Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Abigail's Upcoming Vertebral Spinal Stapling Surgery at Shriner's in Philadelphia

Grace Bible Pres Family, Seminary friends, and Pearl Pres Family -

Amy found a video which describes what Abigail is going to be having done this coming April 21st. I enjoyed watching the video, but it was somewhat difficult because Abigail's curve is worse than any they show you in the video. She is actually having two surgeries at once - the one described in this video and the insertion of a titanium rib. Her curve is pretty bad and she currently wears a pretty tight brace. I couldn't be prouder of her. She has shown me how tough she really is - both physically and spiritually. How odd, that God would teach me humility and godliness through my 8-year-old daughter.

Youtube video

Amy and Abigail are going to be in Philadelphia for 3 weeks. The other children are going home to Cincinnati and will be staying with my parents. I will remain here in Mississippi to finish up the 18 hours I'm taking this semester.

We would appreciate everyone's prayers for Abigail's recovery and our faith and sanity. All of this, every minute detail, is from God's fatherly hand to us. If I did not believe that, I would lose my mind. These next three months are going to be a trial for me and my family. I will probably try to take a trip to Philadelphia shortly after Abigail's surgery - if that means I don't do as well as I'd like to in some of my classes, so be it. I know exactly what Bunyan meant when he said from prison that not being able to be with his blind daughter was worse than having the flesh torn off his bones. The idea of Abigail laying in a hospital bed without me there is more than I can stomach.

All of you have meant so much to us and I thank God for all of you.

Here is Abigail pretending to be asleep in a swing at a park - she's pretty funny, eh?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Abigail, Maria, and the dog (Sassy)

We have a surgery date for Abigail's back - April 21st. Amy and the kids are going to be heading back to Cincinnati around April 12th. I'm going to be alone here in Mississippi for about 4 weeks! Yikes!

Here are some good pics I got of the girls and the dog yesterday....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hoping this isn't a preview of things to come...

This is what happens to the 5-year-old kid brother when the 8-year-old big sister is bored.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Great quotes from Miller's "Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless"

P3 – “Revival must begin by each of us taking a look in the mirror…. Actually we may be nicer people. We don’t tell archbishops in public that they need to be born again (Whitefield) or read out in church a list of local pastors needing conversion (Gilbert Tennent in Nottingham, Pennsylvania). At the same time, we lack their compelling faith, astonishing courage, and compassionate risk-taking.”

P4 – Key 1 – Confidence in the supreme authority of Jesus Christ. “… believers today typically serve a much smaller Christ. We like His role of comforter and sustainer, but we pretty much ignore His royal position as the conquering King.” The Christ preached by the leaders of the Great Awakening preached a much bigger Christ than ours – one who demanded respect and had all authority.

P5 – Key 2 – Confidence in the Whole Truth. “…choosing Christ is not an act of autonomy, it is the surrender of autonomy.”

P6 – Key 3 – A Passion for Winning Souls. “… we literally don’t give a damn about the damned.” Be self-conscious about the reality of hell. “Preach faith until you are full of faith, and then do your evangelism as though you were full of faith no matter how you feel.”

P13 – “instead of using the Scripture as the sword of the Spirit to conquer men for Christ, we spend our energies defending it, as if it were fragile and easily broken.”

P14 – “During the years 1555 to 1562, eighty-eight men were trained and commissioned by Calvin as pastors to France. Additional works established in Holland and Scotland by men trained by Calvin were greatly blessed. In Scotland, the response to Christ was so overwhelming that one contemporary observed that ‘the sky rained men.’”

P15 – “Evangelism, God’s first priority for His Word and His church, has become a peripheral activity in the lives of many local congregations.”

P18 – The advent of Christ reveals the fact that God desires to be known among men.

P21 – The entire church is commissioned to be a “sent church.” We don’t just send out missionaries. We are missionaries.

