J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

My Daughters are Teaching Me at Evident Grace (notetaking that is…)

notes 1At Evident Grace, we create a unique children’s bulletin customized to each service and sermon so that our younger children can track along with what we are talking about each Sunday.  And as some of our kids get older, they can do those bulletins quickly and then they must begin learning how to take in the sermons as a maturing believers in Jesus.

When it comes to taking notes, everybody has their own system.  There isn’t one fool-proof way to digest what is being talked about.  My good friend, Jonathan Grauel sketches his notes into beautiful works of art.  My wife, Amy’s notes are quotes and observations written in various sizes and on various areas of the paper in a way that enables her to remember better.

My form is pretty boring.  I write down what I hear and casually make observations.   The good thing is that there is no right or wrong way to note taking.  What works, works.

notes 3Recently, my daughter, Meredith, has developed her method as well.  It involves pictures, writing in 3-D, and creating ways in which she can emphasize what she is learning.  She uses different colored markers to make her the notes her own, and when I talk to her about her the sermon, I can tell she is learning and taking in lots of good stuff.

Landry, my second of three daughters, wanted to understand what Meredith was doing, so graciously, Meredith created a template so that Landry could begin to take notes and understand more of the sermon herself.

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out all of that was going on.  So this past Sunday, I asked Landry to give me examples of her notes.   In Landry fashion, she has taken in the guidance of Meredith and made the process her own.  Even my youngest daughter, Emma, is beginning to tinker with note taking.   I couldn’t be happier.

The big takeaway for me is that I need to be more actively mindful when I’m listening to sermons, teaching, or instruction.  I don’t remember everything like I used to, so actively engaging the sermon would be a good idea for me.  I won’t be able to be as creative as all you see above, but I do hope to recreate a more active participation in what I’m learning.

notes 2And I have my little girls to thank for that.

June 11, 2013 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional, ruth | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does a Vibrant Church Community Look Like?

Image

In the Book of Acts, we receive a sense of what a vibrant church community looks like.  In looking at this passage, we get a sense of what a new church might strive for.  Please take a moment and read Acts 2.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

To help us understand this passage, let’s answer a few questions:

How was the early church’s Fellowship described?  They were devoted to the fellowship of the church.  They were bound together by having Christ in common.  They were willing to make personal sacrifice to meet other’s needs.  They ate meals in each other’s homes.  And God grew them in number.

How was the early church’s Worship described? They were devoted to the Apostle’s teaching, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer.  God answered their prayers and did great things among them.  They met together often for worship and praised God.

How was the early church’s Service described? They gave generously at their own personal expense to meet the needs of any that came to them.  Their worship, fellowship, and service earned them a good and Godly reputation even among those who did not believe in Jesus, and God blessed their service with the fruit of seeing many people come to know Christ.

How would our Fellowship be described? To reflect the early church’s Biblical example of fellowship, we would need to cultivate vibrant home communities that extend the fellowship of our Sunday worship into the homes of our members.  These communities would be both formal in announced gatherings and hopefully informal in reflection of a desire to be among one another.  Here the needs of the gathering are shared, addressed with Gospel hope, and met with practical and spiritual support.  

How would our Worship be described? To reflect the early church’s Biblical example of worship, we too would devote ourselves to being people of the Apostles teachings desiring to make sure that every thought, word, and deed of worship be Biblically faithful.  Our services prior to, during, and even afterwards would bathed in prayer for God’s glory and our transformation.  We would celebrate the Lord’s supper each Sunday and ask that God would be evident among us in both our great petitions to Him and His great blessings poured out to us.  Our music would seek to glorify God by celebrating that He has worked with His people for many ages now, so our music would honor the past while representing the present.  

How would our Service be described? To reflect the early church’s Biblical example of worship, we too would give generously at our own expense to insure that none among went with unmet needs.  We would extend this service in acts of mercy to the community around us as a demonstration of the Gospel so that God would be glorified in our service to others in hopes that He might be pleased by our name in the community.  Our service is not a growth plan, but we do desire for many people to come to know Christ and added to our number by the testimony of Christ represented in our service.  

