Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Study Plan

An Inkling
Atop my bookcase are about forty books – my “to be read” collection.  For a slow reader like me that’s nearly three years’ worth.  They include both books I’ve chosen and books I’ve been given.  Some folks give me books they’re excited about, and want to share.  Others give me books hoping that it will fill some gap in my understanding.  I’ve come into some fine books in both ways.
Here are some observations about the books that await me on the shelf:
  • Some are for preparation for future preaching and teaching.  For example, I’ve been reading books on Isaiah for this summer’s sermon series.
  • Some are by authors who have been my mentors (Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Tom Smail, Eugene Peterson, John Wimber, Tim Keller, and John Claypool).  I read nearly everything they write.
  • Some are sample books from a rising star.  For example, I’ll soon read a book by Francis Chan, so that as I hear people speak of him I’ll understand.
  • Some are remedial.  I realize how little I know of art, so I’m trying to make up for that gap.  Likewise with Virginia history.  Ever since we moved here, I’ve been learning about where we are.
  • Some of the books have been on the shelf for years, waiting for the mood to strike.  Others move immediately to the front of the line – usually ones by a favorite author (Keller of late), or on a favorite topic (the Holy Spirit’s presence and power).

What’s your plan for study?  How do you choose something of worth?  Are there gaps you need to fill?  What grabs your heart?
We can certainly serve the Lord better with our minds when we study with a plan.  I’d be happy to help you make one!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Life Marker

An Inkling
Sarah and I moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1987, eight years after a giant tornado had flattened a quarter of the city, killing 79 people.  The house where my parents live now was built on the slab of one that blew away, and was intentionally rebuilt with a concrete closet that doubles as a storm shelter. 
Do any of you have a concrete closet?  We in Richmond don’t think of such things.  But those who have experienced the fierce storms of the high plains certainly do. 
In fact, I noticed how those who lived through the storm couldn’t help but to think of it.  It marked their lives.  And so, for example, when they were trying to remember when something had happened they would ponder, “let’s see, was that before or after the storm?”  The mark became a measure for many things in their lives.
What do we do with such markers, the literal and figurative life-flattening storms?  First we weep.  We weep with those who weep.  God will one day redeem our broken world, but in the meantime its ragged edges gash many lives.  And so we weep.
Second, we cling to God’s word.  One of the odd effects of tornadoes is that people can’t find anything because their usual landmarks are gone – the big tree on the corner, the street signs, the surrounding homes, etc.  In the midst of rubble, we’re disoriented, and we all the more need the clear landmarks of God’s word to find our way.  Romans 8:18-28 is a sure landmark in such times.
Third, we join people in rebuilding their lives.  Whether the storm came as a cancer or a whirlwind, we join them in rebuilding.  Destruction does not have the final word.  That belongs to the One who builds and rebuilds and rebuilds and…  When we join in rebuilding we join with him in what he does.
And fourth, at some point, usually years later, we can look back and see how the One who weeps and rebuilds with us has also painted the blotch of that life marker into the patterns of his larger and lovely picture.  It’s just as Romans 8:28 tells us:  even destruction is gathered up into God’s good work in our lives. 
And that, even more than the worst storm, is the Life Marker by which we can measure many things.
Praying for OKC,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Fruit of Ordinary Days

An Inkling
Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.”  What is the testimony of the fruit of your life?
Some of the fruit is borne on extraordinary days, such as a day when integrity is at stake in a hard choice you make at the office, or when trust is shown in a season of bad health.  But such days are called extraordinary for a reason, and their fruit is but a small portion of your life’s harvest.
What is the fruit of your most ordinary days?  We heard a winsome witness to such fruit in the testimony of several moms that we compiled for worship on Mother’s Day.  Every mom has some extraordinary days.  But when I asked them to reflect on motherhood just off the top of their heads, these moms described the preponderance of fruit – the fruit of ordinary days.
What is the fruit of your ordinary days?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Remembering Why We Are Making This Move

An Inkling
In two weeks our congregation will cast a momentous vote – whether or not to depart from our current denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), for a new denomination that fits our commitments much better, the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, abbreviated E.C.O.  We hope that you can be here for the meeting on May 19.  If the vote is affirmative, then the Presbytery will act on our dismissal request on June 18.  If their vote is affirmative we will be launched in our partnership with the new denomination.
We began this journey nearly two years ago.  At the time we talked a good bit about why this had become necessary.  But in the meantime we’ve been busy interacting with our Presbytery about the details of our departure.  So it’s been a while since we talked about why the Session believed we must commence this process.
So, as a way of recalling why we launched what has proven to be a long, arduous, and (as we’re seeing) expensive process, I’ve attached this 13 minute video by Dana Allin, the executive of our new denomination.  He does a wonderful job of briefly describing why we and many other congregations have found it necessary to take this difficult step.
If you would find it helpful to be reminded what this decision is about, I commend this video to you.  And let’s all be in prayer for God to guide us at our meeting on May 19.  May he be glorified and his church strengthened for mission!
I am most grateful for the privilege of serving with you.