Friday, February 26, 2010

Life Groups

"I like the discussion, the fellowship, working together to think through a passage of the Bible." 

"I like the give and take...pushing the study in a direction."

"Life Groups teach us to watch what we say - to be more compassionate to others - Christian or other people."

"Rotating teachers give a different perspective each week. Sitting around a table was good."

These are some of the comments people are making about our Sunday Morning Life Groups. We encourage you to join us this Sunday at 9:15 to get into the Word and build deeper relationships with others in the church. You're already coming for the worship service. Why not arrive just one hour earlier and get some great life-on-life discipleship?

Here's a new promo video on why you should be attending one of our Life Groups at First Southern. Hope to see you Sunday!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Stony Soil

While reading through the Gospel of Mark recently, I was stunned by two parables Jesus told.

The Parable of the Seed (Mk. 4:26-29) reminded me that gospel ministry is entirely a work of God. It is a mysterious delight to watch God take my feeble efforts and produce something holy and supernatural.

The Parable of the Soils (Mk. 4:1-20) reminded me that there may be some in our very church who think they are saved when in reality they are not. This is one of the longest parables delivered by Jesus, and it is unique because it is more of a true "allegory," i.e. multiple elements of the story have a spiritual meaning. The seed represents the Word of God; the soils represent different hearts; the birds represent Satan. And as we discovered last Sunday in our second week of exposition in this passage, the sun represents the scorching heat of affliction. Together we discovered three lessons from the stony soil:
  1. Be careful of your emotions. Jesus says that stony-soiled people "immediately receive [the Word] with joy" (Mk. 4:16). They start so well but end tragically. They're truly excited about Jesus, but when suffering comes their way, they begin to feel "buyers remorse." In our emotion-driven culture, we must realize emotions can be very deceptive. They are not inherently evil, but they do tend to be tossed to and fro based on our current circumstances. They're certainly not a sturdy foundation for our faith! How do we overcome a fickle, emotion-driven faith? That brings us to our second point...
  2. Root yourself deeply in Christ. Notice that the reason the plant withers is because "it had no depth of had no root" (Mk. 4:5, 6). A plant cannot escape the sun. A plant cannot adjust the temperature of the sun. The only thing a plant can do is root itself deeply in the moist, nutrient-rich soil to endure the scorching heat of the sun. In the same way, if we are to endure intense suffering in life, we must root ourselves deeply in Christ (cf. Psalm 1:1-3). God will determine the intensity of our trials, and promises to give us grace to endure them. Just abide in Christ and depend on His Spirit, and you will be able to endure whatever God permits in your life.
  3. Let trials press you closer to God. Jesus explains that people fall away "when affliction or persecution arises because of the world" (Mk. 4:17). "Affliction" means a pressing or squeezing and is sometimes translated "tribulation" in our Bibles. "Persecution" means a driving or chasing away and pictures those who insult, threaten, or drive us out because of our Christian testimony. Such trials can dry us up if we have a counterfeit faith, or they can press us closer against the loving bosom of God if our faith is genuine. As Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me" (Matt. 5:10-12). Let the various trials of life press you closer to God.
Questions for thought and discussion:
  • Does your faith seem to be stronger or weaker in times of suffering?
  • Have you ever suffered because of your faith?
  • Read 1 Peter 4:14. Why does Peter say we are "blessed" to be hated or suffer for Christ?
  • Is fear of suffering preventing you from being a faithful witness to unbelievers around you? Are you showing a lack of courage? Read Paul's exhortation to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7-8.
  • What other trials are you facing right now? How can this parable be an encouragement to you?
 Sunday's sermon has been uploaded to our podcast site for free download.

Related posts:
Photo credit: gwincowper

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    Initial thoughts on the GCR progress report

    As promised, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force delivered their Progress Report to the SBC Executive Committee last night in Nashville. You can now watch chairman Ronnie Floyd's report for yourself, or read the transcript here.

