Monday, October 20, 2014

Some Ways for Us to be Refreshing in our Church.

Jason Helopoulos shared some helpful tips recently on how we can be "refreshing" to others in our church. Read the article here.

Here is a sampling of some of his points:
  • Don’t rush out of church on Sunday mornings. Be one of the last to leave because you are taking the time to talk with everyone you can (this will be hard for the introvert—but some of the most engaging and refreshing people I have served with are introverts. They wear themselves out on Sunday morning). The football games and lunch will be there fifteen or thirty minutes later.
  • Often remind others of the benefits of salvation and the graces that flow from union with Christ. Let it season your conversations.
  • Refuse to speak ill of others in the congregation (Ephesians 4:31).
  • Refuse to listen to gossip or be a purveyor of it (2 Corinthians 12:20).
  • Willingly bear the burdens of others in the congregation (Galatians 6:2). This means praying for them, serving them, giving financially to help those in need, loving when love is not returned, and being quick to forgive.
  • Write thank you notes to volunteers in the church.
  • Rejoice in the Lord and lead others to do the same by your example (Philippians 4:4). Don’t be an agitator, complainer, or “negative-Nelly.” This doesn’t mean we are seeking to be Pollyannish, but rather simply rejoicing in the many benefits we have as those united with the Living God by the blood of the Son.
Read the whole thing here

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Will Christians Be Secretly Raptured?

Pastor Jeramie Rinne has written a very helpful article at The Gospel Coalition to help us think through whether or not the doctrine of the secret rapture of Christians is faithful to what the Bible teaches or not.

Here are a few key insights from his article:
It may come as a shock to learn that many Bible-believing Christians today doubt the rapture, and that most Christians throughout history had never even heard of it.

The doctrine of the secret rapture emerged during the early 19th century through the teachings of John Nelson Darby (1800–1882). Darby was one of the early leaders of the Plymouth Brethren movement, and his teachings became known as “dispensationalism.”
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 But the secret rapture faces biblical challenges as well. There are no biblical texts that explicitly teach it or anything like a two-stage coming of Jesus. Passages that supposedly describe the secret rapture could just as easily be read as referring to the glorious second coming, and in fact have been read that way throughout the church’s history.

For example, the New Testament repeatedly warns that Jesus will return unexpectedly “like a thief” (e.g., Matt. 24:42–44; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). Many read this as describing the any-moment return of Jesus at the secret rapture. However, in each of these passages the context seems to indicate the coming in question is Christ’s public, triumphant return in glory on the Day of the Lord (e.g., Matt. 24:30–31; 1 Thess. 4:16; 2 Pet. 3:10-13).

And then there’s Jesus’ warning that at his coming “two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken, the other left” (Matt. 24:40–41). Doesn’t this describe the rapture? Two people are in the car: one is taken, the other left. Hence the bumper sticker: “In case of rapture this car will be unmanned.”

But again, the “coming” of Jesus to take people (24:39) has already been identified as his coming in glory in the immediate context (24:30–31) without any clear textual indication that another coming is in view. Further, the Old Testament analogy of Noah and the flood suggests that those “taken” are actually the ones swept away in judgment (24:39)!

While it’s possible these texts or others describe a secret rapture separate from Jesus’ return, it’s not clear or, perhaps, even probable. Again, part of what drives the doctrine of the secret rapture is the function it serves in classic dispensationalism to separate God’s current workings in Israel and in the church.
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Remember, the glorious hope of the church has always been in Christ’s triumphant return. Regardless of how you draw your end-times chart, may Jesus himself occupy the center of it.
Read the whole article by clicking here

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

6 Great Reasons to Study Bible Doctrine.

Tim Challies provides us with six great reasons to study Bible Doctrine. I would wholeheartedly agree with him in this article.

Here they are:
Doctrine Leads to Love.
Doctrine Leads to Humility.
Doctrine Leads to Obedience.
Doctrine Leads to Unity.
Doctrine Leads to Worship.
Doctrine Leads to Safety. 

Here is his explanation for his last point on how Doctrine leads to safety.
 Finally, doctrine leads to safety. It protects the church. In Titus 1 Paul says an elder “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” When you know doctrine, you are able to rebuke anyone who wanders from it, and you are responsible for doing so. When you know doctrine, you are able to defend your church from those who would want to lead it astray. A church that cares little for doctrine, and a church without people who know and love doctrine, is a church that will necessarily be blown and swayed by every wind and wave of doctrine.
Read the whole thing here

Monday, October 13, 2014

First Day of School.

