Friday, August 29, 2008

Why God Doesn't Always Heal?

Here is a good article by Sam Storms entitled -- "Why God Doesn't Always Heal?"

In the article Storms gives seven reasons:
In the final analysis, virtually everything about healing remains a mystery. I don't mind saying that I'm weary of those who claim to reduce healing to a formula or a manageable cause and effect phenomenon in which we can know with certainty why some are healed and why others are not. I've labored in this meditation to avoid falling into that trap. That said, I would like to suggest that the reason why many are not healed may possibly be answered in any one of seven ways.

1. A lack of faith. (see the article for his explanations)
2. The presence of sin.
3. Some don't want to be healed.
4. They don't ask.
5. Demonic oppression has not been dealt with.
6. The mystery of God's providence.

7. Often times there are dimensions of spiritual growth and moral development and increase in the knowledge of God in us that he desires MORE than our physical health, experiences that in his wisdom God has determined can only be attained by means or in the midst of or in response to less than perfect physical health. In other words, healing the sick is a good thing (and we should never cease to pray for it), but often there is a better thing that can only be attained by means of physical weakness. More important to God than our physical health is our spiritual holiness.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

EPHESIANS: New Sermon Series After Labor Day

Lord willing I will begin a new sermon series on September 7th at Grace Church during the morning corporate worship service on Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Over the next several months we will slowly work through this glorious and inspired letter by the apostle Paul.

Please pray for me as I prepare the series and preach the series this Fall and Winter. Please pray for yourselves that you would listen with attentive ears--not primarily to my words but to the inspired words of God.

In order to get the most out of the series, I suggest that you make a pattern of regular reading of the short letter to the Ephesians. Read one chapter a day (there are six chapters) and the entire letter on Sundays. Read the book prayerfully and expectantly. Ask God to help you better understand and know Him, His will, His character and His plan for you and the church. Ask God to help you know and do! We are to be hearers of the Word and doers. Ask God to lead you to a joyful obedience to the truth for the glory of Jesus!

Sermon - Worshipping with the Lord's Supper

Here is the manuscript for the sermon I preached last Sunday on Corporate Worship and the Lord's Supper.

The audio is not up yet but will be posted at

I asked four questions regarding the Lord's Supper:

  1. What is the Lord's Supper?
  2. Why was the Lord's Supper given to the church?
  3. Who ought to participate in the Lord's Supper?
  4. What should participates expect to receive from the Lord's Supper?

New Grace Church Website

Check out the new church website. We will work hard at keeping it up to date with headlines, church news, coming events, etc.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tacky Church Billboards

OK, if you know me you know I love the Green Bay Packers. But I like to think that the zeal is under control and in the right perspective and order in life. However, Packer fans have a way of making their team their religion.

I think church boards that give tacky messages are exactly that -- very tacky. But this is going overboard. I thought you would enjoy a laugh--or cry...

(for those who don't know - the legendary Packer QB - Brett Favre - left the Packers and joined the Jets to the dismay of millions of cheeseheads)

Saddleback, Al Mohler and the Presidency

I did not get to watch the presidential forum that took place last week at Saddleback Church in CA but I have started watching the forum by means of youtube (see below).

I found this article about the forum by Al Mohler very helpful.

I thought Rick Warren asked some good questions that relate to character and faith. Of course, both gave very political answers.

McCain made it very clear that he believes life begins at conception and Obama thinks its above his pay grade to answer that question (big time cop out).

You can watch the first clip from the forum below:

Future Men - VBS

Dave VanAcker is leading a neighborhood VBS for fathers and sons this week called Future Men. Buddy and I and Marcus and Eli were invited to join him.

Future Men is about biblical manhood and looks at six characteristics of a godly man (more to come on that).

See Douglas Wilson's book Future Men (Canon Press, Moscow ID).

Here are some pictures of the activity -- see this page.

Letter of Thanks from Chris Starr

Last week I posted something about my friend, pastor Chris Starr, who lost his daughter by his mistake of leaving her in the van on a hot Sunday afternoon (read here).

Many of you have been praying for Chris and have sent him cards, emails, flowers, and various expressions of love and support.

You can email him at and here is a letter of thanks that he has recently sent out:

Dear Family & Friends,

We want to thank you so much for your notes of comfort, words of encouragement, and most importantly your prayers. We have never faced grief and sorrow to this degree in our lives. Through the shock, grief, and pain, we feel as though are hearts have been ripped out of our chests. We loved Cassie with all our hearts. Certainly, our hearts are completely broken.

