I am so blessed. I hope you have a great thanksgiving holiday! Thank you for reading Life in the Kingdom and for your encouragement.
A church member who worked in the book industry gave me this Bible last night. It looks completely normal from the outside. But every page is completely blank on the inside. The publisher made a mistake in the printing. As I was showing Ryan, our youth minister this Bible, it hit us that many could …View full post
The holidays are approaching. For the dominant culture it is welcomed and anticipated as the “most wonderful time of the year.” Yet, for many it is a time they have been dreading. The calendar is marked off not with anticipation, but with anxiety and fear. They wonder how they will get through the holidays. If …View full post
This past week we went to the Cincinnati area for a vacation with my parents. We left Sunday after worship and drove to Petersburg, KY. We planned to visit the Creation Museum on Monday. But Caleb, our 2 year old, had different plans. He got sick with a stomach bug and we were up with …View full post
This past Sunday I was scheduled to preach on “What will heaven be like?” As I began preparing for this study. I wanted to focus on some texts besides Revelation 21-22. Revelation 21-22 are a highly symbolic description of heaven, that should not be stretched beyond the context of Revelation. As I began to study …View full post
Austin turned 10 yesterday on November 5th. We are proud of the young man he is becoming. He gave his first sermon on Tuesday of this week. Austin has been leading prayers, reading scripture, and leading songs for years, but after last month’s nursing home devos I encouraged him to deliver the lesson. He was …View full post
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A church member who worked in the book industry gave me this Bible last night. It looks completely normal from the outside. But every page is completely blank on the inside. The publisher made a mistake in the printing.
As I was showing Ryan, our youth minister this Bible, it hit us that many could go for days, months, and maybe years with never realizing there Bible was blank. Obviously, folks would likely thumb through the Bible when they received it, but how long does their Bible just sit on the shelf?
If the Bible is not read and studied, is there any difference in it being blank?
Give it some thought.
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The holidays are approaching. For the dominant culture it is welcomed and anticipated as the “most wonderful time of the year.” Yet, for many it is a time they have been dreading. The calendar is marked off not with anticipation, but with anxiety and fear. They wonder how they will get through the holidays. If they could just skip from November 26th till January 2nd they would. But they must pass through these days.
For those in grief and mourning the holidays are a particularly hard time of year. This may be the first “holidays” without a spouse, parent, son, or daughter. But whether it is the first or the twentieth family holes seem to be even wider during the holidays. The sense of loss and hurt can be great. Couple this with social expectations and cultural pressure to be merry, host family gatherings, and be thankful, and it is no wonder mourners want to “skip the holidays.”
This morning I was reading from the book of Esther. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, was in mourning. He had dressed himself in sackcloth and ashes. He was in deep grief over a new law which meant death to him and all of the Jewish people. When Esther heard of his mourning and distress, “she sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them” (Est. 4:4).
Mordecai had the right response for a grieving person. It is the response, which many in our culture need to be willing to do. Our culture, especially during the holidays, wants to force happiness and cheer on everyone. Yet, some are in grief. They do not need to be forced to move on and “change cloths” They need to be able to remember and grieve their loved one as they desire. Grief is a very individualistic experience. We process loss with different emotions and in different ways. Often what works for one, will not work for another.
Friends and family need to be willing to love, support, and encourage. They need to be willing to cry and weep. Family traditions may need to be modified. New traditions may need to be started. Extra patience and love needs to be displayed.
Yes, it can be unhealthy to be stuck in one particular stage of grief. We certainly want to be on guard against substance abuse, long-term clinical depression, and loss of faith or church involvement. But let’s also allow people to grieve. Give others the right to not be “happy” during the holidays. Give them the freedom to do what they can do! Let them talk about their loved one. Give them the opportunity to cry and share memories from the past.
