Kevin DeYoung on Supporting your Pastor

Pastor and blogger, Kevin DeYoung answers the question on how laymen can support their pastor:

“Obviously the first thing that comes to mind is simply to pray and probably to let your pastor know that you’re praying…I think if laypeople try to understand that pastoral ministry is more demanding than they might think…That’s not at all to say it’s the hardest job…That would be totally untrue. But, so much of what people see is “Sunday”—your preaching or leading in some way…The pastor’s pulled in a lot of different directions so if people can understand that, that’s helpful…I have lots of encouragement, but I know there are many pastors out there who go a long time without people thanking them or writing them a note…The last thing that comes to mind is just realizing that there are a number of things that happen in the church that people in the pews may not fully understand…Sometimes you can’t tell the congregation everything…If laypeople keep that in mind, it would help them from being too quick to make a judgment.”

(Contact Magazine Gordon-Cornwell Theological Seminary, Spring ’11 Vol. 39. No. 1, Alumni Notes pg. 35)

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6 Radical Things to Prepare for the First Day of School

School is about to start and we should all be excited specially Christians. This is an opportunity for us Christians not just to learn and follow our dreams but to make God the center of our lives that others may see. So get ready and check the 5 radical things to prepare for the opening of classes:

  1. A ‘Spirit-soaked’ you – a week or a day before going to school ask your church to pray for you so that Christ will radiates in you in school. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to make Christ known in the campus. Soak yourself in reading the Bible and Christian books so that you are ready to face the battle in the classroom.
  2. Get ready to tell that you’re a Christian – usually you get to introduce yourself in the first day of school. It will be appropriate to tell them first hand that you’re a Christian. Tell them you esteem God above all. So in the coming days they will come to respect your stand on Sundays worship and other issues because of your belief. It can also be a springboard to hear your Christian testimony and the gospel that saves.
  3. Know apologetics – maybe a teacher in your first day of school introduce himself that he is an atheist and tells the class that there is no God. Maybe she is a Mormon who believes that Jesus is the brother Lucifer. Response with all Christ like humility not like your attacking him. Throw some questions that your teacher and the class will think about. Speak up to issues like abortion, evolution, suicide etc., and give a biblical perspective to it. You may not know everything there is in defending the faith but you can direct them to your favorite apologetics websites, Youtube channel or books in your library if they want to seek the truth.
  4. Gospel tracts or Christian books – classes may not be starting and students may have lots of spare time. So grab your gospel tracts and give some of it to the class and place it in areas that most likely can be seen. Tell your church to donate some Christian books at the school library to reach out believers and unbelievers. Encourage classmates and teachers to check out the books at the library. You may not be able to say everything about the Bible or relationships but a book with relevant topics will make a difference in their life.
  5. A campus ministry or Bible study group to connect – if you’re active in some clubs in the school how much more in joining a campus ministry or Bible study group that is dedicated to exalt Christ. Ask your pastor to assist you in finding a group grounded to Christ in the school. Participate in their activities. Invite unbelievers to the group. Don’t reject the opportunity to be an officer of that group. And most of all enjoy!
  6. Prepare to make new friends – bond with new classmates not just that you have the same likes or you are interested in them but love them because of Christ. Being in school means God purposefully wants us to be there to lead His elect to the gospel and be of part of His family.

Do you have number 7? Please post it on the comment section.

Tony Reinke on the Difference between Scripture and Man-made Literature

Author and blogger Tony Reinke made an insightful distinction between the Bible and man-made literature in his book “Lit! A Christian Guide in Reading Books”. Reinke writes:

Scripture is the ultimate grid by which we read every book. Scripture is perfect, sufficient, and eternal. All other books, to some degree, are imperfect, deficient, and temporary. That means that when we pick books from the bookstore shelves, we read those imperfect books in light of the perfect Book, the deficient books in light of the sufficient Book, and the temporary books in light of the eternal Book.

