Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

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David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 11 min 42 sec ago

Why you should not copy Spurgeon’s Schedule

2 hours 32 min ago

The Spurgeon Center’s excellent website recently published Spurgeon’s weekly schedule. It’s introduced with the following words:

In fifty-seven years, Charles Spurgeon accomplished three lifetimes of work. Every week he preached four to ten times, read six meaty books, revised sermons for publication, lectured, edited a monthly magazine. In his spare time, he wrote about 150 books.

Spurgeon shepherded the largest Protestant megachurch in the world (he knew all 6,000 members by name), directed a theological college, ran an orphanage, and oversaw sixty-six Christian charities.

While there is much to commend in the schedule—his weekly Wednesday Sabbath with his family, for example—I want to offer a caution lest any pastor try to implement a modern version of this.

Here’s my caution: Remember Spurgeon spent a large part of the last third of his life out of the pulpit while he recovered from depression-anxiety and multiple physical ailments. 

In fact, many Christians of the past who are held up as examples of why we should work 70+ hours a week also suffered with various physical, emotional, and mental afflictions; and some of them died very young. But this doesn’t usually make its way into their biographies. Or, at least, it’s never connected to burnout and overwork.

I’d love to see an article that does some research into how long Spurgeon spent “off sick” and totaled the number of years that he “lost” as he tried to recover his health in the South of France for months at a time.

There are occasions in his writings when he himself connects his sickness and weakness to overwork. It would be good to see some highlighting of this too. That would give a more balanced picture of Spurgeon and would result in more balanced lives of those who want to imitate him.

We all have limited fuel and we either burn it efficiently over a longer period of time, or else we put our foot to the floor and burn it all up too quickly and end up burnt out.

Visit the Spurgeon Center website here and explore its ever-increasing array of fantastic resources.

Check Out

3 hours 4 min ago
Blogs

5 More Reasons Bible Teachers Should Learn Greek & Hebrew | Mark Ward, LogosTalk
Some unusual reasons for learning the original languages.

Six Simple Things First-Time Church Guests Like | Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay Pastors
“I wonder what it would be like if all of our first-time guests found our churches joyous, courteous, informative, and friendly. Think about how God might bless them and us. It’s really not that difficult. These first-time guests are only asking for basic courtesies and considerations.”

How Far Is Too Far? On Boundaries in Christian Dating | Marshall Segal, Desiring God
“Many couples get boundaries wrong because we’re asking the wrong questions.”

Are Your Relational Problems Inherited? | Josh Squires, Desiring God
Essential eading for anyone involved in pastoring/counseling:

…when people come from unhealthy homes, they can come with foundational issues. Ones which can cause problems throughout life if they are not dealt with in a healthy manner. Fortunately, we have the balm of the gospel which can overcome any earthly deficit.

What Your Kids Really Need is Your Authentic Christian Life | Melissa Edgington, Your Mom Has a Blog
I loved this. What a stress-reliever for moms who are not supermoms.

No matter where or how formally I try teach my kids how to be Christians, no words I say will ever be as important as they way they see me living on a day to day basis. A carefully crafted lesson about forgiveness means nothing if I hold a grudge against a family member or friend. A lecture about the importance of obeying God’s word is useless if they see me ignoring His commands.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.


The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins ($0.99)


Preach: Theology Meets Practice by Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert ($2.99)


Twelve Unlikely Heroes: How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You by John F. MacArthur ($1.99).

The Most Important Gift that Preachers Neglect

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 9:36am

In this Q&A Panel, Sinclair Ferguson (30:50-34:30) laments that many preachers never develop the humility to train their voices. This is how he puts it:

The voice is the instrument that employs the words and the voice needs to be sanctified, needs to be developed, the ability to use it needs it to be developed. It’s part of your sanctification.

He commends the practice of testing out different voices as you read the  same words and then says:

Just as we are to grow in grace and make progress in our gifts, we need to encourage younger men not to assume they’ve got all the necessary gifts, nor that, of course, they’re able to use their voice because they’ve been called to preach.

He notes the lack of pathos in much contemporary preaching…

which means that the preaching is going to be instructional and cognitive….We really need to see that pathos is an important element and its got to do with the way the use of the voice matches the teaching of Scripture if its going to be communicated vocally to living souls who are emotional as well as cerebral individuals.

I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Ferguson. If the voice is unimportant, we should just get Siri to preach for us. Reformed seminarians and pastors seem to be strangely reluctant to develop this talent with a view to maximizing the impact of their teaching on their hearers.

But where to start? Do what Dr. Ferguson suggests. Just get a paragraph and read it out in as many different ways as you can. I get students to do a form of this. I ask them to speak on a verse for a few minutes without notes and to do so as if their life depended on it. Some still manage to be executed.

Or try this NPR video. Don’t dismiss the techniques as silly or a gimmick. Something similar to the first breathing exercise saved my voice from burning out in my first congregation and continues to influence the way I speak even in everyday life. It’s amazing how just getting the air coming from the right place opens up so many vocal possibilities.

Of course, this is not just for preachers but for anyone who has a role in publicly teaching the Bible.

Check Out

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 9:07am
Blogs

Most Christians are Violating the 1st Commandment
“If we were meeting with our most important client, or our boss, we’d never talk to him from a treadmill, or spend one minute getting to know him. It’s not that it can’t be done. I do pray occasionally as I walk or drive. I just can’t imagine God being truly honored by slipping him in when it’s convenient. If I were God, I’d want to know that for at least 15-20 minutes a day, I have your undivided attention and loyalty. If not, I’d conclude that almost everything else in my day was another god!”

Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians
“Barna’s research shows that only 17 percent of Christians who consider their faith important and attend church regularly actually have a biblical worldview. So, if Christians are open to nonbiblical perspectives, what are they believing?”