P22 – We can’t wait for people to come to us, we must be a “go” church. We need a greater zeal for witnessing, more courage, more boldness, more willingness to be laughed at, scoffed at, etc. If we aren’t zealous to witness, then we are out of touch with what God is doing.

P30 and following… The Reformed doctrine of election and the doctrine of particular redemption does not nullify the free offer of the cross to all mankind.

P40 and following… Evangelism is the natural byproduct of a heart in love with Christ. I must roll up my sleeves and be active in my own sanctification process – work hard at maintaining close fellowship with Christ. I must daily renew how greatly I appreciate God’s gospel in my life – my own salvation.

P50 – Biblical “boldness” is characterized by three things: contrition, certainty, and confrontation. Penitence about my own sinfulness much characterize who I am and I must along with this fix my eyes upon the grace of Christ knowing that He alone is my sufficient and perfect Savior who has justified me before God perfectly and eternally by His perfect work.

P59 – the boldness of grace cannot come from our natural selves. We are naturally self-reliant. We are all recovering Pharisees. Prayer facilitates boldness because prayer is admission of inability and dependence.

“We recovering Pharisees often find that in our minds we have collected albums full of dark snapshots of other people, ourselves, and God and His grace. What is real in our minds are negative images of the resistance of non-Christians to the gospel, our own failed attempts at witnessing, and feelings of powerful self-condemnation at work beneath our proclaimed righteousness.

P62 – we must earnestly seek and ask of God to give us the Holy Spirit – Luke 11:5-13. I’m not fully sure I understand what this means…

P69 – joyful and loving communities of believers are a powerful witness. We must recover this and take our churches seriously. We must recover a Christian worldview and see ourselves as intimately connected to the local church body. Oh God of heaven, make me a catalyst to that end!

P71 – “Good things replaced bad when people talked about the church, and as a consequence, within a few months the size of the congregation had nearly doubled. I realized that the Lord had permitted me to see a major principle of Christian leadership: to get out of the way and direct all the attention to what Christ has done for us in the gospel and to what He is now doing to beautify us in His own image. In this context, witnessing is fundamentally “gossiping” about the glory of the cross and its imprint on the life of Christ’s people.

P83 – “The first point: ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who fulfills the missionary mandate, but He has established a pattern for us to follow. The people evangelize when they have been evangelized. They also evangelize when they see their leaders evangelizing.” My, oh my, this is so critical. I must maintain that childlike excitement at knowing my sins are forgiven by Christ – and at the same time be able to demolish arguments and ever lofty thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.

P83 – “You who are pastors really have no reason to hope that your people will become zealous for evangelism any other way, for the example of church officers plays a crucial part in the biblical scheme. Not because they are intended to be the only ones witnessing (as often happens), but because it is their calling to equip the saints for the work of service (Eph. 4:12). Don’t let your fear that your people will leave the evangelism to you deter you from a bold and visible witness before them. Lead them by your life and example, and patiently remind them that your work is intended as a beginning to a life of corporate witness in the church. This will require consistency, patience, love for your people, and a real burden for the lost on your part.”

P87 – “Sincere and swift repentance of sinful habits and attitudes can transform the ministry of the most discouraged, ineffectual pastor. Imagine for a moment a young minister who arrives at his study late, already feeling guilty because he has not begun the day in earnest prayer. Usually, the despair produced by habitual sins like these causes him to fritter away his entire time. But today he faces his sins head on. He begins his time by looking to Christ for help. He labors in prayer until he has experienced His cleansing and then seeks God’s wisdom in preparing his Sunday sermon (James 1:5-8).” He then is excited to preach, calls on people and ministers to them in their homes, etc. He is on his way to being an effective model to witnessing!

P88 – “The pastor whom God has made a model for witness is one whose character is inseparably intertwined with his faith in the gospel message. If he did not have confidence in its power to change him, the awareness of his own sins would crush his ministry. But as he leaves his idols to serve Christ, he discovers that the message purifies his heart through faith, and liberates him from all his guilty fears (2 Cor 3:16-18; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; John 3:1-2). He is a man set free to serve a living God.”

