Saturday, December 9, 2017

Sermons on Handel's Messiah by Tony Felich

In 2011 I preached two sermons through Handel's Messiah.

Handel's Messiah is a covenantal trek through the Bible that is pure Scripture. 

I can think of no greater musical work.

The sermons can be heard here:

Handel's Messiah Sermon (Part 1)

Handel's Messiah Sermon (Part 2)

I hope it is a blessing to you.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2017 Kansas bow buck

What a year 2017 has been for buck hunting!! Harvested this brute on this perfect Kansas morning. It's a true blessing to shoot a mature buck with my bow in the middle of gun season.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

1972 Francis Schaeffer foresight on modern moral dilemma

Francis Schaeffer would not be surprised with the moral dumpster fire Western culture has become. 
There is coming a time in the global village (not far ahead, in the area of electronics) when we will be able to wire everybody up to a giant computer, and what the computer strikes as the average at a given moment will be what is right and wrong. You may say that is far-fetched and there may never be such a worldwide computer system. But the concept of morals only being the average of what people are thinking and doing at a given time is a present reality. You must understand that that is exactly what Kinsey set forth in Sexual Behavior of the Human Male (1948) as statistical sexual ethics. This is not theoretical. We have come to this place in our Western culture because man sees himself as beginning from the impersonal, the energy particle and nothing else. We are left with only statistical ethics, and in that setting there is simply no such thing as morals. 
- Francis Schaeffer 1972

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

2017 Missouri Bow Buck

I bought a Missouri deer tag again this year and finally filled it during bow season. Missouri's rife season starts the second full week of November (which is crazy...rifles during the rut? Are you serious Missouri?) so I had a few days to make good on my $226 out of state deer tag. 

With Nathan filming (final version coming soon) I was able to grunt this buck away from a group of does and eventually arrow him at 25 yards. Tremendous hunt. Incredible animal.  Very blessed. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Redeemer Sanctuary- A Place with Purpose

This past September marked the tenth year of public worship in the Redeemer Sanctuary. 

Architecture communicates purpose and values. Just as Gene Veith notes in his writing about church architecture- “The Gospel can be preached in any style of building or in no building. But just remember, the laws of aesthetics and the relation of form and meaning operate whether anybody likes them or not.” Office buildings, schools, houses, and churches all depict something about the people who own or occupy them. During the planning phase for the Redeemer sanctuary the committee tasked with the design wanted several things to be conveyed by the sanctuary presentation.

The exterior is meant to be simple and strong with features that lift the observer’s gaze heavenward. Without being ostentatious, the building should make a statement about the seriousness of worshiping God and stand out as a centerpiece in the community. 

The interior is simple but full of meaning. The narthex is large with a high ceiling.To enter the sanctuary one passes through a small area with low ceilings. This transition space is meant to help focus worshipers as they enter, but also contrasts the very high ceilings encountered upon entrance to the sanctuary itself.

Veith has also observed,“a basic principle of aesthetics is that the form must be in harmony with the content”. In this light, the sanctuary has four large pillars that hold up an ellipse. Looking through through the ellipse the ceiling appears to float above. Each of the pillars is a reminder of the perfections of Scripture: The Inspiration, Inerrancy, Authority, and Sufficiency of the Bible. The ellipse symbolizes a lens we see through to know God. But just as the ceiling can only be seen in part, so also God is only seen in part through Scripture. God transcends our full comprehension, but the Scriptures tells us exactly what is necessary to know about Him. The main features of the sanctuary design are meant to relay the certainty we have about God through His Word and the greatness of God that goes far beyond our human comprehension. 