Maximum Security Seminary
“When I came to prison I could not read and write,” Hudson said. “Today they’re giving me a four-year degree in Christian studies. That’s to the glory of God. If they would’ve said to me the day I was arrested, ‘If you can spell can, you can go home,’ I’d still be in that bullpen. But today I can talk about transubstantiation. I can talk about systematic theology. I know about the Belgic Confession.”

How to Make an Effective Preacher
“John MacArthur, as the President of our seminary, read this out at my graduation ceremony. It has haunted me and inspired me since I became a pastor eleven years ago. When I am tempted to rethink and retool the focus of my ministry, I read and reread this lyrical piece of sage advice, and I am reassured that the priority of my calling is preaching God’s word in God’s way to God’s people.”

Five Terrible Reasons to Enter Vocational Ministry
“I recently went through my old seminary pictorial directory. I was able to locate 47 people I knew in seminary who I know where they are today. Of that 47, only eight remained in ministry. If you are doing the math, that is an 83 percent dropout rate. Vocational ministry is a calling. It is not just another vocation. If you enter ministry for the wrong reasons, you will not likely do well. Indeed, you will not likely make it.”

5 Reasons You’re Still Procrastinating
“It happens to most leaders at some point. I’ve found the best way to get yourself out of the rut is to understand the reason you’re there in the first place. There are 5 big reasons that people get stuck along the way.”

Ten Major Themes in Proverbs
Steve Nicholes and his son Benjamin have created a nice visual diagram of ten major themes in Proverbs.

Student Life In Digital Babylon
“Younger Christians are living in what I describe as Digital Babylon. It’s very similar in some ways to the kind of head-snapping change that Daniel and his peers would have experienced in Babylon—exposure to a broader world, immersion in a whole set of worldviews and beliefs and ideas about spirituality, interacting regularly with people with very different points of view, very different perspectives about God, very different perspectives about human meaning and flourishing.”

How the Reformation Changed Education Forever
“Here are five educational reforms initiated by the reformers that significantly changed the face of education and still impact our educational system today:”

The Future of Christian Higher Education
Several observations from Thomas Kidd about challenges for Christian colleges and faculty today.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.


Wednesdays were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, And God by Michael Kelly $0.99.


The Most Important Place on Earth: What a Christian Home Looks Like and How to Build One by Robert Wolgemuth $1.99.


Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today by David Helm $3.99.

New Book

Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible by Matthew Harmon.

Video

Meet the Baker who serves gay customers but won’t make a gay wedding cake

Q&A Panel With Ferguson, Begg, and Mohler

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 7:02am

I loved this panel discussion between Alistair Begg, Al, Mohler, and Sinclair Ferguson. So much practical wisdom in here for pastors and seminarians.

5:33 Q&A begins

5:59 Alistair, are you a Baptist?

6:41 Is our culture moving from a culture of guilt to a culture of shame and how do we address that in the church?

9:49 What do you do as a pastor when you feel that you are losing zeal?

15:47 If you are preaching through a book, particularly a long one, and you lose your enthusiasm, should you stop, pause, keep going?

26:58 Do you have favorite preachers to listen to? How do we avoid becoming parrots of our favorite preachers?

35:20 How does a pastor begin an expository preaching ministry where that has not been the norm?

45:03 When retiring from the ministry, should we guide the elders and congregation as to succession?

55:33 How do you equip young men for the ministry and help them be accountable as they prepare for pastoral roles?

The Bittersweet Parting

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 6:43am

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” This is one of William Shakespeare’s most oft-quoted lines. What few realize is that it was uttered in the context of Juliet saying goodnight to Romeo “till it be tomorrow.” The sorrow of that parting was sweetened by the knowledge that it was only for a few hours.

But what about those partings from loved-ones that will be for years and years? There is nothing sweet and plenty bitter about such partings. What unmixed sorrow when a dying husband has to kiss his wife and children goodbye for the last time! What bitterness when soldiers on the way to Afghanistan have to say goodbye to their family and friends! What agony when a pastor and his beloved flock have to part, in response to God’s providential call, and sever the bond of love built up over years! Such partings are not “sweet sorrow,” but usually bitter, bitter, bitter.

The Lord Jesus also knew the deep sorrow of parting from His beloved family and flock on this earth. Time and again, He cautioned them that he had to “go away” (John 16:7). This was not easy for them; but neither was it easy for him.

Read the rest of this article at The Christward Collective.

Check out

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 6:40am
Blogs

I was a Christian woman addicted to porn
Some super-helpful insights in this article.

Me? Teach the Next Generation?
Have you been asked to teach and you don’t know where to start? Start with this article.

Analyzing Annihilationism: Will Those in Hell Cease to Exist?
The conclusion to this critique of annihilationism:

The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is that all who enter hell will experience unending punishment. Hell will have no end or exit. Annihilationists must repent of the false hope which they give. It’s loving to speak the plain truth to the unredeemed, especially in matters concerning eternal punishment.

The Cost of Leadership
“Although the biblical qualifications [for elder and deacon] are quite straightforward, there are two ways that many churches have abandoned what God has said about biblical order and leadership and have inserted worldly qualifications into the equation.”

Seven Prayers for Christian Dating
“If we refuse to pray in dating, we refuse to receive the precious resources we need most in dating. Too many of us struggle in dating — to discern our hearts, to communicate with one another, to balance priorities and responsibilities, to reject sexual temptation — without ever asking God for his wisdom, strength, and help.”

