My Thoughts on Theology & Other Things

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How Can God Use a Wedding

Recently a couple within Vintage Church were married. The newlyweds, Josh and Sarah, had an incredible God-honoring wedding. Vintage’s lead pastor, Rob Wilton, led the ceremony and he openly and frequently shared the Gospel message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He also shared what one must do to be saved. Josh and Sarah wanted this to happen at their wedding. Josh was very much aware that most of his family were lost without Jesus…including his sister.

It’s incredible where God brought Josh and how he and Sarah began dating, fell in love, and married. I met Josh almost two years ago. He was dating a girl within our church and he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. That all changed rapidly however. After a few times of attending some of our worship gatherings God began to rock Josh’s world. He saw his sin, his need for a savior, and knew that savior was Jesus. Within weeks he repented of his sin, turned to faith in Jesus, and was baptized in obedience to Jesus. Josh’s life was turning around. Through some ups and downs, breaking up with the girl who he was dating, and other things, God began to shape and mold Josh more into the image of Jesus. And then enters Sarah. After a while they began to date. All this time Josh and now his new girlfriend were beginning to live out their faith in front of Josh’s family. They noticed a difference.
Let’s fast forward to this past Sunday. After preaching at both of Vintage Metairie’s Sunday morning gatherings I had the opportunity to meet Josh’s sister. Josh shared with me that their wedding had messed with her in a good way. So I introduced myself and simply asked her what God had been showing her about Jesus. Immediately she began to tear up. I knew something was going on. She went on to tell me that she was lost and searching and knew she was in need of a savior…in need of Jesus. I shared with her how she could find salvation in this savior through faith and repentance. Very bluntly I asked her “what’s stopping you right now from giving your life to Jesus and accepting him as your savior?” It was her sin. Without going into too much detail, she told me she had done some things in her past and had sinned. I went on to share with her the reality of Romans 5:8, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. I then asked her again what’s holding you back. Through her tears, she said “nothing.” I knew then Jesus was going to save this woman. She was broken of her sin and in need a savior.

So we prayed. I prayed for her and then she called out to God, begging for salvation. The incredible thing about it all was that she prayed out loud using her own words. She prayed from her heart. The other incredible thing about this moment was who was there. Circled around her holding her was her brother Josh, his wife, his mother-in-law, his father-in-law, and even his brother-in-law. This was a family affair. When she was done praying tears of joy fell from all their faces, everyone hugged her, and people were truly praising God. What an experience! I never get tired of seeing God bring people from darkness to light, making people new creations. They peace, joy, hope, and countless other emotions expressed are incredible to see.

I was so thankful to be a part of this small moment where God did a massive thing. Now we have Josh’s sister set up with a Bible, a Bible reading plan, a community group, and we’re talking about baptism. God reminded me of several things this Sunday. First, he reminded me that he’ll move regardless of what is going on. I preached on giving Sunday, not exactly your typical evangelistic sermon. It was also after the gatherings when people were cleaning up and leaving. It wasn’t exactly the best time. God also reminded me that he is working in all things. Josh’s witness and wedding had laid the groundwork. God simply placed me in her path to harvest. God is working even when we do not see it. God reminded me of the importance of being Jesus to those we love and know. God used Josh to bring his sister to faith. And I believe God is going to use him and his sister to bring the rest of their family to faith in Jesus. Finally, God reminded me of simple faith. Josh’s sister didn’t have all the answers. She didn’t say the “perfect” prayer. But she had simple, yet deep faith in Jesus to save her from her sin and give her abundant life. There simply isn’t anything like hearing someone lost call out to Jesus for salvation. It reminds me of how great a savior we serve and worship.

I’m thankful for Josh and Sarah. I’m thankful for God’s love. I’m thankful for Jesus. I’m thankful God can use a wedding…to bring someone to Jesus.

How Can You Give Locally?

