Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Goal of Church Planting/Revitalizing

I have had Church Planting is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-Up People to Plant Ordinary Churches that do Extraordinary Things by Mike McKinley on my shelf for a while now. I even picked it up a while back, but after reading the Foreword by Darrin Patrick I put it back down because I'm not planting a church (I didn't put it down because of Darrin Patrick!). However, recently a friend told me I should read it and that it may be helpful in revitalizing the church I'm serving with. Today I decided was a good day to start reading it. I am glad I did! There are several things I like about it already, but this quote captures what I've thought for quite some time:
Church planting (starting a congregation from scratch) and church revitalizing (reviving the ministry of an almost dead church) share the same goal: raising up a faithful gospel witness where none exists.
I pray this is so for Cypress Lake Baptist Church!

The Gospel Sermon Series

I am in the process of planning a long sermon series on the gospel. As of today I have 32 topics planned. I am not sure they will all make it this go around, and I'm sure more will come to mind as I continue to pray, think, and work through this. Below is what I have so far. I would gladly welcome any thoughts and/or additions to this list. My goal is to first get the gospel out there, with a Biblical understanding of the gospel. After all, Paul said deserting the gospel is deserting Him who calls in the grace of Christ (Gal. 1:6). However, I've also thought much lately about the application of the gospel. If the good news is that we can be saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, then it ought to affect how we live everyday and in every circumstance. That's my hope. Help me out, please!

1. The Gospel Defined
2. The Gospel and God's Holiness
3. The Gospel and Our Sin
4. The Gospel and Our Substitute
5. The Gospel and Our Response
6. The Gospel and Justification
7. The Gospel and Sanctification
8. The Gospel and Glorification
9. The Gospel and Application
10. The Gospel and Biblical Manhood
11. The Gospel and Biblical Womanhood
12. The Gospel and Marriage
13. The Gospel and Children
14. The Gospel and Parenting
15. The Gospel and Singleness
16. The Gospel and Evangelism
17. The Gospel and Mercy Ministries
18. The Gospel and the Nations
19. The Gospel and Urgency
20. The Gospel and Suffering
21. The Gospel and Dying
22. The Gospel and Eternity
23. The Gospel and the Church
24. The Gospel and Elders
25. The Gospel and Deacons
26. The Gospel and Baptism
27. The Gospel and the Lord's Supper
28. The Gospel and Church Membership
29. The Gospel and Worship
30. The Gospel and Church Member Restoration (Discipline)
31. The Gospel and the Holy Spirit
32. The Gospel and the Glory of God

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Sermon

Since this was the fifth Sunday of the month, I didn't preach a 'regular' sermon tonight. It was a short sermon, and wasn't recorded. However, this morning's sermon is available if you'd like to listen or download.

Luke 8:40-56 - Jesus, the Giver of Life

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Hopes/Plans for New Believers

Since I came to Cypress Lake Baptist Church last September we've been working hard to determine the most important areas that needed to be adjusted, changed, shut down, or started up in order to fulfill our mission statement: Cypress Lake Baptist Church exists, by the grace of God, to make disciples of all nations, through treasuring Christ above all things, for the glory of God at all times. We have made some small changes, and I've written up a lot that will hopefully help us as we continue to move forward.

With that being said, there have been two areas I have hit extremely hard since I arrived. If we are going to make disciples of all nations then we are going to have to learn what it means to live as children of God who've been called to be faithful witnesses where we live and, as He allows, to the ends of the earth. I want to see our church devoted to evangelism and missions. With that being said, I do not simply want to be a church who just leads people to pray a prayer or something else like that. Rather, the other area I've pushed is the need to spend time discipling others. After all, the Bibles seems to be pretty clear on the need to make disciples (I constantly say we want to see people become devoted followers of Jesus).