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This past week we went to the Cincinnati area for a vacation with my parents. We left Sunday after worship and drove to Petersburg, KY. We planned to visit the Creation Museum on Monday. But Caleb, our 2 year old, had different plans. He got sick with a stomach bug and we were up with him till 3:30 a.m. So we decided to delay the Creation Museum trip and drove north to the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio. This was our first visit to the Great Wolf Lodge, but we hope it will not be our last. The GWL was a perfect hotel for a family with young children. We went to the huge indoor water park on Monday.
On Tuesday, Amanda woke feeling puny with the stomach bug. The kids and I played a scavenger hunt style game called MagiQuest at the hotel where you buy a wand and go on various missions. The kids really liked it.
Then we went back to the waterpark that afternoon. The hotel also had an arcade and bowling that the kids got to enjoy as well. The GWL was so nice, because it had everything and you didn’t have to leave. We did leave to go eat some and also ate some in the room. We had lots of fun with family.
On Wednesday, our last day, we headed back south and went to the Creation Museum. Here are some of my thoughts on the museum, though I must say I cannot give a thorough review as we were there on a cold day so we did nothing outside. We were also fairly tired and had to drive the rest of the way home on Wednesday so we had incentive to not stay too long.
- The museum is top-notch in quality and technology. It was well-organized and impressive with its “look.”
- We really liked the use of animatronics and the emphasis on God’s Word vs. man’s word.
- It involved more of the overall story of Genesis and mankind rather than just a scientific focus on creation. It told the story of Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and Babel. It emphasized sin and Jesus’ atoning death on the cross.
- The staff were very helpful, kind, and passionate about their work.
- Much of the information and displays were for kids at least 7th grade and up. Most of the information was more depth than my children 10 and under needed or could understand.
- As you might expect there was a big focus on dinosaurs and explaining about them. But you might not expect to see so much information about the flood of Noah. As Amanda said, “it was all about the flood.” Answers in Genesis see the flood as being the key to explaining many of the questions about our current world. I don’t disagree with this, but there was way more flood information than I expected.
- The restaurant at the museum had really good food that was reasonably priced.
- The gardens, petting zoo, and other outside activities looked really good, though as mentioned above we didn’t do anything outside because of the cold weather.
- The planetarium is a significant extra cost. We had a special deal through Cincy Savers that provided our tickets. It was a good show, but not sure it would have been worth the cost for young kids. It was pretty technical.
- Finally, it was so refreshing and encouraging to go to a museum that gives God the glory and honor for His creation. It deals with the major themes and topics today in the debate and gives lots of strong information in support of creationism.
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This past Sunday I was scheduled to preach on “What will heaven be like?” As I began preparing for this study. I wanted to focus on some texts besides Revelation 21-22. Revelation 21-22 are a highly symbolic description of heaven, that should not be stretched beyond the context of Revelation. As I began to study passages, especially John 14:1-7, it hit me. Heaven is not about the WHAT, but the WHO!
People today get all consumed with trying to figure out what heaven will be like. Best selling books have made millions claiming after-death experiences or heavenly visions. Whether it is a neuro-surgeon or a little boy, people have been hungry to find out about heaven. When people discuss heaven it is often in earthly terms. The golfer dreams of going to heaven to play courses greater than Augusta National ever could be. The hunter believes he will kill the buck of his dreams. The tired and wearied dream of a relaxing eternity on the beach reading books. Yet, to many the Christian view of heaven is down-right boring. Like a church service that never ends with endless singing and preaching. For the preacher who tries to explain heaven, even those sermons that give characteristics and details of the place from Revelation 21-22, there is still something missing. Heaven is a spiritual place, and we often try to use physical terms to describe it.
So, as I looked back on the Scriptures in the New Testament that discuss heaven and motivate Christians to want to go there, I discovered they do not focus on the “what,” but the “who.” When Jesus’ apostles were concerned about his departure, Jesus comforts them by pointing to heaven. He doesn’t focus on the “WHAT,” but rather on himself! He promises to “come again” and take us to himself, that “where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). When Thomas doesn’t know how to get to this prepared place, Jesus says that He is the “way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus focuses on himself!