    Currently, there are six major components to their report to the SBC:

    Component #1: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to rally towards a clear and compelling missional vision and begin to conduct ourselves with core values that will create a new and healthy culture within the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Component #2: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that our North American Mission Board needs to be reinvented and released. Therefore, in order to do this, we will ask Southern Baptists that the North American Mission Board prioritize efforts to plant churches in North America and to reach our nation’s cities and clarify its role to lead and accomplish efforts to reach North America with the Gospel

    Component #3: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to entrust to the International Mission Board the ministry to reach the unreached and under-served people groups without regard to any geographic limitations.

    Component #4: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to move the ministry assignments of Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education from the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and return them to being the work of each state convention since they are located closer to our churches. Our call is for the state conventions to reassume their primary role in the promotion of the Cooperative Program and stewardship education, while asking the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to support these efforts with enthusiasm and a convention-wide perspective

    Component #5: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to reaffirm the Cooperative Program as our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries; but in addition, we will ask Southern Baptists to celebrate with our churches in their Great Commission Giving that goes directly through the Cooperative Program, as well as any designated gifts given to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, a state  convention or a local association.

    Component #6: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the  fulfillment of the Great Commission, that a greater percentage of total Cooperative Program funds should be directed to the work of the International Mission Board. Therefore, we will ask Southern Baptists to support  this goal by affirming an intention to raise the International Mission Board allocation for the 2011-2012 budget year to 51%, a move that is both symbolic and substantial. At the same time, we will ask Southern Baptists to reduce the percentage allocated to Facilitating Ministries by 1% as part of our initial effort to send a greater percentage of total Southern Baptist Convention mission funds to the nations.

    A few initial thoughts:
    • I commend the task force for their integrity and trust throughout this whole process. By not leaking any of this information ahead of time, they have exemplified the very kind of unity they are urging the convention to embrace.
    • I am grateful for their call to repentance over pride, self-reliance, and inefficiency. The Great Commission Resurgence is not merely a pragmatic movement -- another clever program to rally behind. It is a spiritual movement that must begin with prayer, a return to the centrality of the Word, and heartfelt repentance of sin.
    • I am optimistic about their six recommendations. At this stage, the task force has chosen to focus on general principles rather than specifics. They have upheld the autonomy of each SBC entity and state convention, while giving a new overarching vision and direction to the convention. Have they been bold enough and gone far enough? If these components are passed, it will be interesting to see what changes are made over the next few years, or if people will simply nod their heads in agreement and then carry on with business as usual. It will be important for local churches to keep leaders accountable to the recommendations the GCR Task Force has made.
    • I'm very pleased with the idea of releasing the IMB on US soil to engage unreached people groups. This makes very good sense from a missiological standpoint and is good evidence that the GCR Task Force is truly thinking outside the box.
    • Perhaps the most immediate and radical change would be the reassignment of CP promotion and stewardship education back to state conventions, and the resulting transfer of 1% CP funds from the Executive Committee to the IMB. This may cause quite a stir amongst some Southern Baptists, but I believe it does set an important precedent. Realigning ourselves around Christ's Great Commission is going to require us to keep asking the hard questions and cutting funding to areas of overlap and inefficiency. 
    As Ronnie Floyd said toward the end, we really have only two choices: "Die a painful death, or live a painful change . . . What our convention chooses to do will determine what God does with this denomination . . . Wilderness wanderings or Canaan conquests." May God help all of us embrace these changes, and may these be the first-fruits of more improvements in the years to come.

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    GCR report to be unveiled tonight

    On June 24, 2009, the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly to form a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Their job: to evaluate the state and structure of our convention, and to find ways we can more effectively cooperate around the gospel. (Here's a picture I took of the historic vote on my camera phone while in Louisville).

