Sunday, December 30, 2007
Many thanks also to friend and CCU professor Phil Mitchell for preaching from Luke 13:20-21 this morning. Like yeast, the kingdom of God is often obscure to human eyes. Jesus followers will always be very small compared to the world. But that tiny number is more influential in the world than any others. Like yeast, the kingdom of God is universal. Yeast works its way through all the bread dough. And Christianity is impacting the entire world, as nearly 3000 language groups worshiped the Lord Jesus this Christmas. What encouragement and hope we find in God's Word!
After a fun lunch with the Brandt family after church to say thanks for Ericka's faithful service to our little kids at Christchurch this year, we are now home. Meg's started writing and I'm going to go work out at the gym. Then I'll probably start studying Isaiah again. A good day.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Lloyd-Jones and I don't agree on everything. For instance, I've just finished publishing a newsletter for my church and in it I outline my sermon schedule for the next 2-3 months. Lloyd-Jones would NEVER do such a thing. Read the book to find out why. He's an interesting combination of anti-legalism and passionate dogmatism on secondary preaching issues like this one.
But Lloyd-Jones and I do agree on nearly everything else related to preaching.
Lloyd-Jones is a champion of biblical exposition. He deplores pulpiteering and our modern emphasis on oratorical methods. Lloyd-Jones repeatedly reminds his hearers/readers that the real spiritual results of the preaching ministry are not usually immediately evident. The primacy of preaching is central in his theology of the church. I would have loved to hear D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preach.
This book reads like a collection of preaching lectures, which is exactly what it is. Chapters/lectures on the preacher, the congregation, the sermon, the act of preaching, illustrations, humour (note the British spelling) and preparation are extremely helpful even today. Books like this are also of great help to church members who want to cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation of the ministry of preaching in their church.
If any preachers are reading this far I would like to know if you've ever read or heard D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and what you think of him.
If any of my church members are reading this far I would love to loan you this preaching text or any of a number of others I have in my library. Just ask!
Friday, December 28, 2007
It is sunny and cold on this Friday in Red River, New Mexico. For all the latest news from my favorite New Mexico cowboy ski town, check out the Red River Miner.
When the temps top 20 degrees, I'll probably head up the mountain to the Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area for a little workout.
Let's see...what else should I do today? Here's a plan: Eat, ski, read, nap, eat, play games with the kids, eat, study Isaiah, pray, sleep.
I'm living the dream here.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Today, we are hanging out with Meg's folks in Red River, New Mexico. It's our favorite little cowboy ski town. I'm paying $2/hour to use the wireless internet at the Mountain Treasures coffee shop and art gallery. And it's still snowing!
Monday, December 24, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I think we made a mistake when we did the piñata first, followed immediately by cookie cake, ice cream and lemonade. The sugar-buzz they got lasted way too long. At 3:30am, Meg had to go downstairs and tell the ones playing flashlight tag that it was time to go to bed.
Now they've all crashed and are sprawled across my living room floor. Their parents are scheduled to pick them up at 9:30am. I hope they get over their "happy-birthday hangover" by then.
Friday, December 21, 2007
During my celebration this dark morning I learned from wikipedia that our winter solstice falls somewhere between yesterday and Sunday. Check out this graphic and see if you can figure it out:
In my opinion, the coolest thing about this time of year is that the snow doesn't melt as fast.
In other news:
Today is Anna & Sophie's last day of school before the winter break. WOOHOO!
Tonight is Anna's 10th Birthday Party. WOOHOO!
Tomorrow were planning to ski A-Basin. WOOHOO!
And on top of all that, snow is in the forecast.
If that doesn't call for a little spontaneous blog-style worship, I don't know what does!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I wonder how Isaiah's first readers responded when they first read this. Lions roamed the ancient Near East at that time. When people traveled 2700 years ago, most of them walked.
Some people in Isaiah's day got attacked by lions and eaten. Those stories got around fast.
My parents tell me stories of hearing lions in the night, just outside their tent/cabin, while they were on a photo safari in the Serengeti in Africa. I'd love to see lions like that someday.
In March, I took Meg and our girls to the Field Museum in Chicago where the Tsavo Lions are on display. The photo above is of the Tsavo Lions, now just mounted skins.
They were maneaters.
These two maneless male lions that ate nearly 140 railroad workers in 1898. It was Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson's job to hunt and kill them. Can you imagine taking that assignment? Here is a photo of Patterson shortly after he killed the first lion, which was more than 9 feet long.
