Friday, October 31, 2008

Have trouble remembering the sermon?

I preached twice this past week in Detroit. I spoke to church leaders at the Baptist State Convention of Michigan.

I talked about the importance of having a commitment to missional and attractional ministry. Sometimes, people present these things as either/or. I say, "No, they're not. They are both/and."

I talked also about having a commitment to both structural and spiritual components necessary for church life and growth. Sometimes, people present these things as either/or. I say, "No, they're not. They are both/and."

It bugs me when conference speakers intimate that their "thing" is THE "thing" that will help a church grow or be effective. It's been my experience that church life and growth is exceedingly complex. It's rarely one thing that will make the difference. It's a combination of many things that make the difference. We must pursue excellence in many areas if we will see God use us in powerful ways.

After talking about such things for a few minutes, I told the leaders that I wanted to focus on the need for excellence in the spiritual area of their lives. It's not that the structural, attractional, and missional things are not important. They are. But those things might best be described as doing "the work of the Lord" while the spiritual component might best be described as knowing "the Lord of the work." I taught on the need for leaders to be examples to the flock when it comes to prayer (Wednesday's message) and the word (Thursday's message).

Now, what do I hope that they remember? The specifics of the message? Hardly. I know people won't remember details. (I hate to admit it, but sometimes I don't remember many of the details!) What I do hope and pray is that the people will remember the biggest ideas and that they will know from the way I handled the Book that they need to study and feed on the word of God themselves to grow.

James MacDonald has some good thoughts about why preachers should not really be overly concerned that the people don't remember the details of the message. Instead, he tells us what the preacher ought to be most concerned about. Good stuff.
Things to think about this weekend

This is the 491st anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. And thus began the Protestant Reformation.

Don't know much about it? Check out Wikipedia's article. Want a summary of the important issues related to the 95 theses? Then learn about the 5 solas of the Protestant Reformation. The five solas articulated five fundamental beliefs of the Protestant Reformation, pillars which the Reformers believed to be essentials of the Christian life and practice.

David Mathis writes about Luther's first thesis and his last words. Mark Batterson is actually in Germany on Reformation day. Tim Challies has put together a Reformation Day symposium.

Let's minimize the Americanized "Halloween" and maximize the church's "Reformation Day."

When you have been running at too many RPMs for too long a time, how do you decide whether to push through or lay low? Steven Furtick has some good ideas about this. I sent this blog post to one of my friends who (I think) right now needs to lay low.

Are you a pastor? You can get a 6 month free subscription to World magazine.

Want to show appreciation to your pastor? Sign him up for a 6 month subscription to a monthly evangelical magazine, The Briefing.

You can also order an advance copy of a new book ($5.00 for the book with free shipping). It's by C. J. Mahaney and is entitled "Worldliness: Resisting the seduction of a fallen world." The foreword is written by John Piper.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

40 hour prayer vigil

I have been talking with Megan Anthony about setting up a 40 hour prayer vigil prayer at CVC prior to the election. Megan is going to coordinate this using some 40/40 prayer material from the North American Mission Board.

If you are a CVCer, I am asking you to support Megan and to motivate your circle of influence to pray.

We will be developing a sign-up sheet to fill 40 hours of slots starting on Sunday through Tuesday AM. It would be wonderful if you would sign up and encourage the people you know to do so.

Thanks so very much.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
II Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mentoring

One of the men in a Pastor's Forum sent me a note of encouragment when I mentioned that we recently ordained Oleh Zhakunets, who is planting a new church to reach Ukrainian young adults. My friend wrote:

***

I sure liked what you are doing with this young Ukrainian pastor.

What a privilege to see him come to Christ in your church, go off to Moody, come under your ministry for ordination, get sent back to his home church for restoration, and now launch a new church.

You have had a hand in generations of people to come through him.

I hope you have the opportunity of continuing with him. He will hear things from you that no one else will bring to him.

Paul and Timothy all over.

***

I'm grateful for this encouragement. My encouraging friend has been a steady and courageous example of what it means to follow Christ.

He made me think that it is truly exciting when a some future leaders actually want to learn some of the lessons God has taught us.

I need to celebrate it when future leaders are seeking input and advice. I need to learn to leverage these opportunities more than I do.

The busy-ness of pastoring seems, unfortunately, to crowd out some of what is most important and strategic. So, thanks to my friend for encouraging me not to miss this opportunity.

Paul wrote to Timothy, "What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2).

Now, who's your Paul? And who's your Timothy?
The authority of the Word of God

Someone at Saturday night's Q & A felt that I was angry - in a good way - as I answered one of the questions. Below is the email and my response.

***

Dear Pastor Rick,

I would like to let you know just how awesome it is to see God working through you.

I attended Dr Gary Chapman's marriage seminar on Saturday. After the seminar I purchased one of Dr Chapman's books entitled "Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy way".

As I was reading Chapter 2, (When Anger can do Good), I came to the part when he quoted (Matthew 21:13). Jesus went into the temple in Jerusalem and saw that the merchants had turned his Fathers house of prayer into a den of robbers. He got very angry and used that anger in a positive way.

After reading this, I immediately thought of Q & A at Saturday nights service. One of the questions you read was from someone questioning God's word in (Ephesians 5). I noticed you got somewhat angry when answering. I believe this was just God giving us another example of anger being used in a good & loving way.

***
Hi ______,

Thanks for the encouragement. I must admit that I was fired up by that question on Saturday.

I love the Q and A on Saturday nights. But it seems like several Saturday questions lately have had to do with the authority of Scripture. It seems as though people in recent weeks have questioned that good works are indeed a necessary evidence of salvation; have questioned the necessity of our forgiving others as a sign that we have been forgiven; and, last Saturday, questioned the need for husbands and wives to figure out how to live according to Ephesians 5.