In the front of the church is a plain cross symbolizing the finished work of Christ which secures salvation for all those who trust in Him. Also in the front are three main furnishings.The largest item is the pulpit which is placed in the center. This is meant to depict the centrality of the Word of God and it’s primary place as a means of God’s grace.The other item also on the chancel level is the baptismal. This is used to administer the initiatory rite of baptism to believers and their covenant children. Entrance in to the visible church happens through the sacrament of baptism and it represents our need for the washing of our sins through Christ. On the floor level in the center is the communion table. The table is used to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a congregation every Sunday. The pastor is not a priest presiding over the people, the pastor is an under shepherd of Christ serving the church family on the same level as everyone else.The Lord’s Supper is a visual, perpetual reminder of the finished work of Christ and the basis for our salvation. 

In every pew there are special benches (called kneelers) for the congregation to join in specified times of prayer during worship services and on other occasions. The Word and the sacraments are critical means of grace, so is prayer.The kneelers help us to assume a posture of humility as we come before our Lord in prayer regularly. 

The organist and choir have a place to sit and stand in the back of the sanctuary as they assist the congregation in worship.They are not a performers. They are assigned to prompt and assist the congregation’s readiness to worship with music and singing.    

The cornerstone on the outside of the sanctuary says “Soli Deo Gloria” with the verse inscription “Psalm 127:1”, which says Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain”. 

The Redeemer sanctuary is truly a place with purpose. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

2017 Reformation Sunday Prayer

I offered this prayer on October 29, 2017 (Reformation Sunday) at Redeemer-

You O God are a mighty fortress for us. 
You are a bulwark who never fails. 
You are our helper in the midst of the floods of this often difficult life. 

We do not take this occasion of the 500th year since the Reformation lightly. 
Because of the Reformation we understand the necessity of your Word and all that it reveals, especially about faith in Christ and His finished Work. 

We do not gather each Lord’s Day to celebrate the glories of man or his power.
We gather to worship you for your Greatness, Holiness and Grace and give All glory to you alone. 

We do not come to this place hoping  we might gain your favor.
We come trusting in Christ’s finished Work knowing through Christ we are your securely adopted sons and daughters.

We do not come in order to have a human priest mediate your presence or your salvation to us.
We come directly in to your holy of holies, boldly to your throne of grace through union with Christ, our Great High Priest.

We do not gather to receive a superstitious meal served with words we do not understand.
We come to join with the fellowship of the redeemed to have our faith made stronger as we partake in the Supper of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  

We do not come to church to add our good works and somehow hopefully earn salvation.
We come on the basis of Christ’s perfect merit credited to our account by faith alone. 

We do not pray to Mary or any other dead person this morning or any morning.
We pray to you directly, our heavenly Father, just as Christ taught us to pray and just as He made possible by His sacrifice and exaltation to your right hand. There he sits, making continual intercession for us. We pray to you, Our God, through Him and by Your Spirit’s aid.

We are not here this morning hoping you will accept us and our works. 
We are here knowing you accept Jesus’ works on our behalf and so we are sure of your love for us and we desire to give you all the glory, for you alone deserve all glory.

We do not come to practice empty rites or participate in vain rituals. 
We do not come to celebrate past practices, or gain guidance from tradition or councils or any other contradictory word from man. We are hear to be fed your pure and powerful Word. 

On this morning in particular, we thank you for the Reformation which restored your Word to it’s proper place of authority over your Church. 

O Lord I pray for a Reformation in these times. 
I pray for a renewal of trust in your Word.
I pray for a new boldness and clarity about the gospel of Christ to go forth again.
I pray for an honest humility about man’s condition and need for redemption.
I pray that you would make us zealous for Your Glory. 
I pray for your people to love one another and exhibit unity in Christ.
I pray for a refreshed commitment to preaching Your Word and living according to your commandments, no matter the cultural cost. 
I pray for a modern reformation. 

Your Word is above all earthly powers.  
Your Spirit and the gifts are ours through Christ who sides with us. 
Grant that we would let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
Yes, the body they may kill, but your truth O God abides still, and Your Kingdom is forever. 

