How will your marriage be OR How is your marriage now?

Book Review:  Ready to Wed by Dr. Greg & Erin Smalley

The Good:

Marriage Counseling 101.  In the next year, I’m planning to add and revise some of my pre-marital material.  And guess what book will have a big part of that revision.  Yep, this one right here…excellent pre-marital counseling advice, material, and exercises.

I Got Homework.  Although this book is written for those preparing for marriage, I found myself completing many of the homework assignments on my own and with my wife.  So marriage veterans, don’t think for a minute this book will not benefit your marriage.

Who Wrote This Chapter?  Within the “12 Ways to Start a Marriage You’ll Love”, there is a new author for each chapter.  Why is this a good thing?  Well, it allows the book to have varied personalities and styles to make the book more enjoyable.

The Bad:

Didn’t I Hear This Before?  Although the different authors can be a good thing, the downside is there is opportunity for repetition and slight contradictions.  Some of the opinions of the authors may differ somewhat and can hurt the continuity of the book a little.  None of the contradictions are drastic, but there are small ones here and there.

Shameless Plugs.  One author seems to use their chapter as a platform to promote their book over and over.  It would be like if I mentioned my book “Bottom Line”, which is a devotional for teens & young adults, on this blog.  Or if I would put the reader to www.bottomlinedevotional.com for book information and purchase options in a book review blog.  But I would never do that.

Weak Sauce.  The majority of the book was Biblically sound.  However, there was at least one author who seemed to not like the word “sin”.  It’s OK to call it that!  Instead of calling the problem “pride”, words were used like “buttons pushed”.  Come on, don’t come at me with that weak sauce!

The Grade:  B+.  I really enjoyed this book for its variety, meaty advice & counsel material, along with solid Biblical principles.  Occasionally there would be some repetition or weak fluff marital direction, but that was rare.  It was a great read and encouragement for those preparing for marriage, and those that tied the knot years ago.

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Can I Really Be Used by God? Me?

Read Mark 5:1-20 – This is becoming one of my all-time favorites in the Gospel, love this story`

Background

In the timeline of Mark, Jesus had just got done sleeping on the very first water bed in the bottom of the boat…before calming the storm.  (Get it, because there was water in the bottom of the boat, and Jesus was sleeping, oh forget it.)  He then steps off the boat and is immediately greeted by a demon possessed man.

Demon-Possessed Man

This man had incredible strength – no chains or shackled could hold them down.  It says these metal restrains were broken into pieces.  Dude was strong.  This poor man suffered day & night – crying out and cutting himself with stones

The Demons

Just like earlier in Mark (1:24), we see the order of power.  These demons knew right away who Jesus was, and declared His deity.  The demons, who Jesus was calling out, asked Jesus’ permission to enter the pigs.

The Change

Verses 15, 18 – Look at the contrast here.  This man goes from screaming & cutting himself to asking to follow Jesus.  I love it.  He was so excited to be free, he wanted to follow Jesus wherever he went. He was like, “Where can I get an application to be a disciple?”  “Hey Peter, scoot over…John you mind if I sit there?”  Then Jesus said, “Whoa, whoa…now hold on a minute”…obviously appreciating his new enthusiasm.  And then gives the demon possessed-man some basic instructions.

Jesus’ Basic Instructions

Here’s what I want you to see…Look who Jesus sends out with the Good News:

  • A man who was possessed by thousands of demons.
  • A man who was out of his mind
  • A man who would scream day and night, cutting himself with stones in a graveyard
  • He was an outcast to society

And what does Jesus tell him to do?  Go tell the people of this city how the Lord has changed you from the inside-out.  Tell others about God’s mercy.  And when this man told others about these things…what happened?  At the end of our passage – it says people “marveled”.

