Friday, December 31, 2010

Thank You!

Well, it is hard to believe that another year has come and gone. Tonight at midnight, 2010 will be officially "in the books." A decade has come and gone since the millenium change at 2000. Remember the hype about Y2K?

I wanted to take the time and thank all of you who have read, followed, and commented on this blog. Thank you very much. Each one of you means much to me and I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate each of you. The primary audience of this blog is an audience of ONE, and unto Him belong Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen (Revelation 7:12, ESV) My secondary audience is you. I do this for you!

I know that this is a "different" kind of blog. As much as I try to be upbeat and encouraging, the topics can, well, be very heavy at times. My goal is to get you to think, to think biblically, and to be a means by which the glorious nature and character of our Lord Jesus, the Christ is reflected to a lost and dying world.

I began blogging in February 2009. I was able by God's grace to blog each day of 2010. My goal and hope is to blog each day something beneficial and valuable to you in 2011, or as much of 2011 the Lord has decreed for me to enjoy.

We have had some fun this year in bloggyland haven't we? Here is a little something I have written just for you!

Very often as the days progress
I find that I for one must confess;
that I fail to appreciate all of you.
Words can never say nor explain
even with a very clever refrain
but it's all I have, it will have to do!

I looked for you each day you see,
wondering what words you left for me;
hoping the post you read would bless.
I hoped to offer some encouragement
as I hit the publish button that sent
thoughts of joy, peace, and rest.

As this year comes to it's end,
I take this time for you my friend;
to give you thanks from my heart.
Please join me in the year to come
for more words of joy and fun;
Let's stick together never to part!

Have a Happy New Year!

Thank You From the Bottom of My Heart!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Year is Dawning

I with Thee would begin, O my Savior so dear, 
on the way that I still must pursue; 
I with Thee would begin every day granted here,
as my earnest resolve I renew -to be and remain
Thine forever. (From the Swedish)

Frances R Havergal was widely known throughout England as "the consecration poet." It was said of her that she always lived her words before she wrote them. It was also said that her life was one of constant and complete commitment to God. Havergal was an accomplished pianist and vocalist. She was reported to have been fluent in seven languages. She was thought to have a brilliant mind. She memorized the Psalms, Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, and the entire New Testament.

In January of 1874 many of the close friends of Frances R. Havergal received a New Year's greeting with the following heading.

"A Happy New Year! Ever Such May It Be!"

Following this heading or title was a poem she had written. This is considered by many to be the best New Year's prayer of consecration that has ever been written. May this be our challenge for 2011 as it rapidly approaches!

Another year is dawning! Dear Father, let it be,
in working or in waiting, another year with Thee
another year of leaning upon thy loving breast;
another year of trusting, of quiet happy rest.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace;
another year of gladness in the shinning of Thy face;
another year of progress, another year of praise,
another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy Love
another year of training for holier work above
Another year of dawning! Dear Father, let it be,
on earth, or else in heaven, another year for Thee.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Naked and Exposed (Part I)

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." James 5:16, (ESV)

Since the fall of man through Adam our Federal head and Eve, normal and rational people have been adverse to being observed naked. Something inside Adam and Eve changed. When they realized that they were naked and exposed they wove together fig leaves to make a covering for themselves. (Genesis 3:7) There is something intimidating which creates or intensifies our vulnerability when we are found to be naked. If we are normal and rational we are prone to cover up and "hide" those parts of our body that makes us feel intimidated and absolutely vulnerable.

In a similar vein, we think if our friends or family really saw us as sinners with our sin "naked and exposed" they would either, think so much less of us, or they would reject us completely. In those rare moments when we really see deep, deep inside of ourselves and we see the black sin that both permeates us and haunts us we feel absolutely intimidated and vulnerable.

As James winds down his letter to the Jewish Christians that have been scattered by severe persecution, he gives some final instructions. Beginning in verse fourteen of chapter five, Pastor James gives instructions for believers to follow when they have become severely ill. They are to call for the elders of the church and desire that the elders pray for them. The elders can even anoint the sick believer with oil, probably olive oil, as a symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

James makes an interesting point; some illnesses that befall us are a result of our sinning against God. Hebrews makes the case that God disciplines and/or corrects his children whom he loves when they sin and refuse to repent. Paul makes the case to the Corinthians that some of them had become weak, sick, and even died as a result of their sin concerning the abuse of the Lord's Table. Sin can lead to us becoming sick and even our death.

Let me say quickly, that we live in a fallen world filled with sickness and disease. The world is crawling with bacteria, germs, and etc. that causes people both believers and unbelievers alike to become sick. Therefore, not all sickness can be nor should it be attributed to sin. We must use discretion and seek wisdom from God regarding why we are sick when we get sick. Don't look at your neighbor, spouse, fellow church member who may be sick at this moment and immediately assume that they are in some unrepentive sin.

However, James commands that when we sin we are to confess our sin, especially when our sickness is the result of sin in order to be healed or made healthy. First, let me say clearly that this is in no way supportive of the man-made and totality un-biblical "Confession" of the Roman Catholic Church. The scripture does not tell us that we are to go to a "priest" and confess our sins in order to be assigned penance in order to receive forgiveness. John makes it clear (I John 1:9) that when we confess, or say the same thing, or say in agreement with God, that our actions violated his standards and is sin, God is faithful and he is just to forgive us of our sins because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are not nor can we be forgiven by any acts of penance. We have been, and we are and we will be forgiven of our sin by the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Each and every believers is made a "priest" for the purpose of interceding to God on behalf of other believers. We are all to pray for one another, especially when we sin, and need help in overcoming our sin.

