Saturday, January 31, 2009

Video Bits & Tidbits, end of January

Paul Washer has a lot of insightful and worthwhile comments. His video is a little lengthy, but worth the time:


Michael Wittmer has a good point about where things are and/or are headed in terms of the need for emphasis. Take a look at this short clip:


Designing (or redesigning) a website? Here’s all you need to know about it:


Should the evangelical (and Reformed) church be concerned about the emerging churches? Probably not if they are like Mark Driscoll, a Calvinist/emerging/hipster pastor in Seattle who is introducing hundreds, if not thousands, to the gospel. Watch this ABC News Nightline spotlight on Driscoll:

(HT: Matt)

The power of multiplying discipleship-- visually illustrated:


Finally, here’s one to make you laugh, cry, shake your head, or all three:

(HT: Caroline)

Ah, the power of YouTube.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Prayer 3: Ministry Focus

I mentioned a while back that I would talk about our “Ministry Focus” soon, so I’d better do it!

Our Session (the body of the Ruling and Teaching Elders, gathered to lead the church) has decided that we will establish a “Ministry Focus” for each church year, where we will focus on one aspect of spiritual life and formation and order the ministries of our church around it. We are committed to doing the following as a part of this:
  • Providing specific resources related to the Ministry Focus for individuals and households
  • Enfolding the Ministry Focus into our existing congregational ministries and activities
  • Developing new events, activities, and ministries to advance the Ministry Focus as necessary

Our Ministry Focus for 2009 is
Prayer, obviously.

As an example of how our Ministry Focus is going to take root, here are a few things we’ll be doing over the coming couple of months (if not already) to integrate a Ministry Focus of prayer into our worship:
  1. We have expanded our Prayers of the People a bit, including a few new elements that we will pray for weekly.
  2. I will take a moment to briefly describe a part of our corporate prayers immediately before the Prayers of the People.
  3. We will have several sermons and sermon series on prayer during the course of the year.
  4. I will be including prayer in my explanation and/or application in every sermon.
  5. During the liturgical season of Lent, we will focus on personal and congregational mourning and repentance of sin, and will utilize prayers of lament during our time of corporate confession of sin.

I’m very excited about the idea of Ministry Focus in general, the Ministry Focus on prayer in particular, and how things are already beginning to develop. Keep a watch for regular posts on prayer.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

You CAN'T have "breakfast for supper"

We just had Belgian waffles for breakfast. Our family loves Belgian waffles-- it’s always a popular choice for a special breakfast. In fact, sometimes we even have them for supper.

Which many (far too many) of my friends and peers would call, “having breakfast for supper”. Which I despise so much that it makes my teeth hurt.

I don’t have very many pet-peeves, but this is one: everyone, the word “breakfast” defines a certain meal, NOT a certain food. You cannot have breakfast for supper, any more than you can have supper for lunch or lunch for a midnight snack.

Let’s think this through: why is it called “breakfast”? Because you are, literally, breaking the “fast” of not eating overnight. Thus, it is the meal that we have in the morning (or, at least, after rising from a long sleep). We understand this intuitively, because we realize that it is inappropriate to call it “breakfast” if it is too late in the morning-- then it is “brunch” (which is a mash-up of breakfast and lunch).

The only meal label that is flexible is “dinner” which simply means the largest meal of the day. Dinner can be during lunchtime, which it typically was for much of the U.S. until a couple of generations ago. Dinner can, of course, be breakfast as well. Most folks today, however, assume that “dinner” is simply a synonym for “supper” which it isn’t.

Of course, what people mean when they say, “we had breakfast for supper” is that they had foods typically eaten only at breakfast during the suppertime meal. (And by “people” there I mean Americans, as we are convinced that our cultural experiences are definitive for the rest of the world-- though in some cultures a steak or pork chop is a great breakfast, while sausages are more commonly eaten at other meals, and pancakes are snack foods, etc.) This is simply sloppy use of language; we all KNOW what they mean, but that shouldn’t excuse it.

