Friday, March 31, 2006

Update on "The View"

I didn't get to see the show myself, but I've been told that the briefest of brief mentions was made of I Kissed Dating Goodbye by the guest host, Myrka Dellanos, who is evidently both an Emmy Award winning Latino journalist and a committed Christian.

In the comments section, Audra, wrote the following description of the segment:
The guest host very briefly mentioned reading the book, and not wanting to waste time by dating people she knows she would not want to potentially marry. Of course some comments were made, but they were comically made in effort to make her clarify her position. When asked what she is looking for in a husband, she mentioned the man must be a Christian, love God, herself, daughter, etc.
It's great to have a single mom like this take a stand. I hope God answers her prayers for a godly husband as she waits on him. God bless you, Myrka!

J-Lenoir blogs about the show here.

Well, that's done. There's very little chance that "The View" or any other daytime television show will be discussed here again.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

IKDG Gets a Mention on "The View"

Today I got a call from Penny at my publisher telling me that the producer of the ABC daytime television show The View had called to say that they'd be mentioning I Kissed Dating Goodbye on their Friday, March 31 show.

I don't know anything about this show so I visited their website. I'm really curious what in the world they'd have to say about my book. Evidently they have a guest host and she mentions having read it.

Please pray that even if the book is mocked, if its God's will this brief mention will lead to some viewer tracking down the book and discovering in its pages the good news of God's love through Jesus Christ. That would be wonderful. Ultimately that's why I wrote it.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

For Pastors: The Resurgence

Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, is hosting a conference for pastors May 9-11. Mark's heart is to serve young church planters and what he describes as an "biblical, missional theology." You can learn more about the line-up of speakers at The Resurgence. If you end up coming, please say hello. I'll be speaking one session and enjoying the conference with five of my fellow pastors from Covenant Life.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Prodigal

Last Sunday I had the joy of preaching the parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15. When the rebellious son returns in repentance, the father runs to meet him. He embraces him and kisses his son who has dishonored and disgraced him.

Isn't this how God so graciously accepts all those who come to Him for mercy? I was deeply moved as I considered the great cost paid to give an undeserving sinner like me this same gracious welcome.
The Father ran to me while I was a long way off, because he sent his son to die on a cross in my place.

The Father clothed me with robes, because Jesus was stripped and beaten.

The Father placed a ring on my hand and sandals on my feet because Christ’s hands and feet were pierced.

The Father accepts me as his child only because he turned his face from his son when he hung on the cross receiving the penalty for my sins.
This is amazing grace. If you'd like to hear the message you can download it for free. The message is from March 19 and is entitled "Lost and Found Part 8: The Rebel."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Squire and the Scroll



Some of you might be familiar with the work of Jennie Bishop. She authored a very popular children's book for girls called The Princess and the Kiss. It tells the story of a princess who saves the precious gift of her first kiss for her husband.

Mrs. Bishop followed this up with a book for young boys called The Squire and the Scroll. It's an adventure with a knight, a dragon and a kingdom in peril. As it tells the story of a faithful young squire who learns to face the dangers of temptation and "keep his heart pure" it teaches valuable lessons to young men about guarding their eyes and ears from evil.

Last month I got a call from my friends at Family Life Today asking if I'd be willing to narrate The Squire and the Scroll for their radio broadcast. I brought the book home, read it to my family and it passed the kid test. I liked it alot, too. It didn't take that much convincing. I've always dreamed of being voice talent for a Pixar movie or something cool like that (John Lasseter, if you're reading I'm available!) so this was exciting.

Family Life Today broadcast two shows on The Squire and the Scroll on March 9 and 10. You can listen to the shows here. My family thinks my "king voice" is pretty cheesy. And they're right. Oh, well.

And you can order a copy of the book with the audio CD from Family Life here.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Abiding in Jesus

A Meditation on John 15:4-6
Friends sent us flowers when Mary Kate was born. Two weeks later, while our little girl grows and thrives, the once bright floral arrangements are brown and lifeless. For a little while, with their stems submerged in water, they could live. But no matter how beautiful a flower or branch may be, cut from its plant it lives only a short time.

Jesus used the analogy of plants to help us understand spiritual life. Today in my devotions I read John 15:1-8. In this passage Jesus describes himself as the “true vine”— the source of life and sustenance for those who believe in Him. He explaines that to benefit from his life we must keep this vital connection to him. John 15:4-6 says,

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (ESV)

To "abide" is to stay with or to continue on with something. The NIV uses the word “remain.” A branch that is connected to a life-giving vine is abiding. It’s staying put—it is in union with the vine, and thus sustained by it.

To have true spiritual life, Christians must maintain constant union with Jesus. We must abide in him. We do this by reading his word, communing with him in prayer, and pursuing fellowship and worship centered on Christ with other saints.

Abiding doesn't come naturally to me. As I read this passage I was struck by how often I try to accomplish and achieve without abiding in Christ. I attempt to grow, to parent, to be a husband, to preach or lead, apart from the constant discipline of abiding in Jesus. It doesn’t work. Actually, it works for a while. But then it withers. Like a vase of cut flowers, self-sustaining effort can be beautiful, even impressive. But it never lasts. Without vital connection to and reliance on the Savior our best efforts die.

What is the opposite of abiding? I guess it’s moving on. Not remaining, pulling up the stakes and heading out. So often, my inclination is toward independence and self-sufficiency. This is never in the form of outright rejection. It is subtle. It’s self-confidence. It’s believing that I know how to handle what’s coming next.

