Month: September 2011

Dads, take a look at “For Dads” Page

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Getting time together for dads and their sons…priceless!  Figuring out how to make that time substantive…even more priceless!

Beginning the first week of October, I will post one devotion per week for a father and son to enjoy together.   The content is very brief (as it would have to be to keep the interest of a young man) but should provide enough information to spur more conversation if the timing hits just right!

I look forward to getting feedback from how it goes…including suggestions from you after you get started that might help other dads who might not be as creative as you!

Perhaps sometime in the future, we can have a guest writer with daughters offer something similar for girls, but as the father of three sons, I’m afraid I would not be much help there!

Here’s to solid, growing, Christ-centered relationships in the home!

Not Ashamed and Not Backing Down!

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When the Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16), his confidence in the truth about Jesus Christ was unassailable.

But even Paul went through times when following Christ and doing His will involved more than he thought he could give.  We understand how that can happen when times are rough and serving Christ forces us to fight through tough circumstances and unusually strident opposition.  But in one situation, Paul seems to have overcome the hard things and come out ahead.  In Corinth, even with severe attacks on him and the gospel, the Lord had prevailed and many had come to put their faith in Christ…”and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized” (Acts 18:8).  But in the next verse instead of the rejoicing and thanksgiving that we might expect, we find that the Lord had seen a need in Paul for special encouragement.

For some reason, in the wake of many believing and being baptized, Paul needed to be bolstered in his faith, reassured of God’s promises and restored to a posture of boldness in his commitment to follow and speak much of Christ.  “The Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city'” (Acts 18:9-10).

In each of our lives, we must be aware that those time we expect to face discouragement and fears, we fortify ourselves for such downward spirals, but we are frequently more vulnerable in times we least expect it…during times when things are going well.  Then seemingly out of no where,  we find ourselves unsettled, tentative, anxious, even fearful.  That is when the Lord will enable us to overcome as He tells us, “Do not be afraid any longer…keep doing what I ask you to do.  I will bless faithfulness to My word and bring favor upon any work that I call you to do.”

So like Paul, we are not only not ashamed of the gospel…neither are we ashamed of our calling in any area to which Christ has called us to put our hand.  Therefore, we won’t back down and we won’t scare off too easily when we walk in the presence and power of the Lord!

Woman from Borobudur, Indonesia

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Pray for the people of Indonesia!
This was taken at the Temple in Borobudur, Indonesia, Summer 2010.

“Let the meditations of my heart be acceptable”

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In a hectic world, the idea of deep reflection and meditation seems to be a distant memory of life in another era.  When was the last time you spent time meditating on God’s Word?  The occasional references to meditation in modern culture usually come from sources more connected with eastern mystical religions than the biblical practice affirmed and modeled in the Scriptures.  Yet the difference is profound!  While eastern mysticism seeks to empty the mind, biblical meditation speaks of a mind and heart full of God’s truth.  Here is a brief outline I developed as an aid to meditation that seems to be consistent with what David had in mind in Psalm 19:14 when he wrote, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

Meditating on God’s Word

1.  Meditate on Scripture
A train of thought needs a track on which to run or else it will run off in every direction and end up going nowhere while making great haste to go everywhere.  Make sure that your meditation is on track with God’s Word.

2.  Meditate with Structure 
Just as a sentence must have some structure to qualify as such, so a structure must apply to meditation so that the thoughts take on form in order to be distinguished from random ramblings.

3.  Meditate in a Systematic Manner 
Without a method to our meditation on Scripture, a systematic manner or process, we will waste much time and have little to show for our efforts.  Here are some suggestions to follow:

  • Paraphrase the passage
  • Dissect and reconstruct the passage
  • Emphasize different phrases and word while reading aloud
  • Isolate suggested themes and topics not central to the main thesis for separate and individual consideration
  • Compare the passage with related topics and texts
  • Define the terms used
  • Cultivate a context for understanding by noting attributes of God suggested by text

4.  Meditate in Solitude
Meditation cannot be a team effort or group project but a practice only to be developed alone before the Lord.

5. Meditate in Silence.
Distracting noise competes with the quiet voice of the Lord and should be avoided whenever possible.  If noise is unavoidable, the Lord can create an oasis of calm about you and speak through the silence of His own stillness.

I hope this not only helps but encourages you to set aside time to spend some special time with the Lord meditating on His Word and enjoying His abiding presence.

Bar Mitzvah, Jerusalem Style!

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Western Wall, Jerusalem

On our visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, we had the privilege of witnessing the Bar Mitzvah of this young man celebrated by a very proud family!

Shadowfeet

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Hope you enjoy Brooke Fraser.  She is one of my favorite artists over the past year.  You probably have heard her lead worship on several Hillsong recordings–Hosanna is one of her songs.  This is just an encouraging video painting a portrait with faces–makes me want to be a part of seeing the body of Christ grow in diversity here in our nation!