The self-same people will think nothing of hitting IHOP for supper, and once there will decide that they can’t pass up the buttermilk pancakes. Did the day suddenly invert, and now they have awakened from their slumber to partake of breakfast? Perhaps in a poetic sense, if they want to compliment the cooks at IHOP or punctuate how pleasant it is to pass the time with their date. But I doubt it.

I realize this post puts me in the category of folks who bristle when others can’t get “its” and “it’s” straight, or when some seem confused about whether to use “their”, “there”, or “they’re”. I’m completely fine with this.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sermon texts for February 2009

February 1 Luke 11:14-36 -- Hearing and sight, darkness and light
February 8 Guest preacher Doug Barcroft --- Prayers of thanksgiving
February 15 Luke 11:37-54 -- The dangers of legalism
February 22 Luke 12:1-12 -- Confidence in the face of opposition

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bible knowledge test

How well do you know your Bible?

It’s always difficult to measure, and no measure is completely fair or accurate. Still,
the folks at Christianity Today put together this Bible knowledge test (based on the book What Every Christian Should Know by Jo. H. Lewis and Gordon A. Palmer). A few sample questions (I won’t reproduce the whole thing out of respect for copyright):

Common Bible Sayings
  1. Am I my brother's _____?
  2. Daniel in the _____ den
  3. Do unto _____ as you would have them do unto you.

In the Bible

  1. Name the first four books of the New Testament.
  2. In what book of the Bible is the Christmas story found, the version familiar to most people?
  3. What is another well-known name for "the Evil One"?

More Common Bible Sayings

  1. Death, where is thy _____?
  2. Don't hide your _____ under a bushel.
  3. Gold, frankincense, and ______.
  4. I am come that they might have _____ and that they might have it more abundantly.

Sayings that May Surprise You

  1. A good name is better than _____.
  2. Giving honor unto the _____, as unto the weaker vessel
  3. Four _____of the Apocalypse

There’s a lot more, plus an answer key. Take the test-- and report your scores in the comments, if you will! (No judgement here; I’m just curious...)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Prayer 2: How to pray for the President

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. ~1 Timothy 2:1-4

Scripture clearly portrays the faithful follower of Christ as one who extends respect, submission, and regular prayer to the leaders and authorities that God has placed over him or her. In our Ministry Focus on prayer this year, one of the lessons we might learn is how to pray for the President of the United States, who God has sovereignly and providentially given to us.

Here are some ways that you might be in prayer for the President:
  • That, above all else, he would humble himself in the sight of the Lord, and be exalted by the victory of Christ on the cross to atone for his sins and bring him into a reconciled relationship with God the Father.
  • That he would love his family faithfully, and in the face of the pressures and stress of the presidency remain committed and able to be the husband and father that God has created him to be.
  • That God would grant him wisdom, courage, and commitment to lead and serve the citizens of our country faithfully and well, and that he would not bow to the idols of esteem, power, or pandering even when all around him beg him to do so.
  • That his presidency would be marked by love, mercy, justice, and truth at every turn and in every decision.
  • That he would be quick to repent, publicly when necessary, owning his failures and fallibility and resting in the grace of Christ, not in the illusion of moral, ethical, or political perfection.
  • That God would grant him humility and repentance in the face of wrong policies and positions, and that he would search the Scriptures, his own conscience, and the counsel of the Body of Christ for wisdom and discernment in each decision, policy, signing of law, or other act; and that, with a teachable spirit and humble mind, he would readily reverse even his own decisions when convicted by the Holy Spirit that he erred in them.
  • That God would use him as an instrument of grace, justice, truth, and reconciliation, both within our country and across the world, and that he would be known more as a man of peace than a man of the sword.
  • That he would know his own strengths, and that he would use them for the good of the country and the world, not merely for the good of his own political agenda or that of his political party.
  • That he would know his own weaknesses, and that he would own them freely, granting room for those whose strengths complement his weaknesses and humbly delegating leadership to them for the good of the country and the world.
  • That he would find love, respect, and support from Christ’s church as we fulfill the commands of Scripture, and that we, the church-- through our actions, our attitude, and our prayers-- might encourage him ever closer to Christ.

