Monday, September 26, 2011

Fix Your Eyes

Everyone has a favorite saying or collection of quotes they love to repeat. Here is my favorite quote of all time. It's from missionary martyr Jim Elliot in a letter to his sister:
Fix your eyes on the rising morning Star. Don't be disappointed at anything or over-elated either. Live every day as if the Son of Man were at the door and gear your thinking to the fleeting moment. Just how can it be redeemed? Walk as if the next step would carry you across the threshold of heaven. Pray. That saint who advances on his knees never retreats.
Excerpt from Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Finishing... A New Blog

I'm happy to see that Mark Brown, co-director of Cru at Miami University has started blogging. God has given Mark a lot of wisdom in the areas of discipleship, mentoring, evangelism, and leadership, so I'm excited to see him use this platform to share some insight with the rest of us. His heart in this blog is to help others finish well. Check out his first post here:

So, I am very new to the entire blogging deal. But I thought I would post some introductory comments of what I want to accomplish through this blog. First, I never really thought I had much to say that anyone would ever want to read. (This still could very well be true.) But as I have reflected on this, I am convinced that I ma not be the most profound thinker, but I have some thoughts that could help anyone who desires to finish life well. Secondly, this blog will help me process my own journey in finishing well. Ever since I can remember, I have desired to finish well. Yet, so many people I have known never make it. Ultimately, I believe it is the grace of God that will sustain me and allow me to finish well. I hope to point you to resources that will help you on this journey. Lastly, the statistics are startling. Steve Farrar in his book, Finishing Strong says that " One out of ten men finish strong." It doesn't take long to look around and see this reality for yourself.
Read More from Finishing is Better Than Starting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Parenting and Second-Hand Stress

Here are some helpful thoughts on parenting from Kevin DeYoung that I found both encouraging (because I was reminded I'm not the only one who gets impatient with my children) and challenging (because I need Christ's help to become less impatient with my children). DeYoung writes:
If I had to name a besetting sin right now it would be impatience, especially with my kids. I don’t think this is a constant problem, but it is recurring. I love my kids dearly and play with them and do special things with them and try to teach them the Bible and discipline them when they disobey. But I can also be impatient. And that’s a sin. I needlessly exasperate them at times. And that’s a sin too.

So I took note of these paragraphs from Bryan Caplan who has written a sometimes-right-on, sometimes-head-scratching, non-Christian, pro-big family book on parenting:

Most parents worry about the dangers of secondhand smoke. But few consider the dangers of secondhand stress. If you make yourself miserable to do a special favor for your child, he might enjoy it. But if he senses your negative feelings, he might come to share them.

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Photos From Two Perspectives

An impressive day-night photo here. For more click here.

(Photo: Navinder Singh Dhaliwal /

Sunday, September 18, 2011

David & Goliath: The True Story

My brother linked to this image on his blog a while back, but I just had to wait until I spoke on David & Goliath at OBF to post it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

From the Inside Out

Last Sunday I spoke from 1 Samuel 16 on the anointing of David. The key verse, and a very familiar one, is verse 7 where God says to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."

Man, how we need this! God looks at us from the inside out. How freeing this is! At best externals are neutral to God. Our body shape, hair color, grades, athletic ability, accent, and job simply do not matter in God's analysis of us. They're not right or wrong, good or bad, they are simply neutral. I don't know about you, but I need this freedom. There are so many externals I can't control and really get tired of trying to perfect. God says, "No problem. Stop worrying about stuff I care little about."

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 is so helpful for this:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (ESV)

Jesus becomes to us everything we need in order to have a relationship with God and to be found beautiful and worthy by him. David understood this. Sure, Jesus had not yet been revealed to him, but David understood that the one thing that mattered most was developing himself from the inside out. This is why he was chosen by God to be the future king of Israel. Above all else, David was a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Simple Explanation of Titus 2:11-14

Understanding what God has done for us in the past and will do for us in the future enables us to live rightly in the present.

Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (PAST),

training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled,
upright, and godly lives in the present age

waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God
and Savior Jesus Christ

who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness
and to purify
for himself a people

for his own possession

who are zealous for good works

Monday, September 12, 2011

Directionally Challenged?

"We’ll always be directionally challenged when we’re not looking directly at Christ."

- Ronnie Martin (from this article on worship leaders)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Song for Abiding in Christ

As a follow-up to the last three posts, here is a great song for moving our hearts toward abiding in Christ. It's from Jeremy Riddle's album Prepare the Way.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thoughts on Abiding in Christ, Part 3

As a final post on abiding in Christ, consider this thought (I'm not sure if Mark said something like this last Sunday or if his teaching just made me think of this, but we'll give him the credit anyway):
  • Our joy is way to circumstantial. We're either looking to get done with something (a test, a class, an event, a meeting, a mood, a health issue) so that we can be happy. Or we're looking forward to something (a vacation, a meal, a night out, a quiet hour, a relief from pain) to make us happy. But few of us are actually filled with joy in our present circumstances. We're always looking to get past this or get onto that, instead of realizing and living in the joy of Christ right now. Could this be due to the fact that we are not abiding in Christ moment by moment?
Oh, how we need to abide in Christ so that we will have his joy fill our hearts in all circumstances! There is no other way we can follow the commands to "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. "(1 Thess 5:16-18, ESV).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughts on Abiding in Christ, Part 2

As a second installment in this short series of posts, consider this thought from Mark Brown's message last Sunday:
  • There is a monologue (one person speaking). And there is a dialogue (two people conversing). What if we started thinking in terms on a trialogue? That as I talk with someone, I am also praying that God would give me wisdom, patience, grace, whatever is needed in the moment. So instead of our conversations simply being horizontal, they are also vertical as we ask God to guide us. This is a great way to abide in Christ.
Of course, we don't want to space out for a couple minutes staring blankly into space, but this is a great way to abide in Christ and seek his help so that we can speak what is "good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Eph. 4:29, ESV)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thoughts on Abiding in Christ, Part 1

Last Sunday, OBF was privileged to have Mark Brown speak during our morning services. Mark co-directs Cru here at Miami University. Unfortunately we had some sound difficulties and did not get a good recording to post on our website. But Mark had some great thoughts from John 15 that are worth reflecting on. In the next three posts, I'll share some of these thoughts along with additional commentary.
  • We should focus more on God than on godliness.
  • We should focus more on abiding in God than on producing fruit.
  • Fruit doesn't come by focusing on producing fruit, but by abiding in the vine.
These three statements are helpful for us to remember in a performance culture where our self-worth is so often determined by what we do and produce. While we should be very interested in producing fruit as Christians, we can be so focused on production that we forget to simply abide in Christ. After all, only He can produce fruit. Whether this fruit is ""the fruit of the Spirit" ala Galatians 5 or people being saved, the Spirit is the one who brings it about. It does not come about by our effort alone, but by abiding in Christ. We need relationship over results.

Consider 4 results of living this way. First, I stop judging my value based on the production of "fruit." Second, God gets the glory for the fruit that is produced. Third, true holiness and joy comes into my life; true fruit is produced (whereas apart from Christ, are we producing true fruit anyway?). Fourth, I can stop worrying about results as I rest in God's relationship with me.

In actuality, the best way to produce fruit is to focus on a daily, abiding relationship with Christ. In this relationship, He will empower us to share the Gospel and grow in patience, love, joy, peace...and more. So let's abide.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Advice on Writing (and Speaking) from C.S. Lewis

For some great advice on writing, check out these thoughts from C.S. Lewis. From a letter to an American girl named Joan with advice on writing:
  1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
  2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.
  3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
  4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please, will you do my job for me.”
  5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

00000(C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, p. 64.)

Each of these points are also great advice for preaching and teaching (or even speech class). I especially appreciate points 4 & 5. Help people feel instead of telling them what to feel. And reserve big words for big truths and big occasions. Not everything is "awesome." I'd even suggest that we reserve some big words for God alone - I mean, is there is anything truly awesome in comparison to God?

For more on writing, check out these two posts from Justin Taylor & Kevin DeYoung.

HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Some Pretty Cool Photos

I enjoy checking out the weekly images posted by Yahoo! It's a good dose of "the heavens declare the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1). Here are some of my favorites from the past couple weeks. You can view them all at Yahoo!

(Photo: Caters News)

(Photo: REUTERS/Enrique Calvo)

(Photo: Esther Havens)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Meet Piper Grace

It's been a fun and exciting 5 months knowing what our fourth child would be while the rest of the family didn't know. It's also been a little hard not being able to tell anyone. But yesterday at 4:58pm Piper Grace entered the world and ended the silence. She's our fourth child and fourth girl. Bring on the jokes about weddings and hormones...

These girls are precious, and we're so thankful to be able to raise them. We pray that they will live for Jesus and love others.