Yes, I know this is a bit dated. But here are the first day of school pictures. Esther had to start a few weeks earlier than Packer. She is in the 2nd grade.

Our little guy is beginning school already! This was on his check-in day, which was a week before his actual first day.

We are ready to get on the bus!

Little brother Luther was feeling left out so he decided to wait for the bus too (and would have gotten on with them if we had let him).

Bus driver Les has been waiting to have Packer join his big sister! The moment arrives!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Some Ideas For Prayer in Small Group Ministry.



Within your small group ministry praying with and for one another is both wonderful and essential. Yet it tends to cut into time reserved for other essential things such as Bible discussion, fellowship, and food. 



Here are some tips to make good use of your prayer time:

1.       If you like to share prayer concerns with one another as a group, maybe have people share one main concern that they have this week to pray for. Far too often, a group may take 30 minutes of sharing prayer requests, and then only have time for five minutes of actual praying. 
a.       Ask also for how God has been answering prayers or working through the prayers of His people.

2.       If your group prays in somewhat of a circle, instruct each member to pray for the person who is sitting on their left. This ensures everyone is prayed for, and focuses the prayer time instead of having everybody praying for everybody's needs with each prayer. 

3.       Have a prayer focus other than yourselves. This brings variety to your prayer times and helps us take our attention off of ourselves.
a.       First select a prayer focus. (Missionaries, church ministries, community concerns, loved ones who are unbelievers, our neighbors, etc)
b.      Have a list of prayer items or people related to your focus for the night and pass them out to the group members to pray for them. (you could find creative ways to do this, put each item on a small piece of paper and have members draw them out of a hat, etc.)

4.       Have a prayer focus that follows the Bible discussion or message of the sermon.
a.       Pray that your church and the members of the group would apply the lessons of the sermon or Bible discussion to their everyday lives.

5.       Ask three or four members of the group to pray for specific requests, or for what is on their heart, rather than opening it up to the entire group.

6.       Encourage and practice prayer that is more than just petition. Include prayers of praise, confession, and thanksgiving as well. 

7.       If your small group is not so small, maybe split up into smaller groups of 3 or 4 to pray. This may even encourage those who feel apprehensive about praying in a large group to then pray openly with just a few others. 

8.       Write up prayer requests for the group and then pass them out so your group members can pray for them on their own away from small group. It may work best to have someone gathering these and typing them up before you meet.

9.       Most importantly, choose someone to pray the closing prayer, and make sure everyone in the group knows who it is.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

When You Pray, Just Be Yourself.

This is a helpful post by Stephen Miller on praying. He gives five guiding principles to help us.
These two are my favorites:
1. Slow Down and Be Okay with Silence
There is no need to use filler language to take up every ounce of space in prayer, as if the Lord can’t handle the silence or doesn’t have time to listen. You don’t have to speed through like an auctioneer. I can’t imagine how I would react if someone came up to talk to me like, “Stephen Miller, just… just Stephen, we should just go to lunch together, Stephen Miller. Just let’s just go grab… just a burger, Stephen. Stephen, I know you like a good burger from time to time, Stephen Miller. Stephen, just then we could just grab a frozen custard, Stephen Miller.” I know that I am not God, but in my flesh, I might be too weirded out to get a burger with that guy. If we would naturally react to someone talking to us that way, why do we feel the need to speak that way to God? He knows our hearts. Slow down. Be okay with pauses. Perhaps God wants to speak to you in the silence.

3. Use Normal Language
My great Grandpa was a firm believer that the only inspired word of Scripture was the King James Version. When he quoted scripture (and he could quote most of the Bible I think), it was always KJV. While he was one of the biggest spiritual influences in my life, it was odd to me when he began to pray out loud, because he prayed in old English. “Our Gracious Heavenly Father, Thou hast bestowed upon us this bountiful feast and the glory belongest to Thou and Thou alone. Wouldst Thou blesseth this meal by Thine own good pleasure…” Then, once he said amen, he would resume speaking in modern language. When you pray, there is no need to speak like someone from a bygone era in order to sound more spiritual or reverent. Use normal language, and pray like yourself.
Read the whole thing here

Monday, October 6, 2014

How to "Gird Up Your Loins!"

“Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!"  Job 38:3  (NASB)

"Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them."  Jeremiah 1:17 (NASB)

You have heard the phrase many times before. It is found in a few other places in the Bible. But do you really understand what it means?  Would you be able to literally obey the command if someone in authority over you gave it to you? 