I believe we can and will struggle with interpretation of various passages of scripture. We won’t always agree about what the text means. But we should all agree that the Bible is the ultimate authority over our lives. We don’t judge it. It judges us.

Personally, it grieves me that I fail over and over in my attempts to obey the word of God. But I’m thankful that it’s settled for me that the Bible is the final authority for my life. I want to be like Ezra. Ezra 7:9-10 says that the good hand of His God was upon him for he had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, to practice it, and to teach God’s statutes and commandments in Israel. I want our people to be like that, too.

If our people at CVC want God’s good hand on their lives – if they want the truth to set them free – then a zealousness to know and obey the Word of God is absolutely and unequivocally essential.

I want to be able to thank God for everyone at CVC like Paul was able to thank God for the Thessalonian believers: “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” I Thessalonians 2:13, ESV).

So, please pray with me about this. CVCers can argue with the Word of God, but they won't win. And they won't be set free.

Again, thanks for the encouragement. I am glad that Dr. Chapman’s teachings were helpful for you. Maryanne and I really enjoyed the conference, too.

For greater obedience to God’s word,

Rick

Monday, October 27, 2008

Get in the zone

This past weekend, we continued our series called "Clean House." In the message called "It's us," I used a diagram that people have said was helpful.

When it comes to the husband, he can operate in one of two extremes. He can be the sledge hammer man” who tends to be aggressive or, even, abusive. Or he can be the “milk toast man” who tends to be kind of passive. Most guys operate somewhere between the two. But we tend to relate more toward one side or the other.

When it comes to the woman, she can operate in one of two extremes. She can be the “door mat woman” who tends to let people step all over her. Or she can be the “brick wall woman” who is impenetrable. Most women operate somewhere between the two. But they tend to relate more toward one extreme or the other.

You might be wondering, “How did we get to those extremes? Well, we are fallen people in a fallen world. We've all been damaged. You likely grew up in a home with a parent who lived in one of these extremes. And you got hurt. So, you figured out a way to operate in the world in a way that would minimize your pain.

Put it all together and you have a picture of most marriages. There’s the brick wall / sledge hammer marriage. There’s the brick wall / milk toast marriage. There’s the door mat / sledge hammer marriage. There’s the door mat / milk toast marriage.

During the message, I asked the people, "Where would you put your parents’ marriage?" and, then, "Where would you put your marriage?" I encouraged our couples to have the guts to have serious conversations about this issue.

Then I said, "God's idea is for us to 'get in the zone' in marriage. That we avoid the extremes. So, what’s the zone? That’s when the husband leads with tenderness and the wife yields with strength." If the husband tends toward being the sledgehammer man, then the word for him is tenderness. If he tends toward being the milk toast man, then the word for him is lead. If the wife tends toward being the doormat woman, then the word for her is strength. If she tends toward being the brick wall woman, then the word for her is yield.

I then sought to explain the truths found in Ephesians 5:21-27.

Maryanne and I talked about our marriage today in light of this weekend's message. We gained some insight from each other.

How about you? What's it going to take for you to live in the zone?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

2008 vote

Our oldest son, Alan, helped produce this video for AP Roundtable reminding us of the importance of our vote.


video
Things to think about this weekend

Recently, I have been trying to post on Fridays some things that I've been thinking about throughout the week. Sorry I'm late this week. But here goes anyway...

Want to take a quiz to see what kind of citizen you might be? Especially when it comes to the relationship between the church and politics? Christianity Today has a nice little quiz that will make you think. This quiz, created by CT's editors with input from political scientists, is intended to be a self-assessment tool for seeing where you stand on issues of church and state. The survey's goal is to stimulate healthy discussion and deeper thinking. Read about and take the quiz.

I once saw Mike Singletary in the hallway at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Even though he’s a Christian, I must say that he looked just as unapproachable there at church as he did as a middle linebacker for the Bears. Now, he replaced 49ers head coach Mike Nolan as the new head coach. Congrats to Singletary. On Sunday, the former Hall of Fame linebacker left his mark by dismissing Vernon Davis from the game after the underachieving tight end was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter. Davis was sent to the locker room because he slapped an opposing player in the face. Time for a new level of discipline to happen for the 49ers. Nice.

Alan Hirsch is releasing a new book called reJesus. He’s an Aussie who knows a lot about discipleship as it relates to missional living. The book is challenging us to actually seek to live life like Jesus. You can read the first two chapters without buying the book.

Craig Groeschel talks about the power of encouraging words. Who can you encourage this week?

My friend David Wayne is a PCA Pastor in Maryland. I knew him from my old FCA days in Jax, FL when he was a high school student. He has a very well read blog called JollyBlogger. He recently quoted another friend, Joe Coffey, pastor of Hudson Community Chapel. Joe talks about how he has grown spiritually: Thinking more and more about the love of Jesus.

Want to read about the younger unchurched crowd in the USA? Check out Ed Stezer’s presentation from the recent Catalyst conference in Atlanta.

I found a place to get free audio books once a month.

A great quote on the cross: "Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance). Indeed, 'only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross', wrote Canon Peter Green, 'may claim his share in its grace.'" – John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 60.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Your 2008 vote

The 2008 election is close. This year for the first time, we even have opportunity to vote by mail prior to the official voting date of Tuesday, November 4.

As you know, the issues being decided are crucial to our communities and our country. It has truly been a very interesting election season. I enjoyed the humor of both McCain and Obama at the Alfred E. Smith memorial dinner.