3 things to remember from this passage:

  1. Never underestimate a life changed by Jesus. No matter who you are, what you have done…God can use you to do MARVELOUS things.
  2. Never doubt a life can’t be changed by the “Son of Most High”. The change is remarkable, people will notice, and God can change anyone He wants to.
  3. If Jesus told a demon-possessed man to be the carrier of Good News…what does that mean for us. These basic instructions of “Tell others about how your life has changed and share about His mercy”.  These are instructions for us too, and we need to be sharing, and watch other marvel at the Good News.
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Quick Baptism Tutorial

A few years ago, I asked my pastor to give me some tips on Baptism.  With my inexperience in my back pocket, and some butterflies in my stomach…I thought it would best if I just posted a little cheat sheet in the baptistery to help jog my memory in case my mind went blank while standing waist deep in water.  Here are some instructions my pastor gave me for my cheat sheet…

Pre-Baptism Instructions:

  • Pastor: Dark Pants, Nice Dark Shirt, sandals, towel (don’t forget the extra pair of underwear, that is an awful rookie mistake)
  • Individual: Wear Pants, Bring Towel
  • Instruction to individual: Bend Knees, Hand cover nose (w/ handkerchief), grab wrist of pastor
  • Inform: Time of service & Changing rooms

Baptism:

  • Help individual in, and usher them to center
  • Show video of testimony (suggested for: clarity of testimony, sound quality, and nervousness of person)
  • Ask: “Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior?
  • Say these 3 things:
    • “It is upon your profession of faith in Jesus Christ and in obedience to Him…
    • “I baptize you my sister/brother in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
    • (Dip all the way into water) “Buried in the likeness of His Death and (Raise up from water) “Raised in the likeness of His Resurrection”
  • Cheer, Vote in New Member, Pray
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What does Jesus’ ascension have to do with you?

the_ascent-content-2-still-4x3In Acts 1:8-11, the ascension of Jesus Christ takes place.  Something special happened as Jesus gave his final instructions and shot off into the clouds.  What was it?  What does this event have to do with you?

When Jesus ascended to heaven, an eternal hand-off from Jesus to the disciples. 3 years of public ministry had come to an end and now it is up to them.  And now it is up to us.  In John 16, Jesus said it would be to the disciples advantage that he would leave…because then…you would get the Holy Spirit.

Let me ask you this – I understand this was a promise for the disciples…but is this a different Holy Spirit? A different source of power than the HS that lives in us?  Are we to be a witness to a different Jesus?  We have the power to be a witness for Jesus in our neighborhood, our community, our workplace..and we as a church are giving to missions, some of us are answering the call to missions to allow the Gospel to go to the ends of the earth.

If a loved one held your hand before they passed, and they gave you final instruction… would you listen? People, this was Jesus’ last instruction before leaving earth.  So church…ARE YOU? Are you being a witness to others?  Your mission is to spread the Gospel, the message of Jesus…He came, He died, He rose again…and He left – and has chosen us to spread Word about Him, His love, and His Salvation.  Will you?

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God saved me, now what?

Before I get to the point…watch this incredible story of a Dad and his son.

You have experienced Amazing Grace if you have salvation.  And you have been given new eyes, a new focus, new meaning…a new life.  You have new sight.  You have been looking at the ground all this time…at this world hoping to find happiness, joy, and fulfillment.  Now, you can look up, and you can SEE.  You have been given new life.  From death to life.

And with these new eyes, How dare we look down on anyone else in the sense that we are any better – No, if anything we should have a better understanding of where they are – and where they could be!  It should break our heart – motivate us to share how they could be rescued, delivered from death to life.

To sum up…you have salvation, NOW WHAT?  Live a life as if you have been given a new life (because you have), and share this new way of living with those that have not experienced it.  LIVE & SHARE!

This is a clip from this sermon.  Clink on the link to hear more.

 

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Need help with parenting?

That seems like a silly question.  Couldn’t all parents use at least a little help with parenting.  Paul Tripp wrote a book called “Parenting”.  You know what it is about?  Parenting.  Seriously though, it’s more than that.  This book has a dynamite combination.  Sometimes when you combine two things, it’s not so great.  Like hot dogs and mayonnaise, not what the doctor ordered.  Or how about stripes and plaids?  Gasoline and an open flame?  These are all disasters waiting to happen.  But when you combine a parenting book with the Gospel, you get a must read.