Paul had a desire to depart and be with Christ.¹ He believed that being away from the body was to be at home with the Lord.² John wrote that we would be like him.³ Even in the description of the heavenly city in Revelation the main emphasis is the intimate fellowship and union with God and Christ.¹¹
Yet where is our emphasis today? Examine our songs we sing in church about heaven. We sing about the “what,” not about the “who.” Yet, Jesus and his Apostles didn’t emphasis the “what,” oh yes, heaven will certainly be beautiful and a great reward, but the motivation for our going was God! We should want to go to the “Father’s House.” We should desire to be with Jesus.
Yet, the “who” of heaven isn’t only God, but also extends to all the redeemed. Want it be fascinating to be with the righteous we have read about in the Old and New Testaments? Want it be wonderful to be with our beloved brethren and family members who have died in the Lord? Heaven isn’t about having everything we ever wanted, but being with the ones we have longed to be with! Heaven is not about stuff, but about relationships.
Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love quotes John Piper asking this question, “Would you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”
Heaven is not about the WHAT, it is about the WHO!
This means we should focus on loving God today, and not be distracted with speculation and selfishness related to the WHAT of heaven.
You can listen to the sermon here.
¹ – Phil. 1:20-23
² – 2 Cor. 5:1-9
³ – 1 John 3:1-3
¹¹ – Rev. 21-22
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Austin turned 10 yesterday on November 5th. We are proud of the young man he is becoming. He gave his first sermon on Tuesday of this week. Austin has been leading prayers, reading scripture, and leading songs for years, but after last month’s nursing home devos I encouraged him to deliver the lesson.
He was eager to accept the challenge. I gave him the choice of two texts and he chose Acts 8:26-40. Teaching Austin about sermon preparation has also caused me to think about basic sermon preparation. I told him to read the text three times the first day. First to focus on the overall story, next to look at Philip in the story, and finally to read it focused on the Eunuch. I told him to develop his outline around two main themes: What? (what are the main facts of the story) and So what? (what is the meaning of the story for our lives). I encouraged him to consider the story and try to put himself into the perspective of the characters. I tried to emphasize that in preaching you want to always be faithful to share what the Bible is saying.
Austin then got out his notebook and paper and this is the outline he developed.
- God tells Philip to go to the road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. 8:26-27
- The Ethiopian Eunuch is reading the prophet Isaiah. 8:28-33
- He wants to get baptized and does so. Acts 8:36-39
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the Bible. 8:31
- Don’t hold back from being baptized. 8:36-38
- Go teach the gospel.
I was very impressed with Austin’s outline and reading comprehension skills. It also revealed, once again, the simplicity of the Bible in revealing the plan of salvation. A 9-year old boy could read the text and understand what the Eunuch did to be saved, and thus know what we need to do to be saved. Yet, so many adults either neglect to read the Bible, or rationalize not obeying its straightforward message. For example, Austin was able to see that baptism was a part of the Eunuch being saved. Yet, many wish to dismiss this simple teaching.
After developing his outline, I helped him use a concordance and find supportive verses to further teach these points. We added illustrations and discussed presentation. We worked on the introduction and the conclusion. After the lesson was put together, I instructed him to read it regularly and practice it. I watched him a couple of times practicing offering a couple of tips, but primarily encouraging.
Austin did a great job of presenting the lesson twice this past Tuesday at two nursing homes. He did much better than I did at my first speaking occasion. To the tell the truth, he did better than me at my first speaking devo in college. He must get much of his ability and confidence from his mom! He told me he thought the second time went better than the first. He told his mom, he was going to be like dad and preach the same sermon three or more times. He is going to be delivering it again on a Sunday evening with other young men at 7 Oaks on Nov. 16th.