I lift this prayer through our perfect mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Amen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#MeToo advice for men

Husbands respect and protect your wife. 
Fathers love and protect your daughters. 
Fathers and mothers teach your sons to respect and protect women even if radical feminists say such a thing is sexist. Such feminism has done nothing but make everything worse. 
Brothers support and protect your sisters.
Brothers in Christ honor your sisters in Christ. 
None of this will happen if you’re supporting porn with your viewing. 
Viewing porn propagates the abuse of women, including the women you say you love. 
The abuse of women starts with men and could end there, by God’s grace.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Beware of the Grand (and eternally devastating) Illusion

I didn’t vote for Trump because I thought he’d be a poor president. I thought Hillary would be even worse. I still think both things are true. In my thinking we’d be getting what we voted for either way, and it wouldn’t be good, but we’d deserve it. Again, I still think that’s true. 
Regardless of the human who sits on the throne in this rapidly passing moment, the hearts of many people are still far from God and that’s what grieves me most. Who cares that it happens to grieve me? It's bigger than me. It’s man’s biggest problem. So after the last election I decided to follow a Facebook practice that avoids specific political statements and I am not intending to change that here, despite venturing perilously close to various land mines…this is just a short explanation of where I’m at, if you care. 
It’s no secret I’m a Christian and Scripture is my guide. I’m loyal to the Christ of the Bible FAR more than this or that political party. I have spent my life studying Scripture, so I’m not a novice about what it proclaims (yet I have so much more to learn). I am amazed by how many “smart” people haven’t actually read a book of Scripture, yet they reject it’s testimony. I have always shuddered at that kind of willful ignorance. People will trust current trends in a completely broken culture over the timeless testimony of God’s Word? It’s scary but that’s what people do. 
I have friends here that I love, even though we disagree on a bunch of things. I won’t stop loving my friends and family even if we never come to agreement. I don’t want to lose the opportunity to share Christ with anyone, so that’s why I’m choosing to say little about political matters- despite how everything seems to get politicized these days. To be clear, I speak out on moral issues because I think they transcend politics. I would argue most of the unrest experienced in our country is a byproduct of a time when everyone does what is right in their own eyes (see Noah’s day). 
Frankly, I don’t think the issues that have been getting people all crazy and upset are nearly as big as the problem of estrangement with God every person has because of sin. No president, pundit, politician, pop scientist, talk show host, preacher, or party has the ability to bring the redemption and liberty we truly need. Only Christ can bring what you actually need. Don’t get blinded by this fading world. Don’t succumb to the two-fold grand illusion that says all you see is what there is and if there’s anything after this life, we’re all OK. I’m not saying coming to Christ will make you apolitical, but it will help you see things with much greater perspective. 
Rest in the finished work of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will see everything in a new light. You will be amazed by how the cranked and hyped up hot button issues of the day are really not that important. At the same time, if more people were renewed by Christ, you’d be amazed by how many of the hot button issues would actually be addressed and even solved (if God wills). 
In the end, if you think I’m a complete religious, loon, freak, fanatic and you’re right in your particular view of the world…then I’ll be OK too, because I’m definitely not wallowing in some kind of ignorant, joyless, mire. But if I’m right and you’re wrong?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Some Benefits of Expository Preaching in the Local Church

There are several types of preaching.Topical preaching combines various Bible verses that connect with a particular theme.Textual preaching uses a short text as a gateway to a certain doctrine or subject. These forms of preaching have a definite place in the life of the church and are fruitful because they teach Biblical truth.The form of preaching best for the long term health and maturity of a local congregation however is expository preaching. 

Expository preaching follows a careful interpretation process to extract the God-intended meaning of a Biblical passage to provide explanation and application in a contemporary way. Expository preaching generally describes a philosophy about how to preach God’s Word as well as a particular approach to individual Bible books and passages. Haddon Robinson provides a helpful definition of expository preaching-

“Expository preaching is the communication of a Biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers.” 

