And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My One Resolution for 2012: Holiness

As I have spent the last several weeks ruminating about the
accomplishments, the position, and future of my life. After some 40+ years,
like many men, I forecast and speculate that I have much to answer to God
for. Many men of my age hit a mid life
crisis and play the “Woulda, Shouldda, Coulda game”. This is that depressing period of life where
they look back at the glory days of high school and wonder “Why did I not
conquer the world, achieve my dreams, or stand above all others”? It is a terrible bog to wallow in.

Personally, I find myself thinking about standing before God
is judgment, wondering what I have to show for my Christian walk. I have missed so many opportunities. I have read countless books and failed to
heed the warnings within. Though I have
grown and have had some great highlights, I am starving for more of God and
want to gain many more wins in my struggle against all forms of worldliness
(read that sin). So over the last
several weeks I have been seeking God for a definitive direction. I believe
that God has clearly provided me with a compass through the scriptures.

The answer to all my dilemmas is the pursuit of
holiness. Consider it a personal
striving for personal revival. I want
this. I want it greater than
anything. In reflecting over my life
from earliest memory to the finish line of life that I want to be able to
cross, Holiness is the key.

Therefore, I would like to share with you my reasoning for
why holiness will be my objective of 2012.
These are thoughts that are forming within me a renewed way of thinking
about life and the opportunities that God will allow this year.

Holiness is the only fitting response to trials. James and Colossians talk of working out and
being sanctified in trials. It adds much
to our lives by de-cluttering our thinking and our heart. Holiness is what causes us to count it all
joy when we face trials, for we are thankful for the perfection it moves us

In all things we are to glorify God. If God is not honored by the prayers of one
who cherishes his sin, then He is not honored by the acts or works of someone
who is not holy. (PS 66:18, Col 1:10, 3:17) Repentance and scripture application play a
huge role in the sanctification of the soul.

Worship requires a holy preparation. I have spent a lot of time considering the
tabernacle and the things that went into its daily service. This leaves me convicted that my worship
should be first met with preparation in a solemn way. I should never casually or flippantly regard
the name of God or my opportunities to meet with Him.

If I am holy I spend less time correcting the sins of others
and place that resource on my own sanctification. True, I am to be my brother’s keeper and to
shepherd the flock, but I must do so without any beams or planks in my eye to
help them remove their specks of sawdust.
Along those lines, If I am seeking to be holy myself, I am putting my
efforts into someone I can do something about rather than not. This should produce humility. It also causes me to experience the struggles
and exertion required to walk closer with God.
Therefore, I am better able to help others in this same pursuit without
dispensing pat “Sunday School” answers to problems like pray, repent, read your
bible, and go to church.

Holiness provides a distinction apart from the world. It causes us to abide in Christ and to
therefore be at peace and produce spiritual fruit. Being separate from the world is an act of
worship. It also fulfills the admonishment
to let our light shine before the world and do our good acts that they would
praise our Father.

Jesus said to be holy because He is holy. This alone is the foundational reason for a
child of God to seek holiness. Putting
to death sin is a grand honor unto God.
It is a choosing of all He is above all the temptations and offerings of
the world. (Lev 20:7, 1 Peter 1:16)

D. L. Moody once said “The world has yet to see what one man
completely sold out to God can be used for”.
And I wish to echo the truths of revivals of old, without holiness no
one will see the Lord.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reading Other's Resolutions in the News

Last night I read an online survey about new years
resolutions. A local news agency had
placed upon their website the question; “What are you going to try to do
differently in 2012”? Participants were
allowed to leave their actual resolutions rather than check off boxes with
suggestions. Aside from the rabble of
rude bravado of some, several responses interested me in their sincerity. The most poignant resolve for next year was
“I am going to try to go to church more”.
This came up at least a third of the time.
In a day and age that seems to be losing its spirituality,
this news comes as a form of hope. What
I see being revealed is that there are genuine folks out there that see the
need for attending church, and I hope for worship. The apparent growth of assaults against
Christianity in the workplace, schools, and media are really nothing new. We just seem to hear of them more because of
the rapid communication devices of the day, and because the news media can
evoke an emotionally charged story.
But as the called people of God, let’s take this good news
as a sign for action. Like a new gym
membership, January may be the month they make the effort to go to church. Make every effort to personally connect with
the new faces. The church is called to come
to these folks and aid them in the underlying motivation for attending
church. That would be, meeting the
hunger of the spirit. Only we can
provide them with spiritual food that satisfies. Let’s feed them the Bread of Life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Glory, Wonder, Treasure

