Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books Finished in December

"Lilith" by George MacDonald (a wild and fantastic tale with profound truths and challenging motifs)
"The Pilgrim's Regress" by C.S. Lewis (a bit harder work to understand than some of Lewis' other fiction, but I appreciated all that I could understand.)
"Miracles" by C.S. Lewis (a grand argument for God's intervention into our world for His glory)
The Holy Bible - I try to read through the Bible every other year. This year I worked through a Bible reading plan that had me read passages in somewhat chronological order. http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/readthebible/downloads/RBL-reading-plan.pdf

Friday, December 30, 2011

Seeking God's Secrets...

I've been meditating on Psalm 25:14: God-friendship is for God-worshipers; they are the ones he confides in. (The Message) or as in the NIV translation...The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. I want to stand in awe of God above all else and tremble before His holy love that I might truly know Him and His rich covenant. But I'm recognizing that I don't really stand in awe of God. I stand in awe of me and stuff. I stand in awe of position and prestige. I'm unwilling to stand in awe of the Servant-Savior and thus live like Him...in the shadows, on my knees, among the outcasts. His secrets are found in service. His secrets are found not in high society, but in the back streets of Galilee. Pray for me that I'd be a friend of God who fears Him rightly and lives like Him accordingly.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On Arguments for the Existence of God

"...we are totally dependent on God to make himself known to us. He cannot be grasped by scientific investigation, for he stands above our world of cause and effect. His existence and nature cannot be proven by human reason as the conclusion of a philosophical syllogism, for nothing stands behind and apart from God to explain him (footnote: 'This is not to say that arguments for the existence of God have no value. They make God's existence reasonable but not indubitable.')."

From page 41 of Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Incarnation that leads to other incarnations...


Pastor Tim Keller explains in a past Christmas sermon that truth without tears is cruel and tears without truth is unhelpful. What we have in the incarnation of the Son of God, however, is a perfect blending of tears and truth. Jesus came as a complete human, totally vulnerable, subject to the same fears, pain, and anxieties as us. But, he was not only vulnerable, he was also fully God, full of truth, fearless in the face of evil. An event that depicts this clearly is Jesus before the burial site of his friend Lazarus. In almost the same breath, Jesus proclaims to the crowd, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Christ will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26), and then just moments later he weeps before a crowd of mourners. Emmanuel, God with us, God the Son in human form, perfectly blends truth and tears. He faces death down and wins, and yet the reality of death breaks his heart. This is why Jesus took on flesh. This is why he bore our sins on Calvary. He wept at death, and He knew that He alone could stop to tide of death from wiping out His people. Let us worship the God-Man this Christmas not only for His perfect power, but also for His intimate love for us. But let our worship not only be in songs, but also in the giving of our lives for others. Let us enter into people’s suffering not as cold, truth-telling stoics. Let us incarnate ourselves into the world we live in. We need to befriend the hurting, mourn alongside the despondent, and walk with those who can only crawl. But let us also be bearers of truth, who stand in the face of evil and proclaim that its defeat has been accomplish on the Cross.

You can download Tim Keller's full sermon, "The Furious Love of Jesus" here: http://download.redeemer.com/rpcsermons/tragedy/The_Furious_Love_of_Jesus.mp3

From my recent Pastor Post for Cornerstone Church.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tim Tebow Joke and Story


Tebow [recently famous quarterback for the Broncos] asks for an audience with the Pope, who grants it. Tebow flies to Rome and the Pope gives him a tour of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, everything. But it's Sunday morning and now the Pope needs to deliver Mass to the 50,000 people waiting in St. Peter's Square below his window. "Come with me to the window and see for yourself," the Pope says. The two of them go to the window. Down below, an Italian guy says to his buddy, "Hey, who's the guy in the pointy hat next to Tebow?"

From a fun article contrasting Tom Brady and Tim Tebow (the big rivalry hits America this Sunday at 3:15 CST). http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/7355585/tim-tebow-tom-brady-take-your-pick

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pausing, pondering, worshipping the Christmas Child


As we await the 25th of December and the culmination of all our focus on the grand miracle of the Incarnation of the Son of God, I thought I’d let you read some of C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on this miracle of miracles:
“No woman ever conceived a child, no mare a foal, without God. But once, and for a special purpose, He dispensed with that long line [of generations] which is His instrument: once His life-giving finger touched a woman without passing through the ages of interlocked events. Once the great glove of Nature was taken off His hand. His naked hand touched her. There was of course a unique reason for it. That time He was creating not simply a man but the Man who was to be Himself: was creating Man anew; was beginning, at this divine and human point, the New Creation of all things. The whole soiled and weary universe quivered at this direct injection of essential life—direct, uncontaminated, not drained through all the crowded history of Nature.” (from the bookMiracles)
Pause now and marvel at the words of John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
From the December 2 Cornerstone Church Pastor Post

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Eve Service (Marion and Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Each year the Cornerstone Church family and friends choose to celebrate Christmas with the residents at Cottage Grove Place. There is always room for one more...come and worship the King with us.