Another description of expository preaching comes from my seminary professor and preaching mentor, Bryan Chapell-

“The meaning of the passage is the message of the sermon. The text governs the preacher. Expository preachers do not expect others to honor their opinions. Such ministers adhere to Scripture’s truths and expect their listeners to heed the same.” 

Expository preaching in a local church setting usually means preaching through Bible books.  In my twenty years of expository preaching at Redeemer, I have preached through sixteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books and twelve of the thirty-nine Old Testament books. At this rate I should complete an exposition of the whole Bible by 2037.  😁 The benefits of such an approach are demonstrable. I can think of four in particular.

  • An expositional preaching ministry grows the congregation’s trust in and knowledge of Scripture. 
Rather than learning a topic and a list of proof texts, expositional preaching carefully teaches the content of the Bible to a congregation over time. This makes the congregation knowledgeable about God’s Word and it increases their trust in the wisdom of God revealed by Scripture. 

  • An expositional preaching ministry grows the congregation’s understanding of systematic theology and Biblical theology. 
Systematic theology refers to studying Bible doctrines according to their subject like Christology, Eschatology, and Ecclesiology. Biblical theology refers to studying the chronological unfolding of God’s redemptive plan in Scripture. Both are bolstered as the congregation works through the books of the Bible expositionally as the main diet of Bible intake.

  • An expositional preaching ministry demonstrates the providence of God with timely messages.
Sermons subjects should not react to every cultural event or hot topic in society. A commitment to steady exposition will demonstrate God’s providential care for His people as He exposes us to all sorts of issues in His Word that many times align directly with something that is happening in the world. I have lost count on how many times the message of the text aligned exactly with some immediately relevant issue in the world. 

  • An expositional preaching ministry grows the pastors with the people. 
Your pastors study a passage all week with one goal- to faithfully communicate the meaning and application of God’s Word to you on Sunday. This preparation process means we undergo the Holy Spirit’s conviction and encouragement just before you do. This gives us passion to deliver the message on Sunday and to walk the road of sanctification with you. 

In my twenty years of preaching ministry I have become convinced that expositional preaching of the Word is the most potent way to administer this means of grace. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dissing Osteen during the Houston floods is a smokescreen....

I could be wrong but I think people are jealous of Joel Osteen’s millions, so they jump on a seemingly manufactured story about his not opening the doors of their church for flood victim relief quickly enough. I don’t know the truth of the matter on that front because stories conflict and I don’t trust cheap twitter posts or the media to give us the straight on that front. The real crime of Osteen is his false teaching. People should know he doesn’t preach the gospel of God’s grace- which is our need for faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. If you're dissin’ Osteen but not dealing with the reality of your sin needing a remedy…you’re spending energy in the wrong place friend. Start looking more closely at the claims of Christ and less on the teaching and actions of a false prophet. By the way, I’m guessing the media has totally construed what Lakewood Church has actually done.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hatred does NOT need to be taught. It is natural.

The Twitter world was set aflutter by former President Barack Obama’s tweet-

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion ….People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love … For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Apparently this was the most “liked” tweet in Twitter history. It is a quote from Nelson Mandela.

Misunderstanding about mankind’s moral condition is one of the bigger blunders in human history. We simply must recognize the human heart is wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) apart from God’s grace through Christ. The “big lie” is that man is basically good. He is not. We are not. Scripture teaches this AND human history illustrates the same over and over. 

Statements about man’s natural goodness garner many likes, retweets, and reposts in today’s moral climate. People want to believe in mankind so badly. Many think we can somehow will peace and harmony through positive energy transmitted by positive thoughts about the goodness of humanity. If we just talk positive enough about niceness and such...people will be nice. 

The base of our problem is the inherent evil of man. Hatred does not need to be taught, it is natural. Unlike Mandela's statement repeated by Obama (and embraced by so many)- love does NOT come more naturally to the human heart than the opposite-not this side of sin's entrance in to the human race. This is a Scriptural truth and a demonstrable reality. 

