Little Things I Like About My Family

Quite often I notice something peculiar about my family that makes me think, “That is really unique to them and it endears them to me.” So I hope to keep an ongoing log, since often these things come strike me as unique but I forget about them until they happen again. Maybe I will use this strategically at some point to show that I am paying attention, and also to express why I love each of them so much. I will update this as content is revealed.

Lacey

  • (02.06.17) My wife is very good at traditions that teach us something about what really matters in life. In the run-up to Valentine’s Day she decorates little sacks with our names on them. She then encourages us to place gifts in those sacks, or to write a note that expresses the reason why we love the one for whom the note was written. She also diligently uses an advent calendar to teach Bella the story of Jesus coming to earth. She is very thoughtful and very consistent. She is a Proverbs 31 woman.
  • (04.26.17) She is gentle, merciful and tender-hearted. But she is also learning to do and say hard things that need to be done and said. She continues to grow as a woman and person.

LP

  • (08.04.16) He has a sensitive heart. When he has done something wrong, he has come clean. It hurts him to confess, but he can’t keep his failures to himself. I thank God that he has a heart that makes it hard for him to sweep his sin under the rug. This is one of the greatest assurances I have that he is truly a Christian. He also has a soft heart for people.
  • (04.25.17) L hit his first homerun yesterday. He hit it to left field and drove in two runs. There was no error on the play and he motored around to score. He was very excited and his teammates jumped up on him to congratulate him. It was the last at-bat of the game and we won by rain-out.

EP

  • (09.08.16) Elijah came in from the first day of school so determined to work hard at Mathmasters – a timed math test the students do for awards. His teacher told the class they were going to have work hard and be on top of things. Elijah came home and promptly made flash cards, working diligently to master multiplication – over a weekend no less. He really is a hard and determined worker.
  • (02.09.17) I like that E doesn’t really care what his hair looks like. If it is sticking up in the back, no biggy. If I knew my hair was sticking up like Alphalpha, I would be anxious about what others think. Not E. He also doesn’t care if his pants look like he is ready for a flood. He does care about some things, like being late, but I like that he has a degree of not being overly preoccupied with superficial things.
  • (o4.26.17) The kid really is low maintenance in many ways. Not all, but most. He does require the coolest brand of clothes. He could really care less about getting new shoes. I have to almost make him go with us to try them on to buy them.

BP

  • (08.04.16) She wakes up talking. Seriously, she immediately begins to talk the moment she is conscious, and then she talks til she goes to bed. The first part is entertaining, but the rest can get tiring. A few times on trips she has shared a bed with me and I have actually observed her open her eyes, and immediately begin to talk about the most random things.
  • (04.26.17) I like it when she crawls up on my leg and lays back and watches TV with me. It’s about the only time she stays still.
  • (04.26.17) She really likes to pick flowers and give them to her mommy. She often sees one or several from the car and wants me to stop so we can pick them.
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One Of The Most Important Talks A Father Can Have With His Son

He will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray. Proverbs 5:23

This sentence is the concluding warning to a son about the very real danger of lust and adultery (Matthew 5:27-30). And as much as anything, it is a desperate and passionate plea for the well-being of a son(s). Read and listen carefully to the words of the teacher in Proverbs 5:1-7:

“Give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; that you may observe discretion and your lips may reserve knowledge. For this lips of the adulteress drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol. She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it. Now then, my sons, listen to me and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep away from her…”

Do you hear the concern, passion and urgency? Thousands of years later, has anything changed that we should be any less concerned than the writer of Proverbs?

Boy illuminated by the blue light of a computer monitor

My own boys are at the age for which this is a very real threat to their soul because of the easy access to porn. They are on devices regularly and even though we have rules and we monitor it closely, we can’t be with them every single second. If they have a device in their hands, or are with friends who have access to the world through the web, danger is lurking. If they go to the grocery store, there are magazine racks full of women clothed provocatively to entice a sell of something. If they go to nearly any movie, even animated ones, the potential for lust is there. Satan has lust-lures everywhere, and every male (not to exclude women, but I am addressing fathers and sons particularly) must determine in his mind not to let his impulses lead him to take the bait and swallow the sin of lust hook, line and sinker. Satan never stops fishing for the ill-prepared.

Exposure to pornography doubles in a generation

A point-blank, man-to-man question here: “Is your son prepared?”