Where: Cottage Grove Place (2115 1st Avenue Southeast, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
When: 6:30PM, December 24, 2011
What: Scripture readings, Christmas Carols, a Christmas meditation, and special music.

http://cornerstone-marion.org

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Books Finished in November

"Season of Life" by Jeffrey Marx (fantastic, quick, delightful read!!) I highly recommend this book to all sons and fathers.
"The Inheritance" by Chris Paolini (the 4th and final book of the Inheritance saga; a decent conclusion to Paolini's first series of books)
"The Message of Genesis 1-11" by David Atkinson (my go-to book this Fall while preaching through Genesis 1-11)
"Decision Points" by George W. Bush (I liked the beginning, but later I got a little frustrated with W's repeated attempts to defend himself on all accounts related to his presidency. I wish he would have confessed his faults with more candor and humility.)
"Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ" by John Piper (I like to reread this every 2-3 years)
"A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" by Eugene Peterson (a delightful, convicting, grace-filled second reading)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Danger of Domesticating the Christ Child

Happy Holidays...er, it appears the ACLU rarely visits my webpage so I'm going to go all out and say, Merry Christmas! I think I'm safe, for now. But why do we live in a culture that tries to demystify and domesticate the reality behind the Christmas season. We cloud out Christ with presents and consumerism. We sanitize Christmas with Santa clause. We mask the profundity of the incarnation with massive malls and mail-order catalogs and Amazon wish lists.

We even turn manger scenes into something pretty. Mary is always dressed in a light blue, Joseph often has a pretty lamb over his shoulder, and even the shepherds look pretty sharp. The actual scene must have been so messy.  Both Mary and Joseph would have been covered in blood and amniotic fluid, and probably a bit of animal droppings as well. The shepherds wouldn't have bathed for days or weeks. The stall would have been over-run with animals. Jesus would have been crying (fooey on the idea of "no crying he made").

Most people are not surprised that God showed up the first Christmas. Of course he did. He is supposed to like us, save us, serve us, make us happy, well-fed, and good-looking. But the problem with this way of thinking is all backward. And the first Christmas hints at the foolishness of this concept. Jesus came to be with the dirty, smelly, and unkempt. Jesus came to those outside of the social hierarchy. The King of Kings didn't arrive with typical fanfare. Later the King of Kings would die just the way he came--almost entirely alone, rejected, unpopular, and surrounded by blood, dirt and stink. This is why we domesticate Jesus and demystify Christmas...because it is the reality that shames us, humbles us, points a finger are our deep need for salvation, hope, cleansing from the grime and filth of our sin. These truths must not be domesticated; rather, they must move us to profound worship, love, and surrender.

I appreciate Soren Kierkegaard's reflections: "Woe to the person who smoothly, flirtatiously, commandingly, convincingly, preaches some soft, sweet something which is supposed to be Christianity! Woe to the person who makes miracles reasonable. Woe to the person who betrays and breaks the mystery of faith, distorts it into public wisdom, because he takes way the possibility of offense...Oh the time wasted in this enormous work of making Christianity so reasonable, and in trying to make it so relevant."


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Do these numbers lead you and me to action?


For the world’s poorest people, misery and death are the norm – and the numbers are staggering.  
Imagine, Stearns asks, that a jetliner full of American travelers crashes, killing all aboard – not once, 
but three times in the space of a month.  There would be an outcry, investigations, a mobilization of 
tremendous resources to prevent further tragedy.  Yet, the equivalent of 100 planeloads of children 
crash every day, killing all – that’s 26,500 children, first suffering, and then dying, each and every 
day of the year – from entirely preventable causes due to their extreme poverty.   
Over 1 billion people (about 15% of the world’s population) live in extreme poverty.  In monetary 
terms, they live on less than $1 per day.... for reference, the average American income is $105 per 
day.  Try to imagine living on less than 1% of your current income, day after day, month after month, 
year after year!  The harsh reality for these people includes: 
o 9,000,000 die each year from hunger related causes; a child dies every 5 seconds 
o 5,000,000 die each year from water related illness; a child dies every 15 seconds 
o millions more die from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; millions of children are orphaned each year 
o millions of children grow up mentally impaired, handicapped due to malnutrition and unsafe water 
o 200 million man-hours of work are spent every day in the Third World just hauling water  
o despair gnaws at the hearts of helpless parents as they watch their children suffer and die
Hunger, thirst, and disease combine to make work, education, and community improvements all but 
impossible.  For many living in this grinding poverty, desperation and hopelessness rule.  Even with 
hard work, determination, and ability, they know they have no real choices, no way out of the trap....  
--summary thoughts by Wayne Snider from Richard Stearns book, "The Hole in Our Gospel"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Take a listen...

