Friday, December 31, 2010

What's Your Plan in 2011?

Plans fail for lack of counsel . . . worse yet, we don't even make plans.

What's your plan in 2011 to saturate your soul with God's unchanging Word? I plan to start tomorrow this new plan that has you read the Scriptures in a somewhat chronological system:

Click HERE to get a few more suggestions.

There are 3 things that last forever: God, the Word of God, and People. It is wise to invest first and foremost in these three things.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Silent and Silencing Servant - Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Like a lamb to the slaughter, like a silent sheep before its shearers, Jesus went and died on Calvary for the sins of the world. The Silent Servant's act is so marvelous that it makes kings shut their mouths in a paralyzing silence (Isaiah 52:15). I hope my most recent sermon helps you stand in awe of the Servant of the LORD who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Download my sermon here: "The Silent and Silencing Servant" - Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the 4th sermon in our series "Singing for the Servant," on the Servant Songs of Isaiah.

In addition, I want to encourage you to listen to John Piper's sermons on Isaiah 52-53. I read through all of his sermons this week in order to prepare my own sermon. Some of his ideas made it into my final sermon too. Go to this site to find all of John Piper's sermons in the book of Isaiah:   I quote Piper in at least one place, but on another occasion I reworded (but failed to give him credit for) this particularly thought-provoking line in one of his sermons on Isaiah 53: "When you read the story of your salvation in detail 700 years before it happened, you have not only revelation, but validation.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So much for spreading Christmas cheer...

Last night our church went caroling in an assisted living/nursing home type facility. As we were preparing to leave, Caleb somehow managed to get his rump off his chair and his forehead onto the edge of a marble fireplace.  Needless to say, we headed (no pun intended) to the doctor.  They sent us to the ER and we made a night of it.  Four hours later, we brought him home with 2 dissolving stitches and 7 outer stitches. He was a trooper the whole evening and we're so proud of him!  He is definitely our brave boy.  Here he is this evening as we changed from one Diego band-aid to another. :)  Next to the actual stitching up process, the most painful part has been Sam's reaction to all this.  He is so sympathetic that he cries when Caleb cries (when we pull off the band-aid) and actually begged us not to change the band-aid tonight because it would hurt Caleb.  So sad and sweet at the same time!  We're very grateful for our two beautiful boys.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

45 minutes yikes! - Isaiah 50:1-11 "The Tragedy of Unbelief"

Today we had a great worship service. I am thankful we didn't have to cancel. Today I preached the 3rd sermon in our sermon series, "Singing for the Servant." In these sermons, we are looking at the famous Servant Songs of Isaiah, prophetic songs that look ahead to the arrival of Messiah Jesus. I don't know if it was because of feeling anointed by the Holy Spirit, but I preached almost 45 minutes. That's a new record.

Here are some links if you'd like to download the sermons:

Today's Sermon: "The Tragedy of Unbelief" - Isaiah 50:1-11

Last Weeks' Sermon: "The Servant Christ" - Isaiah 49:1-13

2 Week's back, a sermon preached by Jeff King - "Servant Song #1" - Isaiah 42

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Good thoughts on the mission of the church

Kevin DeYoung answering, So what is the mission of the church?

The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship and obey Jesus Christ now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.

In other words, the mission of the church is not equal to everything God is doing in the world, nor is it everything we do in obedience to Christ. The mission of the church is the Great Commission. As Andreas K√∂stenberger says, “The church ought to be focused in the understanding of its mission. Its activities should be constrained by what helps others to come to believe that the Messiah, the Son of God, is Jesus.”*


Monday, December 06, 2010

For Richer, for Poorer - American Wealth or American Poverty

Business Week recently Published an article, "Are Americans as Poor as They Feel." The article goes on to show that the relative cost of consumer goods has really not significantly outpaced the increase in household income (sadly, however, many households are forced to have 2 wage earners). Many consumer goods cost significantly less with regard to inflation and rising prices than they did in 1980. The two big factors that have increased are education (due to fewer public dollars and greater demand) and health care (caring for people living decades longer). In the end, we have a few less real dollars, but it's not as big of a discrepancy as many feel. Venessa Wong writes,

The consumer price index—which includes food and beverage, housing, apparel, transportation, medical care, recreation, education, communication, and other goods and services—grew nearly 160.4 percent, to 214.537, from 1980 to 2009, according to BLS data. In the same period, median household income in nominal dollars increased 181 percent, to $49,777, U.S. Census Bureau data show, or 8 percent in real dollars. BLS data indicate that while high-income earners saw the biggest increase in that period, average income rose for middle-income earners too.