[This is my first video post so let me know if you have any problem with it.  I am still new at this!]

Connecting without Compromising

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A big discussion among Christians debates the dangers versus the necessity of contextualizing the gospel.

Some see only dangers in addressing an unbelieving audience with terms most likely to be understood by those who have a wholly unbiblical frame of reference for life.  The greatest danger they see is compromise, a very real concern if the message is adjusted, watered down, to make it more palatable.  But practically and biblically it is not only possible but advisable to learn the cultural language as we make an attempt to communicate the unchanging truth of the gospel.

Others see the necessity of becoming evangelistically bi-lingual in order to translate biblical truth into words and concepts that are completely biblical and consistent in every way with the whole counsel of God.  The sad reality is that many have failed miserably in their attempt to do so because they took the guts out of the gospel to make it more popular and acceptable.  That is, sad to say, one of the defining marks of some extraordinarily popular ministries–that there is so little of the gospel in their message that they mislead people into thinking positively about themselves instead of recognizing their sin and need for a Savior.

When Paul went to Athens as recorded in Acts 17, some commentaries today suggest that he deviated from his normal evangelistic pattern and failed…that by engaging in cross-cultural apologetics he did not “preach Christ and Him crucified” as he had done elsewhere.  They even point to his statement to the church in Corinth, the city he visited just after Athens, that his approach at the Areopagus was off target and that from now on he would stick with the preaching of the cross and no longer try to connect with the language and ideologies of the culture:  “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void” (1 Corinthians 1:17).  They even declare his evangelistic efforts in Athens to be a failure because “some men joined him and believed…” instead of having widespread success (obviously forgetting the response in Philippi–Lydia, not even from there, a slave girl, a jailer and his family).

The text does not support such a conclusion.  Paul presents an amazing model of effective apologetics in showing how to speak coherently to a people unfamiliar with biblical language and ideas.

I like what Michael Green says about what Paul did at Athens in his presentation of the gospel in the Areopagus. He clearly argues for thinking missiologically about any culture in which you want to gain a hearing for the life-changing, saving truth of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

If we do not understand and relate to the culture of our times we will not gain a hearing.  If we do not challenge the culture of our day we will not bring anyone to faith.  Instead, we will have compromised the gospel beyond recognition.  But notice how cleverly Paul addresses his audience.  He begins, like the classical orators, by calling them “O men of Athens” and ends by challenging them to repent!  He knows, alludes to, and shows the weakness of their idolatrous world view.  He clothes biblical teaching about God the creator, life giver, world ruler and judge in non-biblical language.  He is gracious, but uncompromising.  He sees gospel pointers in the midst of secular culture…He does not hold them accountable for their ignorance of God in times past, but now in the light of Jesus incarnate, atoning and risen, they are challenged to repent.  I love these two topics on which Paul dwells, Jesus and the resurrection.  They are crucial for the evangelist, of course, for they are central to the gospel. (Thirty Years that Changed the World, Michael Green, IVP, 2002)

In order to connect without compromising, we must make sure that whatever language we choose to use, we present an accurate picture of Jesus Christ, the one who died for our sins and rose again to defeat sin and death once for all that all who believe in Him might be forgiven and be made alive together with Him.

Tomorrow morning, I get to preach from Acts 17:16-34 and go into more detail about this!  What a great challenge to handle God’s truth with integrity and be stirred up, “provoked” by the lostness of the people all around us.  Tim Keller refers to this challenge when he speaks of Paul’s ministry in Athens as one which began with tears and concluded with truth.  What a calling…love them enough to care enough to tell them the truth in a way they can hear and understand so that they might believe!

Updated 9/20/11Here is the link to the message from Sunday, September 18, 2011.
Unknown No More, Acts 17:16-34

Taj Mahal

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A view through the gate…a favorite shot!

Paul’s strategy–start with the familiar

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Last Sunday’s sermon from Acts 17 pointed out that when Paul went to a new place with the gospel, he started with his own people, the Jews, and went to their home turf, the synagogue, where he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explained the connection between the Scriptures and Jesus, and gave evidence supporting his claim by pointing to the resurrection.  So as we consider our own strategy for telling others the gospel, here is something to think about …

     “Somehow when we think of sharing the gospel, our minds move to the hardest possible circumstances—to those least likely to be responsive and most likely to be antagonistic.  Paul’s strategy was to start the harvest where the crop is more likely to be ripe and ready than to try to harvest where no fields have been plowed and no seed has ever been sown!
     All around us are people who have grown up in churches, are familiar with the gospel and the Word, and even think they know God but have never put their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Perhaps we would be better served in thinking about where to start in speaking to others about Jesus Christ by starting with the familiar territory around us!  Churches are filled with people who know the Bible and know about God but who have never come to know Him because they have never put their trust in His Son!