A wife watches a cheesy, action movie with her husband.
A husband goes on a walk with his wife at the end of a busy day.
And on and on. What do all of these have in common? They are examples of showing love by enjoying something that another person loves. Oh, the sister, the wife, and the husband may very well enjoy Barbies, actions movies, and walks, but in these instances, they are playing, watching, and walking purely to show love.
What the other person values, they will value, because that is loving as they want to be loved.
This is not an easy skill to learn. Many a child, and even adult, have said, “I don’t care about that. I don’t want to do it.” And that may be true. People we love have interests that we don’t have. But nothing shows love to another like spending time doing what the other wants to do.
It is a skill long lost.
It is a passion that needs to be revived.
At first, it is discipline.
In the long run, it is an act of love.
How can you love what someone else loves today to show them you care?
Your joyful presence will say more than many words.
I have been blessed with an amazing father and father figures throughout my years. And while every man sits under the influence of his father (good or bad), I know that I would not be who I am without their influence, and by God’s grace, I am thankful. But in less than a 4 year period of time, my father, my mentor, and my father in law have all passed.
I have written much since Thom Duncan passed in 2012. Truly a great, talented, Godly man, “Sam,” as I affectionately called him, was amazing. An accomplished pianist, interior designer, floral designer, teacher, and pastor, Sam had more gifts than most collections of people could hope for in a span of generations. When he died, I could not remember 5 arguments between us, though the few that came to mind were memorable. I was corrected by him countlessly, but the arguments were either rare or have faded from memory. In an amusing re-telling, one of our more serious conflicts was resolved by theologian RC Sproul when I convince RC to say hello to my dad from the PCA General Assembly floor from a cell phone. Sam was an amazing father in that he wanted so many things for me but allowed me to pursue them at my own pace and with little meddling. When I was ordained as a pastor, it was one of the happiest days of his life. At his passing, I could only look back and reflect on his unwavering love and approval of me despite my many sins and flaws.
In 2013, my mentor, Terry Traylor, passed. He was the closest to Superman as any man that I ever met. Wise beyond his years, respected by nearly everyone he knew, and ridiculously strong (physically and spiritually). While I wouldn’t have been a Christian without my father, I definitively know that I would not have been a pastor had not Terry confidently said, “I think you should be a church planter. Let’s get you into seminary.” Terry gave me ear anytime I needed despite his insane schedule. He gave me wisdom, often without even realizing that he was giving it (and without me even realizing I was receiving it). Like my dad, I had few conflicts with Terry, though the few were epic. Unlike my dad, his death was sudden. 24 hours prior to his passing, I had a lunch and a bull session with Terry that was filled with his usual big laughs and big wisdom. At his funeral, all I could do was confess that I didn’t deserve a father figure like him. Even in death, Terry displayed grace.
And on New Year’s Day of this year, my father in law, Jack, passed. Now, Jack and I knew how to fight, but we also respected and loved each other. While Sam and Terry entrusted me with mission, Jack entrusted me with his daughter, my wife, Amy. Because of that, I have to think Jack had more faith in me than the others. There were times we wanted to strangle each other, and on Christmas Day, I literally had to chest compress him back to life after a heart attack. But just like Sam and Terry, I know that I would not be a pastor without Jack’s influence. Soon after meeting, he encouraged the bible study I was leading to come under his church’s accountability. He asked me to lead worship in singing at his church alongside Amy. He loaned me countless books, and I do not have a number of the John MacArthur tapes he gave me. Even his funeral inspired me. I walked away thinking, “I want to be more Godly.” His passing hurts as it turns the page onto yet another stage of my life, as well as my wife’s. She could easily write, “I am a fatherless daughter,” as she shared similar relationships with all 3 men.
So, at the young age of 45, my formative mentors have passed. Others are beginning to take their place, and I am growing into the role of being father figures for younger men. To my dread, I pray that I can father the young men who marry my daughters.
But my true comfort is this verse from Galatians:
Galatians 4: 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
No believer in Jesus is fatherless. In fact, the fatherhood of the Christian is inseparable and more intimate than any earthly relationship. Our faithful brother, Jesus, has made us children of God, and the Spirit of God moves in our heart (my heart) to cause me to cry out, “Abba Father!” – the most intimate name of God of all. And now, because of that inseparable security, we live not as slaves to sin or this world, but as heirs to God.