The article is written without bias, but does mention a major cause of people feeling economic strain is the American drive for bigger houses, more cars, and more forms of entertainment (vacations, the internet, cable TV, etc.).

It makes me think of Jesus warning us that it's possible to gain the whole world and still lose our souls. Maybe if we spent less money and time trying to satisfy all of our pleasures here on earth, we wouldn't feel as poor and despondent as the surveys purport. And just maybe if we believed what St. Augustine taught us over 1000 years ago, we would find a measure of peace that cannot be bought with a bigger paycheck:"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Just a few quick pics because we've been woefully neglectful of the blog...

For the three of you out there (love you, dear grandparents!!) who check our blog for occasional pictures of our little bundles of joy, our apologies!  We have been neglecting our blogging duties while we've been transitioning to our new job and new home.  So here is a peace offering of recent pictures.  The first three are what I like to call our "breakfast series."  Then watch out, Beethoven, here come the Proctor kids.  And finally, Sam and Daddy getting ready to shovel snow and sled in the front yard with our first real Iowa snow this winter. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Craig Blomberg . . . the champion of both/and

One of the finest things I learned from Dr. Craig Blomberg in my few years at Denver Seminary is that one needs to be careful to quickly assume one perspective has the best vantage point on all issues. Whether it be Calvinists or Arminians, Dispensationalists or Covenantalists, or any other "ism" or "ist," Biblical scholarship needs to be rooted in the text (of Scripture) and rooted in its context (historical setting). Often, as I have learned, it is possible for both sides to be right on the same issue (not necessarily equally right). Hence, the repeated expression "both/and" became a bit of joke whenever we discussed a controversial theological matter in the classroom.

Now, however, I want to overthrow an occasional misreading of Dr. Blomberg. He is not some wet-noodle, politically-correct, let's all be friends evangelical scholar (not to say he's not a fine gentleman). I'll never forget Dr. Blomberg's February 12, 2009 lecture before a collection of Gentiles, Messianic Jews, and other interested parties. He stood before a potentially hostile audience and proclaimed the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Modern attempts to suggest there are 2 different tracks of salvation for Jews and Gentiles was soundly rejected. Jews need Jesus. Gentiles need Jesus. The Law was insufficient. The Gospel is the only good news on the market that offers salvation to all peoples on the earth!

You get a nice taste of his lecture (not available on mp3 because of a potential book deal) in the synopsis still posted on the Denver Seminary website: The idea that the Mosaic covenant remains in effect for ethnic Jews is an increasingly popular perspective in this era of ecumenism. Its attraction is obvious, for it does not require Torah-observant Jews to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Some who would otherwise call themselves evangelical have even begun to embrace this view. But any serious exegesis of the New Testament makes it impossible to hold such a view and still submit to the full authority of Scripture. Worse still, if the idea that only Gentiles need accept Jesus turns out to be wrong and Christians, Jew or Gentile, have withheld the gospel from non-Christian Jews, who are thus lost for all eternity, such a withholding could fairly be described as the most flagrant form of anti-Semitism ever created.


Thank you Dr. Blomberg for teaching me to listen to different positions with respect and love. Thank you for making me love the Gospel more and more, and for giving me a passion to defend the Gospel at all costs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Matthew 9:9-17 - First Person Narrative Preaching

Today, Levi son of Alphaeus (AKA, Matthew, the tax-collector) came to visit Cornerstone Church. Actually, I preached a first person narrative sermon in the character of Matthew from Matthew 9:9-17, entitled "Following the Narrow Way."

To listen, click here:

If you are interested, you may also read through the manuscript (click HERE to download) . I hit about 75% of the manuscript so the audio is close, but I did leave out a few details of interest.

Since this passage speaks to many of the themes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), I decided to make this the next passage preached in our journey through Matthew. It serves as both a transition in our study of Matthew's Gospel and a reiteration of the themes Jesus taught in Matthew 5-7. We take up our next chunk of Matthew after the New Year. I am excited to spend the next 5 or so weeks going through some of the prophetic songs in Isaiah related to the Servant of the Lord.

Bonus sermon:

The finale sermon for our "Charter of the Kingdom" (Matthew 5-7, The Sermon on the Mount) series:
Matthew 7:13ff. "No Ordinary Rabbi" -

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Recent Sermons in Matthew ...

Sorry for no recent life or family update. We hope to post some photos soon of our new house, Halloween, etc. I'll post a quick teaser photo from Halloween.