Monday, January 19, 2009



One of my former co-workers once said to me, “I don’t get this whole Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.”

I said, “Have you ever read, listened to, or watched his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech?”

“No,” he replied.

That explained it all to me.

This year, MLK Day has peculiar significance, as you know. If YOU don’t “get” it, then let me offer the following as an introduction to what makes it so important.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian Pastor and preacher, and was compelled by the convictions of his faith to speak out against the oppression and racism that was so prevalent in his day, and in many ways remains so in ours (if perhaps more subtly at times). His speech-- almost a sermon-- entitled, “I Have a Dream,” draws on the heritage of our country and what the ideas and principles behind the constitution stand for; more importantly, though, it draws even more heavily on biblical themes, particularly themes of redemption, love, and longing for glory, and is a heralding call to everyone-- ESPECIALLY Christians-- to live out these biblical principles.

In short, King responded to racism, hate, and oppression by calling for MORE Christianity, and a closer adherence to biblical Christianity.

Here is the text of “I Have a Dream”:

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Here is the speech on video:

Friday, January 16, 2009


I’ve commented (not on the blog) about the fact that I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. Part of that is due to the fact that I started working fairly early-- #2 began when I was only 14, while #3-7 all happened while still in high school. Part of it, too, is due to the fact that I’ve sometimes had to hold more than one job at a time. And part of it is because I had a few jobs that just didn’t work out.

Mostly, though, I’m pleased to say that most of the people I have worked for have expressed gratitude for my work, and indicated that they were sad to see me go. I’m grateful that my father, my mother, and the man who discipled me through college-- along with some better managers and bosses-- instilled a strong work-ethic in me fairly early on.

So, here’s the master list: all of the jobs I’ve held, starting with the earliest regular job I had (mowing the lawn and cleaning the pool for my family, which I started doing when I was big enough to push the lawn mower at age 11!). These are only the jobs I had for pay; there were other “jobs” or positions I held, but only as a volunteer, so they are excluded from this list.

