Monday, December 22, 2008
We're headed home for Christmas. Well, I call it home. Cherryville that is. Thomas of course will say that he has no "home" or that Africa is his home.
I'm thankful that we're in the States to spend Christmas with our families again this year and also thankful that we have David and Renee here with us! I look forward to spending time with my mom, dad and brother, of making fun of my mom, haha, visiting my grandparents, visiting old friends, having time off work, relaxing, sleeping in, eating good food.
Here are a couple pics of a few of my favorite Christmas ornaments.
Written by Renee Crane
"David and I host a group of young people at our house on Sunday nights. We have seven young adults and we have been studying the stories of the Bible. To be in this group each one of the young people is supposed to start a group of two-or-three people that they meet with on a weekly basis to tell the stories. Frances and Lydia, started a group in the workers’ houses in the tea field where they live. They now have eleven teenagers from the age 15-18 meeting every week. I meet with Frances and Lydia yesterday and in the course of the conversation they told me about this situation. They said that the place that they meet is very small, so they are packed in a single room. When the teenagers come, their younger siblings come and stand outside the door so they can hear the stories. Lydia said sometimes it is a distraction because they are begging to hear the stories. Sometimes, they get in a shuffle outside trying to get a seat closer to the door so they can hear. They were telling me that this is the only opportunity these children have for “church”!
After meeting with Lydia and Frances yesterday, I could hardly sleep last night. I woke up very early and I was so overwhelmed that I was having a hard time praying. I just keep seeing these little children pushing against the door trying to get close enough to hear. So. . . I would love to get a mission trip together to help do a day camp, holiday Bible club (vacation Bible School), call it whatever you like. These younger siblings could use a blessing! They are home alone all day and are rarely left with food while their parents literally work from sunrise to sunset in the tea fields. These children are hungry and need to be fed bread while sharing the Bread of Life. My dream is for us to give them a week that will forever be tattooed on their hearts."
Renee has asked Leslie to join this short-term mission trip to Kenya. She will be responsible for all the arts and crafts involved with the backyard Bible club/VBS. This is Leslie's first venture on a short-term, volunteer mission trip. The Baptist State Convention gives all their employees a week off each year to participate in a mission trip. It is a great benefit and one that Leslie wants to take advantage of.
This trip is scheduled for April. The ticket price alone is around $2,000. So we will need to raise at least that much. Lord willing we will be able to cover the other costs ourselves. If you would be willing to partner with Leslie through prayer or financial assistance please shoot her an email (email@example.com).
Thanks so much for your involvement in our lives and in the calling that God has given us.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
I need Africa but not because Africa needs me. I need it because it puts so much of my life in perspective. It reminds me of what's important, the basic things in life. Here I am stressed over parsing verbs and declining nouns in ancient Greek. My African brothers and sisters are all to frequently struggling to get food and clean water. I need Africa because it is where I feel God calling me. Africa does not need me but it does need the message found in the Gospel.
Lord, please prepare me to be an effective witness, worthy of the calling you have given me. Sharpen me with your Word so that I may be adequate to share your message on a continent so desperate for good news.
Friday, December 05, 2008
In a previous blog I mentioned how much I enjoy hearing other people share their story of how God found them and rescued them. We all need to be rescued and those who have been have a testimony. Here is a website where some very powerful stories of redemption are being told. They are presented in simple, short, well produced videos. There are stories from celebrities, singers, coaches, pastors, prostitutes, soldiers, sex addicts, drug addicts and others saved out of different struggles. God has no limitations in terms of the people He elects. Jesus redeems people from all nations, ethnic groups and circumstances. And then, when those individuals begin to tell their story of sin and forgiveness...it is powerful.
Hint: click on the "Struggles" link on the bottom of the page and see different circumstances that Jesus has saved people out of. Then click on the picture to listen to their testimony.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
On November 11 I flew to Atlanta and met our friend Catherine, who we taught with in Korea, to see the Coldplay concert at Phillips Arena. My gracious brother took the day off and was our personal taxi for the day. Thanks Brent! It was an amazing concert! We were sad when it was over...too short.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
So, in the spirit of saving Thanksgiving from our materialistic culture here is a brief list of things that Leslie and I are thankful for.
Leslie's Thanksgiving list: (in no particular order),(as recounted to Thomas on the phone and then edited for his pleasure)
1)My job, 2)my husband (she actually said these in this order so to comfort myself I wrote the previous disclaimer about the order), 3)our house, 4)the fact that we are geographically close to family during this holiday season and able to spend time with them, 4)friends 5)our new awesomely comfortable bed 6)such gracious parents and 7)in-laws (Leslie recently had a class where family was the discussion and so many women in her class voiced such hardships with their in-laws. Hearing the other girls recount their conflict and struggle really helped Leslie to appreciate just how blessed she is in the in-law department, now if she could just fix that rascally husband she'd be set ;)
Thomas' Thanksgiving list:
1)The blood of Jesus which covers over me and prevents a just God from sentencing me to the fate I deserve. 2)my smokin' hot wife, 3)SEBTS, and the wonderful scholarship which enables me to go there, 4)Turkey!! (I'm excited, only 2 more hours until lunch), 5)my parents (I have met so many people this year who have told me how much my parents have impacted their life. The more I learn about Mom and Dad the more I am impressed with them and thankful for them), 6)I'm also thankful for my in-laws (that bed is bloody fantastic!), 7)I am thankful to attend such a great church and be apart of such a quality small group, 8)I am thankful for the people who pray for us, God bless you, have a happy Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Today my beautiful wife begins the final year of her twenties. Oh how time flies!