Man-made literature may be inspiring, but it is not divinely inspired—not in the way Scripture is inspired. Man-made literature may be empowered by the Holy Spirit to embody biblical truth,

but it’s not breathed out by God. Man-made literature may contain truth, goodness, and beauty, but it is also fallible, imperfect, and of temporary value.

 

(Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books Copyright 2011 by Tony S. Reinke Published by Crossway pg. 26)

Book Review: The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall

Reading Christian fiction is unusual for our book review team. I’ve read on from Randy Alcorn. Some haven’t read one. There are some reactions from the team on this book but eventually when they dive in they like it. So “The Ultimate Gift” by Jim Stovall is first dip on the waters of Christian novels for them.

The story of “The Ultimate Gift” opens with the Red Stevens, a wealthy man, his will and testimony he left to his lawyer and friend Theodore J. Hamilton. He left a multi-billion dollar estate that leaves everyone wanting for it. He gave each relative their inheritance except one. Jason Steven his 24 year old great nephew will not receive anything until he learns something about himself, his uncle and about life. He will follow and do everything his uncle’s wishes before he can have the “Ultimate Gift”. Jason hates his uncle and his friends specially Mr. Hamilton. Every month Mr. Hamilton and Ms. Margaret Hastings show Jason videos of his uncle before he died. Those videos will lead Jason Stevens to do things his uncle Red wants him to do and discover. Jason then embarks on a spiritual journey and eventually to the “Ultimate Gift” his uncle prepared for him.

One of our review teams was struck by the chapter titled “The Gift of Friendship”. Jason’s uncle told him how he got sick and the need for his kidney to be replaced. Sadly they can’t find a kidney donor. Red Stevens almost lost hope till someone offers his kidney. It was Mr. Hamilton. Jason barely moved by what his uncle told him. Red Stevens adds that not all friends can do what Hamilton has done for him. From then on Jason started to change and all the lessons his uncle wants to teach him gradually he took it by heart. What an amazing journey in finding purpose in life.  In every gift in life there are lessons to be gained for the purpose to live for it. Every gift mentioned in the book will stretch our aspirations in the journey we call life.

Although this book takes on a spiritual journey of sort and has a touching story that is very fitting to have it on the big screen, it has some shortcomings. First, the gospel is not presented which will be great if this book will be shared with unbelievers. Second, gifts are not used as springboards for more and deep Biblical lesson. Ultimately, “The Ultimate Gift” will be a book that can be shelved with Mitch Bloom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie”and the other clones of that bestseller.

Jim Stovall’s “The Ultimate Gift” is a nice read for Christians who wants an alternative from the usual non-fiction books. It might be use as a starter for Christians who would like to try Christian fiction genre. But to dig some biblical and theological food on this, readers should find it somewhere else. Jim Stovall gave the reader a spiritual/heartwarming novel on finding beyond this fleeting world has to offer. Life is not all about getting what we want but living for a reason God has set to us.

5 Important Things to Do to Avoid Being a Stereotype

Go beyond the norm. Stand up and stand out. Away with being a typecast. Here are 5 ways to do it:

  1. Try not to imitate – of course there is nothing new under the sun, but try to find pockets of originality.  Add some spice to the ordinary. Break the usual rules.
  2. Drop the Label – don’t narrow things down to labels. Don’t be so conscious of labels. There is more to it than names. Break out from it. Try to see things on a different light.
  3. Do be afraid to try or discover new things – unlocking your thrill in seeking the unknown. Prepare to sail to unchartered territories. In it you can grow and have a new direction. Learning and discovering is a never ending process. It will be a fulfilling journey that you will take.
  4. Broaden vision and enlarge influence – look beyond what you can see. Look for long term view. Tap to other areas you are good at that can make a difference and impact others.
  5. Look at how God design us to be unique – the secular world promotes individuality yet people ends up just like the crowd. Stand out by staying near the King. Seek being biblical and get to know how you look at God’s eye and pursue His unique purpose for you.

Anything you can add in the list? Please do comment.

