Monday, November 30, 2009

Sermon texts for December 2009

December 6 Advent part 3: Leviticus 16 -- Do We Recognize Our Need for Forgiveness?
December 13 Advent part 4: Zechariah 7 -- Should We Keep On as We Have?
December 20 Advent part 5: Revelation 21:1-7 -- Do We Remember the First Love?
December 24 Advent part 6: Revelation 21:1-8 -- Do We Long to Be Made New?
December 27 Christmastide/Ministry Sunday: John 4:19-26 -- Worship in Spirit & Truth

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent reflection 6: some Advent blogs

Here are a couple of blogs I’ve come across that are offering some interesting ideas on Advent:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Advent Cartoon 1: Looking Forward


Find this and other great Advent cartoons at Dave Walker's Cartoon Advent Calendar. Also be sure to check out Dave's other church-related cartoons at his website, Cartoon Church.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Prayer 12: What Prayer Does

Last week, I wrapped up a short series on "What Prayer Does" in our Wednesday night Bible Study. In that series, I addressed the "myths" about prayer that are commonly believed today, and the realities about what prayer really does.

This is a summary graphic that accompanied the lessons:

what prayer does

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Advent reflection 5: family practices for Advent

Just as I did last year, I'll reflect a bit on the season of Advent during the season.

If you missed them, be sure to check out Advent
reflection 1 (Labor of Love), reflection 2 (The End of Advent), reflection 3 (What Means This?), and reflection 4 (Teaching Ourselves the Season) from last year.

Here is a small collection of ideas on celebrating and observing Advent as a family:

NOTE: I'm posting this one BEFORE Advent, because you might actually want to plan ahead and actually do some of these.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Honesty in advertising

My friend Ben linked to this brutally honest commercial on his Facebook-- it's hilarious. Why can't more ads be this straight-up?

EMBED-Brutally Honest Mobile Home Commercial - Watch more free videos

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bits & Tidbits, late November 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Prayer 11: resources for leaders

Not long ago, a friend asked for some book recommendations about prayer-- specifically, about the Lord’s Prayer.

I thought I would offer a quick list of suggestions for leaders in the church who wish to lead better in a ministry of prayer-- both praying for others, and teaching others to pray.

  • The Praying Church Sourcebook by Alvin J. Vander Griend with Edith Bajema-- what a great book on leading a church in prayer, including more than 30 different strategies for increasing the opportunities and commitment to prayer in a congregation, and dozens of stories and anecdotes about prayer in various settings and contexts.
  • The Praying Church Idea Book by Douglas A. Kamstra-- the companion volume to the above, this one is even better-- a resource of methods for prayer (more than 40), essays about the leader’s prayer life, ideas for prayer ministry, ideas for prayer in small groups and other group settings, help for prayer retreats, and 49 different ideas for prayer in worship. These two volumes should be in every pastor’s library.
  • Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Ministers by Hughes Oliphant Old-- Dr. Old has dedicated his long and fruitful career and ministry toward studying worship and its leadership, and in this fine (and thick!) volume, he unpacks a lifetime of wisdom about leading in prayer in the context of public worship. Incredibly valuable, and every page offers a nuance, insight, or challenge that will benefit your ministry. (I’m reading it now and getting humbled.)
  • Equipping the Church for Kingdom Praying by Barbara Thompson-- a workbook of sorts, published by the PCA’s Christian Education and Publications department, that is practical and helpful in leading a congregation toward an increased commitment to corporate prayer. This book includes a good essay on the private use of the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Spurgeon’s Prayers-- this little volume (published by Christian Focus) is a great asset for prayer leadership. For one, Spurgeon’s prayers are beautiful, rich, and timeless; I’ve borrowed from these from time to time, and continue to do so. For another, there are two additional elements that alone would be worthy of purchase: a lecture entitled, “The Golden Key of Prayer” and a section at the end called, “Prayer meetings-- as they were and as they should be.” Valuable insight into prayer from this great ancestor of the faith.
  • Earth & Altar: The Community of Prayer in a Self-Bound Society by Eugene Peterson-- in classic Peterson style, this book offers a view of community and spirituality that is contrary to much of what is employed in our culture and society today. While this isn’t a book written specifically for leadership, it is a valuable read for leaders, especially pastors, as we need to lead our congregations toward more prayerful community.
  • Two Are Better than One by David Mains and Steve Bell-- here’s a little guide to making “prayer partnerships” more effective. There is a lot of experience and wisdom from these men, who offer much helpful counsel toward effective prayer and accountability relationships. Be careful of applying this too legalistically, but otherwise a good find.
  • Leadership Prayers by Richard Kriegbaum-- here’s a book that is written in a devotional style, with a prayer and a reflection for each of 30 different categories. This one was written for leaders in the business world, and thus some of the prayers don’t really fit into the church (such as marketing); still, there is a lot to find here.
Books with help on the Lord’s Prayer:
  • Philip G. Ryken, When You Pray, is exclusively devoted toward learning prayer from the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Jerram Barrs, The Heart of Prayer-- the first several chapters of this book deal with learning prayer from Christ through the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Evan B. Howard, Praying the Scriptures, has two chapters on praying the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Matthew Henry’s A Method for Prayer has a chapter on praying the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Richard Foster’s Prayer has a good, if small, section given to the Lord’s Prayer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Setting two personal goals...