I think a short survey of some of Leslie's accomplishment from this past year are in order. Having just returned from a well spent year in South Korea, she landed a job at the Baptist State Convention of NC. Being back in her preferred profession Leslie has produced an enormous amount of design work for the BSCNC. Some fruits of her labor can be seen through a redesign of the Conventions website found here. A few other pieces of promotional art can be found here and here. Believe me when I say this is just a sample of all that she has cranked out over the last ten months.
Leslie has also begun taking classes at Southeastern Seminary which will count towards a Bible Certificate. She has been doing very well in these classes, learning the good material and graciously sitting through the other stuff. She joined the Summit Church in Durham, NC where every week God uses the choir and Pastor J.D. to bless and challenge her. She also joined a Summit small group and has begun making some very meaningful relationships.
Leslie bought a house this year! By Gods grace we are now well planted in Wake Forest and enjoying our new home. Using her designers eye our house is well decorated and comfortable to live in. I am a blessed man, which leads me to my final point. Year three of marriage has certainly been our best so far. The first year was an adjustment, the second was in a foreign country with numerous health issues, but year three has been especially pleasant. Leslie is an amazing wife and I am so fortunate to have her.
For those of you who pray for us we want to say a big THANK YOU! Please pray for Leslie today as she celebrates her birthday and I hope that you will continue to lift her up throughout the rest of this upcoming year.
I love you!!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to management than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
To read a more complete article click here.
Thanks for thinking it but I am sorry to disappoint you, Leslie and I were not the anonymous donors :)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This week is the Annual Session of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. Today our Executive Director Treasurer gave an address and had a few comments which he directed to younger Southern Baptist. I found these words to be encouraging:
Finally – let me speak to the younger generation of pastors who are here or who might read these words later.
We know you are there. I wish more were actually here with us today.
There is research to indicate that we are now living in a post-denominational time in the history of the church. I have read that research and I believe much of it to be true.
But lovingly I want to say to you that denominations are here to stay. Please notice what I didn’t say. I did not say that this denomination – the Southern Baptist Convention – is here to stay. I did not say that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is here to stay. I do believe denominations are here to stay.
I can look to Scripture and see that believers denominate together. That is they cooperate based on certain key theological principles and ideas which help them in their ministry.
This has always been the case. The churches in Corinth helped other churches. The church in Jerusalem helped other churches and other churches, in turn, helped them. They were bound together not by geography, but theology not a party spirit but the Holy Spirit who worked in and through their church to reach out to other churches to strengthen and support them. This was commonplace in the early church.
If I were to count the new networks, denominations, pastor’s schools, church planting movements, or other organized efforts to cooperate in a common mission I could easily present you at least 50 new denominations.
They may not be denominations in the formal, organized, and incorporated sense with offices and large staffs, but Christians will denominate until the Lord returns. It is at the heart of what it means to live in a community of faith.
As you know the main-line denominations – the United Methodists, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Episcopal Church have experienced dramatic declines over the past thirty years.
And as you probably know – the Southern Baptist Convention has now reached a growth plateau which has many concerned that the denomination is dying a slow death. If demographic trends hold, they are right as we are losing young leaders at a faster rate than we can re-produce them to assume positions of leadership in our current structure.
It would be easy for me to say in fact many of you probably expect me to say - that we are changing things to reach a new generation (and we are) or that we are streamlining our ministries to better reflect the needs of the churches (and we are) or that we are working to better serve churches and actually see ourselves as their servant not the other way around (and we are), but there must be more. Something must happen to us as God’s people as North Carolina Baptists which is beyond the boundaries of what human beings can produce. The latest corporate strategy or tactic can never duplicate or even resemble a genuine work of the Holy Spirit.
We have much for which to repent. We can no longer ignore the obvious, and it is difficult to hear your sins plastered in the Press, but I am thankful that we are again getting serious about regenerate membership in our churches. I am thankful we
are once again concerned about our methods of evangelism to such a degree that we are prayerfully looking at the way we communicate the gospel to a lost world.
We must repent of denominational pride and call to God in the assurance that He will never turn away hearts that are truly broken in sin. And that is what we are attempting to do while God gives us breath and strength.
I call you to help in that mission - to advance God’s mission on this earth through the churches of this Convention to the glory of our God and the advancement of His Kingdom.
