I love that our kids are using The Gospel Project at FSBCS! Here’s a great new video to help our kids grasp an overview of the sacred scriptures.
I love the days leading up to a New Year. The time of reflecting and looking ahead is always an exciting time. Recounting God’s faithfulness fills my heart with great expectations for the year to come.
For many, the new year provides a clean slate. A fresh start. A new day. Perhaps you need a fresh start in your relationship with God. The greatest way to draw near to God is by engaging with his word, the bible. It is not an overstatement to say, engaging with God’s word is the most important thing anyone can do in the new year. In my sermon this morning, I’m actually giving four reasons why we should engage the bible in the new year. Helpful tools to engaging God’s word are bible reading plans. There are tons of them out there. Tim Challies shared some of the best one’s on his blog today. Here’s an excerpt:
Ligonier Reading Plans. Ligonier offers what is probably the best and most thorough round-up of reading plans. They have plans that will take you through the Bible in a year, plans that will take you through the Bible in a few years, and plans that you can do at your own pace. Some of the plans involve only reading the Bible while others offer daily devotionals. There is something for everyone here.
ESV Bible Plans - The ESV site offers 12 different plans that are available in a variety of formats. You can also subscribe to their podcast which will allow you to listen to the Bible; if you do that you will go once through the Old Testament each year, and twice through the New Testament and Psalms…
…Bible.com - Bible.com, which offers the amazing Bible app, has a long list of plans to choose from. You will need to use the site or app to access them.
If you’ve never researched bible reading plans before, you may be overwhelmed right now with all the options that are available. Don’t sweat it. Just choose one that you think might fit you best. Don’t try to become Super Christian overnight. Select a plan that is going to help you walk with God and engage with his word. Don’t pick the “Bible Scholar Plan” and then flake out before January is over.
Pray and ask God to lead you.
Pick a plan. Get some accountability. Open the book and engage.
Have you ever had a grandparent who refused to go to the doctor? It didn’t matter how much pain they were in, they just wouldn’t go. Surely you’ve heard of people like that. I always shake my head when I hear of these instances. Unfortunately, sometimes we can be like that with God.
Life is hard. Our world is broken. Heartache is too familiar. Sometimes our pain is so great we think it will never end and it could never be healed. Yet, God promises to be the healer of our broken hearts.
Psalm 147:3 says,
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
It is almost as though the Psalmist anticipates our disbelief that God is powerful enough to heal our broken hearts so he immediately appeals to God’s power.
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. Psalm 147:4-5
Did you see that? The Psalmist goes right from our broken hearts to the galaxy to show us that God can do anything. God wants us to believe that he is able to heal our broken hearts.
It is unlikely that we would come to him if we didn’t believe he was able to heal our pain. Indeed, our pain can quickly turn to anger and bitterness and cause us to run away from God. Yet, he alone is able to ease our pain. Heal our wounds. Restore our strength. And God says to us, look at the stars and be in wonder of my power. Trust me. I can heal your broken heart.
Maybe you find yourself wrecked with a broken heart. Maybe you know someone else who is shattered by an announcement at work, a word from the doctor or the state of their marriage. Don’t be like the old grandparent who will not go to the doctor. Bring your broken heart to the great physician. Get close enough to him for him to touch your heart. Be still with him. It may take time, but God will heal your heart and bring you to verse seven,
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
Over the years, one of the greatest catalysts for spiritual growth in my life has been listening to audio sermons, interviews and bible studies. I listened to literally hundreds of sermons going back and forth from college back in the late 1990s. Then again in 2005-2006 when I was traveling from Louisville back to TN to preach every weekend (3 hours each way) I listened to hundreds of sermons and pastoral interviews. The apostle Paul said that transformation comes by having our minds renewed (Romans 12:2). Listening to sermons helps renew our minds = a transformed life.
The Gospel Coalition recently posted a wealth of resources online from their 2014 National Women’s Conference. I think they’ll be hosting another women’s conference in 2016. Perhaps a group from FSBCS will go! Enjoy this teaser video and click the link to find a ton of sermons/talks unique to women, their callings, their challenges and their joys.
Click HERE for tons of resources from the 2014 conference!