Second, let me say that I don't think James means every little sin and every time we sin we are to get the church together and confess our sin. I think James is implying if we have sinned to the point where we have refused to repent to God, and judgment has fallen upon us and/or those around us, particularly sickness, we are to confess those sins. I also think, when James says, "...and pray for one another, that you may be healed," he is wanting each of us to pray for those who are struggling with sin and need help. The fact that they are sick with a question of whether they will regain their health is evidence that they truly need help.

When you struggle with sin, with a particular sin, and you have a difficult time overcoming it you should feel the freedom to go to the church and confess your struggle with sin. This accountability is necessary to help someone of us deal with besetting sins. So, why don't we practice this more frequently? I think there are at least four (4) reasons why we don't.

We fail to understand, believe, and accept the sinfulness of our sin.

Someone once said "The reason we have so little victory over sin is that we treat it like a creme puff instead of the deadly rattlesnake that it is." At some point we have to get serious and call sin sin.

We don't really understand, believe, and accept the idea of the helpfulness of accountability to one another. 

James intends in these severe cases that the body prays for this type of an individual and not just the elders. James goes to say in verse sixteen that there is great power in prayer as God grants their requests for healing and health. Others can encourage us, give us scripture, and be used to help us not to succumb to the sins we are struggling with.

We don't see the body as a safe place where we can share our struggles.

The body is filled with other sinners who have not overcome their sin of gossip, pride, partiality, and their critical spirit. There are few who can actually help us. Some of you have already stated in past posts that you have only found 1 or 2 people in your life with whom you could trust and be vulnerable and accountable. I understand that. I am with you. We must be careful if we choose to open up our dark secrets and sins. But we must. We must find at least one person, a friend, a teacher, an elder; someone who can help us overcome a besetting sin if we are unable to do so on our own.

We fear that those closest to us, or those who mean the most to us or even the rest of the body will see us as less than we really want them to see us.

Most of us don't want to be seen as sinful, as vulnerable, as exposed, or naked. We are afraid, since we think like this many times, we will be thought less of. We would rather be made much of than thought less of.

We will dig deeper into this fourth reason, Lord willing,  in Part II of this topic in our January 5, 2011 post. Stay tuned as we look at just how ridiculous this particular reason really is.
Happy 57th Birthday to my loving wife of 37 1/2 years,
Irene Hernandez Torres Metcalf!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teach Us To Number Our Days

"For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" Psalm 90:9-12, (ESV)

As this year, 2010, winds down to its conclusion and the next year, 2011, approaches I can't help but think of this passage. Psalm 90 was written by Moses and handed down as it was preserved until it was collected with the other 149 Psalms and put into the book we know as The Book of Psalms.

The background of this Psalm is that of some type of local tragedy or disaster. Moses asks God to take pity on His people and to bless them. This Psalm was set to music and was sung by the congregation of Israel. As the congregation sang they were to picture in their mind Israel as they were about to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

As they pictured this they were to remember that their forefathers rebelled against God and God refused to let those who left Egypt as part of the Exodus to go into the land. Moses himself was not permitted to enter the Promised Land due to his rebellion against God by striking the rock rather than speaking to it. From among the two million people who left Egypt the only ones who entered the land was Joshua and Caleb.

The singers were to envision that if they were going to accomplish their mission and if God were going to "establish the work of their hands" the people would have to embrace the covenant of God and live in faith toward God. Those who are singing now in the congregation were to picture themselves as the heirs of that first generation - by seeking out the blessing of God.

This Psalm stresses time and how quickly time passes. God is eternal and unchanging. However human beings are not. We are finite and our live is very short. Why would God through Moses the Psalmist want to stress the shortness of time and the brevity of life. The awareness of just how short life is becomes a catalyst to earnest prayer for God's help. We can accomplish nothing of value, nothing which is lasting, and nothing which pleases God apart from God.

In the verses that we chose, 9-12, Moses relates the ordinary life span of a human being. Yes their are exceptions. At our former church, Calvary Baptist Church, we have a member who turned 105 this past September. Yesterday at Coal Creek Community Church we attended a memorial for the son of friends who died at 45. The average life span of a human being at the time of writing was 70 years, maybe even 80.

Since God is a God of wrath and we since can easily offend God we need wisdom. We need to earnestly pray that God would lead his people in faithful living. We need to pray and ask God to draw near to us, to bless our endeavors, and to make us glad. We need godly wisdom to make the most of our days because our days are so few. Whether we are granted 45 years, 105 years, or just 70 years we need to live for the glory of God.  We need for God to enable us as His people to live by right priorities.

How are you doing?
If God gave you 70 years how many do you have left? 
How are you using them? 
Do you have a plan of fervent prayer asking God for wisdom to use 2011 to its maximum capacity for His glory?

 Let me encourage you to begin asking God regularly to teach you to number your days!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Things They Didn't Tell Me

"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." Hebrews 12:5-6; quoted from Proverbs 3:11,12, (ESV)

This past few days the theme of Jerry Bridges' devotional thoughts in Holiness Day by Day has been that of discipline. Regardless of whether you call it discipline, adversity, or hardship, the scripture makes it clear that God first of all, disciplines those whom he loves, in other words, His children. (Hebrews 12:3-17) Second, discipline is a key or major means by which we grow in sanctification of holiness. Another way of saying this, is without the discipline or the hardship and adversity that God directly sends into our lives or permits to come into our lives we would not grow in Christlike holiness.

God disciplines and chastises those who are his children. If you find yourself without adversity, without hardship, without pain/suffering, or without disappointment then you need to immediately do as Paul said in II Corinthians 13:5 and look to see if there is any evidence that you are truly a child of God. Remember, not all discipline, hardship, disappointment, or adversity is the result of some unconfessed and unrepented sin in our lives. Sometimes it is just because! Because it brings God glory. Because it furthers my growth in holiness.