Any parent knows they don’t need to teach their children to be selfish or to lie or to get angry or to hate. It comes naturally.

If you correct a child when they sin and ask them, “Did your Mommy teach you to lie?” They always say "NO". They’re right. They sin because they’re sinners.

We are born sinners. So hate comes VERY naturally.We must learn to love. The only way this happens is through the grace of Christ.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)
Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)
And Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation… (Romans 5:18)

But thanks be to God-
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12)

My prayer is for God to graciously grant a prolific spread of His gospel which promises new life for those who trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Part of the new life that comes through Christ is a realization about man’s actual nature and a humble reliance upon God’s grace to treat people like Jesus.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Try occasional walks through a cemetery

After mentioning my weekly walks through the cemetery next to our church, several members asked me if I really did that. The answer is yes. I just spent 35 minutes walking there tonight. Sometimes I google the names of people to find out their story. 

Cemeteries tell the truth to us all. I suggest a walk through one from time to time. 

For me, as a pastor, my calling is to prepare people for how they'll spend the massive, overwhelming, majority of their existence. Cemeteries remind me of sin's devastation. No one escapes physical death. Ignoring that reality is eternally foolhardy. Cemeteries drive me to the only One who defeated death. Frankly, I literally don't have time for the flawed opinions of others about something as serious as death. Only the risen Christ's Word is sufficient to reconcile what walking through a cemetery will conjure in your mind...especially when you see your father's headstone, which bears the same name as you.

A stroll through a cemetery on Saturday night holds me accountable to preach the gospel Sunday morning.

Woe to me if I don't.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Skeptics of the Church of Esquelito

Esquelito was the quirky side kick of Nacho in the epic film, Nacho Libre.  Nacho was a deist posing as a monk, who was concerned that Esquelito did not believe in God, but rather only in Science.

Indeed, for Esquelito "Science" was God. 

With the election of a president who has voiced skepticism about the Climate Change movement that has gripped so many in high governmental and industrial places, the debate about "Science" has been reignited. 

I suggest, for the most part, rather than saying "Science has shown..."or "Science has proven..." a more accurate to description would be-"Certain people applying the rules of scientific inquiry (hopefully) to a certain situation have come to postulate...."

Science (in noun form) rarely represents something as settled as those who use the term think or suggest. Just because "Science" is used to bolster a claim doesn't mean true science was actively engaged in...even if a chart is shown or the results of a certain study are quoted. 

The modern Climate Change movement seems absolutely certain the "science is settled" on the matter. If a person disagrees they are basically laughed at and marginalized. An article that came out yesterday revealing manipulation of data and negligence in the peer review process.  See the post here.  The post claims-

A high-level whistleblower has told this newspaper that America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) breached its own rules on scientific integrity when it published the sensational but flawed report, aimed at making the maximum possible impact on world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015

For those who think healthy skepticism is required to discern all claims about anything important, not to mention the modern "scientific" claims that usually have massive financial implications, the revelations of this article (which are not the first of it's kind) do not come as a surprise. One of the serious objective problems for the Climate Change movement is the pesky satellite data (that's right, DATA or FACTS) which appears to argue against the Climate Change movement message. The findings from the satellite data show an apparent pause in any kind of global heat up. This is indeed inconvenient data for the Climate Change, sorry- movement.  Look up "The Pause" and read the entertaining defenses for why we should read the facts differently. If you are not skeptical about the religious-like defensiveness of the Climate Change movement after reading the arguments about "The Pause", you are truly lost in your trust and faith in Science. 

Cue immediate reaction from adherents to the Church of Esquelito. 

They will react on the basis of their credal commitments, some of which are like these:

Scientists don’t lie.
Peer review is key…
People who aren’t “scientists” really don’t have basis to judge.
Skeptics are deniers and not very intelligent (they don’t always say this one outright, but they definitely mean it and snicker about it in private).

