Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reflections From This Past Lord's Day at Oakdale.

We had a special speaker come and preach God's Word this past Lord's Day at Oakdale Evangelical Free Church. Terry Baxter is the co-founder and executive director of Global Compassion Network. He has served as a pastor, and an evangelist, and is now also running for the Iowa State House of Representatives in district 8.

Terry's message was titled, "Preparing His Bride for His Soon Return."  He spoke a little from Ephesians 5:25-27, then mostly from 2 Chronicles 7:11-14. Terry's main theme from these texts were that Christ is and will "present His church to Himself in splendor, without spot of wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). Christ will accomplish this through sending revival to His church, and revival will come soon since His return will be soon. Terry then revealed the seven key principles of revival from God's Word found in 2 Chronicles 7:11-14.

There were two main truths that stood out to me in the message. The ironic thing is that they were nothing new. Nothing out of the ordinary. They are just basic truths and what should be common practices for disciples of Christ and churches everywhere. They were the fact that in order for a church to see renewal and revival they must be faithfully preaching the Word of God and praying for God's work of transformation to come to their lives and the lives of those around them.

That is it. The Word of God and Prayer. How often do we hear this? How many times have you heard sermons on the importance of the Word of God and Prayer in the Christian's life and in the life of a congregation, and yet we struggle to actually read God's Word consistently, and please don't ask us how often we pray!

One thing I have heard so often from people who are supposed to be disciples of Christ is how we need to "keep things fresh" on Sunday mornings. You know, maybe do something a little different then just preaching sermons and praying. Like what will make all the difference in the life of our church is if we do something creative every other week that's never been done before. Some would rather hear people share about their lives then to hear what God would have to say to us in His Word. Yet, true, Biblical revival will never come to a church that ignores His Word and believes they are too busy being creative to take time to pray. God's people will never be fed unless its shepherds are committed to providing meals filled with the meat of God's Word with the goal of proclaiming the whole counsel of God.

I was challenged and encouraged to think about revival and to believe that God can do it and will do it. May we long for Him, and faithfully listen to His Word and cry out to Him in prayer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Barn Razing.

Our church decided it was time to tear down the old barn that stood behind our house (the parsonage). This barn used to house the Oakdale pastor's horse, milking cow, and chickens.
Here is a look at the back side. I believe the little 2 x 8 ft. addition that is sticking out was put in so the pastor could store his car in the barn back in the 50's. 

We used the barn to provide shelter for our dog Scout, until we had to move her to my sister's place. It also was used to store the church's lawn mower for the past several years.
Here is our friend Vernon moving his excavator off the trailer to tear it down.

Packer and Luther were very excited to watch this from the window. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay to watch the barn razing as we had family plans for the day.
Our backyard sure looks different now. We can see the trees along the river behind our house. I discovered yesterday morning that wild turkeys like to roost there.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ten Ways to Excercise Christlike Headship for Husbands.

From Owen Strachan at CBMW:

10. Christlike male headship means that you see the spiritual nourishment of your wife as your primary duty (Eph. 5:28-30). This doesn’t happen by accident; it happens as, on a regular basis, you open the Bible with her, pray with her, and talk about God with her. You don’t need to be a global theologian to read the Bible and pray the Bible, right?

9. Christlike male headship means that you love just one wife. Like Jesus, who loved only his bride, you have eyes for no one else. You save up your affection for her. You live on a continual mission to treasure her and to make her feel treasured.

8. Christlike male headship means that you train yourself to know the Lord in a vibrant way. You recognize that your family will only flourish under your leadership when you are flourishing in Christ. This means being in the Word regularly and praying regularly and being a faithful church member. You don’t have to be a spiritual all-star, future biographers poring over your Moleskins for clues into your thinking. You do need to be faithful to your Savior by the Spirit’s awesome power (Romans 6, 8).

7. Christlike male headship means on date night/vacations, you think first, “What would she like to do?” not, “What would I like to do?” If you’re on vacation or a date, you’re first trying to find activities she would enjoy. With apologies to 1990s-era bracelets, I try to ask myself, WWBL—what would Bethany like? For you, this may mean that you forgo a war museum, a basketball or baseball game, or a superhero movie. Then, not only do you find something she would like to do, but you enter into it fully. You’re present with her. She will love you for it.