Isaiah 65 speaks of a new heavens and a new earth. In heaven, God's people will live with Him forever in glorified bodies. Jesus had a body like that when he ate fish with his disciples in Luke 24:41-43. Jesus had a real body. And one day there will be will be a New Heavens and New Earth, and it bet it will have animals like these two maneless male lions. But instead of fearing that they will eat me and my kids, we'll be able to play with them. That's just one example of the kind of peace our Messiah Jesus will bring when he comes again.
As you prepare for Christmas and remember Jesus first coming as a baby, take time to remember that he's coming again. And when he does come again, things will be so different. The lion shall eat straw like an ox.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Every Wednesday morning at 7:30am, you'll find me and a small group of my nerdy friends at Panera in Superior. We read sermons from pastors and theologians who are now dead, but whose written words still impact the world. We eat bagels and drink coffee. We laugh together. We pray for one another and our churches. We're always open to newcomers. Today we read a bit of a sermon from John Calvin. We won't meet on December 26th, but we will meet on January 2 to study the fiery John Knox. For more info, visit www.deadtheologians.org or post a comment.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Here's a great book that I use often to keep up with my New Testament Greek and to cultivate my affections for God.
The Greek text that underlies the New International Version as reconstructed by Edward Goodrick and John Kohlenberger III, along with word definitions in footnotes for all words that occur thirty times or less in the New Testament.
Ideal for Greek students and pastors, this volume saves time and effort in studying the Greek New Testament. By eliminating the need to look up definitions, the footnotes allow the user to read the Greek text more quickly, focusing on parsing and grammatical issues.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Worshiping God was a pleasure today at Christchurch.
Many thanks to Robbie Hunter for leading us in music, to Randy Brandt for leading us by preaching, and to our friends and family for worshiping God in spirit and truth at Christchurch today.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Once again, I've seen a significant increase in pastoral care calls during this time of year. Even though Christchurch is new and small, it is made up of real people who have real hurts. While the holidays are a wonderful time of year, they are also often reminders of real losses that my people have experienced in their lives. Cold, gray days and long, dark nights sometimes add to a mournful mood in the midst of the Christmas season. But as Isaiah 9 and Matthew 4 remind us, "the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned."
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." - Jesus, Matthew 5:4 (ESV)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
If you're skiing at 80mph and the air temp is zero degrees fahrenheit, what is the windchill? It was a cold one today at Beaver Creek.
Congratulations to Steve Nyman, Bode Miller and Andrew Weibrecht of the US Ski Team for finishing in the top ten of today's Birds of Prey Downhill. Steve Nyman is racing fast this year, consistently beating Bode. Today Nyman's time was only 5 hundredths of a second behind first place finisher Michael Walchhofer of Austria. The Hermanator, Herman Maier, finished 11th. I wish I had been there today, but life and ministry kept me off the slopes. Maybe I can talk Meg and the girls into heading over tomorrow for the Super-G races.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Tuesday brought 70+ degree weather, a rare opportunity for me to worship God at the Covenant Seminary Chapel, a great BBQ lunch with the pastors at FBC Ellisville, and a trip to the St. Louis Zoo with the girls and my Grammie Pearson (my mom's mom). Swimming in Granny & Poppie's pool filled up most of our time until Thursday morning, along with eating way too much of my mom & Grammie's incredible food.
Yesterday (T-day), we went over the creeks and through the woods for 20 minutes to Meg's folks' house and enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast with Meg's sister Alison, my brother-in-law Jeff Niermann, and their kids, Lillian and Joshua. Someone wisely suggested that we take the family picture before the meal, which turned out to be a great idea, because I spent the afternoon upstairs in a triptophan induced nap.
Today, I'm up early, feeling great after a 7am run. This post is being composed at a St. Louis Bread Company (AKA Panera to my non-St. Louisan friends - that's how they all started years ago on the U City Loop near our alma mater, Washington U). Perhaps a movie this afternoon. Thanks to Meg, all our Christmas shopping is DONE! Tonight we enjoy the Christmas Lights with Lilly and Josh at Grants Farm. Perhaps I will also enjoy a few free samples of some of Anheuser-Busch's traditional offerings.
