Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A moment in the life of a pilgrim...

There are days in which the struggle is this intense: (an excerpt from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress)

Christian: "Apollyon, beware what you do; for I am in the King's highway, the way of holiness; therefore take heed to yourself."

Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter; prepare thyself to die; for I swear by my infernal den that thou shalt go no further; here will I spill thy soul.

And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, and which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that. Then did Christian draw, for he saw 'twas time to bestir him; and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This made Christian gave a little back; Apollyon therefore followed his work amain, and Christian was almost quite spent; for you must know that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.

Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian's sword flew out of his hand.

Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now. And with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life; but as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his sword and caught it, saying, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall I shall arise"; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound.

Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."

And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon's wings and sped him away, that Christian for a season saw him no more.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Latest Read...

I just finished reading this great compilation by Wayne Grudem & Dennis Rainey today. Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood is a great practical resource for pastors. In a day and age when the family suffers greatly, and often silently, this book challenges pastors to re-ignite their God-ordained responsibilities and lead their flock as they should. Taking contributions from some of today's well-known authors in Christianity, Grudem and Rainey divide the book into three sections: The Pastor's Personal Life, The Opportunities Today and The Challenges Today.

The Pastor's Personal Life:
This section deals with two matters that need intense magnification in the majority of today's minister's lives: the Pastor's Marriage and the Pastor's Responsibility for Romance in His Congregation and Marriage.

The Opportunities Today:
This section covers such topics as:
  • The Little Things that Build or Destroy Marriages
  • Using Small Groups: The Key Strategy for Building Stronger Marriages
  • Cultivating a Man-Friendly Church
  • Single Adults in Your Ministry: Why They Stay and Why They Stray
  • Father Hunger Among a Lost Generation: The Pastor's Opportunity
  • The Marriage Ceremony: A Cornerstone in Building Godly Families
  • Church Discipline: God's Tool to Preserve and Heal Marriages
The Challenges Today:
This section covers such topics as:
  • How to Encourage Husbands to Lead and Wives to Follow
  • Church Ministry to Persons Tempted by Homosexuality
  • "Someone I Love is Gay": Church Ministry to Family and Friends
  • Helping Single Adults Handle Moral Failures
  • Pastoral Responses to Domestic Violence
  • Standing Courageously in Your Home, Church and Community
I like this book because each and every one of the authors falls back to the authoritativeness of Scripture, applies Scripture practically and plainly and gives wonderful practical suggestions to follow for the reader.

I think this is a must read for all pastors. Need a Christmas gift idea for your pastor? Get him a copy of Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood. It is an easy read - but will challenge him in the difficult areas of ministry: from his own marriage to the lives of his people.


Today was extremely dreary in Northeast Indiana. A lot of mist, rain and some snow mixed in kept everything damp and bone-chillingly cold. A fire built in the fireplace and some Mocha Java kept nearby helped ward off Jack Frost's grip. Winter is slowly elbowing its way in.

On a side note for a future post: We got our Christmas tree and decorated it this last weekend. Pictures are sure to follow. And I haven't given up on Psalm 15 - more to come this week!

Friday, November 23, 2007

missed the "thanksgiving post"...

So, I missed the opportune "Thanksgiving Post" that so many bloggers get to do on Thanksgiving Day. Guess there is always next year, right? Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was a good day. It was a day we spent with some family and friends about 50 miles to the Northeast of where we live. We didn't have turkey for Thanksgiving - we had a dinner which we were thankful for, from the bounty of our own harvest. So that meant beef, chicken, veggies and homemade breads and desserts. It was a meal that recognized our dependence on our Sovereign Provider and one in which we thanked Him for His bountiful blessings throughout the year. We squeezed around a table with a burlap covering and a beautiful harvest themed centerpiece. The kids came and went as they do during the holidays - happy to spend time with cousins and friends. The adults enjoyed conversation, and realized that many of the 'new' adults were really just some of our kids who had grown up 'overnight' and now were planning new life ventures of their own. "...Time flies..." was repeated over and over, perhaps a gentle reminder to those of us with young children or a wistful memory of years too quickly passed.