6. Christlike male headship means that at dinner, after a long day at work, you hold the baby so your wife, frazzled from kids and home, can eat first. Your food is getting cold; your stomach is growling. You are hungry, and mannishly so. But you hold your child so that the woman who sacrificially gives 100% of her energy each day to care for your children can, at the very least, eat a hot meal. You can’t make childraising easy; it’s always challenging. You can, however, make it more pleasurable.
Read the whole article (and the top 5 exercises) here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Brothers, Are You Making an Idol of Football?

Pastor Kevin DeYoung has another insightful and very helpful article for each of us guys who enjoy our football. Read it here.

Here is my favorite paragraph:
Americans love football like the rest of the world loves. . . .football. Except in our football the action takes place six seconds at a time and the players pretend they are NOT hurt.

Then here are his three questions to help diagnose possible football idolatry:
1. Is ministry and worship on the Lord's Day compromised by my allegiance to football on Saturday and Sunday?
2.  Are my emotions all out of whack?
3. Can my conversation go deeper than football?
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Some Help to Protect Yourself Online.

Tim Challies has done us a favor by sharing these 5 things to protect ourselves from online bandits who want to hack into our personal accounts. Read the whole thing here for it all to make sense, but here are his 5 things:

1) Use Good Passwords.

2) Use Unique Passwords.

3) Use Two-Factor Authentication.

4) Use a Password Manager.

5) Schedule an Audit. 

Read the explanations here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Do You Feel "Disconnected" At Your Church?

Read this from Erik Raymond:
It is a common phrase spoken by Christians and wrestled with by pastors, “I don’t feel connected at church.” The pastoral burden is for all Christians to be thriving in and through the ministry. When we hear something like this we immediately go into “fix-it” mode. Often times we even attempt to construct some structure around the person to help them feel connected.

But what if this didn’t help anyone? What if the problem wasn’t the ministry but the individual? What if the disconnection we feel is actually the consequence of selfishness?*

Catering to selfishness will never cure selfishness, it only fortifies it.

I find it fascinating that the church, on every level, as she applies the gospel, is self-denying. In fact, the lion’s share of the NT imperatives (commands) are calling us away from serving ourselves by serving others (i.e. Ephesians 4-6).

What follows is a list, some help for those who are aiming to feel connected at church.
Read the whole thing here. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's Got to Be More Than Just a Slogan.

Read Jared Wilson's truth-filled article on when we think a little too much of ourselves as a church.

Here is a good taste of it:
See, nobody ever said, “We changed our music style and revival broke out.”

Nobody ever said, “We moved from Sunday School classes to small groups and the glory of God came down.”

Nobody ever said, “You would not believe the repenting unto holiness that happened when our pastor started preaching shorter sermons.”  (I’m just sayin’.)

No, all those things and more can be good things. Done for the right reasons, those can be very good moves to make, but the glory of God is best heard in the proclaimed gospel of Jesus Christ. So that’s where the glory-aimed church is going to camp out. . . 

Over and over again, from Old Testament through New, we learn the foundational truth echoed by the Westminster divines, that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We make realized the 5th of the Reformational solas: Soli Deo Gloria, “to God alone be the glory.”

A gospel-centered church makes that not just a spiritual slogan but her spiritual blood. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the nicest church in town. That’d be nice. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the most popular church in town. That’d be cool. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the smartest church in town. That’d be okay.

No, a gospel-centered church doesn’t aim to be the anything-est church in town because it’s not comparing itself to other churches, but to the holiness of God, which will shrink the church down to size in its own estimation and make her hunger for the holiness that only comes from the riches of Christ in the gospel. A gospel-centered church aims to be a gospel-proclaiming church in town. Because that would be glorious.

A gospel-centered church is okay with its own decreasing — in reputation, in acclaim, in legacy, even in (gasp) numbers, but especially in self-regard — so long as it serves the increasing of the sense of the glory of God.
Read the whole thing here. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Wise Words for College Students (and All Believers) About Alcohol.

Kevin DeYoung with some needed counsel for college students, especially freshman, on whether or not to go to that drinking party.

1. Know what you’re up against. Like a good AA course, the first step is admitting we have a problem. Binge drinking is so bad that when researches tried using Breathalyzers at parties and bars it only encouraged students to drink more. No matter how many bad consequences are put in front of students–drunk driving, addictions, unwanted sexual intercourse, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, decreased performance in school–they don’t offset the two perceived benefits of drinking: it’s liberating and a good excuse.

