Celebrating Life on Memorial Day

For millions of Americans, Memorial Day Weekend represents the beginning of summer. We celebrate with the Indy 500, NASCAR, cook-outs, pool parties, and parades. With the festive nature of the weekend, it can be easy to forget the somber roots of this Holiday and its serious purpose.

Born out of the tragedy of the Civil War, Memorial Day provided an opportunity to honor and remember those who died fighting. It was World War I that transformed Memorial Day into an occasion to honor military personnel who died in all wars. We do not celebrate their death, but we honor their bravery, courage and sacrifice on our behalf. Though it is certainly appropriate to take time out to reflect on our military men and women who died in service of their country, I personally find it quite fitting that we commemorate their sacrifice by living the lives and enjoying the freedoms they died to preserve. It speaks volumes of the American spirit.

It also reflects a biblical principle that is foundational to the Christian life. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says that “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This verse and the surrounding passage contain some powerful and complex truth, but one simple and foundation observation is this: the proper response to Christ’s sacrifice is to live life. After all, Jesus himself said he came “that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).”

The Christian life is just that – a life. Yes, it’s a life born from death. Yes, it’s a life that stands in bright contrast to a dark past. Despite this, it is not God’s intention that we dwell on the guilt, sin and death. We appreciate the death of Christ that redeemed us from our own death and we most effectively demonstrate that appreciation by living a life fully devoted to Him.

During Memorial Day this year, be sure to reflect on the brave heroes of the past, but also enjoy the life they sacrificed to give you. As you do, remember that Jesus paid the ultimate price so that you could live an abundant life that is filled with His joy and peace and is totally devoted to Him.

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Sunday Supper May 24, 2015

 In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

 Hilarious list of 25 Things Yankees Should Know When Moving to the South

Interesting story under the headline: Porn and video game addiction leading to ‘masculinity crisis’. More interesting, perhaps, because it is not religious in nature. Warning: some of the additional ads and videos the site was trying to promote did not exactly seem appropriate.

“Your top-priority job as a parent, then, is to be an evangelist in your home. You need to teach your children the law of God; teach them the gospel of divine grace; show them their need for a Savior; and point them to Jesus Christ as the only One who can save them. If they grow up without a keen awareness of their need for salvation, you as a parent will have failed in your primary task as their spiritual leader.” Good News for Your Children

“When Paul talks about completion and maturity, he points to actions, to deeds, to “every good work.” The Bible has the power to mature us, and as we commit ourselves to reading, understanding, and obeying it, we necessarily grow up in the faith. That maturity is displayed in the good works we do more than in the knowledge we recite.” – The One Sure Mark of Christian Maturity

Some great thoughts on 3 Things I Need God to Do for Me as I Preach from H.B. Charles. His concluding thoughts are quite challenging: “Your preaching of the gospel is the fragrance of life to those who are being saved and the fragrance of death to those who are perishing. Our preaching of the gospel should be faithful, clear, and compelling. We need God’s help to this end.”

Drinking it Straight is a reminder of the power and sufficiency of the Word of God. It’s also a cool analogy to the drinking of coffee.

“What does it mean to be tempted? A temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at the cost of obedience. Temptation is when circumstances work together so that you have the ability and maybe even the desire to do something that God forbids.” – Satisfaction at the Cost of Obedience

5 Reasons to be Silent – some great thoughts about the value of silence.

Some great advice for The Pastor and Social Media

“As some continue to debate the presence of women in the pulpit, we must not miss this immediate problem: the marked absence of women in areas of church leadership that are open to them.” More Pressing Than Women Preachers raises some great questions about the perception of women in church leadership.

 Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.

God’s Plan for Suffering

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“I love it when a plan comes together!” If you’re a fan of classic 80’s TV, then you recognize this common catchphrase from Hannibal Smith, the leader of the A-Team. If you ever watched the show, you also know that it never seemed like anything was going as planned. Each episode was filled with chaos and improvisation, yet in the end the good guys always won and the bad guys lost – the plan indeed came together.

I bring up this little bit of TV nostalgia because it reminds me of an important truth every believer should remember: God has a plan even when it doesn’t seem like it. One specific way this truth plays out frequently is in suffering. As we face hardships in our lives we may be tempted to view them as accidental or senseless, but we must remember that our suffering is not something that slips by God or is out of His control. On the contrary, God has a good plan for our suffering. The Bible is filled with affirmations of this truth, but one clear passage is 1 Peter 1:6-7: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Notice how Peter says “necessary” in v 6 and “so that” in v 7. Isn’t it comforting to know that God is sovereignly working for your benefit even in suffering? We may not know all of the details, but Peter does share with us some of the plans God has for suffering in the lives of believers. Let me briefly summarize them for you:

  • Purification of our faith (1:7). Trials force us to evaluate our faith and can produce in us a more pure faith.
  • Strengthening our relationship to Him (8). Trials can increase our love for and dependence on Jesus.
  • Developing our holiness (1:15). Suffering is an opportunity to stretch spiritually. We can act on the holiness we have, producing a holiness that will show up in all areas of life.
  • Manifesting His love through you (1:22). God wants you to use your suffering to love other people. Suffering can be seen as a new tool for showing God’s love to others.
  • Increasing our appetite for His Word (1:24-2:2). Suffering can create in us a new and fresh desire for Scripture. God wants us to turn to His Word for satisfaction, comfort, wisdom and guidance and trials are often necessary to drive us there.

