Going Silent for a Time

Well, I don’t even do all that much blogging, but now I need to post a note to tell you not to expect anything for the next 10 days–I’ll be traveling in Russia with Byron Shearer, doing some visiting and teaching among some pastors there.  This is the kind of trip that I find tremendously encouraging, as I can use all the advantages of study that I have had over the years and share with brothers who might not otherwise have access to some of what I’ve been provided.  And at the same time, seeing what God is doing in expanding the work of the Gospel is exciting. 

Pray for us as we travel and teach.  I’ll pick up again when I return.

Published in: on March 26, 2008 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Thanks to all who prayed…

for me as I had my oral defense of my doctoral project.  I passed, and I know that your prayers enabled me to give a good accounting of the work done.  Unlike a Ph.D. dissertation, a D.Min. project is a record of an actual ministry project undertaken, and generally does not have either the scholarly weight or the readable content to be published, so it is not headed anywhere but a shelf.  However, the work done (developing a simple model for small groups and running two pilot groups last summer) will show up in our church life as we are getting ready to train leaders and start a few more groups, and then a few more, and so on.  You can watch for more details on that as we go along.

I am writing this in Chicago, where the defense took place (at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), and will be with you all, Lord willing, tomorrow morning as we celebrate the Lord’s Table and then consider the significance seen and missed in the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  See you then!

Published in: on March 15, 2008 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy Snow Day!

Hello, all!  Obviously, we did not have the opportunity to get together for worship this morning, as our second highest snowfall ever (according to the news outlets) left many of you still digging out today and our village workers trying hard to clear the roads.  The church parking lot was clear by this afternoon, but with the uncertainty about how quickly we could get it clear (and if the sun would shine as it is), we felt it best to cancel all of today’s activities.  I certainly hated to do that, because I am very excited to preach this next message in Mark, but now will have to wait a bit.

I trust that you have been able to enjoy a day of rest (at least when you weren’t shoveling), and maybe even listened to a “rerun” (is that what you call an old message replayed) on the radio.  And this may have been one of the easier “spring forward” Sundays I’ve ever experienced!

Next Sunday, we’ll be celebrating Palm Sunday with a morning communion service, as well as a study from the Word.  I hope you’ll be there–and that the weather will be beautiful!

Published in: on March 9, 2008 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Our money and our lives…revisited

Pastors have more than a few reasons to be humble.  One is that we are constantly talking about things that we cannot possibly do or live up to, at least to the level that we know we should and to which we call everyone to aspire.  Another is that we often find ourselves preaching about matters with passion, only to discover that no one really seemed to get what we said.

A more nuanced way in which we are humbled is when God uses our preaching as a tool to bring about some needed change or response.  “Great,” we think.  “The word has done its work.”  Then a few months pass, and the change we believed our preaching had inspired proves not to have the staying power we hoped.

I’ve felt a little humbled like that recently, as I’ve considered our church family’s giving.  Right after our series on stewardship there was a tremendous “bounce,” both in our regular giving and in our Harvest Offering.  As the new year began, I had visions of the trend continuing and new opportunities being opened up to us in missions and outreach; maybe even some staffing issues.  Then I watched as the January numbers came in, and then took in the February numbers.  Now I find us $22,000 behind our annual budget already.  Should I be dusting off my stewardship messages for a “rerun” already?

I know that this kind of thinking about the power of my preaching is foolish–after all, any real change that comes to us is through the Word being applied to our hearts by the Spirit of God.  I’m not ultimately the cause of anything good that comes from anything I do, no matter how pure my motives and right my actions.  Neither am I ultimately responsible when nothing happens if I have been as pure and right as in the other case. 

The lesson I draw from the relatively short-lived change is this: we need to contstantly remind ourselves of basics, and not let either the passage of time or the excitement of the moment cause us to lose sight of them.  The Bible is my source of truth.  Read it.  Prayer is my communion with God.  Pray.  God’s people are his tool in my life and my target for ministering my gifts.  Serve the Body.  People all around me are lost if they don’t believe the Gospel.  Witness.  Everything I am and have is God’s and is to be used for his glory.  Invest in eternal values. 

If last year’s messages caused you to reevaluate how your giving needed to reflect God’s blessing and your need for sacrifice, may I encourage you to revisit that moment in your mind, and reenergize your decision.  If you, like me, recognize that it is a constant battle to stay generous, ask God to help, and do what you know you need to do.  Tell someone to hold you accountable if you need to.  If you would want to, you can review the messages in our message archive on the website.

And if I am all wet and no one needs to make any changes, then just forget I said anything!

Published in: on March 7, 2008 at 4:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Mark Driscoll’s message on humility…

I often listen to sermons on my I Pod while exercising, and today I finished a wonderful message from Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, from Philippians 2:1-11, on humility.  It is honest, encouraging, and convicting all in one. You can listen to it here.  You can also see it online (their church does lots of video) here.

Published in: on March 7, 2008 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment