3Dec

7 in 2017 Challenge

I love planning for a new year! I know, I know, its only December 2nd, but I love getting a head start, setting goals, calendaring out major events, and identifying books I want to read in the new year. Our spiritual growth will stagnate if we do not commit ourselves afresh and anew to reading the sacred scriptures. Here is a link to some different bible reading plans. However, this post is about reading other books in addition to the bible. In 2017, I’ll be challenging our church to read the 7 books found below. Perhaps you are reading this and have been wondering about a good book or two that you could pick up in the new year. Make plan. Set some goals. Pick some books. Begin to grow! Make 2017 awesome and set up to the 7 in 2017 Challenge!

Onward by Russell Moore

Have you struggled to know exactly how we as Christians are to live in such a changing culture? This is the book for you. The Wall Street Journal has called Dr. Moore, “vigorous, cheerful, and fiercely articulate.” If you are only going to read one of these seven books this year, read this one. We are excited to have Dr. Moore scheduled to preach @ FSBCS on June 11, 2017!

Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom Rainer

Don’t let this title turn you off. This is actually an amazing little book with incredibly relevant insights for our church. As I read it, it made me both thankful for the evidences of grace I see at FSBCS and sobered me about some of the challenges we face. It is a short read that you could easily knock out in a week. I hope every FSBCS member and attender alike will read this one in 2017!

Desiring God by John Piper

Perhaps no other book than the bible has shaped my thinking about God than Piper’s Desiring God. Piper gives us a grand vision of God and invites us to consider what it means to truly delight in and desire God. Piper has written dozens of books, but Desiring God is his chief work and contains the themes that run through all of his writings. This is a deep read and will take some time but will change your life.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an English professor’s journey into Christian faith by Rosaria Butterfield

Rosaria Butterfield was once a tenured professor of English who identified as a lesbian and worked to advance the cause of LGBT equality. After her conversion to Christ in 1999, she came to see the sinfulness of having any identity apart from Him. Her story will not only inspire you to believe in the power of God, it will equip you to know how to love people well. This may be the perfect book for you to pass on to friends or family members who identify as being gay. 

What is a healthy church member? by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

This is a short, easy-to-read, and immensely practical book for people of all ages. Anyabwile helps us understand the biblical significance of church membership and the call of God for each church member.

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Pilgrim’s Progress is an exciting, true to life allegory, written in the 1600s and has now been read by literally millions of people. One of my pastors said that he reread Pilgrims Progress every year. This is a classic and must read for every Christian. It is free on kindle!

Live Like a Missionary: giving your life for what matters most by Jeff Iorg

A long time friend of FSBCS, Dr. Iorg has given us a practical and accessible guide to living life on mission. The book strikes at the core of our church’s mission and will help equip you to share the life changing HOPE of Jesus with others.

22Nov

What kind of Thanksgiving will you have?

I remember Thanksgiving holidays from my childhood fondly. All my mom’s sisters with their children (my cousins) and their husbands along with my grandparents and occasionally a friend or two would pack into my parents’ home and all spend the night the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The sound of football on the TV, the smells coming from the kitchen, monopoly with my crazy aunt until 1am and the sheer joy of just being together stick out in my mind. I always looked forward to these days.

Things are now different. I live far away from my family and two of my cousins live far away as well. My kids are now the age I remember being. And though last year, we were able to be in Tennessee with our families, this year we are at home in Arizona.

Perhaps your Thanksgiving holidays were not the joyous occasions they seem to be for so many others. For many people times like Thanksgiving can be quite painful. Memories of divorce, absentee parents, or family turmoil can make one cringe when they remember holidays like Thanksgiving.

But for those of us who live far away from family or for those of us with painful memories of the holidays, here’s a challenge? I want to encourage you to seize this Thanksgiving holiday perhaps, in a different way than you have before. While there isn’t anything wrong with some Netflix binging or cheering on your favorite football teams, consider how God could use you to make Thanksgiving joyous for someone else. In addition to making a list of all the things you are thankful for, you can actually help someone else make their list by giving them something to be thankful for.

There are so many things you can do. Here’s something simple we did last night. Susan, the kids and I grabbed six milkshakes and delivered them to people from our church that each live alone. They all happen to live in the same complex, but alone in their individual apartments. Some of them are homebound and rarely ever get out. Our kids loved it! The way they skipped to each apartment, you’d think they were running to the next ride at Disneyland. When the individuals came to the door our kids shouted “Happy Thanksgiving” in a way that sounded similar to their “trick or treat” shouts just a few weeks ago. Our kids felt real compassion for the people we visited. They were experiencing the truth that

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

One commented about how it seemed sad for the people to live alone. He really began to connect the dots as we shared with him what the bible says in James 1:27

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress…”

So what kind of Thanksgiving are you going to have?

