A Prayer before a Preacher

Friday is for Heart Songs

Augustine Icon

Orthodox Icon of Augustine of Hippo

I still remember my Latin professor at the University of Maryland saying, “No man can consider himself educated who has not read The Confessions of Augustine.” Great men like Augustine deserve to be read in every generation. But not everyone has the time or opportunity. That is one of the reasons I appreciate ministries like Kairos Journal that plumb the writings of history’s great minds and pull out gems like this one below.

Remember to pray for your pastor this weekend.  The following is from Kairos Journal.

“A man of prayer before becoming a man of words’”
—Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354 – 430)

Augustine of Hippo—famous bishop, pastor, theologian, and philosopher—was a superlative preacher. In On Christian Teaching, he shares with his brother pastors his meditations on the sacred art. This famous pastoral manual remains worthy of sustained study, the fourth chapter containing Augustine’s most developed understanding of preaching. This extract contains words that may find an abiding place in the heart of the pastor, as Augustine calls for prayer before preaching, a turning to God before turning to the congregation.

The aim of our orator, then, when speaking of things that are just and holy and good – and he should not speak of anything else – the aim, as I say, that he pursues to the best of his ability when he speaks of these things is to be listened to with understanding, with pleasure, and with obedience. He should be in no doubt that any ability he has and however much he has, derives more from his devotion to prayer than his dedication to oratory; and so, by praying for himself and for those he is about to address, he must become a man of prayer before becoming a man of words. As the hour of his address approaches, before he opens his thrusting lips he should lift his thirsting soul to God so that he may utter what he has drunk in and pour out what has filled him.1

Footnote:

1 Saint Augustine, On Christian Teaching, trans. R. P. H. Green (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 121.

Pastors: Let’s be men who thirst for Christ in prayer before we thrust our words at his people. Let’s be thirsting souls for God before we speak to souls about him.

Reaching for the Book from the Belly of Depression

Another video from my son. This one is a help to those who suffer from depression. 

Check out Marty’s newest book: Captain Tomahawk and the Sky-Lion

Fighting Hard for Joy

Friday is for Heart Songs

Biking in Portland ORWent for a 27 mile bike ride today. The wind was difficult but not brutal on East and South directions, passable moving West and helpful moving north. The trip put me at 633 miles for the summer, 67 miles short of my goal of 700 before the end of September.

But this trip was more an opportunity to think and pray than it was to exercise and make progress on my goal. Half of the my time I was crying out to God for my family, for my children, for my own soul. More than a few of those miles I was fighting back tears along with the wind. Disclosure:  Prayers are common on my rides. Tears less so.

I have been struggling for days about some news in my family that, frankly, crushes my spirit. There is no bounce in my step, no excitement in my work. In the midst of the week, I found an old CD by Wayne Watson (Field of Souls) and stumbled upon song after song that captured my thoughts almost perfectly (“Class of ’95,” “Wait a Little Longer,” and the “Field of Souls” all hit me hard). 

I’m fighting for joy, fighting hard.

And I’m thanking God for a wife to fight the battle with. She knows my heart, knows when to be quiet and wait, when to speak and when to reach out with hug. I’m a blessed man. 

What is helping me win the battle?

Preaching the Gospel to my soul.

  • Jesus is Lord  (Romans 10:9; Acts 15:11)
  • God is our Father (Luke 11:2)
  • Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth  (Matthew 28:18)
  • My Lord and Savior has not suddenly become impotent (Luke 6:1-11)
  • My Redeemer lives and intercedes  (Hebrews 4:14-16, 7:25)

14  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Overwhelmed by our Great High Priest.  Counting on and encouraged by His intercession.

Wait a Little Longer  (Audio file)

Songwriters:     WAYNE WATSON
Published by:    Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Changing the Texture of Public Debate

Friday is for Heart Songs

Changing the Texture of Public Debate

Changing the Texture of Public Debate

How much more civil and respectful and gracious and PRODUCTIVE, all debate between brothers and sisters on different sides of theological issues would be if we simply obeyed just this one verse of Scripture:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.”
                                     (Eph. 4:32)

Today I entered this verse into a online discussion with a brother on Facebook™ and was promptly censored from the discussion. Offline from the discussion the brother informed me that I was not his pastor and ought to leave off of any future interaction. That is precisely the kind of behavior and attitude that has recently shown up in national discussions related to the very public accountability problems that some celebrity pastors have exhibited. 