The entire message can be read here.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
You would not believe the celebrations going on in Kenya since Obama has been elected as president. Tomorrow has been made a National Holiday by the president of Kenya, "OBAMA Day" No one has to work and there is no school. Parties going on everywhere! Schedules are being rearranged to free people up to celebrate. The Kenyans I have talked to feel there problems are now over. This is so strange!! Some really feel like he is going to change the world!! You are speaking to yourself if you try to say other wise. I have never seen anything like it.
I'll be amazed if he can pull America out of its financial crisis much less have time to think about Kenya. But somehow they have it in their head that he is bringing "change" not only to America but Kenya as well.
If you want to read some more on the Obamamania going on in Kenya here is an article from the national newspaper. For those still interested here is an even more disturbing article regarding some of the practices of the "Pentecostals and pagans" in the hysteria building up to the Obama win.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Here are some pictures of the road conditions from that trip.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
This past week the Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs concluded its two day seminar entitled The Politics of Jesus: Timeless Answers for Today's Questions. The podcasts from those lectures have now been uploaded to the website and are available for your listening pleasure. Simply go to Politics of Jesus 2008 and click on the link to "podcast" under the picture of the speaker or topic you would like to listen to.
Another podcast has recently been made available from Insight which features Marvin Olasky the editor of World Magazine (Leslie and I both enjoy this publication and subsequent website). During this Insight podcast, Olasky answers such questions as: Is America a Christian Nation?; The Use of the Bible in Political Speeches; The Origins of the Modern Welfare State?; Why Does Poverty exist?; Can Poverty Be Eliminated in Society? Should the Bible Shape Public Policy?; The National Economy and Its Future; The Future of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare; Has Conservative Political Thought Changed?; What is Compassion? Is Wealth Sinful?
There are also a few articles which I would like to recommend. One is by Robert P. George a professor from Princeton who writes on the extremism of the position taken by Obama on the issue of abortion. If you are pressed for time you can read a summary of the article here or you can read the entire article here.
Another article I found interesting was written by Randy Alcorn. Alcorn is giving a critique of Donald Miller (wrote Blue Like Jazz) and his decision to endorse an abortion extremist candidate. I particularly enjoyed Alcorns introduction, his thoughts are very similar to my own but his articulation of those thoughts are far beyond my scribble. You can read the post here.
Lastly, I would also refer you to the sermon series recently concluded at the Summit Church on Why I'm Not a Christian. This whole series was excellent and if you know someone struggling with one of these difficult questions or maybe you are confused yourself, I would encourage you to give them a listen. They certainly helped Leslie and I think through some difficulties.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I was converted and baptized at a young age. I believe this conversion to be authentic for a number of reasons which I won't take the time to discuss right now, but the evidence of my conversion has not always been easy for observers to see. My middle and high school years were spent at a Christian boarding school where living a legalistic "christian" life was required or else they kicked you out. So while there my faith was never really put to the test. Once I graduated from that oppressive regime I returned to the States to attend Mercer University.
During my time in Georgia I was involved in several relationships which were far from honoring to God and my lifestyle in general did not reflect the grace which I had so freely received at the age of 8. While I occasionally attended church I was insistent on living a life that conformed to my own desires and sin habits. It was not until one lonely Sunday night, sitting in the back of FBC Woodstock listening to Johnny Hunt preach that God really got my attention. A verse from 1 Corinthians 5 really brought me to my knees:
I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality, greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one... Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? Purge the evil person from among you.As I sat in the back of that church listening to Hunt preach and reading these words it hit me that I was doing almost everything on this list and yet I called myself a Christian. According to Scripture I did not even deserve to be at the dinner table with believers. Not only should practicing Christians not eat with me they should totally remove me from the church. I was washed over in a flood of guilt and shame for the way I was living my life. I repented and recommitted myself to living for the one who had redeemed me. A week or so later I applied to Columbia International University where I eventually graduated with a Bachelors in Bible and Intercultural Studies. I have sinned plenty since that night at FBC Woodstock but by God's grace I have not fallen into a pattern or habit of sin. When I do wrong God is always quick to convict me and by His grace I will continue to respond with confession and repentance.
I let you in on this portion of my life to set up what I believe to be a very powerful few paragraphs on grace. Within my own circle of family and friends I know people who are living lives similar to mine before that night in Woodstock. The Southern Baptist Convention claims 16 million members but less than half of them are in church on Sunday. This is an epidemic problem which I hope these words from Dr. Hammett help us to deal with:
Grace is neither cheap, nor costly; it is free (Rev 22:17; Ro 6:23). Inherent in the idea of being a gift that cannot be earned is the idea of free grace.
One error people often make is concluding that because merit is irrelevant to grace one can receive grace and live as he pleases. This is the heresy of cheap grace, which Paul had to combat as early as Ro 6:1-2. Another version of this heresy sees faith as the price of grace; that faith earns or purchases grace; then, again, after one receives grace, he is free to live as he pleases.