We'll get back in the car tomorrow morning for our cruise across the chilly plains, stopping in Wentzville to see my nephew Alex's new house and stopping in Independence to for lunch with my church-planting friend Jason Allen and his family. God willing, we will be back home before 10pm and I will be preaching from Jude 17-25 at Christchurch on Sunday morning.
Thank God for Thanksgiving!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Saturday, November 3, 2007
My hope has been renewed for more than just my ministry role as a pastor. This book also renewed my hope for my marriage role as a husband. I married Megan when I was 22 years old, and we have fought many times during our 15+ years of marriage. (Each one of those fights is resolved today, in case you’re wondering.) We have had to learn many conflict resolution skills and apply them many times during our marriage. But I’m concerned that sometimes we have not seen the connection between how we resolve our conflicts with one another and the way our marriage displays the gospel to our kids and to the world. I’m looking forward to applying the principles of this book to our next disagreement. I trust that as I apply this biblical teaching to my marriage, my love for Megan will grow even deeper and the glory of God will be displayed through real reconciliation, unity and peace between us.
I appreciated The Peacemaker’s focus on the sovereignty of God in relation to our personal experiences of conflict. During some church-related conflict I was in earlier this year, I often failed to see the centrality of God even in my trials. This prevented me from seeing conflict as holistically I should have seen it. “God’s sovereignty is so complete that he exercises ultimate control even over painful and unjust events.” (page 61) Embracing God’s sovereignty over my conflicts frees me to see that conflict is neither an inconvenience nor an occasion to force our will on others, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate the love and power of God in our lives. (page 31) The Peacemaker teaches that I Corinthians 10:31-11:1 presents a counter-cultural understanding of conflict: It is not merely a matter for negotiation, rather it is truly an opportunity to glorify God, serve others, and grow to be like Christ. When the gospel of Jesus is applied to our badly broken relationships with wisdom and skill (sometimes with the help of biblically-trained mediators, conciliators and church leaders), God is glorified as good.
Ken Sande also writes: “Many marriages, friendships and business relationships are lost because people focus exclusively on a point of disagreement and forget about all that they have enjoyed in and with one another.” (page 89) While this has not been a big problem in my marriage and personal friendships, it certainly has been a problem for me in my business and ministry relationships over the years. Before answering God’s call to full-time ministry 12 years ago, I worked for 7 years as a custom home builder and real estate broker. I can recall numerous times when one area of disagreement on a custom home contract became the exclusive focus of all parties. When I’m in the midst of a conflict, my inclination is to focus my work energy on the problem until it is overcome. This response only intensifies the focus on the problem, rather than on the overall business relationship (or rather than on God in a ministry relationship). Most of my custom home buyers were extremely satisfied with their homes, but I can still see the faces of a few where the focus on one problem led us all into a badly broken business relationship. Thankfully, none of these cases ever ended up in court, but I’m confident that those buyers never referred us to their other friends who were looking to build a home. Today, as I reflect on my ministry years, I can identify a number of ministry relationships where I have focused exclusively on one point of disagreement (sometimes behavioral, sometimes theological, sometimes relational), which has resulted in broken relationships and ultimately the departure of one of us from the fellowship of believers. Dear God, help me to see the forest for the trees, as well as my mistakes and my sins, and to respond to each matter of conflict I face with more wisdom and tact. Amen. “One evidence of sincere repentance is a willingness to thoroughly examine ourselves so that we can uncover both our mistakes and our sins.” (page 119) The more I reflect on life, the more convinced I am that repentance is not easy. It is a sovereign work of grace and is an inseparable experience with real faith in Jesus.
In The Peacemaker, I also picked up one very practical tip on asking for forgiveness. If a person to whom we may have confessed a mistake or sin does not express forgiveness, we may rightfully ask, “Will you forgive me?” “This signals to the other person that you have done all that you can by way of confession that that the responsibility for the next move has shifted to the other person.” (page 132) The important tip that I picked up is to allow the other person some time here. I need to be careful to not use this question as a means to pressure someone into forgiving me, especially my wife Megan and our girls. Better to say something like, “I hope you will soon be able to forgive me” and be patient as we wait for God’s work of reconciliation to be completed, than to press for forgiveness too quickly. Asking “Will you forgive me?” and expecting an immediate “yes” doesn’t allow the other person to go through the process of remembering the gospel and applying it to the situation. It is much better to have real forgiveness based on Jesus’ work than a forced forgiveness based on relational pressure.