As a pastor at Cuyahoga Valley Church, I do not endorse any candidate or any party. At CVC, we believe that every Christ-follower should be biblically informed on a wide variety of issues such as seeking an end to human rights violations around the world; caring for creation; seeking fiscal responsibility and accountability in government and corporate America; keeping the peace in our communities and, if possible, around the world; and defending the rights of the most defenseless among us, the unborn.

My oldest son, Alan, serves in ministry with American Policy Roundtable. He's involved in special projects with audio and video productions. The Roundtable was established with the mission of restoring the historic Judeo-Christian principles to American public policy.

AP Roundtable has also established a voter information website called USAVoter.com, a non-profit, non-partisan public forum on voter information. USAVoter.com began in 1998. Since that time millions of voters have logged on to learn more about candidates, races, and basic voting information.

Recently, USAVoter.com provided a link summarizing the Saddleback Civil Forum. At the candidates’ request, this two-hour event was held in a non-debate format, and was opened to all media. Both candidates requested that questions be posed exclusively by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, rather than by a panel or members of the audience. Each candidate conversed separately with Warren for approximately an hour, beginning with Sen. Obama, as determined by a coin toss.

What I like about the USAVoter.com presentation of this event is that if you are pressed for time, you can compare actual short audio responses of both Presidential candidates without having to listen to the whole forum. Rick Warren asked a wide variety of questions. Topics include:


Three Wisest People
Your Greatest Moral Failure
Party Loyalty
Gut Wrenching Decisions
What Does it Mean to be a Follower of Christ?
Human Rights for Babies
Definition of Marriage
Embryonic Stem Cell Research
What Is Evil?
Existing Supreme Court Justices
Faith Based Organizations
Teacher's Pay
Definition of Rich
The Right to Privacy vs. National Security
Sacrificing American Lives
The Criteria for Committing Troops
Religious Persecution
Slavery
Why you want to be President
Politics in Church


You can watch and listen to the entire forum here.

Please become as informed as possible. Pray for God's direction. Then cast your vote. And pray some more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Co-Teaching Pastor Position

Our search team for the co-teaching pastor position at CVC will be meeting soon. Please be in prayer about this process. Here's what we've posted about the opportunity:

***

Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC), a growing regional, contemporary church of 1800+ adults, located in a flourishing suburb of Cleveland, Ohio is looking for a passionate and experienced Co-Teaching Pastor. CVC’s hope is that the Co-Teaching Pastor will become the successor of the current Senior Pastor.

Cuyahoga Valley Church seeks to help people grow to be passionate followers of Christ. We want to help people love God (develop deep devotional lives), love one another (actively serve in ministry and engage in small groups), and love the world (live missionally).

CVC is committed to create irresistible worship environments for children and parents, youth, young adults, and adults. The ultimate win at CVC is seeing lives change for the glory of God.

The Co-Teaching pastor will help with the following responsibilities:
Preaching / Teaching:
Initially, 20-25 service weekends annually. We anticipate that the preaching / teaching opportunities will increase over time.

Staff Leadership and Development:
Alongside the Senior Pastor, the Co-Teaching Pastor will offer pastoral leadership to the staff of CVC and will help provide day-to-day management and oversight to the spiritual, emotional, and relational health of the staff.

Optimal candidates will:
· possess a proven ability to teach / preach at a high level of competence.
· be a proven leader and strategic thinker.
· possess strong interpersonal skills.

Minimum qualifications and experience:
· A Bachelors Degree is required.
· A Masters level seminary degree is preferred.
· 5 or more years experience leading within a growing church setting.

Interested candidates may receive an expanded job description by e-mailing their resume to:
jrutti@cuyahogavalleychurch.com.

Contact Information:
Jane Rutti
5055 East Wallings Road
Broadview Heights, OH 44147
440.746.0404 x208
jrutti@cuyahogavalleychurch.com

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday PM thoughts

WOW …what a weekend at Cuyahoga Valley Church.

We tackled a tough topic in the message entitled "It's you." It was about forgiveness. Especially forgiving people in our families who have hurt us. We learned that forgiving others sets us free. Who does God want you to forgive?

We had more questions at the Q&A time on Saturday night than ever before. Hopefully, we'll figure out a way to address those questions on the blog in the days ahead.

At each service, CVCer Gina Hart shared her story with us about how she forgave the person who hurt her deeply when she was a teenager. Very moving. God is at work in and through and for her. Already, we are hearing stories about how God is working in the lives of others after hearing Gina's story. Gina is an on air personality from 9-2 Mondays through Fridays on 95.5 the Fish.

After the Saturday night's service, I helped lead an ordination service for Oleh Zhakunets, a young man who is starting a new church we at CVC are sponsoring. It's Mercy Hill Chapel. It's a church designed to reach Ukrainian young adults. I preached from Hebrews 13:7 and Hebrews 13:17 about the importance of "followership."

Next week we will be continuing our "Clean House" series. The title will be "It's us" and we'll be exploring Ephesians 5:21-33 as we deal with the questions "How can I become a godly wife?” and "How can I become a godly husband?"

You can hear the radio spot promoting our Clean House series here. Why not send the link to a friend and invite someone to check out CVC?

Tonight, 707 had their first worship choir. Very cool. My son, Alan, the rapper, sang in the 707 choir. Nice.

I am amazed at all that God is doing. He's setting people free. And God is using us to populate heaven as people trust Christ as Savior and Lord at CVC.

God has been good to us. But I still feel our best days are ahead of us, not behind us. Pray hard. Dream big. Trust Jesus. And do all that you can to bring people with you next weekend.
A Community Group Study 10/19/2008

It's you...

