Nathan’s 7 Habits

This is not Nathan’s class but this is the song and the theme of the entire year in the school which Nathan attends. It’s been a great year for him overall and I am very pleased with what he has been learning.

IMG_1727

This is the program from Nathan’s Talent Night Show-

IMG_1725

Nathan is in the green shirt right of center and above.

SUMMER BREAK HERE WE COME, READY OR NOT!

Reblog: The Power of Public Prayer in the Church

by Kent Hughes and from Westminster Theological Seminary

Our public prayers in our corporate worship services have a massive impact on the prayer lives of God’s people, in that such prayers teach the church how to approach our transcendent but immanent God. They also bring power to our churches. The immense importance of the corporate prayers of the body of Christ rests on Scripture’s direct accounts of the power wrought by such prayers and the apostolic dependence on the prayers of the church.

The Power of Public Prayer

The book of Acts tells us that it was after a mighty corporate prayer for boldness (Acts 4:24–30) that “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (v. 31). Acts also recounts how the church’s corporate prayers brought deliverance for the imprisoned apostle Peter. The manacled apostle felt an angel tap him on the side, heard his chains rattle to the ground, and saw the iron prison gate automatically open for him (12:7–10). After Peter collected himself and went to the house of Mary, he found the church praying for him (v. 12).

There is mighty power when the church comes together for focused, corporate prayer. . .when the people are truly engaged and praying in concert, great grace is poured out.

The same thing happened to Pastor Zebedayo Idu, who, having been imprisoned by a Marxist dictator (who had given orders for his immediate execution), suddenly found himself free and on the street due to a “mechanical” malfunction. As he ran back to his village, he glanced into the church, where he saw his congregation united in fervent intercession for him.

The apostle Paul’s intimate knowledge of the power of corporate prayer prompted him to conclude his teaching on spiritual warfare with the ringing challenge for his readers to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the spirit, with all prayer and supplication . . . for all the saints” (Eph. 6:17b–18). And then, very significantly, Paul asked for the church’s prayer for himself, adding, “And [pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (v. 19).

There is mighty power when the church comes together for focused, corporate prayer, because when the prayers are not perfunctory but thought through, and when the people are truly engaged and praying in concert, great grace is poured out on world mission, local evangelism, national leaders, the preaching of the Word, the sanctification of God’s people, and the ill and grieving.

Preparing for Public Prayer

Preparation for public prayer requires preparation of the heart and of the head. Preparation of prayers apart from the heart may result in accuracy and eloquence, but of a frigid sort. Preparation of the heart is indispensable, but apart from some thought, prayers may be pious and vacuous. Pulpit prayer requires a melding of both types of preparation.

Preparing Your Spirit

The public prayers of the pastor must be a reflection of his private prayer; public prayer must flow from our communion and intercession with God in secret. Congregational prayers can be theologically precise and beautiful but hollow if they are not rooted in the heart and practice of the pastor.

The takeaways for those of us who are charged with leading in corporate prayer are significant:

  • We must be pastors who have deep, regular, private communion with God.
  • The emotion that we express in public prayer must be consonant with the feeling that we express in private prayer. We must be real.
  • Apart from personal, family, and confidential matters, the things that we pray for in public must be consistent with the things we have been praying for in private. Our private prayer burdens should inform our public prayer burdens.
  • We must be utterly engaged in our prayers, so that God fills our horizons, not our “audience.”
  • We must ask God to work in our hearts first those things that we would like worked in the hearts of our people.
  • We must go “prayed up” and prepared when we stand before God’s people to lead them in prayer.

We are saying that thought-through public prayers will enrich and elevate public worship and the prayer life of the congregation.

Preparing Your Prayers

When we speak of “preparing prayers,” we are not referring to set prayers that are sometimes used for invocation or confession, but prayers that the pastor may compose for any part of corporate worship, including invocations and confessions.

First, we must understand how not to pray, a negative that must certainly inform the subject of preparation. Significantly, just before Jesus told his disciples how they ought to pray, giving them the example of the Lord’s Prayer, he told them how they ought not to pray: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt. 6:7). Jesus warned against two kinds of prayers: those full of empty phrases (today’s pious, vacuous jargon) and lengthy prayers (inflated by such empty jargon). This is not an argument against extemporaneous prayer, but a warning to take care as to the words and content of our prayers. This can best be done by writing out our prayers.

