Love Her! Love Her!

If you are a Christian man who is married and in a position of leadership, I encourage you to humbly and carefully listen to this exhortation from John Piper.

Here I am speaking directly to men who are husbands and leaders. Paul said in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives!” Love her! Love her! What does it profit a man if he gains a great following and loses his wife? What have we led people to if they see that it leads us to divorce? What we need today are leaders who are great lovers. Husbands who write poems for their wives and sing songs to their wives and buy flowers for their wives for no reason at all except that they love them. We need leaders who know that they should take a day alone with their wives every now and then; leaders who do not fall into the habit of deriding and putting their wives down, especially with careless little asides in public; leaders who speak well of their wives in public and complement them spontaneously when they are alone; leaders who touch her tenderly at other times besides when they are in bed.

One of the greatest temptations of a busy leader is to begin to treat his wife as a kind of sex object. It starts to manifest itself when the only time he ever kisses her passionately or touches her tenderly is when he’s trying to allure her into bed. It is a tragic thing when a wife becomes a mannequin for masturbation. Learn what her delights are and bring her to the fullest experience of sexual climax. Talk with her and study her desires. Look her in the eye when you talk to her. Put down the paper and turn off the television. Open the door for her. Help her with the dishes. Throw her a party. LOVE HER! LOVE HER! If you don’t, all your success as a leader will very likely explode in failure at home.

(Taken from The Marks of a Spiritual Leader, Kindle Location 288 of 321)

Oh Father, make me this kind of man! Fill your church with men like this: men who love their brides like Jesus does His.

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The Time I Was Rebuked to Trust Jesus By Reading Harry Potter

I am currently reading through Harry Potter for the first time (and loving it). In The Order of the Pheonix (the book I am currently reading), I was struck by the rebuke that the cranky Phineas Nigellius gave to Harry Potter when Harry complained about Dumbledore’s mysterious and confusing activities. If you haven’t read the book, all you need to know is that no one should question Dumbledore because he is the kindest, wisest, and most righteous wizard around.

Phineas’ rebuke to Harry stuck out to me because it can, almost word-for-word, be used as a rebuke to believers who question the ways Jesus is working in their own lives.

Here is what Phineas says:

You know, this is precisely why I loathed being a teacher! Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything. Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay that there might be an excellent reason why the headmaster of Hogwarts is not confiding every tiny detail of his plans to you? Have you never paused, while feeling hard-done-by, to note that following Dumbledore’s orders has never yet lead you into harm? No. No, like all young people, you are quite sure that you alone feel and think, you alone recognise danger, you alone are the only one clever enough to realise what the Dark Lord may be planning

So, believer, taking Phineas’ lead, I ask you:

Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay that there might be an excellent reason why the (Holy Lord of the Universe) is not confiding every tiny detail of his plans to you? Have you never paused, while feeling hard-done-by, to note that following (Jesus’) orders has never yet lead you into harm?

For readers of Harry Potter, you know questioning Dumbledore is never OK. For readers of the Bible, we should know the same is infinitely more true of Jesus.

Brother and sister, when times get hard, remember who the perfectly good, righteous, wise, and loving one is in your relationship with Christ and allow that to temper how you react to his sometimes mysterious ways.

As Spurgeon said, “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.”

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Why Did My Family Join a Church Plant?

You’re invited to join us if you’re in town!

If you follow any of my social media handles, you probably know my wife and I have recently become members of a church plant in my hometown, San Clemente, California.

Our journey to church planting hasn’t been quick, but the result of countless hours of Bible study, conversation, and prayer. At some point I will write out what that journey looked like, but now, I’d like to spend a few moments answering the question: why plant a church in San Clemente?

Our Reasons for Joining a Church Plant

In no particular order, here are some of our reasons.

We Want to Work Hard in Obeying the Great Commission

Our first Sunday worship gathering on March 11, 2018 at San Clemente High School.