Have you ever tried to follow the Bible’s teachings on resolving conflict and things only ended up getting worse? I have. “If your words seem to do more harm than good when you try to resolve a disagreement, don’t give up. With God’s help you can improve your ability to communicate constructively.” (page 162) As a personal application from the chapter on speaking the truth in love, I have recommitted myself to being disciplined to not interrupt others while they are speaking. This has been a bad habit of mine, especially with Megan, and with God’s help I’m going to get better at being a disciplined listener.
Here’s another hopeful lesson that I’m taking away from reading The Peacemaker:
“When an offense is too serious to overlook and the offender has not yet repented, you may need to approach forgiveness as a two-stage process. The first stage requires having an attitude of forgiveness, and the second, granting forgiveness. Having an attitude of forgiveness is unconditional and is a commitment you make to God (see Mark 11:24, Luke 6:28, Acts 7:60). By his grace, you seek to maintain a loving and merciful attitude toward someone who has offended you. This requires making and living out the first promise of forgiveness, which means you will not dwell on the hurtful incident or seek vengeance or retribution in thought, word or action. Instead you pray for the other person and stand ready at any moment to pursue complete reconciliation as soon as he or she repents. This attitude will protect you from bitterness and resentment, even if the other person takes a long time to repent.” (page 211)
I find hope here for the unresolved conflicts and broken relationships in my life. There is a God. He is the God of hope. He is big enough to handle the hard cases that we can’t fix. Because of Jesus, there is hope for reconciliation between people now at enmity.
The Peacemaker includes many real-life examples of conflict and reconciliation, but the most helpful to me was the detailed explanation of the “barking dog” conflict in the book’s final chapters. I plan to revisit this example the next time I have a conflict with someone outside my family.
I’m thankful for The Peacemaker. God used it to remind me how much I’ve been forgiven, and that has motivated me to more humbly be willing to forgive others.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
As the Colorado Rockies' hopes for a 5th game were dashed by a deep pop fly followed by a strikeout last night, I recalled the pain that God brought me through just 3 short years ago. Yes, God wounded me deeply when my beloved St. Louis Cardinals were swept in the 2004 World Series by the Boston Red Sox. And so today, the day after the bandwagon fans of Colorado watched in horror as the Rockies were swept in four quick and painful games, I find myself able to empathize with my people as they grieve the loss of their World Series Championship hopes (and the loss of a good bit of their pride as well).
Humility is a virtue. So is loyalty. Hang in there Rockies fans, God has a good purpose in your suffering, though you cannot see it today. As the anonymous pastor once said, "When we cannot trace His hand, we must simply trust His heart."
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Dr. Page and I are very different. We look different. We talk different. We do ministry differently. Our ministry contexts are radically different. Dr. Page is getting audiences with all the current presidential candidates and he is using the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people like Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He is also being hounded every week by all the Republican and Democratic political campaigns to give their candidate an endorsement. (He refuses to do so. Let's continue to pray for him.) My scope of influence is radically smaller. But we both share a love for Jesus and His Churches and for lost people around the world. I'm grateful to God for allowing me and my church to be a part of something so much bigger than ourselves - His kingdom work through the SBC (and other ministry/missions organizations).
The group of younger, emerging SBC leaders meeting this week talked a lot about our role in shaping the future of the SBC through our cooperation in ministry and missions. We prayed a lot too. I'm still praying that God will unite more of his people in a common commitment to biblical theology and worldwide cooperative missions through the SBC.
A number of Christians today wonder about the future of institutions like the Southern Baptist Convention. What direction is it headed? Where is the SBC on the theological map? As a generation of traditional baby-boomer Southern Baptists dies, what will the SBC look like in 10 years?
I'm not sure anyone knows the answers to these questions. But I like the direction described in this booklet written by Timothy George and David Dockery. Please read it and tell me what you think by posting a comment.
PS: I also got two runs in yesterday at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
This is the view looking down from the chairlift. Not much snow, huh?