Mobilizing your church for evangelism – it must be deliberate!
1. prayer. Enlist as many people as possible to pray – elders, people, etc.
2. faith and hospitality. Do a sermon series on faith and hospitality – they go together.
3. Recruit the gifted for further training. Seek out people who indicate a zeal for evangelism.
4. Systematic Calling – 6 months after your families have begun practicing evangelistic hospitality in their homes.
5. The evangelistic evening – the key to the success of the program is a Spirit-imparted joy and naturalness in welcoming people. Concentrate your prayers on this goal and then determine by God’s grace to have a good time yourself.

P112 and following… When actually conversing with people about the gospel of Christ, here are 5 really good principles to inculcate in your life:
1. Stick to the basics – do not let them sidetrack you to peripheral issues. Sin and grace are the key elements. In fact, use their attempts to distract you (with questions like, “what about people in Africa who have never heard?”) to explain the gospel more fully.
2. Recruit prayer – how can this be overemphasized?
3. Be clear and vivid – watch them carefully to see if they understand you correctly.
4. Stress God’s claims
5. Wait for a response

P120 – “The lordship of Christ means that people who keep on resisting God’s grace are utterly without excuse. As the Canons of Dort note, “Men do not perish for want of an atonement.” Nor must we permit them to perish without a warning.”

P123 – This is painful to consider: “A major hindrance to missionary outreach is the weakened spiritual condition of the local church. Often the typical established congregation seems permanently locked into a treadmill status quo, and even newly planted churches have a way of gradually losing their vitality as organizational demands slowly suppress the spiritual life of the body of Christ.”

P127 – How to Stop Sending People to Hell Through Your Church
“Veteran missionary and author Trevor McIlwaine says that the way to build healthy churches full of missionary life is to ask more questions about people’s conviction of sin and experience of grace. He did this on the island of Palawan in the Philippines and discovered the following:

* The first missionaries led a people’s movement in which thousdans of islanders made professions of faith and were gathered into churches.

* The next missionaries came and discipled the people through Christian education. These missionaries assumed that the people all understood the gospel and trusted in Christ for salvation.

* McIllwained came and asked the people many questions. What he learned was alarming. The missionaries had neglected a foundational obligation: to learn ‘the true spiritual condition of each person under their care.’ The church members talked about trusting in Christ, but close listening revealed that they had no broken with the self-trust of the natural human heart.

The people were still trusting in their good works, prayers, repentances, and church membership as their eternal hope, and instruction in discipleship simply frustrated them and left them guilt-ridden.

Here is McIllwaine’s sad conclusion, ‘They had been instructed to live like Christians, but many were not children of God. Had they not been alerted to their grave danger, they would have gone on in this condition to a lost eternity.”

P129 – “soul questions” – this is very interesting and I think could be used effectively:
1. Have you ever stopped doing a single thing because you love Jesus?
2. Have you ever started doing a single thing because you love Jesus?
3. Do you enjoy prayer? Do you enjoy Christians?
4. What is the gospel? Does it give you joy?
5. Do you regularly forgive others?
6. Do you have any sense that your own sins are forgiven?
7. Do you recall your conversion to God? How were you different afterwards

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Great Supper - sermon manuscript

Luke 14:15-24 – The Great Supper – What’s Your Excuse?

We are rich people. Few in our day and in our neighborhoods do without anything they need and probably very little they want. What our hearts desire in terms of material possessions, we are normally able to acquire. The United States of America throughout its history has had one of the largest and fastest growing economies ever seen. When it comes to material possessions, what do you really desire that you’ve been unable to get? Probably not very much. And our wealth extends far beyond this. When we’re cold, we’re able to get warm. When we’re hot, we’re able to get cool. When we need to go somewhere, we normally have a functioning car to get us there. When we’re bored, we have access to libraries, the internet, TV, movies, video games, music, and toys for all ages. When we’re out of shape, we can join a local gym and work out. If we’re lonely we can call anyone anywhere on this planet with a cellular phone. We are rich. There is literally no end to the ways in which we can distract ourselves from the most important issues that face us as men and women created in the image of God. If there has ever been a group of people in world history who would make excuses for turning away from God’s great supper – we are that people. Prosperity has always led to spiritual apathy and sluggishness. The greater the opportunity for distraction, the more likely people will be unaffected by the hope of the gospel of Christ.