Grandfathers, have you asked your son if he has had this talk with his son? Because if your son won’t talk to your grandson and lovingly warn him, someone needs to. It’s biblical. It’s needed. It’s loving. It’s the right thing to do. This needs to be done, and when it is done, it needs to be done again and again. Don’t be a coward to awkwardness. Do Proverbs 5 with your son and soberly say to him:

Lust and adultery will kill you, my son, so don’t go near it! But if you do, flee from it like Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife! It will cost you more than than a few moments of guilty pleasure. It will start small, but will numb you deeply, stealing your years. Pay attention son, I know! This is not something to be played with. This is deadly serious!  If you give in to it, you will live in perpetual guilt, and you will recoil from the love of God. It will make you withdraw from God’s word and God’s people. It will make you lazy, because porn is easy. You will not pursue your wife the way God intended. You will not value you her and you will treat God’s design of marriage with contempt. And generally, you will devalue women. You will treat them like objects instead of sisters who were created in the image of God. Son, don’t do porn! Flee from it! God’s way is better and more satisfying.

(9 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PORNOGRAPHY AND THE BRAIN)

Fathers and grandfathers, honor God’s protective word and do this. And do it sooner rather than later. As is true in most cases, prevention is better than treatment. Get ahead of this if you still can, but for the love God and your son, do something.

I’ve only know one man who said he never looked at porn, and he said he didn’t look because his dad told him not to. Dad, don’t underestimate the power of hard talks. God uses hard-talk honesty.  That doesn’t mean it will work perfectly for you and your son, but it’s better to have tried than to have disobeyed. Trust the power of God’s word and do Proverbs 5.

One last thought to the guilt-laden dad or grandfather. If you are failing or have failed, remember that Christ finished the work of redemption for your sin and failures. Turn from your sin(s) (repent), rest in the gospel (trust/believe) and let it move you to obey (fruit of assurance) as you may have the opportunity. If you have failed, be honest and make much of Jesus and your need of Him. Jesus gives us the freedom to confess and be authenticate with others.

Let’s be honest, men, we need to do this. May the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead make it so for the glory of God together, for the good of others and our eternal joy.

15 Good Years and Counting

 

Fenway

15 years ago today, at the building that Stillwater First Baptist Church meets in, Lacey and I made a “for better or worse, until death do us part” covenant. A covenant of God’s own sovereign and perfect making (Matthew 19:6).

When I do premarital counseling with couples I tell them: “I have never regretted marrying Lacey.” And I sincerely mean it. I have never had covenant remorse.

That’s not to say it has always been easy. We are two saved sinners who are in constant process of being sanctified of our selfishness by the power of the transforming Holy Spirit through the plan of marriage. One of the first things I realized after we publicly committed to each other was this: “I am a me-centered person. I am really selfish. I like things my way.” And by the way, I still can be very selfish, but Lacey has helped me see that, and by God’s grace He has used her to expose some of my blind spots and to help me be more like Christ. When we got married, I had little idea that God would use His plan of marriage to be so good to me (and hopefully her) in conforming me to the image of His son. In hindsight, it is surprising that this surprises me, because when we submit ourselves to God and each other – and they go together – then God uses marriage to make much of the gospel and make us more like Christ (Ephesians 5:21-33). If we miss the true purpose of marriage, we will make it about our happiness and we will be self-centered and there will be no joy in it. But when we give ourselves to God and another, it is in giving that we receive true and lasting joy. Yes, even when we give ourselves to very imperfect, often self-centered people, God uses it for His glory and our good.

But Lacey isn’t self-centered. She is giving and caring. That’s why the last 15 years have been so good. Lacey has submitted herself to her God and to her husband. I have tried to do likewise (Eph. 5:21). Here are some ways we have submitted to each other for the good of each other:

  • We have always tried to make Christ the center of our marriage, which means He is the boss of both of us. So when we have made a decision, we have always tried to do it in a way that submits to Christ and His word. So ultimately, we are trusting Christ and not each other for our greatest joy.
  • We have always tried to set clear expectations for partnership and ownership. For instance, we have a budget that helps us communicate on how our money will be spent. A budget is nothing more than a communication piece for expectations. Even if something seems obvious, it is good to say it so the other person can know what to expect.
  • We value each other’s strengths. Lacey is wonderfully hospitable and good at organizing to serve others. She is good at picking colors and helping me to be color-coordinated when I dress. She is much better than me at being optimistic and having faith. She is a better listener than I am. She has a sensitivity to worldly dangers that I don’t have. She helps me to be aware when I am insensitive to others.
  • We are intentional about liking each other and being friends. We still say please and thank you. We ask questions instead of making demands. We try to value each other’s likes – meaning she gladly lets me watch football and I  try to gladly let her watch Hallmark Movies (which are all the same). She likes to shop and I shop only out of necessity. I like to burn wood in SE Oklahoma. Lacey – not so much.
  • We have become good at admitting we are wrong and apologizing in a healthy way. I have had a lot of practice at this. We don’t go to bed angry, and when we apologize, we make a full apology. “Is being sorry enough?” 
  • We trust each other. I don’t ever wonder about whether Lacey  will forget the kids or spend more money than she should. I trust her fully to say and do the right things for our children, our family and our ministry together.
  • We support each other in dry seasons. There have been a few seasons in which both of us have been in life-funks. We trust each other enough to express it, and then we pray for each other and support each other with extra patience, even when it is hard.
  • We have goals that we are working on together. Discipling our children is our greatest joy and responsibility. We have financial goals we want to achieve. To do these things requires sacrifice for the greater good. Teamwork makes the dream work.
  • We pray together almost every night before we go to bed.
  • We know what marriage is and we love and trust God enough to adhere to His beautiful design. From the beginning marriage was God’s idea for one man and one woman to be committed to each other for a lifetime (Genesis 1:27 and 2:24; Mark 10:1-12). It’s not always easy, but it is, and will be worth it because God said so.

I like my wife and I have made the commitment to love her (do what is best for her according to God’s word) every single day. We are not perfect at marriage and it is not always easy, but because of God’s goodness to us through it, how can I regret any of it – for better or for worse?

It’s been a good 15 years, and if the Lord wills it, I hope for 15 more years of growth in marriage. Happy anniversary Lacey Prentice!

5 Group Best Practices

5 Groups are gender-specific groups of four to six people that meet weekly for the purpose of accountability and sharing honestly. These groups read through a book of the Bible as their curriculum and they meet for a defined period of time in order to multiply and replicate what has been modeled for them. (5 Groups – Questions and Answers)

I have led four generations of these 5 Groups and in doing so, through trial and error, I have been able to settle on some practices and habits that better facilitate our meetings. Here are several practices that have been helpful to the groups I have been a part of:

  • At a minimum, I have the group read the assigned passage at least twice before meeting.
  • I Send a weekly group text with a reminder about the text you are going to read. Sometimes I include a question of the week like: “How are you sharing the gospel with others?”
  • We always read the passage out loud together before we discuss it.
  • I make it known from the beginning that I will ask everyone to share an insight, a question and an application regarding the weekly assigned text. This provides accountability for reading the text prior to the meaning and it helps people to prepare.
  • I press for application, asking pointedly: “What does Jesus want you to do in light of the insight and questions you have about God’s Spirit-inspired word. This isn’t just about a great discussion or learning, it must also be about following Jesus.
  • I always make room for prayer. If our discussion has gone long when we meet, we still take the time to share prayer requests, and then we assign those requests to each person in the group, asking them to text the person they are praying for when they have prayed for the request.
  • I remind the group every few weeks why you are meeting with them. I will say to my groups that the reason we have designed these groups the way they are is so that they can do the same thing with someone else. I will sometimes say: “The reason I am doing this with you is so that you can do it with others.” I want to press the need for reproducing multiplication and I want them to be thinking who they might invite to join them when the next round of groups is started.

One of the things I like about 5 Groups is that they are simply this simple by design. All you need is a few faithful people, a plan to read a book of the Bible, some leader vulnerability for the sake of honesty and a consistent plan for a defined time.

What practices have worked best for you?

CH Spurgeon: Enter Christ, The Perfect and Ultimate Ark

Preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon from February 19, 1865 on Genesis 8:21:

It would be very instructive to dwell upon each point of the resemblance between Noah’s deliverance and the salvation of every elect soul. Noah enters the ark: there is a time when we distinctly enter Christ and become one with Him. Noah was shut in the ark so that he could never come out again till God should open the door: there is a time when every child of God is shut in, when faith and full assurance give him an evidence that he is indissolubly on with Jesus Christ; grasped in Christ’s hand  so that none can pluck him thence, hidden in Christ’s loins so that none can separate him from the love of God. Then comes the the flood: there is a season in the Christian’s experience when he discovers his own depravity; he is saved, he is in the ark, he is however still a sinner, still the subject of imbred lusts: on a sudden all these corruptions break up, the beat upon the ark, they assail his faith, they endeavor if possible to drown his soul in sin, but he is not destroyed by them all, for by the grace of God he is where other men are not, he is where he cannot be drowned by sin, he is in Christ Jesus. He mounts as the floods deepen; the more he feels the depth of his depravity, the more he admires the fullness of the atoning sacrifice, the more terrible the temptation the more joyous is his consolation in Christ Jesus, so he rises in holy communion towards his God…

The saved souls first act is, like Noah, to build an altar unto God and, as a priest, to offer sacrifice, which as it rises to heaven, is accepted because it is a memorial of Christ…

If you wish to rise above the flood of judgment that every sinner deserves, then enter Christ, the perfect and ultimate ark.