The love and support from friends and family, and church, and those we don’t even know has been overwhelming. We don’t know how to say thank you to so many people and wish we could write everyone individually. We have sensed the thousands of prayers that have gone up on our behalf and God’s grace has been sufficient to help us through each day. Each card, email, phone call, visit, flower, and words of love have helped to comfort us. Thank you so much for the love and concern you have showed to our family.

Our God has been our anchor in this storm. Please don’t stop praying for us as I know that grieving is not once and done, but a process. Our heart’s desire is to glorify our God and that we might better be able to help others through their personal tragedies. I know God will teach us so much through this trial. A couple of verses that have been anchors for us to hold onto during this time include:

Psalms 138:3
In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.

Psalms 71:3
Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Testimony of Faithfulness - Elna Westfall 102 Years and Now with Jesus

Today I had the privilege of driving with Dave VanAcker to Fergus Falls (MN) to attend the funeral service of Elna Westfall. Elna was the mother of Arvid Westfall who is an elder at Grace Church.

Elna went to be with Jesus at the ripe old age of 102! Her life was marked with signs of faithfulness. First, the faithfulness of God that was the foundation of her life and of her faithfulness. Faithfulness in Elna as a devoted follower of Jesus, faithfulness as a wife to her husband Walter (who died in 1988). Faithfulness in Elna as a mother of four children (Arvid is the third of four children). Faithfulness as a grandmother, and great-grandmother.

Arvid shared a few thoughts about his parents and highlighted two things that were driven home to him by their example.

1) Integrity and
2) Service

Arvid had the opportunity of watching his parents live their lives in honesty (Arvid shared about the old days in which his parents would sharecrop and send a third to the land owner) -- which is so rare in our culture--and sacrificial service. It is no surprise to me that these two qualities abounded in Walter and Elna because I have seen them in their son over the six years that I have known him. More important than the virtues that these saints displayed is the faith that they obtained in the person of Jesus Christ - to the salvation of their souls! Praise God for His everlasting faithfulness.
Psa 71:18 So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.

Isa 46:4 even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Preparing for Corporate Worship- The Lord's Day

Here are some suggestions from the brochure I gave out two weeks ago about preparing for corporate worship (see whole brochure here):
RISE EARLY ENOUGH – Get up early enough to spend some quiet moments praying and thanking
God for the Day and opportunity to worship together with saved sinners. You want to avoid
feeling rushed.
TALK – Avoid hurtful and unedifying words but instead look for opportunities to build up with your
words as you prepare to go to the church building. Show forbearance to one another in love for
Jesus’ sake.
EAT HELPFULLY – Breakfast is an important meal for your body. Eat to the glory of God. Watch
what you drink so that you or your kids do not have to take unnecessary and distracting trips to the
LEAVE EARLY – Leave so that you can arrive at least 15 minutes before Sunday School or the
Worship Service. Please consider coming to Sunday school/Berea.
FIND A SEAT – As soon as possible look for a seat several minutes before the service begins. Sit
closer to the front if possible and keep others in mind. Sit and quiet yourself in preparation for the
corporate worship of God. Teach your kids to sit quietly with you during this time (they can spend
time with their friends afterwards).
PRAY – Declare your dependence on God and ask Him:
• To help you see and savor Him this morning.
• To help you worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
• To satisfy you this morning with His unfailing love in the Gospel of Jesus.
• To work mightily through His Word, prayer and songs.
• To anoint Luke, the musicians and the preacher with Holy Spirit power.
• To produce fruit for the glory of God and joy of all people.
LISTEN/OBEY – Listen carefully and prayerfully to what is said and sung. Concentrate. Ask God
to help you love His word more than the greatest riches on earth. Take notes. Help your kids take
notes or use the kid’s bulletin. Listen to the Word with humility and teachability.
ENCOURAGE – Look for opportunities to greet and encourage others afterwards. Possibly get
together with people to share food together. Look to talk to someone who you don’t know or don’t
regularly talk with. Make plans to get together with someone this week.
INTERCEDE – Pray for the word to convict and give life to yourself and others as a result of the
preaching. Pray for encouragement for the preacher in Jesus’ name.
TALK/OBEY – Talk with your family about the service. Talk with others about the worship and
word. Look to be a doer and not a hearer only.
REST – Make it a habit to get rest during this day. Take a nap. Thank God for the rest that he provides
for us by His grace.
THANK – Thank God for the gift of worship on the Lord’s Day. Ask Him to continue to grow your
love for Him and for His Church.

"Bad Guys are Good - Right Dad?"

During family devotions tonight, my four year old son (Buddy) brought up the "bad guy" theme again (see "Are Bad Guys Real") when he made the comment after talking about Jesus dying on the cross:
Buddy: "So dad, bad guys, right dad?"