7 Rules for Keeping Pastoral Sanity
See especially #3:

Don’t chase people. This refers to number two. Certainly, we should pursue reconciliation. We should own mistakes if we’ve made them. But we can’t focus our ministry on chasing people who have left. The truth is, even if we were able to sit down and address the concerns in detail, many of the concerns of those who leave are beyond our ability to remedy.

Finding My ‘True Self’ As a Same-Sex Attracted Woman
Here’s a moving testimony with many insights into how to minister in a balanced way to those who experience same-sex attraction.

In my young-adult struggle with sexual identity, both legalistic condemnation and progressive license left me floundering.

Social Media Isn’t Your Teens’ Biggest Problem
“Yes, we must pay attention to social media. Yes, it’s wise to limit and monitor phone use. But doing so won’t fix our teens’ hearts. The only solution to a heart bent toward sin is repentance and trust in the gospel. In a selfie world, let’s help our teens understand their true identity is found only in Jesus.”

9 Things You Should Know About North Korea
I’m still hoping and praying that I will live to see the peaceful liberation of this country.

Kindle Books

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever $3.99.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes $1.99.

We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong by Al Mohler $2.99.

New Book

Here’s a video introduction to Mark Jones’s new book God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God.

Reformation Heritage Books Summer Sale

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 8:02am

Reformation Heritage books is currently hosting their annual Summer Sale. Click over to see all their offerings. Below are a few highlights.


A Brief Compendium of Bible Truth by Archibald Alexander ($7.70)


A Marvelous Ministry: How the All-round Ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon Speaks to Us Today by Curnow et al ($3.00)


Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption by Joel Beeke ($3.80)


Church History 101 by Sinclair B. Ferguson et al ($2.80)

Grace-Paced Life Links

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 8:01am

Brain Hygiene
“Brain hygiene”? Srini Pillay explains brain hygiene and the ways your brain manages overload in this article at Harvard Business Review. He says:

At the core of managing information overload is the ability to know which function to use, and how and when to use it. The six principles below can serve as a guide to the proper brain hygiene for managing information overload on a busy work day.

His points take a bit of explanation, so click over and read in detail Pillay’s advice for dealing with information overload.

Coherence not Balance
There is a lot of talk about finding “balance” when trying to overcome burnout. But what if “balance” isn’t quite it? Dr. Anne Bradley proposes that the real answer is to find coherence, not balance.  She explains why:

  1. Balance maintains constantly maintained equilibrium.
  2. Coherence embraces limitations dictated by a scarce world.
  3. Coherence in our vocations allows us to fully live out the narrative God has written and is writing specifically for us.

Rhythm and Margin
“Rhythm” and “margin” are two other common buzzwords. J. D. Greear states that they are, in fact, the two things we need to stay healthy.

Rhythm keeps you from running down. The alternative to following a rhythm is that you will find yourself rushing from one thing to the next, getting “inexplicably” tired. But it’s not inexplicable: it’s by design. Running wide open in everything you do wears you out…

Margin dovetails in to the idea of rhythm. A rhythmic life will be one that has plenty of “give” to it. Stress doesn’t just come from challenging tasks, but from maxing out all of our capacities. Margin means we intentionally keep ourselves from constantly running “in the red.”

Busyness Destroys Relationships
Is busyness destroying you and your relationships? Rob Tims uses the story of Mary and Martha to describe three ways this can happen:

  1. Busyness creates an inner turmoil because our work, even our work for that which is good, cannot satisfy us.
  2. Busyness creates an irritability with and sense of moral superiority over others, including God.
  3. Busyness leads us to question God’s character.

Sleep Schedules
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to get good sleep. But that doesn’t just mean enough sleep, it also means consistent sleep and on a regular schedule. To see how weird sleep schedules can affect health, click over to this article at Mashable.

No Comment
“It is a very dangerous thing for finite creatures of limited intelligence to behave as though we are infinite beings of unlimited intelligence,” writes Adam Parker in “A Just Silence.” Parker puts words to what I assume many of are feeling in this age when shocking and important things appear to be happening all the time – we don’t actually have to comment on everything. And perhaps we are attempting to live beyond our boundaries when we think we do.

Jesus did not speak out against every single social injustice with which He was confronted. On one occasion, a man came to him to dispute a matter about his brother and an inheritance that their Father had left behind. Instead of speaking to that particular social injustice, Jesus said, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you” (Luke 12:14)? He then went on to warn the man about the dangers of harboring covetousness in his heart. Was Jesus wrong for not pronouncing judgment on the social injustice of one man withholding a portion of a father’s inheritance from his brother? Was Jesus complicit in that injustice? None of us would ever dare say such a thing.

More Grace-Paced Life Resources here.

Counseling with the Old Testament

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 7:43am

When people ask me what I teach at Puritan Reformed Seminary, they usually look deeply puzzled when I say, “Biblical Counseling, Hebrew Exegesis, Leadership, Ministry, and Preaching.”

“Biblical Counseling AND Old Testament exegesis?” is often the eye-brow raising question. It’s as if I’ve just said that I teach How to Knit AND Engineering. 

There is a disadvantage in having such a wide teaching responsibility; I cannot specialize as much as I’d sometimes like to; I cannot hope to keep up with all the books that come out in these various fields.

However, that’s a sacrifice I and the Seminary have so far been prepared to make because of the advantage of cross-fertilization, and especially in the two areas of Biblical Counseling and biblical exegesis. Every time I teach my two counseling courses (Foundations of Biblical Counseling; Issues in Biblical Counseling), that’s followed in the next two semesters by my two Old Testament Exegesis courses (Pentateuch & Historical Books; Poets & Prophets).

But how do counseling and the Old Testament fit together?

