Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sermon - The Necessity of Scripture Memory (Psalm 119:9-16)

This is a sermon that I preached on January 29. 2012 at First Baptist Church Inwood. My focus was on the necessity of memorizing Scripture and the benefits that come from doing so.

As always, your comments are much appreciated.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cardboard Testimonies (Again)

I'm pretty sure that I've posted something like this before, but these videos overwhelm me every time. We serve and worship a truly amazing God and it is beautiful to see the way that He works in and through people.

Cardboard Testimonies from Lifechurchnw on Vimeo.

FinishYear 2012 - Putting My Memorization into Practice

I had the opportunity to put some of my memorization into practice on Sunday evening. Using Psalm 119:9-16, as our text, we looked at the absolute necessity that Scripture memory is in our Christian walk. My points were based of a sermon I had read by John Piper on John 15.

At the end of the sermon (which I will post the video from at some point, as well as the points I used), I had the opportunity to share some of the passages that I have memorized. I was a bit nervous, so I took notes with me. Here are some of the notes that I used to recite the passages.

1 John 1:1
T w w f t b, w w h h, w w h s w o e, w w l u a h t w o h, c t w o l –

1 John 1:2
t l w m m, a w h s i, a t t i a p t y t e l, w w w t F a w m m t u –

1 John 1:3
t w w h s a h w p a t y, s t y t m h f w u; a i o f i w t F a w H S J C.

Looks a bit undecipherable? Well, this is a tip that I've learned about memorizing: using the first letter of each word until you have the passage down cold. While some make think of this as cheating, you have to know the verse in order to understand the "code."

Best of luck. What passages are you going to memorize using the code?

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Song of the Rescuer

My boys and I have been reading through The Jesus Storybook Bible each evening before going to bed. This is a truly wonderful book that takes many of the classic stories of the Old and New Testament and shows how Jesus fits into what is more than just a great story for Sunday School.

Last evening, we read about the birth of John the Baptist. Here is a little sample of that story:

Because God loves us with a Never Stopping,
Never Giving Up, Unbreaking,
Always and Forever Love -
Heaven is breaking through!
He is sending us a Light from Heaven
To shine on us like the sun
To shine on those who live in darkness
And in the shadow of death
To guide our feet into the way of peace

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Just For Fun - My Favorite Albums

The other day, I saw something on Facebook about my favorite album, as in what album do I listen to the most. I couldn't decide on just one, so I have decided to give you a list of the five albums that I have listened to the most. They are in no particular order.

Dookie by Green Day was essentially my introduction to pop-punk music. I played this album over and over. I had a copy of an MxPx cd, but couldn't get into the music. Green Day solved that problem.
My mom got me this album for Christmas in 1995. Jesus Freak by dc Talk blew my mind. I had no idea that Christians could make music like this. Even today, it still holds up as one of the greatest and most influential albums in Christian music. At least in my opinion.
Dashboard Confessional is usually equated with whiny emo kids. However, I had this album my senior year of college. I was 900 miles from my girlfriend and I was really missing her. The college I went to did not allow rock music, so I kept this gem hidden under my front seat and would listen to it as I drove around Pensacola.
MxPx is quite possibly my favorite band. I have all of their albums and know the lyrics to nearly all of their songs. I've seen them in concert numerous times and I even had the privilege to talk with Mike and Yuri at the Warped Tour one year. While Life in General wasn't my first MxPx album, it is by far the best and my favorite. The rest are pretty darn good as well.
Sumo Surprise by Ghoti Hook was another monster album for me. It had the right amount of humor and serious songs, plus the four-chord punk formula that I loved. Ghoti Hook was also one of the first punk shows I ever went to. It was at a Fuddrucker's in Tysons. I also had the privilege of seeing Ghoti Hook play their last show on their last tour, before their farewell at Cornerstone.

What are some of your favorite albums?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Music Wednesday - Where I Belong by Switchfoot

I know I said no commentary, but this song brings tears to my eyes every time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

FinishYear 2012 - Memorizing Not Going So Well

So, at the beginning of 2012, I had these grand plans to memorize 1 John and James. I designed a great memory book with 1 John all broken up into 5 or 6 verse sections. It was supposed to take me 19 weeks to memorize it.

Things started well, but I have to be honest, it is not going well right now. For whatever reason, I simply cannot get the verses to stick in my head. I have not used my book like I had planned to do. I do review the verses, but not as often as I would like and I am falling behind.