The Great Commission of Jesus does not merely command believers to share the gospel so people become Christians. Instead, it calls us to share the gospel so new Christians are baptized into (Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 12:13) and taught within (Matthew 28:19) a church. Evangelism is designed to lead new believers into the heart of the local church where they’ll be loved, grown, and equipped to join the church to make more disciples within the church. As I will reaffirm below, the city of San Clemente has more citizens than it has churches to evangelize and disciple them. So, wanting to work hard to obey the Great Commission, we want to plant another church among the others to help fulfill the mission Jesus gave us.

San Clemente Needs More Churches

Some may think, “But San Clemente already has a bunch of churches, why add another?” I praise God that San Clemente has not been without gospel witness. There have been numerous churches in San Clemente working hard to reach the Beach Cities with the gospel for decades. However, the population of San Clemente, let alone the Beach Cities area, has far more citizens than it does Bible-believing, Christ-centered, and gospel-proclaiming churches. If every church in San Clemente maxed out their capacity on a Sunday, tens of thousands of people would have to be turned away. There are not enough churches in San Clemente to reach and disciple all San Clemente. The harvest is too plentiful and the workers too few. We want to help!

Fresh Energy Never Hurts

We hope that the presence of Union Church raises up a new team of pastors and church members who are highly energized, united, and motivated to join existing churches to reach more people for Jesus. The addition of fresh, energized, and motivated troops to the battlefield is always a good thing for those in war. We are coming to help!

We Want to Encourage Existing Churches

Union Church is committed to being a blessing to the existing local churches in our community. We hope that churches like Pacific Coast Church, Heritage Christian Fellowship, The Shoreline Church, Cornerstone Community Church, and the others would be blessed by our church. They’ve been preaching some really good news for a long time in this city and we just want to join our voices to their choir. We don’t want to steal your sheep. We have no desire to critique you with furrowed brows or patronize you with condescending tones. We want to join you. We want to help you. We want to bless you so Jesus is glorified in our city and world.

The World Needs More Church-Planting Churches

My daughter Daisy hard at work with other church members getting our gathering room ready.

Missiologist Ed Stetzer said it this way,

“Statistically speaking, if a population just wants to ‘break even,’ it has to plant at least at a three percent level — a denomination of 100 churches has to plant 3 to stay even considering attrition. A five percent increase is needed to grow. Ten percent is needed to thrive.”

Since we want to see the United States have an increased gospel witness in the future, we are committed not only to adding new believers into our church, but also adding new churches into our country. If we want to see the world reached with the gospel, we can only do it through planting more church-planting churches.

We Want to Plant Churches

Our church does not want to just be a church plant, but we want to be a church-planting church! We are already praying, preaching, gathering resources, and raising up leaders in hopes that God would plant many more churches through us. It has been immensely encouraging to hear my pastor frequently and passionately talk about planting churches even before we’ve fully planted our own!

We Want to Encourage All Church to Get Busy Planting Churches

I cannot improve on the exhortation of Ed Stetzer:

Planting a church is like having a baby. There’s never really a good time. There is enough time, money, energy, and space to have one. Childbirth is messy and has a lot of yelling, but in the end, a beautiful life is born, the labor is forgotten, and we often want to have another.

We’ve got a lot of churches on some strong birth control. We need to have a lot more pregnancies. Intended ones. We need to see some beautiful church plants born and then we’ll want to have another one. And another one.

I would exhort some established church pastors to get some skin in the game. Generously give to church planting, yes, but then go and plant a church. Choose not to become a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission Highway.

If you need more encouragement for why established churches should plant churches, read the rest of Stetzer’s post here.

So, there are just a few reasons why my wife and I are excited to be members of Union Church. May God use us for His glory.

If you would like some more information about church planting, begin here.

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The Danger of ‘Active Christianity’

Take a moment and allow a heart check-up.

James Houston:

This century is possibly the first one in which action has been emphasized and valued more than contemplation. Today we do things. We think contemplation wastes time, produces nothing, and bumps awkwardly into our schedules. Devotional reading is a questionable priority for most successful people today.

But are we “successful” Christians if we are so busy organizing and propagating the Christian faith that we really do not know God personally or intimately? Christian devotional reading helps us find intimate union with God. What is the motivation? To love God with all our heart, mind, and will.