Yes, we did watch the games yesterday. I say games, but I didn't think they were very close or competitive. I did get to experience HDTV for the first time in my life (I am behind the times I know), and was very impressed with the quality of the picture. I don't think I would want to be on HDTV - it's too realistic. Perhaps I should shed some of this holiday weight first!


I was able to take my freshman son hunting for the first time - just the two of us. We had been hunting together before, but usually with my seventh grade son along as well. We were graciously invited by my nephew to join him where he hunts his grandfather's farm. He let us share a very nice tree stand that accommodated both of us quite easily. It snowed very heavily throughout the afternoon and we didn't see any deer. We did see many squirrels, one feral cat and about 8 swans land in the field to the north of us. I was very thankful for the time alone with my son in the stand - we didn't get to talk much, but it was good. I treasure these times. We were about ready to leave when we heard a very close shot - and thought it might be my nephew. Turns out someone was shooting from the road and left before we were able to get there. That's dangerous - but thankfully we are watched over by a Sovereign Protector.

We are thankful for God's goodness to us on a daily basis - this day yesterday allowed us to concentrate on it a little more pointedly. God is good all the time, and all the time God is good - that's a phrase we used to say in our church all the time... but have gotten away from it's reminder. Perhaps we need to start that again.


Today I wrapped up my Costa Rican blend - actually had to mix in some of my Mocha Java from Gevalia. I think, due to the chilly weather & crazy shoppers, that I'll stay close to the fireplace and just drink this precious brew all day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Scrambled thots...

I'll continue posting the "who shall dwell on my holy hill" posts tomorrow - but today, since I'm off of work and all - I'll refrain from posting in that series.

Today is very overcast and a 'typical' Fall day here in Northeast Indiana. Temps are about 45* and predicted only to reach 54*. I've noticed that my sleeping habits are changing and I am unsure why. Partly due to a weak back - which hurts consistently when laying down - and partly due to getting older (pushing 40 hard right now), I'm sure. Typical sleep follows this pattern: in bed and reading by 10pm, usually lights out by 1030 or 1100p, awake again around 330a or 400a and fitful wake / sleep from then until 6:30a - my best sleep is from 630a till 800a (if I get to sleep that long). It's really been strange to notice the change.

Today has been the day that we run errands: my wife to the grocery and me to the parts store. I had 3 different lights go out on my Ford Taurus in the last week or so. Today I replaced the 'third' brake light and the turn signal. I also picked up some new wipers in preparation for winter. Antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid and motor oil was also purchased. I always buy my oil by the case. Today when I checked out with all theses items I thought the total sounded low. I paid for my items and went out to the car. I got to looking at my receipt and realized that although the clerk scanned the UPC on my case of oil, it only registered that I purchased one quart! Quite the deal - the Lord sure blesses in various ways!! (just kidding)

I was tempted just briefly to back out and hit the road not letting them know their error, but instead shut down the car, walked back inside and paid from 11 more quarts of 10w30. They were appreciative of my honesty and I was enjoying that 'good feeling' from doing something right. Isn't it funny how satan can tempt you with the smallest things?

Due to the slightly cooler temps, I enjoyed my Costa Rican coffee, extra strong and with a shot of chocolate (Hersheys of course) in it. It really helped me start the day off right.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach an overview of Roman's in our church. I gave some background info and concentrated on what I consider the theme verses Romans 1:16,17. All in all, Romans is probably one of my favorite, if not favorite book in all the NT. What's yours?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? Part 3

A continuation of a look at Psalm 15. So far we have looked at two requirements to those who wish to dwell on the holy mountain of the Lord: walk blamelessly and doing what is right. Today we look at the third 'requirement': he who"...speaks truth in his heart..."

There is something to be said about the lack of integrity in society today. Unfortunately it has crept into the church as well. We all would do well to heed the instruction of David as he asks the question, "...who will dwell on the holy hill..." of the Lord. Integrity is a quality that is highly desired in the Christian's life. It is so easy to communicate one thing verbally and yet have contrary thinking running through one's heart.

As I write this just before the holiday season - my mind goes to family gatherings. Have you ever commented on how 'good' someone has looked and in your mind done the math on how much weight they may have gained? Or perhaps you've spoken to how delicious a meal was only to think in your heart about over seasoned it was. This would be a practical out working of this passage. Speaking truth in your heart will lead to speaking truth with your mouth. There is a necessity to also speak '...truth in love...' (Eph.4:15) - as well as, not letting any '...unwholesome words proceed out of your mouth...' (Eph.4:29) all the while speaking the truth in love.