This parable was told in the house of a leader of the Pharisees.

I. The Great Supper
[15] Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" [16] Then He said to him, "A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, [17] and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, 'Come, for all things are now ready.'

This was no informal gathering to watch football and eat pizza. Nor was it a tea party with cookies and crackers. This was going to be a feast. No expense would be spared. This man prepared a great supper and invited many. This man wants to show his generosity and his bounty. This man wants his guests to eat well and be full when they leave. This man wants to throw open his storehouse and let all who come have all they want. A full house of satisfied guests was his aim and desire. He made great preparations – In his enormous house, He set a great table. He set up a great number of seats at that great table. He prepared a great amount of great food. He prepared a great amount of drink. He put out a great amount of money, and a great amount of planning, effort, and time, because He wanted it to be a great supper. And now after all of his expense, planning, preparation, and work, He wants a house filled with supper guests to enjoy the fruit of all his labor!

So he tells his servant at supper time to tell the ones he had invited, “COME, for all things are now ready!” After all his trouble, preparation, effort, and planning – at last it is ready. It is now time for those who had been invited to come and enjoy his great supper! We’ve worked long and hard, planned meticulously, made all the arrangements, and put things in place – let this momentous occasion begin now!

II. Excuses
[18] But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.' [19] And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' [20] Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.'

It would seem they had already accepted their invitations, and this is why the master of the house made such great preparations. These excuses are dishonest and lame.

1. piece of ground – What person would go and look at a piece of land after they purchased it? These are not legitimate excuses
2. five yoke of oxen – no doubt a costly acquisition! What person would try out their strength after they purchased them?
3. The wife – there was nothing in the law that prevented a man from going to a great supper with a friend.

All of these things were regarded as better and more important than attending this great supper.

III. Zeal for a Full House
[21] So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' [22] And the servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' [23] Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

But the master of the house will not be denied – He will have a full house to partake of his great supper. The lowly ones of the world are brought in. The poor are brought in, the lame, and the blind. What would be considered the refuse of society, they will enjoy this great supper while the rich, popular, strong, and wise will be left outside to weep and gnash their teeth! Jesus Himself said, “how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven!” Why is it that when poor parts of the world who finally receive the gospel, missionary activity explodes? Because they don’t have the distractions we do. They don’t have the securities we have. They don’t have so much weighing them down in terms of worldly concerns. All of the people in this parable had come across things they deemed more important that going to this great house for a great supper! All of them thought it was wonderful to be invited and were intending to go, which is why the master made such trouble to prepare such a great supper, but all of them had found something which was more important to them. It is what we do, not what we say, that betrays where we stand with God.

Forget what your words say to God, what does your life say to Him? What are you saying to God with your life?

Application –

The supper is eternal life in the halls of heaven. The excuses are the things that men hold on to instead of coming. The excuses are the sins whose claws have sunk deep into the hearts of the people invited. “It’s wonderful to be offered salvation, but I may have to give up this sin that I enjoy so very much!”

What’s your excuse?

Have you ever attended a wedding that was simply extravagant? No doubt the thought must have crossed your mind when you observed all the flowers, the settings, the clothes worn by the participants, the food, the drink, and the pomp and circumstance, “I wonder what it all cost?” Look at all that is here! The expense of all this must have been outlandish for such a great supper, such a great occasion! We often measure the greatness of a celebration or supper by the cost it took to prepare it. People often spend thousands of dollars on flowers alone for weddings. People send thousands of dollars on wedding dresses and bride’s maid dresses. And at great occasions people want to eat the finest of meats, the finest of drinks – and it all costs so very much.