I was thinking on this subject this past week since Bridges has emphasized it. I especially thought on this topic when he included these statements:

"But later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11, (NIV)

F. F. Bruce - "The person who accepts discipline at the hand of God as something designed by his heavenly Father for his good will cease to feel resentful and rebellious; he has 'calmed and quieted' his soul [Psalm 131:2], which thus provides fertile soil for the cultivation of a righteous life, responsive to the will of God."

"The road to holiness is paved with adversity. If we want to be holy, (there is the rub, many of don't want to be holy-how about you?) we must expect the discipline of God through the heartaches and disappointments He brings or allows to come into our lives."

As I thought on these things this week it occurred to me, when the gospel was being pitched to me, I was never told this. I was told that Jesus loved me, and died for me, and had a wonderful plan for my life. All I needed to do was bow my head and repeat a prayer. Now mind you, I am not disappointed in my God, my Savior, or my salvation. Nor am I sorry I became a Christian, but as I thought on how the gospel was presented to me and how it is presented to many today, I wondered what else wasn't I told.

 Jesus gave the cost if you would for becoming his disciple in this passage - read it carefully. I think if we presented the gospel clearly with this admonition, or caveat, or qualification of what is really involved, I think there would be fewer "false professions" and less unconverted people filling our pews, pulpits, and programs in the local church. Do I think these things are important? Yes, Jesus said, "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" Luke 14:28 (context is 14:25-34), (ESV)

I thank God that he is sovereign and overcomes these deficient gospel presentations and saves his elect. I am glad that it is God who overcomes my rebellious and resistant heart and gives me the gift of salvation. But as I thought about on these things, at least five (5) things came to my mind that they did not tell me when they wanted me to sign on the dotted line and "accept Christ."

...that I would become a slave, a slave to a new Master with no will, identify, or life of my own. That my identify would result from his identity, that I am to subjugate my will to his will. That my whole life is to be given to doing his will, his bidding, and his desires.

...that the road to holiness was paved by adversity, hardship, discipline, heartache and disappointment. That although God does not punish me, nor is never angry at me, nor has occasion to remember my sin or love me any less than he always has, he will still chastise and discipline me in order to further develop me in holiness.

...that it is all about him and nothing about me. That my job is solely to reflect, magnify, and portray his glorious nature and character to this lost and dying world in hopes that someone would see the beauty of the Lord and by his grace be drawn to be a God-fearer and his child like me. That God's primary concern is his glory and not me and my comfort and wish list.

.... that this isn't my best life now. That I am not saved and brought into the kingdom of God in this present age to have every desire satisfied, every whim provided for, and every wish granted. That as Paul said in Philippians, I have been called to suffer as a believer. That reward, rest, and blessing comes in the next age.

....that there is a cost to be counted to becoming a disciple of Christ

Again, I am not complaining, nor am I ungrateful or dissatisfied for becoming a Christian. This week of devotions just caused me to think how serious discipleship really is and how lightly we at times take it.

So let me ask you:

Have we made "becoming a Christian" to easy?
Have we "changed" the gospel in any way?
Is it easier to become a Christian today than in the time of Christ and the Apostles?
What didn't "they" tell you when the gospel was presented to you?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

O Come Let Us Adore Him!

"A bottle comes flying through her door and immediately lights up her living room," said Hermosa Beach, California, police sergeant Paul Wolcott. "She was barely able to escape with her life." 

Wolcott was describing the aftermath of a Molotov cocktail thrown through a woman's glass front door, causing $200,000 in damages.  Brandi Nicole Nason threw the gasoline bomb on Christmas Day 2003 into the home of her former stepmother because Nason was dissatisfied with a Christmas gift the woman had given her.  (Taken from the book Stupid Christmas, by Leland Gregory currently a free download from the Amazon Kindle Library)
Christmas Nativity
Well the lesson to be learned here is that if you draw Brandi's name in the family or office gift lottery you will want to ask her what she wants for Christmas ... and the make sure you get it.

The dissatisfaction with "things" is an opposite reaction from the ones who received the first and true gift of Christmas:

  • Joseph chose obedience to God's gift and married Mary without divorcing her quietly
  • Mary chose servant-hood and was willing to carry and give birth to God's gift
  • Shepherds chose to share the good news of the gift of God
  • Wise-Men chose to bow down, give gifts, and worship the gift of God

What gift did you get this year that you did not like? What gift will you be returning or have already returned? You won't throw a flaming bottle through a door will you?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday Wishes


To My Christian Friends - Happy Holidays

To My Jewish Friends - Happy Hanukkah

To My Atheist Friends - Good Luck!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Yes, Mary had a Baby...Now what?

Yes, Mary had a baby. She had a baby boy. She and Joseph named that little baby boy, Jesus. Now what?

Our society as a whole has very little problem with the manager scene. Now, now, before you try to remind me about the ACLU, the Political Correctness Policies that have kicked the Nativity Scene out of Government buildings, and the pockets of godless atheists, try to relax and think about it.

For the most part people love this scene from what we call the Christmas Story. They lament the fact that there was no room to be rented by Joseph and the very pregnant Mary. They lament the fact that the birth of this child had to take place in a stable; it was really a rock overhang or cave in order to feed animals out of the weather. Even as they shake their heads and make those tsk tsk sounds they love the story of the birth of a baby.

Most people see just that. They see a young mother forced to make an arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem so her husband could register in accordance with Augustus's decree. They see her forced to give birth, not in a hospital surrounded by sanitary conditions and nurses in gleaming white uniforms. They see this baby born in a cave or stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and then gently placed in a manger or feeding trough. They love the fact that this new father and mother did all they could to take care of this beautiful little baby boy.