The Elements of Style and the Beatitudes

We bloggers need constant help in our writing so that every post will connect to our readers. Not just correct grammar but a good structure of sentences to give clarity and smooth flow in reading. One of the best books in writing I would highly recommend for bloggers is the book “The Elements of Style” by Williams Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Short but very practical, I think recommending it to you might not be a surprise (if you’re writer).

In page 26 of this superb book, Stunk and White notes a principle composition method that brings clarity to the readers by repeating a word in a series of sentences. In the book it is called “Express coordinate ideas in similar form”. And they use an example from the Bible. It’s the opening words of Jesus in the Sermon of the Mount found it Matthew 5.

“This principle that of parallel construction, requires that expressions similar in content and function be outwardly similar. The likeness of form enables the reader to recognize more readily the likeness of content and function. The familiar Beatitudes exemplify the virtue of parallel construction.”

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

More than a great model of the said method, The Beatitudes is the radical approach in Christian living straight from our Lord’s lips. The structure of the sentences is excellent and Jesus wants it more than a monumental speech. He wants to enumerate things that create a vast gulf of what it means to live in this world pursuing God and what the rest of this world thinks what is great. He resolves it in this unforgettable Element of Style cuts it on verse 6 on the book. Let’s read the rest of it:

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (Matthew 5:7-11, KJV)

The MacArthur Study Bible said it well about the Beatitudes:

“The Beatitudes demonstrate that the way to heavenly blessedness is antithetical to the worldly path normally followed in pursuit of happiness. The worldly idea is that happiness is found in riches, merriment, abundance, leisure, and such things. The real truth is the very opposite. The Beatitudes give Jesus’ description of the character of true faith.”

So The Beatitudes are the new attitudes that we need to follow as Christians. May we walk on it and make our Christian walk a light to this dark world.

Additional resources

Here a great bumper video when teaching the Beatitudes. “God-o-nomics” by Dan Stevers.

Download a FREE e-book on The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes (.pdf)
Thomas Watson

The Power of Verbs and the Gospel of Matthew Part 1

In “Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing” by Constance Hale, the use of verbs meant not just aesthetics but power in writing. This should be one lesson every blogger needs to consider in writing a post that will make it rich and pulsating. Are you using verbs in your articles? What effects does it bring to you and your readers?

Let’s check the book out. On page 4 Hale writes:

Caesar got them. Saint Matthew got them. Hamlet got them. Saul Bellow got them. Even my dog Homer got them.

Got what?

Verbs.

Vital, vibrant, voluptuous, and, yes, sometimes vexing verbs.

Saint Matthew, when he got the chance to record his gospel of the New Testament, reminded us, “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not.”

 

Hale quoted Matthew 7: 25 as example of the use of verbs to boost an idea. Clearly it gave a vivid picture of a chronological event in one sentence. Matthew (inspired by the Holy Spirit) gave it an astounding emphasis by using verbs that will strike the mind and heart of readers. It brings life to it by adding verbs to create a certain drama. It controlled the sentence and steered it in a more robust feel on it. Without verbs it won’t move readers to see a graphic description that will produce emotions of either terror or triumph. That’s how verbs played a big part of the verse.

 

Closing the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus takes the listener (or reader) to a comparison between those who abide in His Word and to those who do not. We don’t just see the power of verbs but the power of obedience to God. Faithfulness to God will make us unmovable. Adding to this is that we are wise if we cling to His Words and do it. To understand it more lets read from verse 24 to 29:

 

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (KJV)

 

Let God’s Word rule moment by moment in your life. Stand on the rock that is Jesus Christ to be counted wise in God’s eye and joyful doers of His Word!

Tim Challies on Illumination

Calvinist blogger, Tim Challies explains how illumination of the Holy Spirit is the distinguishing factor of being a Christian.

Illumination is what separates be­lievers from unbelievers when we read the Bible. An unbeliever may read the Bible and view it merely as a religious or historical document, much like I would read the Koran or the Book of Mormon. But when a Christian reads the Bible, the Spirit guides him to see not merely history and religion, but the very words of God. And even more important, He allows the person to apply the great truths of the Bible to his life. He initiates change through the words of the Scripture. Being a Christian, then, is a necessary prerequisite for the Spirit’s illumination.