I have recently thought of a way to offer some beneficial ways for new believers (as we commit to evangelism I truly hope we see many from Fort Myers and SWFL repent of their sins and trust in Christ) to grow in some basic disciplines and knowledge of what it means to follow Christ and how the church is vital in that walk. I've broken this down into two parts or phases. Here are my initial thoughts. If you have any suggestions, I warmly welcome them.

Phase 1: A 4 Week New Believer's Class

Week 1: Focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to make sure our people know what they believe and why they believe it.

Weeks 2-3: Focus on some basic disciplines to help them grow in Christ. Examples would be Scripture reading, prayer, church involvement, and evangelism.

Week 4: Focus on the church ordinances (Baptism and the Lord's Supper)

Phase 2: Follow Up with a More Mature Believer

My hope is that I would not be the one always working with new believers. It's not that I don't want to, but it seems better and healthier to have more of our people discipling others. Therefore, once the class is complete I would encourage all who are truly pursuing Christ to get with a present member and walk through a time together where they meet regularly. Right now I'm thinking it would be best to have them work through The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Christ by Stephen Smallman.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Discipleship Doesn't Have to be Difficult

This past Tuesday I was able to begin what I hope will be a long journey of helping one of my members as he seeks to pursue Christ. I found that what we did together was unbelievably simply, yet unbelievably rewarding for both of us. Often times it seems we try to find the right program, or the right angle, or the right something else, but it doesn't have to be that difficult. In fact, it went so well that I have invited another man in our church who also has agreed to meet with us. My hope is that maybe we'll invite one more, but I would like to stop there. After a season together I hope they will be better prepared and equipped to do the same thing with other men (and even especially their wives!).

So what did we do? We met at a local restaurant for breakfast. No, that's not all we did, but that is where it started. We met there, had breakfast together, and talked. It was a chance for me to get to know what was going on in his life and for him to know more of mine as well. As we finished up our meal together we opened up our Bibles to Galatians. We read the first 4 verses and stopped. Together we started making observations about the text. This was not a time to figure out what it means. We just made our way slowly through the text making observations. Then we began discussing what it meant. I didn't prepare before we came, so it wasn't an in-depth, trying to know it all, discussion. Finally, we talked about how it ought to affect our lives.

That was it! It was simple. And yet, it proved to be one of the most helpful times I've had with a brother in Christ. In fact, it changed my day. I had a great day thinking through what he and I had discussed that morning. That evening, his wife told me how much it had benefitted him. I take that to mean he went home and talked with her about it. How awesome is that! Immediately he began to talk about what the Lord was doing in his life with his wife.

I am humbled. This little time spent with a man over the Bible proved to be far more productive than I would have guessed. I'm looking forward to what may come out of this for the both of us! Discipleship doesn't have to be hard. This was easy, enjoyable, and seems to have potential for great benefits immediately and in the future.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Which Camp are YOU in?

Luke 8:37 - Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.

Luke 8:40 - Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him.

Which camp are you in? Do you want Jesus to leave or are you eagerly waiting for him?


I have had The Valley of Vision for several years and have enjoyed it thoroughly. Last week I linked to a post by Joe Thorn, where he laid out a schedule for using this book to help his prayer life. Over the past week I've accepted the challenge (if you'd call it that) to try to put this into practice. It has already helped tremendously in my own life. I have already seen a great increase in my discipline of prayer. Of course, I have a long way to go, but I would certainly recommend this plan. If you do not use this plan, please think about how you will have a plan that will enable you to grow closer to Christ Jesus through prayer.

