A Thankful Heart

We just learned a new hymn here at CBC.

“My heart is filled with thankfulness to Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace and gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness and clothed me in His light;
And wrote His law of righteousness and pow’r upon my heart.” (Getty/Townend)

This expresses my heart so much. God has graciously been “massaging” my heart with these truths over and over again this year. With each circumstance God has worked into my heart His glorious grace. I am truly thankful.
Even more than this, I have seen the grace of Christ come alive in the lives of many of our people. This week, I want to express my gratitude to my church family for the grace of God that is evident in so many lives.
To my church family at CBC, thank you for…
1. Showing me Christ by following the leadership that the Father has given all of us in Christ. Imperfect elders and now deacons working together to serve God and others is a blessing, but it can’t be done without the people of God following. Grace to you!
2. Showing me Christ by loving Cindy and me, my family, and even my dog! We bombarded you with us now over 2 1/2 years ago and you have graciously and lovingly accepted us–all of us and the joy of Christ has permeated your lives in love for us. Thank you!
3. Showing me Christ by loving the new people God has brought. I have seen some of our older people invite these younger people into your homes, out for a lunch or dinner, and you have showered them with lovingkindness. The newer people have all spoken of your kindness and how you pictured the love of Christ for the world by your kindness shown.
4. By showing me Christ by serving each other and reaching beyond your comfort zone to love people who are different. God graciously continues to give us people from all over Columbus and even from many different cultures. Many of you have given yourselves to them in a very self-less way that exalts the name of Christ. I watched with amazement some of the new younger folks who jump in and do whatever it takes to serve the body of Christ. Last Sunday night was so encouraging. Many of the ladies who in the past always were the ones in the kitchen were graciously served by our young adults who served pies, home made whipped cream, coffee, and all with a joy that was full of the joy of Christ. It was breathtaking!
5. By showing me a greater glimpse of Christ’s humility through your love for God’s Word. You have listened to preaching and have responded with humility, confession, repentance, as well as a deep-rooted desire to see God’s glory revealed and enjoyed. You have motivated me by your loving response to God and His Word and the results have been undeniable. You have grown, matured, and have then been more prepared to look at life with courage and joy knowing God is really God.

So to all my CBC family, may this Thanksgiving really be a time of rejoicing in the glory of Jesus Christ! He alone is our King, Savior, Redeemer, and Friend. Spend time thanking Him and giving of yourself to His great grace so that we will continue to become more like Him and less like ourselves. We have much work to do for His Kingdom and let’s not miss a single opportunity to walk with Him.

Prayer for Consecration and Worship

In preparation for tomorrow’s worship service, why not pray this Puritan Prayer from the book Valley of Vision?

Consecration and Worship

My God, I feel it is heaven to please Thee, and to be what Thou wouldst have me be. O that I were holy as Thou art holy, pure as Christ is pure, perfect as Thy Spirit is perfect! These, I feel, are the best commands in Thy Book, and shall I break them? must I break them? am I under such a necessity as long as I live here?

Woe, woe is me that I am a sinner, that I grieve this blessed God, who is infinite in goodness and grace! O if He would punish me for my sins, it would not would my heart so deep to offend Him; But though I sin continually, He continually repeats His kindness to me.

At times I feel I could bear any suffering, but how can I dishonour this glorious God? What shall I do to glorify and worship this best of beings? O that I could consecrate my soul and body to His service, without restraint, for ever! O that I could give myself up to Him, so as never more to attempt to be my own! or have any will or affections that are not perfectly conformed to His will and His love! But, alas, I cannot live and not sin.

O may angels glorify Him incessantly, and, if possible, prostrate themselves lower before the blessed King of heaven! I long to bear a part with them in ceaseless praise; but when I have done all I can to eternity I shall not be able to offer more than a small fraction of the homage that the glorious God deserves. Give me a heart full of divine, heavenly love.