Me: "What do you mean, son?"

Buddy: "Bad guys put Jesus on the cross, right."

Me: "Yes, so why is that good, Buddy?"

Buddy: "Because Jesus' dying on the cross took away our sins."

Me: "You are right, Buddy, that Jesus died on the cross is good news. But the bad guys were still bad for killing Jesus and they need his forgiveness."

Little four year olds are listening and thinking and believing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Preparing for Corporate Worship - Lord's Supper

Please be in prayer for Grace Church and yourselves as you come to worship God corporately this Sunday morning. In order to help you prepare your mind for the songs and preaching of the Word we list the sermon text and song lyrics on the church web the Friday before. Here is the links to the song lyrics and the sermon texts. You can access these resources weekly at this page (or see the tab above labeled "Grace Sermons").

How does the Lord's Supper Benefit Us?

I read this from J. C. Ryle today regarding the Lord's Supper and the benefits we hope to gain as we ponder the ponder the Lord's death:
The simplest statement of the benefit which a truehearted communicant may expect to receive from the Lord's Supper, is the strengthening and refreshing of our souls--clearer views of Christ and His atonement, clearer views of all the offices which Christ, fills as our Mediator and Advocate, clearer views of the complete redemption Christ has obtained for us by His substituted death on the cross, clearer views of our full and perfect acceptance in Christ before God, fresh reasons for deep repentance for sin, fresh reasons for lively faith--these are among the leading returns which a believer may confidently expect to get from his attendance at the Lord's Table. He that eats the bread and drinks the wine in a right spirit, will find himself drawn into closer communion with Christ, and will feel to know Him more, and understand Him better.

Wanting Good Things Too Much--Unsatisfied in God

This morning while biking in I listen to a C. J. Mahaney sermon on idols of the heart. He paraphrased John Calvin:
The evil in our desires usually does not lie in what we want but that we want it too much.
Often what we want is a gift from God (leisure, food, marriage, relationships, sex, pleasure, etc.) but we want it too much and in the wrong way. It becomes a sinful craving (and an idol) when we want it more than God Himself.
Romans 1:21-25 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Claiming to be wise, they became fools, (23) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (24) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, (25) because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pray for my friend, Chris Starr - Whose baby died by his mistake

I went to college and worked at camp with Chris Starr. Chris is an associate pastor of a church in York, PA and on Sunday his world was tipped upside down. After church he accidentally left his 15 month old girl in the car while he brought groceries into the house. Cassie was quietly sleeping and Chris forgot to get her until 3 hours later. The temp in the minivan was around 130 and they found the girl dead (heat stroke).

You can read the story here and a follow up article about the response of people reacting to this tragedy.

Reading the comments in this second article is very saddening. It is very easy to stand back and critically attack people when you are far from the situation. I know Chris, a godly and responsible man (he was an R. A.) and the pain must be unbelievable. Please pray for Chris, his wife (Jenny) and their 3 other kids.

This is a time to reserve judgment and show love, mercy and compassion.
Eph 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

God Feeds Us in a Desert in Corporate Worship

Here is a great quote I read by Michael Horton regarding how God feeds us when we gather corporately to partake of the Lord's Supper.

Churches that follow the apostolic, Reformation faith are charismatic in the fullest sense of that term. That is, they believe that every service of Word and Sacrament is a time of signs and wonders. They eagerly anticipate--or, at least, should eagerly anticipate, the miraculous when they come to church, because God has promised that when we gather to worship and receive God's forgiveness, he will faithfully feed his flock in the wilderness. But we often become like the cynical generation of Israelites in the wilderness who, when God reaffirmed his promise to feed them, cried out, "What! Is the Lord going to spread out a banqueting table for us right here in the middle of the desert?" But that is precisely what God does. He is a wonder-working God who feeds us among the thorns and sand of our spiritual wasteland, when and where we are least expecting.

But what Shepherd gives his own flesh for food and his own blood for drink? What god gives his body for the life of his worshippers? Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? Yes, indeed! Our Savior declares, "Whosoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trollope vs Paul

Compare what Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) wrote about his experience of sermons:
There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilised and free countries, than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent, and be tormented. No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, and yet receive, as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanour as though words of impassioned eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips...He is the bore of the age, the old man whom we Sinbads cannot shake off, the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday's rest, the incubus that overloads our religion and makes God's service distasteful. We are not forced into church! No: but we desire more than that. We desire not to be forced away. We desire not to be forced to stay away. We desire, nay, we are resolute, to enjoy the comfort of the public worship; but we desire also that we may do so without an amount of tedium which ordinary human nature cannot endure with patience; that we may be able to leave the house of God, without that anxious longing for escape, which is the common consequence of common sermons...
To what the apostle Paul wrote about His preaching to the Corinthians and to pastor Timothy:
1Co 2:1-5 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (4) and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5) that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

2Ti 4:1-4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: (2) preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (3) For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, (4) and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

My New Family - Personal Blog

I want to welcome to our family website - SON OF HAROLD. Over the past half year I have enjoyed blogging at this church blog and have found myself wanting to put more personal, family, funny or just plain interesting stuff that wouldn't quite fit with the purpose of a church blog. I enjoy posting pictures and stories and like to send them to my friends and family. I plan to do that at the new blog.