We as believers spend a great deal of energy and commitment trying to remind the world, not to mention each other, of "The Reason for the Season." What is that reason for the season? The incarnation of course. We spend a great deal of time trying to retain, maintain,explain, and train the multitudes who have commercialized this great and glorious event as they have turned it into sales, surprises, sundry ideas.

Yes, the reason for the season, (more probable in April/May), is the incarnation. We celebrate that God became man! We rejoice that God's plan was moved further along toward completion. A child is given, a King is born! God, in the second person of the Trinity, emptied Himself of His divine prerogative and became flesh, a human being - a baby boy!

Carols melodiously proclaim the joyful news. Pageants and plays demonstrate this wondrous event. Messages and sermons detail the circumstances that prompted and executed this tremendous miracle. Hearts are drawn to this "poor family", boorish surroundings, and to the story with a happy ending.

But, now what?

Why was this baby born? What purpose does the incarnation serve? Why is the incarnation so significant? More importantly, what is the response to be toward this holiday miracle? Ah, yes, here is the rub!

You see the same crowd that almost idolizes this wonderful event and acknowledges its reality, does not understand its significance or importance. As a matter of fact the same crowd that will buy and display a Nativity Scene will vehemently deny and denounce the reason for the season.

That little baby wasn't born just to be born. Nor was he born in a stable and placed in a manager in order to complete our holiday pageants. The reason for the season is not merely that a child was born or that a son was given. This baby was born to die. His purpose was to be an offering, a sacrifice which would when he was bruised and crushed would please the Father. This child in this incarnation was given to ransom His people from their sins and to satisfy the justice and wrath of a righteous God who had been offended. The reason this baby was born was for sin! For your sin and for my sin. That puts a different light on things doesn't it? Jesus wasn't merely born in the cave and placed in a feeding trough as part of a cute story. When I look at that "baby" I see my sin. My sin which would one day be imputed to him.

Now you know why Satan hates this time of year so much. Now you know why he inspires the pockets of vocal atheists, the political-correct politicians, and the campaign to remove the Nativity from public view. God became flesh in the incarnation to provide the only sacrifice that would appease his wrath, justice, holiness, and righteousness. If the world didn't hate this scene it would give me great concern. Let them remove the Nativity scene from government buildings - that doesn't stop God from being God.

"If every man were blind it would not diminish the sun; If every man an atheist, it would not diminish God" (A.W. Tozer)

"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." (C. S. Lewis)

One must come to grips with the purpose of this incarnation. One must recognize their sin and their need for salvation. The reason for the season is God has provided a means for our sin to be dealt with. Sin and guilt must be recognized and admitted. As one gazes into the face of any baby, real, ceramic, plastic, or wood, who represents the Christ-child of the Nativity scene, must see their sin. This baby was provided as an offering. As the majority of mankind "oohs and aws" this cute little baby will they come to grips with thier own sin? The majority will not, thereby missing the true and real "reason for the season."

"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21, (ESV)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Emmanuel - God with Us!

Today is Theological Thursday

Today we will look at the word

Εμμανουηλ (em-man-oo-ale’)

This word literally means "with us [is] God." We translate it to mean, "God is with us." We find this word used three (3) times in the Bible; Isaiah 7:14; 8:8, Matthew 1:23.

The Hebrew word "Immanuel" and the Greek word "Emmanouel" signify a proper name in each of these three (3) passages. This is the name that is given to the promised child of the "alma", more literally, unmarried woman of Isaiah 7:14 and the "parthenos", or virgin of Matthew 1:23.

The unique thing about this name is that it describes this baby's nature and his mission. This name describes his messianic work of atonement and redemption. Walter Elwell noted in essence that by itself this proper name doesn't prove that Mary's baby would be "the Son of God." He makes the case that this baby was the Son of God with a Messianic mission by drawing our attention to passages such as John 1:1, 18, 20:28, Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; II Peter 1:1; I John 5:20.

These passages help us to understand that this proper name, Emmanuel, was intended by God to convey to us more than the idea that God was active through Jesus to protect His people. As a matter of fact, Jesus, or Emmanuel was to given to describe the incarnate baby's divine nature.

When we look at the preposition "with" we can see how this name implies the work of Christ as Savior and Messiah. Think for a minute on the two (2) parties that are on each side of this wonderful proposition. One one side is God, who is holy with no sin and unable to look on sin. On the other side is the human race, which Romans 3 makes very clear contains no one who is sinless, righteous, holy, or perfect. Human beings deserve God's wrath and have no grounds to blame God or even resist God when God judges, opposes, and stands against them.

Yet, just as this wonderful name suggests, God reveals His Son as "God with us." God will no longer be opposed or against us when this incarnate one finishes the work of atonement on the cross. Emmanuel, or God with us will fulfill the Messianic role provided as a result of God's grace, redeem his people, and once again, be God with us.