Grace Living

Living in the grace of Christ is easy to say but sometimes very hard to actually do.  How do you live in the grace of Christ when someone around you does or says something that just sets you off?  How does God’s grace work in this specific instance?  I think there are several things that immediately must come to mind:

1.   Remember, they are not the biggest sinner in the situation.  1 Timothy 1:15 reminds us how to look at our own sin.  If Paul could say he (of all people) was the chief of sinners, I think we certainly should entertain similar thoughts. These aren’t just polite words that Paul was saying, but are words coming from a heart that understood the depth of the love of Christ whereby he was loved contrasted to his sin-laden heart.  No ones sin is worse than mine–no one!  That opens wide the door to the next thought.

2.   The love of Christ must constrain us. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul reminds us what should be behind our thoughts and emotions — Christ’s love.  In fact the very next verse is quite clear: “…He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” We don’t live for ourselves–we live because Christ loved us and died for us! So, that person’s actions cannot have any sway over us. Christ’s love must control even my thoughts.

3.   Think long and hard just how God reacts to me.  How does God always react when I disregard His Word, chose to rebel, and demand from Him? God is long suffering, merciful, gracious, kind, and yet always just.  By just, He cannot over look sin.  This is where the gospel lives and reigns.  In Christ, God’s wrath was appeased. So, God’s justice is always served in Christ–always. This means I don’t have to seek His justice on the person doing wrong. I too can be long suffering, gentle, kind, and forbear even the worse sin. God’s love is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Frankly, this kind of love is amazing love…how can it be?

4.   Yearn to see God at work!  Take a deep breath and be still!  God is God.  He is always out for His glory–always. Is. 66:18 For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. His glory will be seen!  It will! Long to see God’s great glory at work in their heart and make sure that you’re angst about what they have done doesn’t get in the way.  God’s Kingdom work is much more important than your angst!

5.   Do not repay evil for evil.  I love what Paul says in Rom. 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If you see Paul’s life (imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead…) you can at least begin to understand why Paul would wrestle with these thoughts.  How often do the first thoughts out of our minds end up being downright ugly, unkind, and vile? God’s love didn’t repay evil for our evil, but produced the biggest gift of grace we could ever have dreamed of.  Once again–amazing.  How sweet this sounds!

6.    Resist the urge to talk to others about it.  Go straight to the person. But…as you go, go seeking to restore, build up, encourage, and ultimately exalt the name of Christ. Sometimes the building up needs to be corrective in nature but it should always be surrounded with care more for the person and the name of Jesus than how hurt you are.

Living in grace is not easy…but yet, it’s easy.  Matt. 11:30 “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Humanly, its a knock-down-drag-out battle.  With the Spirit of Christ within, His ever-flowing grace makes it easy and light.  Wow–once again, amazing!

Growing Old…er!

It’s an amazing thing to grow old…er.  I was sitting the other night listening to a bunch of young people talk about the 90’s and realized that although I think that was just yesterday, for some of them it was nearly 20 years ago. “Wow,” I thought, “for them that is old.”  For me…not so much.

One of the things about growing older is you begin to understand that time often tells a story. If you watch people much, (which I love to do) you begin to notice several things over time.  You often notice that many, many people struggle with unbelief in God. Many who in their youth claimed to love God never followed Him much after school. You notice many struggle with suffering. All of us do to some degree or another, but many have been given “thorns in the flesh” that just absolutely will not go away.  You also notice that basically, people are who they are and who they have always been.  This is kind of a “well–duh!!!” I know, but over time it begins to be very obvious.