Until then, I wanted to give you the info on a few recent sermons. The sermon I preached this Sunday (Matthew 7:1-12) was put together through some blood, sweat and tears. The Lord convicted me time and time again and I pray that the message may be good for your soul as well. Click on any of the sermons to download:

Matthew 7:1-12: "Proper Treatment for Fragile Souls"

Matthew 6:19-34: "Godly Ambition"

Matthew 6:5-15: "Praying for Our Good and God's Glory"

Matthew 6:1-4, 16-18: "Lasting Reward in a Fleeting World"

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Invest in your kindergartners


Payoffs of Good Kindergartens

Doing well in kindergarten can give kids an edge in income as adults, according to new research funded by the (U.S.) National Science Foundation.
As children learn more in their earliest education experience—indicated by moving from average scores on the Stanford Achievement Test up to the 60th percentile or better—their earnings at age 27 are $1,000 more than their counterparts whose scores remain average. And those who benefited from smaller class sizes and more-experienced teachers earned $2,000 more.
Other advantages that a good kindergarten experience bestows include improved likelihood of attending college and of beginning earlier to save for retirement.
Source: National Science Foundation,

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I Swear You're Going to Like This: Jesus on Oaths

This week marks the first time in preaching through the Gospel of Matthew that I will "skip" some verses. Because I have a desire to be faithful to all of God's revealed counsel (Acts 20:27), I have decided to blog on those passages/sections that I do not preach on Sunday morning.

The passage I will not preach comes from Matthew 5:33-37

ESV Matthew 5:33 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.

We must remember that the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus charter message on what it means to live in the Kingdom of God (aka the Kingdom of the heavens). That is, Jesus wants us to live a life that is only possible if we have entered into a relationship with the King (Jesus Christ) and live moment by moment in a relationship with Him. Jesus' disicples can and must live a life that reflects the character of God above.

What Jesus is addressing specifically in the first century is that religious folks had decided that the only promises or oaths that mattered were those made in the name of the Lord (or something else seemingly holy: God's creation, the Temple, etc., see Matthew 23:16-22). Jesus however believes, as Donald Hagner's Word Commentary aptly explains, "The absolute reliability of ones' word renders an oath superfluous." In other words, you don't have to make some impressive display of truthfulness if you are a consistently truthful person. You don't have to swear on your mother's grave to repay someone, if you are the kind of person who's word is consistently honored. A person in the Kingdom of God should simply make yes statements and no statements and their character should be all that is necessary for confirmation.

Now, it is important to note that Jesus is not creating a new kind of law, that allows legalistic people to look more holier than thou by saying, "I will not swear anything," as if it's wrong to use the words "I swear" or "I promise" or "I vow." Vows are not wrong; it is only wrong when these vows are actually laden with deceit and trickery because we are not generally honest in all areas of life.

Now, we must all be honest (note the irony) and admit we have all been dishonest. We have used deceit and guile to get our own way. We have taken advantage of others. But there was someone, One person, who never lied. He was Truth incarnate. His name was Jesus Christ. He promised that he had come to save sinners (and He did). He promised that he would help the sick (and He did). He promised to die on a cross for your sins and mine and to rise again 3 days later, victorious over sin and death (and He did). Not to mention, He died for people guilty of the sins of dishonesty and deceit. Today, if you are guilty of dishonesty, turn to the one who can forgive you of that sin because He poured out His blood for you. Come to Jesus, ask for His grace. Then, look into His eyes, read the Bible and see the beauty of this truthful Person, and realize that by believing in Him you too can become a person of your word. Come to Christ for eternal salvation; come to Christ for freedom from deceit and dishonesty. Glory to God, He never turns away those who come with humble and contrite hearts.

Steps toward becoming a more honest person:

1. Read through one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Note every time Jesus promises something or speaks the truth.
2. Begin a personal journal and write candidly about yourself (where you've messed, where you've succeeded, where your are weak/strong). If you can't be honest to yourself and your journal, it will be difficult to be transparent before others.
3. If you have been lying to someone for a long time or there is a lie you made in the past that you never confessed, be honest today. The longer you keep a lie unexposed the uglier the sin becomes and the less likely you'll be honest in the future.

Peanut Butter and Jelly, Jesus, Sex and Other Sermons

Have you ever asked yourself how does sex relate to peanut butter and jelly? Well, I explain this in my recent sermon at Cornerstone Church.