The blog is called - "Son of Harold." I hope you like the name. Harold is a great and uncommon name. It also happens to be my dad's. We haven't given one of our sons that name yet but I thought I would highlight it with this blog. My dad is a godly man who takes many things very seriously but when it comes to himself -- he enjoys a good laugh with his kids and grandkids.

I will keep a section on the bottom right with my latest feeds in case you are interested and you sign up to get emails from the new blog whenever there is an update. Click here to sign up for an email subscription.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Teaching Your Kids to "Say Their Prayers"

Bedtime at home with four kids five and under is challenging. Often I find myself saying short prayers with little time to really focus and concentrate on what I am doing. I came across this interesting article and I thought I would share it with you.


I would love to hear what you do and what you would suggest.

How to Listen to a Sermon by George Whitefield

As I have been doing some studying and reading this week about preaching for next Sunday's sermon I came across this advice by George Whitefield.

How to Listen to a Sermon
by George Whitefield

Keys for getting the most out of what the preacher says

Jesus said, 'Therefore consider carefully how you listen' (Luke 8:18). Here are some cautions and directions, in order to help you hear sermons with profit and advantage.

1. Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty. To enter His house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.

2. Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God. If an earthly king were to issue a royal proclamation, and the life or death of his subjects entirely depended on performing or not performing its conditions, how eager would they be to hear what those conditions were! And shall we not pay the same respect to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and lend an attentive ear to His ministers, when they are declaring, in His name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?

3. Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister. That was the reason Jesus Christ Himself could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of His own country; for they were offended at Him. Take heed therefore, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you.

Consider that the clergy are men of like passions with yourselves. And though we should even hear a person teaching others to do what he has not learned himself, yet that is no reason for rejecting his doctrine. For ministers speak not in their own, but in Christ’s name. And we know who commanded the people to do whatever the scribes and Pharisees should say unto them, even though they did not do themselves what they said (see Matt. 23:1-3).

4. Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think. Preferring one teacher over another has often been of ill consequence to the church of God. It was a fault which the great Apostle of the Gentiles condemned in the Corinthians: 'For whereas one said, I am of Paul; another, I am of Apollos: are you not carnal, says he? For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but instruments in God’s hands by whom you believed?' (1 Cor. 1:12; 2:3-5).

Are not all ministers sent forth to be ministering ambassadors to those who shall be heirs of salvation? And are they not all therefore greatly to be esteemed for their work’s sake?

5. Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered. When our Savior was discoursing at the last supper with His beloved disciples and foretold that one of them should betray Him, each of them immediately applied it to his own heart and said, 'Lord, is it I?' (Matt. 26:22).

Oh, that persons, in like manner, when preachers are dissuading from any sin or persuading to any duty, instead of crying, 'This was intended for such and such a one!' instead would turn their thoughts inwardly, and say, 'Lord, is it I?' How far more beneficial should we find discourses to be than now they generally are!

6. Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put into practice what he shall show from the Book of God to be your duty.

No doubt it was this consideration that made St. Paul so earnestly entreat his beloved Ephesians to intercede with God for him: 'Praying always, with all manner of prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and for me also, that I may open my mouth with boldness, to make known the mysteries of the gospel' (Eph. 6:19-20). And if so great an apostle as St. Paul needed the prayers of his people, much more do those ministers who have only the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If only all who hear me this day would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How ministers would see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven, and people find the Word preached sharper than a two-edged sword and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s strongholds!

This excerpt is adapted from Sermon 28 from The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield. Published by E. and C. Dilly, 1771-1772, London. George Whitefield (1714-1770) was a British Methodist evangelist whose powerful sermons fanned the flames of the First Great Awakening in the American colonies.

What Controls Your Happiness?

I read this brief comment by Seth Godin this morning and found it very interesting and true:

A journalist asked me, Most people have a better standard of living today than Louis XIV did in his day. So why are so many people unhappy?

What you have doesn't make you unhappy. What you want does.

And want is created by us, the marketers.

Marketers trying to grow market share will always work to make their non-customers unhappy...