Tough Questions from Genesis 5:1-6:8

This past Sunday during the sermon (Genesis 5:1-6:8) it was raining like it was the days of Noah during the flood. At least that’s what it sounded like with our building’s metal roof. I could barely hear myself think so I decided to jettison the second half of the sermon, and when I did I promised a blog concerning the questions I was sure people were wondering.

Before I try to answer the questions of inquiring minds, I want to reiterate what I said on Sunday. It is fine to ask questions and wonder, but be careful that tertiary concerns don’t distract you from Jesus who is the fulfillment and end of all the scriptures (John 5:39; Ephesians 3:10; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). Yes, be eager to learn – be a sponge – but if it doesn’t help you follow Jesus with all your heart and mind, what good is to you in eternity? Always keep in mind that the author could have said many more things than were written, but the author whose writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit (John 20:30; 2 Timothy 3:16), was intending to tell you something about the triune and only true God. Sometimes we wonder about things in the text that the author did not mean to answer and we must be careful not to chase those rabbits too far down the hole of fruitless distraction. Therefore, we must always be careful to stay teachable but we must also say what we can say for sure so that we don’t get lost chasing speculations that have no firm answer. The Bible is not just a book of ancient curiosity, but a book of special revelation that points us to the way ,the truth and the life (John 14:6). We must keep our eyes on the intended authorial meaning, and we must make essential truth our rallying point for unity.

Now back to my promise and the reason you are likely reading. Genesis 5:1-6:8 is a faith-testing passage because it has verses that many have questions about, but it also has verses that may cause us to question whether we can trust the Bible.

Here are four questions that I suspect many people had from Sunday’s passage.