  • Why is being kind to one another so hard to do?
  • Why is obedience to this command so missing from public debate and exchange? 
  • Why is rhetorical flourish more prized than reasoned, fair argumentation?
  • Why are posturing, and snark, and clever turns of phrase, more valued than honesty, fairness, and accuracy?

One suggestion:  The boastful pride of men.

But what does our God value?:  Micah 6:8

Action Points:  

Pray that this would be true of all the leaders of Trinity Church. Pray that we would be men and women filled with a tenderness toward all those who disagree with us, that we would be kind, that we would model forgiving one another just like we know our great God and Savior has forgiven us.

Pray that this would be the growing character of all Christians everywhere so we would proclaim the excellencies of Christ (1 Peter 2:9) to a watching world..

Wonder in the Word of God

Friday is for Studying the Word

“Pore over it again and again, for everything is contained in it; look into it, grow old and gray over it, and do not depart from it, for there is no better pursuit for you than this.”

—Mishnah, Pirke Avot 5:27

It’s not the word of God, but this brief quote on the value of studying the word of God from the Mishnah is great advice. Heed it for a better life. Pore over the word of God every day of your life. No time poring over the Word of the Living God is ever wasted.

The Propaganda Worked. Now What?

Friday is for Heart Songs

Adoption 1Tell a lie long enough, tell a lie with pleasant smiling faces on the network news, tell a lie with pleasant stories and glowing anecdotal stories, tell a lie in film, and magazine story, newspaper accounts, and sound-bites from celebrities, tell the same lie for twenty years, tell a lie until those who don’t believe the lie can be shamed into never voicing their contrary opinion and you can make almost ANYTHING sound healthy, good and right.

So it isn’t surprising that media propaganda has now convinced the nation to endorse not only same-sex marriage but same-sex adoption. But what do the actual facts state? Do children of same-sex adopting “couples” do as well as heterosexual couples? Well, here is an excerpt from one report that tries to set the record straight.

Adoption 2But as previously discussed here and in other venues, the most rigorous and comprehensive research shows that when compared to children raised by a mother and a father, the children who are raised in same-sex unions are at higher risk for engaging in unhealthy behavior, and suffer far greater emotional, legal, educational, relationship, and financial problems in their lives.  Surely, it is fair to assume that those surveyed who support same-sex adoption are not actually intending to “cast a vote” for poorer child outcomes or to set up children who are already suffering detachment from their biological parents for failure. So why the disconnect?  Are people simply not paying attention, or are their views being skewed by the copious (mis)information available in this digital age? 

adoption 3Read the whole article at: http://www.cultureoflife.org/e-brief/same-sex-couples-entitled-adopt-can-%E2%80%9Cclear-majority%E2%80%9D-americans-have-it-wrong#sthash.UFH7Zdug.FdmSAyH6.dpuf

How should Christians respond? The lie of course will eventually be exposed.  The culture will pay a high price and unfortunately much of it will be borne by children yet to be born. One day the foolishness will be revealed and King will meet out justice.

But what should the people of God do now?

How do we love the culture, and love the people who make bad law, and mock God’s laws?

How do we turn the cultural tables on the lie?

What is a “Slenderman” Anyway?

Friday is for Heart Songs

My son-in-law, Dan is godly man raising a family, working as engineer and serving as a volunteer youth leader at a Free Church in Bolingbrook, IL. He is also a gifted writer looking to make his life count for the King of Kings. When the horrors of the “Slenderman story out of Wisconsin” hit the news, Dan felt it was appropriate to help the parents of his church deal with the repercussions in a godly way. His pastor, Frank Taylor thought it was worth standing behind and posted it to a wider network.

I asked Dan If I could post it as a guest post on my Blog and Dan said yes.  Here it is. Thank God for young men like Dan that God is raising up to serve the King.

How ya’ll doing?
Dan Aldrin here, youth leader, with a word on some recent news.

Unless you’ve been slammed at the office, or just plain exhausted out of your mind trying to balance every aspect of life (it happens), you’e probably heard about a pair of Wisconsin girls who stabbed a ‘friend’ of theirs 19 times in a months long pre-meditated murder. This most likely disturbed you, as evil should, and the next question is, of course “Why?”