Well the guys at The Art of Manliness have given us some help. Below is an illustrative diagram that they created of just how we are supposed to "gird up our loins."  Click here to see the whole article.


Illustration by Ted Slampyak

Friday, October 3, 2014

Insight for Getting the Most Out of Your Pastor's Sermons.

My good friend Ethan Sayler shared some helpful instructions on how to listen well to preaching in order to get the most out of the sermons your pastor preaches. I'd encourage you to read it before this Sunday's worship service.

Here are his first two tips:
Receive It As the Word of God
When Paul praised God for the Thessalonian church, what he appreciated most was that they received his teaching, not as the word of men, but as the word of God.  The Scriptures that are read are the Word of God and ought to be received as such.  We are to sit under the word, to recognize its authority over us in matters of life and faith.  The sermon, then, as it is faithful to the Word, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and guided by faith and love, should be received with a similar authority, as instruction, correction, and training in righteousness.  George Whitefield once wrote, “If an earthly king were to issue a royal proclamation how eager would his subjects be to hear.  Shall we not pay the same respect to the King of Kings, and lend an attentive ear to His ministers, when they are declaring, in His name, how are pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?”
Prepare Yourself
Back in college, you probably learned that you will get the most out of a lecture if you have done the preparatory reading in advance.  The same holds true for the way we listen to sermons.  Often, preachers will tell you what the next week’s Scripture text will be.  Through the week leading up to the sermon, pray and read through that text.  Read it in the larger context (the surrounding chapter, or the rest of the book). The Sunday sermon will be much more profitably received by you if you heart has been prepared prior to the service, ideally the night before, by prayer and confession and by reading the passage to be preached.  And get a good night’s rest on Saturday, that way you can be alert and attentive to what is taught.
The rest of his tips are: 
Listen Regularly and Actively.
Don't Be Preoccupied with the Preacher. 
Pray in and Through the Sermon.
Apply the Sermon. 
For the explanations and to read the whole post click here.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Biblical Manhood: Called to Protect.

This article by Ryan Rindels was challenging and encouraging to this Christian man. I would encourage every man to check it out and then heed it.

Here are some key things for husbands to protect:

Protect Time with your wife. For Christian men, especially those with demanding careers, a recurring temptation is to neglect your spouse because of a busy schedule. There is a subtle deception that justifies neglect on the basis of a “greater good.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Set aside blocks of time that cannot be infringed upon. Shut off your phone; close your blinds, do whatever it takes. Guard this time religiously.
Protect the Eyes of your family. Husbands and Fathers in the 21st century must be especially vigilant in light of media accessibility. Any video posted on the web can be accessed through a smart phone—and now even elementary school children have them. Movies and TV have always been a challenge, but the modern level of immorality conveyed through media makes resolved vigilance an imperative. Husbands must not bend to the cultural drift. In protecting your children’s eyes, you are certainly helping to protect their hearts.
Protect the Minds of your household: This may not seem an apparent to many, but it is essential. The culture’s worldview increasingly finds itself at odds with the Christian one. As a husband and Father, we must be intellectually informed. Subtle cultural messages bombard and undermine the Christian worldview. If we locate the source of the messages and the prevailing framework that guides them, we can discern what is good, true, and beautiful from what is evil, twisted, and false. Moreover, our families will know why they believe what they do, not just what they believe.[1]
He also has applications for single men. Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Watching the News Really is Making Us Dumb.

Kevin DeYoung has written another insightful post on how the news makes us dumb based on this out-of-print book.