I’m inviting you to the greatest supper in the entire universe – prepared by the Godhead Himself. The preparations of this great marriage feast began before the foundation of the world! The planning was meticulous. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit arranged it, planned it, and put it together. And the cost was greater than all the wealth of the entire world combined! What was the cost of the preparation of this supper? God sent forth His blessed and only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He was born into an animal’s feeding trough, lived under the evil eyes of Pharisees, he was argued with, spat upon, beaten, punched, scourged, tried, condemned, crucified, and buried. That was the cost! Consider the cost of this, the greatest of all suppers. It cost the precious blood of Christ. And people are excusing themselves from this great supper to look at land, try out oxen, or be with a new wife! Think of what they will miss! And for what? They had initially accepted their invitation, but now are making excuses. They are wanting to be excused from the greatest event in the whole history of the universe. All of you have been invited to participate in it – to eat of food and drink purchased by the death of Jesus Christ. This will be a feast for all eternity, to enjoy the bounty of God! What is anything in this world in comparison? People asked to be excused to hold on to what will be smashed and destroyed in an instant at the brightness of the coming of Jesus Christ. People miss out on God’s great supper for things which moths will eat, thieves will break in and steal, and rust will ruin. Consider the madness.

Why do people hold on to what will perish in an instant and deny the Great God of Heaven’s marriage supper of the Lamb? Is it worth the passing pleasures of sin?

Eccles. 5:10-11 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.[11] When goods increase, They increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners Except to see them with their eyes?

People sell away their invitation to the greatest and most glorious event in all of history for what? For things they deemed more important.

What are the idols in your heart that come between you and God? What’s your excuse? I don’t care what you say – what do your deeds say to God?

What we do betrays where our hearts are.

The Bible says God doesn’t look at the outside, but considers our hearts. We may say we like listening to sermons, we may say we like to sing hymns, we may say we have a real interest in religion. But what we do is what betrays where we really stand. God doesn’t want or need your words – he wants you! He demands your total allegiance! What occupies the center of your being? What is it that drives you?

Are you coming? Did you say you would but have become distracted? How easily are we lulled to sleep in these church-saturated, gospel-saturated soils upon which we live?

God has assembled the greatest marriage supper any eye has ever seen and any mind has ever conceived. It cost Him the suffering and death of His Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord.

What’s your excuse? I say to you – Come. I say to you – don’t miss out on this great supper prepared by God. You have been invited. Are you coming? Or does your life betray that you have made an excuse? What are you saying to God by your life? What am I saying to God with my life?

Key Question: Do we long for that day, or are we perfectly content with our things here? Are you ready NOW and at EVERY MOMENT to drop everything in your life to attend His Great Supper? Is anything in front of God in your heart? What do your deeds say?

A POINT TO PONDER – Why does God prepare this supper at all? What have we done? And how to men respond to God’s grace, patience, and bounty. God, the wonderful Father, reaches down, picks us up to embrace Him and while holding us out in front of Himself to bring us close, we irreverently slap Him in the face.

The appearance of Jesus Christ in human history proves without question that God does love this world. Jesus came to pay the price to purchase a full house of guests to attend this great supper. Will you be there? Acknowledge your sin before God. Believe that Christ died for you and rose again the 3rd day. Make Christ’s work and His righteousness the only thing you trust in. Have you come to know Him? Do you believe the nails pierced His sacred hands and feet as the satisfaction to God’s justice in behalf of you and your sins against God? The salvation Christ offers this world is full and free – paid for in full. It is a gift of His free bounty. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Philip. 3:7-9 (NKJV)
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. [8] Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ [9] and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

If you can say these things with Paul about yourself, rejoice! God’s invitation to the great supper stands. Don’t make excuses!

Snow White made the icing on my birthday cookie cake (33, in case anyone was wondering)

Human rocket-ship thingy...