Thursdays With Oswald #45

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Learning From My Experiences

     It is all very well to have experiences, but there must be a standard  for measuring them, and a standard more worthy than my own on the line on which  I know I am worthy. The standard for Christian experience is not the experience of another Christian, but God Himself.

     On the ground of the Redemption I am saved and God puts His Holy Spirit in me, then He expects me to react on the basis of that relationship. …The only way to understand the Scriptures is not to accept them blindly, but to read them in the light of a personal relationship to Jesus Christ.

From Baffled To Fight Better

Some people have said that experience is the best teacher.

That’s incorrect.

My experience is just that… MY experience. I have to have a standard other than myself to judge that experience. As a Christian I have this: God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit to help me apply that Word to my experience. If I will use this as my standard for all of my experiences, only then will I learn something eternally useful from my experiences.

And as C.S. Lewis so right stated, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.”

Plugged-In Parenting (book review)

Media saturates our lives. But it’s even more of a factor for the lives of our children. For years I’ve trusted the insights and movie/TV reviews from Focus On The Family’s Bob Waliszewski. Now in Plugged-In Parenting we get to go behind the reviews to learn the whys of the reviews.

In today’s world, we look at our presidents, our prime ministers, our princes and our potentates and we describe them as our leaders, but they’re not. They’re merely our rulers. The leaders are the people who change the minds and stimulate the imaginations of the public, whether children or adults. That means the movie makers, the people who make TV shows, the entertainment people in the business. — Douglas Gresham

Bob lays out some practical, biblically-sound principles that will help parents develop a framework for making sound decisions about media consumption. His approach is not a top-down, because-I-said-so approach, but one that involves even the kids in understanding why these decisions need to be made.

One of the more thought-provoking chapters is about developing a family constitution which gives the guidelines for what types of media are acceptable or unacceptable for your family.

I would recommend this book for every household who wants to ensure that only the highest quality media is being viewed in their homes. In addition, I appreciate the Plugged-In reviews both on their website and on the handy iPhone app.

I am a Tyndale book reviewer.

“The Best Movie Of The Year”

For a movie that won’t even open until September 30 to already be labeled “Best movie of the year,” you might think is merely marketing hype.

When you hear that the one who called it “Best movie of the year” is Pastor Rick Warren, you might think it’s a churchy movie.

But you’d be wrong.

I had a chance to see Courageous and I can tell you that this will be the best movie of 2011, and that it is definitely NOT a churchy movie.

Set against the backdrop of a city battling gang-related issues, four sheriff deputies struggle with being good dads and good law enforcement officers. In the process they learn what it takes to excel at both: it takes courage.

Courageous opens on September 30.

DO NOT MISS THE OPENING WEEKEND!
This is a movie that will challenge your whole family, but will be especially impacting for dads.

One Service. Many Churches.

I think one of the most hurtful things in the Christian world is the squabbles between denominations. So much energy — that could be used to win people to Christ — is lost in these stupid (yes, I said stupid!) territorial battles about insignificant theological or preference issues.

In Cedar Springs we are so blessed with an amazing ministerial association! I love working with all of my fellow pastors to impact our community with the good news about Jesus. These men and women are more than colleagues; they’re my friends.

On the last Sunday of August we all cancel our regular service schedules at our churches and join together in Morley Park for a combined community-wide service. Quite appropriately, this service is called UNITED.

This is going to be a fantastic morning of worship, teaching, hanging out in the park with others, and a great lunch and worship concert following the service.

If you are anywhere close to Cedar Springs, I encourage you to attend. All of the details are at unitedcedarsprings.com.

UNITED

one service. many churches. august 28 at 11am.

Why God Won’t Go Away (book review)

Allister McGrath is a genius at pointing out the flaws in the arguments that atheists use. So if you would like to know how to pick apart the theories of the leading atheists of our age, Why God Won’t Go Away: Is The New Atheism Running On Empty is just the book for you.

One of the things I appreciate about Dr. McGrath is his humble attitude. He is an extremely learned man, and could probably not only win a debate, but emotionally crush his debating partner in the process. Instead, you can sense the love and humility underlying all of his arguments. But make no mistake: his love in no way diminishes the sheer force of his intellectual prowess.

Why God Won’t Go Away gives the reader some valuable insights into the “four horsemen” of the New Atheism movement: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. Then Dr. McGrath systematically breaks-down their arguments using reason, science, history and fact. Although he points out the intimidation and ridicule that the New Atheists seem to resort to, Alister McGrath never even hints at a Christian using these tactics.

Another thing I appreciate about this book, is that there is enough information here to help the reader learn how to defend themselves against the arguments of an atheist friend, but the topics aren’t so complicated that it requires an advanced college degree to grasp.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I think you will too.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

Marriage Math

Martin Luther said:

“There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion, or company than a good marriage.”

Unfortunately our culture has water-down and diminished the value of marriage. Far too often marriage is seen as something which diminishes life, instead of enhancing it.

Perhaps this is because we have been viewing marriage with the wrong math.

Marriage is NOT … ½ + ½ = 1.

That makes sense mathematically, but it’s inaccurate. God didn’t create us a half-people. God created us whole and complete. So our spouse is not our better half, he/she is our better whole.

Marriage is NOT … 1 + 1 = 2.

Again, this makes sense mathematically, but it is not biblical. Why? Because 2 is divisible. And the Bible makes it clear that a man and woman who are married are one flesh.

Marriage IS … 1 X 1 = 1.