I thought I'd make this sermon available, a sermon on human sexuality and marital fidelity. The sermon comes from Matthew 5:27-32 and is entitled, "The Gospel's Answer to Adultery"

to listen click here: 

Here's a sermon from 2 weeks back on Anger (Matthew 5:21-26 - "Anger: The Road to Hell")

I'd like to encourage you to also listen to a collection of sermons given at a conference a few years ago entitled, "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ" - click here for more details

Or you can download a FREE book with the same title and subject matter:

Recommended Books Include:
 Every Man's Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time (The Every Man Series): Every man should read this.
The Purity Principle: God's Safeguards for Life's Dangerous Trails (LifeChange Books) - short book, great read.
Dateable: Are You? Are They?  Good book for teenagers
Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More on Vernon Grounds

Please take the time to read this brief sketch of a man who loved Jesus and who Jesus loved:

O the power of one life transformed by the love of God.

My favorite quotation from the lips of Vernon Grounds:

“Unless we graduate men and women of prayer, Christ-like character, and devotional depth we will, from God’s perspective, be a Kingdom failure regardless of our enlarged endowment, increased enrollment, and academic structure. . . . Social concern, personal evangelism, and global outreach are the three legs of our academic stool.  Remove any one and our program will become an unstable wobble.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Denver Seminary President Mark Young on the Passing of Vernon Grounds

The day that we all knew was coming, but wanted to keep pushing further and further into the future, has finally arrived.  Dr. Vernon C. Grounds peacefully slipped into the presence of the Lord this morning, Sunday, September 12, 2010.  He was 96 years old.
As I’ve called several folks today with the news, just about everyone wanted to pause and relate a “Vernon story.”   His influence for the sake of the gospel spans generations and continents.  The demands on a person of his stature in the broader evangelical community can often distance a leader from others.  Dr. Grounds never let that happen.  He finished his life just as he had lived it these many, many years—gracious, interested, thankful and compassionate. 
Just before moving to Wichita this past summer, Dr. Grounds replied to my question about how I could pray for him with these words, “Just pray that the Lord would open a new door of service for us in Wichita.”  Ninety-six years old, with over seventy years in ministry, and he was still seeking a new door of service.  As my wife and I sat with him just three weeks ago in his apartment in Wichita, he pushed back the fog of sleep for just a few short moments and prayed a “Vernon prayer” for Priscilla and me and the ministry of Denver Seminary.  I’ll treasure those words for the rest of my life.
As plans for a memorial service are completed, we will communicate them through our website –
We know that many of you would like to express your love to Mrs. Grounds, to daughter Barbara and son-in-law Bob Owens, and granddaughter Emily and her husband Mike Gagnebin.  If you would like to share your tributes and memories, please post a comment through the seminary website at
We ask you to join us in prayer for the Grounds family.  Our desire is to serve them well and to honor our dear friend, teacher, counselor and mentor.  Pray for us in that as well.
With a heavy heart,

Mark Young

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Beatitudes (the blessed ones), NOT "Be-attitudes"

The grammar of the beatitudes seems to be as such: Blessed is X because (Greek word: hoti) of this present (first/last beatitude) or future (the middle beatitudes) reality. Now with the grammar as such, it seems the blessedness is based not on the state mentioned first (X) but because (hoti) of the reality mentioned second. So as I read this, I am wondering if the initial qualities (poor in spirit/poor, hungering for righteousness/hungry, etc.) are less character qualities, but rather more like human conditions. Thus, no matter how miserable your human condition is, the kingdom of God and all it's present and future blessings are available to you (hence, you are blessed). As such, I am not to become poorer (financially) or more poor in spirit (more spiritually bankrupt) to be even more blessed, but rather I can find blessing even in those ugly situations. Similarly, people who are really really hungering for justice in the world are not necessarily more blessed than those in better circumstances. Rather, the blessing is in the satisfaction coming at the end to time (eshcaton).

Basically, I am having a tough time preaching that each Beatitude is something we are supposed to pursue to be more holy/blessed. Rather, they are norms of the type of people in the Kingdom, but not necessarily goals to pursue.  Otherwise, I should challenge my congregants to intentionally pursue persecution and becoming poor-er in the spirit. Or worse yet, some preaching might tell poor, marginalized people that they will lose out on blessing if they pursue just wages and economic improvement. In the end, Jesus is still authenticating His upside-down kingdom and showing that the lowly will be exalted. But it's not a character/virtue list; instead, it's a list of conditions that characterize the type of people who will respond to the King and His kingdom and receive its corresponding blessings.

It should be noted that this is not the majority view throughout church history. Recently, however, Donald Hagner in his Word Commentary on Matthew and Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy both take this approach. Both recognize that some of the beatitudes relate to Christian virtues (e.g. meekness, peace-making), but the relationship to Christian virtues in the beatitudes is secondary to the primary message of Jesus' upside-down kingdom.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Kingdom of God - It Matters

As I transition from my first sermon series (Matthew 1-4: "The Return of the King") at Cornerstone Church to the next one on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), I decided to spend one Sunday looking at a Begining to End, Genesis to Revelation survey with regard to the Kingdom of God.