Book Review:  Parenting:  14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul Tripp 410ppsax0fl-_sx328_bo1204203200_

The Good:

Don’t Skip the Intro.  What a way to set up a book!  Like a great pregame from a coach, the author’s motivation in the opening pages is impeccable.  Not sure about the book, read the intro and you’ll be asking “Where do I sign?”

Gospel-Centered.  The author’s web page suggested his concern of parenting self-help books, and even his previous parenting books being held in more importance than God’s Word.  So, the author goes all out in taking the Gospel into parenting, rather than the other way around.  And he does a masterful job of instilling Gospel principles into everyday parenting.  It’s not too over the top, the “porridge” tastes just right.

That Didn’t Take Long.  Read a chapter and set a timer…it won’t be very long until you are tested with these practical principles from God’s Word.  These chapters are filled with practical lessons, that are both challenging and convicting.  And it doesn’t take long for you to be tested on the material.

The Bad:

This, This, and This.  The author has a certain style.  He like a particular mode of writing.  The book is filled with a specific literary technique.  I was trying to be subtle there, but the author tends to lean on a repetitive style of writing, and enjoys repeating a phrase in different ways.  Most of the time, it is very effective and needed, but every once in a while the list just seems redundant.

The Grade:  A.  For any phase of parenting, this book is a must read.  Read it before having kids.  Read it when you are in the heat of the battle.  Read it as a grandparent.  Suggest it to friends.  Suggest it in parent meetings.  It’s a must read.  It goes to the heart of both the parent and the child, and it does not let go.  It is enlightening, frustratingly challenging, spiritually uplifting, directionally on target, and never wavers from the truth of God’s Word.  It is a must read.

 

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7 Things I Learned at the National Youth Ministries Conference

 

This past week I was able to attend the Vision for Youth – National Youth Ministries Conference.  Clarks Summit University hosted speakers from all over, training youth workers and pastors in youth ministry.  Here are a few of the highlights of what I learned:

  1. PTA – Looking for a way to serve the local schools…how about joining the PTA? What a great idea!  Why didn’t I think of that?
  2. Community – Build a community around myself to challenge, keep me accountable, and encourage growth.
  3. Technology – Use Animoto.com for PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Elements as a cheap way to edit videos, graphics for PowerPoint from church media drop, Graceway Media, or church media spot.
  4. Youth Leaders – Be intentional at using your leaders in a way that uses their gifts.
  5. Reach out – Be willing to reach out into your community. The mission field is growing, and it is often not coming into your church building.
  6. Calling – Don’t just seek your potential, but your calling in ministry. When you do, that’s when mighty things can happen.
  7. Junior High – As it says in this video, this is a key time for spiritual development. Make the middle school years a priority in your church.

Maybe you can attend next year!  Check out the ministry of vision for youth, and see if they can of help to you in your youth ministry… http://vfyouth.org/

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Do You Need the Gospel Everyday?

Book Review:  New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp51yvuw5hol-_sx331_bo1204203200_

The Good:

Biblical.  Imagine that!  A devotional that is actually devoted to God’s Word.  Not only does it provide additional Bible reading for each devotion, there was often passages of Scripture weaved in and out of each page.  The Bible was the foundation for the writing.  This was not simply thoughts of a writer for a daily pick-me-up.  This was a devotional written how it should be.

Honest.  Love the honesty of the writer throughout.  Often, he would reveal how he fell short of the exact content of the devotional.  The raw, honest struggles that were revealed allows the reader to connect with the author in a more personal way.

Deep.  You won’t need a shovel to get depth on this one, but you may need to take a break before you climb out of the deep well of thinking.  Man, this dude brings it in theological constructs, Biblical insight, and Christian life application.  Good thing this is a daily devotion and can be taken one day at a time.

The Bad:

Lists.  There is a pattern, outline, array, summary, framework…I think you get the point.  The author enjoyed lists.  He would often list out a description of something in multiple ways, and the reader had to wade through the list to get to the point.  The good part of this is many times those lists contained some real gems that needed underlined and examined.

The Grade:  A.  One of my all-time favorite devotionals.  Seriously, with the depth, insight, and challenge…Paul Tripp brings the thunder to help produce real growth and knowledge of your spiritual condition.  It is worth your time and is valuable to your quiet time with the Lord.