  1. Lawn mowing/pool cleaning-- to “earn” my allowance, once it was no longer an allowance but pay for this work. I also mowed for the office building where my father’s office was. (6 years)
  2. Janitor-- in the building where my father’s office was. (3 years+)
  3. Handyman’s Assistant-- helping with room additions, plumbing, carpentry, other various tasks. (1 summer)
  4. General manual labor-- for a neighbor, moving gravel (9 tons) and sand (7 tons) from his driveway, uphill, to the drainage ditch around the pool he was building, with a shovel and wheelbarrow. (2 months during summer)
  5. Gutter-cleaning/Yard work-- good money going door-to-door in my neighborhood. (2 summers and falls)
  6. Clown, juggler, and magician-- I started doing this as a volunteer with a fellow magician friend at a festival, and we were offered paying work at a party. It turned into a regular thing, and was great fun. (3 years)
  7. Host/Server/everything else-- California Dreamin’, a restaurant in Columbia, SC. I started as a host, but I also ran food (=delivered it to tables), worked as a “bar back” (washing glasses mostly), washed dishes, worked in the kitchen, waited tables-- pretty much everything but tend bar (I wasn’t legally old enough) and manage. I consider this my first “real” job, even though I had earned a lot of money already by this point (I was only 17 when I started this one). (14 months)
  8. Server-- Garfield’s, another restaurant. (1 summer)
  9. Timothy’s/Bailey’s-- yet another restaurant; this one was my first introduction to “fine dining,” as it was a really swanky place. The ownership changed right before I started there, and thus the name change. (6 months)
  10. Typist/Transcriber-- “independent.” In 1991 (my freshman year in college), I was one of the only people in my dorm who had a computer of their own, and a handful of guys in my English Composition class hated typing their papers (or simply couldn’t type!). I capitalized on this by offering my services for 5¢ per word, which they gladly paid; since I was already at about 50-60 words per minute, I made pretty good money with this. Even better, when they were assigned the task of editing the papers, they brought the edits to me to prepare-- and I had saved the originals, so they paid twice for many of those words. (Just so you know: I disclosed this fact to them, and they were unconcerned.) I did this for two semesters. (10 months)
  11. TGI Friday’s-- yes, another. This one was weird, as we took a three-week family vacation about a month after I started, and they basically replaced me before I got back. (2 months)
  12. Computer Lab Assistant--University of South Carolina. My first job using my burgeoning computer interests. (6 months)
  13. Theater Technician--University of South Carolina. I worked in the scene studio; hung, focused, and ran lights; worked with the sound systems; organized props; even a little bit in the costume studio here and there. (6 months)
  14. Server-- Key West Grill and Raw Bar. A quick job, mostly because it was so far from where I lived. (3 months)
  15. Landscaping-- for a friend and colleague of my mother’s. I had dropped out of school at this point, and took any work I could get-- clearing lots mostly; my first exposure to a chainsaw. (4 months)
  16. Construction-- again, through my mom’s friend and colleague. I was just about useless to them, so they had me scraping spilled mortar off of concrete slabs with a flat-end shovel-- what a loud and annoying task. (1 month)
  17. Sales/Stock-- Structure. This was my first dip into the retail world, though I spent most of it in the stock room. Nice clothes, but not my style, and there was a lot of pressure to wear them (as well as participate in the employee stock purchase program), and it was a 45-minute drive from my house. (2 months)
  18. Sales-- Be Beep, a Toy Shop. Was a great job, selling toys, putting them together, delivering larger items to some customers, and generally playing with kids and grown-ups alike. I loved this job. (18 months)
  19. Cook/Sales-- Little Caesar’s Pizza. After I left Structure, this was my second job. I learned how to toss dough, and I’m pleased to say I’ll still eat Little Caesar’s pizza even after working there. (8 months) [An aside: it was at this point in my life that I began to learn how to handle multiple tasks and responsibilities simultaneously: I was working two jobs, going to school full-time, serving with Young Life as a Volunteer Leader, and leading the worship team for Fellowship of Christian Athletes-- AND I had a girlfriend.]
  20. Youth Minister-- Southeast Presbyterian Church/Rose Hill Presbyterian Church/ Covenant Presbyterian Church. I started out with Southeast part-time, while still working at Be Beep. (Jobs #20, 21, 22, and 23 also were concurrent with Southeast.) Southeast eventually merged with Rose Hill, and shortly after that I also began to work with Covenant in a united youth ministry. This job was formative in more ways than I can enumerate here. (4 years)
  21. Server/Sales-- Columbia Bread and Bagel Co. I opened, which meant (for a bakery) I went in at 4am. Still, it was a good job, and I learned a lot about bread. I needed something full-time, though. (3 months)
  22. Sales/Lab Technician-- Jackson Camera and Video. I worked mostly in the lab, and I learned a ton about how color photos are processed (prior to that, I had only done B&W in a lab); I also sold cameras, mostly when my co-worker wasn’t there. (10 months)