Here's the link: "The King and His Kingdom: A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God."

As well as the 2 messages before that I haven't posted yet:

Matthew 4:12-25 "A Kingdom Invasion"
Matthew 3:13-4:11: "A Coronation, a Commission, and a Contest"

In addition, here are some helpful articles I used in preparation for the "King and His Kingdom" sermon (I do not necessarily believe everything they espouse, but they are well-written and helpful in forming my own conclusions):

F.F. Bruce (4 pages):

G.R. Beasley-Murray (6 pages):

The Kingdom of God in the OT (Martin Selman):

David Naugle gives a good short summary:

Sam Storms has a 2-part discussion on the kingdom: and

 And finally, I had the privilege to lead a baptism service this past Sunday. 2 young men told the world that they have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of their sins and Lord of their life. Hallelujah! (one picture provided from the service).

Friday, August 20, 2010

A joke I got today via email from my brother:

A young boy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer, "This is the dumbest kid in the world.

Watch while I prove it to you."

The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks, "Which do you want, son?

The boy takes the quarters and leaves.

"What did I tell you?" said the barber. "That kid never learns!"

Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream store.

"Hey, son! May I ask you a question? Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?"

The boy licked his cone and replied, "Because the day I take the dollar the game's over!"

When earth has no balm for my healing -- A Tribute to Kathleen Olson

This past week, Cornerstone Church lost a beloved sister in Christ, Kathleen Olson. Kathleen was only 46 years old; she leaves behind a husband and three adorable children (grades 3rd, 5th, and 7th). On August 28, 2009 she was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer. She had a tough fight, but in the end the disease won out. You can read more on this page provided by the Murdoch Funeral Home.

Back in Spring 2010, Kathleen sang at a family funeral in a quintet the song "Under His Wings." In the youtube video below, you can listen to the performance. In verse 3, Kathleen takes a solo where she sings of the solace God still offers to those He loves, even "when earth has no balm for my healing." It reminds me of the great promises found in Romans 8:28-39 for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation:

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
   "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here are the song lyrics (note verse 3) and video:

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.


Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.


Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Where does Daddy work?

(To set this up, our church is in the process of putting together an office for Matt.  In the meantime, he has been studying wherever there's an empty table and a little bit of peace and quiet.)  Today, Grandma Peggy was talking with 3-year-old Samuel about where people go to work.  She told him, "Auntie Carmen and Aunt Sarah work at the hospital.  Uncle Mark works at the grocery store."  Then he asked, "My Daddy work?"  She said, "Yes, your daddy works.  Where does he work?"  Without missing a beat, Samuel answered, "The coffee shop."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rodney Stark - Great Article

Baylor sociologist and professor of religion, Rodney Stark, was recently interviewed on why Evangelical Churches thrive and Liberal/Mainline churches suffer and ultimately close their doors.

The article is available here: Click to View
Stark writes:
There are congregations within these [liberal/mainline] denominations that are growing very impressively, very quickly, very strongly. Guess what? They have evangelical clergy. 
Ten years ago I did a little study that I'm repeating now. There are various evangelical associations, like the Willow Creek Association. People all over the country belong to these associations. They're non-denominational ministerial associations of evangelical orientation. If you look at their membership lists, you will find that there are Congregationalists and Episcopalians and Methodists and so on. So I took out the names of the so-called "mainline" clergy who belonged to these ministerial associations; these were ministers who belonged to "mainline" denominations but had studied at evangelical seminaries and were generally evangelical in their convictions. When I traced them back to their congregations, guess what? In these rapidly declining denominations, the rapidly growing congregations belong to these guys.

 Thus, the answer is simple: Evangelical churches grow because they preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12); that's what being "evangelical" means, being about the Good News (euangelium) or Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is the Gospel? People have fallen out of relationship with God, their Creator (Eph. 2:1-3). People were created to be in right relationship with their Creator, but because of our sin (immorality, pride, selfishness, etc.) we have offended God's holiness (even our "righteous" acts are filthy in God's eyes; Isa. 64:6). God cannot stand for His holiness to be offended and thus all sinners (you and me) stand condemned by God and worthy of punishment (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23). Jesus came to save sinners by dying on the cross of Calvary (Romans 5:8), bearing the due penalty for the sinfulness of humanity (2 Corinthians 5:21), and rising 3 days as the conqueror over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Now every person who trusts Jesus for their salvation from their sin can be reconciled to God, their Creator (John 3:16). So too, entering in to a new life with Christ allows us to enter on a glorious journey with God (2 Cor. 5:17). It starts in this life and never ends for all eternity (Phil. 1:21). We enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:3). We serve in the kingdom and participate in the kingdom work now and forever!

