Monday, May 31, 2010

Jesus Manifesto by Sweet and Viola

Thomas Nelson is releasing a new book called Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. This book will be on special discount from on June 1st, the date of the release. You can learn more by going to Among those who have endorsed the book are Rowan Williams, Matt Chandler, Calvin Miller, Ed Young, Jack Hayford, Shane Claiborne, Ed Stetzer, Reggie McNeal, Mark Batterson, Gregory Boyd, David Fitch, Steve Brown, Dan Kimball, Margaret Feinberg, Mark Chironna, Francis Frangipane, Todd Hunter, Alan Hirsch, Chris Seay, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Anne Jackson, Craig Keener, Ken Ulmer, Tommy Barnett and Sally Morgenthaler.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Founders Breakfast and a Special Opportunity for those attending the SBC

The Southern Baptist Convention is scheduled to meet in Orlando June 15-16. Once again this year, Founders Ministries will host a breakfast before the opening session. At 6:30 AM in the Orange County Convention Center West Building, Rooms W303A-C on Level 3, we will enjoy breakfast and a message by RC Sproul.

Dr. Sproul has been one of the most influential Christian preachers and teachers among Evangelicals of the last thirty years. Through his books, conferences, lectures, articles, Tabletalk Magazine and Ligonier Ministries, RC has been a leader in the resurgence of reformed theology that is taking place across denominational boundaries. Through his unwavering commitment to the doctrines of God's sovereign grace he has become one of the leading reformers of our day.

Dr. Sproul will speak on "The Cost of Reformation" during the breakfast. There are a limited number of tickets available and the breakfast usually sells out. Be sure to make your reservation today by going here.

In conjunction with the SBC meeting, the good folks at Ligonier are making an incredible offer to Southern Baptists who participate in the convention June 15-16. The Ligonier Conference begins on Thursday, after the SBC. If you attend the SBC and want to stay for the conference, you can register for a super-discounted rate of $50. For more information click the banner below, or go here for details.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A letter to my daughter when she turned 16

This Saturday our family will experience another "first" when Rachel, our third-born daughter, is married. Her husband-to-be is Ricky Davis, a wonderful young man from our church in Cape Coral. The process leading up to this day began over 18 months ago when Ricky told me of his interest. I have been humbled to see how the Lord has led during that time, making clear His will for their lives.

It has also been encouraging to see how they have sought and followed counsel and worked out their devotion to Christ as they have become devoted to one another. In fact, their approach to their relationship would be considered "odd" even by conservative, Christian standards today. I have been blessed to watch them along the way.

The last few days have provided lots of opportunities to trek down memory lane, reviewing the last 22 years with Rachel. On her sixteenth birthday, her two older sisters put together for her a special book of encouragement that included brief letters from a few friends and family. Yesterday I came across my contribution to that effort. I post it below in honor her impending wedding.

Rachel has always been open to my advice. Saturday, she will definitely take an important piece of it when she marries Ricky, because, in addition to being a godly man, he makes her laugh.

Dear Rachel:

You are a precious gift of God to our family. For sixteen years you have blessed us with your sensitive spirit and servant heart. I am so proud to be your dad. The Lord has special plans for you and I look forward to seeing how they will unfold. I am very encouraged with how the Lord is working in you. Keep focusing on Him and remember what is important.

I won't always be around to dispense my fatherly advice, so I jotted down a few thoughts that might be worth remembering after I am gone. There is nothing new here. You have heard it all before. But maybe it will be helpful to have this collections of aphorisms all in one place. Happy sixteenth birthday!

Improve your vocabulary. Don't be afraid to learn new words, like "aphorism." Share your peanuts. Bathe daily. Wash your hair at least 3 times a week. Brush your teeth after every meal. Floss. Respect your elders. Be kind to those less fortunate than you. Turn off lights. It's good practice for the time that is coming when you will pay the bills. Use sunscreen. Write letters. Don't forget to send thank-you notes.

Be a good friend. If you have a good friend, consider yourself rich. Don't love money. Don't love things and use people to get them. Love people and use things to show them. Study hard. Take vacations. Laugh. Marry someone who will help you do so.