    Tonight, we will find out the first details of the Task Force's report to the convention. Chairman Ronnie Floyd made this announcement late last week.
    I am most thankful for the ever growing number of you who are joining us as GCR Prayer Partners. I do not know of any time in our process where we need prayer any more than for our presentation on Monday night in Nashville, Tennessee. Please encourage others to join us as Prayer Partners at Again, we need prayer support. On Monday night, I will be giving a Progress Report to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as to the representative leadership gathered from around the Southern Baptist Convention.
    As I deliver this Progress Report, I need your prayers. Many hours of preparation have been spent on writing this report. Preceding this point, our entire GCR Task Force has spent countless hours in meetings, on phone calls, doing research, responding to correspondence, and having personal dialogue with many individuals and groups. The price has been paid to get us to this point of sharing some of our initial vision with you. As we unfold a substantial part of our vision, we ask you to join us with excitement over what God is doing.
    We realize that many of you have an interest in hearing the Progress Report. Therefore, if you will visit our website at on Monday night at approximately 9:30 p.m. CST, we will have the report on video for you. I am going into the studio sometime before Monday so I can share with all Southern Baptists what God has put on our hearts. Once I sit down from making this presentation on Monday night, the video will be online at Please share with others that they can view it online.
    Finally, more important than anything, let’s pray for God to move mightily on Monday night in Nashville. Gather people to pray for this important night. I humbly appeal to you, please pray for me.
    1,000 Thank Yous …
    As several have said, all eyes are on Nashville for tonight's report.

    Related posts:

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    The Hard Soil

    Last Sunday, we began to study the Parable of the Soils from Mark chapter 4. We had some interesting sound issues during the sermon, but I hope it didn’t detract from the privilege of hearing God’s Word.

    Jesus did not always speak in parables. In fact, for quite a while in his ministry, he was very straightforward, teaching lessons and commands and stories and illustrations, but not parables. As Mark 3:23 and 4:11 tells us, Jesus deliberately began speaking in parables to conceal truth to those who rejected Jesus and were guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the parables were a way to continue to reveal truth about the kingdom of God to those who were genuine believers

    The Parable of the Soils is the first parable recorded in the Gospel of Mark. It has four parts, and we studied just the first part together last Sunday. There were three points:

    1. The seed. Living in an agrarian society, many of Jesus’ audience were either farmers themselves or walked by farms every single day on their way to work or the market. Jesus uses the familiar metaphor of farming in many of his parables. In this one, he explicitly tells his disciples that the seed being sown represents the Word of God (Mark 4:14). We, like that farmer, have a duty to scatter the seed of God’s Word into the lives of those God has put in our path. But take heart, the results do not depend on your knowledge or skill. The seed itself has power to transform lives (cf. Romans 1:16-17). Just scatter it faithfully and you will be amazed at what God begins to do.

    2. The soil. The soil in Jesus’ parable represents the heart of man (cf. Matt. 3:19). The dirt in this story, hardened over time by continual foot traffic, was resistant to the seed. This soil represented the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who had blasphemed against God (Mk. 3:22). Likewise, there are many hard-hearted people today who sadly want nothing to do with God, Jesus, the Bible, or the Church.

    3. The snatcher. For the farmer, any seed that drops is the loss of a precious commodity. But for the birds, it is a free meal. Quickly, the birds swoop in and devour the seed. Jesus then draws a parallel in how Satan often snatches the seed of God’s Word away from a hard heart before it has the opportunity to penetrate. It’s in one ear and out the other. Satan may do this through self-righteous religiosity, through false teaching, through ignorance, fatigue, distractions, etc.

    Questions for thought and discussion:
    • Is it possible that this kind of soil describes me -- that I may feel very religious and self-righteous, but in reality am not allowing God's Word to penetrate my heart?
    • Who is someone that God has put on my heart to 'scatter seed' and start building a relationship to witness to them? What step will I take this week to do begin doing this? (e.g. make a phone call, invite to lunch, invite to church, etc.)
    • Who is one friend or relative that this hard soil describes? Have I given up witnessing to them? What strategies have succeeded or failed in the past?
    • Read 2 Timothy 2:24-26. What does this passage teach us about reaching hard-hearted people?
    • What can I do each week to ensure the preaching of God's Word is not being snatched away by the devil? What should I do on Saturday, on Sunday, on Monday?
    Due to audio problems, we were only to record the first 15 minutes of Sunday's sermon. It is now available for free download on our podcast site.

      Semper Gumby

      This past week, after hearing from several missionary friends on the field, I've been reminded how challenging missions can be. Three things necessary in missions work are flexibility, faithfulness, and a big sense of humor. In short, the motto of a missionary must be semper gumby -- always flexible.

