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Soul Food (but not the deep fried kind)

Soul FoodThe other day I read this in the book Valley of Vision, which is a collection of Puritan prayers. It really nourished my soul as a reminder of my sinfulness and utter for grace in  Jesus. This reading can be found on pages 122-123 of the leather bound edition of VoV. I hope you enjoy:


Searcher of Hearts,

It is a good day to me when thou givest me a glimpse of myself;

Sin is my greatest evil,

   but thou art my greatest good;

I have cause to loath myself, 

   and not to seek self-honor,

   for no one desires to commend his own dunghill.

My country, family, church

   fare worse because of my sins,

   for sinners bring judgment in thinking sins are small,

   or that God is not angry with them.

Let me not take other good men as my example

   and think I am good because I am like them, 

For all good men are not so good as thou desirest, 

   are not always consistent,

   do not always follow holiness, 

   do not feel eternal good in sore affliction.

Show me how to know when a thing is evil

   which I think is right or good,

   how to know when what is lawful

   comes from an evil principle,

   such as desire for reputation or wealth by usury.

Give my grace to recall my needs,

   my lack of knowing thy will in Scripture, 

         of wisdom to guide others

         of daily repentance, want of which keeps thee at bay;

         of the spirit of prayer, having words without love,

         of zeal for thy glory, seeking my own ends,

         of joy in thee and thy will,

         of love for others.

And let me lay not my pipe

   too short of the fountain

   never touching the eternal spring,

   never drawing down water from above.


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What I’m Reading

2013-09-19 11.22.55This fall I’ve decided to take on a pretty heavy reading load. This is probably the most ambitious reading I’ve done since seminary (I even made myself a syllabus!), but I am pretty excited about it. I hope I will not only learn and grow from the reading, but benefit from the discipline I’ll need to accomplish my plan.

I am doing two basic types of reading. Each month I’ll read one book (two in October) that is focuses on practical ministry/leadership issues. My hope is that these books will help me hone specific skills. I am reading them for the “how-to” aspect. At the same time, I’ll read one theological/devotional book. My goal from these books is less to learn a topic (though I will) and more to simply nourish my soul and stir my affections for God.

So with that, here is what I’m reading:


Tom Connellan, Inside the Magic Kingdom. This book looks at 7 keys to Disney’s success. While written from a strictly business/customer service point of view, it is helpful in thinking through creating a guest-friendly culture.

Ivy Beckwith, The Ultimate Survival Guide for Children’s Ministry Workers. You can probably guess what this is about. Me = New Kids Minister who wants to learn.

Dave Kraft, Leaders Who Last. Dave Kraft is a ministry vet, and I want to faithfully last. Anything I can do make myself a usable instrument of the Holy Spirit so I don’t become a statistic, I’ll do.

J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership. A classic I’ve had on my shelf, but never read. That will now change.

Timothy Paul Jones, Family Field Ministry Guide. You guessed it, Kids Ministry specific reading.


Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God. Sanders explores the implications of our faith being Trinitarian. I am about halfway through this, and while dense at times, this book takes you to dizzying heights as you explore the depths of the Triune God. Definitely feeds my soul.

Charles H. Spurgeon, All of Grace. Spurgeon is one of my heroes of the faith. I have read him, and he has a particular way of stirring my affections for God. Looking forward to this one from the Prince of Preachers.

Eric Mason, Manhood Restored. This is more of a hybrid practical/devotional book. Since it came out I have wanted to read it. Can’t wait to be challenged by this one.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. Another classic that has been on my shelf (see a trend?).

So, that’s my reading for the fall. Hopefully in a few months I can revisit this post, having finished each book. So what are you reading? What books do you go to feed your soul or just for fun? I’d love to hear from you. Happy reading!


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Welcome “Distractions”

Have you ever had one of those times where you just want to be alone? Maybe you were busy and had an urgent task to complete, maybe you were exhausted and needed a nap, or maybe you just a few minutes of silence. Whatever the case, we’ve all been there. As we read through the gospels, we see that Jesus had days like that too. Luke 9:10-11 describes one of those days in the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus had recently sent his 12 disciples out on a sort of messianic mission trip. They cast out demons, healed the sick, and preached the message of the Kingdom. Now they had returned, excited to tell Jesus all the ways they experienced the power of God. So, in order to have some time celebrating with his disciples, Jesus withdrew from the crowds to the town of Bethsaida (Luke 9:1-10).

Do you get the picture? Here is Jesus taking his disciples for some time alone with them. But we see in verse 11 that the crowds somehow hear about where Jesus has gone and follow Him. And how did Jesus react? “And Jesus rebuked the crowds…, ” no. “And Jesus seeing the crowds sighed…,” nope. “And Jesus said, ‘Hey guys give us a minute,'” no.

Instead, we read, “and Jesus welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing,” (Luke 9:11). That is amazing. Jesus welcomed them, not begrudgingly or out of duty, but gladly and took the time to serve their needs. People were not a distraction or interruption to Jesus. Rather, it was His joy to serve and love them, ultimately by laying down His life. That is why He came (Mark 10:45).