Counseling Texts
First, when I choose which passages to focus on in my Old Testament exegesis classes, I gravitate towards the texts that will help my students pastor and counsel people. Take a sampling of some of passages we exegete from the Poetic books:

  • Job 19 equips us to counsel people struggling with assurance.
  • Job 23 helps us minister to people in the fire of affliction.
  • Psalm 8 encourages the young and the weak that God can use even them to silence His enemies.
  • Psalm 16 gives hope of the resurrection and heaven to those who are dying.
  • Psalm 42 argues the despairing along the path to trust and peace.
  • Proverbs 1 points us to the source of all wisdom and the sufficiency of Scripture.
  • Proverbs 8 assures us of the Lord’s eternal purposes and good will towards us.
  • Ecclesiastes 1-2 demonstrates the emptiness of this world and yet also the value and significance of a simple God-centered life.
  • Song of Solomon celebrates and commends the highest experiences of love, first in marriage, but calling ultimately to enjoy God’s love as the climactic love.

I could go on, but I hope that gives a flavor of how useful the Old Testament is in counseling.

Counseling Teaching
I was recently speaking at a conference where I used Psalm 77 and Philippians 4 to teach people how to counsel themselves and others. Psalm 77 provides an especially helpful structure and pattern for helping people retrain their thinking patterns. Kind of like a pre-CBT CBT.

Counseling Foundations
The Old Testament also provides the essential foundation for understanding what we once were (Genesis 1-2), what happened to us (Genesis 3:1-13), and God’s purposes of Gospel restoration (Genesis 3:14ff).

It’s almost impossible to know what we are aiming at in counseling without knowing what God first designed us to be. And it’s equally difficult to understand what’s wrong with us without knowing the impact and consequences of the fall into sin. But the early glimmer of Gospel hope, even in the midst of so much destruction and devastation is also hugely encouraging when we are facing the worst human scenarios in our own day.

Counseling Examples
God has provided us with countless individual Old Testament biographies as examples to follow or flee (Romans 15:4). And that’s not only true on a personal level; the whole history of Israel is full of examples to learn from and apply in counseling situations (1 Cor. 10:11).

Counseling Sin
Maybe we could say that the Old Testament prophets were the first biblical counselors. They took the texts of the past, especially Deuteronomy, and applied them powerfully to the culture and church of their own day. They are wonderful examples of courageously confronting sin, of incisively getting to heart issues, but also of giving Gospel hope, particularly towards the end of their books, and especially in their compassionate comforting of the true people of God.

Counseling God’s Character
One of the questions that I’m always urging students to ask Old Testament passages is: “What does this reveal of the character of God?” What attribute, what characteristic of God is highlighted here? What does this incident, event, experience tell us about God, especially the redemptive character of God?

Counseling His Story
Ultimately, though, perhaps the greatest benefit of studying the Old Testament for counseling is getting a bigger and better sense of the redemptive plan of God as revealed and advanced throughout redemptive history. Only in the light of this BIG picture do we begin to make sense of our little snapshot of life.

As the ancient Biblical story becomes more and more woven into our fabric, it strengthens, supports, and sustains us in ways that convey sometimes inexplicable but always incalculable blessing as we face the challenges of our 21st century lives.

Check out

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 7:35am
Blogs

How This Millennial Learned That Any Job Is Better Than No Job
“Many young people are told over and over again to ‘Follow your dreams.’ But that’s often a one-way ticket to poverty, wasted time, and entitlement.”

Faithfulness at the Photocopier: How Little Acts Develop Big Character
“The battle for character at work starts in the little thoughts you think and the little actions you take.

5 Reasons Studying the Original Languages Is Worth the Pain
“You can use Greek and Hebrew without having to memorize a single paradigm, let alone 3,000 vocab words, so why torture yourself? I’ll give you ten reasons studying the original languages is worth the pain, five this week and five next.”

11 Tips for New Ministry Bloggers
If you’re interested in getting into blogging, here’s some good start-up advice.

Why Study the Books of 1–2 Timothy and Titus?
“Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus celebrate the glorious gospel message that Jesus saves sinners, stress the need for godly living as the fruit of gospel grace, and call us to preserve and pass on the good deposit of the gospel through deliberate discipleship.”

The Shock of Eternity
“Because of what is at stake, this ought to be a doctrine which God’s people do not hide. To stutter or shuffle our feet on the truth of hell is to do humanity a great injustice. Love necessitates speaking plainly about the truths of eternity; why and how one would enter heaven or hell and what the two forevers will be like.”

Marriage Lessons from the Luthers
“Katharina and Martin Luther lived 500 years ago, but they can teach us much about how to live well in our own modern-day marriages.”

New Book


God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God by Mark Jones

This book aims to help us study and understand the attributes of God so that we delight in and love him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Each chapter explains one attribute, shows how it is most clearly manifested in Christ, and provides practical application for the Christian life.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

3 2 1: The Story of God, the World and You by Glen Scrivener $4.99.

What do you think of me? Why do I care? by Ed Welch $1.59.

Should we re-model our church or build a new one?

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 2:00am

I was involved in leading two church building projects in the two churches I pastored in Scotland. I never thought that I’d be doing that again when I moved to the USA.  Yet, here I am, pastoring a congregation in Grand Rapids that is beginning the process of deciding whether to build a new church or re-model our existing building. Hence, at our elders’ and deacons’ meeting this week, I made a presentation on the primary purposes of a church building and the considerations to bear in mind when deciding whether to re-model or build anew. I thought I’d post a summary of that report here with the hope of getting feedback from others who have gone through this process. Have I missed anything? Anything I should change, add, etc?

PRIMARY PURPOSES

Any church building (new or re-model) must provide for the following.

Worship: The most important area of a church building is the worship area or sanctuary.

Education: Classrooms are required for Sunday school classes for all ages, youth group, Bible studies, prayer groups, library.