At this point, readers may think that we are down on extemporaneous prayers in public worship. We are not. If we are Spirit-filled Christians, our waking hours are filled with extemporaneous prayer, and not just before meals and meetings. As pastors, we may be called on to offer extemporaneous prayer several times a day. In this sense, extemporaneous prayer is a barometer of spiritual health. It can even be said that at times an extemporaneous prayer is the height of spiritual expression and heartfelt devotion.

We are saying that thought-through public prayers will enrich and elevate public worship and the prayer life of the congregation. In fact, preparation often provides the ground for remarkable extemporaneous prayers. And because of this, we pastors should embrace the discipline of writing out our prayers.

Years ago, in the Princeton days of Miller, it was noted that Rev. John Gillies, a visiting Scottish preacher, prayed with remarkable pastoral grace and depth. When asked why that was, after demurring, he explained that if there was anything in his public prayer different from the prayers of others, it was due, “under God,” to the fact that in the first ten years of his ministry he never wrote a sermon “without writing a prayer, in part or in whole, corresponding with it in its general strain.” This kind of discipline pours grace on the gathered worship of the church.

Having made the case for the discipline of writing out our prayers for public worship, we are not suggesting that those prayers be read verbatim. They can be used as “security blankets” in making sure that we pastors stay on target. They can even be reduced to suggestive outlines or their contours committed to memory. In any case, they must be internalized so that they come from the depths of our hearts with much affection. Likewise, the set prayers and prayers of confession must never be “said,” but prayed with the full engagement of our minds and hearts. Our people can sense the difference.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: Why Do We Major in the Minors?

This post goes hand in hand with the last I just posted. To different authors but if you read them both you will see the correlation. ~Beth

from at Ligonier Ministries

The Pharisees distorted the emphasis of biblical righteousness to suit their own behavioral patterns of self-justification. Jesus frequently confronted the Pharisees on this point. Jesus said to them, “You tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23a). On numerous occasions, Jesus acknowledged that the Pharisees scrupulously obeyed some points of the law. They paid their tithes, they read their Scriptures, they did a host of things the law required-and Jesus commended them for their actions, saying, “These you ought to have done” (Matt. 23:23b). However, it was the emphasis that was out of kilter. They scrupulously tithed, but in doing so they used their obedience to this lesser matter as a cloak to cover up their refusal to obey the weightier matters of justice and mercy. That distortion occurs today.

It is much more difficult to measure the disposition of our hearts than it is to measure the number of movies we attend

Why do we have a perpetual tendency to major in minors? As Christians, we want to be recognized for our growth in sanctification and for our righteousness. Which is easier to achieve, maturity in showing mercy or in the paying of tithes? To pay my tithes certainly involves a financial sacrifice of sorts, but there is a real sense in which it is cheaper for me to drop my money into the plate than it is for me to invest my life in the pursuit of justice and mercy. We tend to give God the cheapest gifts. Which is easier, to develop the fruit of the Spirit, conquering pride, covetousness, greed, and impatience, or to avoid going to movie theaters or dancing? We also yearn for clearly observable measuring rods of growth. How do we measure our growth in patience or in compassion? It is much more difficult to measure the disposition of our hearts than it is to measure the number of movies we attend.

It is also our inclination as fallen creatures to rate as most important those virtues in which we have achieved a relative degree of success. Naturally, I would like to think that my moral strong points are the important ones and my moral weaknesses are limited to minor matters. It is a short step from this natural inclination to a widespread distortion of God’s emphases.

 

Reblog: The Family Idols

From: FEEDING ON CHRIST

One of the more important aspects of the book of Genesis is the way in which the Holy Spirit lays bare the inner motives and desires that drive the actions of the members of the patriarchal family. The cameos of the men and women of the covenant family set out, in stark contrast, the antithesis between living life in the flesh and living life in the Spirit, by human effort or by divine promise–by works or by faith. In short, we find, in the patriarchal narratives, the seemingly insatiable quest for safety and satisfaction–interestingly, the very things that God graciously pledged to give Abraham by faith in the coming Christ (Gen. 15:1).

In the patriarchal family we see the father of the faithful handing his wife off to a powerful king (twice!) in order to gain security (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:2). We find him taking his wife’s handmaiden to himself in order to attempt to gain, by human effort, the satisfaction promised by the Covenant God (Gen. 16). We find this same principle at work in the life of his son, Isaac, when he also lied about his wife to protect himself (Gen. 26:7); and again when he chose to show partiality to Esau–the son of Isaac’s flesh who seemed to embody what he wished were true of himself (Gen. 25:28). Additionally, we see it in Jacob seeking to gain the birthright by con-artistry and deception (Gen. 25:29-34; 27:1-29)–another attempt to work for the blessing of God.