Read your Bible daily. Meditate on truth. Memorize it. Pray. Keep a journal. Repent when you sin. Believe in forgiveness. Forgive. Think of the cross every day. Remember heaven.

Take risks, but only for eternal reasons. Live dangerously. Hope big. Never compromise convictions. Never demand that others accept your mere opinions. Be sure what you believe. Be respectful toward authority. Evaluate what you are taught in the light of Scripture.

Never underestimate the value of church. Find a good one and live near it. Organize your life around its life. Help other people. Let other people help you. Listen more than you talk.

Don't underestimate the power of encouragement. It is easy to give and it goes a long way. Give away money. Not necessarily all of it but enough of it to remind yourself of how unimportant it is. Make eternal investments.

Never jump out of a tree unless you know where you are going to land. Do not doubt in the dark what God has taught you in the light. Sing. Dance; especially with your children.

Read good books, the kind that will make you a better person. Make them your friends. Especially read biographies. Teach your children to love reading.

Finally, impress on your children early in their lives the importance of visiting their grandparents regularly!

I love you.


Monday, May 10, 2010

30 Years of Married Grace

Thirty years ago today I placed a wedding ring on the finger of Donna Jean Young and made her my bride. Today I am more stunned than I was then that I am her husband. She is the greatest earthly gift that God could ever give me. "Many daughters have done excellently, but she surpasses them all." Martin Luther called marriage a school for character, and so it has been for me. I cannot fully calculate the lessons learned or the blessings I have experienced by being married to Donna. But I am very conscious of the praise and gratitude that belongs to our Lord for giving her to me.

Because of the providential convergence of some wonderful events at this time, we are are postponing the official celebration of our anniversary for a couple of months. That's the kind of flexibility that comes more easily after thirty years than after only a few. Below are thirty reasons that I have "tweeted" over the last thirty days that express why I love Donna. Of course, there are millions more and none of them can be adequately stated in less than 140 characters! But these are reminders to me of what God gave me when He blessed me to become her husband. Like most of my friends, I married far, far above my pay grade. The following reasons, with brief explanations, make that evident.

1-She patiently endured my insecurities and idiosyncracies when we were dating.
I was a pretty confused young man when we met. No one would have thought it strange if she had simply written me off (and some would have commended her wisdom!)

2-She listened with an open Bible as I explained the doctrinal reformation God worked in me during our engagement.
During the year of our engagement I went through a theological revolution as God showed me the doctrines of grace in Scripture. At points she thought I was losing my mind and we seriously considered calling off the wedding because of my changing doctrinal convictions. In His mercy, the Lord rescued our impending marriage by leading her to see and understand these truths, as well.

3-She did not care that we took a cheap honeymoon that included staying with relatives along the way.
We were both students. We had no debt but I had used all of my savings commuting from seminary back to the small church I was serving in College Station. So we packed a lot of sandwiches and spent part of our trip in the homes of my aunt and my brother. And we had a blast!

4-She happily turned our tiny first apartment (we could not open the refrigerator and oven at the same time) into a warm, inviting home.
There was no place to hide. It helped us learn to get along and resolve conflicts sooner rather than later.

5-She persevered through her senior year of nursing school despite being newly married to a part-time pastor who was also a full-time student.
Her grades took a small drop as her priorities changed, but she handled all of the demands on her with grace.

6-She joyfully worked evenings as a pediatric nurse after graduation, more than tripling the income I was receiving as a pastor.
Donna has always loved kids and was an excellent nurse in a Children's Hospital. We were blown away by her salary and couldn't imagine how we could ever spend all of it.

7-She was happy for us to give more money to our church than I was being paid as a pastor.
When we decided to give away more than I was earning, she never flinched or complained.

8-She humbly waited for me to start leading as I slowly sorted out the egalitarian teaching I received from seminary professors.
I was completely clueless about the responsibility of husbands to lead in marriage. Consequently, I was easily convinced by seminary professors who strongly espoused egalitarianism. It took nearly 3 years for me to be convinced exegetically otherwise.