Jesus demonstrates this portion of the messianic mission emanating from the incarnation when He declares, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20, (ESV)

Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2nd edition, 2001), p.596

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, volume 2ed. G. W. Bromley, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), p. 807

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Interview of Gregg Metcalf

Many of you have become acquainted with my good friend, Ron from The Old Geezer Blog site. Like many of you I look forward to each of his new posts in order to see what he is "stirring up" now. Ron has a unique knack in supplying us with a humorous "set-up" to the questions he wants to ask or the opinions he wants to elicit. Sometimes these questions are very important and dead serious. Many times they are very, very funny!
From time to time I have wanted to teach certain points, other bloggers have asked me specific questions, and some comments have made me want to share more or go deeper. I asked Ron if he would "interview" me as a different means of teaching some important things. He was gracious to do so and has emailed me some questions, he has asked, some others have asked, and some I have found on another site (C. J. McHaney's View From the Cheap Seats.) Here goes our "mock" interview. I hope and pray it gives you some more insight into the dude behind The Gospel-driven Disciples. I also pray it challenges and inspires you to greater heights in your devotion life.
Pastor Gregg, If you don't mind? I have a few questions I would like to ask you.

describe your morning devotions? What time do you wake up in the morning? How much time do you spend reading, meditating, praying, etc.? What are you presently reading?
I normally get up about 4:30 AM each morning, including the weekend. I spend approximately 90 minutes in my morning devotional routine. I begin by greeting the Lord (verbally) and thanking him for meeting with me. 
then remind both the Lord and myself that I do not approach him on the basis of any authority or righteousness that I might possess, but I approach him and enter into his presence on the basis of the righteousness of his dear Son and my Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 10:19-25) This page has literally become "dirty" and worn from my use of it each day.
I then spend some time expressing my utmost dependence upon God for every aspect and dimension of my life. I also spend some time expressing thankfulness for every aspect or dimension of my life, i.e. spiritual life, physical life, family life, vocational life, financial life, etc.
I then spend some time reflecting on the wonder of the cross of Christ. I rarely meditate on the physical aspect of Christ's death (in no way do I intend to demean it) I spend time reflecting on the spiritual ramifications of Christ becoming sin, God imputing his righteousness to me and imputing my sin to him. At this time I also preach the gospel to myself. I preach the truths and ramifications of the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to be reminded of my acceptance by God in Christ, that I have been fully forgiven and absolved of all guilt, and of all the benefits of the gospel to me spiritually. (I use Milton Vincents, A Gospel Primer, as a guide.
I then read and meditate on the daily devotion contained in Jerry Bridge's Holiness Day by Day. I meditate on this devotion until I can write out in my journal both the theme and application of that day's devotion. (Beginning Jan 1, 2011 I will use John MacArthur's Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol 1.)
I then read the daily reading as I have chosen to read through the New Testament in one year. I mediate on this reading until I can write out the theme and the application in order to integrate it into my life.
I then write out in my journal in the form of a prayer request the information, instruction, and principles I found in reflecting on the wonders of the cross, in Holiness Day By Day, and my daily reading. I now spend time in prayer, confessing my sin, and asking God to implement the theme and application from each above mentioned portion of my devotion into my life.
I then spend some time in worship, usually by reading a Psalm and by either singing or reciting a hymn from the Trinity Hymnal, Baptist Edition.
I then spend time in scripture memorization memorizing the "Fighter Verse" of the week.
I then journal my thoughts, feelings, fears, prayers, and impressions in my journal.
What book(s) are you currently reading in these three categories: (a) for your soul, (b) for pastoral ministry, or (c) for personal enjoyment?
For my soul I am reading Brian Hedges, Christ Formed in You, John MacArthur's Slave, and John Piper's A Hunger for God.
For pastoral ministry I am reading John MacArthur's The Book on Leadership.
For personal enjoyment - I am not reading anything at the moment in this category. For personal enjoyment and a step back from ministerial and devotional reading I am watching the BBC Mini-series called I, Claudius. I love this series dealing with the history of the Roman Emperors from Augustus through Nero from the book by Robert Graves.
Apart from Scripture, what book do you most frequently re-read and why?
Knowing God by J. I. Packer, Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch, and The Valley of Vision, ed. by Arthur Bennett. The first, to just remind myself how important it is to truly know God and not just have knowledge about God, the second because I want to be an effective pastor who honors God and loves his people, and the third because the prayers contained in this book alone are as powerful as scripture to break my pride and illuminate the sin in my heart.

If you could study under any theologian in church history (excluding those men in Scripture), who would it be and why?
Wow! Hmmm  it would be between John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, or A. W. Pink. Calvin because of his studious exposition and love for the word, Edwards because of his insights into the character and nature of God, and Pink because of his insignts into God's sovereignty.

What single piece of counsel (or constructive criticism) has most improved your preaching?
Pray, Prepare, Plan, and Preach! Be myself and don't try to imitate anyone else. It is the Holy Spirit using the Word that will convict and change someone and not me, my delivery, or methods.

What single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your effective use of time?
"What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." (James 4:14) "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time... (Ephesians 5:15) "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, wether good or evil." (II Corinthians 5:10)

Where in ministry are you most regularly tempted to discouragement?
When I see God's precious children fail to appropriate the fullness of the spiritual wealth that is theirs in Christ even in this life time. C. S. Lewis summarized my "area of discouragement" when he wrote,  “our desires are not too strong, but too weak. we are half-hearted creatures, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. we are far too easily pleased.” We live lives that are too easily pleased. too often, we rely on possessions and money to satisfy our heart’s desires. advertisers have made a living out of convincing us that the secret to a fulfilled life is the possession of more stuff. But while we are settling for the pleasure of material possessions, is it possible that we are missing out on something better? is it possible that we are missing things that would bring even more satisfaction and more pleasure to our lives? are our lives destined for something greater than material acquisitions? are we settling for something less than the very best?
Currently, what sport do you like to play and/or watch?
I use to play golf, arthritis in both knees has stopped that, so I don't play sports. I am however a die-hard fan of the NFL. I love football! I watch it every week every season as often as I can. I love my Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers win or loose.

What do you do for leisure? 
I love to people watch, read, and watch good movies.