Open:
What do you think about the government giving away your tax money to cover the bad debts of major banks?
Which do you think is hardest to say? “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” or “I’ve been wronged. But I forgive you.”

Scripture:
Read Matthew 18:21-22

Offenders in Jesus’ day were forgiven up to three times; a fourth offence need not to be forgiven. What does Jesus’ answer in verse 22 say about forgiveness in the Kingdom?

Read Matthew 18:23-35

How would you describe the king’s attitude at first toward the servant who owed a huge debt?
How would you describe the servant’s attitude toward his fellow servant?
How would you describe the king’s attitude toward the servant at the end of the story?
What does the parable of the unmerciful servant teach us about the extent of God’s forgiveness to us?
What does the parable of the unmerciful servant teach us about the extent of our forgiveness to others?
What’s the principle for you as a Christian in dealing with someone who has wronged you?

Read Matthew 6:9-15

How does Jesus’ point in Matthew 18:35 compare with Matthew 6:12, 14-15?
Do we forgive others so God will forgive us, or does God forgive us so that we will have a forgiving heart? Explain.
Based on this parable, is God’s forgiveness of us limited or unlimited? Conditional or unconditional? What about our forgiveness of others?

Application:
What have you found to be helpful to you as you deal with hurts in your relationships?
Who is the easiest and hardest person for you to forgive?
How could you pass on God’s forgiveness to those who have wronged you? Be practical and specific.
How would you summarize Jesus’ teaching in chapter 18 about sin and forgiveness?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Things to think about this weekend

The NUMBER ONE REASON people come to church for the first time is because someone personally took the time to invite them. Who are you going to invite to church this weekend? I’m looking forward to what God is going to do as we continue our “Clean House” series. I’m excited about speaking this weekend on a very important topic and an indispensable trait for successful family relationships. We have planned what we think will be an amazingly transparent interview during the services with a special guest from 95.5 – the Fish. See you this weekend!

Check out a short, thoughtful interview with Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Keller could be the smartest church planter I know about. His sermons and books are worth the time and effort.

We recently promoted John Piper’s book “Don’t Waste Your Life” at CVC. We sold 150 copies. If you want one but can’t afford it because you spent all your extra cash on an iPhone, check out “Don’t Waste Your Life” for the iPhone.

It’s baseball playoff time. Will the Red Sox come back to beat the Rays? I hope not! I stumbled across an online version of some of my minor league stats. And I found a couple of articles (article 1 and article 2) about my college baseball coach, Larry Schmittou (pronounced smit-toe) along with a history of Vanderbilt baseball.

I sent a blog post from Seth Godin to a friend who is wondering how to make money and establish a career doing what he loves to do. Maybe you need to read it, too.

A group of us from CVC went to Pittsburg to an Externally Focused Church seminar with Rick Rusaw, pastor of LifeBridge Church, and Eric Swanson. They wrote a book together called the Externally Focused Church. What we learned reinforced our Love God, Love One Another, and Love the World focus and will help us refine our discipleship and outreach strategy at CVC. Memorable quotes:

"We do good deeds to create good will to share the good news."
"Don't be the best church in your community, but the best church for your community."
"We want to serve the least to save the lost."
"Christians don't grow until they begin serving."
"Good deeds verify the good news. Good news clarifies the good deeds. We must have both."
"There are those who prefer to say 'yes' and there are those who prefer to say 'no.' Those who say 'yes' are rewarded with the adventures they have and those who say 'no' are rewarded with the safety they attain. There are far more no-sayers than yes-sayers."

I recieved my pre-ordered copy of the ESV Study Bible. Very, very cool. I do believe it has exceeded my very high expectations. I can't wait to dig into it deeper. Solid Ground Books has the best price I've found so far.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Go see Fireproof

Maryanne and I went to see the movie Fireproof on Friday. The message is a really great message. If you know of a couple that needs a marriage-shot-in-the-arm, take them. There will lots of opportunity for discussion afterwards.

What's amazing is that the film was produced out of a local church, the Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia. It's actually the third film that two brothers have written and produced. The first was "Flywheel" in 2003 and cost $20,000. The second was "Facing the Giants" in 2006 and cost $100,000. The third is Fireproof this year and cost $500,000. ANd it's doing pretty well at the box office earning an estimated $13.6 million so far and spawning a best-selling book that started as a prop.

Associated Press has written a news article about the movie's success.

I used the story line as an illustration today in my message "It's me," a message from Proverbs 28:13 about the blessedness of brokenness.

Here's what I said:

At work, firefighter Caleb Holt lives by the old rule: Never leave your partner behind. At home, he lives by his own rules. After seven years of marriage, Caleb and Catherine have drifted far apart. Caleb gets respect at work, but not at home. He lives in a fantasy world, reaming about the purchase of a boat and has a significant problem with Internet pornography. Catherine is pouring her energy into work, caring for her mother who's suffering from a stroke, and dreaming about a love interest at work.

They have regular arguments over jobs, finances, housework, and outside interests. It’s icy at home between them. Catherine wishes she had never married especially after a loud fight with Caleb in their kitchen. She takes comfort in the company of friends at the hospital where she serves as a public relations director. And she files for divorce.

Caleb tells his father that he is about to get a divorce. Caleb's dad presents Caleb with a hand-written, leather-bound book entitled The Love Dare and asks him to honestly work through it. He asks Caleb to wait 40 days before moving forward. When Caleb discovers the book’s daily challenges are connected to his parents' faith, he starts to lose interest in the challenge.