  1. How can I (we) trust the Bible when it says that people lived almost 1,000 years in Genesis 5:1-32?  To get the ball rolling, there are living things on earth that live a long time compared to the life expectancy of humans. For instance, Ming the deep-sea clam lived 507 years. I don’t know how humans verified that scientifically, but let’s give Ming the benefit of the doubt. A bristle-cone pine is capable of living up to 5,000 years. So there are living things that can live a really long time – for whatever that is worth. But humans living upwards to a thousand years? Seems more mythical than factual – right? By the way, can you imagine having a child when you are 815 years? I can barely keep up with my children at the age of 40. If you presuppose a human can’t live that long under any circumstance, then I suppose nothing will convince you otherwise. I suggest you stop reading here and get on to more important things because life is short these days. In the United States the life expectancy is a bout 80 years on average. However, in Genesis 3:22 Moses records the LORD God saying that had the man and woman taken from the tree of life and eaten, they would have lived forever. It appears then that never-perishing bodies was the original intent. But sin happened and death came just as promised (Genesis 2:17). Also remember Genesis chapter one, that God creates with awesome power by speaking the creation into being. Is it really so hard to believe that God can create a human that can live a thousand years if He can speak into being the universe in all its magnificent enormity? Would not a thousand years seem like a moment to an eternal God? Jeremiah 32:17 proclaims: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah is right in that if God can create, then is it too hard for Him to sustain eternally (Hebrew 1:1-4)? If you believe in God and believe He is there, do you not have enough faith to expect that He would be God-like and extraordinary in what He is able to do? Don’t you believe in a God for whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)? Perhaps you, or someone else might say, “Well, I just can’t believe in miracles like immortal elves (The Lord of the Rings) or virgin births (Matthew 1).” “Christians believe in the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus. Materialists believe in the virgin birth of the cosmos. Choose your miracle.” – (Glen Scrivener) One worldview says there is a cause and the other(s) says we don’t know – at least not yet. If there is a creator God, we have to give Him all the credit He deserves as the God for whom all things are possible. In no way am I suggesting that we should have a non-wondering, blind faith. We should observe the creation and wonder so that we might wander at God. Faith is based on knowledge. But having said that, why is it so hard to believe that an eternal God can be trusted to sustain people for hundreds of years on planet earth? If you believe the Bible, you do believe God will speak you into being for all eternity – right? 1,000 years doesn’t seem that long when you think about it that way.
  2. Who are the sons of God? I read no fewer than five commentaries and the one point they all agreed on is that this is greatly debated and there is no scholarly consensus. On the other hand, John MacArthur is quite sure he knows what it means and I find his arguments to be very compelling. You can read his sermon and argument here  DEMONIC INVASIONMacArthur argues that the “sons of God” (Job 38:7) are demons who possess men that results in child-producing relationships with the “daughters of men”. MacArthur says this is one of the reasons the people of that time were considered so wicked by the LORD God (6:5). Their activity was literally demonic. Some have pointed out that Matthew 22:30 suggests that angels are spirit-beings that are incapable of sexual relations and therefore the angel/demon hypothesis should be dismissed on these grounds, but MacArthur counters with the idea that these demons were simply inhabiting men who could reproduce. The other option is that the “sons of God” were simply the Seth-ites, or those from the line of Seth; Adam’s youngest son mentioned in Genesis chapter four. John H. Sailhammer contends that chapter six of Genesis is a summary description of people doing what people do. Namely, they were living life, flourishing (Gen. 4:17-22) and multiplying according to the blessing of God (Gen. 1:26-28). Jesus said in Matthew 24:38, “For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage…” There are other options, but these two seem to me to be the best. The question must be asked, however, what in these verses suggests that God’s merciful patience had come to an end (6:3)? Why would He say that they would have 120 more years to repent (6:3) and then judgment would come by way of flood? The demonic solution seems to be the best answer, but as for me, I am still undecided. But what can we say for sure? Here is my answer. With human flourishing came the flourishing of wickedness and the LORD God was grieved and ready to act in judgment. Wickedness was run-a-muck, and God had had enough.
  3. Who are the Nephilim? In Genesis 6:4, Moses tells us that they were on the earth when the sons of God were having children with the daughters of men, and that they were mighty men with legend-like reputations. The only other time the name Nephilim is used in the scriptures is Number 13:33 when the spies report what they saw in the promised land. “There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are  part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” From Numbers 13:33 we can conclude that the Nephilim were a large people – a giant-like people. Perhaps the spies and those who were with them as they plotted to enter the promised land remembered Genesis 6:4 and decided to describe the people they saw with the name: Nephilim? Keep in mind, that the only people who survived the flood, according to the Bible, were Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives. So the Nephilim the spies encountered, would not be the descendants of the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4. The most we might conclude then is that the Nephilim in Gensis 6 were large and mighty. But take note of what the text explicitly says about them: “Those were mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” Moses speaks of them as exceptional mortal men and he speaks of them in the past tense. Maybe they were those mentioned in the line of Cain (4:17-22) who were renowned due to the human flourishing that came about in their time. Nevertheless, twice he takes care to emphasize that they are men. They are not aliens. They are not part demon and part human. They are men. Why does Moses mention this? MacArthur suggests that some in his time may have thought they were super-humans because they were part demon and part human, and therefore, Moses is dismissing this myth and saying there is no such thing and the people he is leading shouldn’t think demon mingling will help them. There are angels and demons, and there are humans, but there are no demon-humans. One final suggestion. The Nephilim are those in the line of Cain, and their giant-sized bodies were the sign that God gave to protect Cain from retaliation for killing Abel (4:13-15). Remember though that Cain’s line would have been wiped out by the flood, since Noah was of Seth’s line. So the Nephilim of Numbers 13:33 were not  the result of God’s sign of protection to those who the spies saw. So what can we say for sure? The people Moses was writing to must have known what he was talking about, and whatever he meant to teach with this obscure mention of the Nephilim, we can be contextually sure that God was going to judge the world unless there was repentance.
  4. Was God admitting He was wrong to make man in Genesis 6:5-7? A few translations suggest that the LORD God was brought to repentance – a change of mind that leads to a change of action – because of the wickedness of the humans He created. Other translations say God was sorry, remorseful and that He regretted that He had made humans. Does this passage teach that God was wrong and He needed to change His mind in a repentance sort-of-way? The LORD God was patient for well over a thousand years before He declared that He was going to give mankind 120 years to repent before the flood delivered judgment (6:3). He desired that His crowning achievement repent. He felt anguish and disappointment that men and women had chose to go their own way instead of God’s way. These are the words that Moses chose to communicate the way the LORD God felt. One commentary described God’s response to wickedness this way: “God is not robot. We know him as a personal, living God, not a static principle, who while having transcendent purposes to be sure also engages intimately with his creation. Our God is incomparably affected by, even pained by, the sinner’s rebellion. Acknowledging the emotions of God does not diminish the immutability (unchangeable-ness) of His promissory purposes. Rather, His feelings and actions toward men, such as judgment or forgiveness, are always inherently consistent with his essential person and just and gracious resolve.” God does not repent of wrong, though He grieves and anguishes over it. What we witness in this passage is a personal God who has been deeply wronged by a close friend and so He experiences all the feelings that accompany betrayal. John MacArthur, who does not have a reputation of being a feely-kind-of-preacher, explained it this way: ‘”The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved in His heart.” This is what He felt. He felt sadness. He felt grief over what man had become. And the Lord expressed that sorrow in human terms. It was as if He was sorry He made them. Obviously God isn’t sorry in the sense that He was getting information He didn’t expect. He wasn’t sorry in the sense that it hadn’t turned out the way He thought it would, He knew exactly how it would turn out. But that didn’t make Him any less sorrowful and it didn’t make man any less guilty. And His sadness is not tied to some surprise, but His sadness is tied to the fact that He has no choice. His holiness demands destruction. It is necessary, it is inevitable, it is consistent with who He is. His holy nature has no choice but to punish him, and that brings Him grief. So we saw what the Lord saw and we read what the Lord felt.’ If God is incapable of wrong, then He is not perfectly holy, and if God is not perfectly holy, why do we have to repent and why are we judged for violated a infinitely righteous God. In Genesis 6:5-7, we get a snapshot of the LORD God who grieves over the just punishment that sin requires.