The thing that I am seeing most clearly is the devastation of sin in the world in my own life.  Growing up around hearing about sin and knowing that I am a sinner, you sometimes put sin in its own little box and you think you know what it is.  As you grow old, you see your sin and then as you have children, you begin to see a different angle on your sin as you watch your own children deal with their sin.  You then find that you are a very good teacher of sin because your children pick up on how you like to be “god” of your life and they do much the same thing.  You then see sin bring such devastation to families and life’s relationships over and over again.  Relationships that are supposed to function smoothly actually are the most brittle. Parents, because of their desire to be “god” in their own lives make it very difficult for their children to honor them, love them, or have any decent relationship with them.  Children who are supposed to sweetly obey and honor their parents are crumbling in their own personal relationships and cannot ever seem to make time for family.  It goes on and on. Sometimes, it seems that people insist upon making a wreck of their lives. Time tells this story.

All that to say, there is one redeeming factor.  Jesus.  Jesus came into this world to only heal those who are ill (Mark 2:17). The illness is overwhelming. We are getting old..er! The very fact that we are growing older only indicates our need of redemption–things need to be restored.  This restoration is only found in Christ.  Thanks be to God for His Son! Over time, shouldn’t Christ become even more precious?


If you need electricity you just plug in somewhere, right? Right!  That is, unless you don’t have electricity in the first place.  You may have an outlet, but if there is no electricity there, you are as good as unplugged. Image

We just went through a vicious storm here that took the electricity down all across our city.  Our church building did not have electricity for almost a week.  We had a Sunday morning service and it was pretty warm.  God was good and we all made it through–including some visitors that came.

I was reminded again just how we rely on electricity.  We are people that need to be plugged in.  If there is no electricity, we find it very difficult to live our lives.  Someone asked me the question that we all ask, “How did the people survive when there was no electricity?”  I just seem to think they were in some ways much stronger people and perhaps less dependent people.  We are very dependent people and all of our “things” make it obvious.  It always reminds me of what Paul says in Romans 1:22, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” That is humanity, isn’t it?  Really–we claim to be so wise and all that needs to happen is for someone to pull the plug and we are sunk!

This is really a pretty clear picture of just how we really are though. Paul is speaking of unbelievers who attempt to live life as if God doesn’t exist. But even as children of God we continue to be very dependent upon God. All of our very life and existence is only because He graciously makes it possible for us to live.  We need Him more than we could ever realize.  This is not only true in a general sense, but also in a very specific sense.
1Cor. 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Everyday, we need a Savior!  Everyday, by His great grace, we have a Savior.  His name is Jesus.  Blessed be His name!

That I Might Decrease

John the Baptist knew what he was talking about. He saw Christ for all He was and knew that His job was to prepare the way for Jesus to come. His memorable passion was to decrease so that Christ would increase (John 3:30).

I was listening to someone mention just the other day that they were responding to a situation the way they were because, “That’s just the way I am!” I said to that person, “We aren’t allowed to be who we are! In Christ we are called to decrease for the purpose of us becoming more like Christ!” It was a novel thought to the person.

The work of God in saving us is remarkable, but just as remarkable is the on-going work of His grace that changes us from one glory to the next glory.  John the Baptist got it!  We are a little slow sometimes…Ok, a lot slow (if I can say it that way).

Grace works this way–it always changes us.  To decrease ought to be our prayer, our passion, our goal and yet it shouldn’t stay there, because we should also just as passionately yearn to have Christ’s power and presence in us, through us, and out of us as we live our lives.

May Christ be seen in us.  Nothing novel about it! It’s a glorious purpose to display Him!

A Pastor’s Check Up

I recently had my car in for an oil change and general check up. As a vehicle gets older more and more mechanical things can begin to go wrong with it. It can get quite expensive–especially if you ignore fixing them and have to do several repairs at a time. Most places that change your oil will claim at least a 24 point check list they go through just for your convenience, of course.  They always seem to find things that need fixing, don’t they–for their convenience??  The check up though is good and necessary.

