in his life as well. As a matter of fact, his entire life hinged on what that man named Isa (Jesus) had done, and whether he personally believed this message and embraced Isa as his own Savior.

    The entire experience reminded me of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18. The message of Jesus Christ is folly to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God!

    Saturday, February 26, 2011

    Still processing

    I don't know exactly why, but it seems whenever I go on a cross-cultural trip, I come away with so much to think about. It takes me a while to sort through everything that I experience and learn.

    In light of that, I want to take some time/words on the blog over the next few week to process through my recent trip to Africa. I shared a lot in a sermon a couple of weeks ago. In addition, I shared a lot last Wednesday night, but I still find myself reliving so much of the trip.

    I am grateful for many prayers and I hope that sharing these thoughts will in some ways be a 'thank-you' for praying.

    Tomorrow's Text (2/27)

    Lord-willing, we will be looking at the words of Jesus to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Wed Night Activities Cancelled (1/26)

    Due to the weather and road conditions, we are canceling Wednesday night activities, including our business meeting. We will reschedule it for another time.

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Tomorrow, January 23

    I will be preaching tomorrow from Rev 2:8-11.

    I have been praying specifically
    • for those Christians around the world who are facing persecution for their faith. If you want a true eye-opener, visit www.persecution.org for a look into the hostility there is toward Christ.
    • for those in our congregation who are facing some intense times of suffering.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Passage for Sunday, January 9

    In addition to welcoming new members into our church, we also look forward to celebrating baptism this coming Sunday.

    I look forward to sharing a message from Revelation 1.

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    Some verses to memorize for January

    Luke 6:46–49 (ESV)
    46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”