Thank you Sam, Terry, and Jack. I know that I am the man that I am and that I am set on a course that is far more joyous and great than any other that I would have chosen.
In the book of Ezra, as God returns His people from a time of exile, we find that God sends thousands of them back home to begin rebuilding the temple. In chapter two, there are 70 verses of names. These are the people who are sent back to start that difficult work.
Why in the world would God include 70 verses of almost unpronounceable names?
Well, determining why or why not God would do something is a dangerous game. However, we can take away a couple of important principles. Including these names shows the value and dignity that God gives each individual as they make up the people of God. In the midst of those thousands, God wanted the individuals and families to be known. God was working among His people, but He was stirring individuals first. And we give those names honor and dignity in their reading.
The inverse is true as well. Yes, we are saved into a personal relationship with Jesus as we cry out in faith for the forgiveness of sin. That personal relationship is also part of the larger work that God is doing within the church.
But what application should this have for our worship? Worship removes our anonymity.
No Christian, no child of God, should ever be nameless or faceless in the church. The church should be the one place that understands that each person is valued. As any person enters our doors or enters into our communities, they should be treated with dignity, and they should be on the progression of being known and known well – not as a number, but as a person.
Does this mean that larger churches are getting it wrong as they have so many thousands to get to know? No, reading the book of Acts and seeing the thousands coming to know Christ would argue against that. However, the church (and especially our worship) should be about each person becoming known as they are known by Christ. We should reach out across socioeconomic (and pretty much any other lines) to know each other well. So, big or small, the church’s emphasis must be about bringing people to deeper intimacy with Christ first and then deeper intimacy within the church.
These things must be grounded in a worship of Jesus creating a thankfulness for His work that draws us out of the loneliness and deserts of our lives. Worship should be an eye to eye experience of the many becoming one in lifting up the name of Jesus. That should mean that the focus of our worship cannot be about us. The focus of our worship must be on the name of Jesus as He alone is what unifies us. No mission, no takeaway, no benefit will ultimately unify us and remove our facelessness. Jesus alone will give us a true name and a true face.
A lonely person among the people of God should be an oxymoron.
We are known well by Christ as we cry out to Him. Our worship should be moments where we engage each other in an act of unity, and all the other elements that go into the functions of the church should move people towards deeper relationships under the name of Jesus.
You may ask, “But aren’t there portions of the service that do create isolation and alienation like the Lord’s Supper?” In our next post in our worship series, we will wrestle with how a worship service can speak to both believers and non-believers without creating an unnecessary alienation for those who don’t believe.
This is our second post of worship observations. You can find our first here. This week, we talk about when things don’t go well – a common challenge for young churches.
At Evident Grace, we have been meeting for a year and a half. For church planters and church plants, a year and a half feels like five regular years. Each Sunday, you feel like you are taking giant leaps forward as you become more efficient in everything from setup/takedown, greeting, music, children’s ministry, etc.
And then there are the Sundays where you feel like you take giant steps back. It feels like you have never met for worship before. No one seems to get anything right.
Here is my encouragement, fellow planters and young churches: While each good Sunday feels like five years ahead, an off Sunday is not a five year setback. Let me give a painful example.
This past Sunday, we were launching a new series, “Journey to Worship – a Study of Ezra”. Excitement built fairly well, and several folks joined in to help with a decent amount of web/social media promotion. While I am given to hyperbole like many church planters, I could realistically say that folks were pretty excited.
But things didn’t go as planned.
For some reason, from the onset, I stumbled over my words. Apparently, I said that, “Christ was circumcised for our sins.” While true in one sense that was far away from my wanting to say that He was crucified for our sins.
I was leading our music as well. Leading a crowd in singing is something that I have comfortably done for over 25 years now, but apparently, comfortable was not yesterday. I couldn’t get into a groove no matter what. In fact, the team finally stopped one song and just began again.