Unfortunately, this is far too true for Christians - those who have surrendered their wills to the Son of God, who by the Spirit is transforming our wants.

We need to beware of the worldliness of marketers who effect our wants and continually provoke our hearts to be discontent. The real evil that gets us, however, is not from the marketers but is found deep inside our sinful hearts. Our heart wants to find treasure in things that are really no treasure at all.
Matthew 6:19-24 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, (20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (22) "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, (23) but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (24) "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Preparing for Sunday Worship on Friday

Suggestions for Preparing for Sunday's Corporate Worship - Today.

THANK – Thank God for the coming weekend which includes the Lord’s Day. It is good to work and it is good to rest—thank Him for both.

TALK – Talk to others about the privilege of worshiping Jesus with the church on the Lord’s Day. Look for an opportunity to invite some to join you who does not worship with a true church. Consider making plans to fellowship with other believers following the worship service.

ENCOURAGE – Let leaders and volunteers in the church who serve on Sunday know that you are praying for them this weekend. Take advantage of email (if you have it). Look for an opportunity to encourage someone with your time this weekend.

LISTEN/OBEY – How should you apply the Bible to your life today? Do not neglect the daily reading and meditation on God’s Word and prayer. Begin to read and reflect on the Sermon text and songs that will be used on the Lord’s Day. The pastors will put the songs and Scripture passages on the church website and blog by Friday afternoon.

PRAY – Declare your dependence on God and ask Him:

· To give you and undivided heart to worship Him this weekend.

· To give you and undistracted heart to worship Him this weekend.

· To help you enjoy the fact that you are worshipping God with His people.

· To work mightily through His Word and our Worship on the next Lord’s Day.

INTERCEDE – Pray for Pastor Daniel as he finishes his sermon and prepares for other parts of the service. Pray for Luke and the worship team as they prepare their music and souls for the Sunday worship music. Pray for Dave as he finishes preparing for Berea. Pray that God would produce fruit through the preparation of these things.

ANTICIPATE – Remind yourself and your kids that in two days you get to worship God together as a church. Ask God to heighten your anticipation.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reading for Godly Homemaking

I am married to a great homemaker and I love the subject of homemaking--it is very undervalued in our culture. Here is a great website called GIRL TALK by C. J. Mahaney's wife and daughters.

Girl Talk has been covering the subject of Homemaking.

Here are some of the titles:

A Daughter's Heart for the Home

Mom's Example in the Home

Homemaking Books

Note from a Homemaker

Homemaking School

More Chesterton on Homemaking

Speaking of Homemaking...

More Like Christ

Not Her Best

Dealing with Distraction

The Homemaker's Secret of Fulfillment

Heralding the Homemaker

Homemaking is Not a Hindrance

Homemaking is Not a Holding Pattern

In Honor of Home

At Home with Humor

Where Home Is

Preparing for Sunday Worship on Thursday

Suggestions for Preparing for Sunday's Corporate Worship - Today.

THANK – Thank God for His provision for you—physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Thank Him for all the Spiritual gifts He provides to nourish our soul – including the corporate gathering of His people on the Lord’s Day.

TALK – Look for an opportunity to invite some to join you who does not worship with a true church.

ENCOURAGE – Consider writing an encouragement note to someone in the congregation. Tell the person that you appreciate and are praying for him. Look for a way that you can serve someone – in or out of the church. Serve someone who can not serve you back.

LISTEN/OBEY – Do not neglect the daily reading and meditation on God’s Word and prayer. Reflect on specific works of God in the OT and NT as well as in your own life. Remember that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.

PRAY – Declare your dependence on God and ask Him:

· To give you a proper heart to worship Him this coming Lord’s Day.

· To help you delight in the Gospel – you have been saved by grace through Jesus.

· To help you faithfully anticipate and prepare for the coming Sunday

· To work mightily through His Word and our Worship on the next Lord’s Day

INTERCEDE – Pray for Pastor Daniel, Luke and Dave as they discuss the worship service and select songs. Pray for guidance and edification. Pray for Daniel as he prepares the sermon and continues to study and pray. Pray that he would be faithful to the Word. Pray for the Sunday School teachers as they prepare their lessons.

ANTICIPATE – Remind yourself and your kids that in three days you get to worship God together as a church. Ask God to heighten your anticipation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Outdoing the Competition, the Olympics and Our Call as Disciples

Read this article by Sam Crabtree (a friend and former mentor to me at Bethlehem Baptist Church). The article is called "2 Kinds of Outdoing" and he writes:

What should Christians, especially those who are non-sports fans, make of the Olympics?