Stark continues:

What if you went to a baseball game, and nobody brought a ball? The players just stir around for two hours. I don't think you'd go back, would you? Likewise, when you go to church, but the minister doesn't bother to hold church because he wants to talk about Medicare or something, why go back? Well, people don't.

A liberal political platform is insufficient for the suffering of human souls. A church that takes God, sin, or Jesus Christ out of their sermons, mission, and purpose will come to nothing. We need Christ; we need the Gospel; we need to be reconciled to God; hence, we need Gospel-preaching, evangelical churches and pastors. If you don't come with the ball (the Gospel), you won't have a church in due time.

Here's a good reminder:

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Installation and Matthew 3:1-12

Today I was officially installed as the pastor at Cornerstone Church. This is a ceremony where the Central District of the Evangelical Free Church of America sends a representative to formally recognize God's leading of me to Cornerstone Church and Cornerstone's call to me to be their pastor. It was a good day. A big thanks to all who made it a special event, and a thank you to lots of family who came and were a part of the service as well.

I continued the sermon series in Matthew by taking the first 12 verses of chapter 3. It just so happened to be the description of John the Baptist's ministry. It was a hard message, but a good reminder of our need for Christ and the filling of the Spirit (Matthew 3:11-12), made possible only because of Christ's sacrificial death for our sins (cf. Romans 3:21-26) and triumphant resurrection (Romans 6:5-14), that promises life to all who believe (John 3:16).

To download go here:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (and a sermon)

Part 3 of the "Return of the King Series" (Matthew 1-4) was entitled, "God's Reign and the Human Response." You can download this message here:

For those wanting more information, here are some good online articles:

This is a great book review of JI Packer's book entitled Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Ivp Classics) (if you have not read this book, read it, but the review is well done too):

The Sovereignty of God by John Murray

Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility by Kenneth Boa

Also, a classic book by DA Carson: Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

I also think the Evangelical Free Church of America's Statement of Faith (points 1 and 10) help show how these two truths (divine sovereignty and human responsibility) interplay:

1. We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.

 10. We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

More miscellaneous pics from the last 2 months...

Here we have the boys playing in the backyard with Grandpa Steve.  Caleb is showing off his new talent of walking (assisted), which has just developed in the last 2 weeks.  Watch out, world!  There's also a pic of Samuel playing with Uncle James.  We were stuck inside on a rainy day so we busted out the fake snow.  Samuel was really into burying his little dinosaurs and people in it. :)  Then there are the three Proctor grandkids together - Samuel, Caleb and their cute little cousin, Sayers.  This is a classic big brother shot since you can see that he has just dumped a cup full of water on Caleb's head.  And last but not least, a shot of Samuel with his little friends Kenna and Railey Nine the week we left Colorado, taken by my friend Julie who was visiting us from Kansas City.

Vacation in the mountains

These were taken about 2 months ago on our trip to Fairplay - our vacation to celebrate the end of seminary!  It was a very restful, much-needed break from the crazy pace of life we had sustained for 3 years.  We are so grateful to a friend for the use of her cabin, and to God for providing the time and resources to do this! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My One Month Anniversary, a Prayer Request, and a Recommendation

First a praise, then a prayer request, and then a recommendation:

PRAISE: Today, I celebrate one month as the pastor of Cornerstone Church ( (CC). It's been a special month since my first day on June 21. I have met wonderful people and am seeing exciting ministry days ahead.

PRAYER REQUEST: I'm also excited to spend the next 30 hours or so with the elders of CC. These servant-leaders meet in about 4 hours for a 30 hours prayer and panning retreat. We will talk about what it means to be an elder; what it means to equip saints for the Great Commission; what it means to follow the Head (Jesus Christ) of the church;, and then how to leverage the time, talent and treasure of those in the church family to fulfill our role in the Great Commission. It's a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1).

RECOMMENDATION: I came across a useful resource in the last few days that we will look at during the retreat. It is a 40ish page booklet on Biblical Eldership. You can download a copy here:
I recommend this booklet for all Christians to know how to pray for their leaders, but I especially commend the booklet to those wanting to serve and those currently serving in church leadership. The insights of this booklet come from a longer and valuable resource by Alexander Strauch entitled, Biblical Eldership.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Matthew 1:18-25 Sermon & a Bonus Paper

I preached a sermon on Matthew 1:18-25 today entitled, "So Marvelous a Birth, So Marvelous a Salvation." This is the second sermon in my series "The Return of the King (Chapters 1-4)" in the book of Matthew.