Evangelism: Resource room, place for informal Bible studies.

Counseling: Private room for pastoral counseling.

Community: Spaces to greet, fellowship, welcome desk, provide refreshments, hospitality.

Administration: Office space for secretary, files, supplies, deacons.

MAIN CONSIDERATIONS 

When deciding on how these aims should be accomplished in any re-model or new church building, the following factors should be considered:

Mission: What does the church see as its main mission? Is it to be primarily (1) an outreach church or (2) a church that teaches and builds up God’s people? If it is aiming to be both, what proportion or priority is to be given to each?

Leadership: Does the church have the leadership to facilitate the size of project being envisaged?

Unity: Is the leadership united in the project and are the leaders united with members?

Size: How many people is the building for? Now and in the future? Is the parking lot big enough and close enough to the building?

Style: Will the church have a traditional (churchy) style or will it be more modern (seeker-friendly)? Previous answers will help to answer this question.

Comfort: To be blunt, pews or padded seats?

Technology: Will services be streamed or recorded in audio and/or video? What rooms will have TV/Internet/video? Will there be psalters/hymnals or projection of songs?

Accessibility: What provision will be made for those with special physical, mental, or hearing needs?

Location: Is the church in the right place? Could it be in a better place? How many locations should there be? If the church is thinking about expanding its facility, would it be better to plant another church instead?

Safety: Stewarding of parking lot and inside areas to keep children safe.

Security: Is there a security plan and are there security provisions such as cameras, alarms, etc?

Witness: What does the church building say about the church? What message does the outside convey to passers-by and what impression does it give to any visitors?

Future: Is this the best use of money for the next generation. Will those still worshipping here in fifty years time look back and say, “Why did they take on so much debt?” or “Why didn’t they invest in a building for future generations?”

Cost: The bottom line. How much will a new build cost compared to various re-model options? How much will maintenance be on each option? Do we have the donor base to fund this without asking for huge loans?

Prayer: Cover every purpose and consideration with prayer, asking the builder of his church, “Lord what will you have us to do?”

Check Out

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Help Your Kids Hope in God | Jason Helopoulos, Desiring God
“In family worship, we simply put ourselves and our children in the way of Christ’s blessing. Try it. I promise, it isn’t hard. Over time, practicing daily family worship will change your home. It will change your life. By coming daily to Jesus, not just in our private devotions but together as families, Christ pours out blessings that will overflow into eternity.”

The Challenge of University Evangelism | Tim and Michael Keller, TGC
“…Some believe, however, that the university may be entering a new era of opposition to student ministry, and particularly to evangelism. When weighing what seems to be the beginning of a shift or trend, it’s always hard to know whether it’ll be localized and temporary or sweeping and lasting. However, particularly in elite American universities, students are becoming highly sensitive, traumatized, and outraged by opposing viewpoints.”

7 Tips for Sharing the Gospel with Teens | Jaquelle Crowe, Crossway Articles
“I hadn’t seen my friend McKenzie in months. Now we sat together in a coffee shop downtown, two teens sipping mugs of hot tea and catching up on life. A lot had happened, and conversation flowed freely. Except for one problem—my stomach was in knots. McKenzie was not a Christian, and I felt desperately like I needed share the gospel with her.”

6 Things to Do with Your Anxiety | David Powlison, TGC
As Justin says this is for everyday anxiety, bot anxiety disorders.

“Anxiety is a universal human experience, and you need to approach it with a plan…I want to give you six things as a game plan for when you start to worry and obsess.”

20 Quotes from the Best Introduction to Christianity I’ve Ever Read | Matt Smethurst, TGC
“While I would still give Mere Christianity or The Reason for God or Making Sense of God to an intellectually minded skeptic, I think [3 2 1: The Story of God the World and You] is the finest ‘street-level’ introduction to the Christian story I’ve encountered. Scrivener has a remarkable way of painting pictures with words. If you want the good news of grace to land on you in a fresh way, pick up this book. Then buy a copy for a non-Christian friend.”

How Savings Can Save Your Ministry | Art Rainer, For The Church
“Having three to six months worth of living expenses set aside is an important component of financial health. It can take you off the financial edge. It can benefit your home life. And it can benefit your ministry.”

Listen and watch Dr. Lloyd-Jones | Credo Magazine

New Book


Complete in Him: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Gospel by Michael P. V. Barrett.

Kindle Deals


Living Without Worry: How to replace anxiety with peace by Timothy Lane ($2.99)


Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick ($2.99)


Christ or Chaos by Dan DeWitt ($2.99)


The Cross: God’s Way of Salvation by Martyn Lloyd-Jones ($2.99)

Did Christ really have to die?

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 8:25am

“Why do we do this?”

We’ve all thought his, haven’t we? We’re processing some data, we’re writing a report, or we’re engaged in a routine task, and we suddenly realize, “There’s absolutely no reason for this.”

We ask around, “Why is this process or report necessary?” No one seems to know and no one wants to know. “We’ve always done it that way,” or “Don’t ask questions, just do it,” are frequent responses.

Sometimes—though rarely—someone says, “Good question. Either we should find out why this is necessary or we should stop doing it.” After a bit of investigation and research, a reason is discovered; and it’s a good one. The meeting or the process is absolutely and indispensably necessary and there’s no other way of accomplishing the aim.

Why did Christ do this?
Have you ever applied the same question to Christ’s death? Why did he do this? Was it really necessary? Why did Christ have to die, and to die such a death?

Though it’s rarely asked today, it was asked by many in the 19th century and many wrong answers were proposed. In Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement, Scottish theologian George Smeaton addressed a number of these erroneous and dangerous answers. Among them were:

  • Christ’s death was prophesied and therefore had to happen to fulfill these prophecies.
  • Christ’s death was necessary to confirm his teaching.
  • Christ’s death was necessary to impress humanity with God’s love.