I'm setting out to make some healthy changes.

In July 2008, I stepped onto the scale and saw the highest weight I had ever been: 303 pounds. I'm 6'5", so I don't
look very overweight; with clever wardrobe choices, I can mask the extra pounds fairly well. (The double chins are another matter!) But I set out then to do something about it. Marcie and I had done Weight Watchers before, so I started "counting points" and worked hard at it for a few months.

By late October, I was down to 273-- very encouraging progress. I had begun to stall, though, and needed to increase my exercise. I also wasn't getting enough water, and that was slowing the progress substantially.

Then we had Abbey and Caroline, and the holidays were just around the corner. My commitment to any sort of diet, exercise, or other effort ceased completely. I saw my weight slowly start to crawl back up.

I'm now at 287. Still far from where I was at 303, but I need to get back to it. And I need to do it very publicly, so that I have the accountability of everyone's expectations.

I'm starting back onto counting points. I'm also going to start exercising-- I've missed running terribly ever since high school, and hopefully I can get going with that. I'll try the "Couch to 5K" plan and see if my knees can stand it. If not, I'll at least get back on my bike (I miss that from high school, too!).

I have two personal goals in my efforts: to get my weight down to the mid-240s, and to run a 5K by late spring. (An alternative to the 5K goal, if my knees can't take it, is to do a Quarter-Century by myself by early spring on the bike.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

New feed for this blog

For a variety of reasons (they're all boring, I promise) I'm "shifting" this blog to a slightly different location. You won't be able to recognize the change visually, but the important shift comes in this way: the RSS feed is changing.

This means that, if you're one of my tens of readers directly from the feed, you'll need to change your feed reader to the new feed (see below).

If you're one of the folks who reads my posts via Facebook: over the next few days, you'll probably see a lot of my older posts show up again. Sorry for the redundancy.

The new actual address for the blog is: It is official as of tonight; I've just posted my review of Hank Hanegraaff's Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century Edition.

Feed users:
click here for the new RSS feed.

Book Review: Christianity in Crisis, 21st Century Edition by Hank Hanegraaff

I was delighted to read Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century Edition by Hank Hanegraaff. [Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this book by Thomas Nelson in exchange for my agreement to review it.]

When I was in college, the first edition of this book came out. I was floored; I had always had a hunch that guys like Benny Hinn, Robert Schuler, and Kenneth Copeland were more snake-oil salesmen than they were Bible preachers, but I never knew how, to what extent, or just how dangerous they were. Kanegraaff picked their teachings apart astutely, always pointing out from direct quotes where the errors were, and always pointing the reader back to the true, biblical understanding of the same subject.

Incidentally, a friend of mine had the audio-book version, and it was amazing: everywhere there were plain quotes in the printed text version, the audio-book provided an original audio clip of the heretic in question saying exactly what was quoted!

Fast foward almost 20 years, and there are still lots of snake-oil salesmen around. Some of the same guys are peddling their lies, but a whole swath of new folks have emerged on the scene. Hanegraaff faithfully takes these guys on, too: Joel Osteen, Joyce Myer, Creflo Dollar, and others fall flat on their faces as Hank picks their teachings apart.

Two things I really appreciate about this book:
  • First, we're not talking about mere nit-picking or looking under every rock. Hanegraaff reveals the serious errors in the big-picture ideas that these teachers present. They don't simply misspeak or occasionally say something unclearly; these people are perverting the Gospel almost every time they open their mouths publicly, and Hanegraaff reveals this.
  • Secondly, he doesn't do it in a mean-spirited or unkind manner. He's gentle and loving about it, concerned for the souls of the people who listen to these false teachers AND the false teachers themselves. The tone of the book is firm, and even aggressive at times, but Hanegraaff carefully avoids ad hominems and vitriolic attitudes.

(Buy it here from Amazon.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On "conversion"

"Obviously, what Jesus promises is highly desirable. Blessedness, freedom, healing of internal sin, access to eternal life-- who does not gladly hear of such things? Who would not want to celebrate with the King? What hinders us, since he calls to each of us and demands nothing in return?

"But this misconstrues the intent of the goodness whose goal is to lead us to conversion. It is not shown to us so that we might remain what we are. It rather appeals to us to transcend our base drives and free ourselves from coarse desire. For the king remains the king, even when in his grace he opens his banquet to all. All his banquet serves his glorification, even if it bestows great blessedness upon us. The fellowship of those who celebrate with him is not the place to put our contempt for God on display. Nor is it an occasion to assert our resistance against his command. Without our cooperation, God's grace comes to us and lodges with anyone who places trust in it. But to trust in it is to recognize its greatness and treasure its value. For it is to know that it is God's grace. One can no longer live as though grace no longer claimed him, as if it were some negligible trifle or extra ingredient of only secondary importance. Grace, once received, obligates."

Adolf Schlatter,
Do We Know Jesus? p.486.