      One missionary family learned this week that after selling all their possessions, doing a year of language training, going through many trials, and finally settling in a South American country for the past two years to begin church planting, they have been notified by their missions agency they will be reassigned in the next three years to a new, unreached people group, relocate to a new culture, and probably have to learn an entirely new language. As Solomon once said, "the mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps." (Prov. 16:9)

      Another missionary family, in a completely different corner of the globe, shared some of the quirky realities of living in a different culture...
      Living here means...

      * fear any amount of bathwater getting into your mouth may have a serious adverse effect on your health.
      * ...there's not a dishwasher in our whole city.
      * ...year after year, I never have to drive a car!! I really like this!
      * ...when we do get in a vehicle, we don't have carseats or seat belts. Just guardian angels.
      * Mexican food. My kingdom for some nachos!
      * carpet. I really like this too!
      * ...never wearing shoes more than 2 feet inside the door.
      * ...the inside of your friends' homes are only 30 degrees (like outside) since they don't want to pay for electricity costs, even if it's accessible.
      * ...buying a box of fireworks for 12 cents.
      * can pick your nose in public and no one minds. (Can't pick your teeth though.)
      *'s acceptable to ask anyone about their age, salary, rent, and even their diarrhea problems.
      * don't have to stand in line. It's every man for himself.
      * worries if you forget your deodorant, everyone else did too.
      * ...looking 360 degrees every time you cross the road.
      * ...never watching TV (it doesn't speak English).
      *'s very very easy to say the wrong thing and cause much laughter.
      * ...dear friends are dearly missed, new friends are dearly treasured.

      I'm grateful how both of these families are putting their love of Christ above their love of comfort, their compassion for souls above their craving for security. These are men and women of whom the world is not worthy (Heb. 11:38). May God bless them, and keep them semper gumby -- always flexible.

      Thursday, February 18, 2010

      Zondervan titles on Logos

      Logos Blog has just announced that the pre-pub prices on Zondervan titles have been reduced, and that an additional 40% discount is available for Zondervan customers who had previously bought products in Pradis format. For more information, go to the full article here.

      Beware the Sirens

      Breaking Free blog has an outstanding article today on the Siren Song of Greek mythology and what it teaches us about fighting pornography. It's one of the best things I've ever read on the subject.

      Here's an excerpt.
      I believe the Bible has both Odysseus- and Orpheus-mentalities, but more of the latter. In one sense Odysseus is commendable. He knows the danger of the siren song, so he makes diligent precautions to avoid making a deadly decision. We all need men like Odysseus’ shipmates, men who are willing to see through our mental fog caused by temptation, men who bind us fast and keep us from sinful choices, men who are willing to sit up with us at the midnight hour if we feel the draw of lust.  

      But the Bible promises God will not only change our outward behavior, but He will change our desires. We are promised that though we are not now delivered from the presence of our fleshly desires, we can be delivered from their power.

      I highly recommend reading the whole article here.

      Monday, February 15, 2010

      How long do you study?

      In April, I'll be teaching a seminar at the Equipped for Excellence teacher training conference in Riverside. The theme of my seminar is "How to Study and Interpret the Bible."

      As part of my research, I thought I'd find out how long the average person prepares for their Sunday School or small group lesson. The length obviously will obviously vary depending on age group, curriculum, etc. But a ballpark idea would be helpful.

      Would you mind taking this brief poll? Your answer will help me craft a suggested schedule for how to study and prepare a lesson from start to finish. Thanks.

      Friday, February 12, 2010

      The five points of calvinism

      Pastor and hymn writer John Newton once said, "I am more of a Calvinist than anything else; but I use my Calvinism in my writings and my preaching as I use this sugar." Taking a lump, and putting it into his tea-cup, and stirring it, he added, "I do not give it alone, and whole; but mixed and diluted."

      That seems to be a pretty healthy view of Calvinism in my opinion. The doctrines of grace are delightful, and if we are to be faithful to the Scriptures we must preach them. But like sugar they can come across too strong if served undiluted to God's people.

      While I don't make Calvinism a hobby horse, I did decide recently to preach a 5-part series on the Five Points of Calvinism. But I decided not to couch it in those terms. I approached it instead as an inductive, "behind the scenes" look at our salvation. In this way, I hoped to elevate God's sovereign grace in salvation and challenge some common Arminian assumptions without using labels or arguments that might immediately raise alarm. I was thankful for the result and heard some very positive feedback from our church family.