See that little white strip on the right? That's the one run that was open today. Pray for snow.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, Andreas J. Kostenberger with David W. Jones, Crossway: Wheaton, Illinois (2004), 448 pages.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Friday, October 5, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
I'm still not buying Copper Four Passes. The Colorado Pass is still a much better deal for people who plan to ski 12 or more days per season.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Here's a picture of the Kellys at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park last week.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I really enjoyed singing "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" to myself this morning as I spent time with God reading the Bible and praying.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
Monday, September 24, 2007
My top 10:
10. Pirates of the Caribbean with new Captain Jack Sparrow audio-animatronics. Just like him.
9. Finding Nemo: The Musical. It's much better live than the promo clips that Disney has out.
8. Lights, Motors, Action stunt show from Disney Studios Paris. Incredible driving!
7. Mission Space. Downright awesome. Way to go, Gary Sinise!
6. Splash Mountain at night with Sophie and Anna laughing in the front seats.
5. The Laugh Floor with Mike Wizowski in Tomorrowland. Cool digital characters, live voices.
4. Mickey's Philharmagic. Great music, surprising effects and Donald Duck shot out of a tuba.
3. Seeing Megan play the part of an extra in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.
2. The Disney Princess lunch at the Akershus Restaurant at the Norway Pavillion in Epcot.
1. Expedition Everest. A great queue, a great coaster and an even greater surprise in the middle.
Since I finished it late last night on the plane back from Orlando, Megan and I have been enjoying conversations about this last book of the Harry Potter series. (Note to husbands: I heartily recommend reading what your wife is reading and talking about it with her as a means of keeping your marriage healthy.)
Warning: If you haven't finished the book yet, there are spoilers below. I suggest you wait to read this after you've finished reading the series. (Watching the movies does NOT count!)
First, some of what I liked:
- Neville Longbottom! I'm so proud of that kid. I think he and Luna Lovegood should get married and have weird kids together.
- Rowling's portrayal of our fallen human condition through the imperfect personalities of James Potter, Harry, Dumbledore and so many others. Though the plethora of magical plot devices wore on me at times, I particularly appreciated the way she portrayed Dumbledore's temptation to power. As Jeremiah 17:9 says: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick, who can understand it?"
- The tragic and trustworthy Severus Snape. His redemption and steadfast unrequited love for Lily Potter are one of the most beautiful aspects of this book. But sad. Really sad. Snape is another of those who so poignantly reflects our fallen-ness back at us.
- Percy's change of heart and subsequent duel with the Minister of Magic.
- A unique application of the Christ-figure in the characters of Lilly and Harry Potter. I blogged earlier this year that Harry was going to die. Meg pointed out to me that Rowling was very careful with how she handled Harry's death-march to Voldemort and subsequent conversation with Dumbledore in the netherworld. But I still think Harry died. If he wasn't dead, where was he?
- Hermione's "Jane Austin" kiss with Ron after he proves the change in his character by his concern for the house-elves.
- A happy ending.
- Rowling's view of life and death. A number of times, Rowling says that there are things worse than death, but she never comes close to speaking of hell. Within all the darkness of the book, death is often portrayed as a peaceful, even appealing. It is not. As a Christian, I don't like death. Death is the result of the fall of man into sin. Death is NOT natural. It is alien to God's original good creation and it is a just and terrible consequence of sin. But it will not always be so. Jesus will come again soon to destroy death for good.
- Having Christmas presents but never talking about Jesus. Using cathedral-like architecture but never mentioning the church. Holding funerals but never even hinting at the reason why people do not have to grieve without hope. Yep, I'm a Jesus freak.
- I still have no idea what Rowling has in mind when she writes of "a well-ordered soul." The idea of splitting a soul is entirely foreign to human experience. We are embodied souls. Horcruxes do not exist. Like so many false ideas that the church has faced over the centuries, Rowling is playing with spiritual ideas that have real moral consequences. I am fearful that many who do not know what the bible teaches about humanity will become even more confused. So many times people who conceive of the soul and the body as two separable parts get into big trouble. Remember the gnostics, the antinomians, the ascetics and the legalists.
- With all the right and wrong in the Harry Potter series, there is not a clear understanding of the sinfulness of sin in these books. Too much misbehavior is marginalized as just "what wizards do". Harry and James and many others are poor heroes in this respect. And so much of this magic stuff is just plain selfish and evil.
This is a good series, but I do not recommend the last 5 books for children under 12 or 13. As always, parents must shepherd their children's hearts and watch that magic doesn't replace Jesus in our kids' affections. Have them read the Narnia books before they are 13.
This is a good series, but not a great series like Tolkien's Ring Trilogy. We shall see in about 20 years how this stands this test of time as another generation looks for summer reading.