Students thinking of alcohol as “liquid courage.” It makes them more fun, more adventurous, less tied to inhibitions. On the latter, drinking is seen as a convenient way of avoiding personal responsibility. The sober girl who hooks up with a complete stranger might be considered a slut. But if she’s drunk, then it’s not really a mark on her character; she just had a few too many. Likewise, many students feel justified if they miss class or perform poorly because of a hangover. No matter what people tell them about the possible dangers of drinking, getting drunk for many college students, is the best way to have fun. And whatever negative consequences may come, these are thought to reflect on the alcohol not on the individual.

Take almost any college in the country, especially the big state schools, and I can just about guarantee that the biggest obstacle to Christian discipleship is not Richard Dawkins or Bart Ehrman or all the heady objections to Christianity that our apologetics are meant to counter. We need apologetics. I’m 100% for taking every thought captive to Christ. But for most 17-22 year-olds the most common temptations to sin are alcohol and sex. Even when there are intellectual objections to Christianity, these are often just cover for a debauched lifestyle. Tens of thousands of college students will walk away from the church this year, or never give it a chance, because their main goal each week is to get smashed and hook up. Rare is the campus ministry that needs to talk about Derrida more than drunkenness.
Click here to read the whole thing, he has 4 more main points. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

God’s Word for The Persecuted and the Persecutors.

     ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Boko Haram in Nigeria and West Africa.  Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen still imprisoned in Iran for sharing his Christian faith. I could go on. Violent persecution against the Christian church is quite active and seemingly unstoppable in various parts of the world. The reports are incredibly heart-breaking and sad. We must pray and seek the Lord’s help for our fellow Christians and for justice to be done to their attackers. But we must also look to God’s Word for help in understanding what is going on, and to prepare ourselves for the day when we will be forced to suffer for our faith as well.
     In our study of 1 Peter, we have seen that God has a Word for His people who are being persecuted, and He has a clear Word for those who do the persecuting as well.
     In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter writes, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  The first commands here is for believers to “prepare” their “minds for action.”  They are to prepare themselves to be able to think the right way about the experiences they must live through in their lives most directly, suffering for their faith which is a main theme of the letter. When they encounter opposition for their faith, they must be able to respond to it in the right and the best way, that is by faith and faithfulness. Faith would be right belief, and faithfulness would be rightly living out your right belief. That is the point of the second command, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”   Believing that in the end, God will make all things right. That justice will be fully and finally carried out, and that God’s people will receive their inheritance of eternal life in close personal relationship with God Himself, they will be able to endure with faith whatever their enemies throw at them in this life.
     But God has a Word for the persecutors as well. Words that they would do well to take seriously. 1 Peter 4:5 refers to those who cause suffering for Christians: “but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”  The day is coming when every persecutor, every murderer, every rapist will face Almighty God in judgment. And they will give account to Him. They will face the One who lived, died, and rose again so that His people, the very ones whom they hated and abused in this life, could be with Him forever. Their day is coming. For their sakes may they humble themselves, repent and bow before the King now, rather than face the full brunt of His Wrath then. Let us pray for them as well as for our persecuted brethren.  

(This article first appeared in our church's monthly newsletter for Sept. 2014)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Treadmill Dancing: This is Cool.

Enjoy this one today. I think it is hilarious that nobody seems to be paying any attention to him whatsoever. City people. . . .  (click here to see the video if you get this on email)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Labor Day Encouragement From John Piper.

I was blessed by John Piper's post about our fear that we may be laboring for nothing.

Here are a few quotes:

All of us can become oppressed that our work is of no value. Any one of us can be crushed by the feeling that others do not approve of how we do our work. Who has never felt the pang that he has labored in vain and spent his strength for nothing? When discouragement comes in this form, we need a special weapon to fight the fight of faith.

“The Lord measures the faithfulness of our labor, not our success. I look always to the Lord and not to man.”

As you ponder your life’s labor on this Labor Day, don’t be undone by the thought that you have labored in vain. If you must, say with Isaiah, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.” But then, with great boldness, in defiance of all of Satan’s attacks, speak the rest of the verse: “yet surely my right is with the LORD and my recompense with my God” (Isaiah 49:4).

Then resolve with faith in God’s power (2 Thessalonians 1:11) to live and labor for the rest of your life in the hope that faithful, Christ-dependent labor is pleasing to the Lord. “Our recompense is measured not according to ‘our success’ but ‘our labor.’”

Read the whole thing here. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Moments of Peace.

With our children being ages 7, 4, and 2 sometimes living at peace within our home can be a little difficult. Especially if the children are tired. But there are other times when by God's grace shalom is experienced and enjoyed in our home, if only for brief moments. Here was one of those moments a few days ago.