      Here are all five sermons with online audio and download links. I pray these will prove helpful and encouraging to the Body of Christ.

      1. Dead Man Walking: Total Depravity (Eph. 2:1-3)
           listen online   download

      2. God's Gracious Choice: Unconditional Election 
          (Eph. 1:3-6)
           listen online   download

      3. Christ Our Sin-Bearer: Limited Atonement (1 Pet. 2:24-25)
           listen online   download

      4. Saved by the Spirit: Irresistible Grace (Titus 3:1-7)
           listen online   download

      5. God Doesn't Fumble: Perseverance of the Saints 
          (Jn. 10:27-30)
           listen online   download

      Related posts:

      Tuesday, February 9, 2010

      Taking care of the pastors wife

      This post isn't an attempt to be self-serving. But as a pastor, I can testify how valuable my wife is in my ministry. She may not stand behind the pulpit on Sundays, but my ministry, my sanity, our family, and our church would simply not be what they are without her constant help, counsel, and comfort. Whatever church you belong to, and whoever your pastor's wife is, consider doing something special this month to say "thank you" for her important behind-the-scenes role in your church.

      Here's a list by Becky Badry of 18 ways church members can care for their pastor's wife...
      The ministers' wives in your church are special ladies in your women's ministry with a set of needs unique to ministers' families. Make special efforts to take care of a minister's wife and family by trying a few practical ministry ideas:
      1. First and foremost, pray for her. Ask for her prayer requests, and check back for answered prayers. If she shares with you, confidentiality is a must.
      2. Ask her to give her testimony at a women's event.
      3. Recognize her during pastor appreciation month (October) as part of the pastoral family.
      4. Take up a love offering just for her.
      5. Get to know her. Ask her questions about her favorite people, places, and things.
      6. Send her cards and notes of encouragement.
      7. Remember birthdays and anniversaries with cards and or gifts.
      8. Be sensitive to ministers' family time.
      9. Be responsive in times of illness or needs.
      10. Give her a prepaid phone card so she can call family and friends.
      11. Offer free childcare so that she can have a break from the kids.
      12. Give her a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant.
      13. Go shopping with her, and buy her a new dress or outfit (Don’t just give her the money - she’s like every other woman and will probably spend it on the kids or something for the home!).
      14. Invite her to have lunch with the girls.
      15. Pay for her to have a manicure, pedicure, or a day at the spa.
      16. Pay for the minister's family to have a night out (ballgame, movie, or dinner)
      17. Pay expenses so that she may attend women's ministry or ministers' wives events.
      18. Give her a gift of thank-you cards, and include a book of stamps.
      Use these simple ideas to encourage the ministers' wives in your church and show your support from one church leader to another.

      Monday, February 8, 2010


      An elderly man had hearing problems for a number of years. His family tried over and over to convince him to get hearing aids, so finally he relented. He went to the doctor and was fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed him to hear perfectly once again. A month later he went back to the doctor. The doctor said with a smile, "Your hearing is great. Your family must be really glad you can hear again." The old man replied, "Oh, I haven't told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to their conversations. I've changed my will three times!"

      I wonder if we would change how we talk about others if we knew they could hear our conversation. Whenever we speak of others in a way that is hurtful or unsubstantiated, we’re engaging in what the Bible calls gossip.

      Now, I have to admit, there’s something exciting about gossip. We scan the tabloids with curiosity. We strain our ears to hear that discussion across the room. We gloat as we share a bit of new dirt we just learned. We lean into a conversation when some juicy detail is about to be revealed. As Proverbs 26:22 puts it, “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.”

      But gossip isn’t harmless. It’s deadly. Proverbs 20:19 warns us, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.” Second Timothy 3:3 even says that a sign the end times are approaching is that many will be “unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good.”

      Our words reveal a lot about what’s going on inside our hearts. Jesus taught in Matthew 12:34, “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Does your speech imitate Christ, who has “done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9)? First God needs to wash our hearts. Then He needs to wash our mouths so we speak blessing instead of cursing.