Here's a challenge for you this holiday season: speak the truth - in your heart. And your mouth. Live a life of integrity. May God bless your efforts as you move closer to 'meeting the requirements' of dwelling on the Lord's holy hill!


Tonight we are not having an evening service at our church. We had our annual "Harvest Dinner" this afternoon and so gave everyone time "off" for time with family and friends tonight. We decided to stay home and enjoy some much needed family time. Subway provided the meal, and the NFL has provided the entertainment. I am wrapping up the night with a double mug of Mocha Java Gevalia coffee - some of my favorite!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? Part 2

A continued devotional look at Psalm 15.

Psalm 15:2 "...does what is right..."

We have already looked at the first "requirement" of being able to dwell on the Lord's holy hill - that being the ability to walk blamelessly. Now we see the characteristic of doing what is right. Such a simple thought isn't it? Oh, the Christian life is quite simplistic in it's 'requirements', but so difficult to live out. How does one know what is right in order to be able to perform what is right?

Scripture is clear in it's wisdom passages that "...the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice..." and "...every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart..." So quite easily we see that if we simply accept our own reasoning without taking advantage of the counsel and wisdom of others that we can quickly be headed in the wrong direction. Wouldn't it be easier if everyone saw everything like us? Wouldn't it be more comfortable if everybody thought like us? Wouldn't this world be scarier if these things were true? We must realize that just because we perceive something to be 'right', it may not always be so. Secondly we see that even when we do think we are 'right', our heart may be deceiving us. The Lord is able to judge our heart and it's motives. I think it would be safe to assume that we can't simply trust our own reasoning to determine what is 'right'. Where then do we turn?

One of my favorite passages to direct me in this line of thinking is 2 Timothy 3:16. Scripture, not only inspired, is profitable in four areas: teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. I break these four areas down as follows:
  • teaching - God's word tells me what is right
  • reproof - God's word tells me when I am wrong
  • correction - God's word tells me how to get back right
  • training in righteousness - God's word reveals to me how to stay right
Very simply put, it is God's Word that shows me how to do what is right. It is then up to me to act on what I read or hear. If I want to fill this second requirement to be able to dwell on the holy hill of the Lord, it is best that I follow the guidelines that Scripture sets forth.

So, what do you think? Have anything to add? Feel free to post a comment!

On a totally unrelated topic: I am barely going at the moment. I received about 3.5 hours of sleep last night and had quite the full day with meetings, appointments and bible studies. I drained 3 coffee pots to help me tread water, but I am starting to crash this evening. One of my youth leaders is a Herbalife dealer and has what amounts to an energy drink in a tablet form. I think they're called "Lift-off". They are very similar to Alka-seltzer tablets and you place them in 8 oz of water before taking them. I sure could use one now!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? Part 1

Ps.15:1-5 - A Psalm of David
O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent, He who does these things shall never be moved.

Today I will attempt to embark on a several part blog about this Psalm. I think that there are ten - maybe eleven - requirements for entrance to the Lord's "tent" or the privilege to dwell on his holy hill. Today we will look at one. This is prayerfully a short devotional series designe to encourage those who are 'pressing on the upward way'. My prayer is that through your study of God's Word that you will find yourself moving ever closer to entering the Lord's "tent".