The evening was cool as the first few stars began to shine. A thin wisp of red loomed to the west as Joseph laid a branch and straw upon the fire. Mary’s contractions were getting stronger. Oh how she longed for Elizabeth her cousin to be there. For nine months she had endured the physical and emotional pains of the pregnancy. Worse than the aches, the morning sickness, and even the journey to Bethlehem, were the thorns of ridicule she had endured. Having returned from the hill country to Nazareth she was pregnant. Her parents ostracized her. Friends became fountains of ridicule. Some would not even sell to her in the market place. She had to draw water alone. Joseph at first considered divorce, but God intervened. Because of the angel speaking to Joseph as he had to her, her marriage would last. Each painful infliction was driving them closer to each other. At least in him she had comfort.

As the contractions increased, Joseph went to get help.

Just a few miles away the pastures of the lower hills saw the shepherds bringing their flock into the pens for the night. The stone walls were short but tall enough to protect from beasts and wind. These fields were home. It was all they had and even this did not belong to them. They were despised by society as thieves and liars. The property they would look after was not even their own. Because of their reputation they constantly had to give an account for their efforts. It was a life of one day resembling the other without hope for anything better.

Mary twisted in agony. With a huge sigh, Anna the only woman who would help Joseph announced “You have a son”. She laid him on Mary’s chest. Mary relaxed as her husband dobbed her brow with cool water. Looking into each others eyes, they shared both compassionate peace and an abounding excitement. This had been the hardest three months of their entire lives, and now they praised God for all they had experienced. Joseph placed his hand upon the boy and prayed.

A brilliant light shown just in front of Andrew, son of Matthias. It immediately sent him into a defensive retreat. The angel compassionately announced, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord”. Awestruck, the others awoke and looked upon this visitor.

As Gabriel was speaking, the heavens burst into a brilliant hue of pure white. He shared that they were invited to go and see the child. He would be found in a pen, lying in a manger, wrapped in cloths as was the custom. Suddenly as if they could not longer refrain from speaking, an angelic shout was made announcing the glory of God. Though Gideon and his men had shouted and won victory over the Midianites, this shout declared victory over the curse upon mankind.

As Mary leaned against a pile of hay she ate her first bit of food in several hours. Anna had gone to tend to her home and just she and Joseph cared for the child. Joseph stood and took the child from Mary to lay him in the only safe bed they could create, an old discarded wooden trough. “Sleep now Mary, get your rest” Joseph said. She lay there trying to rest, and through closing eyes saw Joseph, kneeling at the manger, arms outstretched, and weeping as he prayed.

It was then six of them stumbled into the corral. Dressed in various pigments of brown, these shepherds were gasping for breath and excitedly talking, regardless of turn. Speaking to Joseph, they told of the angel and the message they had been given. Then casting their glance to Mary they asked forgiveness for intruding. “But, may we please see the child”, Andrew said.

Joseph again placed baby Jesus upon the lap of Mary. It seemed as if time stopped. No one spoke and a hush fell upon this solemn night. Thoughts raced through the minds of the shepherds as they wondered about all that had happened that night. Was this truly the Messiah, the chosen one of God? How could this little child ever throw off the bonds of Rome and fulfill all that God had promised Father Abraham? Their concentration was broken by the bleating of a small yet pure year old lamb which they offered as a gift.

The visitors said their farewells and departed for the fields. They were simply struck with awe and wonder. Yet Mary pondered as now Joseph slept, this was to be a treasure that would carry her through for eternity.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Ten Best Books I read in 2011

The Ten Best Books I read in 2011

(In no particular order)

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul Tripp

20,000 Legues Under the Sea, Jules Verne

Warnings to the Churches, J C Ryle

Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin

Holiness, J C Ryle

Just the Way I Am, Krista Horing

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Waterson

The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, John Piper and Justin Taylor

Lectures to my Students, C H Spurgeon

Practical Religion, J C Ryle

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blue Christmas

Today is a day of prayer.

Over the last 48 hours I find that God keeps bringing me to pray for several who are facing their first Christmas without a mom, dad, or spouse. I think of Diane, Scott, Wanda, Greg, Gary, and others. I rememer how Jesus was often moved with compassion. I pray for that same compassion to be felt within the heart for these saints.