Smeaton argued that there was a much deeper necessity involved: the morality of God’s government. God could not pass over sin without his justice being completely and perfectly satisfied. As Smeaton said:

 There could be no other reason sufficiently important for God to abase Himself and to be made in fashion as a man, and suffer on the cross; for God would not subject His Son to such agonies if sin could have been remitted without satisfaction.

The error that had taken the deepest hold in Smeaton’s day was idea that the atonement was a way of impressing the human mind with God’s love. This, said Smeaton, turned Christ person and work into a mere drama, an act, a theatrical performance, that was designed to make an inward impression upon humanity but had no impact or influence upon God and his moral government.

Silence does not mean denial
Smeaton concedes that Christ was relatively silent on the necessity of his dying to satisfy divine justice. However, he defends this silence by explaining that Christ was addressing Jews who were already familiar with the necessity of an atonement. The whole history of Israel and especially of the sacrificial system had developed in them the core idea that sin must be punished by sacrifice to God.

The whole Old Testament was thus calculated to bring into prominence the necessity of an atonement, and to sharpen the conviction that sin required a higher sacrifice; and the sacrifice, presupposing the sinful deed, showed the inviolability of the law and covenant.

Smeaton even went so far as to say that the primary reason for Israel’s election and separation from the nations of the earth was to demonstrate to the world that sin must be punished, but that sacrifice could avert punishment. Christ took that national consciousness for granted in his ministry and therefore did not speak much about the necessity of an atoning sacrifice. He knew the Jews knew that an atonement was indispensably necessary.

Beheading the Hydra
Not surprisingly the same error is rearing it’s ugly head in our own day. Smeaton cut off one head of this hydra, but other heads appear in different forms at different times. Whatever the form it takes though, the root cause and remedy are the same. Just as in Smeaton’s time, present denials of the atonement are rooted in an ignorance and neglect of the Old Testament (see here and here for evidence of that). Only by recovering its core message—God must punish sin, but God’s anger can be satisfied and averted by sacrifice—will the indispensable necessity of Christ sin-atoning death be recovered.

Previous Posts in this Series on the Atonement

Was Jesus ever ill?
The Most Sympathetic Man in the World
What did Christ believe about the atonement?
The Four Essentials of a Successful Atonement
Three Old and New Errors about the Atonement
Christ’s Weaknesses
How to Measure the Immeausurable

Grace-Paced Life Links

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 1:00am

We all know self-care is important, but it can be hard to make the time for it. Amy Jen Su shares ways to weave self-care into your workday:

One CEO I worked with summed it up best when he said: “Self-care is no longer a luxury; it’s part of the job.”

So, what exactly is self-care, and how do we do it?

Here are some of Su’s main points:

  • Define self-care more broadly
  • Take out the word “should”
  • Operationalize self-care in your day-to-day work
  • Notice when you’ve slipped out of self-care mode

Similarly, Courtney Reissig speaks to the reality of work in our day and age. She says, “…so while [my husband] might be on vacation from work, his customers are not. In an ever-connected digital age, work never stops.” She goes on to dive into the subjects of rest and Sabbath and how both work and rest exist for the Lord, not for oneself. She shows us how sometimes rest may look differently than we expect.

In When You Feel Spread too Thin, Christine Hoover encourages us to “steward the abundance.” She reminds us to:

  • Praise God for the abundance. “If your ministry or your life has vitality, praise God. If you have relationships and friendships, praise God. If you have more coming at you than you know what to do with, praise God.”
  • Check your heart. “Are you spreading yourself too thin because of self-idolatry?” Ouch. A potentially painful question to ask yourself.
  • Clarify your people priorities. “After spouse and kids or roommate relationships, who are the people He most wants you to invest your life in?”
  • Say yes and also say no. “I’ve learned that a slow response gives me time to ask God about it.”
  • Cultivate intersections rather than being a cul-de-sac. “Use your opportunities and influence to connect people with each other…”
  • Plan ahead for friendship. “Plan ahead for time with those you consider heart friends.”

Are we facing an epidemic of loneliness? “All too often, what is sacrificed at the altars of ‘work’ and ‘family’ is friendship (and sleep). In the process of reporting the piece, Baker comes to realize that he is, in fact, ‘a textbook case of the silent majority of middle-aged men who won’t admit they’re starved for friendship, even if all signs point to the contrary.’” Philip Lorish goes on to speak to the “crowding out” effect technology is having on our person-to-person relationships and the reasons a Google Hangout just won’t cut it when it comes to meaningful relationships.

Next, we have 25 Signs of a Healthy Leader. The article is meant to be used as a self-assessment tool and contains statements like:

  • I get enough sleep
  • I exercise on a regular basis
  • I spend time in God’s Word and in prayer on a regular basis
  • I listen to others well (including my spouse and children)
  • I am not in debt or have a concrete plan for getting out of debt
  • I forgive myself when I make mistakes

Some strong words to consider here from Chris Thomas:

We have forgotten how to be quiet. We have long abandoned the notion of developing stillness as a way of life. These joint disciplines have somehow slipped from grace and tumbled into the dark closet of the past.

Like all things unknown, we’ve become afraid of what’s lurking in the darkness.

So while we like to dim the lights at an appropriate time in the service and pull down the levels on the band while we all sing “Be still and know that I am God”—the reality of that statement is often a mystery to us.

Chris continues to give some encouragement on how to turn down the volume knob in our own lives.