If you'd like to hear a great song sung by Luther's Norsemen (including my baby brother!), go to the following page and click "listen".

http://www.morningstarmusic.com/viewitem.cfm/item_id/50-3076

Friday, November 11, 2011

Our little thinker

This video does a nice job showing off our inquisitive thinker. It's a joy to watch these boys grow up.

video

Thursday, November 10, 2011

God preserves His children - Genesis 4-5


Through the first 24 verses of Genesis chapter 4, evil seems to have the upper hand.  Abel dies like a silent sheep before the slaughterer. Cain escapes to raise up godless progeny, culminating in the sexualized-bully Lamech (4:23-24). And yet, in the midst of a degraded society, God’s people call out to Him in worship (4:25-26). They choose faith over fear in the face of evil. Today, we have similar fears. Maybe we’re afraid we won’t be able to hack it this week. We think we are one step away from going over the edge. But I hope you see that  (for all time!) God is in control.  Abel is the man of faith who died serving the LORD. There will be many men like Him, many women too. But the seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs. Sure, there will be many martyrs along the way. Sure, there will be great pain. But God knows all about pain. God came as the person of Jesus Christ. Who lived a perfect life among corrupt people. Though he was guiltless, he died for the guilty. He suffered at the hands of wicked men. But, that was not the end of the story. Three days later Jesus rises victorious over sin, death, and hell. He promises that all who trust in Him are free from sin, death, and hell. Now we press on in faith, knowing that ultimate victory is just around the corner. And we carry with us promises like 1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A few snapshots





So here are a few pics from the last couple of weeks.  Elias and daddy (this might have been as much as a month ago - Elias looks so tiny!!) hanging out together.  Then the big boys in their jammies, with Caleb adding daddy's stocking cap for effect.  Also, here's one of Elias in a cute little outfit from his Aunt Jessica from just this morning. At his 2 month check-up he was 14lbs 8oz and 25 inches long.  That's the 93rd percentile in weight and the 99th percentile in height. He's going to be our BIG boy! Also, Halloween was fun for our little ninjas and they are still reaping the sugary benefits. :)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Books finished in October (well through yesterday actually)

Finished:
Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders (classic book; my third reading)
Brisingr by Chris Paolini (Book 3 of the Inhertiance series; I reread #3 in preparation for #4's release)
A History of the American People by Paul Johnson (wonderful; highly recommend)
To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by J.D. Hunter (a bit complex at times, but overall a helpful read on understanding our culture and responding with a faithful presence rather than with a blind acceptance or self-righteous withdrawal)

In progress:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson (a second time through this discipleship modern-day classic)
Lilith by George MacDonald
Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper (My 4th or 5th reading of this short and simple, but profound book)
A few others at a much slower pace...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The loss of trust leads to the loss of life


This past Sunday I looked at the first half of Genesis 3, showing that the Fall of humanity into sin came about because of a failure to trust God. This loss of trust led to the loss of life. We are to live by faith, but to make decisions apart from faith, apart from God’s Word and will, leaves only death and judgment. It makes me think of a story…Tom was approaching the first hole one day at the golf course. The 1st hole was a long par 3, that required a 200 yard drive over a large lake, to a green surrounded by water. He had just been given some brand new golf balls (Titleist ProV1, approximately $4/ball) for his birthday. Being a Christian man, he bowed briefly for a word of prayer and asked God if he should use a new ball or one of older, scuffed up balls that could be hit into the water with less grief. Just then Tom heard an inaudible voice, “Use the new ball.” In faith, he walked up to the tee, teed up the new ball, and then heard from above once again, “Take a practice swing.” Tom obeyed. Immediately, the voice spoke again, “With a swing like that, use the old ball.” (source unknown)
Admittedly, the story is corny, but it does give a good picture of what it means to heed God’s Word in our lives. God’s plans and commands are never arbitrary. They are for our good. They are for our life. We keep ourselves from life, when we keep ourselves from God’s Word. We keep ourselves from life when we fail to obey God’s Word. Deuteronomy 32:47 reminds us of the surety of God’s Word for us: “They are not just idle words for you– they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
(From the Cornerstone Church Pastor Post on October 12, 2011)

The Electric Guitar and the Local Church

Drew Hill, a friend doing church and parachurch ministry in North Carolina, had me offer some thoughts on YoungLife and parachurch ministry as it relates to the Church. Drew, thanks for the chance to be a guest on your great blog!