Everything in the material universe points to something of significance in the non-material realm. By saying so, I am not trying to diminish the significance of the physical universe per se. God has ordained meaning and significance there, too. Jesus ascended bodily to heaven. Meanwhile, the material creation points to things not seen with physical eyes, but with spiritual eyes.

The Bible is bursting with numerous examples of material objects employed as metaphors. Mustard seeds point to faith. Rocks struck in the wilderness point to Jesus who is our sacrificial lamb. Manna points to nourishment that does not come by bread alone. The heavens declare not just condensation, but God’s glory.... (read the whole article here).

What if two theologians I respect disagree about Scripture’s meaning?

I came across this interesting and brief article by Justin Taylor at New Attitude.

What if two theologians I respect disagree about Scripture’s meaning?

You asked Bible questions. You voted on your favorites. Now, we answer them.

The answer to this is virtually the same as if the question had been, “What if two theologians I respect agree about Scripture’s meaning?” In either scenario, the proper response is to imitate the “noble Bereans” of Acts 17... (read the entire article)

Preparing for Sunday Worship on Wednesday

On Sunday I gave out a handout with practical suggestions for making your regular week a time of preparation for worship. I wrote (here is the entire pdf in a printable format):

Here are some practical suggestions that I commend to you for your pursuit of pleasing God in worship. I suggest these things for your joy and not as a legalistic weight to burden you. I do not mean to infer that if you follow a formula or plan that you are guaranteed to experience God in an overwhelming emotional way. If this seems overwhelming, I suggest taking one or two things per day as a start. My goal is that we would grow into a mindset and attitude of intentional reliance on God and earnest longing to experience Him in corporate worship. I pray that we would grow to be able to honestly say — Sunday mornings at Grace are the happiest place on earth and the best days of the week.

Here is the preparation for Wednesday:

THANK – Thank God for giving you the Spirit to be our Helper in all things including the worship of God in Spirit! Thank the Holy Spirit for being your Helper as you follow Jesus.

TALK – Talk to others about the privilege of worshiping Jesus with the church on the Lord’s Day. We talk about what is important to us. Look for an opportunity to invite some to join you this Sunday who does not worship with a true church.

ENCOURAGE – Again look for an opportunity to encourage someone by thanking them or sharing how you are seeing God work in their life. Again, take the time to call someone who was absent and without “guilt-tripping” them—let them know they were missed. Look for an opportunity to encourage a leader within the church. Let him/her know you are praying for them (and do it).

LISTEN/OBEY – Ask God what He would have you do in obedience to His Word? How should you apply the Bible to your life today? Do not neglect the daily reading and meditation on God’s Word and prayer. Reflect on a particular promise of God and revisit it through the day as you deal with conflicts, anxieties, problems, blessings, struggles, etc. Focusing on God and living in reliance of His promises during the week is vital to declaring His goodness and promises on Sunday.

PRAY – Declare your dependence on God and ask Him:

· To help you grow in an appreciation for the Truth of God and His Word.

· To help you delight in being in His Word day and night.

· To help you faithfully anticipate and prepare for the coming Sunday.

· To work mightily through His Word and our Worship on the next Lord’s Day.

INTERCEDE – Pray for the teens who usually meet this night. Pray that they would not waste the early years of their lives but would live fully for God. Pray for youth leaders and for the parents of the teens. Pray for the preacher as he begins working on the Sunday sermon. Pray that he will not neglect the most important things (the Word and prayer).

ANTICIPATE – Remind yourself and your kids that in four days you get to worship God together as a church. Ask God to heighten your anticipation.

Preparing Yourself for Pleasing Worship - Sermon

Here is the sermon audio and manuscript for Sunday, August 10th, 2008. I preaching on the subject - "What is Pleasing Worship?" and then discussed the necessity of preparing ourselves for corporate worship during the entire week.

Here were my 4 main answers to the question - "What Worship is Pleasing to God?"
1. Worship that pleases God is worship that is done in Spirit and Truth.
2. Worship that is pleasing to God always requires a proper heart.
3. Worship that is pleasing to God requires attentive ears to God’s Word.
4. Worship that is pleasing to God requires delighted anticipation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

True Glory in Beijing

Here is a good article by Mark Altrogge on the Olympics, Beijing, glory, and the persecuted church in China. Read the whole article here.

He states:

Last week I caught part of the opening ceremony of the Olympics, reportedly planned and rehearsed for 5 years, and costing $300 million to stage.

It featured 15,000 Chinese performers. 33,866 fireworks were fired off – almost as many as our local Indiana County Fair on July 4th. It was probably the largest and most expensive show ever produced. Especially cool was the performance of 2000 drummers in playing in perfect synchronization. Obviously, China wanted to impress.