My sermon was never was comfortable either. I felt rushed. I felt the need to over-explain everything, and I continually lost the ability to pronounce most every world.
We made plans to take the Lord’s Supper, but our elder wasn’t able to make it, so the elements remained lonely on the table – something we had to explain to our congregations and visitors.
I left assured that no one was ever going to show up ever again.
But here is the encouragement to my heart and to yours, young planter and young congregation. Our worship is not about professionalism and perfection. While starting songs together and ending them together is preferable, while a commanding sermon delivery is helpful, neither of those are necessary for worship. Worship must always be about grace. Worship must always be about the lifting up of Christ. Grace and Christ equal worship. Preciseness is a bonus.
Yes, you seek to improve in every area. You learn from things that go both well and poorly. You practice and study more. You offer areas that continue to struggle to God in prayer. And then you give thanks for what happens.
So, this week, we will work towards getting the songs right and pronouncing the words correctly knowing that Christ will once again meet us on Sunday. If we make mistakes, we haven’t stepped back five years.
Christ will be lifted up, Christ will be honored, and we will be transformed. We will wait for eternity for mistake free worship.
D.A. Carson lists 8 motivations of the Gospel appeal of Christ. In Tim Keller’s “Center Church”, he combines and simplifies them into 6. I felt they were incredibly helpful for us as a young church as our unified desire is and must be proclaiming the Gospel to each other while continually sharing the Gospel with those who do not yet know Christ.
In our last sermon, we also addressed a broader approach in speaking about the Gospel than just merely “turn or burn”. While this list is by no means all-encompassing, I think it hits the mark pretty well. Tell me what you think.
When sharing the Gospel…
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of fear of judgment and death: Hebrews 2:14-18 speaks about how Christ delivers us from the bondage of fear and death.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of a desire for release from the burdens of guilt and shame: Galatians 3:10-12 speaks of our curse of the law.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of appreciation for the “attractiveness of truth”: 1 Corinthians 1 speaks of the wisdom of the cross being the consummate wisdom to be known.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God to satisfy unfulfilled existential longings: In John 4, Jesus speaks of being living water to those who are thirsty.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God for help with a problem: Carson calls this a “despairing sense of need”. The woman with a hemorrhage (Matthew 9) and the two men with blindness (Matthew 9) approached Jesus with practical needs.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God simply out of a desire to be loved: Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ humility, tenderness, wisdom, His love, and grace draw people like a magnet.
I hope this is helpful and even inspiring to you to speak of Jesus to someone who doesn’t know Him yet. I also hope it is appealing to any who do not yet know Jesus who are reading this.
While I’m likely to issue a press release every time Evident Grace twitches, and I’ve worn all of you out on Facebook every time I write a new book, I am not typically issuing updates about my health. However, since a few of you have heard about what’s going on with me, I thought I would send out a prayer update.
To begin with, I’m fine, but the doctors have diagnosed me with an epileptic condition as I am having what they call “silent seizures”. As always, things like this work best in story.
Last year, around the time my father (Sam) passed away, I began have pauses. A pause is when all of a sudden, in the middle of a conversation or even driving down the road, I just stopped talking. I couldn’t talk if I wanted to say anything. As many of you know my pace, pausing is not something I typically do. But if I was in the middle of a conversation, I would all of a sudden just stop. I felt the moments coming on, and I was aware that I was having them. 10-15 seconds later, they would go away.
In October of last year, I had a yearly checkup and told my doctor about them. After hearing that I had lost both of my parents over a five month period, that I was switching jobs, and that I was moving out of the state, he chalked them up to fatigue and stress. So, I did too.
But over the past few months, these pauses began to increase in frequency. I was having them at least twice a week. And, on an occasion or two, I spoke some pretty non-sensical things that I didn’t remember saying. I even had them in two sermons which most of the congregation chalked up to a movement of the Spirit or perhaps a frustration with the crowd.
We have a doctor at Evident Grace, and I asked him to keep an eye out in case I ever had one around him. He was at one of those sermons where I paused, and he recommended that I see a local neurologist that he respected.