You can read the post here: http://younglifeleaders.blogspot.com/2011/10/7th-c-electric-guitar.html

My post is one of many this week on the interaction between the local church and parachurch ministries like YoungLife. I encourage you to check out the other posts in the series.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Glorious Ruins - Genesis 3:1-24

A number of people from Cornerstone Church asked for the manuscript and audio files for my 2 sermons in Genesis 3. So, I've combined all the sermons into one pdf document that you can download by clicking this link: DOWNLOAD

You can also download audio files for each of these sermons by right-clicking and saving link as:
PART 1 - http://www.cornerstone-marion.org/sermons/11-1009_Glorious_Ruins_1_Genesis_3--1-13_Matt_Proctor.mp3
PART 2 - http://www.cornerstone-marion.org/sermons/11-1016_Glorious_Ruins_2_Genesis_3--7-24_Matt_Proctor.mp3

These sermons show how the Fall of humanity into sin came about and the ramifications for such a rebellion.

Big idea in sermon #1: The loss of trust is the loss of life.
Big ideas in sermon #2: Humanity was created to have significance from and access to God. To lose these in the Fall has sent us spiraling downward...Lord willing. to a place of desperation for God.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Becoming Human through Christ

From a recent mediation (9/30/2011) for my church family in the Pastor Post:


The Big Idea of last week’s sermon was simply this: Humanity, as male and female, are created to worship God. This concept is picked up a bit in Margery Williams classic children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit. A book that chronicles the journey of one stuffed, toy rabbit who becomes a real, heart-thumping and leg-jumping hare. It’s about being real, having a true identity…and may I suggest becoming fully human. The Velveteen Rabbit’s journey is like our own, a journey from being confused, broken and distorted humans into those who are meant to reflect Jesus Christ in our lives. The process is slow; the process if painful, but slowly as we believe in Jesus Christ and learn to walk in relationship with Him we become what we were meant to be all along: humans created to know, love, and serve God. Let me share with you one paragraph from this great book:
    The Velveteen Rabbit turned to the old wise experienced Skin Horse in the nursery, and asked ‘What is real? Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stickout-handle?’ The Skin Horse replied: “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child really loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real. ‘Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘Does it happen all at once, or bit by by?” ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse, ‘You become. It takes a long time…Generally, by the time you are Real most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get very shabby..but once you are Real you cannot become unreal again. It lasts always.
   God uses all of the ups-and-downs of life to make us who we are meant to be. Every wound has a purpose; every trial a plan. God works good for His children that they might be conformed to the image of His Son. We can rest in God’s transforming love.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fight the good fight of faith

We can learn something from the Confederate military hero, Stonewall Jackson. He once remarked, "My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time of my own death." This man spoke of physical battles, but how much more so can Christians fight the good fight of faith, knowing they are secure in the arms of God. There need be no fear (2 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews. 12:2, Romans 8:31ff). Fear does not come from God but from the Enemy.

Friday, October 07, 2011

WE love you Great-Grandma Betty

While mom is off loving Grandma Betty in South Dakota, the boys wanted to send their love her way as well.

Samuel hard at work! 




Caleb a "bundle of joy" after his nap :)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Why did God allow evil?

Pastor John MacArthur speculates:

Now the question then comes up...why would God allow sin?  Come on now, I...I...I can only speculate.  There's no specific statement but I think you can make a fairly reasonable speculation beyond which I cannot go and don't find any value in tempting to go.  And it is this, what did sin...what did sin coming into the world bring about?  Well it brought about, I would say, three things.  And these are the three reasons why I believe God allowed evil.

Number one, it brought about the salvation of sinners, right?  God had to allow sin, God had to decree sin in the plan though never the author of it, in order that He might save sinners. 
Well why did God want to save sinners?  To put on display attributes that otherwise never would have been manifest, right?
 

How is God going to show grace if there aren't any sinners?  How is God going to show mercy if there aren't any sinners?  That was a part of God's nature that God wanted to display for His own glory throughout all eternity.  So God provided a means by which He could demonstrate grace, demonstrate mercy.  He also wanted to show love, love that is so far reaching that it can reach even His own enemies who hate Him. How is He going to show that if He doesn't have any enemies?