You can download the message here:

BONUS: As mentioned in the sermon, I did not want to take the time to discuss how I believe the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 (made in 733 B.C.) had its fulfillment in Jesus Christ over 700 years later. But I wrote  up a short 2-page explanation on this amazing promise. Download the pdf by clicking this:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First Sermon as the Cornerstone Church Pastor: Matthew 1:1-17 - "A World-Shaking Idenity"

I began preaching the Gospel of Matthew today at Cornerstone Church in Marion, IA.

I will be preaching chapters 1-4 of Matthew leading up to Labor Day. This first series in the Gospel is called, "The Return of the King." Today's sermon was from chapter 1 verses 1-17, entitled "A World-Shaking Identity."

Click here to download/listen:

Friday, July 09, 2010

Unction in Preaching

What of unction? It is the indefinable in preaching which makes it preaching. It is that which distinguishes and separates preaching from all mere human addresses. It is the divine in preaching. It makes the preaching sharp to those who need sharpness. It distills as the dew to those who need to he refreshed. It is well described as:
"a two-edged sword
Of heavenly temper keen,

And double were the wounds it made
Wherever it glanced between.
'Twas death to silt; 'twas life
To all who mourned for sin.
It kindled and it silenced strife,
Made war and peace within."
This unction comes to the preacher not in the study but in the closet. It is heaven's distillation in answer to prayer. It is the sweetest exhalation of the Holy Spirit. It impregnates, suffuses, softens, percolates, cuts, and soothes. It carries the Word like dynamite, like salt, like sugar; makes the Word a soother, an arranger, a revealer, a searcher; makes the hearer a culprit or a saint, makes him weep like a child and live like a giant; opens his heart and his purse as gently, yet as strongly as the spring opens the leaves. This unction is not the gift of genius. It is not found in the halls of learning. No eloquence can woo it. No industry can win it. No prelatical hands can confer it. It is the gift of God -- the signet set to his own messengers. It is heaven's knighthood given to the chosen true and brave ones who have sought this anointed honor through many an hour of tearful, wrestling prayer.
Earnestness is good and impressive: genius is gifted and great. Thought kindles and inspires, but it takes a diviner endowment, a more powerful energy than earnestness or genius or thought to break the chains of sin, to win estranged and depraved hearts to God, to repair the breaches and restore the Church to her old ways of purity and power. Nothing but this holy unction can do this.
 So writes the great preacher and man of prayer E.M. Bounds. Read Bounds' entire article: "Unction, the Mark of True Gospel Preaching" 

I pray that the God who does the miraculous would give me such unction as I serve Christ's Church.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is your Chriastinity Radical or more like a Recliner?

Jon Shields recently contributed a powerful article on former NBA player, Manute Bol's, Christian faith. In it ( Shields writes, "...Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.
It is of little surprise, then, that the sort of radical Christianity exemplified by Bol is rarely understood by sports journalists. For all its interest in the intimate details of players' lives, the media has long been tone deaf to the way devout Christianity profoundly shapes some of them.
Obituary titles for Bol, for example, described him as a humanitarian rather than a Christian. The remarkable charity and personal character of other NBA players, including David Robinson, A. C. Green and Dwight Howard, are almost never explicitly connected to their own intense Christian faith. They are simply good guys.
Christian basketball players hope that their "little lights" shine in a league marked by rapacious consumption and marital infidelity. They could shine even brighter if sports journalists acknowledged that such players seek atonement and redemption in a far more profound way than mere athletic success."

 Be encouraged by Bol's example; more importantly come to put your trust in Bol's Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reflections on Pastoral Ministry (one week in)

1. I am not very good at being "slow to speak, quick to listen" (James 1:19). If I am going to love people well, the Spirit must sanctify my mouth.

2. A church needs a loving shepherd, not a decision-making leader. (And yet, a loving shepherd will lead and make decisions.)

3. If I fail to make the Word of God, properly interpreted and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the centerpiece of all ministry (visitation, preaching, counseling, vision-setting, etc.), then there is no way the ministry will be of the Lord.

4. A pastor is only one of the many gifted and called leaders within a church. A pastor without an elder board serving beside is a vigilante without accountability, guidance, or support. Praise be to God, I have godly men who want to do ministry together, not just delegate work to the pastor.

5. A pastor who does not pray to the Triune God is like a football team who ignores the coach (of Vince Lombardi-like abilities). Victory is unlikely, and foolishness will abound. Sad to say, I ran a few plays this week without my coach's wisdom.

6. A pastor who neglects his family disqualifies himself for leadership (1 Tim. 3:4). In fact, a pastor who strives to honor his family IS doing pastoral ministry. I will need to be a better father and husband in the weeks to come.