If you were not in ministry, what occupational path would you have chosen?
College professor, a Medical Examiner, or an Attorney

Do you consider blogging to be an important part of your life?
I do. It is an avenue of utilizing my spiritual gift of teaching. It is a wonderful release for me.

Would you rather listen to the radio or watch television?
Watch TV. When I want to relax I want to be entertained either with a good book or a good movie. We don't watch many programs actually, my favorite you probably know is Burn Notice. I love a good movie when I want to relax.

What is the most difficult part about growing older?
That I only have one life to give to the service of Jesus Christ and it is an extremely short life. My life is almost over. If I am permitted to live to the "70" mark of Psalm 90, I only have 15 years or so left to serve my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How I lament the wasted time of the last 55 years.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Are You Praying For?

"...there was silence in heaven for about half an hour...the prayers of the saints...rose  before God..." Revelation 8:1,4 (ESV)

My devotional reading yesterday morning (this morning as I journal this) was in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Chapter Eight. This is a very moving and awe inspiring portion of Scripture. Among many the things that are seen and gleaned in this chapter we see the prayers of the Tribulation Saints. We get an idea of what they are praying for and what encompasses their attention. I began to think about what encompasses my attention and what for what am I praying?

I think I am praying for the normal things that most people would pray if they were in my circumstances. I am praying for:
  • a job, especially since my unemployment benefits are ending at the end of this month
  • the Bank of America loan modification to be approved in order to keep our home
  • the salvation of my third daughter
  • the salvation of my four grandchildren
  • God's blessings as we begin the steps to plant a church for His glory
  • For the needs of friends, family, our church
In Revelation eight I saw a different "prayer list." The apostle John sees the Lamb, Jesus, the Christ, open the seventh seal. This is such an awful, solemn, and sober event that all of heaven falls silent for approximately thirty minutes. Until now John had heard quite a bit of noise in heaven, hadn't he?
  • The four living creatures had not ceased from saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come
  • The twenty-four elders sang praises to God continually
  • Innumerable hosts of angels sang and praised God
  • There had been tremendous sounds of praise, worship, and adoration on going
Now, thirty-minutes of silence. Why? Silence is the only response to divine judgment. These seven angels who stand in the very presence of God were given trumpets. These trumpets were cataclysmic judgments on this earth.

I don't know if I could be silent for thirty minutes before I prayed. Do you? Have you ever sat for thirty or more minutes simply listening for God?

John talks about the altar and the incense. The incense represents the prayers of certain saints.

"And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel." Revelation 8:3 (ESV)

There are three things that I discovered as I meditated and prayer through his passage:

The saints are probably the believers who are being persecuted and are exposed to the blasphemy against God during the time of the Tribulation Period. (This means that those who are offering to pray, with incense from some golden altar for a fee are making their offer to soon, shame on you TBN crowd.) These prayers are not from the church age, but more than likely will be the prayers prayed by God's people during this awful time of judgment.

The saints are probably praying for God to end the persecution and blasphemy against God. The content of the prayers revolve around judgment and restoration. These prayers seem to include petitions for:

  • Satan to be destroyed
  • Sin to be defeated
  • Saints (Martyrs) deaths during this period to be avenged by God
  • Savior to be deployed. They want Christ to return to the earth and set up His kingdom
The saints were right in praying for judgment. Their prayers are affirmed by the incense with God provided which shows He is in agreement with their prayers and cries. God will release in response to His sovereign plan and their prayers the seven trumpet judgments.

So, there is a sense of anticipation as these prayers come up to God from these dear persecuted and molested saints during the tribulation. Their prayers will shortly and certainly be answered. It seems that there is a connection between the prayers of God's people and God's wrath.

Which brings me to my question, what are you praying for? Among the much needed requests that you and I are making to our God, is judgment, wrath, and vengeance among our requests? Are we praying regularly for Satan to be destroyed in the Lake of Fire? Are we praying that the blaspheming of our God would be put to an end? Are we praying that God would avenge the deaths of those who have been persecuted, molested, and killed for the name of Jesus Christ? Are we praying regularly for the return of Christ? Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Just asking

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Obituary of December 1552

December 20, 1552

Former nun Katherine von Bora, Martin Luther's wife from 1525 to Luther's death in 1546, dies.

In 1552 the plague broke out in the City of Wittenberg. The university had relocated to Torgau. Katherine decided to go there too. 

On the way she was thrown from the wagon on the edge of a lake and was lifted out of the water severely bruised. She did not recover from this accident but died three months later at the age of fifty-three. She made this statement on her deathbed; "I will cleave to my Lord Christ as the burr to the cloth."

Happy 15th Birthday to my granddaughter, Madilynn Nicole Metcalf of Vancouver, WA

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Eating As Fast As I Can!

have many an old book in my library in which there have been book-worms, and I have sometimes amused myself with tracing a worm. I do not know how he gets to the volume originally, but being there he eats his way into it. He bores a hole in a direct line, and sometimes I find that he dies before he gets half-way through the tome. Now and then a worm has eaten his way right through from one wooden cover to another; yes, and through the cover also. This was a most successful bookworm. Few of us can eat our way quite so far. I am one of the book-worms that have not got half-way into my Bible yet; but I am eating my way as fast as I can

--Charles H. Spurgeon

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Becky, There Are No Lines

"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Romans 8:7-8 (ESV)

Someone has forwarded to me for a second time a new song. There is another "feel-good" CAC ("Christian"-Approved Correct) song making the rounds on the Internet and Face book via YouTube. It is called, "Where is the Line To See Jesus?" This is designed to make people feel  all  "Christianie" during this season of commercialization, spending, and celebration. The idea is that there are long lines in the stores and such but there is not a line for Jesus. People have lined up to see "Santa" and a little boy asks his mommy where is the line to see Jesus.