Caleb becomes frustrated because nothing he tries to do works. He cannot win Catherine’s heart back. He finally asks his father, "How am I supposed to show love to somebody who constantly rejects me?" And his father explains that this is the love God shows to us. That’s when Caleb makes a life-changing commitment to love God. And—with God's help—he begins to understand what it means to truly love his wife.

Things change when Caleb finally says, “It’s me.” You'll have to go the movie to see the scene where Caleb owns up to what he's done to hurt his marriage.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Good prices for (or maybe even free!) ESV Study Bible

I have found what might be the best deal on the new ESV Study Bible. You can read about the amazing features of the ESV Study Bible here.

Here are some endorsements:

John Piper: The ESV is a dream come true for me. The rightful heir to a great line of historic translations, it provides the continuity and modern accuracy I longed for. Now the scope and theological faithfulness of the ESV Study Bible study notes is breathtaking. Oh how precious is the written Word of God.

Mark Driscoll: The ESV Study Bible is the most important resource that has been given to the emerging generation of Bible students and teachers. The ESV Study Bible is the best. Period.

Joni Eareckson Tada: The definitive clarity and beauty of the ESV Study Bible is extraordinary. In a world where words are distorted to mean anything, it is wonderful to have complete confidence in the reliability and truth of the Bible—so clearly and persuasively demonstrated by this world-class team of Bible scholars and teachers. For everyone who wants to understand God's word in a deeper way, the ESV Study Bible is an outstanding resource. I will be an avid user!

Randy Alcorn: Wow! Concise, lucid, enlightening—the ESV Study Bible is an amazing resource. With its textual fidelity, doctrinal substance, and artistic beauty, the ESV Study Bible will be an immense help to all who hunger for God-breathed Scripture. I wholeheartedly recommend this exceptional resource.

C. J. Mahaney: I can't imagine a greater gift to the body of Christ than the ESV Study Bible. It is a potent combination indeed: the reliability and readability of the ESV translation, supplemented by the best of modern and faithful scholarship, packaged in an accessible and attractive format. A Christian could make no wiser investment for himself, a pastor could recommend no better resource for his congregation.

Solid Ground Books is offering the hard cover for $29.50. List price is $49.99.

Because I intend to use it as a reference tool for a long, long time with my family, I ordered the Genuine Leather edition for $54.95. List price is $94.99.

So, for a great price for what I believe may be the best study Bible ever produced check out Solid Ground Books.

Want a chance to win one free? Enter a random drawing at monergism.com.
Expository Preaching

Every now and then, I hear a few well-meaning (I guess!) people complain that what we do at CVC is not expository preaching. In my opinion, the comment usually betrays a big misunderstanding about the nature of expository preaching.

I recently read a comment on a blog by a guy named K. W. Leslie. I don't know him. But evidently, he's a staff member of an Assembly of God church in California. I thought he had some excellent things to say about the difference between a series-of-running-comments-on-a-sequence-of-Bible-verses and true expository, exegetical Bible preaching. He writes:

***

"A few months ago, on a drive with a friend, he was telling me I just had to listen to his favorite radio preacher. He had an audiotape of him ‘n everything. 'He’s just the best exegetical preacher,' my friend said. 'He just goes verse by verse through the scriptures and pulls so much out of it.'

So he popped in the tape and I listened. Radio Preacher was preaching the Psalms. He quoted one verse—'The heavens declare the glory of God,' then proceeded to go into a list of the glorious attributes of God. Took about ten minutes. Then he went to the next verse, which provoked another sermonette. Then the next verse…

I stopped the tape. 'I hate to tell you,' I explained to my friend, 'but this is not exegetical preaching.'

'What are you talking about? He’s going verse by verse through the bible.'

'And as he does so, he’s not actually talking about the verses. Tell me one attribute of God you can find in verse 1 other than His glory. This dude listed ten. Where’d the other nine come from?'

Not that he was preaching heresy. He was a bit Calvinist for my taste, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that my friend—and many like him—have been led to believe 'exegetical' means 'preaches verse by verse,' regardless of whether the content of the sermon actually has anything to do with any study of the grammar and history of the verses."

***

I've written this before, but here goes again: Expository preaching happens when a Bible preacher/teacher/pastor takes a verse or paragraph of scripture and does a historical-grammatical exegesis of it. Then, the preacher discovers the main idea that God is seeking to communicate through the text. The context of the verse or verses is always in view. Then, all the supporting points for the main idea come straight from the verse or the paragraph being exposited. Other verses are pulled into the passage only as they support the points made in the text being exposited.

Please pray for me and for my preaching. As my mom says often when we say that we're praying for her, "I need the prayer... and you need the practice."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Things to think about this weekend

Why have I been blogging about hymns this past week? Some people I love dearly have suffered pain and loss recently. They are grieving. I was composing a letter that I hoped would encourage them. And I began to think about some great hymns that teach us how to deal with suffering in a way that actually enhances faith. So, it's personal for me. And for those people I love.

Maybe nobody outside Nashville cares, but my alama mater, Vanderbilt, is 5-0 so far this year in football. One sign seen when Vandy upset Auburn last weekend? It was a dig at Kirk Herbstreit and the Big Ten: "Hey Kirk, the SEC drew straws and it's Vandy's turn to beat Ohio State." Ouch. Vandy is supposed to beat Mississippi State this weekend. I got a nice Vandy hoody from our close family friend, Brian Pacetti, for performing his wedding ceremony this summer. It's very cool, but the weather hasn't been cool enough to wear it enough. I always wear my VU gear with pride - even throughout the long losing seasons in football. Now, Vandy's on a roll. So, I'm really loving the Vandy hoody. Get ready to see it. A lot. Nice.