Requirement #1: walk blamelessly.
There are several reasons why one should walk blamelessly before the Lord. Proverbs (28)states that the blameless will be delivered and (Psalm 89) those that walk uprightly will experience that no good thing will be with-held from them. Ephesians 1 indicates that God has elected us to be holy and blameless, and this He did before the foundations of the world. The Apostle Paul's driving desire was to have a blameless conscience before men and God (Acts 24). Our lives, as lived blamelessly and with integrity, will contrast the evil generation in which we live (Philippians 2). We are to be diligent to live blamelessly, so that Christ will find us without spot or blemish and in peace at His appearing (2 Peter 3). The body of believers, the church is also to be known and characterized by being blameless (Ephesians 5:27). We rest in the sovereign fact that we cannot do this in our own strength and that God will cause us to stand before Him blameless some day (Jude).
But what does it mean to be "blameless"? This word has the idea of: being complete. It refers to animals which are without blemish; also translated as such related adjectives as full, whole, upright, perfect. it represents the divine standard for man's attainment. (Thanks to the Theological Wordbook of the OT.) It's a goal. It's a realization that I am spotted by sin...by the world. How do you get rid of spots? With my shirts I have to launder them. With my sins I do the same. Ephesians is clear, we are cleansed by Christ through the washing of water with the Word.
So you begin to understand what cleanliness / blamelessness is by understanding what the word does in relation to your spots / sin. Then you proactively begin to move in a direction that ensures that you will stay spotless / blameless by constant washing in the Word. It is a way of life governed by the word of God that will allow me to walk blamelessly. Then I will know that I am well on my way to being able to dwell on the Holy Hill of our LORD.
Let me know what you think.
Today's java was Costa Rica - Gevalia and then here at the office: Folgers. Ewww. I can't complain - it is java. God bless,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where are your eyes?

Psalm 123 - A Song of Ascents.
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

The weary pilgrims, dust covered and foot-sore, glance upward to the looming city on the hillside. They have been traveling for days. The grit that grinds between their teeth has been their constant unwanted sustenance as they plod continually beside their beasts of burden. They are Jews. They seek Jerusalem. Pausing now, looking towards their holy city, a tear forms at the corner of their eye. As it forms and then slowly descends downward over the leathery wrinkled face of one who has spent their life exposed to the harsh wind and sun of the Middle East, it cleanses all it touches. These tears wash the dust from the pilgrims cheek.

The oppressors deal harshly with the Jews. They randomly swoop in from the hills and help themselves to any produce, stock or goods that these nomadic dwellers may have accumulated. It is a wearying existence. The constant glances over their shoulder, the beatings and the mockery... the mockery hurts the most. The sneer of the intruders, the arrogance of these heathen infidels curdles the blood of the Jew. They mock the pilgrim's belief. They mock Jehovah. Their cruel laughs and taunts ring loudly in the ears of the oppressed long after the dust settles from their departure.

Where is Jehovah?

Jerusalem. The city gates are now within sight. A traveler sighs, and it ripples through the caravan like the desert wind assaulting their tent walls. Then, softly at first, now stronger... a voice. Calling out to Jehovah. The sing-song cadence of the mercy request swells in volume. The children now join their parents in recitation.

Direction. Mercy. Our fill of scorn. Lord hear us! We have no other place to turn - You are the guidance we desperately need. Hear us from Your throne, O sovereign Lord!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I finished my Kona today. I usually use three scoops of beans into my grinder to provide the succulent grounds that will allow the precious drippage of java into my two cup mug - today however, I had just about another scoop left in the bag after preparing to grind my beans. I don't like to mix my coffee beans - so I just poured the rest into my grinder and started grinding. My coffee was a little stronger than usual, but it was most excellent in taste! It also provided the energy to start on the Fall chores around the house. I made an omelet in which I threw onions, garlic and hot peppers. We didn't have any breakfast meat in the house (Monday is shopping day) so I just made due with what we had. It was a little strong, and kinda hot - but it tasted pretty good!

Today the boy's and I headed out to rake leaves. I have never lived anywhere before where I could not burn leaves - but in the last two years we have lived in this home, we are required to haul the leaves to the curb for pickup. The problem is that even as we hauled a 'ton' of leaves to the curb, we would turn and see that the trees were dropping them faster then we could rake them. The back yard doesn't even seem to have been raked. The other problem is that our trees don't all drop their leaves at the same time. We have 5 large maples in our yard - but they drop their leaves at different times through out the Fall. They sure are pretty though. Lot's of reds, yellows and pale greens right now. God sure does know how to make this time of year beautiful.

This week has been a very long, long week for me in my pastor position. It seems that I put in about double the hours I usually do. It's all good - I was able to hopefully encourage some people in some dark hours. It brought me back to the point that I realized that God desires that we live lives dependent on Him. "The normal Christian life is not one you can live in your own strength" ~ my senior pastor.

Makes you think, doesn't it?