The reason why free grace does not lead to cheap grace is because authentic grace does not simply pardon one's past sins, it transforms one's present and future actions and motives. One who claims to receive God's grace but has no change in desires and attitudes is deceived. They tried to obtain cheap grace but it does not exist. The genuine grace of God teaches us to live holy lives. Titus 2:11-14.
Neither is grace costly grace. It cost Christ his life to turn away God's wrath, but for us it is free. There is nothing we must do to receive or continue in God's grace. It is a free gift.
Thus to those who ask, "how much must I do to please God?" we respond, "everything and nothing." To those who want to buy grace cheaply at the price of a purely mental faith, we respond that faith involves placing all one is in the hands of another; it involves everything. To those who fear that they must clean themselves up to receive grace, and keep clean to continue in grace, we respond that God's grace is not for sale. It may be bought neither at the cheap price of a dead, purely intellectual faith, nor at the costly price of a holy, self-denying life. It cannot be bought, but only received as a life-changing gift, that inevitably leads to gratitude and a desire to express gratitude in a life of obedience.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
"For the past 20 years or more, Christians have been recovering the realization that at least in this country, they do have a voice and can make a difference in the political climate. But in our increasing involvement in the culture wars of this country, I fear we are in danger of forgetting that laws are not obeyed and respected unless people think those laws embody and uphold what is right. And it is Christ that can transform a person's view of what is right and wrong.
For example, on the issue of abortion, we can work politically to elect pro-life politicians and get a law passed against abortion, and that will affect the supply. But a far greater need is to change people's hearts and reduce the demand for abortion. Both sides are needed, but just trying to cut off the supply without reducing the demand may result in some good, but may also result in an unenforceable law that would not be respected. Changing people's hearts, loving our enemies, working to win people one by one--these traditional ideas still have a lot of merit and importance. Preaching the gospel may still be the most important social ministry we have!"
For further study read Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Here are the lyrics:
In Christ Alone
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music
In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.
Monday, September 22, 2008
As I watch the images in this video I am in awe! We serve a VERY big God. He is the Creator and everyday His creation shows His glory and reveals His power. And as a result all I can do is, "Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!" (Ps. 150:1-2)
"...since what can be known about God is plain to us, because God has shown it to us. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Ro. 1:19-20)
Or you could go another way:
Friday, September 19, 2008
I would encourage you to check out the Secret Church. It is full of articles, videos and messages related to the persecuted church. The church which sponsors it, Brook Hills seems to be a great group. The pastor, Dr. David Platt, is only 29 but he has more degrees than a thermometer. He recently preached three messages which have had a big impact on Southern Seminary. They are titled quite simply the Great Commission Lectures, I dare you to listen to them.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The leader behind the Great Commission Resurgence, starting at SEBTS and spreading throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, is our President, Danny Akin. On Wednesday (Sept. 17th) Dr. Akin hosted the Presidential Forum where he answered questions which students submitted online. I have listened to a few of these from past semesters and they are generally pretty good but on this particular day Akin was especially on form. About 10 or 15 minutes into the Forum he begins to address the questions submitted in regards to Sarah Palin and some of his other thoughts on this particular election. It is fantastic insight and I appreciate how open and candid he was. Not long after that portion of the Forum, Akin erupts into a passionate plea for more overseas workers. He gets so riled up at one point he almost cussed. I was having such a good time I couldn't help but clap. I felt like a bobble head doll in a talk back church (you know the kind where the congregation talks back to the preacher via, "Amen!!" or "Preach it brother"). Anyway. I HIGHLY recommend the whole Forum especially the political and missional section. You can find it here (scroll down to to Sept 17th). Or search Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on Itunes and sign up for the free podcast of Chapel messages.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Thomas' classes have started back of course and it's still business as usual for me at the Convention. I'm starting to learn all the structure and hierarchy between all the groups and teams. My projects have included 2 brochures for the Hispanic youth ministry, a set of brochures for next year's Bible Drill, a brochure for an African American Conference, a campaign for the North Carolina Mission Offering that I assisted my co-worker Kathryn with which included a folder, brochure, kids materials, bulletin insert, prayer guide, dvd and poster. The past month I've been working on the 2007 Annual Report and a redesign of the ncbaptist.org website. We are SO busy there. I've probably worked on more projects in the past six months than I did in 3 years at Brinkley Design. It's lots of fun though, I'm loving it and feel totally confirmed that this is where God wants me to be. We joined Summit Church in Durham and have joined a small group here in Wake Forest and are making friends.
My amazing roadtrip buddy/college roommate Monika got married Labor Day weekend at the Millennium Center in Winston Salem. Shelley and I were bridesmaids and helped throw her bachelorette party and lingerie shower the weekend before. The wedding was beautiful and I was happy to be there and support Monika on her special day. She was a beautiful bride.