The prayer I read for this morning is called Shortcomings. It's excellent. Below is a section of the prayer that I will think about for some time:
I fall short of thy glory every day by spending hours unprofitably, by thinking that the things I do are good, when they are not done to thy end, nor spring from the rules of thy Word.
I have often times stated that we can do 'good' things that will actually condemn us because they are not done for the glory of God. However, reading this sentence makes me think it's inaccurate to call them 'good' if they are not done for His glory.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Sermons

My two sermons from today are online now. I honestly must say I was extremely excited about preaching both sermons today. It seemed to be a great week with the Lord leading up to today. You can here them by clicking on the following links:

AM - Luke 8:22-25 - Jesus is Sovereign in the Storm

PM - Luke 8:26-39 - Demonic Healing and the Glory of God

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Marvelous Truth of Salvation

J.C. Ryle, commenting on the healing of the Gerasene demonic in Luke 8:26-39:
One thing, however, must not be forgotten. Striking and miraculous as this cure was, it is not really more wonderful than every instance of a definite conversion to God. Marvelous as the change was which appeared in the demoniac's condition when healed, it is not any more marvelous than the change which passes over every individual who is born again and turned from the power of Satan to God. Never is a person in his right mind until he is converted, or in his right place until he sits by faith at the feet of Jesus, or correctly dressed until he has put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you ever considered what real conversion to God is? It is nothing but the miraculous release of a captive, the miraculous restoration of a man to his right mind, the miraculous deliverance of a soul from the Devil.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Francis Chan: Hell: We Can't afford to get it Wrong

Happy Anniversary

Today marks our eleventh anniversary as husband and wife. It has been an amazing, and often times challenging, 11 years. By God's grace, the challenges have been faced together, not at one another. By God's grace we have two children with us, we've moved to FL, and we're still going strong. By God's grace He took two sinful people and drew them to Himself and forever changed them. By God's grace my wife and I are no longer two, but are one flesh. I still carry this picture in my Bible. My wife is unbelievably kind, gracious, caring, encouraging, strong, hardworking, loving, strengthening, and a thousand other wonderful things. Thank you, Shannon, for 11 wonderful years of rejoicing in God's grace together as husband and wife. I pray we have many, many more.

The Gerasene Demonic and Us

As I continue to preach through the gospel of Luke with Cypress Lake Baptist Church, I am amazed at the number of ways my life is impacted. My hope is that our church would know more of Biblical Jesus so we can trust in Him and His work on our behalf. Just recently I added Philip Ryken's Commentary Set to my collection, and I am very thankful already. In preparing for Sunday Evening's message from Luke 8:26-39 I read this quote about the demon possessed man:
The man that Jesus met was in nearly the worst condition that anyone could imagine. He was naked, lonely, violent, and insane; he was walking naked among the dead. Yet even for all his misery, we can see ourselves in his situation, because sin has similar effects on all of us. It exposes us naked in our guilt. It alienates us from one another, leaving us lonely and alone. It makes us violent, at least in our attitudes, if not in our actions. Spiritually speaking, we walk among the dead. Thus the madman in the graveyard shows the wretchedness of our condition outside of Christ.
I can relate to this on so many levels. Apart from Christ I am certainly here. Thanks be to God who has cleansed me through the blood of His Son, Jesus.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Reasons to Trust God in Every Rough and Stormy Gale

In preparing for Sunday morning's sermon for Cypress Lake Baptist Church, I read the following three truths that Philip Graham Ryken gives in his commentary on Luke (particularly Luke 8:22-25) for why we ought to trust God in every rough and stormy gale:

1. Even the storms of life are under his sovereign control

2. Jesus has set the perfect example

3. Jesus is with us in the boat

I can't wait to preach this text this Sunday morning! God-willing we'll post the audio here sometime Sunday afternoon if you'd like to hear more.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Books on Preaching from Myself and Others

I recently posted to get some information and suggestions on 'must read' books for preaching. As I stated then, there is no shortage of 'good' books out there. Below is a compiled list of books that were suggested in either the comments on this blog or on Facebook. I thought this list may be helpful for others who are wondering the same thing.

Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Spirit Empowered Preaching by Arturo G. Azurdia III

Why Johnny Can't Preach by T. David Gordon

Dying to Preach by Steven Smith

Preaching for God's Glory by Alistair Begg

Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes by Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson

There was also an audio lecture recommended: Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World

My guess is there are more. Any other suggestions for 'must read' books on preaching?


