Monthly Archives: September 2017

READ IT OUT LOUD FIRST

Please read that out-loud to me.

That is a request one pastor makes when people send him an email of criticism or correction. He adds that he wants to make sure he gets the “right tone and emphasis intended”.

Face-to-face communication is usually best, especially when there is critique involved. This was true of handwritten letters and it is even more true with email, and it’s quadruply (not a word, but you get the idea) true for social media responses.

There are two big challenges to communication at a distance:

1.  Our communication may not express the care and respect that was in our heart. A single word can create unintended negativity

2.  Our communication may use abrupt or harsh of language that we would have the sense not to use face to face.

Part of Great Commandment living is to love our neighbor as our self. This requires that we express love in every communication. Remember communication includes not only what we intend to convey, it equally involves how the other person receives it.

Here is some wisdom for electronic communication:

Try not to communicate in the emotion of the moment

Give time before you respond to what others have written to you

Read it aloud to yourself first

Ask yourself, if you would say this face-to-face

Would you say this if someone you respect was there to listen?

Does this communication have the agenda of the gospel in it?

Does this even need to be said?

And if you must respond in a corrective way:

Be prayerful

Be humble

Ask someone else to read it first

Include some form of encouragement

Soften the language as much as possible

Seek clarification, in case you misunderstood them!

Try to present your correction in the form of a question. This helps the other person think about your concern themselves.

You can read the article that inspired this post here.

DANGER IN UNLIKELY PLACES

That hurt!!  I just bit my tongue.

Every time I do this, I wonder how it happened.

Now, I don’t want you to think I bite my tongue on an hourly, or even daily basis. I looked online and there are people who actually do have a serious problem with biting their tongues, often while sleeping. I don’t have a tongue biting “problem”, and no I am not in denial.

I just wonder why?

At this point in life I should have developed enough coordination to avoid these violent collisions between my incisors and my tongue.

From my tongue’s perspective I would think that fear of being chomped by the surround fence of teeth would be a top priority in every meal. Although with teeth closing in at every side, food being mushed around, liquids being sloshed in, and having to handle the flow of saliva – my tongue does have a complicated task at meal times.

Yet, when my tongue does get hammered, I wonder what specifically fouled up this usually smoothly running procedure. There is never any warning sign, and moments before each mastication disaster, I am under the impression that my mouth is under full operational control.

I am left with this basic fact of my humanity – there is much I don’t know and cannot prevent. Even when I think I am in control, I am vulnerable to a 1001 dangers that I never saw coming.

If I cannot even guarantee my tongue that I can keep it safe while in my own mouth, what makes me think I can stand on my own in anything that truly matters?!

I desperately need God to be my help, my strength, my wisdom, my protection, my guide, and everything else that is important for life in this world, and in the next.

Since I need God for everything in my life, it goes without saying that he is the One I must look to hold the lives of those I love.

 

 

WHAT SHOULD I THINK ABOUT?

think

by Debbie Huber

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

For Christians to grow in likeness to Christ we need to have a renewed mind. God in his graciousness to us gives us his Word so we know what our minds should and should not give attention to.  We need God’s word to saturate our minds so that our thoughts change from selfish and sinful thoughts to praiseworthy thoughts in all situations. 

We need to change how we think and “take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5.) Seek to think of things through the filter God’s word. Ponder the things of God that are worthy of our thoughts.

“Whatever is true”:  Think about the good things we know about others, not the motives we assign to their actions. 

“Whatever is honorable”:  Honor is about serving and respecting others, not seeking our own rights above others. 

“Whatever is just”:  Knowing that God’s ways are perfect and unbiased and that even the most difficult person on your life should be served with joy.

“Whatever is pure”:  Ask God to remove desires for gossip, viewing ungodly TV and movies, and inappropriate or addictive social media. Feed your soul through prayer and Bible reading.

“Whatever is lovely”: Ask God for a heart to love others with pleasing thoughts, words and actions.

“Whatever is commendable”: God is concerned about the state of our hearts, not the world’s standards of accomplishments or success.

“If there is any excellence”: Are you thankful for the excellent qualities of the world that God has made and the people that he has put in your life?

“If there is anything worthy of praise”: Flee from negatively criticizing people and situations because God is worthy of all our praise.  And no situation can ever diminish His commitment to us.

Therefore, “think about these things”.

WONDERFUL WORDS

Everything we must know about the gospel is simple:

GOD – he is our Creator and we are accountable to him

MAN – we are condemned by our sin and deserve the punishment that God requires for it

CHRIST – in mercy, God sent his Son to die in our place and pay the penalty for our sin

RESPONSE – all who confess their sin and trust Christ to save them, are forgiven

Everything we can know about the gospel is vast:

Like being dropped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we could never dive to the bottom or swim to its end.

Here are some of the rich truths contained in the gospel that have reshaped the life of every Christian.

 Justification – in God’s courtroom, those whose sins were placed on Christ have been declared “not guilty”

Redemption – Christ paid for our release from the bondage of sin

Propitiation – Christ has satisfied God’s requirement for the “wages of sin”

Sanctification – those who have been forgiven are being transformed into the character of Christ

Regeneration – the Holy Spirit gives a new nature to all who are in Christ so that we are “born again”

Reconciliation – once the barrier of sin in removed, God welcomes us into a restored and intimate relationship with him

Adoption – our relationship with God is so close that we become children of God and co-heirs with Christ

Glorification – the work of sanctification will be complete and we will be perfected

Resurrection – God will raise our physical bodies and transform them so they are fit for our glorified inner self

Eternity – our life had a beginning, but it will not have an end; we will be everlasting

Kingdom  – we will forever enjoy the presence and rule of Christ without any interruption of sin or sorrow

Each of these words represents truths (doctrines) about God that are real for every believer. These are what Paul has in mind when he speaks in Ephesians 1:7-8, of the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us”.

Each of these truths is worthy of examination and reflection. God deserves our regular praise for each and all of them.  

Don’t be intimidated by these words, seek to grow in your knowledge of them – for they are the most precious realities we possess.

WHO IS IN CONTROL, YOU OR YOUR PHONE?

We love our smart phones!

The convenience,  the connectedness, the amazing apps!

I no longer wear a watch, have a camera or use an alarm clock. My smart phone keeps me connected to friends around the world, it provides many forms of entertainment, and it allows me to answer virtual any question that comes up.

So go ahead and celebrate the genius of your smart phone. However, along the way, we should be aware that these phones have side affects. Some of these are good and others are subtly unhealthy.

Tony Reinke helps us to think through the effects of our smart phones with his new book “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”. Reinke’s purpose is to help us maximize the benefits and carefully minimize the costs that come with using one of the most amazing and powerful gadgets ever invented.

 

UPDATE FROM OUR SISTER-CHURCH NEAR HOUSTON

This update is from Darrel Schiel from Sovereign Grace Church in Pearland, TX, which is a suburb of Houston. At the bottom, he shares 3 prayer requests.

Dear Sovereign Grace Family, 

The expressions of wholehearted love and care we have received from you and your churches during and immediately after the historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey have had a significant strengthening impact on our hearts. We are so very grateful for all your prayers. 

We want to thank those of you who were able to join us on the ground to help with our immediate needs. Also, thank you for your sacrificial giving to the Sovereign Grace Churches Relief Fund. Additionally, thank you for the many who have expressed a desire to come and help us with ongoing work. We have been overwhelmed, not by the flood waters, but by the grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of his people. 

We know there are many months of challenging hard work ahead. Nevertheless, by God’s grace we have made significant strides in the meeting of our neighbors’ most critical needs. Specifically, over 90 volunteers made up of Sovereign Grace Church Pearland and other Sovereign Grace churches have worked together to help over 30 flooded families begin the arduous process of getting their homes healthy so they can plan to rebuild. The removal of water damaged possessions, drywall and flooring is a brutal reality for those households who were flooded. As we have gently served two families from our church, friends, and neighbors, we have had the opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace to those in significant need. Thank you for playing a vital part in all these efforts. 

Many of you continue to ask how you can help. First we ask that you continue to pray. As Spurgeon said, “The power of prayer can never be overrated.” Below are three ways in which you can pray for Sovereign Grace Church Pearland. Second, while our immediate need for outside help has lessened due to the outpouring of helping hands, we may need assistance in the upcoming weeks and months.

Thank you, Sovereign Grace Church family, for all the gospel work you are doing in your cities, communities, and neighborhoods. We are greatly blessed by the loving partnership we have together in the gospel. 

Yours in Christ,

Darrel Schiel

Sovereign Grace Church Pearland

PRAYER REQUESTS:  

Please pray for continued wisdom and strength as we serve over the next few months. We love our neighbors and desire to see them whole. 

Please pray that God would continue to use us not only to see houses made whole but souls made whole through the loving proclamation of the Gospel.

Please pray for us as we move into our new building; that this new facility will be used by God as a beacon for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

MARRIAGE SURPRISES

Do you like surprises?

The surprises we like to imagine, are those in which an unexpected joy drops into our life.

However, there are other surprises, those which expose the fact that we are never as prepared for life as we had hoped.

Marriage is one of those areas filled with surprises.

Some of the surprises are the its-better-than-I-imagined kind of surprise. The distressing part is when marriage feels more like a minefield of surprises!

When a couple gets married, they are usually under the impression that they have deeply thought about and planned for their new life together. However, it doesn’t take too much time for every married couple to realize that we are never prepared enough!

Dave Harvey, is a pastor and author of the excellent book, “When Sinners Say I Do”. In an article on the Gospel Coalition website, he shared this thought on couples preparing for marriage:

“Many young couples head into marriage with blinders—believing their marriage will be the fairy tale they dreamed of as they planned a Pinterest ceremony and momentous honeymoon. But the truth is marriage reveals our sin, exposes our desires, challenges our relational network, and requires us to regularly practice costly forgiveness. Engaged folk need to know that marriage is a call to ministry where two sinners learn—till death parts them—how to apply the gospel of grace.”

Although, none of us are completely prepared for matrimony, we can all build more health into our marriage. The most important realization is that becoming Great Commandment people, will enable us to become better marriage partners.

Of course, it is helpful to recognize the specific areas where practical steps are most needed. Dave helps us by listing 6 Surprises that hit couples after they are married.

Even if you are a marriage veteran, it will be beneficial to look over this list of surprises and identify if there is an area where you need to seek God’s grace and wisdom to improve how you love and cherish your spouse.

 

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE

As blogger Trent Hunter points out “we are supposed to run from things that can kill us – active volcanoes, oncoming traffic, and snakes come to mind.”

Yet, we can allow behaviors and thoughts into our life that are death to us in a far more serious way then being incinerated by a rushing lava flow.

Read this article by Trent in which he reminds us of serious dangers AND gives advice on how to have an exit strategy, or as he describes it – how to F.L.E.E.

 

PARENTS, LET THIS TASK BE EXCITING!

Last year we conducted a survey in our church on the area of Children’s Ministry. The results gave us cause to celebrate and to be concerned.

The celebration was in the clarity our congregation has in the values of God’s word ruling over our homes, and in the importance of parent’s discipling their children.

The concern was that many parents were struggling to regularly implement discipleship and family devotions. The survey also revealed that as pastors, we had not done a good job in equipping parents for this all-important task.

This year we have prayerfully worked to change these weaknesses, and we are thankful for God’s gracious help in leading us as a church to turn this area of weakness into an area of increasing strength.

However, it can still be intimidating for parents to lead their children in devotions. This responsibility which God means to be joyful, often seems intimidating and looms as a burden on our time.

Jon Neilson wrote this helpful and encouraging article describing “Three Surprising Ways Bible reading with My Kids Has Changed Me”. Parents and grandparents, I hope you will find renewed energy in your commitment to the wonderful privilege of leading the children you love toward our Savior!

In the article, Jon shares a 40 second video with 8 quick tips on reading the Bible with your kids. He links the article to his book on this subject which is published by Matthias Media. I have not read Jon’s book, but I highly regard everything made available by Matthias Media.