After the wedding we went to Cherryville for the rest of the long weekend to visit family. We saw Mamere and Jack, Kim and Stephen, my grandparents and of course my parents. Monday my mom and I went shopping while the men of the house went dove hunting. This picture is of Thomas and Brent skeet shooting for practice before they went out. Who would have though Thomas could look so much like a native! haha
This past weekend my friend Natalie from Charlotte came to visit! We had so much fun just hanging out and catching up. She got to see our house for the first time and we went shopping and to the movies. Sunday, Brent and Amber met us for church at Summit. It was a great sermon from J.D. on the reason people give for not being Christians that "Christianity is too restrictive." Then we all went to lunch and watched the Panthers play and win! It was a great weekend. :)
Friday, September 12, 2008
1)Republicans seem to care more about a child's right to life and I certainly agree with that (esp. after studying the doctrine of Humanity in Theology).
2)Democrats seem to care more about being good stewards of the environment and I appreciate that (esp. after studying Creation in Theology).
3)The Republican side has a more biblical view of marriage (again Theology class) although every time this side rants and raves about it they seem to forget that God hates all sin and 50-60% of them have had or are going to have a divorce.
4)And this is the one that has always thrown the biggest wrench in my train of thought. The Democrats have historically claimed to have a better plan for the poor and underprivileged. Having grown up in Kenya where I was constantly faced with so much poverty this issue is near and dear to me. Until Christ returns I don't believe that poverty will ever be eradicated (Jesus said so Himself). But I do believe that as Christians we are called upon to help and assist those less fortunate.
With all that in mind, as a believer I have always thought that both parties had something to offer. So with that said and without taking anything away from that statement let me share the following facts which to be quite honest shocked me.
The following stats come from an article by Glen Beck of CNN Headline News.
What do the top ten U.S. cities with the highest poverty rate all have in common?
Detroit, MI (1st on the poverty rate list) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1961;
Buffalo, NY (2nd on the poverty list) hasn't elected one since 1954;
Cincinnati, OH (3rd on the list).. since 1984;
Cleveland, OH (4th on the list) since 1989;
Miami, FL (5th on the list) has never had a Republican Mayor;
St. Louis, MO (6th on the list) since 1949;
El Paso, TX (7th on the list) has never had a Republican Mayor;
Milwaukee, WI (8th on the list) since 1908;
Philadelphia, PA (9th on the list) since 1952;
Newark, NJ (10th on the list) since 1907.
I hate that so many in the Christian community have married themselves to the Republican party. But... in light of the above information, I think it is obvious which side I am more inclined towards.
Monday, September 08, 2008
As of September 8th this video had been viewed almost 1,500,000 times on youtube. It is an excellent witness of a loving God who sovereignly acts through His redeemed to draw people to Himself. I love hearing or reading testimonies of believers. My favorite one on this video is the lady diagnosed with M.S. and her doctor; but they are all excellent.
I hope this wont' be taken the wrong way, but I found this piece from Douglas Wilson to be both encouraging and convicting:
“Americans are about six percent of the world’s population and we account for about forty-five percent of the world’s philanthropy. Among Americans, believers are far more generous than secularists. Among believers, Protestants are more liberal in their giving than Catholics. Among Protestants, evangelicals are more generous than mainliners. But if you were to ask a secular arbiter of all that is philanthropic for his opinion on how we were doing, he would invert the whole thing. That much said, when the standard is God’s generosity to us, most of us are not nearly as generous to others as we ought to be. We should pray for grace to overflow more liberally still. But we may be pardoned if the evangelical artesian well, producing 20 gallons a minute, while wishing it could be 40, doesn’t want to hear lectures on charity from the dry hole of secular leftism.”
Those who know the God of grace can't help but be generous themselves. Our generosity will be in proportion to our knowledge of God.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
In a little over a month the office I work for at the Convention is hosting a seminar in Durham, NC. We have titled it The Politics of Jesus: Timeless Answers for Today's Questions. I hope you will take just a minute of your time and visit the website. If the Lord leads you please consider coming to listen to this fantastic line up of speakers.
These men and the topics they are addressing are very timely considering the election that will follow in November. The seminar will not be partisan in any way but instead will seek to uncover what the Bible has to say on some of the leading issues of our day. With 50% of the marriages in this country ending in divorce how can we afford not to listen to Dr. Thornbury lecture on it's sacredness. Americans could potentially elect the first African American President in the country's history in November. Certainly a talk on racism in our churches is appropriate by Dr. Fentress. I have just highlighted two of what will be six brilliant lectures. I encourage you to visit the website and consider joining us. Plus it's free, your CP dollars at work folks!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
This Sunday the Summit Church is starting a new sermon series entitled "Why I'm NOT a Christian." Our pastor, J.D. Greear is going to take the most common objections to Christianity and try to answer them. As part of the series we have started a new website whyimnotachristian.com where people can go and write their objections to Christianity. Leslie, my very talented and creative wife, designed the site and the subsequent materials that will be used during the series. I would encourage any nonchristians reading this blog to visit the site and write down your objection.
Some of the upcoming sermon titles are:
8/31: “How can there be only one true religion or way to God?”