I was preparing our evening meal in the kitchen and the kids were suspiciously quiet in the living room. So I recognized the need to check in on them. What I found was our children enjoying books with our oldest reading to our youngest, and our 4 year-old enjoying his own book by himself. I thanked God as I went back into the kitchen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Boys, Food, 'Nuff Said.

The families that make up our small group have a lot of boys. This was all of them who were at our last gathering.

Feeding time is when they are both the most quiet and the most obedient. Thumbs up boys!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Church = "A Pillar and Buttress of the Truth."

We have been working through Ray Ortlund's book, The Gospel in our Sunday School class this summer at Oakdale. In chapter 4 Ortlund looks to 1 Timothy 3:14-15 to help us get an understanding of what the church is and what it is called to be. In 1 Timothy 3:15 the church is referred to as a "pillar and buttress of the truth." 

Your church is called to be a pillar lifting high the truth of the gospel. The one truth that will outlast the universe, the one truth that can help sinners and sufferers right now, deserves to be put on clear display. We must not allow anything in our churches to compete with the high visibility of the gospel. A church has no right to act like a community bulletin board down at the local grocery store, covered over with business cards, ads for apartments for rent, notices about lost pets, and other agendas that compete for people's attention. A church exists to be a pillar that holds up the truth of Jesus so obviously that everyone can see it.

But a church is also called to be a buttress. Why? Because the gospel does not feel strong to many people. Other things grab their attention - a new diet plan, a better self-image, getting the kids into the right colleges. Such distractions feel like the key to a better future, while the gospel feels like an itty-bitty lifestyle option for the weekend among those with a religious bent. Many people make their decisions about the gospel based on how it feels. That's where the buttress comes in. A church can offer living and palpable proof that the gospel makes a real difference for real people living in the real world. That is also why we gather - to embody the truth of the gospel together so that people are intrigued by it. As a pillar and buttress of the truth, our churches are God's plan A for world redemption, and he has no Plan B.

Find the book here.  Ray Ortlund is the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Female Gospel Workers are Needed.

(The following is an ad for The great ministry of 20Schemes in Scotland. This first appeared on Challies.com)

Tracy finally reached the end of herself. For twenty-eight years she had been in a relationship with a cheat and a drug addict. Her life was “…a roller coaster, loads of ups and downs. Some times I ask myself when will I ever get off? I have had enough.” She became desperate for the strife and pain to come to an end. Tracy had never been to church and really didn’t know many Christians. Later, she put it this way: “I believed in God, but I thought to become a Christian you had to be perfect. Christians were good people who looked down on us.”

Caroline grew up in a rough part of Edinburgh. Her first experience of church was going to Sunday school as a child. “When I was younger I went to Sunday school because we got free sweets.” As a young teen she turned to drugs and alcohol. “I discovered cannabis, we soon discovered ecstasy and alcohol…I got into the habit of jumping from one relationship to another, always feeling lonely. I just went through life feeling something was missing.” She became pregnant while in a short-term relationship. The father got in trouble with the law and was sentenced to life behind bars. Her only release was more drugs.

Female Outreach WorkersTracy and Caroline both live in schemes, housing developments in Scotland. And both of their lives took a sudden and unexpected turn. Caroline’s friend Tasha encouraged her to start going to a Bible study. Tracy’s husband experienced an extraordinary salvation and encouraged his wife to come to church with him. Both Caroline and Tracy encountered the person of Jesus through the witness of his church. They have been transformed.

Tens of thousands more unreached and unsaved women live in Scotland’s schemes. Many are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Some are trapped in prostitution. Others have experienced a life of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Most are struggling just to provide a safe and loving home for their children.

Female Outreach Workers are essential to successful gospel ministry in Scotland’s schemes.

20schemes is actively recruiting women who will make a two-year commitment to this unique mission field, and join one of our church-planting teams.

Our vision is to see healthy, gospel-centered churches planted or revitalized in housing schemes all across Scotland. There is a desperate need for biblically faithful women to join the work—to befriend and disciple women just like Tracy and Caroline, and to be a part of what God is doing to build his church where there is no church.

Would you pray about joining us? We are praying for many faithful women to begin the journey of becoming a Female Outreach Worker with 20schemes.

To find out more about how you can partner with 20schemes, or to apply to join us, visit 20schemes.com.

(If you got this on email, click here to see the video.)

20 Schemes - Female Gospel Workers from 20schemes on Vimeo.