9-She helped me see the wisdom and value of quitting her job to stay home with our first child when I was hesitant.
Again, I was clueless and just assumed that she should go back to work after six weeks off to get childcare set up for our baby. Her tears convinced me to think again and, again, God changed my mind through His Word. She quit working for a paycheck one month before delivery and has been working full time without a paycheck ever since.

10-She encouraged me to turn in an application to pursue a PhD in theology 15 minutes before the deadline.
I had two professors who had suggested it, but by this time I was pretty jaded in my attitude toward seminary life. Donna's encouragement tipped the scale.

11-She would not let me quit PhD studies despite many good reasons to do so.
Several friends can say the same about their wives. Donna's final argument with me went something like this, "Fine. You can quit. But you must write a dissertation anyway even if you throw it away upon completion. You owe that to the kids and me." It was unassailable.

12-She has cheerfully embraced her primary callings to be my wife & our children's mom.
Medical doctors actually rebuked her for giving up a career as a nurse because there was a critical a shortage of them. She fully agreed when I responded to one such complaint with, "there is an even greater shortage of mothers."

13-She has stood by me unashamedly during the hardest seasons of my ministry.
At times when I haven't been sure if anyone else in the world supported me I always knew she was with me.

14-She willingly packed up our 2 little girls and moved across the country to the tip of the USA.
Or to what my children now affectionately call "the toenail of the USA."

15-She has forgiven me repeatedly for my failures as a husband.
One way that our marriage has helped sanctify her is by providing so many opportunities for her to learn to forgive.

16-She does not think it a slight to be called "the pastor's wife."
Though her identity is not at all exclusively bound up in my role, she joyfully embraces helping me fulfill my calling to pastor.

17-She trained our kids to do hard things and is willingly sending them to hard places to make Christ known.
They can tell lots of stories of her gracious firmness in shepherding them along right paths and though she loves them fiercely, she is helping launch them graciously.

18-She never pressured our children to do anything just because they are the pastor's kids.
Those words have never come out of her mouth in order to motivate our children.

19-She sacrificially homeschooled all of our children, despite many obstacles and opportunities to do things differently.
She was convinced about homeschooling before I was, and long before it was cool. She sacrificed many, many things in the effort.

20-She does not resent that she is second place in my affections behind Christ but counts that an honor.
Donna knows that I love her best when I love her second.

21-She has refused to succumb to bitterness or cynicism when faced with mistreatment and disappointment.
The disappointments have been many and the mistreatments, though not as frequent, have at times been excruciatingly painful. Yet, God's grace has been made manifest in her during such times.

22-She has consistently grown in the grace & knowledge of Christ across all our married life.
She is one of the best practical theologians I know and helps me to keep growing spiritually.

23-She has remained my best friend, strongest ally and closest confidant for over 30 years.
We genuinely love to be together. I can't imagine having a better companion.

24-She has demonstrated what it means to be a faithful wife in sickness as well as in health.
I have, unfortunately, given her many opportunities to care for me in sickness. Words cannot adequately express how she has loved me during such times.

25-She has been willing to test and develop her spiritual gifts even when doing so has led her way beyond her comfort zones.
Some of her most valuable contributions to our local body of Christ are the result of her doing hard things.

26-She is the godliest woman I know & the greatest earthly gift I have received.
I live with her daily. Her love for Christ is deep and real.

27-She makes me look forward to the next 30 years together with confidence that the best is yet to come.
I fully believe that the last leg of our race will be our best.

28-I cannot imagine what life would be like without her; she completes me in so many ways.
She is, without a doubt, a helper that is suitable for me.

29-I would not be who I am, nor could I do what I do without her.
I shudder to think where I'd be had God not brought her into my life!

30-She is for me, a most excellent wife & the love of my life! Happy 30th Anniversary, Donna! ILYM.
We typically sign our notes with "ILY" (I love you). ILYM is "I love you more." She thinks she loves me more, but, for all of her wonderful qualities, she is simply wrong on that one! ;-)