I say all this to let you know that memorizing James might get pushed to next year. I want to make sure that I am giving 1 John the attention that it deserves and that I have it firmly embedded in both my mind and my heart before I move on. Additionally, I am using Memverse.com to learn a number of other verses. Hopefully things will get better, but that is where I am on this project right now. I would ask that you would pray for me to continue to study and memorize. Studying Scripture is definitely something that requires the Lord's help.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Give All

Yesterday in church we sang a song by Larnelle Harris and I found some of the lyrics to be especially poignant for my search and desire to be in ministry.

I give all my service to You
I give all my service to You
No matter the cost or what others do
I give all my service to You

I give all my future to You
I give all my future to You
No matter the cost or what others do
I give all my future to You

Now, the goal is to make sure that I mean what I say, right?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Finding Truth in Nickelback

I've been reading a book about reading (that's an interesting thought, right?) and one of the points that the author makes is that God's truth can be communicated through everything, even the most unlikely of sources. What some people read as an interesting story or intriguing book can actually convey elements of the Gospel.

Such is the case with the song Savin' Me by Nickelback. The video for the song is one of the most powerful things I have ever seen. It, in essence, is asking what would you do if you knew that someone's time on Earth was running out, especially if that individual is not a believer? How far would you go to save that person, especially if their "end" was coming unexpectedly?

Please watch the video and leave your thoughts. Tim Schmoyer has actually written some questions to lead discussion after viewing the video. Tim is actually the one who turned me onto the video and I'm grateful.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Books I've Read In Preparation for Youth Ministry (And Some that Are on My Reading List)

I feel a strong call to youth ministry. A quick glance at some of my posts will probably give you that impression. As a result, I do a lot of reading in preparation for the day that I am working with a youth group. Here are some of the books that I have read or will be reading that deal with youth ministry.

Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields. This is probably the best book on youth ministry I have ever read. I can honestly say that I have read and reread this book about 10 times. It is full of great information and how-to's of getting a youth ministry going. I haven't looked at it in a while, but I may do that soon...just as soon as I finish The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. (it's due back at the library next week.)

The Seven Checkpoints by Andy Stanley. Andy Stanley is the pastor of North Point Community Church and an incredible communicator. This book is full of seven broad topics that are designed to help youth leaders understand the important topics that should be discussed with teens as they navigate the ever-changing areas of life. You can also check out Max Q, also by Andy Stanley.

Outbreak by Greg Stier deals with helping the teenagers develop viral evangelism. As youth workers, we only have so much influence. The teens in the youth group have a much greater reach. The book was based off of a scene from the movie Outbreak, showing how far reaching something small can be.

Unchristian is based on research that shows what many young people think about the church today. This information is vital to know if we wish to speak into the lives of those who may be seeking, but are not willing to trust the church.

The books that I am hoping to read in the near future are listed below. If you are interested in knowing more about these books, please click through on the link to get a description of the product on Amazon.com.

Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean

Starting Right is a youth ministry textbook with articles from a large number of youth ministry workers.

Think Orange by Reggie Joiner.

Sticky Faith by Kara Powell and Chap Clark.

What youth ministry books have you read that you would recommend?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Am Tired of Sex Trafficking

I will readily admit that I don't know all of the details about sex trafficking. I don't have a lot of data or statistics to share. However, I will tell you this: I am tired of men and women taking advantage of young boys and girls for their own sick pleasure. It sickens me. It nauseates me. It makes me see colors in my eyes that I cannot describe.

I came into contact with a gentleman today who runs a ministry to help girls who are being trafficked. Hopefully I can share more about this later, but some of the stuff that he shared with me was heartbreaking. As a teacher and a parent, it angers me beyond what I thought I was capable of when I hear and read things like I read today.

We live in a pretty messed up world. We have allowed our society and morals to decay to the point where there is a market for the filth of child prostitution to occur. It is never right for a young person, girl or boy, to have to sell themselves or be forced to engage in illicit activities in order to receive the things that so many of us take for granted.

Like I said, I hope that I can share more in the future. I'm still working out the details. In the meantime, please be in prayer for the girls and boys who are trapped in this filth. Pray for the individuals and groups who are working to rescue them and keep them safe. And pray for the individuals who are responsible that God would allow the consequences of their actions to come to pass. I realize that that last part might be a tough pill to swallow, but nothing is too good for people like that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Music Wednesday - Restless by Switchfoot

Stories of Change - Video

I absolutely love stories of how Christ has changed the lives of individuals. Take a moment and reflect on what Christ has done for you and where you would be had He not died for you when you were at your weakest.