Here’s a challenge to you. Regardless of how close you live to family and regardless of how painful Thanksgiving holidays may have been for you growing up, you can have an amazing Thanksgiving this year. Don’t just make your own list of all the things you are thankful for – become someone else’s list!  Give others a reason to be thankful this year! Who know’s maybe you’ll start your own family tradition!

19Jun

What Adults Can Learn from Kids Camp

My three oldest kids leave tomorrow for kids camp. Jack (9) went last year and had an incredible time. Elliott (7) and Lillie (7) will venture into the woods for a week away from Mom and Dad, studying the bible, playing games, fishing, worshipping and so much more. Jack has been so enthusiastic about camp the past month, you’d think he was in training to the be the camp director. Just the other day he told Elliott, “Now Elliott, you need to be prepared to be a little sad on the last day. Its pretty sad when you have to leave.”  All my life growing up though, camp was always a highlight. I remember when I was in middle school not wanting to leave church camp to go to little league all-stars. Simply put, church camp is EPIC!

I actually think we adults can learn a thing or two from our kids who go to kids camp. Here are three things adults can learn from kids camp:

Hobbies are helpful. Many of us as adults have become workaholics. We are way too stressed out by all the demands of life. In extreme cases, we become grumpy and angry and it spills out onto those we love the most. Most of us know we need healthier rhythms if we are going really flourish in life. Is it possible a hobby could be helpful to you? My kids at camp this week will participate in fishing, archery, arts and crafts, and competitive games and will love every minute of it. These activities are part of what makes camp so awesome. Hobbies are helpful to adults as well. They keep us active, distracted from the stress and help us maintain healthy rhythms in life. Hobbies give our brains a break from the grind. Have you found yourself a little stressed out lately? Have you been a little on edge. The solution could be as easy as taking up a hobby. The options are endless.

Community is hard but worth it. Imagine sleeping on a single mattress in a wood cabin with no running water in the middle of the woods for 5 days. In this setting, you learn things about people and people learn things about you that could never be known in any other way. But these living conditions are hard. Walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night down a little trail in the woods does not fill most people’s definition of fun. There is something about this experience that forges lifelong friendships with these kids. Community begins early and their experience in community runs deep. Am I going to now suggest that adults need to go rough it for a week with another group of adults to forge “community”? Not necessarily, though I wouldn’t discourage it. Simply put, we all need community. We all need to be fully known and fully loved. It may be that your first step is inviting someone to lunch and trading life stories. It may be that you invite some friends over for dinner and enjoy a time of extended prayer together. Either way, at camp people get to know you in a very personal way, and this is what God wants for all of us, even us adults.

Slow down. Be still. Seek God. This is exactly what our kids will be doing this week. And this is exactly what God wants all of us to regularly do. The scriptures have several compelling examples of Jesus slowing down and being still to seek the Father (Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23) and the Psalmist actually commands us to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Why would we send our kids off for a week to slow down and hear the voice of God and then neglect habits or rhythms like this ourselves? Tomorrow night, all the kids will gather at camp and they’ll review the schedule together. There are specific times on the schedule mapped out for bible study and worship. This week of camp was calendared almost a year ago. That is how it will get done in your life too. Schedule it. Calendar a Saturday morning away at the lake for no other purpose than seeking God. Sign up for that next discipleship retreat you hear promoted at your church. Find a good marriage conference to go to, register for it and mark your calendar. Get away. Slow down. Be still. Seek God.

For all those adults that are going to camp this week to make these EPIC experiences come to life for my kiddos and dozens of others, THANK YOU. We’re praying for an amazing week!

14Mar

Why I Take my 7-year-old Daughter with me on Hospital Visits

Some people may find it odd to hear that I take my little girl Lillie on hospital visits with me occasionally. After hearing why however, I think you’ll agree – its not a bad idea. Here are three reasons why I take her with me…