Join us as we pray that God might do these things among us in the Spotsylvania Massaponax area.  If you would like to know more about New Spotsylvania Church, feel free to join our Facebook group or contact Gordon Duncan at jgordonduncan@yahoo.com or call him at 919-412-8161.

November 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sample Chapter from “Joy in Trials”

When the absolute best happens, what kind of thoughts go through your head and heart?

When you get a promotion…
When you sell your house…
When you solve a problem at work…
When your child gets good grades…
When you achieve your time running in a 5k…
When you find $20 in old pair of pants…
When you wake up from a good night’s sleep…
When you fall in love…
When you get pregnant…

What goes through your head and heart?  You really only have a few options.

Impersonal randomness caused these things.
Other people caused these things.
You caused these things.
Or God caused these things.

When the absolute worst happens, what kind of thoughts go through your head and heart then?

When you get sick…
When you lose a loved one…
When you lose a job…
When you bounce a check…
When you can’t achieve your run time in a 5k…
When you couldn’t get a good night’s sleep if you had to…
When you can’t solve a problem at work…

What goes through your head and heart?  You really only have a few options.

Impersonal randomness caused these things.
Other people caused these things.
You caused these things.
Or God caused these things.

Typically, if you have faith in God, when things go well, you want to thank Him.  We say, “Thank you God for giving me this raise,” or “Thank you God for letting that officer not give me a ticket.”  But when things go poorly, well that’s a different story.

We might yell at God, “Why did you cause this to happen?”
We might yell, “Why didn’t you stop this?”
Maybe we blame ourselves for making a mistake.
Maybe we blame someone else or some impersonal force in the universe.

The million dollar question though is, “Can you rise up and call God blessed and thank Him for every and any circumstance in your life whether good or bad?”

These and other thoughts are pursued in “Joy in Trials”.  These meditations from the Book of Ruth are intended to strengthen our love and faith in God…no matter what.

You can find “Joy in Trials” digitally at Amazon and in paperback at Lulu.

November 14, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional, ruth | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction from “Joy in Trials”

The Book of Ruth is a fascinating read.  It covers so much of the life experience.

Marriage?  Check
Death?  Check
Children?  Check
Loss?  Check
Faith?  Check
Loss of Faith?  Check

You get the idea.  This story about a wandering family wandering back home with almost nothing and finding a new life is one of the most beautiful pictures of redemption in all of the Bible, and not because everything works out.

Just because people get married and have a new home and family does not mean that everything works out.  This is a book about pain and suffering that finds its way to joy because it gives the reader the luxury and joy of watching God work over the long course of time.

Ruth lets the reader observe God’s hand at work in almost every circumstance of life.  You get to patiently wait to see God move without you having to get your hand dirty.  And because of that, this can be one of the more faith-inspiring books in the whole Bible.  But just like Ruth, you have to be patient and wait to see it all come together.

For me as an author, revisiting old sermon notes about Ruth was a joy and comfort because I did it during a six month period where I lost both parents and decided upon a job change.  I needed to be reminded of God’s big work on my behalf, but even more so, I needed to be reminded that God does all of these things for His glory and in His timing.

That truth brings joy in trials both as a reality and as a book.

Thanks for giving this a shot.  I never take the reader for granted.

If you would like to purchase or recommend “Joy in Trials”, it is available digitally at Amazon and on paperback at Lulu.

November 13, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional, ruth | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction for The Gospel Protects Us

In the past six months, I have lost both of my wonderful parents.  My Father (affectionately known as Sam) passed after a lengthy stay in the hospital where his lungs just finally quit working.  My mother passed suddenly as a result of a horrendous car crash.  I loved them both dearly, and perhaps no child has ever been loved as well I was by them.

Soon after my Father’s passing, I began editing this little book about persevering trials from the Epistle of James.  Much of what you will read was gathered in from my sermon notes from my James series that I preached at Sovereign King Church.  So re-reading and understanding these teachings have been a comfort for my soul.  However, the initial push for the book faded within two months of my Father’s funeral.