So God allows evil in order that He might demonstrate grace and mercy and forgiveness and salvation.  Secondly, He allows evil in order that He might display His wrath...in order that He might put His wrath on display, His anger on display, His judgment on display.  How would God ever reveal that part of His true and eternal nature if there were not an opportunity to judge sinners?  And so, all you can do is look at redemptive history and you see the salvation of sinners and the damnation of sinners and that is what goes on and you see ultimately a place prepared for those who are damned and a place prepared for those who are saved and you must conclude then that the eternal purpose of God was to save some and judge some in order that He might demonstrate both His grace and His wrath.

And then I like to throw a third thought in there.  I believe that God allowed sin in order that He might forever destroy it.  As long as His creatures have any measure of freedom, as long as His creatures have intelligence, that is they can know and reason, that is they can process that knowledge toward behavior, and choice, that is they can choose what to do, as long as they have that capacity there is a potential for them to fall short of the standard.  Right?  To make the wrong choice.  Well it didn't take long for them to do it.  We don't know how long it was before Lucifer made the wrong choice before God.  We don't know how long it was even in the Garden before Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, but it was certainly before they had any children.  They had their children probably around the age of a hundred or a little more. 

So there is choice and the potential of a wrong choice is there.  A measure of freedom is given to the creatures by which they can choose to honor God, by which they can choose to dishonor.  As long as that is there, then the reality, the potential reality of evil exists when the wrong choice is made. And I believe that once the wrong choice is made, then God goes into action and one, He can demonstrate His grace and salvation; two, He can demonstrate His wrath in judgment; and three, He can then finally destroy evil.  It's almost as if God wanted evil to come to the surface so that He could excise it.  That's what's going to happen when the whole of redemptive history is complete, when all the saved are saved and all the lost are cast into the lake of fire, then death and hell are thrown into the lake of fire. What does that mean?  No more death and no more hell and no more judgment.  Why?  Because there won't be anymore sin.  And when you go to heaven, there's nothing there that smacks of a sinful world, right?   There's no more sorrow, no more sadness, no more sin, no more dying, no more death.

From his 2000 sermon - "The Origin of Evil"

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Pastor Matt Proctor Sermons and Sermon Podcast

With my church's new website (http://cornerstone-marion.org), we now have a regular podcast.

So for my mom and the other 2 of you who are interested in my sermons, you can use this link to get regular downloads of my sermons: http://cornerstone-marion.org/category/sermon-audio/feed/

You can see the majority of my sermons at: http://cornerstone-marion.org/category/sermon-audio/

We keep older sermon mp3s on file if you are looking for a mp3 we've pulled off the web.

Theological Truism - Salvation by grace through faith...

The assurance of salvation from sin, death, and hell is only through faith in Jesus Christ.
NIV 1 John 5:11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
ESV Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

The assurance of faith is works (that is, real faith works).
James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Works do not save.
ESV Galatians 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Implications:
   1) A person who claims to be a Christian but lives like the devil is probably a the son of the devil rather than a son of God.
   2) A person who does all kinds of good works might not be saved from sin. No one is righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). Our righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). All good deeds which attempt to put God in our debt are rubbish/dung compared to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).
   3) God's children will reflect His character. ESV John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
   4) The proper response to a life without works is to deal with faulty faith. We are justified and sanctified by faith (see 2 Cor. 3:18). Turn to Jesus Christ; look to Him for salvation; rest in the salvation that he purchased on Calvary, dying for our sins and ultimately resurrecting victorious over sin, death, and hell. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Books read in September

Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald: possibly the best book I've ever read. I only wish there were English translations of the hard to read Scottish dialect.
I Married You by Walter Trobisch (short/profound book on marriage)
The Once and Future King by TH White (Arthurian legend retold; I got bogged down in the middle, but really liked the final 100 pages or so)
The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation by John Sailhamer (finally finished this helpful book, but disappointed this long book had to be so repetitive. It could have been reduced to 1/3 its final length and saved this and other readers a lot of time). In fact, I think if you read this helpful published essay, you could skip the book-length version, http://www.ibr-bbr.org/IBRBulletin/BBR_2000/BBR_2000_1a_05_Sailhamer_CreationCanon.pdf

Currently Reading:
A History of the American People  by Paul Johnson (a wise Brit speaking truth about the founding and progression of this fascinating country)