      Let’s resolve today, with God’s help, to say nothing about another person that we would be ashamed to say to their face. When we steer clear of gossip, we don’t have to worry about someone overhearing our conversation. We’ll just be glad they’re interested in what we have to say.

      This article was written for the "Ministers Message" of our local newspaper, the Hi Desert Star, and appeared in last Wednesday's edition.

      Saturday, February 6, 2010

      Book Review: The Outlook Answer Book

      Microsoft Outlook is a powerful program that can do much more than merely send and receive emails. Even without a user manual, Outlook is pretty easy to set up and use. Its basic features are rather intuitive. But to go deeper, you may want to pick up a copy of The Outlook Answer Book: Useful Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Microsoft Outlook(R) 2003. This book will help you tap into the full potential of the program.

      The authors divide their content into 16 chapters: setup and configuration, categories, address book/contacts, email, calendar, notes, journals, tasks, searches, custom forms, macros, outlook express, exchange server, web access, security, and archive/backup.

      "The Outlook Answer Book" is generous with pictures and contains easy to follow instructions. As the title would suggest, the format is all Q&A. Every single heading is in the form of a question. Though helpful for a new user, I found this format annoying at times and even redundant. For example, was it really necessary for the authors to take 6 pages to tell us how to add shortcuts for new email, a new note, a new task, a new appointment, a new journal entry, and a new contact? (pp. 9-15).

      All in all, though, "The Outlook Answer Book" is a fine book that will allow you to get the most out of a great program.

      Friday, February 5, 2010

      Surprised by Hope

      We showed this video at church last Sunday. It captures well the mix of chaos and hope found in Haiti right now.

      Thursday, February 4, 2010

      Saved by the Spirit

      Having already looked the past couple weeks at the role of the Father and the Son in our salvation, we turned our attention last Sunday morning to the role of the Holy Spirit.

      God the Holy Spirit was instrumental in the creation of the universe (Gen. 2:2), the inspiration of the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:21), the virgin birth of Christ (Matt. 1:18), His public ministry (Matt. 3:16), and the resurrection (Rom. Rom. 1:4). But the Holy Spirit was also deeply involved in our salvation. In fact, without His miraculous, transforming work in our hearts, none of us could have been saved. Using Titus 3:5-6 as our main text, we studied the Spirit's work from two angles:
      1. There is a complete change. Paul's phrase in v. 5, "washing of regeneration," pictures a dramatic rebirth, a divinely wrought change in our nature that produces a spiritual "bath." Simultaneously, there was a "renewing" that took place, meaning we were completely revived and transformed. This was not a mere remodel of our nature with a few cosmetic changes. It was a complete rebuilding. As the early church father John Chrysostom said, "For as when a house is in a ruinous state no one places props under it, nor makes any addition to the old building, but pulls it down to its foundations, and rebuilds it anew; so in our case, God has not repaired us, but has made us anew." This change, which took place solely by the mercy and kindness of God, is what suddenly caused us to desire faith and repentance.
      2. There is a compelling call. The Bible also speaks of the Spirit's work in salvation as a "call" upon our hearts. Sometimes, the Bible speaks of a "general call" made freely to all who hear the preaching of the Word (Matt. 22:14). But the call we are speaking of here is a special, inward call (Rom. 1:6-7; 9:23-24). This call is not an audible voice, but a divine tugging upon our heart. It is God the Spirit drawing us and wooing us and reeling us in to Himself. This call is directly linked to our election (Rom. 8:29-30), and is just as powerful and irresistible as when the Creator rebuked the waves (Mk. 4:39) and raised the dead (John 11:43).
      Questions for thought and discussion:
      • How is the Father involved in our salvation? The Son? The Holy Spirit?
      • Why do you think there is so little emphasis on the Holy Spirit today among many Christians?
      • Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. Do you see evidence of this transformation in your life?
      • Does regeneration mean we are now perfect and free from sin? cf. Rom. 6:12-18.
      • What's the difference between the "general call" and "special call" of God?
      • Write a prayer to the Holy Spirit, thanking Him for the work He has accomplished in your heart.
      Sunday's sermon is now available for free audio download from our podcast site.