But recently, I walked through a season of trials like none that I have ever experienced.  Following my Mother’s sudden and shocking car wreck, my car broke down with a flat tire.  I got poison ivy so badly it was on my eyelids.  My children were soon suffering from fevers of over 103 coupled with nausea and vomiting.  And oh yeah, around that time I announced that I was resigning from Sovereign King to move to Spotsylvania, VA to plant a new church.

Trials?  I knew them well.  Enduring them well?  That was yet to be determined.

So I returned to this little document trying to see if I knew anything about suffering when I originally wrote it.  I couldn’t have imagined when preaching that series that I would have to experience such trials, but as I reread these words, I could see that at least God had prepared me well.

But please know that this is not a book purely about trials.  James lays out three things for us at the end of Chapter One.  First, he wants us to thank God when we do endure suffering because we know that His loving, sovereign hand is behind each one.  Secondly, he wants us to then live out Godliness in our relationships (these usually suffer during hard times).  And finally, he wants us to trust God, believe that He is true, and then live out wisdom as we suffer and love one another.

I hope these words are helpful.  Writing them innocently and reading them after much suffering experience has been good for me.

I pray the same for you.

Gordon
October 2012

You can find “The Gospel Protects Us” for download at

Amazon
Smashwords
Barnes and Noble

and in paperback at Lulu

October 2, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gospel Protects Us Available on Tuesday October 2nd

I’m excited to announce that the second in “The Gospel…” series, “The Gospel Protects Us” will be available at Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, and Lulu tomorrow, Tuesday October 2nd.  And the best news is that it will only be $.99.

Throughout the week, I will be posting clips and chapters from the book, but for now, let me explain the cover choice.  The following is from the intro of the book.  I hope you enjoy it.

I don’t know if the cover of this little book makes sense at first glance, and the fact that I’m explaining it may very well mean that it doesn’t.  But this picture gives me great joy and explains a great deal about this book.

Inside, you’ll find my musings on the Book of James’ teachings about taking joy in trials, navigating relationships, and seeking the wisdom to handle them both.  In there, I hope to emphasize that the Gospel of Jesus protects us through those things.

The cover image picture comes from an Egg Hunt our church put together for the Garner Police Department.  Pictured are all three of my girls.  You see Meredith in the middle looking out for Landry on the left.  Landry is looking out for our youngest, Emma.  They were protecting each other, and the image reminds me of how God does just that for us.

I hope you enjoy the image and the words that follow it.

Gordon

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sample Chapter on Grace from The Gospel Carries US

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you

do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?

This verse plunks down in the middle of the struggle in the book of Galatians.  It was a classic struggle of whether Jesus’ work is sufficient or whether a person has to add anything to it.  Paul asks this rhetorical question:  “God who gives you His Holy Spirit and works miracles among you, does He do those things because you have obeyed so much?”

The answer of course is, “By faith.”  One enters into the graces of God only by the faith that God gifts.  Every benefit from God is supplied by God and is not earned.

That word supplies in this verse is the same word in the Greek used during a first century wedding service.  It is the declaration of a groom to his bride.  It is like the groom who sees his beautiful bride and says, “I will provide for you because I love you.  Anything you need, I will supply.  You don’t have to earn it.  I just want to do it for you because I love you.”

In the language of scripture, that is exactly what Jesus does.  Jesus looks at His church the bride and says, “I love you, and I will make you beautiful.”  Because of that, no one improves on what God has done by their own efforts.  You can’t go out and try to earn His love.  All that the child of God has, He has graciously given.  It is not payment for a debt incurred by work.

As Galatians argues, these truths squash self-righteousness, and should instill patience within and among those who profess faith in Christ.  It should also give hope for any who struggle, as they know that it is God who supplies, and God who works.