The same can be said of a pastor. A good overall check up is necessary for the effective loving shepherd if he is going to continue ministering with grace and truth.  Ministry can be rough and cause damage to the key areas of life.  If it is ignored, it can get quite expensive to the whole church.  I’m not sure we should make a 24 check point list, but there are a number of key things each pastor should be sure to check. What are some of these key areas to watch for? If you are a pastor, maybe you need to begin a list.  If you are not a pastor, maybe you can be a help to your pastor by sitting down with him and encourage him by talking about some of these check points.

1.  A personal growth in love for Christ. There are many things that pull and tug at the heart of a shepherd.  Every honest pastor at some point feels that God has chosen the wrong man for the job. He knows all too well many of his own personal weaknesses and often feels like Moses who told God “I am not eloquent and slow of speech and tongue…” Ex 4:10.  It is vital then that a shepherd set aside his feelings and reorient himself around the love of God as seen through Christ. There is nothing sweeter to the soul and nothing more nourishing. A pastor must find in Christ his greatest treasure and grow in his personal love and amazement for Christ.

2.  A personal discipline to think what is true. Sin is deceitful and thrives on that which is false.  Sin delights in partial truths–even though that is clearly an oxymoron. A shepherd has to be discerning–constantly. Approving things that are excellent (Phil 1:10) is a constant rearranging priorities and seeing through the facades of life that can come as a fog into the atmosphere of ministry.  Seeing through the deceptions and getting to the root of the issue takes careful personal discipline to think what is true in every area of life and ministry. Paul understood this and told the Philippian Christians to think whatever is true (Phil 4:10). Personal discipline is a must here.  Check yourself.

3. A personal accountability and transparency. Younger pastors get this. Many older generation pastors don’t. This is unfortunate and probably is a small commentary of culture and climate of both generations. Culture aside, it is Scriptural. 1Thessalonians 1:5 Paul points specifically to this kind of transparency when he says, “…You know what kind of men we proved to be among you..” Powerful.  The truth is, people do know what kind of man their pastor is.  The question then is, “Will the pastor be open and honest with his weaknesses, fears, frailties, and doubts and set up friendships of accountability that will encourage, rebuke, grow him in grace and in knowledge of Christ? Humility and satisfaction in the perfections of Christ give us our freedom to be transparent and accountable.

4.  A personal  passion to love.  The two great commands stem from the Ten Commandments–love God and love others. Together they highlight a truth: Because God is love we too should love. We often emphasize who we are to love and fail to notice that because God is love it should be our character to love as well.  When constantly working with people in their most difficult times–when in sin, real life hurts, disagreements, or in tragedies a pastor can soon become protective of his own soul by seeking to distance himself from people. Cynicism, self protection or blindness to people and their needs often plague the heart and like a corrosive numbness, over time, genuine love grows cold in the shepherd’s heart.  This is a danger for a shepherd that will soon diminish his love for people and ultimately his love for and dependence upon God Himself.  Check yourself.  Guard your heart.

5.  A personal priority of family. No other job position has as a requirement for the position healthy family relationships. No other relationships are as difficult, tedious, overpowering, and vulnerable as family relationships. A shepherd must keep as a priority his family.  Our theology is best displayed in our families. A shepherd must not merely go home from work, but he must go home to work. He cannot actually be strong in the pulpit when his family has no regard or respect for him at home. A shepherd cannot be blind here. Time is the great tattle-tale. Time has a way of uncovering what really is lived at home.  Most young pastors don’t think enough of the Gospel to put it to work in the early years of parenting. It smacks them in the gut years later.

6.  A personal display of confessing and forsaking. At any given time, who is the biggest sinner in the room? The Gospel frees us to think as Paul when he says in 1Timothy 1:15, “…Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” His open confession of this is reassuring, isn’t it? If who Christ is and what Christ has done is really true, then why can’t the shepherd be the model of confessing sin and forsaking sin? The kindness of the grace of Christ allows us this privilege. The sheep don’t need to see someone who looks and acts like a super-christian hero–they need a glimpse of Christ who knows what to do with sin.