This past weekend was an incredible weekend for Vintage Church. There is much I could tell you about (and I will in the next few days), but I wanted to highlight briefly something I preached on. Over the past 5 weeks we have been walking through a preaching series we are calling GX: Gospel Multiplication. In this series we have been talking about how we can multiple the Gospel globally and locally. Our strategy for doing this is three-fold: Pray, Give, and Go. This week I had the awesome opportunity to preach at both our Metairie campus and Uptown campus on how we can give locally. I preached from 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 and talked about giving. Here is what Pastor Paul told the church at Corinth about giving:

  1. Give
  2. Give regularly
  3. Give cheerfully
  4. Give sacrificially
  5. Give worshipfully

The real application of my sermon, however, was sharing with our campuses how we can really give locally. As the Metairie campus pastor I am leading my campus to choose one organization in our area we can partner with to help. This organization is the Watson Community Center. This organization is a food bank, provides rental assistance, and utility assistance among other things. The Watson Community Center has a need. They need volunteers and non-perishable food items. Although we are going to volunteer of our time, this weekend we highlighted how Vintage Metairie can give right now.
So this coming Sunday, July 29th at both of our Vintage Metairie worship gatherings we will be giving and collecting non-perishable food items, water, and banana boxes for the Watson Community Center. If you are wondering what this might include, here is a list:

1. Any Non-perishable food items

  • Cereal
  • Baking Mixes
  • Canned Meats
  • Dried & Canned Fruit
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Chicken & Hamburger Helper
  • Pasta
  • Peanut Butter
  • Canned Vegetables (Preferably with a pop top)
  • Canned Soups (Preferably with a pop top)
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Crackers
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • Cooking oil

2. Water (Gallons or Bottles)

3. Banana Boxes (to give the food in)

This is an incredible opportunity to give locally. There are needs all around us right now that Jesus has called us to give to. Now is our opportunity to give. Come and bring your canned non-perishable food items, water, and banana boxes all this week to our Vintage Metairie campus or on Sunday at our 9:30 AM or 11:00 AM worship gatherings. Our address is:

3927 Rayne St.  Metairie, La  70001

 
Give like Jesus. Model how he gave. Give locally.

 

Some more reading for June

June has been a busy month with 3 weeks of studying German and the Southern Baptist Convention in my back yard, but I still wanted to provide three recommendations for some books I have enjoyed. I’m working hard to write more and hone my craft. So hopefully you’ll see some more articles and other musings on the blog soon. Until then here are three books I recommend you pick up and read.

Theological Value

The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott

Buy on Amazon

For the longest time I have wanted to read Stott’s The Cross of Christ. For over twenty-five years this has been the book on the cross and what it accomplished. Stott breaks down his book into four major sections which include  “Approaching the Cross,” The Heart of the Cross,” “The Achievement of the Cross,” and “Living Under the Cross.” If I had to recommend any two sections to read in this book it would have to “The Heart of the Cross” and “The Achievement of the Cross.” In the “Heart of Cross” Stott discusses the central elements of the atonement. He writes about forgiveness, satisfying the wrath of God, and Jesus substituting himself in our place. In “The Achievement of the Cross” he discusses how the cross saves sinners, reveals God, and defeats evil. Without a doubt, if you want to know more about Jesus and his atoning work read this book. If you want to be reminded of the Gospel and the love of God read this book. The Cross of Christ is a theological must-read. Pick it up.

Spiritual Value

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

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I would be lying if I didn’t tell you it has been a while since I read this book. Regardless, this book impacted me greatly when I read it over five to six years ago. It is the kind of book you need to read again. It is the kind of book you need to read every year. Brennan Manning is an incredible writer who vividly shows how although we are sinners God views us in his grace through Jesus. We all must remind ourselves moment by moment of the grace in which we live in. This book is that reminder.

Practical Value

Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden

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This summer I’ve been reading a biography on the Puritan minister Jonathan Edwards. Edwards, who lived from 1703-1758, was a minister in New England during the 1st Great Awakening as well as quite possibly the greatest American theologian to exist. If you enjoy biographies, Jonathan Edwards: A Life is well-worth your time. I enjoy biographies, but this book has been practically valuable in my own life. Edwards’ life has taught me much about pastoral ministry, both the good and the bad. It has also taught me much about the 1st Great Awakening and how much the Spirit moved in the life of the people. Jonathan Edwards: A Life has been both an enjoyment to read and a time to learn from a man of God from the past.

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”

– C.S. Lewis

What to Read In May?