It’s not that I think I don’t need Jesus, because I know I do. But I start thinking, “I need Jesus to get saved and to forgive my sins, and I will definitely be checking in frequently, but I can’t sit around and abide all day. Good grief, I have places to go and people to see and kingdom work to accomplish!”

To all this Jesus simply says, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Nothing is not a whole lot.

Do I believe that? I need to. It’s true. Apart from his words feeding me, apart from daily communion, apart from constant prayer and reliance, apart from the sustaining grace of gathering with those who call on his name, apart from the discipline of fighting anything and everything that draws me away from him, I will dry up and die spiritually.

Jesus is not just the Savior who died to save me from sin 2,000 years ago. He’s not just the Savior who gave me life on the day when I first repented and believed in him.

He is my life today.

He is the vine and I am the branch. All that I have and all the good fruit I hope to bear—in my marriage, family, and church—is the direct result to my connection to him.

I cannot bear fruit by myself. I must abide in him.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Discipline for Grown-Ups

A Meditation on Amos 3-4
This week my 3-year-old son asked my wife how God gives corrections to grown-ups. I can only imagine the picture in his vivid imagination. What does it look like for God to give daddy and mommy a spanking? Does a heavenly hand part the clouds and whack away on their rear-ends? Well, sort of. Actually, God’s correction of grown-ups is much more painful than any spanking. But just as real. And something we’d all do well to consider more often.

Today in my personal devotions I’m reading Amos 3-4. In these chapters God is speaking through his prophet and announcing his impending judgment on Israel. Because of their special position as his children, they’re going to be the special recipients of his discipline. Amos 3:2 says,
“You only have I known
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities.”

In other words, “Israel, you’re special. I’ve chosen you and revealed myself to you in a way I’ve not done with any other nation. And because of that, you’re going to receive punishment for your sin.” The covenant that promised Israel would be God’s special people also promised they would be punished when they violated that covenant (see Deuteronomy 28).

God disciplines his children. We don’t announce this at alter calls do we? “Come to God. Become his special child and receive his special discipline!” But it’s true. A mark of truly belonging to God through faith in Jesus is receiving his discipline.

Hebrews 12 tells us that this is an evidence of true sonship. In Hebrews 12:5-6 the writer of Hebrews draws from Proverbs 3:11-12 and says,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

How should this truth affect me? First, it should fill me with gratefulness. I have a Father in heaven who truly loves my soul. He is willing to interrupt my comfort, willing to rebuke and discipline me so that I will be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus. Hebrews 12:9-11 says,
…we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

If we’re willing to be trained by it, God’s discipline can be seen as a wonderful gift. When I have to bring correction to my children I will often ask, “Now would daddy be loving you if I let you do such and such?” Even my young children understand that discipline is an evidence of true love and care.

Second, the reality of God’s discipline should check the sinful impulses of my heart. God hates sin. He punishes sin. Because of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus, I will not face his eternal wrath for all my sins. But this does not exempt me from his discipline of God or the immediate consequences of sinful decisions now. We should avoid sin because we love God and it dishonors Him. And we should avoid sin because sin has terrible consequences and God will discipline his true children when they harbor it and walk in it.

In Amos 4, God tells Israel all the forms of discipline he sent—drought, military defeat, destruction of crops—and ends each statement with the words, “yet you have not returned to me.” A third response in my life should be to cultivate a heart that is quick to repent. This is not to say that every form of trial or tragedy is “discipline” from God. I don’t agree with those who say that if you’re sick, or if something bad happens to you, it must mean that you’re in sin or don’t have enough faith. In his Sovereignty, God can use suffering to accomplish his hidden purposes. I’m reading Job right now as well, and this book reveals this truth very clearly. That being said, shouldn’t we also be people who ask God, “Are you trying to get my attention through this trial?” and, “Is there anything in my life that displeases you?” Psalm 139:23 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” In response to God’s loving discipline, we should be people who “return to him” in repentance and faith. What motivation we have to do so in light of the free gift of forgiveness through our Savior!

Finally, it seems that the reality of God’s discipline should sober Christians in America—a nation that in so many ways seems bent on flaunting and breaking the commands of God. We live, as Isaiah put it, among a people of unclean lips. We live in the midst of wickedness, and have, ourselves, either condoned it through our silence or taken part in all forms of it. I don’t believe our goal should be theocracy. I’m not interested in having Christians take over government. It seems to me that the best thing we can do is repent and cry out to God for mercy. We should acknowledge our many sins. We should acknowledge that instead of being “a city on a hill,” we have been overtaken by the darkness. More than it needs a conservative, right wing government, our country needs the Church to model lives transformed by the gospel. It needs us to be a holy people, serving a Holy God through faith in the only Savior. Our country needs us to intercede for it, to cry out to God and ask that He would show mercy in the form of revival in our lost nation.

Amos 3:6 asks the chilling question, “When disaster comes to a city has not the Lord caused it?” This week images of Mardi Gras in the ruins of New Orleans conjure images of what the nation of Israel might have been like in the days of Amos. God sent disaster but the people refused to turn, refused to lay down the party, refused to repent.

I live in Gaithersburg, Maryland—a town just as sinful and deserving of God’s holy wrath as New Orleans or any other place. The reality of God’s discipline over nations and individuals and, specifically, his children should cause me—should cause every Christian—to walk humbly, to return to God, and to cry for His undeserved mercy.

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