9/7: “How could a good God allow suffering?”
9/14: “Christianity is too restrictive”
9/21: “The Church has been responsible for so much injustice”
9/28: “How can a loving God send people to Hell?”
10/5: “But science has disproved Christianity!”
10/12: “Everyone knows the Bible can’t be taken literally”
If you live too far away from Durham to come and hear the series in person you can listen to them online here.
If these objections and/or this series of sermons, sparks your interest and you want to go a step further I highly encourage you to read Tim Keller's new book The Reason for God. If you are not a big reader you could at least read a well written book review on it which is found here.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Happy anniversary to us, happy anniversary to us, happy anniversary dear Leslie and meeeee! Happy anniversary to us!!
For those still suffering the effects of the heat stroke you experienced at our wedding we apologize. It has been 3 great years since that humid, 105 degree day and we have enjoyed the very vast majority of it. (No use pretending like married life doesn't take getting used to, especially when a small town, southern belle marries a nomadic, culturally diverse M.K.)
God has been very good to us and we are constantly amazed at the blessings He has chosen to pour out on us.
I would just like to take a moment and express to everyone reading this how much I love my wife. I am a debtor to a great and wonderful God who first and foremost elected to invade my heart and save me from a wicked and sinful life, but secondly because He has blessed me with such an incredibly beautiful wife. I am very sincere when I say that she is the most fascinating person I have met and I love getting to know her. I literally learn stuff from and about her all the time. There is a specific way to fold the towels when they come out of the dryer. Sandwiches HAVE TO have mayonnaise on both slices of bread, incredibly important stuff! But I have also learned that she loves her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with a deep and abiding passion. When our wonderful choir at Summit Church starts belting out those brilliant, God honoring, Brooklyn Tabernacle songs...the tears begin to flow. During good explanations from the pulpit of Gods undeserving forgiveness and redemption of sinners, she squeezes my arm like she is hearing it all again for the first time. I love that she has been forgiven for so much and that she knows it and hasn't forgotten it!! She loves me too, I know it, but she loves Jesus even more and I am so grateful for that. What a blessed guy I am.
Thanks to all of you who have prayed us through our many moves and travels. Please continue to pray for us as we live, work and study here in Wake Forest.
Friday, August 01, 2008
While visiting a major American city, a young pastor attended one of the most prominent churches in America, hoping to learn from what they were doing. He sat through an entire sermon and reported that at no time in the entire service, including the singing and sermon, was the name of Jesus ever mentioned. Apparently, the sermon ended with an altar call invitation for people to go to heaven when they died, but the name of Jesus or an explanation of what he did on the cross and empty tomb was not mentioned even in passing.
Sadly, it is too common for churches not to speak of Jesus, which is a tragedy akin to a wife rarely uttering the name of her own husband. In our day when there are innumerable contradictory beliefs about who God is, Christians must be clear that their God is Jesus Christ alone so as to communicate the same central truth that Scripture does. No matter how many verses are used, the Bible has not been rightly understood or proclaimed unless Jesus is the central focus and hero. (p. 66)
Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Vintage Jesus. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007.
Leslie and I are privileged to attend the Summit Church in Durham, NC where the pastor is faithful to preach Christ crucified and resurrected. As one who has traveled a lot and visited many churches I have sat in on some services similar to the one Driscoll tells about and my fear is that they are far to common. One of the reasons so many are attracted to this type of preaching is simply because it is not convicting. A pastor who preaches your best life now may help us become better citizens but it is not sufficient to save anyone from sin. Jesus alone is sufficient to save. If you are attending a church that does not preach and worship Jesus Christ as the redeemer of sinners then you need to consider going somewhere else.
Monday, July 28, 2008
If you have been following mine and Leslie's story over the last several years you know that we are big John Piper fans. This video is only a few minutes long but it is fantastic. Every time I listen to Piper I am convicted.
Hopefully this won't come across pharisaical but I just want to share a little of my prayer for Leslie and I as this video was playing, if He leads you pray it with us:
"God, please protect us from the desire to chase the American dream but rather enable us to live the kind of life that exemplifies Your love for the nations. May our time, money and efforts serve as a sign to point people down the road towards Calvary. You are worthy of nothing less."
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
My boss, Doug Baker and I just returned from a roadtrip to Richmond where we had a great time recording a podcast, meeting IMB personel and touring the facilities.
Monday night Doug lead me on an abbreviated tour of Monument Ave. We walked around the Capitol Building, saw the Governors Mansion and admired large monuments dedicated to the countries founding fathers.
Tuesday we went to International Learning Center to record an Insight Podcast with IMB, V.P. Tom Eliff (former President of the SBC), Jim Riddell, Leader of the Consulting Team and John a R.L. for the North Africa Middle East region of the world. Doug asked some good questions, their responses and the interaction between them was fantastic. Everyone who listens will be blessed and a little more educated to hear what they had to say. I will post a link to the podcast when it is launched.