One final note, Austin typically leads some songs at the devos. He is a better song leader than myself. Since Ryan, our song leader couldn’t be there, and Austin was speaking I had to lead some songs. But I had help. I got Landon, my five year old with a booming voice, to lead three songs, and Austin sat behind me and sung loudly trying to help me out. He was really worried for me and doubted my abilities. Probably won’t be long and he will be replacing me in preaching too!
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- A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one-self.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
Doesn’t this sound like the world you live in? It certainly does to me. This study focused on the religious convictions of teenagers in America, but in many ways accurately conveys the views of the majority of adults. Christian Smith calls this philosophy or religious movement across our nation “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”, or MTD.
This is the best analysis of the current religious climate that I have seen. It concisely describes what is going on in our culture. Christians must recognize the prevailing attitudes and actions of our culture. MTD makes God into a “divine butler” that is there when you need him. The emphasis is not on what you do, but how you feel. There are at least four major problems with MTD that Christians should consider.
- No standard of God’s word. Our culture has become like Israel in the days of the Judges when the refrain was “there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Jesus makes the Word of God the standard of judgment (John 12:47-50). Today’s religious climate makes feelings supreme. The Word of God is not viewed as the authority. In many ways MTD represents our modern day idolatry, where we craft our own god!
- It strips the responsibility and repulsiveness from sin. Our culture has buried sin, not even wanting to speak of it. Paul in Romans teaches that all men have sinned and it pays in death (Rom. 3:23, 6:23). Jesus came to seek and save the lost. People are lost because of sin.
- It devalues the atonement and righteousness of God. After describing man’s problem of sin in the early chapters, Paul then explains how Christ paid the price for our sins with His blood (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:6-11). God is righteous and can have no part in sin, but He is able to reconcile himself to humanity through the offering of His Son. MTD cheapens God’s grace and makes the cross of Christ foolish. Mankind needs a Savior, not a butler!
- It misunderstands the Person of God and the nature of man. God is the Creator. MTD illustrates how most Americans do not know the characteristics of God. God is holy, jealous, love, just, good, wrathful, and long-suffering. He will bring the world into judgment and has promised heaven and hell. Man is the created being whose purpose is not just pleasure, but to bring glory and honor to God. Our greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength and love our neighbor as ourself. It is not to seek your own happiness.
MTD and Christian Smith’s study accurately gives a generalization of the current religious climate in America. It is impacting all of us and will have significant impact upon future generations. Christians must be aware of these attitudes and teachings in our culture and point out the problems with these philosophies.
I must give credit to David Shannon and his lecture on this topic at Polishing the Pulpit.
Also, I will have upload a sermon on this topic later in the week.
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Today is Halloween 2014. Many people will wear a mask of some sort for their costume. These are physical masks, but people also wear masks all through the year. In fact, all of us are guilty at times of wearing masks to hide ourselves. Adam and Eve immediately tried to hide themselves from God when they sinned.
Why do people wear masks in life?
- For protection and safety. Many wear a mask because they fear others. When we carry deep emotional wounds and scars it is difficult to allow our true self to be known. We don’t want to open ourselves up to more hurt and pain. So we wear a mask pretending to be someone we are not. We fear judgment and rejection.
- We want to deceive. The families in Genesis illustrate this mask. Abraham and Sarah lied about their relationship. Rebekah and Jacob deceived Isaac. The brothers deceived their father Jabob when they sold Joseph into slavery. When we lie, we are creating a deception. We are wearing a mask and hiding the truth.
- Because of the expectations of others. Some people are trying to live up to an expectation set for them by a parent, grandparent, or spouse. This can often have positive effects, but it can also cause people to act like someone they are not. They end up living their life for the other person. They are hiding their true self.
- Because of the desire for sinful pleasure. Sin loves to be in the darkness. Satan will convince us to keep our sins secret. To act like a “good Christian” while enjoying our fleshly pursuits. Many people are wearing a mask when it comes to addictions to drugs and pornography. Some wear a mask for months as they hide an affair from their spouse.
What should you do with your mask?