While all of these acts are meant to draw our attention to the fact that the promises of God can only be received by faith in the Redeemer, they also warn us about the heart-idolatry that manifested itself in the lives of the patriarchs…even as it often does in our own lives. The essence of this idolatry was seen in the members of the covenant family seeking to find protection and fulfillment in themselves or in their closest of relations rather than in the living God of promise.

This family idolatry is preeminently seen in Leah seeking to win the love of her husband by having children for him and in her sister, Rachel, putting herself in competition with her in order to find satisfaction and fulfillment in bearing children (Gen. 30:1).

In his excellent book on the lives of Isaac and Jacob, Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace, Iain Duguid draws out of the Rachel-Leah saga the fact that idolatry lay at the heart of both women’s race to have children. He writes:

“This is the essence of idolatry: someone or something other than the living God is occupying the God-shaped space at the core of our being. We were created as worshiping beings, people whose meaning and purpose cannot be derived from ourselves but must come from outside us. There is always someone or something other than ourselves on which we have hung our whole identity or self-worth. If we turn our backs on the true God, we inevitably attempt to fill that void with something else. Whatever we must have instead of, or as well as, the God of the Bible, if life is to have meaning for us—that is our idol. For you, it may be health, comfort, wealth, control, the affection of a particular individual, or any of a thousand and one things. Whatever it is, it is an idol. Idols, however, ultimately never satisfy. In reality, a deep relationship with God and God alone is all we need to possess life in all its fullness (see Ps. 27:4–5).”1

This serves as a warning for those of us in the church today. We, no different than they, have hearts that are conditioned and bent toward giving our time, energy and affection to created things and persons–even to those who are our closest of relatives in the home–rather than to the living and true God. The perniciousness of this idolatry is seen in the fact that we can even make idols of our spouse or children in the name of being a good husband or wife, father or mother–all the while justifying our idolatry as if we are doing it as unto the Lord. Throughout the Genesis narrative, the men and women of the patriarchal home are constantly appealing to the name of the God of the covenant while acting with sinful and idolatrous motives (Gen. 27:20; 30:6; 30:13).

Read the rest here.

Reblog: What Pastors Can Do about the Gender Neutral Bathroom Controversy

by SamRainer.com

Last Thursday the New York Times broke a story that the Obama administration would issue a directive for every public school in the nation allowing bathroom access based on self-identity of gender. It’s a huge story with sweeping consequences.

I don’t often weigh in on political issues. One reason is the purpose of this blog, which is helping leaders in established churches, not bantering on politics. As a pastor, I have people in my congregation with various political views. I’m not afraid to preach issues, but I try not to stir up needless political controversy in my church. However, on this issue, I must speak.

When I was in high school, I played basketball. I identified as a superior player, perhaps six foot eight inches with a slam dunk similar to Vince Carter. In reality, I’m six inches shorter, and my rare dunks looked more like an albatross taking off.

Identity can be detached from reality.

What if a rich person identified as poor and claimed she no longer needed to pay taxes? You might say, “That’s a financial reality. She can’t do that.” But what is the philosophical difference between a financial reality and a biological one?

What if a white person wanted to identify as a black person in order to claim the black experience? It’s already happened, and there was uproar. Rightly so. But what is the philosophical difference between an ethnic reality and a biological one?

What if a young teen wanted to identify as a senior citizen and claim the right to vote prematurely? What’s the philosophical difference between a geriatric reality and a biological one?

What if a dying person wanted to identify as healthy and gain access to life insurance shortly before passing? What’s the philosophical difference between a reality of physical fitness and a biological one of gender?

This identity madness must stop. You don’t get to choose who you are. God made you exactly the way He wants you. And you are beautiful as God made you. You can no more choose your gender identity than you can choose your wealth, ethnicity, age, or health.

So what is a pastor to do? Let me offer some recommendations.