The rest of the day was full of tours. We were blessed to see the International Learning Center campus (which is much larger now than it was in 1992 when I last stayed there). We were also privilaged to tour the offices of the IMB headquarters in downtown Richmond. I especially enjoyed this tour as I had never seen these offices but often heard of the work being done there. One room housed a beautiful tribute to Miss Lottie Moon a wonderful servant of God and a hero of the faith. I would encourage you to click on her name and read some of the letters she wrote to the American church while she was serving in China. The tour ended with an invite into President Jerry Rankin's office where we were able to visit with him for a few minutes. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the heart that Dr. Rankin has for unreached people groups.
It was a great start to the week, a memorable trip and I am very grateful to Doug for giving me the opportunity to travel along.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
There are however stereotypes which exist about higher Christian education. I have heard (once from the mouth of a former pastor of mine) Seminary referred to as the "Cemetery" the place where faith goes to die. I don't want to get into all the reasons why this stereotype exists but I would like to speak against some of them for a minute. (As a short side note I would say that it is important which Seminary one chooses to study at. The "cemetery" stereotype may be unfair but there is a reason it exists. Make sure you choose one that is fully committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and holds to a verbal, plenary, inspiration of the Word of God. A Seminary that does not wholly believe in the full council of God is not a school worth attending.)
Some of the people I have met who dislike an institution like Seminary are extremely fired up about Christ and His call to evangelize. These individuals are very admirable, they are fun, exciting and at least for a while, encouraging to be around. They see Seminary as a waste of time, the gospel message is simple enough for a child to understand why waste years studying it when you could just be out doing it? Many times, especially since I have an undergrad degree in Bible, I find this type of thinking very tempting, I could easily throw this 700 page theology textbook out the window and go get on a plane (honestly, Dr. Akin, 700 pages is a bit cruel).
When these thoughts are getting me worked up and impatient I think of the other side. Christ waited until He was 30(ish) to start His public ministry, which only lasted 3.5(ish) years. For 30 years He worked, prepared, and studied. After the apostle Paul was converted in Acts 9 he went through several years of preparation and ministry amongst the Jews before the Holy Spirit lead the church in Antioch to commission him and Barnabas and send them out to the mission field.
The message of God's love and plan of salvation is so simple that even a child can believe. But God's Word is also so rich, full, and deep that even the greatest minds and thinkers have yet to fully comprehend its depth. Three years of Seminary study is just the beginning, it would take more years than I will have to grasp the fullness of His truth. If all Seminary does is prepare me for a lifetime of studying God's Word then it will have been worth it.
Billy Graham was once asked, "If you had your life to live over, what would you do differently?" He said, "One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing. Donald Grey Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming back in 3 years, he would spend 2 of them studying and 1 preaching. I'm trying to make that up now."
Thursday, June 05, 2008
I will do my best to post more frequently throughout the Summer.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I also want to thank those of you who prayed for my job search. God heard you and answered even before I truly started searching. Next week I will begin a part-time internship at the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. My responsibility will be to serve the Director of public relations. Some of the advantages of the job include: Leslie and I will be in the same building, I will be able to learn a lot about the church here in America and about baptist life in general and I'm looking forward to meeting lots of pastors and church leaders from around the State. It should be a very good experience and I'm thankful for it.
We move into our house at the end of the month. If you live in the area and want to lift furniture on the 31st you are welcome:) We are looking forward to having our own place.
Friday, May 09, 2008
"I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please; not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God please." (Leadership 4, no. 1 [Winter, 1983], 107).
Resist the temptation to shrink God; let all you have learned and all that is in Scripture shape your mental picture of God, and grow in the powerful, transforming knowledge of that God.
Dr. Hammett, SEBTS, Theology 1, Spring 2008.
Here is a helpful hint...read one book of Theology every year. There are of course plenty to choose from on the issue. If you have not read Knowing God by J.I. Packer I suggest you start there. Write me if you are interested in further suggestions.
P.S. So far the education here at SEBTS has been fantastic. So from time to time I thought it would be useful to share some of the insights gained in the classroom. I hope you enjoy it and that God will use it in your life as He has in mine.
Monday, May 05, 2008
First, my friend Letha who is an M.A. student in Womens Studies here at SEBTS was visited by part of her family. Mark and Hannah Bustrum are meant to be at the IMB's training facilities in VA. But due to a scary food virus which made numerous people sick the facilities have been shut down for two weeks thus delaying the Bustrum's training and resulting in their two week homelessness. But like any good MK's would the Bustrum's decided to use their free time to travel. Mark, Hannah and Tirza (their two year old daughter) stayed with us Friday night while their other daughters Sahara and Bria camped at Letha's. It has been quite sometime since I last hung out with the Bustrums' so it was really good to see them again and catch up on what they are doing. Letha made Middle Eastern food for all of us, Fazulia, it was quite good although I'm not sure the kids liked it as much as Letha had hoped (Mac&Cheese to save the day). After Fazulia we all went to the playground for a bit and then to Goodberry's for some ice cream.