Time for a check up? If you are a pastor, go through the drill, but don’t wallow in your feelings.  Instead find great hope in the blessed mercy and grace in Christ alone.  If you are not a pastor, but have one, pray for him.  Encourage him and his family.  Then look to your own life and seek God’s power and presence to be the kind of sheep a shepherd finds great joy in shepherding.  They watch for your souls, you know.

Gaze on the Cross

This week is what many people have throughout the years called “Holy Week.” It isn’t that the other weeks of the year for the child of God are not “holy,” it is an emphasis on the greatness of the perfect work of our Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
When many people think of Christ’ suffering, they usually are thinking of the physical suffering. Certainly the suffering of Christ physically was unlike anything we could ever imagine. Yet, I think there was another suffering that Christ took upon Himself that to me, was just as crushing. He was mocked, made fun of, and laughed at to the point that our Savior, our King was made a joke.
Our Lord had already endured unbelievable scourging. Following the scourging but before the crucifixion, the scene was one of public humility. Jesus was taken to the common hall, and the whole band of soldiers was gathered around Him. This “whole band” numbered to about 600 soldiers. These soldiers were not Jews, for Jews would not serve under Roman leadership, but were most likely Syrians. They were under the leadership of Pilate. The soldiers probably new really very little about Christ and He probably looked pathetic as His swollen body shivered in it’s nakedness. They knew He claimed to be a king, but they saw Him as a fake, and a fraud, and most likely thought that He was mentally deranged and deserved mocking. He was a clown to them, a buffoon, a complete idiot.
There was physical mocking – a crown of thorns they put upon His head. They spat upon Him and took the reed in His hand and hit him over the head in a nagging, irritating manner. It was a crown–a symbol of regal nobility was replaced with tortuous ignobility and pain. Unbearable by anyone’s standard.
There was mental mocking – They belittled Him. The mental anguish was real for our Lord for I believe He struggled with the reality that these men really did not know what they were doing. Yet, it was embarrassing to be there naked, receiving the mock symbols of a kingdom and under such public mocking.
There was spiritual mocking – He really was “king of the Jews!” Only, not as they thought. If it is true that He was in all points tempted as we are, then, there had to be a spiritual battle within that dealt with truth. It must have been a fierce battle, and yet, “He opened not His mouth.
I know that I am not brave enough to physically die the death of the cross–that is unimaginable. But as bad as that is, I am one who can’t handle mocking. It is deeply crushing and our Lord was deeply crushed and did not open His mouth. He took it all for me.
Amazing love! How can it be?

Sins and Weights

The writer of Hebrews gives us instruction in chapter twelve, verse one: “let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely…”. I am in the middle of being reminded just exactly what he is talking about. I continue a life-long battle with my own physical weight. I don’t think I am alone in this battle but I pretty much have to fight this battle all alone–except for God’s divine enablement to make good healthy decisions about the kind of food and just how much is enough to eat. The obvious problem is I love to eat. I especially love to eat certain things–just about all of which do not help me in my battle. It’s weird, but I think you all know exactly what I mean. Yes, I am on a diet.

For several years I thought I just couldn’t get back down to where I needed to be and I used age as my excuse. I would continue to run and because I had an extra 10-15 pounds on me, my joints began to hurt; my blood pressure kept going up and I was constantly barely eking out three miles–then two and a half…and then I just stopped.

I have now lost 23 pounds and have one more to go. I went out last week to run 5K and honestly, I thought I was flying the entire way. It was the first time in a long time since I ran and the first time since I had lost most of the weight. This verse came flooding back to my thinking. This is exactly the way sin and “weights” are.
Weights in this context are not necessarily wicked, evil, and sinful things. When you continue reading the chapter there is much talk about the need to discipline our thinking–ultimately our thinking about who Jesus is and what He has done for us. When we consider Him we begin to shed those weights and sin and we are able to run with endurance. So much of the excess weights we carry around is due to our unbelief. Our unbelief simply plays out in our pride that life is ultimately about us–our happiness, our definitions of God, our likes or our dislikes.