We all need to honestly consider what mask we are wearing and to what degree. When we discover we are wearing masks we need to be willing to do three things.
- Quit denying you are wearing a mask. You have to admit your dishonesty. You have to admit your burden. You have to be willing to make peace with who you are and stop hiding your soul.
- Determine to be transparent and vulnerable. Do you have any truly intimate relationships? Family or friends which you can trust to share your sins, heartaches, and struggles. You have to swallow your pride and quit being a poser and let people come along side you and walk with you. Vulnerability is really a dependence and trust issue. You can’t make yourself vulnerable to everyone, but choose wisely and have some friends you can trust.
- Depend on God. Ultimately we have to come to grips with who we are before God. We must come to accept God’s abounding grace and mercy. It is easy to not even be open and honest about our relationship with God. We try to wear a mask before God. Yet, God can see right through it! Ultimately the mask we want to wear before this world is the mask of Christ. We find peace and acceptance in Him.
So this Halloween take off more than a costume, take off your masks and let your true self and your needs be known. You don’t have to hide any longer!
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If your wife wrote a journal or spoke about your love and service to her, what would she say?
Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian writer, tried to follow the teachings of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, he failed miserably to live out what he preached. His marriage was certainly not what God would have desired, and his faith and actions resulted in her having bitter feelings. Here is what she wrote about him as a husband.
“There is so little genuine warmth about him; his kindness does not come from his heart, but merely from his principles. His biographies will tell of how he helped the laborers to carry buckets of water, but no one will ever know that he never gave his wife a rest and never—in all these thirty-two years—gave his child a drink of water or spent five minutes by his bedside to give me a chance to rest a little from all my labors.”
One time after being concerned for his safety when he was out in a storm he returned to her crying and upset. His reply was, “So what if I went out? I’m not a little boy, I don’t have to tell you.” She felt anger with him, saying, “I devote so much love and care to him, and his heart is so icy.”
Sadly, Sofia Tolstoy is not the only wife who could say such about her husband. But more importantly would your wife say such? I know you may have your defenses and excuses, but is she bitter about your love and service to her?
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to tell husbands to nourish and cherish their wives as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:29). Husbands are to love their wives, which clearly involves serving and helping them in their tasks. If you are not helping and serving your wife to make her life easier and communicate your love, then just expect her to be embittered toward you. She will not feel loved, nourished, and cherished. She will feel used and unappreciated.
What would your wife say? Now do something today to serve your wife!
The Jesus I never knew you – by Philip Yancey – p. 138
Website – http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/jun/02/sofia-tolstoy-diaries
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The title is certainly audacious. You may even think a bit vain and arrogant.
I certainly am not claiming to be a great lectureship speaker. In fact, I have only spoken at a few lectures.
But I have listened to hundreds of lectures over the years at various events in our brotherhood. I have spoken to lots of preachers about lectures. There is always one typical common denominator, in what I think and what I hear, that makes a speaker successful at a lecture.
It is not a dynamic presentation.
It is not wonderful illustrations.
It is not thorough research and tremendous scholarship.
It is not a great powerpoint.
It is not a wonderful transcript.
It is not a handout.
I understand that various approaches can be taken to a given topic. Yet, often what the attendee expected, is not what they received.
The general rule still exists in most attendees minds – a speaker is successful when they deliver the information they went to hear. It is hard to choose which lecture you attend. Typically there are multiple ones you consider attending with various competent speakers. So you choose to go to a lecture because you want to learn about the topic.
Nothing is more disappointing than getting in the lecture and the speaker not staying on the topic. This frustrates lectureship planners to no end. Speakers need to consider seriously their assigned topic and stay on it. Even if they think something else is more interesting, pertinent, or makes for a better presentation. They should adequately deal with their assigned text, topic, or question.
If you want to be a great lectureship speaker just do your best to consider how the attendee will read and understand your topic and then present information about that topic in your lecture. And please if the topic is a question — answer the question; at least share your opinion.
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