After training the Bustrums' are on their way to Portugal. Please keep them and their 3 girls in your prayers as they finish up training, travel to Lisbon, move into a new apartment, start language study and begin forming new relationships. Pray that the Lord of the harvest would bless their efforts as they seek to make Him known.
After the Bustrum's left on Saturday our friend Natalie came to visit. She went with Elizabeth and Leslie to Raleigh's handmade market. The report made it sound like they all had a good time. I stayed at the apartment to put a dent in a book for my baptist history class. (The book is called Uneasy in Babylon by Barry Hankins it is a history of the SBC controversy from the perspective of a moderate.) Later that night Letha came back over to the apartment, we made shrimp and chicken kabobs and watched Natalie's favorite new movie Juno. Sunday morning we attended the Summit Church in Durham. Leslie and I have spent the entire semester visiting churches in the area. After a lot of thought we have decided to throw our lot in at the Summit. The pastor here is J.D. Greear and if you would like to get to know more about him you can check out his blog, J.D. is an excellent communicator and many in the SBC have high hopes for him, the Summit Church and the work being accomplished through them amongst the major Universities in the area. We were told yesterday that the RDU area has been ranked the #1 educational center in America for the second year running by Forbes. The fact that this church is so burdened to reach these universities and the world for Christ is the main reason we decided to join. We are excited about all that God has in store for us and the Summit over the next 3 years.
Below are some ways that you can being praying for us during the month of May.
-I'm finishing up my first semester on the 22nd. There are exams to be taken and a few papers to still be written before then. Please pray for me as I seek to get it all done.
-On the 29th Leslie and I will close on a house here in Wake Forest. Please pray that all that will go smoothly.
-When the semester is over and the house move is complete I will begin looking for a part-time job. Please pray that God would lead me to a place where I can use and develop my gifts in and for His kingdom.
-Leslie has been enjoying her job at the State Convention. Continue to pray for her as she has a long drive there and back everyday.
-Please pray for the Bustrum family as they move to Portugal. You will be blessed to read their blogs and follow the work that God is doing in and through them in Western Europe. (If you click on their names a link will take you to their blogs. Mark and Hannah)
P.S. Mark, I bet you can't write a blog with more hyperlinks than this one.
Friday, May 02, 2008
But the soul of Africa, its integrity, the slow inexorable pulse of its life, is its own and of such singular rhythm that no outsider, unless steeped from childhood in its endless, even beat, can ever hope to experience it, except only as a bystander might experience a Masai war dance knowing nothing of its music or the meaning of its steps.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
These crazy kids are literally living and serving at the ends of the earth. They are in Yabus, Southern Sudan and for quite sometime now they have managed to not only survive but carry out a very productive ministry. Just reading some of their posts and seeing their pictures will help you realize how special a couple like this is. It's like God specifically made them for this exact purpose. Many people with great hearts and intentions have tried unsuccessfully to cut it in this hard, hot land. The Faders are truly a gifted, humble, passionate, God appointed family. I encourage you to read their blog with me and allow God to bless you through them just as He is blessing the people of Yabus.
Monday, April 07, 2008
I have my own office at my new job. Wahoo! This is the new desk I got last week.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
To think that God is all knowing...that just rocks my small little mind. He claims to know the number of hairs on my head! (FYI God if you are reading this you need to stay on your mathematical toes because I'm losing hair left and right over the amount of information these professors are trying to cram in my head). He knows all that there is to know about everything that is knowable. Not only that but He created it to begin with! Oh, we have a very BIG God on our side.
It is a comfort to think that while He knows all that is knowable, He is also personal. Despite the best efforts of my theology professor I will never know all there is to know about God... but He knows everything about me... and yet He loves me anyway! If you can wrap your noggin around that you are a lot smarter than I.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I appreciate the diversity of people in America. I just spent 14 months in South Korea, I loved my time there and made great friends in the process. But the fact that it is very mono-cultural and mono-ethnic (a word not in the dictionary, I just made it up, definition should be self explanatory) was sort of uncomfortable for me. In college I majored in Intercultural Studies, that plus my background should show why I am such a fan of diversity. All this to say: I am proud the U.S. has such a diverse group of people running for president. Hillary Clinton a woman, granted I would rather run up hill in the snow, naked, through briars, while listening to country western music than vote for her, but that's only because it's her, not because she is a woman. John McCain a POW veteran who has served his country for nearly his entire adult life. Barak Obama a young, racially mixed American who represents how far people in this country have come in the struggle for equality. Plus he is half Kenyan...if only he was pro-life! Finally we come to my favorite, Mike Huckabee, an ordained baptist minister who attended seminary at Southwestern. What's not to like about this guy? The previous post shows he has a great sense of humor. Anyway. Way to go America! I appreciate the diversity.
Some may have seen this already but for those who haven't listen to the fantastic answer given in defense of a Creator God. This is exactly what 1 Peter 3:15 asks of believers.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008