For the next 48 hours they are practically giving away books at the WTS online bookstore. I just bought 20 books for $40 and saved $300. I was able to snag several stellar commentaries on different books of the bible. If you are looking for a great books for $1.99 check out this sale.
Note worthy titles are:
Sojourners & Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church by my good friend and favorite seminary professor, Dr. Gregg Allison
Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey by my friends at Sojourn in Louisville, Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper
And all the commentaries!
A sweet friend of mine recently gave me a copy of a late 1800′s version of Alone with Jesus: Gleanings for closet reading by J. C. Lanphier. She found it at an estate sale and thought it was cool because the title and theme of the book was based on the text of scripture that I was preaching my first sermon series from. She had no idea that I would be very familiar with J.C. Lanphier — the founder of the historic Fulton Street Prayer Meeting in New York City that broke out in revival in 1857.
The book is filled with rich readings, devotions and poems that invite the reader to gaze upon the glory of God. Here is the poem that the book is named after — Alone with Jesus – from Matthew 6:6.
Alone with God! the universe shut out,
Earth, sense, and time, excluded and forgot;
All memories vanished of the parted past,
All prospects of the future overborne
And swallowed up in that one might sense,
That all-engrossing consciousness of God!
Alone with God! all earth-born love absorbed,
All earthly ties dissolved — all thoughts of those
Long held most dear, Elisha-like, who clung
Around the parting soul to Tabor’s brink,
For a brief space (brief to eternity),
Lost in that all-pervading thought of God!
Alone with God! angelic hosts around
“In burning row,” attending, but unseen,
Angelic harps unheard, though far and high,
The sounding cadence of their anthem rolls;
The sea of crystal, and the streets of gold –
The wall of jasper, and the gates of pearl,
Unnoticed all, replendent though they be,
The throne, and Him who sits thereon, beheld,
Naught else besides, in solitude sublime!
And does thou shrink, my spirit from the sight
Of uncreated majesty, and quail
To meet the Eternal, naked and alone?
Alone with God! I shrink not — He is great –
His awful glory, when unveiled, might well
Consume the spirits He hath made; but still
I shrink not. He is holy, too and just,
And very terrible: He dwels in light
That no man can approach, no mortal eye
Can look upon and live; but there is One
Beside Him whom I dare to meet alone –
Whom I have met alone at midnight hour,
In dark Gethsemane’s sequestered shades,
Alone, though trembling friends and armed foes
Peopling the solitude, were round us there;
Whom I have met alone on Calvary’s hill,
Though taunting crowds and dying men were there
Whom I have met alone on Tabor’s mount,
Unmindful of the little band that there
Held heavenly converse, sacredly amazed.
Alone with Jesus! no, I cannot shrink
From that blest fellowship, unbroken, deep,
And soul-absorbing in the spirit land,
So oft intruded on in this dark world,
By mortal joys and sorrows that would rob my soul of that communion, pure and high.
Alone with Jesus! on the Savior’s breast
Fondly to lean, and think on none but him;
How oft my spirit feels lost in the crowd
Of fellow worshippers below, above,
And longs, like his small band on earth, to be
“Led out into a desert place alone,”
To hear his voice, and share his love, as though
That voice and heart of love were only mine.
Alone with God! in that blest solitude,
Could earth be wanting with its fleeting joys,
Or even its most abiding; and most pure
To fill the measure of a finite soul!
In that august communion could the loss
Of mortal converse shade the holy light,
Or mar the sacred joy which, as a tide,
A swelling tide of ecstacy, rolls in
Upon the spirit conscious but of God.
A few weeks ago I was reflecting on how we tend to have different priorities and passions in different seasons of life. Susan and I have found it very helpful to see life in “seasons.” It is often easier to look back to identify seasons than it is to actually forecast when a current season will end or when a new season will begin. The awareness that life is woven together in dozens of different seasons, gives us strength to endure difficult seasons and gives us sobriety when we find ourselves in a season of plenty or privilege.
As I was reflecting, this fun little season break down came together. I used a different descriptive words that capture the human experience in our context for different age brackets. My friend Corey Boyd helped me finalize the list.