Here is his description of the fundamental flaws in how "news" is delivered to us through the mainstream media.
How the News Works
Christians talk a lot about having a world and life view whereby we can discern the news from a biblical perspective. That’s a wonderful goal, so long as we are discerning about all the subtle ways the nature of news itself distorts our view of reality.
  • The news exaggerates the extent of disaster in the world. Scandal sells. Tragedy sells. Controversy sells. Sure, the nightly news may end with a 60 second feel-good story or a funny YouTube clip, but the constant drumbeat of the news is bad news. The news reports on murders, abuse, war, disease, shootings, hurricanes, safety recalls, and airline crashes with complete disregard for whether these bad things have actually been getting better. Did you know that the rate of domestic violence related arrests in the NFL has decreased under Roger Goodell? Did you know that NFL players are half as likely to commit domestic violence as men in their 20′s in the general population? Everyone agrees a two-game suspension was woefully inadequate, and we all know what Ray Rice did was reprehensible.  What we don’t know is how many athletes consistently do the right thing or how to place this incident into a larger framework.
  • The news entices us into over reactions. Don’t waste a crisis, right? Anytime something breakdown or someone cracks up you will hear plaintive cries–some well-intentioned, others manipulative–to do something, anything, right now!! Especially in the frothing world that is the Twitterverse, we are expected to respond immediately to whatever might the scandal du jour. And if you don’t do something–and by that I mean, if you don’t call on someone else to do something–then you are bound to be this week’s social media pariah. As Sommerville notes wryly, “Of course news is not authorized to offer forgiveness, but it compensates by inviting us to join in blaming others” (121).
  • The news over-emphasizes the role government should play our lives. This is true whether you get your news from the leftwing or the rightwing because so much of the news is about politics. In fact, oftentimes the political class and the media class act as if the other is only reality worth noticing: politicians strategize to win the 24-news cycles; media outlets talk incessantly about the latest political dish (64). And when they talk politics, it’s rarely about the “first things” behind our political disputes. It’s about outrage, opinion polls, who’s hot and who’s not in Washington. Politics has become a perpetual campaign, and most of the reporting is about the horse race not the horses. The ceaseless energy spent reporting on politics reinforces the erroneous notion that government is the proper focus of our attention and the entity most likely to solve our problems (77).
Read the whole thing here. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hogrefe Hawkeye Game.

My family attempts to attend at least one Iowa Hawkeye football game each season. It has been a few years since my wife and I were able to go, but we made it this year. It was the Hawkeyes' come from behind victory against Ball State. Go Hawks!

Here is the first shot from high above the field in the outer reaches of historic Kinnick Stadium. It was a beautiful, sunny day!

And here is my uncle Gary photo-bombing us over my left shoulder.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Key to Connecting With Others at Your Church.

"When Someone Reaches Out, Reach Back." That is Christine Hoover's advice for people who are new at a church or who have struggled to really feel connected at church. Hoover is an author and has been a regular "greeter" at her church for the past six years. I'd encourage you to read her article as it has a lot of practical advice and wisdom for everyone who regular attends church.

Here is a taste:
But I also now have a unique perspective on how people approach visiting churches and trying to connect in them (or at least connecting in ours). I've seen all variety of ways that people approach being new, but I can usually tell on their second or third visit who will be the most "successful" at connecting within the church and who will most likely struggle.

The gist of it is this: the people who tend to struggle to connect are those who take a long while to reach out for the hands that are extended to them. I used to get so discouraged about those who remained on the fringe or who gave up coming no matter what we did to include them and reach out to them, but now I recognize that, at some point, they have to reach back and there is nothing we can do to make them reach back. I do think it is the church's primarily responsibility to reach first; a visitor should not feel the primary weight of figuring out how to connect. But if the new one rebuffs the hand that comes toward them, many times people will give them "space" until they're ready to jump in. The new one may then be left to feel that they have to make the first advances.

Perhaps you're the "new one" right now--you're brand new to a church or you're looking for one because you've moved. As a person who often interacts with newbies, here are some encouragements I would offer you:
(Read her encouragements here.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Put The Sin of Irritability to Death.

Jon Bloom at Desiring God gave us a gift with this post of the sin of being irritable and help to overcome it. Read it here.

Here is a helpful part of it.
Our irritability never has its roots in the soils of righteousness. It springs out of the soil of selfishness and springs up fast, like the sin-weed that it is. We get irritated or easily provoked, not when God’s righteousness or justice is scorned, but when something we want is being denied, delayed, or disrupted. It works like this:
  • When I’m weary I want rest, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m sick or in pain I want relief, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m preoccupied I want uninterrupted focus, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m running late I want to avoid appearing negligent, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m disappointed I want my desire fulfilled, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m fearful I want escape from a threat, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m uncertain I want certainty, preferably reassuring, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m enjoying something I want to continue until I wish to be done, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
The reason irritability is unloving, unrighteous anger is that it is a selfish response to an obstacle to our desire. What we desire may not be sinful, but a selfish response to its denial, delay, or disruption is a failure to trust God at all times (Psalm 62:8) — and often a failure to value, love, and serve another human soul.
Jesus didn’t die for our punctuality, earthly reputation, convenience, or our leisure. But he did die for souls. It is likely that the worth of the soul(s) we’re irritable with is infinitely more precious to God than the thing we desire. We must not dishonor God, whose image that person bears, by being irritable with them. There are necessary times for considered, thoughtful, measured, righteous, loving anger at priceless but sinful souls. But there is never a right time for irritability. Love is not irritable.
Read the whole thing here