  • Don’t ignore the issue. It’s not going away. Most of your people are paying attention to this issue. It affects everyone. I addressed it from the pulpit on Sunday. Why? It’s a major cultural issue that’s at the front of everyone’s mind. Pastors are called by God to teach their congregations. All churches deserve an answer from their pastors on this issue.
  • Teach with clarity, not nuance. Go right to the heart of the issue and address it biblically and clearly. Don’t hide behind big words or fuzzy nuances. Tell your people exactly what you expect them to believe on this issue. If news reports contain more facts about gender identity than your sermon, then you’re not preaching. You’re dancing.
  • Display a genuine concern for people who identify as transgender. Jesus loves them, and so should you. Crude jokes and snarky sermon soundbites won’t solve the problem. We should care for anyone struggling with gender identity issues. You can put a stake in the ground on this issue while at the same time exhibiting love for hurting and confused people. Truth and love are two sides of the same coin. God’s truth compels us to love others. And to love others, you don’t have to compromise the truth.
  • Give practical advice. The theological foundation is important, but your people likely want to know what to do. I’ve counseled transgender people, as well as their family members. I’m sure I will have many questions from church members if public schools in our community abide by the Obama administration’s directives. Both truth and love require action. You need to help people take practical next steps.
  • Don’t make unnecessary enemies. Stay focused on the gospel. We’re not fighting against flesh and blood. Your neighbor is not your enemy, even the transgender one.

Our culture is changing at an incredibly fast pace. Like a machine running at full capacity 24/7, we can’t keep moving this fast without lots of things breaking. And by “things,” I mean actual people. Broken people need the gospel. We’ve got work to do. The mission of God doesn’t advance by bellyaching.

Re Blog: Should I Tell My Spouse about Struggles with Sexual Purity?

by Garrett Kell from the FOR THE CHURCH Blog

“Should I tell my wife?”

Daniel leaned back with no interest in the meal before him. He’d looked at racy pictures again and the weight of conviction was inescapable. He had confessed his sin to God and to me, but should he confess it to her?

What would you tell Daniel?

Seven Principles

Because every couple is different, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some couples are totally transparent with each other, while others find it best to allow accountability to be handled by trusted friends. Regardless of where you land on the spectrum, it is important for husbands and wives to develop a plan to help each other fight sexual temptation.

What follows are seven principles to help you and your spouse wade through this sensitive area together.

1. Help each other make it to heaven.

“Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:13

My chief calling as a husband is to help my wife love Jesus more. My wife has the same responsibility toward me. In fact, I would suggest that the most weighty and wonderful responsibilities in marriage is to help our spouse make it to heaven. One of the ways to make this happen is by doing whatever we can to help them fight off temptation, including sexual temptation (Heb. 12:1-2; James 5:19-20). We are to be each other’s greatest allies in the journey toward the heavenly city (Rev. 21-22).

Satan will oppose your efforts with all he’s got, but you must not lose sight of this fact: your greatest responsibility as a couple is to help each other home by leaning upon the strength of your Savior. Let the mantra of our marriages be the same as the psalmist, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3). This will be painful at times, but it is eternally worth it.

Read the rest here.

Re Blog: 9 Perspectives on Trump, Clinton, and the Evangelical Christian Voter

by R P Ministries

Most evangelical Christians in America see involvement in the electoral process as a moral/spiritual obligation. So, what is an American Christian to do when presented with a choice between two prominent presidential candidates where choosing either is morally problematic?

Many of us have been prayerfully asking ourselves that question. And we’ve been seeking wise counsel. In today’s post, I’ve collated online counsel that can be helpful to us as we seek to address the issue of Trump, Clinton, and the Evangelical Christian Voter.

1. Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils? 

In a widely-read Christianity Today article, Russell Moore asks and answers the question, Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils? Moore begins with these prophetic words:

For years, I have urged Christians to take seriously their obligations as citizens, starting with exercising the right to vote. In the public square and at the ballot box, we must be more engaged, not less. But what happens in a race where Christians are faced with two morally problematic choices? Should voters cast a ballot for the lesser of two evils?

After a well-reasoned presentation, Moore concludes:

Given these moral convictions, there have been times when I’ve faced two candidates, both of whom were morally disqualified. In one case, one candidate was pro-life but a race-baiter, running against a candidate who was pro-choice. I could not in good conscience put my name on either candidate. I wrote in the name of another leader. Other times, I’ve voted for a minor party candidate. In the cases when I’ve voted for an independent or written in a candidate, I didn’t necessarily expect that candidate to win—my main objective was to participate in the process without endorsing moral evil. As Christians, we are not responsible for the reality of our two-party system or for the way others exercise their citizenship, but we will give an account for how we delegate our authority.

Our primary concern is not the election night victory party, but the Judgment Seat of Christ.

When Christians face two clearly immoral options, we cannot rationalize a vote for immorality or injustice just because we deem the alternative to be worse. The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). This side of the New Jerusalem, we will never have a perfect candidate. But we cannot vote for evil, even if it’s our only option.

