On the Plains of Moab Blog
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August 14, 2014, 11:00 AM

Tweaking Some Things

We've noted many of the bureaucratic changes that have taken place here at the church since we were compelled to change our historic name from New Hope to New Life when we moved into the EPC -- things like the new web address, the e-mail changes, new logos, new signage, new incorporation permissions, etc. etc.  Those were irritating, busy-work (and expensive!) changes that tested the limits of my fragile patience.  In hindsight, that was probably the real reason we were "invited" to change our name, notwithstanding the official reason given.  An extra brick in the wall.

I digress...

In spite of all that, I must say, I feel much better.  I am encouraged by where we are as a church.  I am excited about where we are going.  It really feels like a fresh, clean start.  I am energized at the thought of constructive ministry without the need for explaining what we are not  before getting to the good part about what we are.  Truly liberating.  This is what I signed on for over ten years ago at my ordination.

One other thing that gives me great joy today:  I just finished re-working the "What We Believe" section of this web site.

Before, we had a list of essentials that we had drawn up to describe what we believe.  We supplemented that with what we called the "Non-Negotiables of New Hope."  This was necessary at the time due to the extremely wide margin of belief within our former denomination.  I always heard the official line trotted out anytime someone questioned whether or not there were any essential beliefs to hang a hat on: "Of course we do!  We just don't have them in writing."  In other words, we do -- ...but we don't.  And so, at the time, we came up with our own so that our visitors and potential members would have some idea of the content of our belief.

However, now that we are a part of the EPC, the official beliefs are not so cloudy.  We are part of a church now that stands quite firmly on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.  Therefore, I have taken down the old Essentials and "Non-Negotiables" and replaced them with statements of belief from the EPC.  You'll find links to EPC history there.  As well, you'll find links to the Westminster Standards, and a copy of the Essentials pasted directly on the page.  It's pretty clear.

I trust that this change of information will be even more helpful to those looking for a solid church home.

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July 4, 2014, 1:00 PM


I preaching on the eight and final essential on Sunday.  It is on sharing the Faith and discipleship.  You can never get too far from this topis.  It is the heart of who we are as God's people!  A couple of years ago, I preached a series on Evangelism.  The first sermon in that series was called, "The Great Omission."  In it, I offered some practical words on the topic that I won't try to repeat on Sunday.  I offer it here for your reaquaintance, and I'll try to break new ground this weekend.

New Hope Presbyterian Church
October 7, 2012.
The Great Omission
Matthew 28:16-20
Evangelism 101
Sermon #1 of 7

I am going to be speaking on the topic of evangelism this morning.  This is a subject that strikes fear in the hearts of all good Presbyterians.  Perhaps that is too mild a way to describe it?  Maybe I should use the words queasy or horrified?  For the most part, we believe in living and letting others live.  Being helpful, neighborly.  Being friendly.  But certainly not being pushy about making other people believe what we believe.

When I was a first year student at Liberty -- then Liberty Baptist College, I was introduced to this concept of evangelism.  There were stories that had become the stuff of legend, like the Liberty preacher boys going on a death defying mission to the Lynchburg College library and stuffing most of the books with gospel tracts.  We had a mandatory class in evangelism where we would go to what were called telephone evangelism courses with the Rev. J.O. Grooms.  He would cold call bars and pool halls and witness to Jesus right there over the phone in front of the entire class.  I remember a short term mission trip to Guatemala a few years ago, and going into the most impoverished village that I have ever laid eyes on -- going into dirty, smelly shanties and listening quite incredulously as my eager partners walked these baffled people through the "plan of salvation."

Evangelism evokes the imagery of smug Christians button-holing people.  Forcing them to mouth the right words to get into heaven.  Turn or burn.  Fly or fry.  Holy Ghost or roast.  In some churches, you aren't really a Christian unless you are willing to get out there and boldly share the gospel with strangers!

The word evangelism comes from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον.  This word does not mean "pushy" or "over-bearing."   In the New Testament, εὐαγγέλιον is translated in English as the gospel, or the good news or glad tidings.  So, when we do evangelism, we are simply sharing or testifying about God's good news.  The gospel is the good news that God has finally come in Jesus Christ.  The good news is that God has brought in the dawn of the long-promised Kingdom of God.  The good news is that God has announced peace and reconciliation in his Son.  The beginning of all things being made new.  To evangelize is to announce this news.  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." (Isa. 52:7 ESV).

Evangelism is not defined by a particular method.  Evangelism is not an end-justifies-the-means proposition.  Evangelism is not a threat -- either to you or some poor, unfortunate sap who happens to come on your come-to-Jesus-radar.

Evangelism is a way of life.  Evangelism is a way of viewing life.  Evangelism is a way of explaining life.  Evangelism is a way of providing meaning to a crazy world.

Evangelism comes by word of mouth.  Evangelism is communicated by the genuineness of a changed life.  Evangelism happens when there is compelling evidence of a humble, forgiving, gracious life.   Evangelism is effective when God takes an insignificant word or action and uses them to transform a once-cold heart, miraculously.