  23. Sales/Lab Technician-- Columbia Photo Supply. This was a great improvement over Jackson Camera, in part because I did mostly sales here. Great folks to work with and for, and they helped me re-emerse myself in photography as a hobby and business. I only left because I was moving to full-time with the church. (18 months)
  24. Photographer-- independent.” I mostly worked with one guy, who took me under his wing, doing wedding photography. Ironically, he had learned photography from my father, who had taken HIM under his wing. He taught me a ton; I still do this occasionally, even though I’ve “retired” about five times! (13+ years?)
  25. Writer-- “independent.” I started writing a long time ago, but I started getting paid for it in 1998. Since then, I’ve continued to write as much as I can, and every now and then I still get paid for it! (11+ years)
  26. Website Developer-- “independent.” Really, I was a subcontractor for my mom, who needed someone to handle this for the family company. I only did it until she found someone in-house to do it. Still, this was 1998, so there weren’t many folks who could take this on at that point. (7 months)
  27. Youth Minister-- Westminster Presbyterian Church. Having finally finished college, this was my first post-undergraduate ministry job, in Roanoke, Virginia. There were some great folks there, and I still miss a number of the students and families that I worked with, even though it has been almost 10 years. (19 months)
  28. Basketball Coach-- Faith Christian School. A local school in Roanoke asked me to do this while I was serving at Westminster. It was fun, even though we lost every game: almost none of the kids had any organized sports experience, and many had never even played pickup games. We drilled on skills, sportsmanship, and being a part of a team. (5 months)
  29. Construction-- M&M Construction Company. When we first moved to seminary, we were flat broke and still looking for a job for Marcie, plus there were a couple of weeks before my teaching job started. So I worked construction, working on a deck, insulating and drywalling a room, and doing demo. Nice folks, too. (3 weeks)
  30. Yardwork/Landscaping-- “independent.” Again, during the first weeks in St. Louis, I was looking for work wherever I could find it. I found a couple of households that needed some yardwork and landscaping done, and I served them for most of the first semester. (4 months)
  31. House-cleaning-- “independent.” And again-- ad-hoc work during seminary. While I had never planned to return to janitorial work, this family paid well enough to coax me back into it. Unfortunately, they hit financial trouble and couldn’t afford to continue. (2 months)
  32. Teacher/Consultant/Administrator-- Wildwood Christian School. I worked here throughout seminary, and for a year after finishing. I taught Logic, Advanced Literature, Rhetoric, Bible, and a Senior Research Seminar. I also helped them plan for marketing, did a staff evaluation, and organized the administrative side of things for a while. I’m glad to be out of the education world-- at least for now-- but it was a good place to work, and they were good to us. (5½ years)
  33. Photographer-- Covenant Seminary. Apart from a variety of ways that I’ve worked as a photographer “independently” I was also on the staff of the seminary as a photographer for the Advancement department. For a while, many of the shots that were featured in seminary promotional materials were taken by me-- that was pretty neat. (3 years)
  34. Sound Technician-- Francis Schaeffer Institute. The Schaeffer Institute ran a program called “Friday Nights @ FSI” that (ironically) was hosted by Borders bookstores, and they would have speakers address a variety of topics. My job was to run sound for them, record the lectures, and participate in hospitality. This was fun, but it got a little tedious after a while-- every other Friday almost year-round. (2 years)
  35. Adult Ministries Pastoral Intern-- The Covenant Presbyterian Church. This started as a volunteer internship, but after a semester or so the church graciously began to pay me for my work. Mostly, I served one of the Associate Pastors for the church, handling a number of administrative, organizational, and service tasks so that he could focus on teaching and counseling ministry. (2½ years)
  36. Teaching Assistant-- Dr. Philip Douglass, Covenant Seminary. I graded and evaluated a lot of Dr. Douglass’s assignments for several years, and also occasionally worked with students more individually than he was able to do. (4 years)
  37. Consultant-- Douglass & Associates. My relationship with Phil Douglass graduated from T.A. to associate, and I still work with him-- though only vaguely these days-- in this capacity. My work with him as included hands-on work with churches, writing and editing, website development, marketing and promotion. (4+ years)
  38. Computer/Productivity Consultant-- “independent.” During my transition from seminary into ordained ministry, I began working with several families on their Apple Macintosh computers, as well as with productivity and organization. I still do this, though to a much lesser degree. (2+ years)
  39. Pastor-- Hickory Withe Presbyterian Church. Which brings us to the present. My best job yet, and hopefully one I’ll be able to serve in for a long time to come. (1+ years)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sproul on the frequency of the Lord's Supper