I, for one, would be worried if there were a line amongst the "worldlings" to see Jesus. Since there is such a hostility between God and man until God, in His sovereign timing by His Holy Spirit overcomes that hostility and changes heart and mind of a man, no one wants to see Jesus. As a matter of fact the Bible says that man loves the darkness and his dark deeds so much that he hates the light and won't come to the light. (Colossians 1:3; John 3:19-20)

Please don't fool yourself, or worse yet, convince yourself that men and women are going to get all "Jesusy" around this time of year and line up for Jesus. Feel-good emotional songs designed to tug at our hearts and bring tears will not end this hostility.

We can look to the New Testament and the life of Jesus and see that for a time great crowds did line up to see Jesus and to follow him. The world will line up at one time or another and for one or more of the following reasons Men did follow Jesus for the...

...Multitudes - yes some followed because others were flocking to Jesus to see what the "fuss" was all about. They heard about a man saying and doing strange things and performing miracles.

...Meals - many followed because they had been fed on at least two occasions. Times were hard and to have some feed you was welcomed.

...Miracles - many more followed because they had received something. Some were healed of terrible infirmities or diseases, some were raised from the dead, and some saw Jesus perform wonderful miracles

...Master - very few followed Jesus because they were willing to own him as Master

Remember, when Jesus put it all on the line and laid down the requirements to be his disciple and to follow him, what did those who had lined up do? They turned back and followed him no more. As a matter of fact so many left the "lines" that Jesus asked his disciples if they too were going to turn back and go away. The world  does not want to "line up and follow" the Jesus of the Bible nor do they want to own Him as Master.

Where's the line for the Lord asks the singer? Don't look hard or long since you won't see one. People will not line up for the God or the Jesus of the Bible. They will always line up for a God or Jesus of their own imagination. No one, Romans 3 says very clearly will line up for Jesus. No one will until God in His grace and by His mercy overcomes the sin and darkness of their hearts and transfers them into the kingdom of His dear Son.

Let me encourage you to put away this commercialized and sentimental view of the Christ-child and pick up the Bible and read deeply of the wonderful, gracious, and miraculous incarnation of the Son of God. Read of the reason for the incarnation. Then, if you haven't as of yet, find a quiet place, fall on your face and plead with God to save your soul thereby ending the hostility between you and God. Give God glory for the incarnation of the Christ-child!

If you have done this and you are a child of God, resist the temptation to forward this sappy, sentimental, yet biblically empty song and share something truly substantial. Share the gospel with someone this year. Are you looking for that perfect gift that fits all? That gift no one can return? Share the gift of the Son of God who died to overcome the hostility between God and man and who reconciles God to man. That is the gift that will keep on giving.

You have a lovely voice and great talent but Becky, there are no lines.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Case of the "Snatched Snowman"

We had a wonderful time one year in Austin, Texas at a "family reunion" Christmas. I was able to fly down to Austin and spend Christmas with my parents, Glenn and Evelyn of Modesto, CA and all of my brothers and sisters. This was something that we had not done, unfortunately, in a  number of years.

Overtime, my sister Donna and her husband moved to Austin, Texas; while I migrated to Washington State. Shortly after moving to the Seattle area, my sister Nancy and her husband moved to Bellingham, Washington. They fell in love with the area just below the Canadian border - I must laugh at times, because we couldn't be further apart while being in the same state. She is just a few miles from the Washington/Canadian border while  I am just a few miles from the Washington/Oregon border. My brother Craig and his wife Jill, whom Craig use to write and illustrate a "family comic-strip" about his wife Jill, named Jilly-Willy was eventually transferred by his job to Houston Texas. My youngest sister, LeeAnn and her husband migrated to Augusta, Kansas.

Over the years, it became, for one reason or another very difficult to get together as families for the Christmas holidays. However, in December of 2001, through the graciousness of God, and careful planning we were able to bring my parents and all five of their children, along with some of their grandchildren under one roof.

We did the normal things families do, such as catching up on jobs, kids, joys, and troubles. We spent the time reminiscing about previous Christmases, especially those wonderful times my parents provided for us when we were all little. It was fairly uneventful, quiet, and almost without mishap. Until the day of the snatched snowman. That incident will never be forgotten. It is etched in all our memories as a frightening and unsure moment in the midst of this wonderful holiday season.

The day started out like any other day, see...

My mother had bought a little yarn snowman at Wal-Mart sometime during the week prior to Christmas Day simply because she liked it.Sometime during that fateful day this snowman disappeared. He was like you know, there one minute, and then gone in the next minute.

While we were wondering what happened to him, the phone rang. We were jarred out of our saddened contemplation by the loud ringing of the phone. It was "the call." In a muffled, unrecognizable voice the caller was demanding a ransom for the safe return of the snowman.

Then, mysteriously, two or three ransom notes showed up with demands in letters that had been cut out of magazines. We also received  a couple of Polaroid photos showing the snow-napped snowman bound and gagged. What horror! The fear we experienced seeing this helpless little snowman bound and gagged. However, thus far he was unharmed.

Naturally after a boisterous family debate and vote we agreed to "pay" the demands of the ransom notes. The demands were complied with and eventually Frosty, as he became known was returned on Christmas morning in the early dark and quiet morning hours unharmed. No one to this day knows who took little Frosty; the crime remains unsolved.

Even with a house full of Perry Mason, Ben Matlock, Law and Order, CSI, Adam-12, Peter Gunn, Jim Rockford, and Barnaby Jones fans we still couldn't crack the case. I wonder if John Walsh could help, or maybe this is a file for Cold Case?

