thoughts on life and theology from an ordinary pastor

Shepherding a College-Bound Member

Recently, parents of one of our church’s high-school graduates and college-bound students asked if I would contribute to a book of helpful advice from those who have had an impact on him through his life. I was humbled and honored, as his pastor and as a close friend of the family to contribute. While the name has been changed, and a few of the details, below is the contribution I made as a suggestion of what I would recommend not only to this student, but just about any student as they move away to begin their college career. Brad, While it is no doubt harder for your parents to believe, it really does make Kelly and me take a step back to realize that you have reached this very significant milestone in your life and are headed off to college. One of the greatest joys of our family’s life is to have the close friendship of your family. Recently, while taking my son to a friend’s house abut thirty minutes from us, he wanted to know how far away it was from you. When I asked him if he ever wanted to live far out in the country like his friend, he immediately said, “no way, it’s too far from your family.” Each one of you means much to each one of us. You are embarking on a most significant step. It is now, as you step away from the familiar and safe borders of family, church, and hometown, that you will begin to not only develop new relationships and chart a new course, you will will also begin to see... read more

Preparing for Sunday – Psalms, Part 2

Below is the weekly post our church produces to help prepare our congregation for the Sunday morning gathering. Each summer, I take time to preach overview sermons through the Old Testament. We began last week in Psalms. This week we’ll look at a few more significant take-aways from this beautiful book. For those who live in the Kansas City metro area, we invite you to come to Summit Woods Baptist Church at 10:30 am. Carefully Think Last week we considered the book of Psalms as a whole. This week we will focus on how the Psalms affects our faith in God. Look through several headings of several psalms in each of the five sections of the book. List some of the musical terms that you see referred to (i.e.., “to the choirmaster,” “maskil,” “mahalat,” etc.). While it is difficult (if not impossible) to know what these refer to specifically, what do they indicate about the importance of music and how these psalms were to be played? Read through the following psalms: 7, 35, 58, 69, 85, 109, 137. What does the psalmist say about his enemies? Why does this not contradict the gospel of Jesus in the New Testament? Or does it? If you think so, explain. Read through the following psalms: 2, 8, 22, 69, 110. These are often referred to as Messianic psalms; those that speak of the coming of the Messiah. What characteristics do you learn about the Messiah? What indicators are there in each passage that this refers to the future Messiah and not someone else? Prayerfully Meditate  If the book of Psalms is an ancient... read more

Be Unashamed – T4G 2014

I had the joy of attending last week’s Together for the Gospel conference. I could (and no doubt at some point should) list a series of personal blessings from the conference, but in this post, I want to merely encourage you to engage in some of the content for yourself. Below are a few of the moments of the week I found deeply encouraging. The Testimonies This is one of several. You should watch them all. Two Marriages from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo. The Messages While all of the messages were excellent and encouraged and convicted me in unique ways, here are those I found most impactful: Never Spoke a Man Like This Before: Inerrancy, Evangelism and Christ’s Unbreakable Bible, Kevin DeYoung The Gospel by Numbers, Ligon Duncan Mass Defection: The Great Physician Confronts the Pathology of Counterfeit Faith, John MacArthur Persuading, Pleading and Predestination: Human Means in the Miracle of Conversion, John... read more

What Are You Doing With Your Sundays?

For the past number of weeks, I have been suggesting practical steps you can take to deepen your discipleship in Christ, primarily through engaging in closer relationships with others. I have emphasized you and one or two others getting together to challenge, encourage, pray, and study. In talking about small group or more personal means of discipleship, one might think that discipleship is best accomplished by these means. While such personal means of discipleship are necessary, they must come in tandum with your participation in what we could call corporate discipleship. In fact, I do not think you can define discipleship apart from your participation in the life of a local church. What is involved in what I am referring to as corporate discipleship? While there is much I could say, consider the following elements: Commit yourself to giving Sundays to God’s people. Consider clearing your calendar of any other significant events other than gathering and engaging with God’s people. Why not? Make it your aim to have the gathering of the church be the most important, time-consuming, focus of your day. Plan on having lunch with someone from church. Plan to engage with someone from church on Sunday evening, or attending the evening service. Do not limit your thinking, expectations, or schedule to a small portion of the day. The more significantly you engage the church on each Lord’s Day, the more significantly your relationships with others will grow. Singing with Understanding and Zeal With the Congregation. Our staff seeks, in advance, to inform the church each week about what songs we will sing. We provide links to... read more

Helpful Books for Deepening Discipleship

Studying the Scriptures directly is the most helpful pursuit you could pursue in deepening your discipleship in Christ. Reading and talking through a book of the Bible or pursuing a particular subject in Scripture is most helpful. A book like David Helm’s One to One Bible Reading is a very helpful resource to that end. At the same time, using biblically driven books on various subjects to stimulate your thinking and conversation are very helpful tools to use as well. In this post I will list a few books that I think any small group of Christians could begin to use to strengthen their walks with Christ. Obviously this is no exhaustive list. You can probably think of better and more books to add. Please suggest some others. These are some I have personally used and found effective. In choosing books to use, it would be helpful to stimulate your thinking by choosing different books in different sorts of categories. I will arrange some of my suggestions according to a few categories. Christian Living Desiring God, John Piper Future Grace, John Piper Trusting God, Jerry Bridges The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges The Cross-Centered Life, C. J. Mahaney Humility, C. J. Mahaney Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney When People Are Big and God is Small, Edward Welch The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer Call to Spiritual Reformation, D. A. Carson A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent Theology/Church Life Why We Love the Church, Kevin DeYoung The Trellis and the Vine, Colin Marshall The Gospel According to Jesus, John MacArthur 9Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever Knowing... read more

Tips on Memorizing Scripture with Others

One of the most helpful aspects of my regular meeting with others for the purpose of deepening my and their discipleship is memorizing Scripture together. I’m not necessarily “good” at memorizing. I’m definitely not as sharp with it as I was 20 years ago. It requires an immense amount of concentration and repetition for me, but those two elements (concentration and repetition) prove so fruitful in not only my meditation on the word but my conversation over the application of the word with others. Here are a few thoughts on how you could approach Scripture memory in a regular meeting with others for discipleship: Choose to memorize a large portion of Scripture, rather than smaller, random, unconnected verses. For example, the last portion of Scripture I memorized with a small group of people was the book of Colossians. Before that was the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). I learned the content of these sections very well. I saw how different portions of the book or section fit with previous or later sections. It was easier to memorize the verses as I thought of them in relation to what preceded and followed them. Our conversations about the larger section was more focused and full as we, together, thought through what the whole was saying. There is a flow and a purpose to what is being memorized that not only made it easier to remember, but easier to talk about. I found myself thinking through the content of these sections of Scripture more fully during the week and at random times through my day. Make sure that you not only... read more
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