Pilgrim's Regress by CS Lewis (read aloud book with Carrie)
The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C. S. Lewis (I have been going through Lewis' daily readings since March...great great snippets for thought)
Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer by J. Oswald Sanders (reading this a few chapters a month with my mentor)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Keeping Our Eyes on the Guide, Not on the Giants


From the Cornerstone Church Pastor Post (September 14, 2011):
As Cornerstone Church celebrates its 10 year anniversary, I am drawn to the story of the Hebrew people in the wilderness as recorded in Numbers 13-14. These are the chapters that show 12 spies in the Promised Land, assessing God’s provision and strategizing on how they will take the land God has promised. At some point in their tour of duty, 10 of the 12 spies become petrified. They fear the giants and quit trusting their Guide. They are so scared that they’d rather go back to the chains of Egypt than proceed in faith to fight with God for the Land.
How foolish this sounds to us? What Jew would choose to go back to the horrors of German concentration camps? What African-American would choose to go back to the cotton fields of the pre-Emancipation Proclamation South? Oh, but are we that different? I’ve known churches that feared the unknown so much that they never tried anything different. They played the same songs, preached the same sermons, offered the same Vacation Bible Schools, kept the same carpet, and even kept the same leaders for decade after decade.
Do you know what happens to churches like that? The ones that fear the unknown so much they fail to hear God’s future plans for them . . . One of two things happens: 1) Nothing remarkable ever happens and everyone leaves and goes to the church that is trying new things or 2) Everything horrible happens and everyone leaves and goes to the church trying new things. In many ways at this 10 year celebration we can celebrate God’s faithfulness and victories. But we are only partway on the journey. We must not fear and run back to familiar territory. God has even greater things in mind for this church if only we walk out in faith. May we be a people who keep our eyes on the Guide and not on the giants. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Church Website

A big thanks to several members of Cornerstone Church and our designer Chris Hubbs on getting our new church website up and going.

Check it out: http://cornerstone-marion.org

While you're at it, check us out on Facebook and become a subscriber (a.k.a. "like us"):
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cornerstone-Church-Marion/263189963453

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to throw the church under the bus...

What a pastor says: "The church is hurting my family." What a congregation hears: "You are not worth sacrificing for."
What a pastor says: "I sense the Lord moving us elsewhere." What a congregation hears: "God is not moving here." 
What a pastor says: "I don't see God blessing this church until..." What a congregation hears: "God won't use this groups of sinners; He prefers the group of sinners in (often the fancier) church building X down the street."
What a pastor says: "God has opened a door that we shouldn't turn down." What a congregation hears: "God has closed the door on this church."
What a pastor says: "God has used this time to prepare me for the next season of ministry." What a congregation hears, "You were my stepping stone to bigger and better things."

Some of these statements arise from honest intentions. Others are cruel shots across the bow designed to sting or to lay blame on someone or something else rather than shoulder personal responsibility. I really don't like it when we pastors spiritualize our lives so much that it comes across as throwing the church under the bus. Can't we be honest sometimes that the reason we are leaving is because there's some issue with us (good, bad, or otherwise)? We're struggling spiritually and we hope a change of venue might help. We are having issues with certain people. We want a new adventure. The pay isn't meeting family needs. We've dug a hole we can't get out of. I'm not sure where God is leading me, but I thought I'd give something new a chance. I'm not fulfilled. Maybe there's a better way...

How not to throw your church under the bus: 
We know from the example of Moses in Exodus that God sometimes opens doors that people are NOT supposed to walk through. After the doubters grumble and refuse to enter the Promised Land, we read in Numbers 14:11-12, "The LORD said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they." If this isn't a clear opened door by God, I don't know what is. But Moses cared more about God's glory than His own. He'd rather stick with his grumbling church than start over with a new crowd. He was willing to be run under the bus so that the people were not (not the only time he ever did this, btw). 

Moses did, however, flounder in his own faith (cf. Numbers 20). He wasn't a perfect leader. He's just a guy like most pastors I know who are in need of forgiveness and grace. But there was a shepherd who remained faithful even unto death. This is the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). We can find life in believing in Jesus Christ. Then, as we gaze on Christ Jesus, and are changed more and more into His image, I think we'll take a few more buses for our people rather than throw them under so we can move on to greener pastures. SDG

This was inspired last Tuesday when I was reading about the dangers of ambition in Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

This Little Baby is 4 Weeks Tomorrow!

My three sons!
Elias wonders, "Who are these yahoos?"


Serious look

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

NFL Player says no to millions for something better...