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to taking Megan on a date to the next Harry Potter movie.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
May God's covenant of grace with Dan & Tina be the source of their covenant-keeping with one another in this marriage.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Our garbage collector's name is Ismael. He has been a Christian for nearly 7 years and he prays for the people in the neighborhood as he drives his route. And he is grieving today, so please pray for him.
We moved into our home 4 years ago and that's when I met Ismael for the first time. He was willing to take a few extra boxes of stuff left by the previous owners and I was so thankful. We usually chat a little bit when we see one another, but lately that's only been once in a while.
Ismael usually runs his route through our neighborhood on Mondays. Monday is now my usual day off, so as I was running up to the school to pick up Anna & Sophie this afternoon, I saw Ismael coming down my street.
Honestly, I didn't expect him to stop and get out of the truck when I waved at him. And I didn't expect to see his eyes red from bloodshot like they were. I instantly knew something was terribly wrong and asked him what was up. And this is what he told me: "My wife died 3 months ago this coming Thursday."
His eyes were bloodshot because he had been crying and because he hasn't been sleeping well lately. Ismael's wife died from complications related to a long battle with fibromyalgia. She had endured extreme pain in recent years. Like me and Megan, Ismael and his wife have two little girls in elementary school.
I was able to talk and pray with Ismael for a while this afternoon as he took a break in the park just below the school near our house. He is a man who knows God through Jesus Christ, and he is holding on to God's promises in the Bible, but his heart is broken. He doesn't know how to answer his 8 year old daughter's questions like, "Daddy, why did God take away my Mommy and your wife?" He knows that God is good and sovereign and that as Christians we do not grieve without hope. But he looks tired and sad and he's doing his best to hold on.
Will you please pray for our garbage collector, my brother in Christ, Ismael? He's grieving today and he needs people like us to pray for him. Pray something like Romans 15:13, that the God of hope might fill him and his daughters with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, they may abound in hope.
If you do pray for Ismael, will you please post a short comment? I'm planning on seeing him again next Monday and stopping him to see how he's doing. I'd love to tell him that lots of my friends were praying for him too. Thanks.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
The themes of love and loss are compassionately handled by J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series. In this 6th book, there continues to be a strong theme of right verses wrong.
Like Megan, my favorite scene was when Fleur Delacour rebukes her future mother-in-law, Molly Weasley. Fleur had just staggered at the sight of her fiance Bill's facial wounds after his having been attacked by a werewolf.
"You thought I would not weesh to marry him? Or per'aps, you hoped?" said Fleur, her nostrils flaring. "What do I care how he looks? I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk! All these scars show is that my husband is brave! And I shall do zat!" she added fiercely, pushing Mrs. Weasley aside and snatching the ointment from her.
And who among us remains unaffected by the blossoming of romantic love between Tonks and Remus Lupin? Or Ron and Hermione? Or Harry and Ginny for that matter? (I'm hoping that Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood get together too). NOTE TO THOSE WHO HAVE READ BOOK #7: Please don't spoil the good stuff for me.
So, my dear readers, in the wake of Dumbledore's death and funeral, how shall we characterize Rowling's view of the afterlife? Yes, there are shadows of Christianity in the book, like Christmas and the little man in the black suit speaking at Dumbledore's funeral, but is this series built on a Christian worldview in any way? And as we learn about the divided soul of Tom Riddle (I'll say the name, VOLDEMORT!), how does Rowling see humanity? What does Rowling have in mind when she talks of "a well-ordered soul"? With all the right and wrong in the Harry Potter series, is there a clear understanding of the sinfulness of sin in these books? What about forgiveness? Could we ever trust Snape again? Will Harry ever be able to forgive Dumbledore for trusting Snape, after all that it appears to have cost him?
Let me know what you think by posting a comment.
PS: I even found myself having a smidgen of compassion for Draco Malfoy at one point. That was a shocker. How about you?
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Thanks especially to Dr. Bill Mounce who has prepared so many excellent teaching resources!
Hey friends out there in the blogosphere! It's not too late for you to learn New Testament Greek. Seriously, if you would like to learn, let me know!