Last month I shared three books that are worth reading. I wanted to provide you with three more books this month you might enjoy reading. Like last month I’ve chose a theological book, a spiritual book, and a practical book. Although the three books for May could fit into each of the three categories, each speak to their respective category specifically. This month’s books are three books that I really enjoyed reading. Not only did I enjoy reading them, but I came away from reading them enriched and encouraged. So here they are:

 

 Theological ValueImage

Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing By C.J. Mahaney

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Last month I shared with you Greg Gilbert’s small book, What is the Gospel? Although a small book, What is the Gospel? is an incredible reminder of the Gospel. C.J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross Centered Life is another one of those small but powerful books. Only 166 pages, this book is another great reminder of the Gospel in our lives. This is one of those books I have read and plan to read again that reminds me the importance of the Gospel in my own life. It has been an incredible resource that has allowed me to continually preach the Gospel to myself. C.J. Mahaney simply walks through the importance of Jesus’ death on the cross and its unbelievable implications for our lives. He wastes no space. Every word, sentence, paragraph, page, and chapter is used to share the importance of the Gospel. Although theological, this book is an incredible resource for your spiritual life. Read it, savor it, and apply it.

 

Spiritual Value Image

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy By Eric Metaxas

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If you’re looking to read a biography that will impact your spiritual life you need to read Eric Metaxas’ biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Metaxas writes a detailed and entertaining biography on the life and death of the German pastor/theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood up against the tyranny of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. The author does an incredible job of weaving the story of Bonhoeffer through the history of World War II. This book was both an encouragement and challenge to me. As I read about the incredible sacrifice Dietrich Bonhoeffer made for Christ and his church I was reminded to evaluate my own life in light of the call from Jesus to take up our cross daily. Bonhoeffer was an encouraging kick in the pants to reevaluate and recalibrate my own spiritual life. I pray it will be the same for you.

 

Practical Value Image

Am I Called?: The Summons to Pastoral Ministry By Dave Harvey

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Do you think God has called you into pastoral ministry? Are you trying to figure out your calling? Are you already serving the church in some capacity? If you answered yes to any of those three questions, Dave Harvey’s Am I Called? is a great resource for you to read and think about. In this book Harvey breaks down his discussion of calling into three sections: “Approaching the Call,” “Diagnosing the Call,” and “Waiting.” The author does an incredible job of discussing the elements of the call while as the same time describing them in an understandable way. He makes the call to pastoral ministry an accessible topic. If you feel called to pastoral ministry or know you are called to pastoral ministry, Am I Called? is a book you need to read. It was a great reminder for me of what God has called me to. I’m thankful for pastors like Dave Harvey who provide today’s ministry leaders with such a valuable resource for understanding calling.

Some Book Recommendations for April

One of the things I love to do is read. I’m constantly picking up books, both old and new. Reading is my passion. You can ask my wife if you don’t believe me. Recently I was reading a book entitled Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books. In the book the author, Tony Reinke, discusses how pastors can raise up readers in their church. In his book he says one way pastors can raise up readers in their church is by maintaining a list of recommended books on their website. As I began to think about that I thought about my own blog. If you’re like me you often wonder what you should read. You wonder what books are worth your time? Our lives are incredibly busy with multiple tasks to accomplish. So when we sit down to read a book we want to make sure the book is worth reading. So I’ve decided to provide three book recommendations each month. First, I want to highlight a theological book. Secondly, I want to recommend to you a book for your spiritual life. Finally, I want to highlight and recommend a book of practical value to you. So here are April’s book recommendations.

Theological ValueImage
What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
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What is the Gospel? is a book I read several months ago but continue to recommend to people. Anytime I find a readable book on the Gospel I recommend it. What is great about this book is that, although it’s theological, it’s written using plain, concise language. The book is only 121 pages long. Greg Gilbert breaks the Gospel down into four parts: God the righteous creator, Man the sinner, Jesus Christ the savior, and Response – faith and repentance. That is the heart of this book. He clearly delivers the Gospel.
Some might say, “why read a book on the Gospel? I already know it.” I would suggest that we need to continually saturate our lives with the Gospel. I work to make it a continual task of preaching the Gospel to myself daily. Only then does it remain fresh in my life. What is the Gospel? is an excellent resource to use for daily preaching the Gospel to yourself. When I read this book I read it with my daily devotions. So whether you know little about the Gospel or you are a seasoned veteran of the Gospel, you need to pick up Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel? You won’t regret it.

