Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I am 1/2 way through my busiest week ever. 2 District meetings, 2 papers to write for my D.Min class, new sermon series to begin, preparing for parents coming in this weekend (a good thing!), new guitar class to prepare for, plus the regular responsibilities. But at least I get to turn the clocks back this weekend!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Benedictions need speed-bumps

"Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21

Benedictions need speed bumps. Too often the words of blessing spoken at the end of a service roll over us like water off a ducks back. Liturgical flourishes with little meaning. But take a moment to stop and smell the "good words" (literally "bene-diction") here. In this short sentence the writer of Hebrews gives us a 30,000 foot overview of the meaning of our lives. Consider:

God's chief end is the eternal glory of Christ: "Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." God is orchestrating and accomplishing the flow of human and cosmic history to the end that the glory of His son would be on display! That is God's "big picture". That is what drives the heart of God.

His glory is best seen in his saving act of the cross and resurrection. "Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant…" We can see God's glory in a lot of thing – in creation, in his providential care, in his gift of the scriptures. But the ultimate display of his glory is the cross. The writer recounts the great saving act of Christ – shedding his blood to bring us into covenant with the Father and rising from the dead to fulfill redemption.

God is now restoring us to our original purpose and design. "…equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight". We were created to find our purpose in doing God's will. That is why his will is described as "good, pleasing, and perfect (Romans 12:1-2). We were formed to take pleasure in pleasing God. So being equipped to order our lives around God and his will for us is not a straightjacket, but a declaration of liberation! It is the restoration of the human heart to its original happiness.

So let this benediction be a good-word from God to you. And may it become your purpose and passion as well.

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crisis in Leadership

Leadership is the buzz word today, especially with the presidential elections coming up. Each candidate is seeking to look more "presidential" than the other. But what are the qualities of great leadership? What models of leadership do we look to?

We need to ask these questions concerning church leadership as well. What are we to look for in church leadership? Hebrews 13:7, 17-19 give us a great outline of the role of leadership in the church.

First, Leaders speak the word of God: "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God." (v.7). God's Word is our nourishment, our guide-book, and our authority. Therefore the main function of church leaders is to speak and teach God's word. Paul tells timothy that elders are to "be able to teach". That's why God's Word is front and center in the ministry of our church.

Second, leaders are to live out the word of God: "Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." (v.7). The integrity crisis in leadership is at its most damaging when seen in the church. When one leader fails, every leader feels it. Hypocrisy in church leadership totally undermines the good of the ministry. That's why walking the walk must accompany talking the talk. Leaders have to live lives worthy of consideration and imitation.

Not that leaders have to be perfect. Some of the virtues we must model are humility and repentance. The world is not looking for perfect Christians, just perfectly humble ones!

Third, leaders keep watch over souls: "…for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account" (v.17). The humble, careful application of the word of God to the needs of the people is a mark of healthy leadership. In order to care for souls, leaders must be relationally connected and committed to people. The work "watch" means "pass sleepless nights". The shepherd must put up with long, cold nights in the pastures as they watch over the sheep.

These are tall orders indeed! Watchful leaders will be held accountable for the souls under their care. Anyone want that job? So, yes, soberness and seriousness will accompany leadership.

But don't miss the joy! Hebrews 13:17 says, "Let them do this with joy"! It works like this: It is a joy to see people grow in the lord! It is a joy to see people endure hardship by faith! It is a joy to see people following hard after Christ! It is a joy to see people leading their friends to Christ! It is a joy to see people sacrificing for the cause of Christ!

And ultimately it is the supreme joy of knowing we serve for the glory of "...our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep" (v.20). As we serve in His strength, for his honor, and with his love for the flock – joy overwhelms!

So give joy to your leaders by loving God's word, imitating the good you see in them, following their lead, and helping them through prayer (v.18-19)

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Must Have" downloads from Tim Keller...

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p.s. Do yourself a big favor and listen to "The Prodigal Sons" and "Christ, Our Life". Please.