You can purchases “The Gospel Carries Us” in four three different formats:

Kindle at Amazon
Nook at Barnes and Noble
Paperback
Smashwords

August 30, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chapter Excerpt on the Goal of the Church from The Gospel Carries Us

Below is one of the fifty plus articles from “The Gospel Carries Us” and its goal is to give a gentle exhortation to living as the church is called to live.  I hope you enjoy it

The beautiful design of God is that by His empowering mercies and grace, if you are humble, look after each other with sober judgment according to the faith that God has given you, if you rely on God’s mercy and grace, the church will function like a body.  If you fail to be humble or look at yourself with sober judgment according to the faith that God has given you, then the church will function as one that is lame or blind or deaf.  Christ will no less be glorious or victorious, but His bride won’t as effectively accomplish what God has called her to which is creating and engaging community for the glory of Jesus Christ.

The simple takeaway is this:  By faith, God is commanding each and every one of you to be humble, seeing others as better than yourself.  By faith God is commanding each and every one of you to see yourself with sober judgment finding infinite value only in Jesus Christ and not in what you do or what honors are heaped upon you.  Then as the church does that, she will create that loving community of believers that God intends for us to be.  Believers will participate in the life of the church because every believer is essential to the life of the church.  Believers will serve without a care or concern about getting personal praise or glory.  Service to Christ within the church and to the larger community in which each church exists will be done in the power and mercy of Jesus Christ seeking to glorify in Him in all that is done.

You can purchases “The Gospel Carries Us” in three different formats:

Kindle at Amazon
Nook at Barnes and Noble
Paperback

August 23, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional | , , , , | Leave a comment

First Review of The Gospel Carries Us is In

And the first review of “The Gospel Carries Us” is in.  Great thanks to M. Orr for her kind words.  She said:

I am always interested in receiving practical advice about how to keep the Gospel in my mind, proclaim it with my lips and keep it in my heart – things that I grapple with daily and fail at over and over again. “The Gospel Carries Us” tells me I’m not alone in my struggle. You’d think I’d know this, but it never hurts to be reminded. This volume is a collection of sermon notes and musings on spirituality and culture that warrant more than one reading. I think any reader, regardless of their particular denomination, will find these passages uplifting, comforting and in some cases, challenging. I’m looking forward to reading more from Pastor Gordon Duncan.

Thanks to any and all who are purchasing “The Gospel Carries Us” – reviews at Amazon and Barnes and Noble are a huge help.
You can purchases “The Gospel Carries Us” in three different formats:

Kindle at Amazon
Nook at Barnes and Noble
Paperback

August 22, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chapter Excerpt from The Gospel Carries Us

Below is one of the fifty plus articles from “The Gospel Carries Us” and its goal is to give frustrated, helpless people something they so desperately want:   a hope and an assurance.  I hope you enjoy it

In our daily ebb and flow of life, it is more than likely that we will become depressed either by our lack of accomplishment, lack of progress, or failure to attain what we want.

Why is this? Often it is because our view of history is as one who sees history as the telling of our story. But a redemptive view of history broadens our perspective. If we see the unfolding of our lives less in terms of our own individual perspective and more so in the perspective of our role in the outplaying of God’s redemptive work, we will find true hope. If we see history selfishly, we will find true despair.

We are either part of God’s work in bringing flawed people to himself for true glory or we will feel the weight of our own lack of ability to be good. Both involve very weak, non-perfect people.

One group has embraced grace (forgiveness for which we do not deserve) and another has embraced self-effort. But self-effort is self-torture. A friend of mine the other day said, “I just want to be good.” A good desire, but we just can’t be good on our own (ask my two year old).

But what if the meaning of history was God taking those people who try so hard to be good but aren’t, and truly redeeming them, calling them good because another was good for them? Then our lack of accomplishment or lack of progress would seem smaller in our minds b/c we have found real accomplishment and progress in the perfect work/life of Jesus Christ.

You can purchases “The Gospel Carries Us” in three different formats:

Kindle at Amazon
Nook at Barnes and Noble
Paperback

August 22, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional | , , , , , | Leave a comment