Jason Wright (running back for Arizona Cardinals) is saying no to a 2 million dollar contract and yes to pursuing a graduate degree and improving the lives of inner-city children. A leader on and off the field, Wright has chosen what's the best over what the world says is the good.

Check out the whole article here: http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ycn-9159265

I love this part of the article:


As a testament to his leadership, Wright would call running back and special teams only meetings Friday afternoons, and he'd answer any questions the young players - including first-round pickBeanie Wells(notes) - might have, ones they might be too embarrassed to ask a coach.
"He was the most unselfish guy I've been around," Cardinals running backs coach Tommie Robinson says. "He knew every position, and he made sure the guys in front of him knew everything.
"When you say Jason Wright, the vast majority of fans wouldn't recognize the name. But he brought intangibles you just can't coach. Either you got it, or you don't. Kids like that come along once every blue moon."
Added special teams coach Kevin Spencer, "When you walk out of the tunnel with him, you're a better football team."
Five-time Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald(notes), whom the club signed to an eight-year, $128.5 million contract in August, says Wright was beloved and respected in the locker room.
"He's one of the best teammates I've ever had," Fitzgerald says. "But Jason has a higher calling, and he goes by the Lord's plan. As a friend and a Christian, I admire his courage.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wise words on marriage...


Stanley Hauerwas, an ethicist at Duke, says that we always marry the wrong person. The sooner young couples can understand that, the better off they'll be. I hear young couples say, "You mean you don't want us to be soul mates?" But nobody marries his or her soul mate. You become soul mates by living life together through those years.
So often cohabiters are looking, in the first year, for what comes only after years—decades!—of life together. You are setting yourself up for dramatic disappointment if you think life works that way.


From: 
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/september/science-of-cohabitating.html

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Twists and Turns of Parenting


Carrie and I recently read the article, "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy" by Lori Gottlieb (warning profane language in the article). This article suggests that involved, caring parents can often create kids who cannot cope with real life and end up in therapy. The author of the article (a therapist herself) observed time and time again that adult "kids" from "good homes" seemed to be struggling in life. She writes, "Here I was, seeing the flesh-and-blood results of the kind of parenting that my peers and I were trying to practice with our own kids, precisely so that they wouldn’t end up on a therapist’s couch one day. We were running ourselves ragged in a herculean effort to do right by our kids—yet what seemed like grown-up versions of them were sitting in our offices, saying they felt empty, confused, and anxious. Back in graduate school, the clinical focus had always been on how the lack of parental attunement affects the child. It never occurred to any of us to ask, what if the parents are tooattuned? What happens to those kids?"

This article came to me the same week I heard a Christian pastor lament that too many Christians are not helping their kids live by faith. These Christians (like me!) protect their kids at all costs from popular culture, secular schools, and heterodox beliefs. As a result, these kids live lives without needing God to get them through the day. Who needs God when Mom and Dad are around to keep the devil away? 

This article and the wise word of caution from my pastor friend have me asking, What does it mean to raise a kid who lives by faith in the Son of God? How do I help them learn not to merely cope with life, but to live with and by the power of Jesus? How do they handle the horrors of reality without abandoning the God of all creation who will one day redeem all of that fallen reality? How do I keep my kids from fighting against the world or running from it, but instead to love the culture-makers, to love their schools, teachers and classmates, and to love those with heterodox beliefs? Isn't love the most powerful force in the world? Isn't faith in God the key to the abundant life? O, God help this parent.

How to become a Christian (via Charles Spurgeon)

From: Charles Spurgeon's Sermon #654 "Memory—The Handmaid of Hope" www.spurgeongems.org

III. I must have a few words with SEEKERS. Always in this congregation we have some who are seeking the Lord—would to God we had many more! It were glorious preaching if all were either seeking or had found. If it were not for the mixed multitude who neither seek nor find, our work were easy work, indeed. Some of you are seeking God today and you are very much troubled with the fear that you cannot be saved. I will have a few words with you to recall to mind some common-place Truths of God which may give you hope.   First of all some of you are troubled about the doctrine of election. I cannot, this morning, explain it to you. I believe it and receive it with joy! And you may rest assured, however much it troubles you, it is true. Though you may not like it, it is true! And remember it is not a matter of opinion as to what you like or do not like— as to what you think or do not think—you must turn to the Bible and if you find it there you must believe it.  


 Listen to me. You have got an idea that some persons will be sent to Hell, merely and only because it is the will of God that they should be sent there. Throw the idea overboard because it is a very wicked one and is not to be found in Scripture! There could not be a Hell inside the man’s conscience who knew that he was wretched merely because God willed he should be—for the very essence of Hell is sin and a sense of having willfully committed it. There could not be the flames of Hell if there were not this conviction on the mind of the person suffering it, “I knew my duty but I did it not—I willfully sinned against God and I am here not because of anything He did or did not do, but because of my own sin.” 