So, about a month ago, I had my first appointment, and the doc suggested that I have an EEG and an MRI (one of those strange acronyms that begins with a consonant yet demands an “an” before it). The MRI came back negative, so we know that it’s not a tumor (said in my best “Kindgarten Cop” voice). However, the EEG showed some brain abnormalities on the left hand side. The doc has prescribed some anti-seizure meds, and they are working so far. They do, however, make me incredibly sleepy, and this is to be expected for the first month as my body adjusts.
So, that’s where we stand. I may have more tests to go as the types of seizures I’m having are rare in adults, but the primary plan right now is to get used to the meds and keep track of any more moments that I might have.
I appreciate your willingness to read this diatribe, but I do desire your prayers. These moments have been incredibly stressful to Amy and the girls. I’m slogging my way through my new meds, and we are praying that nothing about this worsens. Evident Grace is aware of what’s going on, and everyone has been incredibly encouraging and prayerful. I just need to be wise about my pace with them, with my family, and with my training schedule. If I need rest, I need to get it.
Thanks for your prayers, and feel free to email me back with any thoughts or questions. I do really appreciate how much Amy and I can depend on you guys for prayer.
I’m thankful that I know a bunch of Godly, Gospel-grounded, and bright pastors. I also have the privilege of bumping into some incredibly wise and astute folks in my congregation and in the day to day. You guys have a lot to say, but beyond Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, very few people get to hear your wisdom.
Since, I have been publishing for the last year or two, I wanted to encourage and enable lots of folks to join me in writing and publishing beyond social media.
Don’t get me wrong; social media is strong, but the larger population often misses out on your practical wisdom because of their lack of access to it.
To bridge the gap, I’ve published a little $.99 book, 5 Steps to Publishing Your Own Books.
The goal is to encourage and promote my wise and gifted friends to begin publishing books easily and more often. This book will walk you through how you can go from manuscript to publication to promotion. And as you do, lots of folks (including me) will benefit from your efforts.
You can find 5 Steps in two formats:
If Samson were alive today, he would have a million Twitter followers, tweet things like “great #honey last night what a blast lol”, and the world would love him. That is, the world would love him until he made every mistake under the sun and TMZ started covering him.
With those things in mind, one must wonder what relevancy does Samson still hold?
Is he a picture of what believers can be when they trust from the Lord and turn from their idols?
Is he a picture of what will happen if men pursue their lusts and thus an antitype of say, Joseph?
Is he a foreshadowing of Christ?
Unfortunately, many practical devotional writings pull Samson out of context and teach purely an exemplary exegesis that treats Samson as a model that can be followed or avoided. For example, Henry Blackaby in his Experiencing God devotional uses Samson’s life as a pattern to be followed when we have lost spiritual power. Relating to Samson, he says, “Those around you who have relied upon your strength are discovering that you are not as helpful as you once were.” To remedy this, he encourages, “If you walk with God in this manner, you will grow in spiritual strength (like Samson) and be used mightily by Him.”
Another example is Steven Lawson’s Men Who Win. He talks of the great victories that God has brought, “Samson slew the Philistines. David fought Goliath,” but warns, “Our battles are just as real. The Canaanites outnumber us. The Goliaths are waiting for us to grow weary and falter. The Delilahs are lying.”
Truly, whenever we see a biblical character succumbing to sin, the believer should be on guard lest he fall. Whenever we see a biblical character achieve victory, we should rejoice that God is gracious. But these kinds of examples miss the point of Samson, nearly completely.
The takeaway is that God moves, enlivens, empowers, and delivers despite the sinfulness of His people.
With these thoughts in mind, please check out “A Once and Future Samson” available as both a Kindle Single and PDF download. It is a simple, concise, and hopeful look at God’s work among even the worst of us.
Excited for the arrival of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” in all formats. Amazon has it listed as the #1 New Release for men, and thanks to all of you, it is already in the Top 50 of both Men’s Issues and Church Leadership.
The design of “Good Man” is to enable invidiuals, families, and churches to develop and sustain efforts to identify and train Godly men. The book focuses on four areas: Home Life, Thought Life, Church Life, and Community Life. I hope this is a simple, helpful resource. If so, please let folks know about “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”.
You can find “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” in several different formats.