The writer of Hebrews has just taken us through a whole list of people who simply trusted God (see chapter 11). Their stories are varied but had one thing in common. They believed God. These weren’t super-human people but trusting people who threw off doubts of the “Godness” of God and faced fallen humanity and the fallen world around them with faith–life transforming trust in God. Doubt and unbelief always come with baggage. If Christ isn’t enough, if Christ alone is insufficient, if Christ doesn’t satisfy then something else has to. So we begin to put on weight of self-righteous acts, seemingly innocuous manipulations of life, and empty self-satisfaction. Before long we are forced to wear some bulky fig leaves of covering so no one will suspect the little extra weight we are carrying. Spiritually, we are always weary, always a bit under the weather, and fatigued in the run. Our spiritual “joints” ache. We find ourselves not getting along with others; we make excuses; and we gorge ourselves in self-pity.

Trust God about your righteousness.  Christ’s one-time death, burial, and resurrection took care of everything. We get to live out His righteousness–so trust Him! (2 Cor 5:21)

Trust God for your joy.  Stop trying to manipulate life, people, work, feelings, emotions, spouse, friends, and church (even the Word) in hopes that you will find just the right combination that will bring you joy.  Joy is always a result of trust. (1 Pet 1:8)

Trust God for your satisfaction. Discontentment, ingratitude, frustrations, fears, are all fruits of dissatisfaction in Christ alone. That I-want-more-feeling-in-the-gut comes straight from the lie that God hasn’t given to us what we need. Trust God! (Rom 8:32)

Trust God for your completeness. Insecurities (and we all have them), anger, resentment, self-comparisons all come from the lie that God hasn’t done everything quite right and so we are not as we should be. Trust the Creator. (Col 2:6-10)

Don’t fear the mirror! See what you need to see and run to the ever flowing grace of God for transformation! Every day we are changed from glory to glory (2Cor 3:18)!

Pastors’ Huddle at Heritage Bible Church

This month will end in a very exciting way for me and perhaps many fellow pastors. I will be participating in what we have so far named a “Pastors’ Huddle” at Heritage Bible Church in Greer, SC. We aren’t sure what to call it since there are no shortages of pastoral conferences to attend, but we feel like this is more than just a conference. We aren’t seeking a following or to become anything “national.” It’s just us and we have wonderful relationships with each other. We also have similar goals and passions for Christ and His Church.  That really is about it–nothing fancy, just love for God and love for people.

This is the second year of such a meeting and it is shaping up to be an encouraging time of prayer, worship, fellowship and re-tooling for the pastors attending. It will begin on Sunday morning at HBC with Pastor Danny Brooks preaching. In the evening and each evening following we will hear Chris Anderson from Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio. He is a church planter, hymn writer, and a shepherd. Monday through Wednesday there will be times of prayer, worship, discussion, and building of relationships with men who are on the front lines of ministry including many of the HBC church planters. There will also be times for the wives of the attending pastors to meet for prayer and discussion. Here is some basic information.

February 26-29, 2012

Theme:  Cultivating a Healthy Church, Home, & Heart

Purpose: To provide a time of spiritual and physical refreshment through helpful discussion and strategic planning for our future ministry together in establishing and strengthening local churches in all the world.


Cultivating a Healthy Church – The Centrality of the Gospel – Danny Brooks

Cultivating a Healthy Mind – Christ Gives us Truth – Matthew Hoskinson

Cultivating a Healthy Discipleship – Knowing and Showing Christ – Eric Sipe

Discussion to include:

What Keeps Us From Resting – Life in the Ministry

What Keeps Our Homes Healthy – Life in the Pastors Family Life

What Defines our Mission – Our Theology

If you or your pastor is at all interested in coming, please feel free to comment here, email me, or contact HBC. The cost is minimal but the investment is for life.  See you there!