Stories Of Change from Sojourn Community Church on Vimeo.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bloodlines by John Piper - Available for Free Today

I am very grateful to the ministry of John Piper. He has been influential in the lives of many of the preachers that I listen to and I read a great deal of his sermons as I prepare for mine.

One of the great things about John Piper is his generosity. This is shown through the vast amounts of material that he gives away at his website, DesiringGod.org. At this site, you are able to get audio sermons, sermon transcripts, and PDFs of books that he has written.

Today, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, John Piper is giving away copies of his newest book, Bloodlines. It is available in a PDF format by visiting the link below. I don't know how long it will be available, so it is best to hurry.

Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper.

Just For Fun - Top Ten Reasons I Procrastinate

Top Ten Reasons I Procrastinate

Leave a comment.

Important Tools for Kindle Fire

Many of you know that I am a big Kindle guy. I've actually moved from my love for physical books to a love for reading on my Kindle. A few months back, my wife got me a Kindle Fire. It was an early Christmas present and I have enjoyed it from the day I got it. It actually has some great ministry uses, but in order to make adequate use of it, you need to make sure that you have the right tools.

The first tool I would recommend is Evernote. Evernote is a file-storing app that lets you store and organize just about anything you can think of. I store articles from the internet, PDFs that I make, and photos. You can organize the files into specific notebooks and tag them accordingly.

The Bible app is incredibly important for you to have as you working in ministry. While connected to an internet source, you can download a large variety of Bible translations. By downloading the versions to your Kindle Fire, you will have access to them when you are not connected to the Internet. When you are connected, you can access a number of other versions as well as a large number of reading plans to help you study God's Word.

Okay, so this one isn't exactly a tool, but it is definitely worth getting. Plants vs. Zombies is a pretty fun game that allows you to make choices as to what "weapons" you will use to keep the zombies out of your house. There are a number of levels and some of them are pretty difficult. Definitely worth the money.

The worst part for me about using the Kindle Fire is the fact that my fingers leave smudges quite easily. A stylus is a great tool to help you keep your screen clean. The price on these styli can't be beat. You can get 3 of them for less than $5. They aren't the most durable of items, but, for the price, it is worth looking into.

Of course none of this will make any sense if you don't already have a Kindle Fire. Trust me, it is well worth the investment. It is a great tool and one that you will use quite often.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Great Resource for Youth Ministry

As many of you know, I am pursuing a call to youth ministry. And though my time in seminary is over, I am still doing what I can to prepare for the ministry that God has for me. Along those lines, I am constantly looking for websites and books that will help me to grow in preparation for what is to come.

I found a resource that looks like it will be of great benefit in the future. It is a blog called joshevans.wordpress.com. While I have not spent a lot of time looking at it, I have come across some great posts that I think will benefit me in the future.

If you have a moment, I would highly recommend you check it out.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Problem With Following the Ten Commandments

The other night in church, we had a discussion about the problems facing America and how they can be resolved. Someone mentioned the idea that we, as a country and as a people, need to return to following the Ten Commandments. I think this potentially a good idea. However, there is also a problem with doing it.

One thing that I've discovered is that people, and Christians in particular, love checklists. We love to have lists of the things that we are supposed to do in order to be a good Christian. We think that if we are in church three times a week, read our Bible, tithe, and pray, we are good Christians. We store up these things so that we can point to all that we do and use it as evidence of our Christian walk. This is where the Ten Commandments come in.

The Ten Commandments is a list. We look at them and say, "Well, I do that one, that one, and that one most of the time." And we think that as long as we are doing these things, we are right with God.

Here's the catch: following a list of rules has nothing to do with being right with God. The Pharisees did everything they could to follow God's laws and rules and who did Jesus go after the most? Yep, the Pharisees. They were so interested in following the laws that they did not see the true purpose of the law: causing them to call out to God because they needed Him to help.

I agree that we need to go back to the Ten Commandments, but more than that we need to see the wretchedness of our sin and realize that only through Jesus can we ever even think that we are capable of doing what God wants.

Most Bookmarked Verses of 2011

I came across an interesting link the other day about the verses that were bookmarked on YouVersion. The list is below:
  1. Philippians 4:6 – 123,035
  2. Jeremiah 29:11 – 100,044
  3. Proverbs 3:5 – 97,758
  4. Romans 12:2 – 95,804
  5. Philippians 4:13 – 87,120
  6. Philippians 4:7 – 83,193
  7. Romans 8:28 – 78,491
  8. Proverbs 3:6 – 74,770
  9. Matthew 6:33 – 73,544
  10. 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 71,923

Not surprisingly, I was working to memorize most of these verses already. The only ones I had to add were Jeremiah 29:11 and 1 Corinthians 13:4.

