Where you are (Nehemiah 3:23, 28-30)

Where you are (Nehemiah 3:23, 28-30)

I’m burdened to see God move and work in my city, but I have to be honest, I walk through and pray for the people in my neighborhood more than any other neighborhood. The reason is simple, I live there! I have a personal interest in my neighbors and I have a personal interest in my neighborhood because I live there. I don’t mean to come across as less concerned for other neighborhoods, I care about them, but I don’t see them, or know the people inside them as well as my own. I have invested more in my neighborhood than the hundreds of others in my city. My prayer though is that there would be people like me in every neighborhood who would own their streets, meet their neighbors and be intentional with the gospel.

Cover

It was like that when it came to rebuilding the wall. The work assignments weren’t handed out alphabetically by last name, they were given according to where people lived. You rebuilt the section of the wall closest to your house. It was an ingenious plan. No one would care more about how well the wall was built than the folks it was designed to protect. No one wanted a weak wall by their house. If they needed something to make the wall sturdy, they were prone to go and ask for it and not settle for a good-enough patch work. If they lacked skill, they were more prone to ask about how to do something because they wanted their part of the wall to hold against enemy attack.

I think this lays out a great principle for us as we think about rebuilding the spiritual structures in our neighborhoods and schools. It makes sense for people to work where they have an investment in the outcome. It makes sense to begin in your neighborhood with your neighbors. It makes sense to begin with the basketball team if you play basketball, or the drama department, or the band, or whatever you do or whoever you hang out with, it makes sense to begin there. Use the hobbies, ambitions, classes, and locations that God has put you in and see how He might use you.

The Donkey Who Carried a King (Children’s Book Review)

the donkeyThe Donkey Who Carried a King written by R. C. Sproul and Illustrated by Chuck Groenink is a fantastic story for children and parents alike.  I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading it again and again to my son and daughter.  Dr. Sproul does a great job of taking something that kids are familiar with (like being picked last for a game) and pairing it up with a theme from Scripture (offering your best work no matter the circumstances… and of course the gospel).  Thus taking the readers along a journey from the common to the sacred.

The only draw back to this book verses the other R.C. Sproul Children’s books like The Prince’s Poison Cup, The Lightlings, and The Priest with Dirty Clothes is that the grace of the gospel comes abruptly at the end. The book seems to focus on the servanthood aspect of Christ’s ministry  The questions at the end help bear out more gospel grace reflections along with the many elements of service.

The Illustrations are amazing! The images are child friendly, compelling and illustrate the story beautifully. The use of passive light colors contrasted with darker hues of purple, and deep crimson really set the mood for what’s being described. There is enough in each section to keep my younger four year old looking at the pages while I’m reading, but not so much that he’s distracted from the story.

The Donkey Who Carried a King was a great read.  Perhaps the strongest aspect of the book was the parents section in the back.  Parents are given great questions to ask their kids and help draw the connections between the story they have just read and the scriptures.  We read lots of books at our house, but this element really seems to make this book especially useful.  I’ve noticed most all the children books published by Reformation Trust tend to have this element and its worth noticing the lengths the authors and publishers are going through to produce quality kids literature that goes beyond entertainment and into training and guidance.

Over all this was a fantastic book and I highly recommend it for parents with young children.The Donkey Who Carried a King is an excellent resource. The retail price is $16.00 (Hardcover), and is available at places like Amazon.com for $13.60. I gave it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Reformation Trust Publishers as part of their Blog for a Free Book Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

3 Thoughts on Facebook, being Missional and the Movies

I have to confess that my Facebook feed has brought me much grief over the last few weeks. Facebook has been an excellent tool in my own life to help me see pockets of hypocrisy and need for growth… it’s also given me a window into the lives and thoughts of others. What saddens me the most is how easily I engage in a debate about the trivial… like my opinion matters more than the person I’m talking too. Rarely ever do we communicate well in these short gusts of phrase and the opportunity for miscommunication is high.

It’s been awful to watch the discussion around the Noah Movie. Before the movie was released there were already debates waging about whether Christians should go see this movie or not. Then the mud began to sling. To be fair I don’t know that anyone on my feed called any person out in particular but there were a lot of straw men put down… Straw men are what we build and destroy to prove a case when no one enters the debate with us. In our minds we may picture real people we are too cowardly to approach or we may just be trying to show an assumed audience that we are with them by verbally attacking a mutually disliked position. How easily Facebook distracts us from the real mission field.

The problem develops when we allow a trivial thing like a movie to cause an apparent rift between brothers and sisters in Christ. We say things in general to the public we would never say to each other in person. A difference of opinion on a movie (mainly whether or not it’s worth someones time to go see it) is all it takes to cause a virtual schism of my Facebook friends. No matter which side of the debate you are on it becomes so easy to build your straw men, aim in the general direction of the opposition, and fire your volleys of well put phrase.

It’s so easy to tear down… So hard to build up. That’s why after some time of thought and reflection I came up with these 3 guidelines to keep me from tearing down my friends (real or imagined) on Facebook over trivial things like the movies.

1. I am accountable to God for everything I post. The following passage is talking about food but given the current conversation there is room to make application to how one posts on Facebook.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. (Romans 14:12-20 ESV)

2. Not everything that I’m free to do, is good to do. The following passage also deals with food (in a different way). The gist of the passage indicates that my personal freedom isn’t the most important aspect of my life and that even personal freedom when it comes across a brother of weaker conscience can be limited for the sake of his good and God’s glory.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience– I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ESV)

3. Correction and discipline need to be applied in private and on a personal level. There are those occasions where a person has sinned against you and you need to address their sin. They may have sinned against you on Facebook or other areas of the public forum. Their sin still needs to be addressed in a private and personal manner.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
(Matthew 18:15-19 ESV)

I’m not there yet. I have a long way to go. I found that out the other day in the midst of the whole Noah debacle. I thought I’d add to the fray and call some folks out in “general” who were fighting straw men… Little did I realize I was falling to the same temptation.