2. Trump, Clinton, or Neither: How Evangelicals Are Expected to Vote 

Christianity Today highlights the issue: with the two major parties likely running candidates that many Evangelicals could not endorse, what does the Evangelical Christian do? According to CT:

Half of the 81 “evangelical insiders” surveyed by World magazine in March said that if faced with a Clinton/Trump ballot in November, they would vote for a third-party candidate even if that candidate had no chance to win (51%). More than a quarter more said they’d vote for a viable third-party candidate (29%). 

Read the entire CT article here: Trump, Clinton, or Neither: How Evangelicals Are Expected to Vote.

3. Crisis in American Democracy 

After a broad-based reflection on the state of democracy in the US, Al Mohler refuses to mince words:

To put the matter bluntly, we are now confronted with the reality that, in November, Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump the Republican nominee. This poses a significant problem for many Christians who believe they cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. As a result, Christians are going to need a lot of careful political reflection in order to steward their vote and their political responsibility in this election cycle.

Read Dr. Mohler’s entire post here: Crisis in American Democracy. 

Read the other points here.

Re Blog: 3 Neglected Objects of Stewardship

by FORWARD>>PROGRESS

hen we think about stewardship, we think primarily about money. That’s a good and right thing, because when we think and talk about money, we are patterning our messages after those of Jesus. When you look back to the recorded teachings of Jesus in Scripture, you find a surprising number of references to the subject of personal finance. That’s not because Jesus wants our money; it’s certainly not because He needs our money. It’s because Jesus is after our hearts, and He knows that the clearest window into what we truly love, desire and pursue is visible through our bank statements.

Think about it – Jesus could have set up anything as the primary competitor to God in our lives. He could have easily said something like, “You cannot serve both God and power,” or “You cannot serve both God and sex,” but instead He chose money: “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money” (Matthew 6:24).

Money matters, because the heart matters. So it’s good and right for us to think about stewardship in terms of money. At the same time, stewardship is not exclusively about money. Instead, it’s a holistic view of God as the owner, and we as His servants who have been entrusted with all kinds of resources, each of which provides an opportunity for the sake of the kingdom of God. So while we should think deeply about the money God has seen fit to flow into our lives, our view of stewardship cannot stop there. It’s got to be bigger.

In light of that, here are three neglected objects of stewardship for you to think about today:

1. Your home.

Hospitality was one of the hallmarks of the early church. These fledgling believers were marked by generosity not only in their money, but in the opening up of their homes to others, welcoming them in. Paul listed hospitality in his practical exhortations of gospel-rooted living (Rom. 12:9-13) and went on to say that hospitality is one of the characteristics that must be present in church leaders (1 Tim. 3:2). Our homes are a resource, and we should be joyfully generous with them. That can mean things like hosting a small group, but in a broader sense, it means asking the simple question of why God has given you the home you have in the neighborhood you have around the people who live there. If He has done so intentionally, the home is a resource that should be made much of.

Furthermore, when we practice stewardship through hospitality, we mirror the gospel. The word itself, hospitality, comes from a combination of Greek words – the word for “love” and the word for “stranger.” When we invite others in hospitably, we are loving the stranger, which is exactly what God has done for us. When we were enemies and rebels, strangers to the faith, God invited us into His home as His sons and daughters.

Read the rest here.

 

Re Blog: I went to a strip club

strip-club

From: JUST A JESUS FOLLOWER

A while back I was asked by a group of pastor’s wives to go with them to strip clubs.

That sentence alone sounds strange. But hang with me.

At first I was a little hesitant. And not for reasons you might think.

I love people. Especially ones who are broken; it’s part of my calling. But, given what I’ve walked through, I know how fragile broken people can be.

And I know how insensitive the church can be.

And I was uneasy.

But, these weren’t just any pastors wives.

They had a vision.

One that longed to love on women that society had thrown aside.

It reminded me a lot of Jesus.

So, I jumped on it.

Their plan was to visit these clubs once a month to deliver a meal and gift baskets. I joined them the first night and I’ll be honest, I had NO IDEA what to expect.

Now, I had my fair share of time (back in the day) in bars and such, but I’d never been to a strip club. I was totally unaware of what I was walking into.

We arrived and the bouncer ushered us back into the dressing room where we introduced ourselves and began distributing the gifts and food.

I was shocked by what I saw.

Read the rest here.