Pastor Steven Furtick's wife told him, “Whatever you do, you simply cannot have a moral failure. There’s too much at stake, too many people are counting on you, and God has given you too many wise voices speaking into your life for you to blow it.” Pray for pastor's and their wives. Please.

Want to know how to pray for wives of church staff members?

Jim Collins, who wrote the book "Good to Great," was speaking at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta this past week. He has some interesting insights for church leaders. Tim Stevens summarizes his thoughts.
It Is Well With My Soul

Horatio G. Spafford (1828–1888) was a successful attorney in Chicago, the father of four daughters, an active member of the Presbyterian Church, and a loyal friend and supporter of D. L. Moody and other evangelical leaders of his day.

He and his family suffered a series of calamities. First, their only son died. Then, the great Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out the family’s extensive real estate investments.

When Mr. Moody and his music associate, Ira Sankey, left for Great Britain for an evangelistic campaign, Spafford decided to lift the spirits of his family by taking them on a vacation to Europe. He also planned to assist in the Moody-Sankey meetings there.

In November 1873, Spafford was detained in America by urgent business, but he sent his wife, Anna, and four daughters as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Harve. He planned to join them soon.

Halfway across the Atlantic, the ship was struck by an English vessel and sank in twelve minutes. All four of Spafford’s daughters—Tanetta, Maggie, Annie and Bessie—were among the 226 who drowned. Mrs. Spafford was among the few who were miraculously saved. When she arrived in Europe, Mrs. Spafford sent to her husband, Horatio, the now famous telegram, “Saved alone.”

Several weeks later, when Horatio Spafford was going to rejoin his sorrowing wife in Cardiff, Wales, he stood hour after hour on the deck of the ship. He was able again to gain his strength from God with the verse, "All things work together for good to them that love the Lord" (Rom 8:28) When the ship passed the approximate place where his precious daughters had drowned, Spafford was moved to write the lyrics of this hymn, which include the lines, “When sorrows like sea billows roll… It is well with my soul.”

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
"It is well, it is well with my soul."

Though Satan should buffet, tho' trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin - oh, the bliss of this glorious thought,

My sin - not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

And, Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
"Even so" - it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Be Still, My Soul

“Be Still, My Soul” is a hymn originally written in German during the latter half of the 17th century.

Three different composers worked to create “Be Still, My Soul.”

Katharina von Schlegel (1697-c.1768) wrote the lyrics. Little is known about her other than she was a German Lutheran. She may have been a leader of an evangelical women's seminary. Schlegel contributed a number of lyrics to a collection of spiritual songs. Although she wrote many additional verses for this hymn, most hymnals use just three stanzas.

A century later, Jane Borthwick, a Scottish-born composer, translated the hymn into English. Borthwick was a devoted religious and social worker in the Free Church of Scotland. She was born in Edinburgh in 1813 and was a strong supporter of home and foreign missions.

The last contributor was Jean Sibelius, Finland's finest composer. The music from "Finlandia" is used as the tune for this hymn.

God used three people from three different countries and three different languages to give us a hymn that teaches us patience in the face of suffering – that God is in control and that we must learn to wait on Him.

The scripture reference of this hymn is found in Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

“Be Still, My Soul” was the favorite hymn of the Olympic gold medal winner Eric Liddell. Liddle was the best in the world in the 100 meter race. But in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Liddle refused to run in that race that was his specialty because the heat was on Sunday and would not run on the Christian Sabbath. Even the pleas from the royal family went on deaf ears. Liddle, instead, was given the opportunity to run in the 400 meter race, a distance that was not his best distance. He ran the race like it was an all out sprint and smashed the world record. Liddle later became a Presbyterian missionary to China. Unfortunately, China was invaded by Japan, and Liddle ended up in a concentration camp because of his faith. In the camp he pastored and taught and loved his fellow inmates. He taught this song to fellow prisoners at the compound where he was held. Eventually he died in the prison camp of a brain tumor.

Be Still, My Soul

Be still, my soul. The Lord is on thy side!
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide.
In ev'ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul. Thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul! Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake.
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul! The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul! The hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone;
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul! When change and tears are past;
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Day by Day, And With Each Passing Moment
Carolina Sandell was born the daughter of a pastor in Sweden in 1832. When she was 26, Carolina (or Lina as she liked to be called) experienced a tragedy which profoundly affected the course of her life.
She was with her father, a Lutheran pastor, crossing a Swedish lake. Suddenly the ship lurched, and before her eyes, her beloved father was thrown overboard and drowned. Out of Lina’s broken heart began to flow many songs that reflected a simple child-like trust in Christ, despite adversity.
She learned that when pain and tragedy strike, God seeks to use that experience to deepen faith. She was taught that God's people are given only one day at a time, and for each day they receive new grace, new strength, and new help. As inspiration for her song, “Day by Day,” she quoted Deuteronomy 33:25: “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.”
Lina died in Stockholm in 1903 after becoming one of Scandinavia's best-known hymn writers.

Day by day, and with each passing moment

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Blessed Be Your Name

Matt Redman is one of the church's most respected worship leaders and songwriters. “Blessed Be Your Name” was written by Matt and his wife, Beth, in 2001 as a song of praise in the midst of suffering.

Both Matt and Beth had difficult childhoods and came to realize that worshiping God is a choice to be made especially in the face of difficulty. Matt and Beth were in the U.S. during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and they wrote “Blessed Be Your Name” in the aftermath of that tragedy. They wanted to encourage the church to find its voice before God and to respond appropriately to God in the dark times of life.

The song reflects the cry at the end of the first chapter of the book of Job, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.” Matt and Beth believe that trust is an act of worship that says to God, “'I believe in You – in Your unfailing goodness and greatness – no matter what season of life I find myself in.”

