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Showing posts from 2014

The Veteran Retired Economist Tells the Real Story

Since he is no longer on the job, Greenspan offers a realistic insight into the country's economy.  His vast experience through decades helping the US economy grows gives weight to his opinion.

Click here for Greenspan's latest comments.

Should Bible Believing Churches Recommend Thomas Kempis?

Thomas Kempis is one of those famed writers in mid Christian history.  His book Imitation of Christ was in the past one of the best selling books besides the Bible.

It should be said there are portions of The Imitation of Christ that sound good.  In fact, one could get some great ideas out of a page here or a page there.

It should also be known that if Kempis wrote the book, their community lived faith idea is important.  A group of friends sought to live godly lives.  Others have definitely taught this, but in general we can commend this.

But on the whole, what should we think?  Is it worth making a recommended book to friends?

I've come to the conclusion that there are some serious reasons for a Christian person to avoid recommending Kempis' writing...

1. First of all, there is a question of who wrote it.  This complicates what is said in the book since it may not be someone's devotions.  This article will still refer to it as written by Thomas Kempis, but some speculat…

Pilgrim's Ties to a Historic US Church

This is an interesting article that is worth the read on Thanksgiving.

Click here for history of an American church branch to the Pilgrims of Plymouth.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

First Things magazine article

First Things magazine serves as a kind of cultural engagement piece for pastors around the USA and even in the Western world.  Many Christian thinkers and teachers read it to know what is going on, what current discussions are, and other insights.

An editor named RR Reno of First Things, recently published a shocking type tone article/piece for such a major US cultural engagement magazine (click here for this).

In it he argues for a sort of fall back to the lines approach, where we look out for those in and coming to churches rather than the whole US culture's well-being.  This is more a 'defensive' Christian teaching/praxis posture as the coverage uses that word.

For more generalist coverage of it, see (here).  The thinking behind such an article seems to have really fully taken over some large evangelical denominations, such as the SBC with Russell Moore, head of its division the ERLC, where seeing Christian values in laws or society has taken a backseat to more of a de…

Billy Graham...

From a work by Rev. Franklin Graham on his evangelist dad's sayings, maybe this will help someone out there:

"What is the authority of your life?  Is it your selfishness?  Your lust?  Your greed?  Or have you turned it all over to God and said, "Lord, You are going to be my authority"?  When you are under authority, you are then able to assume authority."

Things to Be Reminded of or Learn from The Lord's Prayer dba Luke 11:1-4

When it comes to the Lord's Prayer, there are few things in Christian life people feel they know better, but maybe miss some key points on.

1.) The Lord's Prayer is a community prayer, or a prayer of an individual but who lives in community.  It is from Jesus' plural (you) and the several "us" remarks a prayer of someone who lives in Christian community.

2.) The Lord's Prayer is not a public prayer.  It is a disciples prayer.  Actual Christ following people.  It is not a generic prayer for Christendom.  I purposely avoid using, for instance, in a city council or commissioner's court prayer.

3.)  The Lord's Prayer is about kingdom provision.  When we say "give us our daily bread" God in His great love for you boldly invites us in to almost (but not quite perhaps) come as close to a extremely bold statement.  Old Abraham asked God "do not be angry, but what if" when pleading about Lot's city.  But The Lord's Prayer Jesus taug…

Radical Changes to Church Planting and Established Church Invite Methods

There is a new study out published in a Barna book, called Churchless, which explores this topic in the headline.  It finds that receptivity to direct mail, social online media, tv, radio, and newspaper ad invites to church among those not in a church is very very low.  And dropping.

What does this mean for churches?  See study here.

In sum, churches should expect that advertising as a main driver of church growth, or a grand opening launch, or a special event will be very unimpressive.  Indeed, our church has realized this and stopped spending nearly as much on advertising in our area.

However, I loved how Barna brings this national perspective that the trend is not just North Texas.

That is so useful to others, so they as church laymen and women or leaders can benefit from that VALUABLE knowledge on kingdom resources.

In short, save your ad money, it's just not so much worth it to see people in church.  The unchurched don't care much about your ads and they actually begrudg…

Subversive: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation by Stetzer - a review

Ed Stetzer the well known church leadership and data researcher shares insights in his book Subversive that are spot on.

The book served me as a pastor differently than it might another Christian.  For me it was more of a confirmation book of trends and correct ways to view things within church rather than an eye opening book.  For some it could be an eye opener.  This book was especially useful not as an idea book for me, but as a way post on the road preaching through the Gospel of Luke, kind of like someone saying "right on, keep it up" on certain passages.