I don’t know if I have helped? I have tried to model thinking through these challenging questions in a biblical way, while challenging us to keep our eye on what the Bible is clearly teaching. It grows our faith in God to think through these things and be challenged by them. At the end of the day, you will either believe God, yourself or someone else. Trust Jesus Christ, the Resurrected One. The Bible, even the Old Testament, is ultimately about Him (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

A Building Expansion Update – Feb. 17

In recent days I have been asked on several occasions: “When is the project going to be finished?” Which means it is a good time to provide an update about time, money and other questions and comments. Below is the latest:

BU.02.17.16

  • Anticipated Completion. This morning I confirmed with the general contractor that they are hoping to be done by the end of April. This could change, but believe me when I say that everyone wants the project to be done as soon as possible. 
  • Budget and Fundraising. The good news is that we have enough money on hand to pay for the construction contract. 
  • We are still receiving and accepting funds. Thanks be to God that through the generosity of many, we have raised enough money to finish what we started as it relates to the contract (See next bullet point). However, in the process of making progress we occasionally find an unanticipated challenge that sometimes results in a change order and cost increase. This has been tricky as we try to join an existing structure with a new structure, and I have been told by experienced people that projects always require unforeseen changes. We are doing everything we can to minimize cost increases, but sometimes they are inevitable. When they are necessary, we try to find ways to offset the cost. For this reason, we would like to encourage you to continue to give as you are able – as some continue to do monthly.  In one sense, we have raised what we have needed to complete what we we began, but for the reasons above, we are still accepting gifts. If we have money left over, we will use it to repair our parking lot and provide furnishings (furniture) for our new space. 
  • What we are doing and what we have done. Remember that the contract includes 5,200 sq. ft. of new space (approximately $155 per sq. ft.) and just over 3,000 sq. ft. of renovated space (approximately $78 per sq. ft.) . Keep in mind also that we have renovated the children’s hall and added children’s space in the fellowship center. 
  • Where’s the main entrance? We anticipate the main entrance will still be the one at center of the south end of the building. On a rainy day, or for those who can’t walk long distances, the west entrance will be the best option. Those who need handicapped parking will be able to enter on the east side of the building. 
  • It’s Not a Pigeon Coop. Some have cleverly joked and asked whether the open space at the end of the building is a bird shelter or my new office. I assure you that it is neither. It is open, at least in part, to aesthetically break up what would otherwise be a very long stretch of metal building (See the bullet below about carpet color). The birds haven’t made this area a home yet, but that’s because most of them have been trapped inside the new construction space 🙂 

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  • The finished product. I recognize this has been a significant sacrifice for many people in many and various ways. For some it has been inconvenient. For others it has been hard not knowing all the details. I want to say I am thankful for the patience of everyone involved. I have been impressed by the overall unity of our church during this season. It is no small thing what we are accomplishing together – and hopefully we have glorified God together. I do want to say that when the whole thing is finished, I think we will be pleasantly surprised with all that we are getting for our efforts, unity and money (Click here to read more about what we are getting). I know that trying to make everyone happy regarding the look of a building is like trying to get everyone to agree on what color the carpet ought to be – it’s not going to happen. But I truly believe that the finished product will be something we all can appreciate in one way or the other. 

I always want to be as open and receptive as I can about the “what” and “why” of this project. If this update has caused more questions than answers, please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification and information. I am always happy to speak with you. 