Books on Preaching

I plan to begin soon reading through various books on preaching to help sharpen my preaching ability to hopefully be a better pastor for my church. With that being said, I would love to hear from you on your top 3-4 books on preaching. What are the absolute must reads? I know there are several good ones, but I am not enough of an avid reader to read them all. So, here are a few I have read or plan to read.

Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper

Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon by Bryan Chapell

Any other suggestions for must reads?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two Excellent Posts by Joe Thorn

A few years ago my wife and I had been praying about church planting and I really started thinking we may pack up and move to Chicago. However, I didn't know what to expect in Chicago, nor did I have any idea where to start if indeed that is where the Lord would lead us. I had heard the name, Joe Thorn, before, so I contacted him. I actually contacted him for two reasons. The first reason was that he is in the Chicago area and I felt he would be a great person to contact. He was very helpful. The second reason was because he had lost a lot of weight was running often. I wanted to be encouraged in that area as well. I was!

With that being said, I certainly can't claim to be a 'friend' of his. I know him through twitter and Facebook and blogging, but that's about it. The Lord didn't lead me to Chicago, and we haven't kept in touch really. I also didn't take his advice on running (until more recently).

Yesterday he wrote a blog post entitled "Rebuilding a Healthy Schedule" that was excellent. I'm always looking for thoughts and ways to honor my marriage, my children, my work schedule for my church, and anything else I can. The reason is that all of these are rooted in my desire to honor Christ. I highly recommend you read and apply what you can from this post.

Today he posted another excellent post. Several years ago I purchased The Valley of Vision and have been extremely thankful that I have. In fact, I have it sitting at my prayer bench as one of the things I read as I begin praying. Joe has put together a schedule to help increase your prayer life. You can read about it here. This post is another one I highly recommend.

Both of these subjects are greatly needed in my life, and I am sure in the lives of many others. Thank you, Joe, for posting these!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Place of Commentaries

It's been a while, but I picked back up Charles Bridges' The Christian Ministry. This book is full of encouragement and conviction. There are often times I come away from reading this and wonder how in the world I will ever be a faithful pastor. However, there are other times (indeed, most times) when I come away recognizing that apart from the grace of God I will not do this, but through His grace I am a pastor!

With that being said, this morning I read a few pages and he began talking about commentaries for the pastor to be diligent in his studies. After giving several suggestions for good commentaries, he writes:

It is, however, most important to remember, that the service or disservice of commentaries wholly depends upon the place which they occupy in the system of study. Let them not be discarded as utterly useless; for many of them comprise the labours of men, who had a far deeper insight into the word of God than those who despise them are generally likely to attain. But let them not be placed before the word, nor be consulted (habitually at least), until the mind has been well stored with the study of God's own book.

I have had times in my life where commentaries were the first place I'd run. It wasn't until the more recent years that I've realized I am far more likely to engage and apply the Scriptures in my own life when I take the time to meditate on the text. I still have much to learn, but I think Bridges it correct. He goes on to state that they certainly do have their place in the study:

The only assistance which I would recommend, are those, in which there can be no tendency to warp your judgment. It is the serious and frequent reading of the Divine oracles, accompanied with fervent prayer; it is the comparing Scripture with Scripture; it is the diligent study of the languages in which they are written; it is the knowledge of the histories and antiquities, to which they allude.

Diligent reading of the Scriptures, fervent prayer, comparing Scripture with Scripture, a working knowledge of the original languages, and great knowledge of the histories and antiquities of the Bible. These are wonderful areas to emphasize. I have a long ways to go, but on the journey I am, by God's grace.

Sunday Sermon

This past Sunday morning's sermon is available. I didn't record the evening sermon because it was more of a heart to heart with my church family. Hope you'll be drawn to Christ through this:

Hearing, Responding, and Bearing Fruit - Part 3

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Weight Loss Journey

For those who know me well, you know that I have struggled for many years now to be healthy and develop better habits in life. I say struggled because I have failed miserably for the most part. Sure, I've had times that went better than others, but overall I continued to grow larger and continued in my unhealthy habits.