But China’s government is not impressive.

“They hung me up across an iron gate, then they yanked open the gate and my whole body lifted until my chest nearly split in two. I hung like that for four hours.” (read on here)

Lessons from a Grieving Mother - Molly Piper

Molly Piper is a friend from my seminary days (at Bethlehem). She is the daughter-in-law of John Piper and she writes this article about the grief she has and still experiences from the lost of her daughter through "stillbirth." I think it is helpful to read because it gives some helpful advice in how to help comfort those who are suffering from a great loss:

Molly writes:

A year ago I was seven months pregnant with our second child. We found out at our 18-week ultrasound, much to my delight, that this one was a girl. As the last months of pregnancy ambled on, we got more and more excited. We had done the boy thing already; we were ready for a daughter.

Everything was normal as the end of pregnancy drew near. There were no signs of a problem when I visited the doctor that final week. However, at 39 weeks and 4 days, I couldn't shake the feeling, “I haven't been feeling this baby move as much.”

We went to the hospital, not really alarmed, but concerned. When they couldn't find her heartbeat, mine beat fast enough and furiously enough for both of us, as though it were trying to live for her. Ultrasounds confirmed that our child had died.

We delivered her that day—September 22, 2007—Felicity Margaret Piper. She weighed 9 pounds, 5 ounces and was perfectly formed, though her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck.

I had no category for “stillbirth” before this. Who gets 39 weeks into a smooth pregnancy and doesn't think they're definitely going to bring home their baby?

The road we've walked the past 10 months has been horribly difficult, the hardest thing we've ever walked through in our lives.

Here are some things I'd like people to know about me during this time. Maybe it will be helpful for you as you love other women you know who are living through the loss of a child.

You can read the rest of the blog here.

You can read Molly's blog here.

Defining the Sucessful Woman?

Here is a good and brief article from Boundless Line on what truly is a successful woman. Ted Slater writes (emphasis mine):

Successful Women
When you hear that term, what comes to mind?

A couple of days ago I was flipping through some old copies of my grad school alumni magazine. They featured current and former students who'd done well, who had gone on to write books, make waves in government, take on pastorates, receive teaching awards, produce prize-winning films, head up inner city missions, and so on.

And that was just the women.

The message is that "successful women," those whom we should honor for their leadership skills, are those who influence people on a large scale. The more people affected by the alumna, the more successful.

But what about those women who went on to influence a small group of people, and more deeply? What about those women who, with master's degrees in hand, chose to forgo acclaim and take on the humble responsibility of being mere mothers? Who exchanged the inch-deep significance of a sterile board room for the eternal significance of the family room?

It's enough that my alumni magazine promotes women pastors, a vocation with no biblical precedence. But by remaining silent about the influential role of full-time mother, they imply that such women may not be counted among the "successful."

I know it's a cliche, but perhaps it is so because it's so true: In their last moments, women will likely not regret having spent so few hours working for The Man. They'll regret not having spent as much time as they could with the ones they love. In the case of married women, that's likely to include their children.

It's fine to recognize the success of women outside the home. Let's also recognize the too-overlooked success of those who, as the saying goes, rock the cradle.

Um, did I mention that we're expecting our third daughter to be born this Friday? Not sure that's relevant.... ;-)
I am thankful for the many successful women I know who work harder than any successful business man or woman or pastor--my wife (Molly) is one of them.

You can go to the post here and read some of the comments.

ESV Study Bible - Coming

[HT-Justin Taylor]
Here's a 5-minute intro to the ESV Study Bible. You'll see a few of the original drawings (Jerusalem in the time of David, in the time of Solomon, in the time of Nehemiah, in the time of Jesus; the Herodian Temple Mount, the Temple Mount Complex, and a cutaway of Herod's Temple). You'll also see a few endorsements of the ESV Study Bible:

I plan to purchase this Bible when it comes out this fall. The best price I have found is at for $31.49 (hardback).

Here is the video:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bush Attends Church in Beijing

I thought this was interesting - Bush attended a registered church in Beijing yesterday. See this AP video clip:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Preparing for Corporate Worship - Sunday, August 10th

Douglas Wilson writes an exhortation on preparing for corporate worship:

every week at this time you hear an exhortation to prepare yourself for worship. But remember that these exhortations should be recalled at other times than just a few moments before we begin.

Prepare for the Lord's Day throughout the week. Exhort your children. Prepare them for it. Meditate on the subject of the sermon. Review the psalms and hymns that we list a week before. Use the bulletin to guide your prayers for those we lift up on the Lord's Day.

Prepare for this worship the night before. Set clothing aside so there is no frantic rush to find things at the last minute.