Much of Subversive pulls from the radically subversive nature of Jesus in the Gospels.  He is not comfortable with people staying in the status quo spiritually, but actually living for God instead of their culture, their homespun religions, or themselves.

One thing which I strongly do not like in books is a conversational style, because of course, while you may think of reading as a conversation, it really is not.  Th…

Who Are You Following Today Christian?

There is an encouraging word from discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

(Taking up) "The only constant factor throughout is the sameness of Christ and of his call then and now.  His Word is one and the same, whether it was addressed during his earthly life to the paralysed or the disciples, or whether it is speaking to us today.  Here as there we receive the gracious summons to enter his kingdom and his glory.  ...  All we have to do is to hear the word and obey the will of Christ, in whatever part of the scripture testimony it is proclaimed.  The Scriptures do not present us with a series of Christian types to be imitated according to choice:  they preach to us in every situation the one Jesus Christ."  (p 228; Cost of Discipleship)

God bless you!

Some good Friday thought...

Today it has really stood out to me that we too often make Christianity about a culture in America and that really we must be cognizant of Christ's daily call to follow him.

Consider.  It's been said before:

"A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing."  --Martin Luther.

There is a lot of truth to this when you think on passages like the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9, verses 23 to 24...

Did Jesus Get Raised or Raise Self from the Dead?

A common misconception from a limited study of the New Testament is this:  Jesus either raised himself from the dead or he was raised from the dead by God the Father, not both.

In church before as a pastor I have heard this, when I deep dig a passage and bring out that in one case Jesus was raised from the dead (God does as in God the Father in NT lingo; Luke 9:22), that someone may have only heard the other side.

But we see both.

Passively raised up by another member of Christian Trinity verses:
Luke 9:22 God the Father.
Romans 8:11 God the Holy Spirit.

Actively raised self up from dead verses:
Luke 24:46; Acts 10:41; Acts 17:3

(Separate but also same verbal idea pt., Luke 16:31)

Be blessed in the context of Scripture friends!

Church Locality - by Jim Tomberlin and Tim Cool - a review

In the practical book Church Locality, Jim Tomberlin and Tim Cool offer insights into current church building trends and rules.  Some of these rules include how much children's square footage you will need for a building renovated or a build project.  (pg 115-116)  There are very helpful pointers on chairs per square feet for planning a new location.  This kind of common sense advice is hard to come by and is appreciated in such a book.

Other rules include how cities tend to interact with churches today and community perception of churches coming into their area with a building.  There are practical suggestions such as having a parking lot ministry.  This is not strictly tied to having your own building, but also any situation such as being in a portable church scenario.

A good portion of the initial advice is for those starting multi-site or church plant locations that are rental.  If you are in the early stages of church planting this will be new info that makes the book worth a…

The Cost of Discipleship

In a Christian classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer states of believers:  "they simply bear the suffering which comes their way as they try to follow Jesus Christ, and bear it for his sake.  Sorrow cannot tire them or wear them down, it cannot embitter them or cause them to break down under the strain; far from it, for they bear their sorrow in the strength of him who bears them up, who bore the whole suffering of the world on the cross."

Christian, does this describe you today?  Are you letting Christ bear you up?  I pray you will.  Be strong in the Lord!

Russell Moore's ERLC Mistake on Worship Music Selections

In the US, a large church denomination has a group called the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission as a part of its "missions" giving.  This is a group tasked with speaking what churches should see/think about certain questions of the culture and moral questions as well.  It is headed by Russell Moore, a Molinist who studied under Dr. Bruce Ware, who studied under a Process Theologian.  Who cares?  Great question!  Most do not, but they should think twice.  Your beloved pastor or church may be turning to him for their advice.  Therefore what you hear is "God's will" for your church from your pastor or key lay leaders should be checked both for its spirit and for its aligning with reality.

Recently a Christian singer some have heard of named Vicky Beeching has come out as a lesbian.  Now this may not surprise anyone in our current American culture.  After all, what does the church have to say to those who are not claiming to seriously follow Jesus as Savior a…

How to Love Jesus More...

This is a great article from the Grace to You ministry website.  Perhaps you can love Jesus Christ more after thinking about these ideas too:  click here.

God bless!

Effective Pastors Do...?

Here's a great article for any interested on an effective pastor's time use.  It is by Dr. Thom Rainer of LifeWay ministries.  He was also a researcher and professor at Southern Seminary before taking the lead role at LifeWay, so he has some great insights all around.  Blessings!