The media has been fast to answer, as is their custom.  The reason: Slenderman.

Some of you may ask “Who (what?) is Slenderman?”

It’s this guy:

Slenderman

This brings me to my role as a youth teacher. I’ve talked with your kids about all kinds of stuff. Kids say crazy things, especially when they think nobody is listening. So I can say that your kids know who Slenderman is, and many have played the games, or watched them played. 100% sure, boys, girls, home-schooled, public schooled, they know.

The good news, I’m reasonably certain that none of them will kill anyone.  Why? Because I know something the press won’t talk about.  I know that those two girls who stabbed that girl did not have a Slenderman problem, they had a worship problem.  I don’t know their story, and I don’t know their hearts, but for whatever reason, these girls decided that they were going to worship something that was not God Almighty.  Instead, they chose to worship a created thing.  The result of worship is always that we come to resemble that which we bow to.  It does not take much foresight to see that when two girls (blurring the lines between reality and fiction) worshiped the alluring villain of online horror fiction, they would become something horrific.  And sadly, they did.  God is not done with them, and our prayers should keep that in mind.

So, what ought parents do?  Well, we could purge our entire lives of Slenderman.  It’s totally an open option, and if you feel this is the best way to guide your children, do it.  But whatever you do, don’t forget to address the core issues.

  1. We know what is real and we know what is fake…if we use discernment.  Walk with your kids through decisions and hear their reasons.  It’s the best way to teach critical thinking and see how they process the world around them.
  2. Watch what your kids worship.  Just because your kid turns into a baseball monster and not an actual one does not mean they don’t have misplaced worship. We only worship God, because He’s the only one worthy of it.  And we become more like him.  If we worship anything else (even if it is culturally approved) we become monsters.  Worship matters.
  3. Find out what your kids are into, read their books, listen to their music, understand why they enjoy it (shoot, enjoy it yourself), and then talk to them about it.  Review it, decide what has worth, what is worthless, and what is silly and doesn’t really matter either way (like cat videos). Just make sure you do it in the least annoying way possible…

I hope this is helpful.  For more info, see below:
The News Story: http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/04/justice/wisconsin-stabbing/
The Wikipedia Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slender_Man
The Game: http://slendergame.com/

Thanks for reading. I’m not good at being brief.

- Dan

P.S. The block building video game Minecraft also has a creature in it called “Enderman”.  It is functionally unrelated, no worries.

A friend asked: “What is the first question you want to ask Jesus in heaven?”

Friday is for Heart Songs

Last week a friend of mine posted a simple question on Facebook:

“What is the first question you want to ask Jesus in heaven?”

I don’t know what happened in other people’s mind and heart with that question but I can tell you that my response was instantaneous, “Why did you save a wretch like me?”

Maybe it was because after 40 years of walking with Jesus and reading the Bible, I can appreciate with greater depth how much I need a Savior, how much I needed and need to be rescued every day. Maybe it’s because this week I have been studying and meditating on Luke 5:1-11 and the calling of Peter. Maybe it’s because I can identify with Peter recognizing the holiness of Christ and instantaneously feeling his unworthiness saying “Depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man” (vs. 8).

Whatever the reason, that’s my question. “Why me? Why did you save a wretch like me?”

I am in awe of the Jesus and the gospel and the doctrine of justification by grace through faith.

Which is why this post by John Murray was a powerful reminder of that grace when I read it over at Reformed Bibliophile this morning. Don’t let Murray’s dour looking puss scare you off!

Faith Without Works is Dead 

by John Murray
John Murray (Theologian)

Faith stands in antithesis to works; there can be no amalgam of these two (cf. Gal. 5:4). That we are justified by faith is what engenders hope in a convicted sinner’s heart. He knows he has nothing to offer. And this truth assures him that he needs nothing to offer, yea, it assures him that it is an abomination to God to presume to offer. We are justified by faith and therefore simply by entrustment of ourselves, in all our dismal hopelessness, to the Saviour whose righteousness is undefiled and undefilable. Justification by faith alone lies at the heart of the gospel and it is the article that makes the lame man leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing. Justification is that by which grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life; it is for the believer alone and it is for the believer by faith alone. It is the righteousness of God from faith to faith (Rom. 1:17; cf. 3:22).