Ages 1-11 — reliant
Ages 12-15 — rambunctious
Ages 15-21 — rebellious
Ages 22-28 — romantic
Ages 29-55 — responsible
Ages 56-67 — restful
Ages 68-80 — reflective
Ages 80+ — soon to be resurrected
I’m unapologetically an optimistic idealist. However, there is a fine line between idealism and romanticism. There seems to be a natural shift that takes place from seeing life through a “romantic” lens to seeing life through the lens of responsibility. Some people might call it selling out. Some people might call it cashing in your dreams. I just call it normal seasons of life. Of course, this list isn’t driven by any data but is simply a fun list generated by life observation.
What do you think? What would you add? What would you tweak? What season or combination of seasons do you find yourself in?
I’m amazed at the global perspective that living in NYC for 5 years gave my little 7 year old, Jack. So many of his friends from school were from different countries or visited family in other countries during breaks. We often had people from other countries eating holiday meals at our apartment. Jack has maps of the world and different countries all over the walls in his bedroom. The other night we decided we’d begin praying for a different country every night, finding it on his map. Tonight was our first night and he chose Cyprus because a little girl from his class in NYC, Anna, was moving to Cyprus for four years. So I googled a quick prayer search for Cyprus and this was the first video that Jack and I watched. It was truly a priceless moment with my little man tonight that left me in tears.
I’m so grateful that at 7 years old, Jack sees the world. It is my hope and prayer for Jack, that he’ll go anywhere, at anytime, to do anything for Jesus. Is that your prayer for your children? Begin praying it now and watch God change your heart. Another pray you can pray for your children is “God save them, send them where you want them to go, and spend them out for your glory.” If you pray it for 20 years, then when your 20 year old daughter comes home and tells you she’s moving to Afghanistan to love the people there and share Jesus with them, your heart will be prepared to send her.
…by goodness and mercy.
The Psalmist closes Psalm 23 by saying,
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
My first three weeks at FSBCS have been filled with God’s goodness and mercy. The warm reception of the church family and the immediate love I have received from them has been sweet. Everywhere I’ve turned these last few weeks, I’ve run head-on into God’s goodness and mercy. Pastoral visits, sharing meals with church leaders, visiting kids camp — the list goes on!
We bought a house just minutes away from FSBCS and tomorrow is our big move! Susan, her aunt Donna, and our three oldest kids are on a cross country adventure even as I type. They made it to OKC yesterday and are driving a little past Albuquerque today. They’ll have about a six hour drive into Scottsdale tomorrow. I wrap up speaking at a student missions event in Glasgow, Kentucky tonight. Tomorrow morning, Parker (my youngest son – 23 months) and I will fly from Nashville –> Phoenix.
The woman we bought our house from, has four grown children — 3 boys and 1 girl — just like us! They also lived a season in Louisville, Kentucky — just like us. She is downsizing significantly and was happy to learn that this family from New York City would benefit from many of the items that she wouldn’t need any longer. She graciously gave us: a kitchen table, an outdoor grill, a couch, a lawn mower, lamps, end-tables, and tons of tools. We are being chased.
After living in tiny New York City apartments for the past five years, Susan and I feel like kids the night before Christmas as we prepare to move into our new home! You can follow our family blog in the weeks to come as I’m sure Susan will be posting pictures of our new home.
The goodness and mercy we’ve been experiencing through the tangibles of a new church family, a new home, and a kitchen table are simply echoes of God’s supreme expression of goodness and mercy to us — his son Jesus Christ who chases us every single day pursuing a relationship with us.
You too are being chased. Slow down enough today to be caught. You’ll be glad you did.
For my first sermon series at FSBCS, we’re studying the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:5-13. Jesus instructs us to begin our prayers by hallowing God’s name. Hallowing God names simply means to make holy, consecrate or revere. When we faithfully hallow God’s name in prayer, our faith is fueled and our lives begin to be reshaped. Here are ten biblical prayers to get you started in hallowing God’s name.
The heavens declare the glory of God (You), and the sky above proclaims his (your) handiwork. Psalm 19:1
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty, the whole earth is filled with his (your) glory. Isaiah 6:3
Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 2 Samuel 7:22
There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you: there is no rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:2
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:3
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes faiths for the courts of the LORD: my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Psalm 84:1-2
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:13
“Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.” 1 Chronicles 29:10-11