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Check out some of these chapter titles:
Brothers, Beware of the Debtor's Ethic
Brothers, Consider Christian Hedonism
Brothers, Don't Fight Flesh Tanks with Peashooter Regulations
Brothers, Don't Confuse Uncertainty with Humility
Brothers, Tell Them Copper Will Do
Today my chapter was "Brothers, Let Us Pray." Lately I've been in many situations where I have been asked to talk about our new Christchurch. For instance, this morning at the school playground while sending Anna & Sophie off their classes, I spoke with 3 different parents about Christchurch. As I tell others about this great new little church, I am confident that God has called us to this, but I am so powerfully reminded that if God doesn't build this new church, we are dead in the water. So, let us pray. O Father, how we need you to call people to this church and to convert many sinners. We can't grow this church ourselves. We need you! Come, Holy Spirit, and do your work of regeneration among our friends and neighbors and coworkers who are spiritually dead so that they are born again spiritually and begin to worship you, O God, as you deserve. Jesus, this is your church and upon the rock you must build your church like it says in Matthew 16:18. Thank you that you are doing it and thank you for reminding us of our dependence upon you to do it. We trust you Holy Spirit for the power we need to be used by God in building this church. In Jesus' name we pray these things. Amen.
"A pastor who feels competent in himself to produce eternal fruit - which is the only kind that matters - knows neither God nor himself. A pastor who does not know the rhythm of desperation and deliverance must have his sights only on what man can achieve. But brothers, the proper goals of the life of a pastor are unquestionably beyond our reach. The changes we long for in the hearts of our people can happen only by a sovereign work of grace." [page 54]
"A.C. Dixon said, 'When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend upon education, we get what education can do; when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do.'" [page 56]
Monday, August 20, 2007
At 7:30am today, I carried a very sleepy Anna downstairs so that she could get ready for the first day of fourth grade.
Guess who is happier about getting up early today?
Here is Sophie and her teacher, Carol L'Orange.
Here is Anna pushing up her glasses while her teacher Bobby Lehman checks the time.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
(I also like it because my middle name is Christopher. So if people start calling me Scott "Christchurch" Kelly, I won't need to change the monograms on my towels.)
Ed Stetzer is a Southern Baptist missiologist who has become embraced widely by church planters of many different denominational stripes. I picked up my free copy of this book from Ed at the National New Church Conference in Orlando in April of 2006.
I thought these were some of Stetzer's most helpful thoughts:
"There is no basis, biblically or theologically, for the territorial distinction of missions and evangelism...the church must learn to exegete its culture and reflect on the culture from a biblical perspective." 
"Very few churches volunteer, [as the early church at Antioch did], to send the best of their leaders and to contribute significant amounts of money for the establishment of new congregations." [45-46]
Stetzer has led teams that have planted 3 churches and he has researched the planting of many, many more. He includes a lot of practical wisdom for Christians who want to plant churches that plant more churches. I don't get as much joy from reading missiology books like this as I do from reading a good biblical theology book, but this book was helpful to me as I am in the middle of planting a new church.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I was finally able to visit one of Randy's hockey games last night, but I didn't have a camera. I don't know who the guy in yellow is, but that's what Randy looked like last night. One of my many Canadian friends, Randy is the best hockey player that I know. He really did score an impressive goal, single-handedly taking the puck straight through a crowd of defenders. And he really did get hooked so bad that the other guy got a 2 minute stint in the penalty box. And the 3rd period buzzer really did sound. But that didn't all happen at exactly the same time.
Randy broke a stick and the team won by 5 or 6 goals. They were impressive. But Randy tells me that his Sunday night league where he captains is the better league. I want to see that team play sometime.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Mark Driscoll makes me laugh out loud. Read this book and enjoy some laughter that is good for the soul. A master of sarcastic one-liners, Driscoll is part preacher, part stand-up comic. Take the title of chapter 1, for instance: "Jesus, Our Offering was $137 and I Want to Use It to Buy Bullets." Thank God he's a biblical preacher who talks about Jesus a lot too.
If you love people who don't yet know Jesus, you should consider Mark Driscoll as a special gift to God's Church. He says this of himself: "Over the years, I have accepted the fact that I'm really not much of a pastor but rather am a missiologist studying the city who leads a church filled with missionaries who reach the city and with pastors who care for the converts." 
I find hope today in Mark Driscoll's example of leading a church through its infancy. He spent a lot of time meeting people one-on-one, telling the gospel story as often as he could and inviting people to repent and believe, calling men to be men and do great things for God, praying, training leaders and learning to preach. I don't know what else I should be doing right now besides all that.