 

In Their Own Words – Why Our Volunteers Serve In Children’s Ministry

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Why our children’s ministry volunteers serve in their own words.

 

Motivation matters. It is the fuel that drives a person to initially take action, and it is often the single greatest factor for sustaining an action. Some people never begin to serve, and many don’t continue to contribute, because they have never thought about why they do what they do.

Children’s ministry can be very rewarding, but it is not always easy and fun. It’s hard to work to love the little children that Jesus loves so deeply – especially when they are not your own. (And sometimes it is hard to love and serve your own.) Our local church has many volunteers who love and serve children every week, and here’s what our volunteers said when they were asked:”WHY DO YOU SERVE IN CHILDREN’S MINISTRY?” Read and be motivated.

  • Seeing kids smile and laugh is a joy and sharing Jesus with them is a blessing.
  • I love serving in Children’s Ministry because I get to teach and reach children that are not in my “friend” group.  It keeps me young and I love their openness and honesty when talking about Jesus.
  • I love serving in children’s ministry because they are the future.  They exemplify child-like faith more than anyone I know.  Children provide examples of trust, love and eagerness for the gospel.  I want to have an impact on children because they are the future hands and feet of Christ.
  • From working in the nursery, I’ve enjoyed getting to know my fellow workers and learn baby tips and tricks from them.  I also like loving on the babies and giving their parents a little break.
  • I serve in Children’s Ministry because I didn’t hear the gospel until I was 17 and I want to make sure kids hear it before then and know the love of Jesus.
  • I love babies so I serve in the nursery the 2nd Sunday of every month.  God has given me the opportunity to serve.  It’s a privilege and honor to serve God in this way.  I am thankful and grateful.
  • I serve in our children’s ministry because I’ve been blessed by my own kids involvement and I want to give back!  (Plus, kids are fun!)
  • God called me to work with His children and I love it.
  • It is important!  It is effective!  I get great joy from working with these kids!
  • I love to see the kids grow up and then they start to serve in children’s ministry.
  • I love children and I believe God lets me take care of these little ones.  I enjoy meeting the parents.  Without this option, I would just be another member.
  • I started as a sub for Ronnie & Stephanie.  Now that I am permanently Ronnie’s helper, I enjoy it.  I have always loved working with children (former teacher).  The Lord has given me a love for them.  I look at the K-2nd grade class as “my kids.”  I love building relationship with them so I can share Jesus.
  • I serve in the nursery to provide love to babies and a time mothers can go and listen to God’s word without concern.
  • I serve with children because I know the outcome children’s ministries can bring from my own experience.  Also, I just love kids!
  • Children are precious and important.  Coming to know Jesus at a young age is a gift.  I want that for my kids and all kids we serve!
  • I serve Eagle Heights children because I am a child-convert (at 6 years old).  God saved me at a young age and I want children to know He can save them, too.
  • I serve in the children’s ministry for a way to give back to Eagle Heights for all they’ve given me.
  • The children always make me laugh and it reminds me of the joy we have in Jesus! J
  • I started working in the 2-3 year old room because that’s where there was a need and I was here both services since my husband plays music in church.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know both the kids and their families.  There is so much growth between the ages of two and four and I love seeing them grow.
  • I love to see the kids learn.  I love to see them grow one step closer to knowing Christ.  I love to plant tiny seeds in their hearts.  I love the kids and I want them to know Him!!
  • I get fulfillment in watching and helping transform “rowdy”, unfocused, young minds into those that strive to memorize verses and begin to seek to know God and desire to learn His words.
  • I enjoy caring for the kids while their parents learn and worship in the service.
  • I love learning alongside the kids and being reminded of the richness of the simple gospel truths.  I love being able to disciple them and teach them some of the life-changing things I have learned about following Jesus.
  • I enjoy working with babies and serving the parents of small children.
  • It is such a joy and honor to have conversations with children about Jesus and share the gospel with them.
  • I love getting to love on the little ones that come to our church.  I also feel like it is a good way to get to know other church members and to serve the body that I am part of.
  • The love that has been poured out on my children in this children’s ministry has been monumental.  I serve because I want to pour that love back out to other children.  There is no greater joy than watching children come to know Christ.  If I can be a small part in helping with that, I will count that a blessing!

We are thankful to all our volunteers who love and serve children.

Thanks to Jill Daugherty (Children’s Director) and Becca White (Sunday Morning Coordinator) for leading our children’s ministry and sharing this with us.

Social Media – What Does It Reveal About You?

Have you ever wondered what your social media habits say about what you value and worship? What is the object of your social media song?