  1. She wants to come. Of course a small part of it is that she just wants to be with daddy, but consistently she passionately expresses concern for the people in the hospital. She wants to visit them and pray for them. Why would I squelch that kind of compassion?
  2. Ministry and family are not enemies. I’ve heard many stories about how pastors have sacrificed their families on the altar of ministry. Unfortunately, as pastors today hear those stories, they let the pendulum swing the other way and end up making ministry and family enemies of one another – in efforts to protect their families. But ministry and family are NOT enemies. In fact, I think they go together like peanut butter and jelly. Ministry happens best when done together in teams. Families are healthiest when they focus on serving others. Think about it. When do pb&j sandwiches go wrong? When there is way too much peanut butter or way too little jelly. When do pb&j sandwiches go well? When you have just the right amount of peanut butter and just the right amount of jelly and they are pressed close together. I think the same is true for ministry and family. As long as I’m giving appropriate focused time to each, I want to get ministry and family as close together as possible. I don’t want them to be competing rivals, but rather close friends. When someone is in the hospital, I don’t have to choose either ministry or family. It can be both – and. I want my kids to get a front row seat of kingdom activity. I want our church to blessed by my family.
  3.  Discipleship is more caught than taught. My sweet little girl learns more than I realize as she ministers by my side. She absorbs kingdom values as she hears me pray and minister to our people. As she listens, she is being trained on to minister to those who are hurting. As she watches, she learns how to express love in a variety of ways. As she participates, she is emboldened as a fellow minister of Jesus. Some day my Lillie may minister in a refugee camp or an orphanage or maybe she’ll grow up to be a nurse. Only God knows. But today, she is certainly in training on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

What best practices have you seen or experience in bringing ministry and family together? Have you let the pendulum swing into an unhealthy area?

 

 

4Feb

Continual Repentance

O God of grace,

Though has imputed my sin to my substitute,

and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,

clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe,

decking me with jewels of holiness.

But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;

my best prayers are stained with sin;

my penitential tears are so much impurity;

my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin;

my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.

 

I need to repent of my repentance;

I need my tears to be washed;

I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,

no loom to weave my own righteousness;

I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,

and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,

for thou dost always justify the ungodly;

I am always going into the far country,

and always returning home as a prodigal,

always saying, Father, forgive me,

and thou art always bringing forth

the best robe.

Every morning let me wear it,

every evening return in it,

go out to the day’s work in it,

be married in it,

be wound in death in it,

stand before the great white throne in it,

enter heaven in it shining as the sun.

Grant me never to lose sight of

the exceeding sinfulness of sin,

the exceeding righteousness of salvation,

the exceeding glory of Christ,

the exceeding beauty of holiness,

the exceeding wonder of grace.

 

(This prayer was taken from The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Edited by Arthur Bennett. Published by The Banner of Truth Trust.)

2Feb

Disciples Making Disciples – Part 2

Life today, is not simple. For many people, life actually feels increasingly complex. We live in a day where we have many choices as to how we spend our time with all kinds of people and activities vying for our time and energy. The sheer volume of entertainment and recreation activities out there leaves most people in a state of anxiety – that they are missing out on something – all the time.

In reality, almost everything is noise.

If we are not careful, we’ll allow all the noise to keep us from engaging in the most important things. What are the most important things? Or to ask it a little more narrowly, what is THE most important thing? What is the most important thing we can give our time and energy to today? Tomorrow? Every day?

Are you ready for it? Are you ready to be blown away? Are you ready to be amazed? Here it is…

As a disciple, make disciples. Said another way, walking with God, help others walk with God. Or even another way, Living for Jesus, help others live for Jesus. Love God, help others love God. It doesn’t really matter how you say it. What really matters is, do we do it? Do we walk with God and help others walk with God? The average Christian can quickly take an inventory of their “christian activity” and relieve their conscience that they are walking with God and helping others walk with God. They attend church. They teach a Sunday school class. Unfortunately, so much of our “christian activity” is void of deep authentic relationship. We’re friends with people, but not family. We have a social connection, but we don’t feel like fellow soldiers. We simply keep things surface and check off our “christian activity” boxes.

Could it be that God longs for each of us to experience something more?

Imagine sitting down over coffee with someone once a week for a couple of months. Getting to know them, helping them identify where they, where God wants them to go, and what next steps to take. Rocket science? Not really. Need to be a bible scholar to begin? Nope. What is required to take your first step in making disciples? Walk with Jesus. Then what? Initiate a relationship with someone and FOLLOW THROUGH! What is required? Intentionality.

There are many, many equipping resources and guides out there to help shepherd discipling relationships. What there isn’t an abundance of is people willing to obey Jesus’ commission to “make disciples.” The secret sauce is intentional relationships and it has simply be left off the bun. As a result, most people’s christian experience is bland and boring.

Though our “christian activity” alone isn’t getting it done, neither is it the enemy to discipleship. Done well, a lot of “christian activity” can be an important and supplemental part of discipleship. The enemy to disciples making disciples is the absence of intentional, authentic relationships.