By the way, if you haven't already downloaded the YouVersion app for whatever device you have, what are you waiting for? Download it right away and make sure you download some of the free versions (KJV, ESV, HSCB, NKJV) so you can still read and study, even when you don't have an internet connection.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What My Son Wanted for Christmas

My son brought this home from school the other day. It was a project that he did in school.

I don't know how well you can read what he wrote, but it says, "I wish for food for hungry families for Christmas." It absolutely brought me to tears. I am so grateful to the Lord that He has given me such a kind-hearted son who cares about the needs of others.

I always worry that I'm going to mess up as a parent, but sometimes it's good to get some confirmation that something is going right.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Music Wednesday - Thrive by Switchfoot

I'm going to start a new feature here on the blog. Each Wednesday I am going to post a video for a song that I find particularly meaningful. I'm not going to post any comments or commentary, simply because I don't want to color your thoughts about the song. Not every song may be to your liking, but please make an attempt to let the message of the song speak to you. I would love to hear your thoughts about the songs.

The Joys of Waiting

I've been praying for a position in vocational ministry for over a year. In December 2010, I became aware of the fact that one of the pastors at my church was resigning. I began to talk with the pastor of the church about the opportunity of coming on staff. After nearly a year of praying and waiting and starts and stops, I was informed that he was no longer interested in considering me. This has also been the case at many other churches. Some of the churches that I have applied to have never responded. Others have thanked me for applying, but did not wish to discuss things with me any further. One church did not want to talk with me because I had "pastor" instead of "youth pastor" on my resume. Needless to say, it has been a trying year.

While I am not wanting to make it sound as if life has been as difficult as Job's, God is definitely teaching me some patience. I have several resumes still outstanding and am praying to hear something in the near future. It would be very exciting to have good news (and possibly a title change to this blog) some time soon. It's all in God's hands.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

FinishYear 2012 - One Week Update

I know that most of you have been waiting anxiously for updates on how my FinishYear 2012 projects are coming. Well, here is the first update:
  • I have finished copying Proverbs 1 and am currently working toward finishing Proverbs 2.
  • I have finished reading my first book, Leaders That Last by Dave Kraft.
  • I am continuing to memorize 1 John 1:1-10. The first couple of verses are rather complex and I am having difficulty getting them to stick in my head.
  • I have memorized Romans 5:1 and am working on Romans 5:2-8.
  • I have not done any running at all
  • I just finished reading 180 chapters of the Bible. In full disclosure, I did begin this project before January 1, but I thought any Bible reading was a good thing, right?

So, there you go, my first week of FinishYear 2012 update.

How are you doing with your FinishYear projects?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Highlight of My Day

Many of you know that I am the proud father of three boys, with another one on the way. I love my boys and I am doing what I can to raise them to love Jesus. One of the ways that I am doing that is by sharing with them what God's plan for mankind is and how He is redeeming us back to him. How God sent a Rescuer into our world to save us.

The highlight of my day is reading with my boys before bed. Lately we have been reading The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. This is a beautifully written and illustrated book that shares God's redemptive plan of salvation from the beginning through the end of Revelation. So far, we have seen God's hand in Creation, the Fall of Man, Noah's Ark, the Tower of Babel, and the Birth of Isaac. My boys are thrilled with the stories and remind me every night that it is time to read.

My prayer is that God will use this book as a means of continuing to help my children grow to love Christ. I am looking forward to the day that I can lead my children to the Lord.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

FinishYear 2012 - Reading Over 3,000 Chapters of the Bible - A Breakdown

The other day in church, my pastor mentioned to the congregation about how I was planning to read over 3,000 chapters of the Bible. Given the fact that the Bible has a little over 1,000 chapters, it would seem that I would be reading the Bible through twice or more. Actually, it doesn't quite work out that way. Let me explain what I am doing.

There are 10 different section that I read each day. The sections are as follows:

  • List 1 - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (89 days)
  • List 2 - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (187 days)
  • List 3 - Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews (78 days)
  • List 4 - 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2,3 John, Jude, Revelation (65 days)
  • List 5 - Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (62 days)
  • List 6 - Psalms (150 days)
  • List 7 - Proverbs (31 days)
  • List 8 - Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (249 days)
  • List 9 - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (250 days)
  • List 10 - Acts (28 days)
Following that pattern, my reading will break down like this:
  • The Gospels will be read 4 times.
  • The Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) will be read twice.
  • The Epistles (Romans-Revelation) will be read 4-5 times each.
  • The Wisdom literature (Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) will be read 6 times.
  • The Psalms will be read at least twice.
  • Proverbs and Acts will be read 12 times each.
  • The Old Testament History and Prophets will be read about 1.5 times.