Blessed Be Your Name
by Matt Redman

Blessed Be Your Name in the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow, blessed be Your name
Blessed Be Your name when I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness, blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord; Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord; Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name when the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be, blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name

You give and take away; You give and take away
My heart will choose to say, “Lord, blessed be Your name.”

Monday, October 06, 2008

God moves in a Mysterious Way

William Cowper [1731-1800] was among the greatest of English poets and hymn writers. He was a close friend of John Newton, the English pastor who wrote “Amazing Grace.” Cowper wrote “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” in 1774. When Cowper described God's ways as mysterious, he was not simply calling us to resign ourselves to the inscrutable inevitable, but was expressing a hopeful confidence in God.

Cowper’s words can encourage believers who are troubled by any tragedy. We do not deny the reality of suffering and our confusion in the midst of life’s hurts. But suffering need not be victorious. “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,” Cowper instructs, “but trust Him for His grace. Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.”

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A CVC Community Group Guide - October 5, 2008

Here are some questions we discussed in our community group tonight. Maybe your group could use this study to reinforece Sunday's message.

***

What can cause you to lose heart?

Read II Corinthians 4:16-5:10.

To not lose heart and to be ready to go home, we must 1) fear not, 2) just trust, 3) please Christ, and 4) do good. We must “live for the line and not for the dot.”

What fears cause you to live on the dot and keep you from living on the line?

How can we grow in our courage? Read Hebrews 13:5-6

How does a lack of faith cause you to live on the dot and keep you from living on the line?

How can we grow in our faith? Read Hebrews 11:1-6

How does a lukewarm desire to please Christ cause you to live on the dot and keep you from living on the line?

How can we increase our desire to please Jesus? Read Romans 12:2; Ephesians 5:10; Colossians 1:9; I Thessalonians 4:1.

How does a lack of doing good deeds prove that we are living for the dot and not the line?

How can we increase our desire to do good deeds? Read Matthew 25:31-46.

Can you explain the connection between salvation by grace through faith and good deeds? Read Ephesians 2:8-10.

What is the connection between good deeds and eternal rewards? Read Romans 14:10-11; I Corinthians 3:11-15; I John 2:28; II John 1:8; Revelation 3:11-12.

What would be different about your life if you lived more and more in light of eternity? What if you really believed that how we live here impacts our eternal reward? What if you regularly took the time to imagine yourself standing before the judgment seat of Christ? How would your life be different?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Some things I won't have time to say...

Every weekend, I usually have prepared much more than I have time to say. This weekend, we are looking at II Corinthians 5:6-10. I wanted to spend a little time explaining the context. But I can see that I won't have the time. So, here are verses 1-5 with a few words of explanation. Enjoy!

***

1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Our bodies are like temporary tents that we live in here on earth. One day, our bodies will wear out. When that happens, God will have another kind of house for us – resurrection bodies, houses not made by human hands. Instead, we’ll have a home in heaven that will last forever.

2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,

While we are here on earth, we get tired and frustrated and weary. Why? We long for something better. We know, “The best is yet to come!” We want our resurrection bodies.

3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.

In the life to come, we get the new bodies. We won’t be unclothed.

4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

In this tent – this body – we sigh and complain. Life is hard. But it’s not that we want to end it all. No. We want new bodies. We want these bodies that are mortal to be bodies that are immortal – eternal.

5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

God makes it possible. And He’s given us a guarantee that the best is yet to come. His guarantee that His promise is coming true is the Holy Spirit who lives inside us.
Things to think about this weekend

Are you a church planter or part of a church plant? Check out these resources: A review of some of the best church planting manuals and a collection of church planting resources from Ed Stetzer.

Are you addicted to people pleasing? Pastor Craig Greoschel has some great stuff here, here, here, and here.

Want to know how generous the presidential and vice-presidential candidates have been? Tim Stevens gives a thought-provoking summary.

I have to admit, I'm very disappointed in the fincancial stewardship of our candidates. Maybe I'm old fashioned (and some would say - though I respectfully disagree - that I'm in bondage to the OT law) but I believe that the Bible teaches us that tithing (See Malachi 3:8-12) is the least we should do as believers in Christ - even in economically challenging times. I've written about an evangelical basis for tithing here.

We're talking this weekend from II Corinthians 5:10 about eternal rewards (and the Well Done!) for believers. There are lots of questions about this topic and Generous Giving has an excellent Q&A on rewards.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Bible Study Guide?

Someone wrote to me this week, "Rick, I started the 'one year Bible online' program about 40 days ago, and (as you know) we're just wrapping up Isaiah. Can you recommend some sort of Bible study guide? I'd like to know the things that I'm not getting out of the text alone (historical context, personnel, geography, etc). I'm imagining that there's a book out there that I can reference as I read. I scoured your blog (thanks for the tip on the online resources like "blue letter Bible' and 'Scripturetext'), but I'm looking for a book. Thanks in advance for any suggestion you might have.

My answer:

I'm thrilled that you are using the online One Year Bible reading plan. Keep it up. There is no substitute for systematic, regular Bible reading that leads to meditation and prayer.

I make a number of suggestions about good tools to help you understand the Bible in the Loving God Journal. You might want to check out the Loving God Journal at the CVC information table.

To get you started, I’d suggest at least three books that I think everyone should have.

1) The ESV Study Bible (to be released soon!)

2) Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology

3) The MacArthur Bible Commentary

I know that these tools are all a little pricy. But all good tools are. So, if you need to do so, you can ask for them for Christmas or birthdays or anniversaries!