(Taken from The Best in Theology, p. 269)

As Jesus said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you…'” Matthew 7:21-23

Actions do speak louder than words, but they’re empty without the reality of personal love for Christ beneath them. Make sure Martha doesn’t kick Mary out (Luke 10:38-42).

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Several Bible Reading Plans for 2018

img_9354Alright, let’s talk about reading the whole Bible in 2018. But first, before we start with the various plans, allow a few preliminary words.

First, here are a few reasons reading all the Bible in 2017 should excite you.

Second, listen to a simple word of encouragement: you can read the whole Bible. Justin Taylor notes that, “The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.” No matter how slow of a reader you are, you can still do it.

Third, if you are finding trouble getting motivated to dig into the Scriptures in 2017, read this.

Lastly, if you don’t plan to read the Bible this year, know this: you probably won’t. Good. Now that you are excited, encouraged, motivated, and hopefully sobered up, allow me to offer you some Bible reading plans to take on in 2017.

Bible Reading Plans

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it should serve as a helpful start. The list goes from plans that call for the least amount of chapters a day (easy plans) to plans that cover more ground in a faster amount of time (plans the require diligence).

The Bible Reading Record Keeper. This isn’t a reading plan, but it is a record keeping sheet that lists all the books of the Bible with their respective chapters numbered to the side. This tool helps keep track of what books in the Bible you have read and those you haven’t. For those who don’t want to follow a particular plan, but plan on regularly reading a few chapters each day, this is can serve as a helpful tool to make sure you’re covering all God’s Word. Here is the same idea, just much more pretty.

5 Day Bible Reading Plan. “This special Bible reading system allows you to read the entire Bible (or just the New Testament) in one year while only reading five times a week. Five readings a week gives room to catch up or take a needed day off, and makes daily Bible reading practical and do-able.”

52 Week Bible Reading Plan. “Read through the Bible in a year, with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.”

The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers. Justin Taylor describes this plan as one that, “takes away the pressure (and guilt) of ‘keeping up’ with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

  • Sundays: Poetry
  • Mondays: Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
  • Tuesdays: Old Testament history
  • Wednesdays: Old Testament history
  • Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
  • Fridays: New Testament history
  • Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters).”

The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan. This gives you 25 readings each month from four different places (it begins in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts). Having 25 readings each month means you will have a few “catch up” days each month if you fell behind or “free days” to study passages that intrigued you more deeply.

The Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically. This helps some people focus on the unfolding story a little better.

The Historical Reading of the Bible. “The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.”

The Kingdom Bible Reading Plan (this is the one my wife and I are doing). In this plan the Old Testament receives three readings per day and the New Testament gets one reading per day. “The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44 – Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day. In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once…Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions. The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).”

Read Through the Whole Bible in Order. “This plan calls for reading all the books of the Bible in canonical order in one year. Each day’s reading is about 3-4 chapters in length, with the exception of the Psalms (which are covered in 5 chapters per day). The idea is to read longer chapters in groups of three (e.g., Pentateuchal narratives, Gospels) and shorter chapters in groups of four. There are 7 “catch-up” days scattered throughout the calendar.”

The Ligonier Bible Reading Plan. “Two readings each day; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.” Being from Ligonier, you can get the plan in the Ligonier App (iPhone / iPadAndroid, Kindle Fire & Windows Phone) and YouVersion.

The Legacy Plan. “This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month, and set number of Proverbs and Psalms to read each week. It aims to give you more flexibility, while grounding you in specific books of the Bible each month.”

The Robert M’Cheyne Plan. My wife and I did this one in 2011 and enjoyed it. This plan starts you in the four great beginnings of Scripture (beginning of creation in Genesis 1, beginning of Israel’s return from Exile in Ezra 1, beginning of Christ’s incarnation in Matthew 1, and beginning of the church in Acts 1). This plan will have you read through the whole Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. It is four chapters a day. One great thing is it has you in four different places in the Bible at once so when you hit the less than inspirational sections (genealogies, records, etc.), you will still be in more immediately helpful sections. Also, you can grab D.A. Carson’s marvelous devotional based on this reading plan here and here. If you don’t want to buy the book, you can subscribe to a daily email where you are sent the devotional for that day’s reading.