Monday, October 13, 2008

“It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace” Hebrews 13:9

On Sunday we spent a lot of time looking at being "Gospel-Driven" and being "strengthened by grace". The Gospel of Grace is not just for unbelievers, but essential for Christians as well (Romans 1:7,15). We know that we are saved by grace through faith, but then we think we need to be perfected by our own efforts (Galatians 3:3). We so easily lose our grip on grace – just ask Peter (Galatians 2:14)! We have got to "eat grace" everyday if our hearts are to be strengthened.

I'm not talking about some weak, insipid, "Jesus wuvs you", sentimentalism. I am talking about hard-fought, blood-bought, Christ-wrought grace! The stuff that is hearty and heart-satisfying. The stuff that you've got to go to the cross to get.

So let me be real practical and suggest some solid resources for you to strengthen your hear by grace:

First – go to the source. Get grace from God's word every day. If you need some help go to the ESV Online site and sign up for one of their devotions. You'll get God's word delivered by email daily!

Second – read grace-drenched authors. One of my favorites is C.J. Mahaney. He is down to earth and easy to read. Read his book "The Cross-Centered Life" for a solid helping of grace.

Jerry Bridges is also helpful here. His book "Transforming Grace" can truly be transforming.

Third – listen to grace-full speakers. Tim Keller is one of my favorites. He is solidly Biblical and easy to listen to. In particular, look for his message on "The Prodigal Sons" - it is delicious! Also – his upcoming book "The Prodigal God" looks to be excellent.

Fourth – sing grace. The classic hymns of the church are treasuries of grace-filled poetry. Some of the best new music is classic hymns set to new tunes. Check out the "Indelible Grace Music" site for great songs of grace to saturate your soul. Their on-line hymnal features lyrics, songsheets, and samples.

Fifth – learn from those who have gone before you. We are told to “remember your leaders…consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). John Piper has a series of biographical sermons on the lives of great Christian leaders of the past. We can learn much about grace and living for God from the likes of John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, and David Brainerd. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore! (If these names are unfamiliar – you really will enjoy getting to know these guys!)

Well, that should get you going. If you've got some helpful "grace" resources – send them my way. Hey, a pastor has to eat too!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Monday, October 6, 2008

Who Needs the Gospel?

Many Christians believe that "The Gospel" is for non-believers alone. Once a person becomes a Christian they leave the "ABC's" of Christianity to go on to deeper things. But the Gospel is not the ABC's of the faith; it is the "A to Z" of the faith. We never go beyond the gospel, we just go deeper.

St. Paul considered the Christians at Rome to be "loved by God and called to be saints" (v.7). And yet he can say to these believers that, "I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome." (v.15) The Gospel is for believers too!

A mark of a revitalized church is that it is "Gospel-Driven and Christ-Centered". What, then, is the Gospel? The gospel includes all that God has done for us in Christ, past, present and future. Consider these elements of the gospel:

Deliverance - "Past"

  • The Persuasion of Sin – Effectual Calling (A New Perspective) - Romans 8:30, 2 Thess. 2:14. God gives us eyes to see and ears to hear!
  • The Power of Sin – Regeneration (A New Heart) – John 3:3, Titus 3:5. We exercise saving faith and godly repentance!
  • The Penalty of Sin – Justification (A New Record) – Rom. 3:21-24. In justification the Lord has cleansed us from our sin and clothed us with His righteousness!
  • The Position of Sin - Adoption (A New Family) – Eph 1:5, Rom 8:15. With God as our Father we relate to him as redeemed sons and daughters.

Deliverance - "Present"

  • The Practice of Sin – Sanctification (A New Life) – Eph 4:22-24. God works holiness into our lives as we walk in repentance and obedience to Him.

Deliverance - "Future"

  • The Presence of Sin - Glorification (A New Home) – Romans 8:30, 2 Cor 5:1. Not just new bodies in the new heaven and earth, but new desires to love God and new capacities to enjoy him!

What fuel for meditation, worship, and application! That should give us all a lot to chew on. Join us next Sunday in our "From Embers to a Flame" Family Bible Hour class as we feast together on the Gospel!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Calvinist Hip-Hop?!

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