Here’s R.C. Sproul discussing how frequently a church should celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper-- or, I should say, outlining some of the arguments on both sides, more frequently and less frequently.

I think Dr. Sproul does a good job of introducing most of the major categories of discussion points on this issue. What do you think?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Prayer 1: Prayer and ministry from Stuart Briscoe

Our “Ministry Focus” for 2009 is prayer-- which I’ll give more details about soon.

As a part of that, I’m going to incorporate thoughts, reflections, quotes, and resources about prayer into my blogging for this year. Here is the first, from Pastor Stuart Briscoe, about how vital prayer is for ministry (of all types-- including vocational ministry, but also the ministry of the laity, Ruling Elders, Deacons, etc.):

Gifting was not enough! Practice might make perfect, but it wouldn't address need in its rawest form. Sharpening skills and improving methodology, polishing technique and being innovative and relevant could not effectively counter the presence of evil I was confronting on a daily basis. I was dealing with issues supernaturally conceived and devilishly exacerbated, and only supernatural counteraction would suffice. I needed to put into practice the third foundational principle of my ministry: Pray that the Spirit moves. I freely admit that my prayer life has been deficient and my growth in this area less than stellar. I believe in prayer but don't always do it. I understand that I'm told to pray, but I don't always obey. I am an activist by nature; I am not contemplative by temperament. I am not happy with this state of affairs and have given much thought to what prayer is, what it does, and what I need to be doing about it. Of a few things, however, I am sure; and over the years I have formulated my convictions as follows: Prayer must be a declaration of dependence-- a heartfelt cry from a frail human being commissioned to speak in the name of the Almighty and to be the agent of his working among strife-torn people. This agent must be painfully aware of his or her limitations of ability and suitability for such a task and cry out for empowering and enabling that alone will suffice to achieve divine ends. Prayer must also be a litany of longing. The promise of overflowing blessing in John 7:37-38 is made to those who are "thirsty"-- those who in recognition of their own needs are willing to freely confess them, are eager to address them, and are ready to "Come and drink," to take whatever steps will release the promised provision, because the desire is so strong and the need so pressing. Bein thirsty signifies a sense of divine discontent with thins as they are, a growing conviction that things could be much closer to what they ought to be, and a willingness to pursue whatever is prescribed. And finally, prayer must also be an expression of expectation-- a humble claiming of the immutable promise of blessing made by the Son of God who cannot lie and a settled assurance that the promised Spirit, through whose activity alone the blessing will flow has been given, is resident within and is more than ready to accomplish that for which he has been sent in and through obedient, dependent servants. This, I am sure, is the kind of praying we need and for which I strive. And in response to this kind of praying, I believe the work will continue to thrive. Thank God that we have many people in our community of faith whose praying is infinitely more effective than mine.

Flowing Streams: Journeys of a Life Well-Lived by Stuart Briscoe. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008, p. 151-152.]

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Books-- read and unread

I’m not usually a “meme” guy-- some blogs I’ve read do a meme or two a week, and I know it can get old for some readers. But this one was appealing, at least because I’m a reader.

The top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users:

Bold the ones you’ve read
star the ones you read for school
italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish
@ the ones you want to read
otherwise comment as desired

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment@
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights*
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose@
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses* (I’m not sure if this is the Joyce version-- if so, then I did NOT read it)
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey*
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities*
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies (@?)
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad*
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner@
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations*
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius@
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales*
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World@
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo* (2x)
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King*
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel@
Angels & Demons
The Inferno@
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest*
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles*
Oliver Twist*
Gulliver’s Travels*
Les Misérables (@?)
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury*
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter*
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye*@
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an inquiry into values
The Aeneid*
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island* (3x-- plus it makes it into a favorite quote about reading...)
David Copperfield*
The Three Musketeers (2x)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sermon texts for January 2009

Here are the sermon texts for January.

Hickory Withe PC members: if you aren’t doing so already, may I encourage you to read each week’s text (and all the other months as well!) before you come to church on Sunday? Perhaps you could close out the day on Saturday with them, or read them with your family after supper on Saturday.