5X5X5 Plan. The Ligonier site explains this one as such: “Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.”

52 Week Plan. Gets you through the entire Bible in one year. Each day of the week (Monday through Sunday) is dedicated to a different Biblical genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels. This one provides huge variety in daily readings.

Professor Horner’s Plan. Professor Horner’s System is not for the faint of heart. It calls for 10 chapters per day. With this plan, you will read 10 chapters from 10 different books each day. It is a Bible reading immersion plan. No treading the waters with this one, just diving. Here is one pastor’s hearty recommendation.

A Few Helps Along the Way

Here are some resources to help make sure your Bible reading doesn’t amount to you sounding out empty words in your head without actually understanding what you’re reading.

Overview of the Bible. Lots of people don’t finish their plans to read the Bible because they get lost in what’s happening. Have R.C. Sproul help you grasp and overview of the Bible so you are equipped to read all that God has given you!

A Graph of the Old Testament Timeline. This is a simple map of the Old Testament timeline. It serves to help you locate where you are in the Old Testament timeline as you’re reading the Old Testament. Like a movie, we need to know how each scene fits into the larger plot.

Don’t Scorn Audio Bibles! Most of the Christians in the first few decades of the church most likely heard the Bible more than they read it, so don’t discount audio Bibles. Most audio Bibles are around 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day. Biblegateway has a lot of audio Bibles offered free of charge.

Reading the Bible Through the Jesus Lens. This is a fantastic book that provides a very brief background and introduction to every book in the Bible along with an explanation for how each respective books anticipates or points to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This way you are prepared to understand each book and how it relates to all of God’s redeeming work! Highly recommended.

God’s Big Picture. The publisher’s description describes it well: “In this excellent overview, Vaughan Roberts gives you the big picture – showing how the different parts of the Bible fit together under the theme of the kingdom of God. He provides both the encouragement and the tools to help you read the Bible with confidence and understanding. And he points you to the Bible’s supreme subject, Jesus Christ, and the salvation God offers through him.” Also, two other helpful books that provide the same overarching story line of the Bible are Carson’s The God Who is There and Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan.

Of the making of Bible Reading plans, there is no end. This is not an exhaustive list and it will not be the last. There are a lot more plans out there (like these and these and these). But, in the end, I hope you will make a plan to read God’s Word. Don’t leave it to whenever you find the time because Satan will make sure the time evades you. As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Don’t fail to plan your Bible reading because then you’re planning to fail in reading your Bible.

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What Does It Mean to Deny Yourself?

Jesus said if anyone wants to follow him they must “deny himself” (Matthew 16:24).

But what does it mean to deny yourself?

William Barclay answered well:

“To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self, and to say yes to God.

To deny oneself means once, finally and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God.

To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life.

The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.”

(Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2, p. 167).

By this definition, someone can only say yes to Christ after they’ve said no to themselves. One’s Christianity begins only after their old life ends. Christ is only Savior to those who have dethroned themselves as king.

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Seven Directions for Singing in Church

Christians are a singing people. Our Savior, whom we strive to imitate, sings (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). Our Scriptures command us to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Our perfect salvation compels us to sing (Psalm 96:1-2). Our gatherings are saturated with songs of joy, lament, need, and praise. Every Christian is a singer. Every church a choir.

However, though all Christians are called and compelled to sing, not all Christians are completely prepared to do it well; lessening both the blessings they’re able to give and receive.

With that in mind, famed Methodist preacher, John Wesley, offered seven directions to help Christians in his day make the most of their singing. Thankfully, they’re just as helpful for the church today.

That this part of Divine Worship may be the more acceptable to God, as well as the more profitable to yourself and others, be careful to observe the following directions.

  1. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please. 
  2. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
  3. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
  4. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
  5. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
  6. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
  7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

May God use these directions to help you sing as “lustily” as ever the next time you gather with the church.

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