I’m excited that you are seeking to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ!

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.
II Peter 3:18 (ESV)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

left or right?

I had breakfast the other day with a man who was a social activist in the 1960s. He marched in the civil rights movement. Now that he's come to faith in Christ, he's a little confused. He wants to align himself as a disciple of Jesus, but he's not so sure about aligning himself with the religious right.

Here are a few things I learned by listening to a Manhatten pastor, Tim Keller, and here's what I said to my friend. "If you present a biblical view of marriage to a group of Muslims, the Christian worldview regarding marraige will seem very, very liberal. If you present a biblical view of marriage to a group of feminists, the Christian worldview regarding marriage will seem very, very conservative.

"So, what does this mean? It means that Christianity doesn't come from the right or from the left. It comes from above. You can't put Jesus or the Bible into some kind of ideological box. On some issues, the Bible will seem that it comes from the left. On others, it will seem that it comes from the right. But never forget. It comes from above, from heaven, from the heart of God.

"The issue is this: Will we let God's word shape us? That's what a follower of Jesus does. Jesus upsets any ideology that has its roots in any of these world systems.

"So, am I a liberal, a conservative, a progressive, or a radical? Well, I'm for liberty for all - for liberty of conscience and for freedom of expression. So, in that sense, I'm a liberal. And I want to preserve some basic values - the sanctity of life and a traditional view of marriage, for example. So, in that sense, I'm a conservative. And I want spiritual, economic, and relational progress. So, in that sense, I'm a progressive."

I think that my friend kind of liked at least some of what I said. So, he added, "Did you know that "radical" is from a word that means "having roots"? I didn't know that. I said, "Well, I want to be a revolutionary who gets back to the roots and the origin of our existence. From Him and to Him and through Him are all things. To God alone be the glory. Jesus has called us to be radicals/revolutionaries for the kingdom. So, in that sense, I guess I'm a radical."

I just don't think that followers of Jesus should be so easy to put into a box.

It's frustrating to me that, for the most part, the Democrats and the Republicans are so very, very partisan. The candidates of both parties usually just follow the party platform. I guess they do it to get the money and, hopefully, get elected. And we believers are left with choices that cause us to end up voting for people who don't line up with at least some of what a biblically informed voter should hold dear.

Followers of Jesus should care about very, very many issues:
supporting free enterprise;
calling for human rights around the world;
valuing work and workers;
strengthening and preserving the family and the biblical view of marriage;
caring for creation;
protecting religious liberty;
addressing the problems of racism in America;
bringing justice to the poor, the orphans, the elderly, the sick, the prisoner, the hungry, and the widows since each person has dignity because he or she is made in the image of God;
seeking fiscal responsibility and accountability in government and in corporate America;
providing accessible and affordable education;
keeping the peace in our communities and, if possible, around the world;
identifying appropriate limits for governmental agencies and policies; and
defending the rights of the most defenseless among us, the unborn.

Do you have a biblical view of all these issues? I'm thinking that most of us have some homework to do.

One or two issues might outweigh the others for us. But at least we ought to be biblically informed about them all. And we should be careful if and when we do elevate one or two moral issues over the others. We must be progressive/conservative/radical/liberal when it comes to our understanding and activity concerning a whole range of moral issues. Remember, biblical truth comes from above.

I was at the American Policy Roundtable fundraising banquet on Friday. And I was happy to see that the president of APR, Dave Zanotti, presented public officials that the APR supports. They were Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Nice. Zanotti also reminded us that we should not over-react regarding this presidential election.

Zanotti reminded me of the words that the Chicago professor, Scot McKnight, wrote on his blog, Jesus Creed, about this current election:

"On November 5 I will get up and go about my business no matter who gets elected. There will be people who need to hear about Jesus; there will be people who are suffering from systemic injustices; there will be people abusing power; there will be good reasons to drink coffee and eat lunch with colleagues and prepare dinner...

"Changing Presidents will not end those needs and those problems and those parts of my life. So, my task as a Christian is to follow Jesus by loving God and loving others as well as I can. Changing Presidents won’t change that one bit. I don’t see that either candidate has the intent of depriving us of these things.

"I put this another way: I won’t go to bed deliriously happy with the President I want or wake up deliriously happy with the President I want. Nor will I go to bed depressed or get up depressed if it happens to be the candidate I did not want. I’ll get up the way I do any other day and simply know that in a little over two months we’ll be doing these very things and working toward the same kingdom goals no matter who is President. In fact, we’ll be doing these things with a new President. That in itself will make 2009 a bit different.

"Now one more way of saying this: my eschatology, or my hope, is not in who will be the next President. I hope in the power of the gospel that flows from God’s good graces toward us humans. I hope in the God who designs that gospel; I hope in the Christ who embodies that gospel; and I hope in the Spirit who empowers that gospel. And I hope also in the Church whose task it is daily to live out the gospel and draw all into its saving graces. I don’t hope in the next President. I think that is idolatrous. In fact, hoping in the next President is the first step toward idolizing empire.

"So my friend, I approach this election as a Christian who finds it important, significant, and incredibly fascinating, but who also finds it not as important as the task Jesus has given to us as his followers."

I wish I had written that.

I finally told my friend at breakfast that I'm proud to be an American. I love this country. I stood and sang "God Bless America" with 100s of other people on Friday night and I meant every word. But I hope that I don't bleed red, white, and blue.

I hope that I bleed "Jesus." "Our citizenship is in heaven," the Bible says in Philippians. We pray, "Thy kingdom come."

So, let's join Jesus in the most revolutionary mission in all the world - following Him and making disciples in all the nations... including the USA.

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