How about you? What are your thoughts on facebook, being missional and the movies? What other points would you make or add?

A Reflection on Being Your Pastor and Friend

Today I am reflecting on the years I have spent in ministry and counting it a blessing to be considered a friend to so many. I’m celebrating four years serving in my current ministry context and nearly fifteen years in ministry all together (counting the near eleven years I spent with my first church). Recently I was listening to a Tim Keller Podcast in which he made a statement that pastors have a unique privilege and responsibility to be a friend to those to whom they minister and as such they often make friends with people who given ordinary circumstances they would never be friends with…

I find this to be true in my own life. I have the awesome opportunity to walk with people of all walks of life through some of life’s most painful and sacred moments.

There have been moments when we were all scared or saddened by life’s events. I have been in the room when we got the news of cancer. I’ve done my share of funerals and hugged the necks and held the hands of the grieving. More than enough times I’ve been called up late to the hospital when their has been an accident.  Too often I’ve held a broken infants in my hands. I’ve seen the tragedies of life and walked with families through the worst parts. I have been one of the few who were ever welcomed into the world of the hurting and I have found that you don’t walk through the valley without developing some kind of kinship.

There have also been moments of joy beyond expression. I’ve held hands and plunged you beneath the water and pulled you back to the surface in baptism based upon your confession of Christ. I’ve been in the room when they said the cancer is in remission. I’ve held healthy newborns and helped sneak an air-horn into graduation ceremonies. I generally get the best seat in the house when it comes to weddings and among other things I get to say, “you may now kiss the bride.”  I’ve shared in some of the happiest moments that life has to offer and found that you don’t reach the summit of the mountain without developing a friendship along the way.

Beyond sharing these moments with you I have prayed with you and for you. I have poured myself out and asked God to allow me to pour some more. To this end I spent years of my life studying His word so that I might be a competent expositor, leader, administrator, communicator, teacher, counselor and ultimately a better friend. I have begged God that I would clearly speak the truth even when you might not count me as a friend because of it. Because my greatest desire for you is to present you complete to Christ.

I’d be a fool to think that friendship is a one-way street. Through the years as you have made me a part of your family and welcomed me into your homes. I have been blessed beyond measure by your friendship. I have learned valuable lessons.  I have eaten vegetables from your garden, dear meat from your freezer and mullet from your cast net. Along the way I confided some of my own fears and insecurities. You have loved me, been to my wedding, held my children, and hugged me and celebrated my birthdays (though sometimes I would like it to pass in obscurity) and anniversaries.  Thank you for being a faithful friend to me and counting this pastor as your friend.

“he was looking for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 23:51)

Have you ever been desperate to see God move?  Have you ever looked around and realized that apart from God doing something, it’s hopeless? Have you ever hoped beyond hope that God would move in a significant way in your lifetime?

Joseph did.  He was looking for the kingdom of God.  Then one day on the worst day in history Joseph did something that put him right in the middle of seeing the kingdom of God come together.

You see He put the body of Jesus in his tomb.  When it looked like all was lost he did the right thing.  He provided a burial for the peasant that everyone had thought was the Messiah.  He gave his tomb to Jesus.

Even on a terrible day, Joseph was prepared to be busy doing something.  He was going to take care of the body of this peasant and put him in his own tomb.  Joseph was a man of action.

I guess that looking really involves doing.  Looking for the kingdom of God isn’t sitting on the sidelines hoping to see a miracle or something.  That was what Herod was doing and he wasn’t looking for the kingdom of God.  He just wanted a show.

Joseph was looking and as he was looking he was doing.  His action put him in the middle of the kingdom of God.

Father,

I am seeking to follow you today.  I don’t want to be a spectator.  help me to do even small and menial tasks as unto you today.  Thank you for my salvation that was accomplished on the cross.  Use me to tell others about you today.

Review: “Spectacular Sins” By John Piper

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Florida Baptist Convention where I got a chance to buy a copy of John Piper’s book, Spectacular Sins at the Lifeway store.   Being a Piper fan and having read most all of his works I set out to read this book this past weekend.  I was refreshed with the candor and diligence with which Piper writes in this book.  The introduction alone is worth the price of the book.

After establishing a need for a more vigilant Christianity and pleading with the reader to be prepared for the advancing darkness Piper launches into an exposition of several of the spectacular sins that have been recorded in the scriptures.  He writes of sins such as the fall in the Garden of Eden, rebellion at the Tower of Babel, selling of Joseph, and betrayal by Judas and how through each rebellious act God was in control, turning evil on its nose and causing great good to come out of acts that were intended for evil.

You can find the book in hard cover it normally goes for $15.99, but you can find it on Amazon.com for $10.87 and even cheaper from Desiring God in paper back for $6.49.  You can find our more about John Piper and resources he has written and produced here.  The original sermons that have been recorded in print in this book can also be found free of charge here on the Desiring God ministry site.

I highly recommend this brief book (128 Pages) to anyone interested getting a glimps at how God can cause good to triumph over plans that were intended for evil.  It is an urgent message that is much-needed in our day.  I give it 4 stars.