      Tuesday, February 2, 2010

      Book Review: Getting Things Done

      Does your life feel disorganized? Is your inbox overflowing and office growing more and more cluttered? Do you tend to put things off until the very last minute? Do you feel like your schedule is dictated by the tyranny of the urgent? Then take the time to read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. It may literally change your life.

      Early on, Allen gives a five-step process to getting control of your life. First, he says to collect every single item or ‘open loop’ in life that commands your attention and is sapping your energy. Second, begin to systematically process what each item means and what to do about it. Third, go deeper by organizing the results. Fourth, regularly review the progress you are making and re-negotiate your priorities. Fifth, go and do it!

      The rest of the book unpacks these five principles with many helpful step-by-step instructions and examples. One thing can be said about David Allen: he takes nothing for granted. He doesn't just tell you; he shows you. He knows that by the time you pick up his book you may already be overwhelmed and on the brink of burnout. He is patient and walks you through the entire process. It's like having a personal productivity coach

      Probably the most helpful summary of the system is found on page 36, where Allen captures the whole process in graphic form. At first, this workflow chart (which you can view here) may resemble an engineering schematic, but it’s actually a streamlined concept that can be adapted to any profession, from stay at home mom to Fortune 500 CEO.

      Though I would already consider myself a fairly organized person, I found GTD invaluable. A pastor will get swamped without some level of organization. Our weekly duties range from shepherding to studying to praying to ministry planning. We have to be ready to preach on Sundays, manage office staff, plan events, govern the master calendar, prepare for committee meetings, maintain good communication, handle crises, and participate in local and denominational events. The sheer diversity and urgency of tasks can be overwhelming at times. And all of this is on top of personal and family commitments. Having a secretary will certainly help, but this should only complement, not replace, your own organizational system.

      I have quickly implemented many of Allen's ideas and am already reaping the benefits of a clearer mind and more organized life and ministry. I am quickly tackling small tasks using his two-minute rule. I have implemented his weekly review (p. 185), taking time each Tuesday morning to now review my calendar, task list, membership needs, etc. Using his context method (p. 140), I have consolidated my To-Do list into Microsoft Outlook, keeping separate categories for things like phone calls to make, visits to make, subjects to study, etc. I have also created a project list (p. 155) that is helping me keep a long-term perspective and make sure I’m staying on track with projects. I have designed a tickler file (p. 175) to remind me of things I need to pray about, plan, or follow up with in the future. I’m now carrying a note pad or card with me wherever I go, or calling the free service Dial-to-do when I need to remember something while driving.

      As I continue to review my schedule and re-evaluate my commitments and goals, I am very thankful for David Allen’s system and believe it is already making me a more effective minister of the gospel and shepherd to my flock.

      Monday, February 1, 2010

      Sovereign Grace sale

      It's time again for the big Sovereign Grace annual sale. These prices are unbeatable with lots of choices for great music and books. Here's their official announcement...

      C.J. MahaneyHuge sale on Sovereign Grace books, music, and more

      Starting today, we’ve dropped prices on almost everything at our store. For the month of February, you’ll find these ridiculously low prices:

      Books: Songbooks, audiobooks, and DVDs are also on sale.

      International shipping is 50% off. And as always, U.S. shipping is free for all orders over $15.

      Load up at, and tell your friends.

      Outreach New Testament

      Justin Taylor points out a great resource to keep in mind for evangelism...


      If you or your ministry or your church are looking for inexpensive copies of the NT to give away to folks for evangelistic purposes, you may want to look at the ESV Outreach New Testament. You can get 300 copies for just over $200. Or you can order them individually at $1.19 a piece.
      Here are the specifics:
      • 8.2-point type
      • Words of Christ in black
      • 222 pages
      • Size: 5.25″ x 8.25″
      And here’s the supplemental material included:
      • Short intros to each book
      • How to Read the New Testament
      • Where to Find Help When You Are . . .
      • What the New Testament Says About . . .
      • Getting Started: A 30-Day Reading Plan
      • God’s Plan to Save You
      • Six-Month New Testament Reading Plan
      HT: Justin Taylor

      New Blog

      Today I'm closing up shop and launching a new blog called Pinch of Clay. You can visit it by clicking here . Please stop by and...