7. The Spirit must guide and move. The pastor is not the leader. God is. O Spirit, please teach us where you're working that we might join in your work.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Series in Matthew

For the two of you who wanted to keep apprised of my upcoming messages and how to download them, I thought I'd let you know that on July 11th I will be preaching for the first time as the officially called pastor of Cornerstone Church. I will begin preaching through the book of Matthew. All sermons can be downloaded at

Here are a few of the books I will be using to prepare messages:

D.A. Carson's Matthew Commentary in the Expositor's Bible Commentary - a classic work by a classy professor from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Hagner, D. A. Matthew (WBC), Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. - From the Word Biblical Commentary Series, an evangelical, word by word exegesis commentary series.      

Schreiner, T. R. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ  - A Biblical Theology of the entire New Testament - to make sure as I preach Matthew, I keep the message within the greater message of the New Testament.

Wilkins, M. J. Matthew - From the NIV Application Commentary Series - for a balance of exegesis and application.

France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew (New International Commentary on the New Testament). G.R.: Eerdmans, 2007 - One of the newest and and most updated commentaries on Matthew (dealing with some recent scholarship issues) from a godly, British scholar.

Michael Green's The Message of Matthew - Another classic work.

A.C. Gaebelein's The Gospel of Matthew - an old-school Dispensationalist at work, with some superb observations.

Not to mention, John Stott's Sermon on the Mount and Martyn Lloyd Jones' Sermon on the Mount

Dallas Willard's A Divine Conspiracy - a book about making the Sermon on the Mount, practical for everyday Christian living.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Today, I start as the senior pastor at Cornerstone Church.

Just a few days ago, one of the family members of Cornerstone sent out this great youtube video by Pastor Mark Driscoll (thanks Lisa!). This is a fresh and apropo reminder as I begin day 1 of a ministry I pray lasts for a long time. May I be a good family member of Cornerstone Church.


Monday, June 14, 2010

The journey begins...

Dear friends,

Tonight Matt accepted the call to be the senior pastor at Cornerstone Church in Marion, Iowa (!  We are so grateful for your prayers, your wisdom, and your incredible support through this sometimes grueling and yet sometimes delightful process.  Our hearts are already inclined toward the people of this church and we are excited (though a little scared) about what the future holds.  Matt starts early next week after we take some time to travel to Indianola and Boone to see family and friends.  The first two weeks of work will involve lots of prayer and visitation but no preaching responsibilities.  He takes the pulpit July 11th.  We are now launching into house-hunting and getting settled into our new lives.  We would appreciate continued prayer for all of that!  We realize that the job search was really the easy part - now begins the heavy lifting.  (But praise God, Jesus tells us His yoke is easy and His burden is light.) 

-Matt and Carrie

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Let's Go Fly a Kite

Samuel is loving his stay at Grandpa Steve and Grandma Mary's house. Today he got to tackle his first flight expedition with a bit of string and a kite. Here are a few small photos my phone captured:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Life Update - A.S. (after seminary)

On May 15th, I went through commencement at Denver Seminary. It was a very special service and I was challenged by President Mark Young's message from 2 Cor. 5:13-14. In the pictures above you can see my immediate family, then a pic of my mom, dad, and brother (Heeth), and then a picture with my great mother-in-law (Peg), her husband Pete (and my gifted, former employer), and Carrie's grandma Betty (a very special great grandma who came all the way from Conde, SD). It was great having them at the ceremony and around for the weekend festivities.

After graduation, Carrie and I with the boys spend a week at a cabin in Fairplay, CO (about 30 minutes south of Breckenridge). We went on a few hikes (hence the final picture); we went on a tour of an 1880s mining town (; and we also ate all kinds of good food at the cabin and at various restaurants. The goal was to rest and then reflect on the last 3 years of life (what went well/poorly/etc.) We made some goals for the coming year. And we created a Rule of Life to be implemented now and in the coming year.

And now what's next? (at least that's the million dollar question)

Answer: "We're not sure." We move back to IA next week to live with Carrie's dad in Hiawatha, IA. Then, we await God's final direction for our family. We have had some good conversations and interviews and we have a sense where the Lord is leading. We pray, hope, and sense, Lord willing, a church will call me to be their pastor this summer. I'd love to give you all the juicy details, but instead, I will wait until the Lord reveals His plans in His time. Please pray for final confirmation and for His continued peace in our lives (Isa. 26:3).

Currently Reading (if you were wondering what people read when they graduate from seminary):

Institutes of the Christian Religion  by John Calvin

The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley