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Showing posts from February, 2009

Fun and easy game ideas

We're making final plans for a Children's Ministry Appreciation Lunch and Training Workshop tomorrow afternoon and want to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere by playing a few games and handing out prizes.

Here are some free resources that might help you with your next Sunday School class or Teacher Training event:
Crossword puzzles. Quickly create your very own crossword puzzles with clues. Bingo cards. Make a word list and this site will randomize and print bingo cards.Bible trivia. Try one of these Bible trivia games which can be printed in HTML format.
Word searches. Just type in all the words you want hidden. Or, if you own Logos Bible Software, you can make word searches from any Bible passage by using the Word Find tool.Have fun, be creative, and try out some of the other games found at Puzzlemaker!

Photo credit: chipgriffin

Special offer from Modern Parables

Modern Parables is a great video series that retells the parables of Jesus through 21st century dramatizations. Each video is about 15 minutes long and is supplemented by Bible Study material. Their videos are creative and high-quality, and their curriculum is theologically conservative. It would be a great resource for any Sunday School or small group. You can view one of their trailers here.
The company has just announced a special offer for foreign missionaries and prison ministry directors:
As former missionaries ourselves, we realize these two groups are especially underfunded and under-resourced. For a limited time therefore we are donating to prison ministries and missionaries operating outside the U.S. a complete set of Modern Parables digital downloads for free. We have set up a page that enables ministries to request a free download of the $99 digital set. Please forward this email to friends you know who work in these important ministry areas. Or click here to request …

A sermonless church

What would happen if we removed the sermon from our weekly order of service? We could add a couple more songs in its place, maybe throw in a skit or some other artistic demonstration, have more time for prayer and fellowship, and still get out early.

To many, a sermonless church may sound like a good idea. It would make the service shorter, more entertaining, and probably more appealing to unbelievers. It would give pastors more time during the week for planning, programs, and visitation. But in so doing, the church would kill itself. A sermonless church is like a rootless tree. It will eventually dry up and rot because it has lost its source of spiritual nourishment.

Of course, most churches do not omit the sermon, but rather shorten it, simplify it, or approach it in such a way that it has lost its centrality within our worship. Many church members have even learned to "tune out" at this point in the service.

My friend Bret Capranica offers a good list today of what happens w…

Cautions for non-Calvinists

In the second half of an exchange between Southeastern Seminary faculty members, Nathan Finn offers some important cautions to our non-Calvinist brothers.

Here are three important warnings Finn gives to those who embrace a more Arminian understanding of matters such as freedom of the will and the extent of the atonement:
First, be sure to articulate the gospel unambiguously in your preaching and evangelism...The gospel is not “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” or “Jesus can straighted [sic] out your messed-up life.” This is just lingo...The gospel is the story of all that our Creator God has done through the perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ to rescue sinners from destruction and redeem a fallen world...Second, be sure to never give the impression that the decision to become a Christian is a mere decision. Sometimes I hear non-Calvinists imply that “all you have to do” if you want to be a Christian is believe in Christ. This mak…

Happy Birthday, Heidi!

Dear Heidi,

One year ago today, God brought you into this world, and how fast you've grown!

You've brought so much joy and energy into our family. You're playful and sneaky. You love to giggle and squeal. And you're so close to walking all by yourself! You've got lots of teeth and are such a big girl eating finger foods. You're a wonderful playmate for Dylan, and make your Mommy and Daddy so very proud. We're pray you will some day know the Lord Jesus as your Savior and find new life in Him.

Heidi, we love you, and thank God for you!Happy Birthday!

Mommy & Daddy

A gentle rebuke to Calvinists

Dr. Alvin Reid of Southeastern Seminary has penned an open letter to those of us known as "Calvinists." Reid does not attempt to dissuade us from our theological views, but rather gives a gracious, and I believe appropriate, warning.

Here are his four exhortations. I agree wholeheartedly with every one of them.
Embrace humility. You have an obvious hunger for truth and for theological depth, which is commendable. But when your love for truth smacks of condescension, even to the point of arrogance, you do no one any good...Avoid implying that Calvinism and the gospel are synonyms. Sometimes I hear Calvinist speakers argue (or at least imply) that Calvinism and the gospel are identical, and if one does not affirm the tenets of Calvinism he denies the gospel. Not only is this theologically arrogant, it is unkind...Do not hesitate to call for non-Christians to turn to Christ in faith... I would submit some of you are far better at criticizing your brothers who give public calls fo…

Breaking down the stimulus plan

As a visual learner, I'm a big fan of maps, charts, and graphs. So when I came across this illustration of the government stimulus package, it was a real "aha" moment for me. And while a picture's worth a thousand words, this chart's worth about 820 billion dollars.

I have real concerns with the government trying to control a free market economy. The beauty of capitalism is that the system naturally corrects itself if the government just stays out of it. As Will Rogers put it, "Things in our country run in spite of government, not by aid of it." Yes, some businesses will fail, but others will take their place. Just imagine if IBM had received a massive government bailout in the late 1980's. Microsoft may have never emerged as a new leader in technology and innovation.

I believe much of this recession is owed to increasing government programs, taxation, and regulation. According to Romans 13:4, the main purpose of government is to be "a minister o…

Book Review: Team Challenges

Planning church youth group activities can be a real challenge. Especially if you want to keep games fun and fresh week after week.