It is an old and time-worn objection that this doctrine ministers to licence and looseness. Only those who know not the power of the gospel will plead such misconception. Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. Justification is not all that is embraced in the gospel of redeeming grace. Christ is a complete Saviour and it is not justification alone that the believing sinner possesses in him. And faith is not the only response in the heart of him who has entrusted himself to Christ for salvation. Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (cf. Gal. 5:6). And faith without works is dead (cf. James 2:17-20). It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1, 2).

Taken from: Redemption: Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955. pp. 130,131 [used with permission from publisher]

It’s been about 30 years since I read Murray’s great book. Maybe it is time to dust it off and read it again.

Thinking about Multi-ethnic Ministry

Diversity 2Friday is  for Heart Songs

“The disappearance of nations would impoverish us no less than if all people were made alike, with one character, one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, they are its generalized personalities: the smallest of them has its own particular colours, and embodies a particular facet of God’s design.”

—Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize Speech

“Part of what drives my vision is . . . the concept that ‘every culture and ethnicity, every socio-economic and even political group sees both more and less of God and His will because of the spectacles with which they approach the Scripture and life.’ That principle causes us to value different perspectives as well as to have a healthy suspicion about our own and others’ interpretation both of the Scripture and culture. It causes us to cultivate a Berean-like heart (Acts 17:10-15), not only with regard to the Scripture but also as it pertains to ethnicity and culture.”

—Marty Schoenleber, Jr. in
A Heart for the Community, (Moody Press, 2009), 356.

God loves diversity.

Multi-ethnic — Yes. Multi-cultural — No!

Friday is for Heart Songs

As the church planter of a multi-ethnic church that at one time had as many as 23 countries of birth represented in the congregation, the vision of the nations coming together to worship the King of Kings is near to my heart. But a multi-ethnic congregation that bows to Christ is far different from the vision of mulculturalism espoused by the cultural mavens of our media and social planners. The following article is from Kairos Journal.

“Multiculturalism Has Run Its Course”—Jonathan Sacks (1948 – )

Jonathan Sacks is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Educated in his native Britain, he was knighted by the Queen in 2005 for his services to interfaith relations. He is a widely published author, with his book The Dignity of Difference (2004) winning the Grawemeyer Award for Religion.

In his The Home We Build Together – Recreating Society (2007), Sacks considers the fractured state of British society in the early twenty-first century. He subjects public policy to close scrutiny and gives particular critical consideration to multiculturalism, a doctrine that has dominated immigration policy in Britain (and many other Western countries) since the 1970s.

Multiculturalism has run its course, and it is time to move on. It was a fine, even noble idea in its time. It was designed to make ethnic and religious minorities feel more at home, more appreciated and respected, and therefore better able to mesh with the larger society…

But there has been a price to pay, and it grows year by year. Multiculturalism has led not to integration but to segregation. It has allowed groups to live separately, with no incentive to integrate and every incentive not to. It was intended to promote tolerance. Instead the result has been, in countries where it has been tried, societies more abrasive, fractured and intolerant than they once were.

Liberal democracy is in danger. Britain is becoming a place where free speech is at risk, non-political institutions are becoming politicised, and a combination of political correctness and ethnic-religious separatism is eroding the graciousness of civil society…

If there is no agreed moral truth, we cannot reason together. All truth becomes subjective or relative, no more than a construction, a narrative, one way among many of telling the story. Each represents a point of view, and each point of view is the expression of a group….

Right or wrong, one thing is clear: the new tolerance is far less permissive than the old intolerance…

Ever-new “isms” are invented to exclude ever more opinions. New forms of intimidation begin to appear: protests, threats of violence, sometimes actual violence. For when there are no shared standards, there can be no conversation, and where conversation ends, violence begins…

culture of victimhood sets group against group, each claiming that its pain, injury, oppression, humiliation, is greater than that of others…

Without a national culture, there is no nation. There are merely people-in-proximity. Whether this is sufficient to generate loyalty, belonging and a sense of the common good is an open question. National cultures make nations. Global cultures may yet break them.1

Footnotes:

1.  Jonathan Sacks, “Wanted: A National Culture,” Times Online, October 20, 2007, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article2697772.ece (accessed April 7, 2010).