Spiritual ValueImage
The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy & Kathy Keller
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In preparation for Vintage Church’s current sermon series “Real Marriage,” I read Tim & Kathy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. Although marriage is a practical life issue, it is also very issue. The Keller’s work to illustrate this to their readers. If you want to have both a sound theological and practical understanding of marriage, then look no further than this book.

The Keller’s spend the majority of their time working through Ephesians 5:22-33 discussing the secret of marriage, the power of marriage, the essence of marriage, and the mission of marriage. In these chapters they focus on issues such covenant, holiness, and submission. In the remaining chapters they discuss other practical issues such as marriage roles, singleness, and sex within marriage. If you are thinking about reading some books on marriage this should be on that list. Certainly they do not answer all the questions on marriage. They also write from a different perspective than others, but what they provide is useful information for singles, engaged couples, and married couples. You’ll want to pick The Meaning of Marriage. It’s worth your time.

Practical ValueImage
Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke
Buy on Amazon

I literally just finished this book this morning. Lit! was a pleasant surprise. At first glance I wasn’t sure about it; however, after reading it I was pleased. Reinke basically breaks his book down into two sections: “A Theology of Books and Reading” and “Some Practical Advice on Book Reading.” If you enjoy reading or have ever desired to improve your reading Lit! is a definite gem for you. In the beginning of his book he discusses how a Christian worldview colors what we read, whether that be fiction or non-fiction or Christian or non-Christian literature.
In the second half of his book he provides the reader with practical advice in reading. He discusses issues such as deciding what and what not to read, tips for reading non-fiction, protecting your reading time, and how-to’s for marking up your books. I particularly found chapter 7, “Read with Resolve,” very beneficial. In it he discusses prioritizing his reading. This chapter helped me to create a plan for reading various types of literature. Now the books I read cover a more broad spectrum of topics and genres than before. If you’re looking for a readable and practical book on reading, Lit! is the book for you.

Two Are Better than One: The Importance of Community

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I’ve heard those verses several times before. Until recently they’ve never really hit home. As I lead Vintage’s community group leaders and am a community group leader myself, I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot in regards to community. Over the past few weeks I’ve seen several things that echo the truth of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. I’ve seen both the good and the bad. I’ve heard about and personally dealt those who have pulled away from community. I also had the incredible opportunity to experience real community firsthand. In these experiences I have seen Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 play out.

The writer (who many believe to be an aging King Solomon) is sharing the importance of community with his readers. He shares the positives of being in community and the drawbacks of not being in community. The writer shares “two are better than one.” Why? “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” What does that mean? It simply means two can do more together than one. He then shares how with two people one can pick the other up when he or she falls. Again he says “if two lie together, they keep warm.” Think about being stuck out in the wild during a freezing winter night. Would you want to be by yourself or with someone else who might be able to keep you warm with their body heat. It’s about survival. The writer then imagines a fight. Someone might be able to beat up one person, but not two. He concludes by simply stating three is even better than two.

If the advantages of community weren’t enough to persuade someone, the writer then shares some of the disadvantages to not being in community. First, he warns “woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.” He warns again “how can one keep warm alone.” The point is simply this: a person can only do so much by himself. Many circumstances in life cannot be dealt with individually. All of this proves the importance of community.

What I have seen recently is people begin to pull away from community. As they do so they become more independent, more unstable, and ultimately more in danger. When people pull away they are more apt to fall as the writer of Ecclesiastes points out. Often people share that they are in a busy season in their life and they just don’t have time for community. Brad House in his book Community writes about this saying:

I am often confronted with the claim that a person is not active in the church community because of a lack of time. “I just don’t have time right now…Maybe in the next season of life.” What a crock. The issue is not, and never will be, time. The issue is our desire. When our community gives us life, we will always find time for it. We will change our schedules to accommodate it, and we will want others to experience it. We must find out what is strangling the life out of our communities and begin to live in community in such a way that it brings glory to Jesus and transforms lives. When the glory of Jesus inspires passion and zeal, we will be surprised at how much time we find (154).

I agree with Brad House. I think we find as many excuses as we can to fight community. That seems odd but it is true. We are either neck deep in sin, fighting community or we believe community is not important. We need community because we need each other. We need to be helped, prayed for, and loved. If we try to do life on our own we fall deeper into sin and deeper into depression. We do because God did not create us to loners.