Lastly, seasoned pastor Todd Gaddis shares “nineteen matters I will give special attention to as I head into the home stretch.” Here are some favorites:

  • Build margin into my schedule
  • Find a new hobby
  • Speak positively
  • Dig deeper in the Word
  • Remember the Sabbath
  • Please God first.

More grace-paced life links here.

Selfaholism or Servaholism

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 2:00am

Dear Selfaholic,

You have a problem. It’s yourself. To be blunt, you are addicted to yourself.

I’m afraid that you were born this way, as all of us are. However, most of us learn to hide it most of the time; or at least we come to realize that 100% self-centeredness is not the best way to achieve our goals! That’s a selfish motive, I know, but it’s kind of how society works.

There is another way out of this addiction, a way that actually removes self rather than just manages it, but I’ll get to that later.

Like most addicts, you probably don’t realize you have a problem. Although you are constantly thinking about yourself, you know hardly anything about yourself. So, let me describe the symptoms of selfaholism and then give you some hope of getting free from it, especially as you are still young.

Selfaholism
Selfaholism is characterized by self-centeredness, self-righteousness, self-promotion, self-sufficiency, self-will, self-worship, self-love, self-praise, etc. However, these symptoms manifest themselves differently, depending on the age of the addict. If you are still a teenager, you are probably in one of the worst phases of selfaholism – strong, independent, and self-conscious enough to show the uglier side of selfaholism; but not wise or experienced enough to realize that it is self-destructive and self-defeating unless at least “managed” and modified.

You probably can’t understand why your parents ever say “No” to you. And why should they even consider what your brothers and sisters want? Why shouldn’t you sit scowling and slouching at the table? Doesn’t affect anyone else, does it? As for chores, why can’t you just come home, eat, and stay in your room? Why should Mom want to know what went on at school today? If only she would talk less, she might have your Abercrombie  T-shirts ready when you need them for a change, right? And isn’t it really annoying the way Dad insists on you going to bed at the same time as everyone else instead of making milkshakes at midnight.

But you’re miserable aren’t you. That’s the weird thing about addictions. They promise much, but deliver little. You think that by pursuing your agenda that you will find happiness, contentment, and satisfaction. But, as you are discovering, self-love causes self-hatred. Oh, I know you think your misery is caused by all the “no’s” in your life – no’s from parents, no’s from teachers, no’s from pastors, no’s from everyone. “Why does no one ever say “yes” to me?”

But the problem is simpler and shorter than you think. It is the big capital letter “I” at the center of your heart. And until that letter is broken in many pieces, your life will continue on its dismal and dreary course. You will wander from relationship to relationship, from college to college, from marriage to marriage, from job to job, from church to church, and from bright shiny thing to next bright shiny thing. And it will always be “their” fault and never yours: parents, teachers, friends, professors, wives, husbands, pastors, bosses, government, whoever, whatever…If only they would all bow down and serve you then all would be well.

Servaholics
But here’s the strangest thing of all; the happiest people in the world are servants – not those who warm the slippers of millionaires, but those who serve others in all their relationships and responsibilities. They may have a million in the bank or even just red ink, but whatever their social or financial standing, they listen well, they give away their money and time, they volunteer at church, they do more than their assigned chores, and they even do some things without pay!

I know that sounds like total misery to you, but, believe me, it’s the way to happiness. Now, of course some people are selfless for selfish reasons. They have the wisdom to see that living just for self is not very helpful socially or vocationally. (I wish you even had that insight). But there are others who not only manage and modify their selfaholism. They actually deny self and live for others. How? Well, they have the great Self-denier working in their hearts. I’m talking about Jesus Christ of course, the Servant who can turn the worst selfaholics into the best servaholics

Study Christ’s life and ask yourself how you too can serve rather than be served. But, above all, study His death. Studying his life will shrink your “I” a little; but it’s when you stand before His cross that your “I” will begin to crack and crumble, even at it’s very foundations. Paul calls us, just as he called the Philippians selfaholics of his own day, to grasp that Christ’s servaholism atones for our selfaholism (Phil. 2:3-7). And as we grasp that supreme act of Self-denial on our behalf, we will not only serve, but we will serve out of selfless motives. We will stop thinking about what we are giving up and all we’ll see is what He gave up.

Is it just coincidence that the great Philippian epistle of service is also the great epistle of joy? (Phil. 3:1; 4:1, 4). I earnestly pray that you too will come to know the joy of servaholism (1 Cor. 16:15).

From a recovering selfaholic.

Check out

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Things have been a bit quiet around here the past while as I’ve been moving house. Normal service is being restored!

Why Parents Need To Limit Screens And Make Boredom Great Again
Three practices Brooke Shannon and her family have implemented to protect the endangered emotion of boredom.

Consecutive Exposition Is Not the Only Way
I’ve been arguing this for years…without much success. Maybe it’s just a Murray thing.

While God makes it clear that we must preach the Word, he does not specify one method over the other. I wonder if we have veered too far in one direction. This, after all, is our tendency in nearly everything—to swing from wild extreme to wild extreme. “All I am arguing,” says Murray, “is that the single-text method ought to be taken far more seriously than is often done today.” Based on the historical record, it’s worth considering. But as you consider it, consider not only the idea of preaching a new text each week; consider also the duty of prayerfully seeking that text.”

Guilty!
Deeply sobering.

“Two weeks ago a close member of my family was sentenced to a three and a half year prison sentence for drugs related offences. Although it wasn’t a complete surprise, nevertheless the news when it came was still naturally shocking and distressing. As I’ve had some time to process things I thought I’d write a little about some of the things the Lord has been teaching me over these weeks.”

The Routine Absurdity of Leaders Growing Large
As Spurgeon used to pray: “Lord keep me down and then I need fear no fall.