 If you drive that dark thought away you may be on the road to comfort. Remember again, that whatever the doctrine of election may be or may not be, there is a free invitation in the Gospel given to needy sinners, “Whoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” Now you may say, “I cannot reconcile the two.” There are a great many other things that you cannot do. God knows where these two things meet though you do not. And I hope you do not intend to wait till you are a philosopher before you will be saved—because it is likely enough that while you are trying to be wise by persistently remaining a practical fool you will find yourself in Hell where your wisdom will not avail you. (my favorite part!)



 God commands you to trust Christ and promises that all Believers shall be saved. Leave your difficulties till you have trusted Christ and then you will be in a capacity to understand them better than you do now. In order to understand Gospel doctrine you must believe in Christ first. What does Christ say, “No man comes unto the Father but by Me.” Now election is the Father’s work. The Father chooses sinners. Christ makes the Atonement. You must go, then, to Christ the atoning Sacrifice before you can understand the Father as the electing God. Do not persist in going to the Father first. Go to the Son as He tells you.  Once more, remember that even if your own idea of the doctrine of election were the truth, yet if it were so, you can 
but perish should you seek the Lord—
“I can but perish if I go, I am resolved to try;  For if I stay away I know I must forever die.  But if I die with mercy sought,  When I the King have tried,  That were to die, delightful thought,  As sinner never died.”  


Trust Christ even if you should perish and you shall never perish if you trust in Him! Well, if that difficulty were removed, I can suppose another, saying, “Ah, but my case is of great sin.” Recall this to mind and you will have hope, namely, that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom,” Paul says, “I am chief.” “I am chief.” Paul was the chief of sinners and he went through the door of Mercy. And now there can be none greater than the chief, and where the chief went through you can go through! If the chief of sinners has been saved, why not you? Why not you?   

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week 2 Pictures...

 Mommy likes my feet; do you?
 Busy day at the office.
 Bedtime!
 Fancy new duds thanks to Auntie Carmen.
 These are my brothers...I kinda like 'em.
Thanks for coming Grandma Carol and taking my picture.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Summary of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible)

John Sailhamer writes:
1) The author of the Pentateuch wants to draw a connecting link between God's original plan of blessing for mankind [Genesis 1-2] and his establishment of the covenant with Israel at Sinai [Exodus 19]. Put simply, the author sees the covenant at Sinai as God's plan to restore his blessing to mankind  through the descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; Exod 2:24). 
2) The author of the Pentateuch wants to show that the Covenant at Sinai failed to restore God's blessing to mankind because Israel failed to trust God and obey his will. 
3) The author of the Pentateuch wants to show that God's promise to restore the blessing would ultimately succeed because God himself  would one day give to Israel a heart to trust and obey God (Deut. 30:1-10).


From a good article by Sailhamer in Trinity Journal: "Exegetical Notes: Genesis 1:1-2:4a"
http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Sailhamer_Gen1_TJ.pdf

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Elias' first week of life in the outside world...

Here we have our sweet Elias Jay getting ready to go home from the hospital on Monday.  Does he have any idea what he's getting himself into??

 Being born is hard work!!
The whole family when we first arrived home.

Bedtime reading with Samuel and Daddy.  They have a lot of literature to get through (see stack of books next to Sam)!
 

Day 5 of life.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Books Read in August


Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by CS Lewis (read aloud book with Carrie)
A Treatise on Good Works by Martin Luther (Kindle Book)
The Message of Colossians & Philemon (Bible Speaks Today) by Dick Lucas (my favorite commentary while working through Colossians this summer)


Currently Reading:

A History of the American People  by Paul Johnson (a wise Brit speaking truth about the founding and progression of this fascinating country)
The Once and Future King by TH White (Arthurian legend retold)
Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald (fantastic tale)
Pilgrim's Regress by CS Lewis (read aloud book with Carrie)
The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C. S. Lewis (I have been going through Lewis' daily readings since March)
Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer by J. Oswald Sanders (reading this a few chapters a month with my mentor)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Elias Jay is here! 8.56 lbs. 20 inches

Elias is the Greek spelling for Elijah, a name meaning "My God is Yahweh."
 Matt was able to deliver Elias...head, shoulders, legs and all!
 Good set of lungs...
 Beautiful...

 An unforgettable meeting!
 Happy boy!
Happy, big, boy.