Driscoll often makes people mad, and he often seems to like it that way. As my wife so helpfully reminds me, disagreement is OK as long as it doesn't degenerate into personal attacks. Here is one important issue in pastoral theology where I disagree with Driscoll. Who has the right to remove someone from the fellowship of a church? Driscoll recounts a few stories from the early days of Mars Hill Church when he kicked people out of his young church all by himself. Does the Bible give him the authority to do that? Yes, shepherds are to guard the flock against wolves. But the wolves he unilaterally kicks out on pages 76 and 77 were some of his fellow workers and co-leaders! In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus has given us clear instruction on the process of kicking people out of the church. First you go to them one on one and give them opportunity to repent. Second you bring along one or two others and do the same thing. If they won't repent, then you tell the church and if they won't listen to the church speaking pleading words of repentance, then you all kick the stubbornly-unrepentent sinner out together. Have you ever seen the redemptive power of congregational corrective church discipline in action? I have and it's a beautiful thing. Church planters and church leaders and pastors need to learn from guys like Mark Dever here and thank God for the privilege of learning from Driscoll's mistakes. Driscoll's ecclessiology requires elder rule because of a missiological preference in creating a certain church culture. A biblical ecclessiology puts Jesus at the top of the org chart, ruling primarily through the scriptures. Next, the Bible puts a church on the org chart, a congregation of people who actually give evidence of being born again. In the New Testament, the church is called to recognize the gifting of men whom God calls to the office of elder/pastor by delegating leadership authority to these strong leaders. The scripture gives us more instruction about how to organize our churches than Driscoll admits.
Enough disagreement. There are so many great lessons for church planters and pastors in this book! Like this: "We learned that unchurched people tend to be the most traditional when it comes to church. For years, we had held services only on Sunday nights trying to be cool, different and therefore more attractive to unchurched people. But our first morning service took off in part because unchurched people thought that church was an event that happened in a church building on a Sunday morning."  I find a lot of hope in the fact that church planting isn't brain surgery. I also find hope in this comment from Driscoll on preaching: "Preaching is like driving a clutch, and the only way to figure it out is to keep grinding the gears and stalling until you figure it out."  My apologies in advance to the people who are coming to our new nameless church. It may be a bumpy ride for a while. But I think it will be an worthwhile adventure.
Once last priceless Driscoll-ism: "My answer to everything is pretty much the same: open the Bible and preach about the person of Jesus and his mission for the church." 
Amen, bro dude.
Monday, August 6, 2007
In January of this year I met Zack Eswine and was impressed by his heart for God, quick wit and concern for wanna-be pastor's like me. Today I just finished Kindled Fire and I want to say thanks to Zack Eswine for writing this book.
I want to follow Spurgeon's example and preach with a scripture manner. I want my life and preaching to be marked by the power of the Holy Spirit of God like Spurgeon's. In Spurgeon, I find an example of a man who struggled against depression (like I sometimes do) and saw God prove himself faithful again and again.
If you want to help me lead in this new church we're starting, would you consider reading this book too so that we might talk about it?
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Beautiful Places with Tony Farley in HD
NPR: Car Talk's Call of the Week
Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) Audio | Podcast
(Michael Lawrence is preaching an excellent series from 2 Timothy this summer.)
TGRtv Podcast - skiing video clips from Teton Gravity Research
Newshour with Jim Lehrer Podcast | PBS
The Albert Mohler Radio Program
Discovery Channel Video Podcasts
Ask a Ninja Question 47 - "Ultimate Movie Pitch"
Freeskier Magazine's Video Podcast would still be on the list, if they ever post any new podcasts! It's August, it's hot, and I'm dying here waiting for more free skiing videos.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Today, we worshiped Jesus with this group of people who supported us with their presence at our new and still nameless church's first worship service. Those pictured here may or may not become members of this church, but we are encouraged because God surpassed our expectations today!
We prayed. We read from the Bible together. We sang songs and hymns to God. We took an offering. I preached the first message in a series on I John that I'm calling "Making Sure". We sang to God some more. We closed by reading Numbers 6:24-26. After the service, we enjoyed spending time talking with one another over dessert. Simple. Church. Simple Church.
It's the first day of the week. Now it is our privilege to spend most of the rest of this week reaching out to unchurched people. Please pray for the believers pictured here to trust God and share their faith in Jesus with someone this week. Please pray for God to grow His church by causing men and women near us to repent and believe in Jesus and then by including them in our fellowship with the Father and the Son (I John 1:3).