Rise a little early to compose your thoughts, and arrange the frame of your heart. Pray, Pay attention to what you eat and drink so that you don't have to interrupt your worship with trips to the restroom.

Teach your children to sit still, learning to pay attention. Be patient with those parents who have this considerable task in hand.

Every day, look forward to the opportunity we have to worship the Lord. Long for it, and pray that God would use what we do here for His glory in our community. It is His name we lift up, and because it is a name with great weight, we must pray that He will do this through us, for our strength is small.

Here is the Scripture passages for the sermon and the songs with lyrics.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New Book by Pastor Dave - Debtors of Grace

Pastor Dave has published a new booklet for several of the Discipleship Groups called "Debtors of Grace - A Biblical and Practical Look at Evangelism."

If you would like a copy of the book email (or talk) Dave (his email is

Here is a pdf version of the book for you to download and read on your computer or print.

Dave's intro gives an overview of what he covers in the booklet:
When it comes to evangelism (sharing the Gospel
with non-Christians or making grace payments),
there are four very important—indeed, necessary—
elements: communicating the Gospel to
non-Christians 1) is part of following Jesus, 2) is
usually most efficacious, and always most pleasing
to God, when it springs from deep, personal
satisfaction in God, 3) requires a clear, Biblical
understanding of the Gospel, and 4) involves intentionality,
purpose, and practice. While we will
briefly address the first three elements, the primary
purpose of this booklet is to look at element
4 (the intentionality, purpose, and practice of
evangelism). However, please do not think that
because, in the context of this booklet, we are not
spending a great deal of time on elements 1-3
they are not important. As I said above, they are
absolutely essential. No biblical evangelism can
take place without them. Again, please do not
gloss over them. Do not minimize or marginalize
them. We must begin there. It is only after we
have them in place that we have any hope of engaging
in Biblical evangelism.

How Should We View Corporate Worship? - Sermon

The audio was not recorded this Sunday, but here is the manuscript for my sermon that I preached on August 3rd. This is the second sermon from the series - "God's Glorious Gift of Corporate Worship."

In this sermon I asked the question - "How should we view corporate worship?"
I gave six observation that should inform our view of corporate worship.

1. Corporate Worship Has Always Been the Joyful Practice of God’s People in the Bible. (see manuscript for Scripture)

2. Corporate Worship is Implied by the Content and Nature of the Psalms

3. Corporate Worship is the Joyful Occupation of Heaven

4. The Nature of Corporate Worship brings more Glory to God than Private or Individual Worship.

5. Corporate Worship Brings More Edification than Private and Individual Worship.

6. Corporate Worship Reflects the Picture of the Church Better than Private and Individual Worship.

Given these truths – we should consider corporate worship as very significant, meaningful, worth pursuing, prioritizing, growing in…

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Preparing for Corporate Worship - Sunday, August 3rd

I encourage you to read through and think about the words we are going to sing tomorrow morning during the corporate worship service at Grace Church.

Here is a document with the songs and lyrics for tomorrow.

Why Does God Want Us To Sing? Bob Kauflin

Why does God want our praise to be expressed in songs?

Psalms 47:6-7 Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (7) For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!

Here is a video clip of musician and pastor Bob Kauflin (author of "Jesus, Thank You, You Are the Way, O Great God) on why God wants us to sing:

If We Are Not Worshipping God, We Are Nothing

I though I would share with you something I read this week from N. T. Wright's book - For All God's Worth:
Though we sing with the tongues of men and of angels, if we are not truly worshipping the living God, we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. Though we organize the liturgy most beautifully, if it does not enable us to worship the living God, we are mere ballet-dancers. Though we repave the floor and reface the stonework, though we balance our budgets and attract all the tourists, if we are not worshipping God, we are nothing.

Worship is humble and glad; worship forgets itself in remembering God; worship celebrates the truth as God’s truth, not its own. True worship doesn’t put on a show or make a fuss; true worship isn’t forced, isn’t half-hearted, doesn’t keep looking at its watch, doesn’t worry what the person in the next pew may be doing. True worship is open to God, adoring God, waiting for God, trusting God even in the dark.

Worship will never end; whether there be buildings, they will crumble; whether there be committees, they will fall asleep; whether there be budgets, they will add up to nothing. For we build for the present age, we discuss for the present age, and we pay for the present age; but when the age to come is here, the present age will be done away. For now we see the beauty of God through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; no we appreciate only part, but then we shall affirm and appreciate God, even as the living God has affirmed and appreciated us. So now our tasks are worship, mission, and management, these three; but the greatest of these is worship. (For All God’s Worship, N. T. Wright, pp. 8-9.)