Monday, January 13, 2014

Fifty Years From Now

Fifty years from now I want to be celebrating 63 years of marriage to Danielle. I want to rejoice in my children following Jesus Christ with their whole hearts and lives. I want to see my grandchildren saved and surrendered to Jesus. Fifty years from now I want to offer The Lord over six decades of committed service in the local church. I want rejoice in the kingdom work that God allowed me to participate in and see dozens of people walking closely with The Lord and bearing much fruit because of how He used me to invest in others and faithfully plod along in His service. Fifty years from now I want to look back on a career worked with integrity and purpose, making much of His Name. I want to praise Him for His ongoing provisions and the opportunities invested in world-wide kingdom work through the many resources entrusted to me and a life of sacrificial giving to that end. Fifty years from now I want to echo the words of Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)

I do not know whether The Lord will grant me another fifty years of life in this world. However, the scenario above is where I want to aim and keep before me. This is what I want to think about in accordance to Philippians 4:8, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." 

There are so many temptations and desires present in my life everyday which could easily destroy my fifty year plan. However, keeping it before me daily, including times of temptation, will impact my decisions. With these goals, they should promote placing any necessary safeguards to guard my integrity; they should drive me to a deeper relationship with The Lord through a hunger for His Word and devotion and desperation in prayer. The goals should affect my relationships. The plan should affect how I spend my time, talents, and treasures. These end goals should affect my entire life.

What is your "fifty" year plan? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Turning the World Upside Down

Still bruised and sore from being beaten and jailed in Philippi, the Apostle Paul and Silas entered Thessalonica, a city of about 200,000 people. Met with further hostility and violence, they were accused of having turned the world upside down by saying that there was another king- Jesus (Acts 17:6-7). Much can be learned from Paul’s gospel determination 2,000 years later as we move forward with gospel determination as ambassadors for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians5:20).

As I study the account in Acts, there are four key characteristics for turning the world upside down worthy of consideration in 2014. 

1. Courage. As previously stated, Paul and Silas had just been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. They were kicked out of the city. Yet  upon entering Thessalonica, Paul entered the synagogue to engage the Jews, as was his custom (Acts 17:1-2). He was determined to preach the gospel and was not swayed to do otherwise- even during hardship. A couple of questions for us:

  • Are we courageous in engaging our culture for the sake of the gospel, or are we scared of it? 
  • Are we more afraid of what people will say or think than of God and being His servant?

2. Content. Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures. It was his final authority. A couple of questions:

  •  Do we know Scripture well enough to articulate the gospel and provide a reason for our hope from it?
  • Do we have a regular daily habit of reading the Word? 
  •  Are we growing in our knowledge and understanding of the Word? Are we diligently studying and investing in the tools and resources needed to gain understanding?

3. Converts. God used Paul through the faithful teaching of His Word to draw men and women to salvation. Many will reject the gospel message, but some will be saved!

  • Are we living in such a way as to expect people to be saved or are we living with a defeatist attitude, convinced that nobody will believe?
  • Knowing that some will be saved through our faithful proclamation of the gospel, are we prepared to ensure they are discipled in their new life as a Christ-follower?

4. Conflict. Paul’s message resulted in conflict. He was driven out of Thessalonica and while preaching in Berea shortly afterward, the Jews from Thessalonica showed up to agitate the crowds against Paul (17:10-13). Teaching the reality and penalty of sin and the exclusivity of the gospel thru salvation in Jesus Christ alone will result in conflict. We see this in our world today.

  • While we shouldn’t go looking for persecution and conflict, are we expecting it (for the right reasons)? How are we preparing for it, in a society increasingly hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
  • When conflict occurs, how do we respond? Our response will affect our testimony greatly.

As individual believers and communities of faith in our local churches, may it be said of us that we are turning the world upside down by declaring that there is another King, Jesus Christ in 2014!

MacArthur, J. (1996). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 13-28. Moody Press. Chicago.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Top Books of 2013

2013 has drawn to a close and it is time for my annual “top books of the year” posting. In 2013 I set the goal to read 30 books but finished the year having read 47. Here are my top five books with a few honorable mentions at the end:

5. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. The internet is rewiring our brains and causing us to think differently. The long term effects are catastrophic. This book caused me to think differently about the internet and do something about its negative effects in my life. See previous blog post about the book here.

4. I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer. A Scripturally-rooted book on biblical church membership. Taken seriously, this book could transform local congregations and ultimately communities and the world for Jesus Christ. See previous blog post about this book here.

3. Follow Me by David Platt. In his outstanding follow up to the best seller Radical, Platt answers the question about what Jesus really meant when He said “follow Me”. As stated on the back cover, it is a call to die. It is a call to live. Solidly biblical and needed  teaching for the 21st century church in America.

2. Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks. This book first appeared on my top books list in 2009. However, I returned to the updated edition in 2013 and was challenged richly as it provides many strategies for digging into Bible study through the observation, interpretation, and application techniques. I am already planning to reread again in 2014.

1. To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain by Matt Chandler. A powerful and convicting book studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Chandler addresses our need to have Jesus Christ as our treasure- with everything paling in comparison to knowing Him as Lord. This book will also be reread early in 2014. 

It was challenging to narrow the list down to my top five, after reading nearly fifty books. Therefore, a few honorable mentions (all excellent books), in no particular order:

·         Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by JD Greear
·         Called to Stay by Caleb Breakey
·         The Insanity of God by Nick Ripken
·         Eric Liddell: Pure Gold by David McCasland
·         Resisting Gossip by Matthew Mitchell