I don’t know about you, but I find my reaction to people is often far different from that of Jesus. I often act as if it is a chore to serve others: I grumble, I am rude and dismissive, I snap at my kids for interrupting me while watching SportsCenter. The difference? Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14) and I am, well, full of my self. When Jesus saw the crowds He didn’t sigh, He served. He didn’t grumble, He gave. He didn’t run, He received. Jesus understood (and still does) that what the people needed most was Him. And He is never short of the grace to give the truth of Himself.

The point:  I need the grace of Jesus to see and love like Jesus. The grace to be reminded that He always has time for me, that He gave His very life for me, even when in my sin and rebellion I didn’t deserve it. And I need His strength to then show others that same grace. To remember others around me need the grace and truth of Jesus too. To remember that people and their needs aren’t a distraction, but that people are the point. And then like Jesus, to welcome them and give them grace and truth.

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It “All” Matters

“And Paul entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks,” (Acts 19:8-10, ESV)

“All.” It’s a pretty simple word, but one that carries a pretty big meaning, yet it is easy to rush by. The verses above are Luke’s summary of Paul’s ministry in the city of Ephesus, and the “all” matters. The book of Acts tells us and history agrees that Ephesus was a bit of a world city, exerting a large amount of influence in the Roman province of Asia (modern day Turkey). So, it is not surprising that Paul would dedicate a good amount of time to plant a church there.

What is striking, however, is that Luke tells us that after two years of faithful ministry “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord,” (v. 10). That’s right “all”. Don’t skip that. “All.” Let that sink in a minute. And not just all the residents of Ephesus, but all the residents in the entire province of Asia. Luke’s statement raises three questions in my mind: what does he mean here by “all,” how did Paul accomplish this, and what does that mean for us today?

As to what Luke meant by “all”, we have a few basic choices. 1) By “all” Luke meant every single person, without exception, in Asia heard the gospel. While possible, I am not sure this is the most probable choice. 2) Luke was using hyperbole; a pretty big number of people heard the gospel, and to really make a point Luke just said “all.” This is the least likely possibility in my mind, because it borders very close to being dishonest, and I don’t think the Biblical narratives work that way. 3) Luke meant “all types of residents”, referring to socio-economic and ethnic groups. Luke’s explanatory phrase “both Jew and Greek” at the end of the verse gives this view considerable weight. 4) Enough of the population heard the gospel that they were representative of the whole. We talk this way sometimes “all of our workers embrace this new policy” even when two or three may not, but enough people do we can speak for the whole.

My sense is that by “all” Luke is using a combination of numbers 3 and 4 above. In other words, Luke is saying, “As a result of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, so many people, from every social category, heard the gospel that there was no place in Asia you could go where people had not heard the message of Jesus.” Not that all who heard the word believed, but the gospel spread far and wide. (Interestingly, Paul claims this same comprehensive sharing of the gospel while in Ephesus in Acts 20:26-27). And that fact is breath-taking.

How then did the gospel spread so broadly in Ephesus and Asia? The answer is found in 19:8-9. There we see that Paul spoke the gospel boldly and daily, and in Acts 20:20 we learn that Paul did this both in public and from “house to house.” In other words, the gospel spread so effectively because Paul and the other believers simply shared the message of Christ in their daily life, wherever they went. As a result, all heard the gospel.

Oh that this would be said of my church, of my neighborhood, of my town (or is it a city?)! And, in fact, it can. How? In the same way it happened for Paul in Ephesus: we face down our fears, trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, and boldly, daily speak of Christ, wherever we find ourselves. May we -may I- be so gripped by the greatness of the gospel that it can be said of our places of influence “all the residents heard the word of God,” because, really, they all matter.



August 6, 2013 · 2:36 pm

Back to the Blog

A couple of years ago I started this blog as a creative outlet for myself, but have not touched it in over three years. That is a pretty long time to not do something and then start it again. But, here I sit starting up the blog again, and so wanted to take a moment to explain why I stopped and why I am starting again now.

So why did I stop? I stopped blogging for two main reasons: attitude and time. The latter is the easier of the two to explain.  I was in a season of life that just didn’t feel conducive to keeping a regular blog (we’ll see if that has changed) and as such keeping up was simply not a priority. Added to that, I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to writing, so I was taking A LOT of time per post. I am trying to be a little more relaxed this time around, not trying to say everything I can possibly say in each post. The second reason I stopped blogging was because I noticed my posts were becoming prideful, reactionary, and overly critical (some of those posts I deleted, some thankfully, I never posted). I had begun writing to an audience that didn’t really exist about topics that I had more theory than wisdom. God convicted, I repented, and decided to stop. Hopefully, by His grace, I will avoid that type of writing this time around.

Why start again now? Good question. For one, I’ve had some ideas kicking around in my head, and I need a place to get them down where others can interact with them and sharpen me. Second, I hope to use this blog as a tool and resource for the families I am serving in my local church. Third, I have this crazy idea that I’ll actually have more time to do it. Hopefully, I will be disciplined enough to keep this thing going.

So, thanks for stopping by, I pray God will use this blog to glorify Himself and encourage His saints. Look for a new post coming soon!

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