Click here to link to it.

The Gospel Brings People Together

There is a conference called Together for the Gospel.  What an apt title though in general for the work of the Spirit of Christ among God's people?  God calls people from every tribe, tongue, and people group.  More than any conference, the gospel crosses barriers beyond backgrounds and countries of birth and denominations.  So when the church assembles anywhere in the world, it is a refreshing thing, because God overcomes barriers that man or woman might set up such as "how they were raised," and instead replaces our petty issues with the greatness of His Son, Jesus and the doctrine of His person.

It is a great reminder in Scripture when Paul, a Jewish educated semi-well off man in seasons of life, writes to his friends the Philippians from the city of Philippi who were doing ok, but definitely not Jewish, "therefore my brothers whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved."  He speaks as if they are family, though they …

ISIS requiring Christians to pay Muslim Law Tax for "Protection" as Muslims Have Demanded over Centuries

In the newly captured territory of ISIS, Christian residents are being called and told they only get protection if they pay a special Islamic tax that Muslims do not have to pay.  This tax is part of the teaching of Islam, and it is against non-Muslims of the Christian faith.  This is unjust, immoral and a witness against following all of Islam's teachings (obviously in the West, as a minority group of the population, such a tax is never brought up nor can it be forced).  In places throughout the centuries taken over by Islam, this same tax has been forced upon Christians in many places and times.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/06/25/a-troubling-new-report-regarding-christians-in-an-iraqi-city/

Job 7:7 "remember that my life is a breath...."

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Today I attended the funeral of my last grandparent who was alive, my Grandma Alice.  What do you do with a funeral?  As Christ followers we believe in the resurrection of our bodies from the dead when Jesus returns, so that we may reign and rule with Him.  But we talk at funerals much too about how a person lived, as a witness this side of heaven.  My grandma, born in the early 1930's had a perspective many had of that generation.  It is one that is just hard to find today.  She was for instance very optimistic, which showed as she exuded a welcoming and outgoing personality that was uplifting whenever you would visit her.  She believed the best about a lot of people, and would really have her heart go out to them.  Alice would reach out to anybody and make them feel at home with hospitality.  There are so few people like that in our hurried society.  Perhaps there are lessons in this about hospitality and kindness and patience (1st Cor. 13).  It reminds you of the importance of …

The Myth of High - Easter - Attendance at Church ... Why Easter Is Not Special to Those Not in Church

It seems like every year I get numerous emails and fliers encouraging our church to go all out inviting people to attend worship on Easter Sunday.  This is said to be the most sure thing there is among those who are not feeling really connected to a church.  They are said to be guaranteed to feel the need to show up on Easter at least.

For context, I live in an area made up of small suburbs of Dallas, Texas.  If you add up all of the suburbs and also the small towns, and edges of larger nearby cities in reach, such as a slice of Plano, Texas, there are 194,000 or so teens and adults according to several reliable sources near us (edge of Northeast DFW).

In 2011, 2012, 2013, and now 2014, we have "gone big" for Easter.  Several of these years we have sought out the best set of advisers and coaching available to figure out how to see people reconnect at that one particular day that everyone in the coaching world says is so "great" for reconnecting.  Other years we hav…

ERLC's Russell Moore - Houston we have a problem...

As a representative of thousands of churches small and large, effective and ineffective, some type of names other type of names, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission led by new president Russell Moore is tasked with speaking up on the Christian view (positive and negative).

The ERLC is tasked with speaking to many various issues we actually face in our time (not theory issues). This speaking on issues is meant to instruct churches not just to know, but also to act according to God's wisdom in standing firm in faith.  Yet, by definition, the ERLC will have certain strengths and weaknesses due to any president's ability, wisdom, and spiritual walk.

For instance, Richard Land the former president had some good views, but also in many's eyes had some weaknesses in something he said that led to his moving on, and Russell Moore's replacing him.

I know Russell Moore personally from days in graduate school at the same institution.  It was a Bible believing graduate sch…

...with Illiberty, Injustice for half the country... HGTV values

HGTV has some great programming.  I have really enjoyed watching it over the years.  True, the shows do get old sometimes, as they air repeats quite a bit, but as a young family house hunting from time to time, we have enjoyed it for ideas.  Sort of a tv version of Architectural Digest for ideas.  Recently I have had to cancel HGTV though.  It's not that I have no use for it. Actually I'd prefer to keep HGTV, but I cannot as an American or as a Christ follower.  HGTV has become intolerant of democratic values and also of Christ following values from the New Testament.