Also I am compelled as others may have lost someone in recent years and are still saddened by the loss.

Though not a family member, I lost a significant friend this year also. She was 99. We won't be caroling at her house this Wednesday. Nor will she greet us with cookies right from the oven.

I am also burdened to pray for and encourage many whom are battling cancer, facing the season of giving without anything to give due to job loss, and those who struggle in difficult divorce situations.

But I can offer hope. For this is a season about birth. It is about all things new. It is a season to remember the covenant of God through His Son. As my son Ben and I were talking last night, this world is a world of great pain. Because of sin and separation from God, no one goes for long without scars and wounds. These truths are painful. Yet our hope is not here. Our hope lies in the Peace announced by the angels. That though we were captives, Christ can set us free. And one day, a glorious day, all this suffering will be past. I will see grandma and grandpa again. Grace will be seen in its true value. I will relish in the joy that God has made up for me the wrongs that I inflicted upon others. I will never again be separated from God and the gospel will have been fulfilled.

Though we suffer now, for a little while in comparison, we have this hope, His name is Immanuel. God is with us.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Pastor's Wife in Persevering

In honor of my wife loving me, and celebrating over eighteen years of marriage, I wanted to repost this article from a while back.

Musings About Persevering Alongside My Wife

In all the struggles I have had to deal with in ministry, no one person this side of Heaven has helped me more than my wife. Now God will send along people from time to time who are given for the moments need. However, no one can surpass God’s plan for perseverance in the ministry that the pastor’s wife as a paraclete.

That being said, the marriage of a pastor ought to be of utmost importance. It should follow the joy of the quiet time. Now I am not a perfect husband, but what follows are a few items that have solidified our marriage and added to perseverance in the hardest of times.

  • Daily have time to talk uninterrupted at levels of planning, rejoicing, learning, and intimacy.

Planning means we go over schedules and calendars, concrete things as well as tentative plans.

Rejoicing gives each of us an opportunity to share what wishes for the day and experiences we have had that were significant to us.

Learning gives each of us an opportunity to discover something new as well as teach form our perspective. This is often sharing of scripture and updating one another on the kids.

Intimacy deals with the emotional levels and struggles of life. It also is a time to share wishes and desires.

  • Pray with your wife. Make it real prayer too. This leads to inspiration and meditation. It lets God bring solutions as Truth that sets us free.
  • Get her perspective. Wives often have what I call “Radar”. They can pick up on things and perspectives of people and situations that we men can not fathom. They are usually right.
  • Often let your wife set the pace. I am headstrong and rust to fix everything. Often my wife will give caution to not react till morning. Heeding this advice has saved me from many sorrows.
  • Scripture. If my wife gives me a scripture there is usually good reason. I may not need it in that moment, but I will certainly need it before the week is over.
  • Keep her #2. Nothing will bring perseverance in your ministry like perseverance in your marriage. Without the home following God, we are unfit for ministry. Honor God by honoring the wife of your youth and you will find unhindered access to God.
  • A Character of Love. If you truly love your wife, your actions will form habits, those form character, and thusly you will have a heart of true love. Much has been written about love languages and such. These have great insights, but give your wife love as Christ loved the church, and your ministry will persevere.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting the Most Out of Christmas

Dearest Saints of HSBC,

I am at my desk today and working through my annual desire to get the most out of Christmas. Often I find myself wanting to provide for my family and others in ways that would make Christmas extra meaningful for them. As I have been praying today and pondering how to present Christ this season, God has hit me hard. Over the last 24 hours I have encountered people and stories of pain, hurt, and rejection. May "Dreams" have been cruelly dispersed. Christmas can be a difficult time. Many I know are out of work. Some are facing the first season of holidays without their long time spouse. And God is speaking to me. Today I am finding power in prayer for these friends. God has enabled me to talk to some, others text, and to be an encouragement. This is the church being the church. Will you join with me in a few things...
  • Spend extra time with folks and seek their prayer needs. Sincerely pray with them.
  • Be open to God's promptings of the spirit to encourage others.
  • Send me your prayer needs. ( I do love to pray for you all. I regret that there seems to never be enough time for fellowship. It is in fellowship that we bond and support. So please let me know how I can pray for you this Christmas season.
  • Lastly, please let me know what God is working in your life and through scripture. Are you taking the challenge to share the gospel by January 27th?