Not only does this work mathematically, but biblically too. God sees marriage as one whole man and one whole woman coming together to make one whole marriage. Not coincidentally, X (chi) is the first Greek letter of the name Christ. When Christ is at the center of a marriage, and when the husband and wife are more in love with Him than they are with their spouse, then a wholeness exists in the marriage.

1 X 1 = 1 is the type of marriage that glorifies God.

1 X 1 =1 is the type of marriage that is so lovely, friendly, and charming.

If you are single, keep yourself pure so you can bring your “oneness” as a gift to your future spouse. If you are married, keep the X — Jesus Christ — at the center of your marriage.

Thursdays With Oswald #44

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Fasting From Eloquence

     Belief in Jesus is a miracle produced only by the effectiveness of redemption, not by impressive speech, nor by wooing and persuading, but only by the sheer unaided power of God. The creative power of redemption comes through the preaching of the Gospel, but never because of the personality of the preacher.

     Real and effective fasting by a preacher is not fasting from food, but fasting from eloquence, from impressive diction, and from everything else that might hinder the gospel of God being presented. The preacher is there as the representative of God— “. . . as though God were pleading through us …” (2 Corinthians 5:20). He is there to present the Gospel of God. If it is only because of my preaching that people desire to be better, they will never get close to Jesus Christ. Anything that flatters me in my preaching of the gospel will result in making me a traitor to Jesus, and I prevent the creative power of His redemption from doing its work.

From My Utmost For His Highest

So much of pastoring focuses on the preaching. And yet Chambers says, “If it is only because of my preaching that people desire to be better, they will never get close to Jesus Christ.”

He’s right. It’s not about me or my preaching.

My focus is on what Jesus said: And I, if  I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me (John 12:32).

On The Verge (book review)

I’ve only been acquainted with the writings of Alan Hirsch for a short time, but — wow!do his thoughts resonate with me. On The Verge, which was co-authored with Dave Ferguson, is a thought-provoking, paradigm-challenging look at the potential of the church.

Alan and Dave make it very clear right from the outset that the church in America is at a crucial make-or-break point. They point out that the church in Europe and Australia have already lost their effectiveness in their cultures, and if the church in America doesn’t wake up soon, it will soon head down that same sad path toward irrelevancy.

The good news is that everything the church needs to become the disciple-making, missionally-minded, Christ-centered force it should be is right within it. If churches are willing to realign themselves with the apostolic gene at their core, they are right on the verge of something great!

On The Verge focuses on how churches can imagine, shift, innovate, and then move. Both Alan and Dave are well-suited to inspire their readers to take up this challenge before it’s too late. Alan’s thoughts about the church are so far ahead of the curve, and Dave is not just a church theorist, but he’s successfully doing all of the practices shared in this book.

Pastors and church leaders especially need to read this book. But — as Alan and Dave point out — this is not an issue just for professional clergy. In fact, if the church in America is going to survive and thrive, everyone needs to be involved. This will be a challenging book to read, but well worth your time.

I received a free copy of this book for review.

National Day Of Prayer & Fasting

Many times in our nation’s history, our presidents have called for a time for our citizens to pause from their normal routine, and seek God’s face in prayer. America needs prayer! But instead of this call to prayer coming from Washington, D.C., this one comes from Austin, TX, as Governor Rick Perry is appealing for us to pray.

Part of his proclamation reads —

Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting, like that described in the book of Joel. I urge all Americans of faith to pray on that day for the healing of our country, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of enduring values as our guiding force.

Right on cue the “usual suspects” have filed a lawsuit to stop this, claiming its unconstitutionality. HA!! One of those leading the charge to stop this day of prayer and fasting even said, “Nothing fails like prayer. It’s the ultimate political cop-out.” [1] DOUBLE HA!!

I won’t presume to speak for anyone else, but I know from personal experience that prayer works! And I also know from my history books that our Founding Fathers would be appalled at those who continually try to paint them as atheists or deists.

The Founding Fathers were so emphatic in their belief that prayer was to be an integral part of daily public life and public service that by 1815 they had called the people to pray 1,400 times! [2]

If you’d care to peruse some of the national, presidential calls to prayer from our so-called atheist/deist presidents, check out the resources at Wall Builders to see quotes from George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, and others.

Despite the naysayers’ complaints, I’m answering Gov. Perry’s call to prayer and fasting on Saturday, August 6, 2011. I hope you will join me!

Why Great Men Fall (book review)

Dr. Wayde Goodall addresses a subject that I wish didn’t have to be addressed in Why Great Men Fall. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen it; perhaps you’ve even experienced it firsthand with someone close to you. How tragic it is when we see spiritual, business or political leaders lose their influence in the wake of a devastating fall.

Dr. Goodall pulls no punches as he identifies the things that seem to trip men up time and time again. He looks squarely at the root causes – not just the symptoms – and challenges men to do the same. We’re all susceptible to sin and failure. The Bible warns us: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

These words from J.C. Ryle are a sober reminder –

Great falls seldom happen to a saint, without a previous course of secret backsliding. The church and the world are sometimes shocked by the sudden misconduct of some great professor of religion. Believers are discouraged and stumbled by it. The enemies of God rejoice and blaspheme. But if the truth could be known, the explanation of such cases would generally be found to have been private departure from God. People fall in private, long before they fall in public. The tree falls with a great crash, but the secret decay which accounts for it, is often not discovered until it is down on the ground.

Why Great Men Fall is not a long book, nor does Dr. Goodall present complicated arguments. It’s a straightforward, easy-to-understand diagnosis of the most common things which trip up great men. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to not only read this book, but to read it with a friend who will hold you accountable.

Guys, your family, your church, and your community need you to STAND STRONG!

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