The issue for an audience at large is HGTV does not believe in democratic values.  They believe in selective justice.  The recent cancellation of a pair of brothers, who to me are no one, people I have never met personally nor know, is a real issue for true Americans and also true Christians.  This is why I have cancelled HGTV.  Democratic values include liberty and justice for all.

Recently, however, HGTV has t…

Pray for Persecution?

In the United States, a great deal of what is considered the church is actually not made up of born again believers who have faith in Jesus.  It is a cultural Christianity, very weak, with similarities to the Europe that Kierkegaard faced in his time.

Much of Christian faith is more of a prosperity gospel or political liberalism, loosely tied if at all to the gospel of Christ dying for our sins, so we could turn from them in faith to Jesus, and be saved.  The prosperity gospel is popular in people who still struggle with or who are sold out to an idol of the heart, greed.  Despite Jesus and Paul both having times of provision and lack, such persons are told that if you have faith God will give you much all the time.  This same prosperity gospel is a problem in Africa today, as in the US.

The political liberalism that changes a church's doctrine away from the gospel is most common in numbers of adherents within United Methodist churches and liberal Baptists (Baptist General Convent…

A Great Children's Resource for Your Family or Future Kiddos

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Sometimes as a parent, when you get fed up with pop books being too bland, and God convicts you to lead well, you seek out those books that are a great fit to tell kids about Jesus.  Once your kids get to a certain age they love hearing stories and you can bring in God's wisdom from the Bible with this resource below.

There are shortened stories that summarize chapters of the Bible for young children in this.  It makes a good bed time read.

Available at Barnes and Noble by clicking here.

Here is the cover of this item:

Also, you might be looking for something useful for really young kids who are just starting to outgrow Duplo blocks, but also wish they could have Legos in advance.  There is a Lego Bible book we have that our four year old loves.  It is called The Brick Bible.  It is pictured below, and you can click here to get it at Barnes and Noble as well:

On the Brick Bible one, you will have to choose which stories you want to share, and there are detailed descriptions of wha…

God Is Present to Bless You

Do you ever doubt God?  Be sure you have the right 'god' in mind.  God by definition as the one true God will be there to bless you.  In the Old Testament, God helped Israel as a people see that he was the true God because he actually answered prayers in his way.  Thus, from God's view, an idol by definition cannot move to help, or hear, Isaiah 46.  God states plainly (and He would know):  "for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me."  This is right after having said that alternative 'gods' of the people of the earth do not truly exist because they are unable to deliver.

Today you should walk in the promise when you read this, God's promise:  "My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose."  (emphasis mine)  The way to remember this is to remember what happened to those who sinned (Isaiah 46:3, 8, 10, 11b).  This will help you when you feel the tendency to wander off from righteous living to retur…

Leading as a Husband - from Dr. Stuart Scott

On the web people come across things that impact their life for good or ill.  I hope you've stumbled on this and it will be a blessing from God to you, especially today to Christian husbands.

In Dr. Stuart Scott's book for small group use, couples study or counseling, called Exemplary Husband, he lays out the difference between a husband living in natural, fallen leadership versus spiritual, in Christ leadership.  You can find it at Barnes & Noble.com here.

The natural, fallen man is the only one making his decisions, enjoys commanding others, motivated only by personal considerations, and so on.  The spiritually wise husband is confident because he's confident in God, not himself, he knows God, he seeks to find God's will and info on decisions, is motivated by God's love and love for man, and so on.  That's an excerpt from the way one of the chapters in the book, on leading, starts out.

This style of leadership a Christian husband is to have some checks th…

Loving Your Wife - from Dr. Stuart Scott

In an excellent book on marriage, Dr. Stuart Scott, formerly of Grace Community Church with John MacArthur in California, but now serving in Louisville, Kentucky, he challenges husbands on their love.
The book is The Exemplary Husband.

If you are a husband seeking to better love your wife as God would have you, go ahead and buy this book at Barnes & Noble or a local Lifeway Store, you will see a pay off from the investment.

Scott tackles what you've probably felt at some point, from a combination of the world's encouragement, your own sinful leanings, and bad advice:  false views of love of a husband for his wife.

Examples in the book:
1.) Romantic feelings defines all of love.  Some people get this wrong, he elaborates on it in here.
2.) Physical attraction defines all of love.  A lot of people today end it when they don't "feel" attracted to their spouse.  That is not God's plan, since love then would be pure selfishness.
3.) Sex=love.  While sex is a p…