Enough with the negative stuff. I want to share with you a good picture of community I’ve experienced recently. There is a woman in our church who has been struggling with some things for a long time. Finally, she could not take it any longer and shared this struggle with her community group. They prayed with and loved her through it. Later that community group leader and his wife shared this with myself and the other pastors. Just recently we had the incredible opportunity to pray for her and encourage her as she battled through some of her issues. As I sat with her, her husband, her community group leaders, and the other pastors, I immediately realized what great community she had. If she would not have had such community no one would have been personally praying for you.

It breaks my heart every time I see someone slowly slip out of community. As I quickly reach to try to bring them back into community, they often think exiting community is the best thing for them. Inevitably some never return to community. I’m thankful for those who do return. Those are the ones who, although they’ve walked away from community, come running back realizing their need for it. Whatever you and I do, let us not run away from community but embrace it. We must fight for community. We have to fight our independent and sinful nature. Community simply will not come naturally. So next time you feel the urge to run away from your community remember: “two are better than one.”

Are You a Missiologist?

Are you a missiologist? You might read that question and wonder what is a missiologist? You might wonder what kind of degree or training you might need to be a missiologist? You might wonder how much work is involved in being a missiologist? The reality is that being a missiologist does require a lot of work. Much care and dedication is required to be a missiologist. There is sacrifice.

At this point you’re probably asking what is a missiologist and what does this have to do with me? Here it is. Are you ready? Are you a student of your neighborhood? Missiologists are students of their neighborhood. Why is this important? This is important because if you know Jesus as Lord and savior you are called to be a missiologist. You are called to be student of your neighborhood. In his book Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support, Brad House says that to be a missiologist “is to be observant, having your eyes open to the values of people in your city and particularly in your neighborhood. It is about discovering where people find their identity, what wakes them up in the morning, where thy spend their time, and where they hope to experience community.”

There is no doubt that Jesus has called us to be students of our neighborhood. Before he ascended into heaven Jesus called his disciples (that’s us too) to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In Acts 1:8 he tells us that we will be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” You might say “where does that say anything about being a student of my neighborhood?” My question is how else are we to be a witness to our neighbors? Yes, Jesus certainly spoke to mass crowds and called seemingly random people to repent of their sin and trust him, but the majority of his work came with people he knew and had invested in. How can we know and invest in our neighbors when we don’t who they are or how they live?

By studying our neighborhoods and neighbors we can better understand the rhythms of our neighbors. We can better understand how they spend their time, what they enjoy doing, and what is important to them. We can discover ways to love them, build relationships with them, and ultimately share Jesus with them. This is the importance of studying your neighborhood. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re really not all that interested in listening to anyone share about anything (especially religious stuff) when they don’t know us or have shown that they care about us. But when people live like we do, value the things we do, and show they care for us…well, we’ll listen. Those are the people that  we want to hear from.

So are you a missiologist? Are you a student of your neighborhood? Do you know your neighbors? Do you know what they do for a living? Do you know what they enjoy to do? Do you know if they know Jesus? I ask these questions because God has challenged me to be a missiologist. I live in a condo complex next to probably almost 100 people. One person in particular I see everyday. His name is Matthew. He comes out on his steps, smokes a cigarette, and plays on his phone. I know he’s married with a child, but that’s about it. Why is that all I know about him? That’s all I know about him because I have not been a good missiologist. Do you know your neighbors? Are you friends with them? If you are, have you intentionally shared Jesus with them? I’m not just asking if they know you are a Christian. I’m asking if you have asked them if they know Jesus. I’m asking if you’ve shared how they can know Jesus. We can be great friends with our neighbors but that won’t save them from hell and separation from God. Only Jesus can do that. When we finally do get to know our neighbors how can we easily and openly share Jesus with them. Here’s a great article on The Resurgence about talking with your neighbors about Jesus. http://theresurgence.com/2012/01/16/7-tips-for-talking-with-your-neighbors-about-jesus.

This week learn about your neighborhood. Connect with your neighbors. I’m going to connect deeper with Matthew. How are you going to connect with your neighbors? Be a missiologist. Study your neighborhood. Get to know your neighbors. Share Jesus with your neighbors. Make disciples for Jesus.