Chances are, the people that God wants you to disciple are right under your nose.

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for allowing all the noise to distract me from what matters most. Thank you for giving me another chance at living your mission. Show me who to disciple and give me the courage to take a next step. Help me not to obsess over the product or destination and help me to enjoy the process and the journey. Let’s do this, Lord Jesus for the glory of our Father!

(if you need a little more guidance to get started, email me – freddyt(at)fsbcs(dot)org.)

31Jan

Disciples Making Disciples – Part 1

Are you a disciple of Jesus? Don’t answer too quickly. Think about it.

If you don’t meet with Jesus daily, listening to him and learning from him in his word but you check facebook every day — then you are not a disciple of Jesus but you are a disciple of facebook.

If you don’t meet with Jesus daily, listening to him and learning from him in his word but you do watch television every day — then you are not a disciple of Jesus but you are a disciple of the television.

You get the point. The good news is that Jesus will disciple us if we meet with him. Unfortunately, the culture is just as reliable in discipling us too. Walking with Jesus, listening to him and learning from him requires discipline. If you are lazy, it isn’t going to happen.

So are you a disciple of Jesus?

What step do you need to take today toward growing as a disciple of Jesus? What is preventing you from a close, growing relationship with Jesus?

Jesus will disciple you if you let him.

 

26Jan

Seeing Reality in a Fresh Way

What helps you get perspective? A long walk. A good book. A night out. The mountains. The beach. Often times life can be overwhelming. Sometimes the way forward just seems clouded. In these moments we need perspective. We need the fog to clear. We need to see reality in a fresh way.

At FSBCS, we require our pastoral staff to take one full day each month to do nothing else but get alone and spend time with Jesus in bible reading, prayer and reflection. We do this for many reasons, but one of the reasons is to gain fresh perspective. Today was Keith’s day and I’m looking forward to hearing about the fresh perspective he gained with Jesus.

This afternoon, I found myself needing a little perspective. It was my first day back after being out for a week sick. I couldn’t wait to get back in the office and work. I had a super productive morning and then around noon I received a call from Susan telling me about our shower and toilet overflowing into the bathroom, through the walls and into the floor in the adjoining rooms. Our other toilet had overflowed in a similar situation the Saturday before. As the plumber arrived and began to assess the situation, it quickly became clear that we had a significant amount of damage that was going to be expensive to repair. I came home to talk with the plumber and the dry-out company. We made our calls to the home warranty and insurance companies. I began to wonder about the vacation we’ve been planning for this summer. I found myself a little overwhelmed and needed to get out of the house to get a little perspective. I grabbed my computer and headed for Starbucks to try to catch up on email. As I approached Starbucks I noticed police cars everywhere. The closer I got, I could see there had been a wreck. As I drove right up on the scene, one car sat completely upside down while another appeared totally smashed together. Perspective flooded my mind and heart immediately. I began to see reality in a fresh way. I had a several thousand dollar plumbing bill coming, but these dear people may have lost their lives. Someone’s spouse may be gone. Someone’s mother may be fighting for her life. Someone’s best friend may have just died. I needed perspective, but had no idea how it was going to come. I’m sobered and I’m thankful for my plumbing bill.

Do you need perspective today? What helps you have perspective? A day away? A night out? A weekend trip to the mountains? Whatever it is….Slow down. Be still long enough to see what God sees and the way he sees it.

Perspective.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

6Nov

Anyone Can Plant A Church

My blog got hacked. Bad. I literally lost everything on it. The guy who hosts my blog is seeking to recover all the old posts. But for now, I’m back up and blogging. Spread the word by posting the link on your facebook or twitter feeds. Thanks! Read on

I recently preached a sermon where I made the point that “anyone can plant a church.” This is true because biblical church planting is simply,

evangelism that results in a congregation.

The definition isn’t unique to me. I stole it from my church planting professor in seminary. I do however think it is right. Look at how Luke records the planting of the church at Antioch in Acts 11:20-21.

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.

Simple. They preached Jesus. People believed. They were gathered as a church. Think about it. Church plants ought to happen all the time on accident. Anyone with the gospel can plant a church.

Sometimes in North America we call things church planting that are not church planting. They may be church shifting, church splitting, church trading, church moving, or even church pirating. But don’t get confused. Church planting can be very simple. You don’t have to have a big building or a big budget to plant a church. You really only need the gospel and guts.

If you are reading this blog, you probably already have the gospel. Do you have the guts to share Jesus with your friends, neighbors or co-workers? I’m praying today, God gives everyone who is reading this supernatural boldness – godly guts.

Let’s go!

 

 

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