(“Revelation, Inspiration and Illumination by Tim Challies”, Credo Magazine October 2011 issue, pg. 66)

Book Review: Marriage Matters by Winston T. Smith

PicsArt_1368350130673If you’re on the internet not just for Facebook updates but checking out Christian blogs, you will find that the people of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) have a good web presence. With the likes of Ed Welch, David Powlison and Paul Tripp making waves over the blogosphere and social media, counseling is not concealed in a four cornered room but available to everyone thanks to the internet. Also if you check the awesome resources in the CCEF website (www.ccef.org), you’ll get handfuls of biblical counseling from articles and downloadable podcast. And of course, don’t forget to praise CLC Philippines for getting this book out for the Filipino readers.

Winston T. Smith place a sort of dilemma on the preface of the book that we might also be thinking: Why do we need another book on marriage when there are lots of them already? What can I learn from a book that is 300 pages long? My answer: a lot! Marriage Matters is a well thought and well planned book on what God considers important: marriage. The book focuses on ordinary moments, those day to day life of couples. Seeing God in those moments of married life, defining that those are important blocks of a healthy relationship that it is also a place where the enemy attacks and struggles sets in, Christian couples should ground themselves together to a biblical perspective that will bring out the extraordinary. Drawing from counseling to personal experiences wrapped with biblical teachings, this book will be a stand out.

Pop psychology has no room for this book as it unravels how to live that extraordinary life on God’s dream marriage for us. Topics like conflict, honestly, forgiveness and intimacy are tackled with depth and a compassionate heart. The chapter “Growing in Grace” will imprint your heart with the message that we need God’s grace in every aspect of our lives. Because we are limited beings we need grace especially to couples to have a strong relationship. Without grace our lives will be full of failure and regret that will result spiritual weakness. We need to have a continuous dependence to God because he is always present and active in our life.  God is most important in the marriage relationship because he will restore and make it beautiful when it’s broken.

So why get this book when there are marriage books by Henry Cloud, Gary Chapman, or Harold Sala, Ed Lapiz and so on and so on? Because “Marriage Matters” makes God matters in your marriage. Whether you’re married or single please don’t miss this book!

 

6 Essential Things to Surprise Yourself

Start your day with some surprise. Boost some exceptional prance to your life. Open the gift of surprise for yourself. Prepare to get blown away with this list:

  1. Have interests on other peoples likes – take time to get to know more about friends and relatives. Have log talks with them over coffee. Ask them their hobbies and talents. Find something in common. Ask if they can help you try it or collaborate.
  2. Carry a Notebook or camera everyday – jot down things that you find. Take snapshots of strange and common places. Try to bring out the zest in the ordinary. Then set to check it every week of the things you have discovered. Celebrate what you have found out.
  3.  Ask people things about you – have an afternoon chat with your relatives. Talk about things about you like when you were born and how is life then. Ask them what you always do and want that you forgot when you grow up then think of things that will somewhat bring it back (if it’s possible).  You’ll find interesting stuff that will amaze you. Discovery yourself in the eyes of others.
  4. Break from the routine –try to commute rather than drive to work. Go to a different route to your office or school. Go to the gym of the evening instead in the morning. Don’t go online to research but try going to the library. Cut the usual coffee break. Try other kinds of clothes. Put on some accessories. Bring your life back by breaking the routine.
  5. Buy yourself unusual presents– even if it’s for you, gifts still delivers a surprise. But give it a twist. Buy cookbooks of foreign foods then try cooking it. Get packs of seeds of unknown plants and plant them. Bring out the awesomeness in you by extraordinary gifts for yourself.
  6. Don’t have a planned adventure – set a getaway now. Explore places that you sometimes ignore because of its familiarity. Have an unscheduled stay at your friends’ house. Ask your buddy if they can come along with you without advance notice.

Anything surprising that happened to you lately? Post it on the comments.