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CS Lewis rightly claimed: “We delight to praise what we enjoy.” It is an inescapable reality that we are proclaiming and praising creatures. Everyone ultimately values someone or something. We all are worshiping creatures. And what we say and defend through post and tweet is likely an accurate indicator of what we truly value and worship.

It is true that not all of us are consistent social media contributors by way of sharing. For some of us the worship indicator might be who we follow, what we click on and read, and how often we check  our wall or feed.

So let your social media trail be a spiritual litmus test. Go back and review your posts and evaluate your viewing habits, and then ask: “What do I value, and what does social media say about me?”

If you are brave enough to take this social media challenge, you might find yourself saying: “If only I loved and valued Jesus and His Kingdom as much as…”

  • My politics
  • The 2nd Amendment and my right to bear arms and self-defense
  • My children and their activities
  • Entertainment
  • My world travels
  • My animal(s)
  • Killing animals (hunting)
  • My wittiness
  • My personal ministry kingdom
  • Getting “like(s)” and self-promotion
  • Sports
  • Weather
  • Winning arguments
  • Having to know what everyone is doing/saying
  • Having to let everyone know everything I do and say
  • My selfie fetish
  • My favorite recipe/food

Please understand what I don’t mean. This isn’t a polemic against social media itself. Social media is amoral, and can actually be redeemed and used to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). But frankly, it is deeply troubling that more Christians don’t maximize social media in an eternal and redeeming way.

If we can find the time to post a Vine about the look Leonardo DiCaprio gave Lady Gaga at the Golden Globe Awards (It was an awkwardly funny moment, BTW), then surely we can proclaim Jesus and/or advocate for the life of the unborn, or post something that reflects a deep and burning desire for His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Are you maximizing social media for God’s glory, the good of others and your lasting joy?

So post your family pictures, your witty thoughts, the clever memes with Steve Harvey giving false hope, that incredible sports moment, or whatever else you deem worthy – and I will continue to join you. But ask yourself: What does my social media consumption and contribution say about me and the Christ who saved me? Does that which I proclaim show that I truly value and enjoy Jesus above all else?

Is Jesus your treasure? Your social media habits may likely tell you so.

My Preaching Freak-Out Moment

Within the first minute of the sermon on Sunday, I was freaking out between my ears. Outwardly everything was normal, but on the inside I was in full panic mode – at least for a moment.

Why?

Our time of singing together was coming to an end, so I bent over to pick  up my Bible off the chair next to me. Our worship leader began to pray, which was my cue to get ready to preach. While she was praying I slowly walked up to the podium, just as I do most every Sunday, and opened my Bible to organize my Bible, notes and bulletin/information guide.

But something was wrong. I observed that I had both pages of the sermon, but something was missing. Or were things just out of order? Nope, this was a real preacher’s crisis: I could not find my introduction:

Take your Bible and turn to Acts 14 and get ready to turn to Matthew 18

  • My name is Brent, I am one of the pastors of this local church
  • We are glad you are here and you are welcome to be here, no matter who you are and what you have done
  • At the end of this preaching time, we will have a response time – meet us in the back.
    • May God’s word move you to embrace God’s people as you surrender to Him, because He surrendered His life for us.

The intro is practically the same every week. It reminds me to introduce myself by name to our guests. It’s how I start every sermon, but it wasn’t there and the worship leader was about to say, “Amen.” What has happened and what am I going to do?

And then I realized what I had done, I had taken a duplicate copy of page two of my notes. In the process of fine-tuning and transferring notes I had two pages of the same notes. I had thrown my introduction away!

Truly, I was having a moment of preaching-panic.

What do I do? Should I just be honest and call timeout and tell everyone what has happened and I need to go to the recycle bin to get my first page of notes? Sometimes people need to know us preachers are human. I could ask them to pray – to pray I find my notes. And by the way, I worked really hard on that introduction. Do I just jump to the notes I do have, surprising everyone with a short sermon?

I have to make a decision. I have to say something. What do I do?

I have already preached this sermon three times to an empty room as a part of preparation, so I could try to preach the first page by memory. I am about to find out if my preparation has been adequate. I decide to go for it.

Here is the link to the sermon audio (A Defense of Church Membership and A Plea for Committed Community) and here is a copy of the first page of my notes:

sermon

Take a listen and look to see how I did. I left off a few things and mis-remembered a few references, but all in all, it wasn’t too bad.

What would you have done?

I have been regularly preaching for seven years and this is the first time that has happened and I hope it never happens again.

And by the way, pray for your pastor. He sometimes loses his notes.