Forgive the many who are skeptical about the multi trillion (by extension) dollar modern scientific industry. Objective proof of data manipulation and the outright neglect of the all important peer review process are the very reasons everyone should be on some level skeptical.  

By the way, skepticism is not equal with denial.  

The Church of Esquelito must defend it’s God, which is the thing so often called “Science” today.   For the rest of us- we’ll keep asking questions when we see repeated breaches in the sacred scientific system.

I predict the reactions to findings like revealed in the above article will prompt Trump-like attacks on the credibility of the source and the whistle blower rather than deal with The Pause problem. 

On a positive note, by the end of the film, Esquelito joined Nacho's deistic commitment, it seems.  Note his heartfelt prayer for Nacho early in this clip. Hopefully adherents to Esquelito's Church creed will convert too.  

A Free People- a recent letter to my church

Perhaps some of our older members can remember a more socially and politically contentious time in our nation’s history. The acrimonious year-long build up to the November election and recent inauguration of President Donald Trump was unlike any of the eleven similar cycles I recall. Christians had seemed quite divided in in their public opinions before the election.  These early days after the inauguration indicate strong division in the nation as a whole. There is a mixture of extreme fear and anger with some and a sense of relief and high hopes for others. Hopefully this initial furor will dissipate and there will be opportunity for the new administration to exercise sound leadership. Certainly not everyone will be pleased no matter how the new administration governs. Whatever the case, we should pray fervently for our leaders. 

Christians ultimately rest in God’s sovereignty and His providential watch care over all human affairs. If our study of Isaiah has taught us anything, it is about God’s people remaining devoted to Him no matter what the socio-political scene. God has a special love for His Church which compels us, by His grace and power, to be witnesses for His gospel and faithful in obedience to Him. As I have written and stated many times, churches like Redeemer will play an increasingly important role in our nation’s strength and vibrancy. Shaky times should encourage the God’s people to a renewed and steadfast devotion to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments. Certainly those who are well trained in the Word should be all the more involved by applying biblical principles in our social actions and votes but let us not forget where the transforming power lies- the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The followers of Christ must rise above the political bickering and angry name calling so prevalent in our culture today. Scripture gives us clear guidance on how to navigate difficult social and political waters. The Apostle Peter writing at the time of one of the most despotic Roman emperors in history, gives very helpful instruction-

“Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor". - 1 Peter 2:13-17

The part about subjecting ourselves to the governing authorities is obvious enough. We should not miss what else the passage states. Christians are truly a free people. The gospel has liberated us. We are free from the penalty of our sin because of faith in the finished work of Christ. We are also free to obey God by His grace in our lives. By freely doing good as God empowers us, we will silence ignorant and foolish people. We are not an angry or fearful people.  We honor God-appointed human authorities but we do not look to them for our joy or sustenance. Whatever social or political climate may be prevailing, we have our clear instructions from God-Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Timely words for Christians on Inauguration Day 2017

Timely and instructive words to Christians from God's Word on inauguration day 2017

"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor". - 1 Peter 2:13-17

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How a Church treats the Pastor's family....a short, nostalgic, reflection on my experience at RPC

(This picture was taken around 2005, four years after I became the senior pastor at Redeemer. It's a long time before Willow)

My oldest son is now half way done with his senior year. Where has the time gone? We are in the thick of college decisions with him reminding us almost daily his time in our house as we know it is short. After A.J. graduates from high school we have two more sons graduating every other year. It feels like several snowballs are rolling down the hill and all will pass us as the bottom sooner than we are ready.  You can’t stop time.  At least our little girl is behind the boys by several years. We will need our fully recouped energies for her teenage years (I hear).  

Being Christmas time makes me unusually nostalgic, especially about family.  My immediate sentiment, especially related to my oldest child readying to leave the nest, is thankfulness for how the church I serve has treated my family.  