What it boils down to is 10 chapters per day. I was asked by someone at church as to why I was doing it. My answer: If I want to teach people what the Bible says, I need to know what's in it...deeply.

Terrell Suggs and the Foolishness of Disrespecting God

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you have at least a passing knowledge of who Tim Tebow is. Tebow, for the uninitiated, is the quarterback for the Denver Broncos and an extremely vocal Christian. He is also the architect for some amazing come-from-behind victories. And, while they were winning, a lot of people were saying that God was helping Tebow and the Broncos win. Then, when the Broncos started losing, a lot of ridicule began flowing Tebow's way and, by association, God's way.

On Tuesday, Terrell Suggs, a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, had this to say on ESPN:

"With all due respect we don't need God on our sidelines."

Well, with all due respect, Mr. Suggs, I think you are wrong. You do need God, but not to help you win football games. You need Him to save your soul.

The other day I was reading in the book of Acts and I came across a similar story, a story where Herod did something similar to what Mr. Suggs did.

On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!" Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. - Acts 12:21-23.

I am by no means saying that Terrell Suggs is going to be eaten by worms for his lack of respect toward God. I am simply seeking to point out the danger that is inherent with not giving God the proper respect. Without God, Mr. Suggs, it is very likely that you would not even be taking the breath you need to say that you don't need God, let alone playing football.

Monday, January 2, 2012

FinishYear 2012 - Hand Copying Proverbs - Off to a Good Start

As I've written about before, one of my projects for this year to hand copy the book of Proverbs into a journal. While I don't wish to rehash all of the reasons for this, I did want to update you on my progress. Yes, I realize that it has only been one day since 2012 began, but it is always easy to stick to a project the first day; it gets harder as time goes on. Being accountable to you is what is going to keep me going.

As you can see from the picture (or maybe you can't), I began my copying with the first ten verses of Proverbs 1. This chapter begins by telling us that it is Solomon who is giving us these proverbs and he is laying out why it is necessary for us to study them. He also includes some admonishments to study (most likely the Scriptures) because that is how one becomes wise and avoids being lumped in with the foolish. The section I copied so far concluded with some encouragement to a son to listen to the advice of his parents and to stay away from those who would entice him to do wrong.

I won't post pictures of every time I write in my journal, but, from time to time, I will update you on what I am doing and what that day's passage is all about.

I hope that you will be encouraged to join me in this journey. The great thing is that you can start at any time. Just write a few verses a day and you will be finished by the end of the year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

FinishYear 2012 - Memorizing 1 John and James

I've already written about my project to memorize Romans 5-8. This project is something else entirely. Rather than memorizing a few chapters (no small feat), I'm planning to memorize two complete books of the Bible. I will be working on memorizing 1 John and James. According to the schedule that I've worked out, it should take me about 19 weeks to memorize 1 John and 20 weeks to learn James. This is at a pace of about 6 verses per week.

I was very blessed to receive this notebook from one of my students as a Christmas present. I was quite pleased to see it because I was actually planning to go to Target that afternoon and purchase one. Receiving this little notebook/journal was actually an answer to prayer.

I typed up the verses to 1 John in a Word document with text boxes set to be about the size of a 4x6 index card. After typing them up and printing them out, I cut them out and pasted them into my journal, one card on every other page, leaving a blank page to write on.

On the blank page, I have listed out the days of the week and left some space below to give me a place to write my thoughts and reflections over that week's passage that I am memorizing. Next to each day of the week, I will keep track of how many times I have reviewed the passage that particular day. My goal is to read through/recite the passage at least 10 times each day. I actually think it will be more beneficial to review the verses several times throughout the day instead of trying to do all 10 recitations at the same time.

As I advance week to week through memorizing the book of 1 John, I will actually spend more time each day reviewing the old verses. I mean, what good is memorizing verses if you aren't going to use them? I'll say my new verses, then recite the old verses in order to have the context of the whole passage. After memorizing 1 John, I am going to spend a few weeks reviewing the whole book each day before beginning the book of James.

The reflection area on each page is for me to record what God is teaching me through the verses that I am learning that week. I can record how many times a phrase is used, how God allowed me to recall that passage, or how it is helping me to grow in my faith.

Here is a link to another blog where I got this idea. I hope that you will consider joining me, even if you don't take the time to put together a memory journal of your own.