Let me begin this by stating a few things up front. My desire to be healthy is first rooted in my desire to honor Christ with my body. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit because He fills every believer. Therefore, I have the responsibility to care for my body for the sake of Christ.

A second reason for my desire is to be an example to my flock. I was blessed to spend two years learning and growing under the mentoring of Dr. Pete Schemm. We had many talks about the place for pastors to be an example in all areas. I have a long ways to go, but I hope to make progress by the grace of God. With that being said, about 6 weeks ago my chairman of deacons had a heart attack. He was only 58 years old! I am very close to my deacon chairman. He was the one who contacted me before I moved to Fort Myers. He and I have had many talks and times together already. By God's grace, he has been spared and we have decided to hold one another accountable for weight loss and, more importantly, to be healthy. I have found that it's possible to look like you're in great shape without actually being in great shape. I had already started trying to lose some weight before this happened to him, but I was extremely motivated afterwards.

A third reason, which goes with the last, is that I love my church. What I mean by this is that it wouldn't be fair to my faith family for me to not be able to last in the ministry because of something that I could avoid. Of course, simply eating better and exercising doesn't guarantee anything, but at least I can do my part.

A fourth reason, which is extremely important to me, is for the sake of my family. We have been blessed for my to stay home with our two children. Our daughter is homeschooling, and my wife is doing an excellent job. If something happened to me because of health, these things would quite possibly change. However, I aslo need to lead my family well. It isn't fair for me to not be able to do what is needed to lead them well.

A fifth reason is related to several that I've already mentioned, but after my friend had a heart attack I remembered that my father had bypass surgery in his early-mid 50's. Again, this was another eye opening reality.

With all that being said, back in late January/early February I stepped on the scales at the house. To my absolute shock it said 238 pounds. That's right, 238! How did it get here? What in the world happened? How can this be? (all these questions, and many more, flooded my head)

It was time to do something about it. I started working out again, and tried to eat better. The key word there is tried! Over the next 6 weeks or so I slowly lost 7-8 pounds. I had some friends visit in March and I was absolutely embarrassed when we all went to the beach for the day. So again, I tried to get better. Then in April my mother and father-in-law visited. He had lost 25 pounds since Christmas (which we didn't even know he needed to lose!). He told me that he had seen a doctor and started a program that was not only for weight loss, but also for health. I knew immediately I need the accountability.

Since this post is getting ridiculously long now, let me speed ahead. I went to the Medical Weight Loss Clinic in Fort Myers and started immediately. I am very thankful I did! At this point, since the 238 pound shock, I have lost 26 pounds. Of course, I still have a ways to go, but I feel about a thousand percent better! And, now I love running. I've never loved running. In fact, I've always hated running. Now it's becoming a joy. My distance is growing (slowly), as well as my time. All and all this has been great. I still have a long ways to go, but by God's grace I am on my way.

I have been hesitant to post anything about this on my blog, Facebook, or twitter because I have so many times in the past talked a good talk and failed. I still could. I know my weaknesses. I know my sinful nature and the inclinations I have to go back into old habits. But I decided to post this because it may help others. If it does, awesome! And also, please pray for me that a healthy lifestyle will be developed and I will honor Christ with my life and my body.

I decided to post two pictures on here. The first picture was taken a while back, but I'm not really sure when. The second was taken today. I tried to make them as close as possible. Though you can't see much, I think you can see the difference in my face.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Getting to the Heart of Parenting

In the previous post, I linked to a blog post by Kevin DeYoung. In his post he asked the question (though in the middle of his story of how his conversations go with his kids), "What would Paul Tripp do?" Well, Paul Tripp has a lot of good resources on parenting, but this new DVD set looks to be great. Right now there is a great price at the Desiring God website.

Kevin DeYoung on Parenting

I haven't posted in a while. However, my wife and I are constantly thinking through ways to raise and shepherd our children. This article by Kevin DeYoung helps!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011