Needless to say we kept a close eye on Frosty that Christmas holiday, not to mention on each other. His adventure was captured and preserved in a story by my mother. Now and then in hushed, somber, yet thankful tones, we speak of that fateful event during Christmas 2001 when poor little Frosty became "The Snatched Snowman."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Building Better Mouse Traps

"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest." John 4:35 (ESV)  
I wanted to get out of my home office for a bit and intentionally develop some relationships in a strategic manner. I want to get a bible study started in the next three or four weeks. I needed to go where the people are. I guess I have not built that better mousetrap since no one is breaking down my study door.

I have forgotten how good Starbucks coffee really is. I just ordered plain ole black coffee. Watching the budget lately I don't indulge in little treats like this. It was difficult forking over $2.32 for a cup of black coffee when I have a can of Yuban at home.

We have a very busy and popular Starbucks at the corner of Ocean Beach Highway and 10th Avenue at what we call the Triangle Mall. It is a great mall with Petco and Winco serving as anchors. I am not sure how it came to be called a mall since it is not indoors. It is more like a humongous strip mall in the shape of a triangle. It is always crowded and with the free WiFi one can get a bit of work done and meet people.

This is out of my comfort zone and out of my element. I have pastored three churches in the last 35 years. Each church, even though the very first one only had a dozen people, still had people present. I am more prone to spend hours in my study pouring through a passage exegetically so that I can teach it expositionally. I usually put somewhere between 20 and 30 hours of study into each message that I preach. If I am doing that twice a week I can easily spend 8-10 hours a day just in study.

The problem with that is it keeps me from establishing relationships. In that type of environment the only people that I would see and spend any time with was my own people. It was rare that I met anyone outside of the church in order to establish a relationship.

Now that I desire to plant a church from absolute scratch it calls for a different strategy. I must find the people now. Since I don't want to plant this church with sheep rustled from other sheep folds I have determined that I want to share the gospel and introduce people to Christ. I don't want to be among the many "new" churches that grow by "transfer." In other words, many churches end up announcing and advertising a brand new church with exciting new programs, music, and ministries. Usually, disgruntled church members, church hoppers and shoppers, and the "consumer" are attracted by these advertisements. I have seen a number of churches come into town, advertise heavily and draw from many of the already existing churches in town.

Yesterday I spent the entire day in my study developing a 32 page plan on the launch of this new church. I never worked harder or have been more excited about any project thus far in my ministry. Digging through demographics, looking at target neighborhoods, devising strategies and plans is work! My launch strategy includes time lines, target dates, goals, and steps to achieve those goals.I have been working on these ideas for awhile, here and there, but yesterday it was time to pull it all together and plan my work.

Right now I can't remember who to give credit to, but someone once said, "Plan your work, and work your plan." Cute little pithy statement. Don't you wish I was that witty? I do. Today, actually became the first day of "working my plan."

I had a bible study started in July and early August. It ran for about six weeks. I think I did it wrong. First, the study was begun with about six people who were from out of town, as a matter of fact about 40 miles away. Second, they were actually, all cards on the table, disgruntled with the only church in their town (yes, only one). They knew they had to go out of town for another church of any kind. One individual was a friend of a friend who recommended me as a bible teacher. Long story short, between the distance, lack of real commitment the study fizzled out. Lesson learned. Break the rules - pay the price.

This time I intend to intentionally develop relationships via this strategy and work with the unchurched. One of the things I learned recently was hang out at "third places" in order to meet people. You don't know what a "third place" is? Well, until last week I didn't either. Apparently your first place is your home and your second place is your work. Third places are where people hangout for leisure, pleasure, or company. Clever huh? another little tidbit I didn't think of. Before you think to yourself, "Holy Cow, home come you didn't think about that before?" Try to remember, that the last two churches I was privileged to pastor had enough people to minister to and enabled me to develop relationships with those within the church.

I have always refused, bawked, and ran from the idea of planting a church. I didn't think I could do it. I didn't think it was me. After all don't you have to be able to attract people and crowds?  I am no Apostle Paul. Over the years I have rejected various requests from associational leaders, friends, and other believers from church planting.

You want to know something? You want to know a little secret I discovered? Well, lean in real close because it is noisy in here. I can't do it! I ain't me! I don't have to attract people! I don't have to be the Apostle Paul. You know why? It is God, who sovereignly moves through the lives of people regenerating them and bringing them into the body of the Christ. Remember, Jesus said, "The harvest is ripe unto harvest." I just have to decide to be a harvester and then do the duties of a harvester. God the Father will draw people through the Holy Spirit and make them ready for a harvester to share the gospel and bring them together for a new church. Isn't that cool?

Whew! Takes loads off my mind and heart. So here I am. Excited, energized, and enlisted, in this endeavor to plant a brand new church. Will it take off? Will it fall flat? I sure know what it feels like and look like to fall flat. I have fallen flat a number of times since April 12th, 1972. I don't know. I know I don't have a crystal ball or any avenue to know the future. I know this, this town is full of great sinners and God is a great Savior.

So, I sit here in Starbucks enjoying my $2.32 cup of black coffee. As I await to strike up a conversation with a stranger in hopes of developing a relationship that will foster an opportunity of sharing the gospel of our Lord Jesus, the  Christ, I am looking out the window at our gorgeous mall.

I love this town. I love these people, most of whom I have never met. But as the song of yesterday said so clearly, People need the Lord. There are some 50,000 people here who do not know their left hand from their right hand. (An Old Testament euphemism for not knowing the Lord) The Lord may change my heart, He may redirect my steps, He may even change my location, but that is His sovereign prerogative. For now, this is where my heart is, here is where, as Paul said, I want to be poured out as an offering to God on behalf of the people of this town.