January 4
Luke 11:1-13 -- Learning to Pray, part 2
January 11 Luke 10:1-24 -- The work of the disciples
January 18 Luke 10:25-37 -- Won’t you be my neighbor?
January 25 Luke 10:38-42 -- Two choices

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Books for December / Year-end

I only finished two books in December, and one of them was one I read to the kids...
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (re-read). I read this one out loud to Jack and Molly-- Molly wasn’t quite with us the whole time, but she seemed to like it anyway. Jack loved it, and we’re already working on Prince Caspian now. It’s easy to love these books, especially as they were written to be presented: read aloud to children. (9)
  • The Heart of Prayer by Jerram Barrs. This was a great book that looks at a few of Jesus’ teachings and examples of prayer, considering what we might learn about our prayers from them. Jerram is going to be coming to HWPC later in 2009, and speaking on this topic-- so it’s great to hear from him again on the subject. (I also took a class from Jerram on the Theology of Prayer at Covenant Seminary.) If you’re not familiar with Jerram, think of the most gentle, kind, and gracious person you can imagine, and then think of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and wise person you know-- then put them together, and that’s Jerram. He is beloved as much for his pastoral spirit as anything else, and that spirit comes through clearly in this book. I’d stop short of calling this a “must-read” but if you want a good book on prayer, this is as good a place to look as any. (9+)

Also, I thought I would offer a one-post summary of my reading for the year. (The links in the month names will take you to the original posts, where there is a mini-review about each book.) I ended up with 42 books, which isn’t a clean average of “4 per month” or whatever, but some readers will affirm that 42 is a good literary number anyway. Here’s my reading list for 2008:

  • None

  • How Your Church Family Works by Peter L. Steinke (9)
  • The Challenge of Jesus by N. T. Wright (skim) (A qualified 7+/8)
  • Benedictions by Robert Vasholz (9)
  • The Shadow of the Cross by Walter Chantry (re-read) (9+/10)

  • The Importance of the Local Church by Daniel Wray (re-read) (9+)
  • When Bad Christians Happen to Good People by Dave Burchett (8)
  • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (8)
  • Proper Confidence by Lesslie Newbigin (9+)

  • Surviving Your First Year as Pastor by Angie Best-Boss (5)
  • If It Could Happen Here... by Jeff Patton (8+)
  • The House that Jesus Built by Dale Ralph Davis (10)
  • Eucharistic Bread-Baking as Ministry by Tony Begonja (8+)

  • The Work of the Pastor by William Still (re-read) (10)
  • Wiring a House by Rex Cauldwell (9)
  • With Reverence and Awe by D.G. Hart and John R. Muether (5)
  • Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (re-read) (8+)
  • Ruling Elder by Leonard Van Horn (8)
  • Framing Floors, Walls, and Ceilings by the editors of Fine Homebuilding(4)

  • Effective Small Churches in the Twenty-First Century by Carl S. Dudley (8+)
  • “The Vision Thing” by Don K. Clements (8)

  • None

  • Evangelism in the Small Membership Church by Royal Speidel (3)
  • Waterbrook Press Children’s Extravaganza (children’s books)-- God Gave Us Heaven by Lisa Tawn Bergren, When God Created My Toes and God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall
  • Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the theology of the Lord’s Supper by Ben Witherington, III (7)
  • How to Pick a Peach: the search for flavor from farm to table by Russ Parsons (10)
  • The Lord’s Supper: Eternal Word in broken bread by Robert Letham (re-read) (9)
  • A Handful of Pebbles: theological liberalism and the church by Peter Barnes (7+)
  • The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield (8+)
  • Serving in Church Visitation by Jerry M. Stubblefield (9+)

  • Beyond Bells and Smells by Mark Galli (8)
  • The Power of Speaking God’s Word: How to Preach Memorable Sermons by Wilbur Ellsworth (re-read) (8+)
  • A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion by Trevor Hudson (8)
  • Calls to Worship: a pocket resource by Robert Vasholz (9+)
  • The Encore Effect: How to Achieve Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do by Mark Sanborn (6-)

  • Churched by Matthew Paul Turner (9+)
  • Preaching to a Post-Everything World by Zack Eswine (10)
  • How Would Jesus Vote? by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe (5)

  • Living Streams: Journeys of a Life Well-Lived by Stuart Briscoe (9+)
  • The Crucifixion of Ministry by Andrew Purves (8+)

  • See above.