“God has a special training program for leaders who think too highly of themselves. Whether it’s Lucifer who said, “I will ascend” or the people of Babel saying, “let us make a great name for ourselves,” God organizes a loving tumble to help us find our right size and right place. Think about this as the loving act of a devoted dad who is dedicated to his child’s rescue.”

When the Darkness Doesn’t Yield
Gavin Ortlund on his recent experience of deep sadness:

“Recently I went through a deeper experience of sadness. It wasn’t as terrible as what some Christians endure, but it wasn’t mild, either. Sometimes it felt fierce and unrelenting, like a wave crashing over me. For a few moments, it felt black and invincible, like Bane standing over a broken Batman. Those who have endured such seasons know what a terrible experience it is. The feeling of aloneness. The lethargy that attaches like a shadow. The incessant low-grade despair, like a dim grinding noise in the distance, always humming. The shocking alarm when certain things don’t excite you anymore, and then (of course) the dreadful question that follows: Will they ever again?

9 Ways to Raise Up Leaders in Your Church
A most important but much neglected part of ministry.

Help Me Teach the Bible: Tony Reinke on How Our Phones Are Changing Us as Teachers
Tony Reinke talks to Nancy Guthrie about how technology is changing us.

Kindle Books

The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ by Chap Bettis $1.99. Excellent book!

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert $3.99.

PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace by Daniel Montgomery $3.99.

Broken and Whole: A Leader’s Path to Spiritual Transformation by Stephen Macchia $3.99.

Video

Soldier of Christ 

College or Apprenticeship?

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 2:00am

Within the next week or so, President Trump will make the expansion of apprenticeship programs the centerpiece of his administration’s labor policy. I agree wholeheartedly with this policy and recommend John Davidson’s article to explain why. Here’s a summary of it:

  • Currently there are millions of unfilled jobs for skilled workers across the country.
  • For too long, Americans have prized college education as the sole pathway to a respectable middle-class life.
  • Not everyone has to go to college for four years to have a productive, fulfilling career or gain entry to the middle class.
  • Keeping more of America’s youth out of our hopelessly politicized institutions of higher learning, and putting them to work as skilled laborers, might do the country real and lasting good.
  • Last year, some 13 million Americans were enrolled in four-year colleges versus only about a half-million apprentices in training.
  • Most apprenticeship programs are sponsored by industries that want to hire skilled workers. They need these workers so much they’re willing to pay them while they’re learning the skills of the trade.
  • The vast majority of apprentices have a job waiting for them—with an average salary of $60,000—when they complete their apprenticeship.

 

Check out

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

10 Things You Should Know about Dating
By he author of a new book on dating: Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating.

Kay Warren on how God saved her and Rick’s marriage from divorce
This is quite the story

4 Reasons to Enjoy Growing Older
The Christian can stand apart from a culture growing younger and not only embrace getting older but actually enjoy it.

How Debt Can Destroy Your Ministry
|”For those in ministry, you could say that debt is a ministry killer. Personal debt places burdens and barriers on the lives of those in ministry. Let’s consider how debt can destroy your ministry.”

TGC Canada Website Is Now Live
As a good number Canadians visit this blog, you may want to add TGC Canada’s new blog to your bookmarks.

Brain Scans Could Detect Autism In Infants As Young As Six Months
Early diagnosis means earlier and more effective treatments.

Kindle Books

Zeal without Burnout: Seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice by Christopher Ash $2.99.

Comforts from Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time by Elyse Fitzpatrick $2.99.

The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child’s Heart of Eternity by Sally Clarkson $1.99.

Ben Needham Comes Home: An Adoption Story
We all need stories like this from time to time.

Add Exhortation to Exposition

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 6:46am

While celebrating the growth in expository preaching over the past fifty years or so, there’s often still a missing piece in many sermons—what I call, “passionate persuasion.”

Robert Strivens addresses this in the June 2017 edition of the Banner of Truth’s Magazine. In an article entitled Preachers and Preaching: Calvin on the Pastoral Epistles, he draws nine lessons about preaching from Calvin’s commentary on these letters. After the ninth bullet point, I’ve extracted a paragraph which directly addresses the problem of passionless preaching.

  1. Your life must match your teaching.
  2. A minister must teach.
  3. In order to teach, we must study – and our study must be of the word of God.
  4. We must immerse ourselves in the study of all of God’s word.
  5. We must ensure that our doctrine is truly founded in the word of God alone.
  6. We must use whatever help we can find, to enable us to understand God’s word.
  7. Study is not an end in itself. Some men love study, which is fine but we are never to forget that it is but a means to an end.
  8. We have to work at communicating these truths to others.
  9. We must exhort, as well as teach.

Those preachers today who believe they have fulfilled their duty when they have adequately explained the text would not have met with Calvin’s approval. Calvin reminds us that the pastor is a shepherd and “A shepherd… must not simply put forward the teaching, to say, ‘This is the meaning,’ but must exhort as well.”

So we are certainly to give the meaning of the biblical text: that is essential. But it is not enough. We must also “add to it a vehemency, so that the teaching may touch their hearts to the quick, and not only know what is good, but be moved to follow it.”

Preaching is not just a question of informing the mind: it is also a matter of moving the heart. Motivation, as well as information, is the goal. So the preacher is not to think “that he has done his duty, and is quit when he has given forth good teaching… Exhortations must be added to it, to quicken the doctrine.” Vehemency – exhortations – motivation. For Calvin, these are essential elements in preaching. “Let us be content to be stirred up, that our fire be kindled, so that we may burn with the zeal of God.” A clear but cold exposition of a biblical text is, for Calvin, not preaching. We must burn.

That’s the key isn’t it. If we burn, so will our sermons.

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