There are a lot of helpful gaming books on the market and even some good websites, but I've been frustrated by weaknesses many of these resources seem to share: many activities do not work well for small groups; many games involve embarrassing or inappropriate physical contact between genders; many games lack creativity and seem to just repackage the same concept into a thousand different variations; and some games breed an overly-competitive spirit which stifles godly, edifying relationships.

A helpful book I recently came across is Team Challenges: 170+ Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication, and Creativity. The author pools her years of experience in 4-H and other youth programs into a helpful book of "easy-to-implement activities that will keep kids laughing, having fun, and learning the benefits of teamwork, all at the same time…

Abiding in Christ

Last Sunday, I preached on John 15:1-11, where Christ presents Himself as the Vine - our true source of life - and urges us to abide in Him.

One saint who learned the joy of abiding in Christ was Hudson Taylor, missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission. After making this life-changing discovery, Taylor wrote the following in a letter to his sister, who was herself a mother of ten kids and familiar with the pressures of ministry and the Christian life. It's a long quote, but captures something of the delight of abiding in Christ.
...As to work -- mine was never so plentiful, so responsible or so difficult, but the weight and strain are all GONE. The last month or more has been, perhaps, the happiest of my life, and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul. I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful -- and yet, all is new!...

Perhaps I may make myself …

Resolved 2009

For the second year in a row, the Resolved Conference will be held just down the hill from us in Palm Springs. I don't plan to attend this year, but I HIGHLY recommend it for any college-age adults in the Southern California area. The music and preaching are outstanding.

Start saving your nickels and dimes now, and be sure to register by March 15 for the early-bird discount. Here's the new promo trailer...

Why you should join Facebook

Yesterday, Natalie and I enjoyed listening to Al Mohler's recent radio program "Five Years of Facebook: The Moral and Cultural Impact of Social Networking."

Like all technology, Facebook and other "social media" (blogs, MySpace, Twitter, Skype, Flickr, etc.) have both opportunities and pitfalls.

I've really enjoyed connecting with friends on Facebook, sending notes of encouragement, and browsing new pictures. Facebook also keeps me informed of new prayer needs and reminds me of upcoming birthdays.

But social networking can easily become self-centered. It can be a tremendous time-waster. It can serve as a cheap imitation for genuine, life-on-life relationships. It can open a door for internet predators. It can expose us to images and ideas that are spiritually lethal. In fact, avoiding raunchy content on the internet sometimes feels like navigating a minefield. (Though the free Firefox download Adblock Plus does help cut down on unwanted ads.)

Yet in spite of it…

Book review: If I Were God, I'd End all the Pain

Why would a loving God allow so much suffering? All of us have wrestled with this question at some point. Almost every day as a pastor, I encounter people who are dealing with serious trials - people who may be asking this very question.

In the short book, If I Were God, I'd End All the Pain, John Dickson is not afraid to ask the question "Why?" In fact, he believes it's a healthy question that God Himself invites. The author shows that while there is still much mystery woven into our suffering, we can also be confident that Christianity provides the very best explanation for evil and suffering.

After showing why suffering does not disprove God philosophically (ch. 1), the author explains how four alternative faiths attempt to explain suffering.
Hinduism views suffering as karma, i.e. bringing balance for past wrongs. Buddhism, which actually developed from Buddha's quest to explain suffering, believes all suffering is just an illusion. It stems from a desire or aff…

SBC headed for extinction?

Nathan Finn from Southeastern Seminary writes on one of the major challenges Southern Baptists face: a lack of young leaders who are interested in getting involved. His conclusion:
This much I do know: we have to address our generation gap if the SBC is to enjoy a viable future as a denomination. Some already think the Convention is a dinosaur that just needs to go extinct, especially a number of folks in the under-40 crowd. Maybe they are right, but I am not ready to give up on the denomination just yet. I still think God has something for us to do as a Convention of autonomous churches. I continue to hold out hope that our best days lie ahead and that (Lord willing) my children and grandchildren can be a part of a great heritage of Baptist Christians who have been mightily used of God.You can read the whole article here. I can attest that what Nathan observed at the National Convention was noticeable at our California State Convention last November also. There simply aren't many …

Sovereign Grace sale

In case you haven't heard yet, Sovereign Grace is holding a generous sale in February. Much of their music and book material is outstanding. Here's the announcement...

We’re doing it again. Having a ridiculous sale, that is.

Last year, during the month of February, we reduced the prices of our CDs and books. The response was overwhelming. So we decided to repeat the lunacy. Here’s the deal:

From February 1–28, at the Sovereign Grace store, you’ll find these prices:

* Sovereign Grace books (23 of them, including Worship Matters, Worldliness, and Living the Cross Centered Life): $7 each

* all CDs produced by Sovereign Grace Music (including Together for the Gospel Live, Psalms, Come Weary Saints, Awesome God, In a Little While, and Valley of Vision): $6 each

* all books in our Pursuit of Godliness series (Why Small Groups, This Great Salvation, and others): $4 each

But wait…there’s more!

During February, we’re offering our normal free shipping in the continental US (library rate). But o…