As I entered ordained ministry over 20 years ago more than a few older pastors and some parishioners warned me about the impact of pastoral ministry on my children. Being a youth pastor for several years before becoming a lead pastor only served to stoke my secret anxieties about my children not doing well in a ministry context. I was worried about being too engulfed in church stuff to spend adequate time with them. I was concerned they would grow to resent the Church (not just RPC, but God's Church in general) and even God, because of my job.  I was worried, at the beginning, the church wouldn’t be understanding if one or more of my children were terrors when they were young or rebellious when they grew older. I know the verse about elders being required to have their household under control and their children believers.  Another strange fear I have had is how to guide my boys vocationally. I only know pastoral ministry. What does an engineer do?  An account manager? A cop? A truck driver? Who would teach them things I know nothing about? So many secret fears about family life in ministry, especially having a very young family when becoming the senior pastor at Redeemer (in 2001 when my oldest was 2 and my second son was just born).  

All my children have been born and baptized at Redeemer. I have been here 20 years. My oldest turns 18 in a couple months. This is the only church they know. I realize they are not done growing, but the experience has been a profound blessing so far. I know things can change fast in a church. If I screw up and get tossed…or just get tossed…they’ll likely have a bad taste in their mouth about the church.  But based on their experience so far, I hope not.  I mean, even if I got tossed tomorrow, they can't deny how good the church has been to them thus far. 

People at RPC have been gracious to my children and us. I have never felt like they expect my children to be super sanctified. Any pressure about parenting has come from my own pride, not church people somehow pressing expectations. Shari and I have found rather than pressure on our kids, there has been great encouragement given. Heartening words and assistance have been the norm, far and above any unusual negative focus. Over the years, several men have taken the initiative to speak words of guidance, encouragement, and sometimes correction to my sons.  I have never sensed any resentment in my boys for things members have said to them. Instead, I find my children deeply respecting many people in our church.

A year ago I was asking my oldest son what he wanted to do for a vocation. He responded by asking what several men in the church did for a living. Not because of the money he thought they made, but rather because of who he saw them to be as men. He told me in so many words he looked at their families, what they did in and through the Church, the way they engaged others outside their family, their hobbies and interests, and thought to himself- “I want to be like that.”  Remember my confessed anxiety about who would teach them about possible vocations? It has proven to be unfounded. Two different guys took him along to shadow them on their job. These experiences helped A.J. decide what major he will pursue in college. I will bet his first “real” job out of college is related to someone he knows in the church.  Words cannot express my thanks for the way the people of Redeemer have loved my family.  Just this Sunday he was late coming out to the car after church as we were leaving. He texted to tell me a man in the church was talking to him.  This brother in Christ knows A.J. is trying to find a way to go to the college he wants affordably so he pulled A.J. aside to share how God provided for him when he was in a similar situation years ago. His message was for A.J. to trust God and work hard. Wow.  We are a blessed family to have people love us like this. I know they love us because of how they treat my children...and I really have not even begun to count the ways. 

I have no idea what God’s long term plan is for my ministry life, but I know whatever happens, Redeemer has been overwhelmingly loving to us. I have always been willing to spend my life ministering here if God wills, but the brethren’s care for my family makes me earnestly hope this will be so.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

General Mattis on The Importance of Reading

President Elect Trump's apparent pick for Secretary of Defense is General James Mattis.  In his public vetting an email he wrote several years ago about the importance of military commanders reading has come to light.

There are several excellent statements by Mattis in his email.  Check it out here.

His concluding statement captures the essence of his message-

"As a result (of reading), the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields".

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Carl Trueman lecture at Redeemer

What a treat to have Carl Trueman with us last weekend!

Here is the lecture he delivered on Saturday night.