I suspect that in every trial I face, God has at least one of these purposes in mind for me. We may not know the entire picture, but it is a tremendous comfort to know that in the midst of the chaos of life, God has a plan. One day it will all “come together” in a way that is both for my benefit and God’s glory.

Sunday Supper May 10, 2015

 In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

 

Yesterday, I had the chance to go and see Avengers: Age of Ultron. I thought it was awesome. Here’s an interesting perspective on the movie.

 

The World Map of Christian Apps – great list of a variety of Christian apps along with brief but helpful reviews.

 

“One sure sign of salvation, and one sure sign of progression in sanctification, is a hatred of sin. This is not only a hatred of sin’s consequences, but a hatred of sin as it is—rebellion against a just and holy God.” – Do You Loathe and Hate Sin?

 

“It may not be wise to measure your church’s health by exactly how many people showed up on Sunday or attended your new member class last month. But stalled growth can be a sign of deeper problems. Whether your church is stuck or has momentum, take a look at the 5 big reasons churches stop growing, and figure out how you can get – or keep – moving again.”- Carey Nieuwhof from his session notes at Orange Conference in Atlanta.

 

Our Journey to Biblical Eldership – H.B.Charles provides some practical steps for transitioning to biblical eldership taken from his churches experience.

 

“Failure to understand our need for community shows that we’ve been more influenced by our culture than we may realize…God does not want us to try to live as Christians apart from intimate and dynamic community with other believers. – Whatever Happened to Community?

 

Practical tips for growing a “Disciple Making Culture in Your Church.”

 

Here are some challenging thoughts from John MacArthur on the kind of influence we as parents have on our children.

 

“…giving advice, no matter how helpful, apart from the truth of Christ can often encourage a recovering Pharisee to add your suggestion to an already long list of things to do to make life work apart from the grace of Christ. Our idol-producing hearts are quick to take any helpful advice and put all our hope in it. We are quick to make a solution into a savior.” – The Problem With Good Advice

 

Tim Challies offers some great thoughts on the danger of words. “Even though I know how many idle words I speak, I assume that other people mean every word. I allow myself far greater leeway than I allow others. I excuse myself while condemning them.” – I Have Cursed You.

 

Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.

Honoring Mom

Recently we were having a family discussion about spending some money to do something nice for “Mom” for Mother’s Day. I was encouraging this and the kids seemed excited – until, that is, one of them decided we should scratch the idea and spend the money on the kids. My explanation that this wasn’t going to happen was met with the following angry accusation: “Mom gets everything she wants, because of you!”

Though I’m sure my wife would argue as to the truth of that statement, I took it as a great compliment. My wife doesn’t ask for much and I certainly don’t do an adequate job of giving her all that she needs, but I’m glad that my children recognize that I honor their mother and make her a priority in my life. I think this is essential for developing within them the kind of honor and respect they must have for their mother and in turn for women in general.

In a culture that is increasingly disrespectful of women it is vital that godly men not only harbor feelings of honor and respect toward our wives and mothers, but that we express it and demonstrate it in front of our children. We cannot expect that they will do or feel what they have never seen. It must be modeled, encouraged and cultivated.

There are many ways to do this, but one way that works particularly well for my young children is to simply tell them stories. They love a good story and stories make for great opportunities to have some fun, inform them of their history and also give honor to those to whom it is due.

I tell them stories of my mom (their Grammy) who loved us fiercely, but wasn’t afraid to grab us by the ear if we got out of hand. I tell them how she taught us God’s Word, but also modeled an authentic and vulnerable relationship with the Lord. They’ve heard stories of how she has protected us from danger, and also that she always made our stomach flutter when she drove over the railroad tracks. Most of all, they hear that their Dad loves his Mom and they believe that is the way it ought to be.

In addition, I try to regularly make them aware of the story playing out in front of them every day. I point out the sacrifices their mom makes for them and for me. We talk about her hard work, her love, her care and attention. I encourage them to express gratitude for her selfless service. Though never as often as she deserves, I praise her in front of them for being a wonderful wife and mother. They know that Dad is flawed, but they also know he loves their Mom and believe that’s the way it ought to be.

My desire for my children is that they appreciate their mother and recognize that I love her and appreciate her too. I want my sons to grow up with a clear and biblical picture of how to treat a lady and I want my daughters to understand how they should be treated by men. The best hope of this desire coming true is if I take the time and make the effort to model this myself – even if I risk them thinking that I give Mom anything she wants.

Sunday Supper May 3, 2015

 In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

 What Diversity Matters? Great thoughts on diversity in the church.

 “Someone once said that ‘98.4% of statistics are made up on the spot.’ Though statistics seem trustworthy, they must be understood within a context that isn’t always so obvious.” – wise words on the careful use of statistics by Paul Seger.

“The church is designed as a place for God’s children to function as a family, united in heart and purpose.” – Living on Mission through Biblical Community

“It is highly unusual to hear church members say that they don’t desire their churches to be obedient to the Great Commission. And most church members do desire to see their churches grow – until the growth affects them. It is at that point they can become disillusioned and critical.” – Seven Reasons Some Church Members Don’t Want Their Churches to Grow

I Can Do All Things – an excellent treatment of a frequently misquoted verse

Al Mohler reflects on issues of religious liberty in this excellent article.

“I could be the best disciple or pastor, and God still owes me nothing. In fact, the opposite is true: I owe God everything. It’s a privilege just to serve him.” – God Owes Me Nothing

Why We Don’t Keep Secrets in Our House – very helpful thoughts on child abuse prevention.

 Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.