Monday, October 31, 2016

A Prayer for the Church on Reformation Day

I offered this prayer yesterday morning during our worship service- 

Heavenly Father, we come to You praising Your greatness and power.  We worship You as the only true and living God who has reached out to save us to the uttermost through the blood of Your beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  You have sent Your Spirit to make us alive together with Christ and have saved us by Your grace through faith in Jesus so we might be living declarations of Your gracious salvation and the unstoppable power of the gospel.  We thank You for this pause before the beginning of a new week- this day of rest and gladness.  Refresh us with Your Word by sending Your Spirit to give us hunger and thirst for Your righteousness, something we only understand by the revelation of Your Holy Scriptures.

Today we remember the Reformation-that blessed epoch in the history of Your Church when You prompted a revival. You revived a hunger for Your Word. You restored a conviction about the preservation of Your glory alone. You revived conviction about sin. You raised up and equipped people with an incredible bravery to stand against idolatry, institutional corruption, and spiritual deception.  You unleashed the power of Your Word.  You freed Your church from the slavery of darkness, ignorance, and delusion.  With Luther’s hammer falling on the nails that held the 95 theses to the castle door at Wittenburg, a new era had dawned. The Light of Your Word began to shine again. Darkness was exposed, and demons scattered.  Hearts were unchained. Lives were transformed and a movement that could not be stopped had begun.  We are truly thankful for Your work of Reformation through men like Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, and Zwingli. For Calvin and Knox. The French Huguenots, the English Puritans, The Dutch Calvinists, The German Lutherans, and the Swiss Reformed Church.  We praise You for the legacy of doctrinal clarity left by the great creeds and confessions of the Reformation. For the Augsburg, Belgic, and Westminster Confessions. For the Canons of Dort and the Heidelberg Catechism.  Lord, grant that we would never take for granted the importance of right doctrine as it relates to the health and mission of Your Church.  At the same time, as we celebrate a resurgence in the care for biblical clarity, also grant to us a deepened love for You that translates to a loving graciousness toward our neighbors.  In our zeal for right doctrine and biblical clarity, please make us to be gracious, loving, patient, kind, and humble with all.  

Lord, we live in country about to elect a new president as well as other leaders.  Give Your people wisdom and conviction about how they cast their votes in just over a week’s time.  Give Your people a calm sobriety about the outcome- showing Your Church to be a people resting in Your sovereign rule no matter what earthly rulers are on the throne.  At the same time, we ask for a revival in the churches of this land.  Indeed, we pray for a modern reformation. I pray that where the Word of God has been disbelieved or abandoned, that You would bring revival or impose silence.  Allow no person who has been called a pastor to mislead Your people or bring dishonor to Your name by denying Your Word and the one true Gospel.  I pray that You would bring a sweeping conviction and belief about Your Holy Word’s authority and sufficiency.  Make pastors faithful to preach Your Gospel and congregations hungry to feed upon Your Word.  More than good presidents, governors, legislators, and judges- this country needs good and faithful churches.  Please grant revival, reformation, and spiritual vitality to all those places that call upon the name of Jesus so the declaration of the gospel of Your salvation through faith in Christ alone would ring forth everywhere.  

We pray for the Church the world over. Please send Your protective grace to our persecuted brothers and sisters in Syria, Iraq, North Korea, China, Sudan, Yemen, and many countries were Islam dominates. Even this month we learned of a pastor in the Philippines who was murdered by two Muslim crusaders. During this day your people are suffering the world over for the sake of Jesus. They are not arguing over whether Your Word is true, they are dying for it. They are gathering to worship in secret at risk of their safety and life.  Prompt us regularly to pray for our suffering brothers and sisters and give us ways to send help whenever and however we can. In light of the difficult reality for so many of Your people, make us all the more thankful and ready for the ministry of Your Word. 

Please bless the preaching of the Word this morning.  Give our guest preacher clarity of mind, accuracy with the text, and boldness with the message so that Your people may be fed and strengthened.  

Lord God, our heavenly Father, You are so good to us and we thank You. May Jesus Christ be honored through the transformed lives of Your people.  I pray this in the name of Christ, Amen.