Our text from Matthew this morning contains what is known as the "Great Commission."  The last words of Jesus to his disciples just before he returns to his Father's right side.  It is both a charge and a promise.  Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mt. 28:18-20 ESV).

Jesus commands that his disciples go out into the world and make disciples from every nation.  This is good news for the entire world.  How do you fulfill this command to make disciples?  You do it by baptizing those who hear and embrace the good news and then teaching them God's words and ways.  The promise is that this entire process from beginning to end belongs to God.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore.... God brings in the harvest, you need only be willing to be the vessel for that transaction.  In word, in deed, in attitude, in self-sacrifice, in unconditional love, in loving the unlovable, in going the extra mile, in a humble life, in giving our hearts to God in worship.  All of those things count as evangelism!

In the next six weeks, we will be looking at various passages that speak of evangelism.  We will try to unpack these activities that I have identified as evangelism.  But before I close, I do want to share a few comments that I hope will be an encouragement to you as you go from here and wrestle with what it means for you personally to adopt a life of evangelism.

From Thom Rainer, "Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make About Christians." ("Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make About Christians" by Thom S. Rainer, Christian Post Guest Columnist, September 15, 2012.)

2.  I would like to develop a friendship with a Christian. "I'm really interested in what they believe and how they carry out their beliefs.  I wish I could find a Christian that would be willing to spend some time with me."

3.  I would like to learn about the Bible from a Christian. "The Bible really fascinates me, but I don't want to go to a stuffy and legalistic church to learn about it.  I would be nice if a Christian invited me to study the Bible in his home or at a place like Starbucks."

5.  I wish I could learn to be a better husband, wife, dad, mom, etc., from a Christian. "My wife is threatening to divorce me, and I think she means it this time.  My neighbor is a Christian, and he seems to have it together.  I am swallowing my pride and asking him to help me."

7.  I wish a Christian would take me to his or her church.  "I really would like to visit a church, but I'm not particularly comfortable going by myself.  What is weird is that I am 32-years old, and I've never had a Christian invite me to church in my entire life."

As a congregation, let us make sure that the Great Commission doesn't become the Great Omission!

You have heard a Word from the Lord.  Go and do likewise.   Amen 


07-26-2014 at 8:49 AM
Bill Rhone
I am ashamed to say that I just saw that you added this comment box. I will now start contributing comments .
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June 18, 2014, 9:00 PM

Day Two EPC General Assembly

Education - Encouragement Day

Well.  The business meetings have yet to begin.  Today was what I would call a bonus session.  This morning, we were treated to a workshop led by Bob Roberts of  NorthWood Church in Dallas.  Bob is a very gifted and down to earth speaker.  He spoke of a way of being Church that relies totally and completely on the sovereignty of God.  If we believe that God is God, then why are we so anxious about life?  The Kingdom of God is reality.  We are called to bear witness to that.  Any person who gives serious reflection to Jesus will ultimately embrace him. (Bold claim!)  We have the Good News!  Why worry about those who differ with us?  Just bear witness.  Love much.

Spent the dinner hour with the TSFJ Exodus folks over at Altruda's.  We enjoyed a time of sweet fellowship.  We have all been sharing each other's burdens as we have gone through varying degrees of difficulty as our churches discerned a way forward.  But, tonight.  Joy.

The worship service this evening was packed good.  During the opening singing, I couldn't help but shed some tears.  I was moved by the deepness of the words we were singing.  The seriousness that we were attaching to God's actions in Jesus.  His great love.  His great work of creation.  His plans which will be carried out, no matter what.

Tim Keller spoke tonight from 1 Peter 1.  About being exiles here on earth.  This world is not our home.  It will be when God is all in all.  But, now, it is about death and suffering.  Perhaps the most intriguing thing spoken by Keller tonight was the assertion that we must be both offensive and attractive at the same time.  Courageous and compassionate at the same time.  That's what it means to be exiles here on earth.  God's Word is offensive....but, there's just something that provokes a "thou almost persuadeth me!"

Good day.  First business day tomorrow.  Nothing inflammatory or controversial on the docket.  I could get used to this.  Good night!

June 17, 2014, 8:56 PM

Day One EPC General Assembly

World Outreach Emphasis...

Today, we arrived in Knoxville for the 34th General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church is a large church situated on the western side of the city.  Quite an impressive complex, complete with a beautiful sanctuary, family life center, spacious education wing, stand-alone youth center complete with a full service restaurant.  And, part of the parking lot turned into a massive banquet room with LED mood lighting for the tight tent roof.  Well done.  We were greeted with a goody bag with an RC Cola and a Moonpie.  Southern hospitality!  The facilities are more than adequate for a gathering such as this.

I must say, it is truly pleasant not encountering the kind of circus environment that I am accustomed to in previous years.  No politics.  Period.  I have never had the luxury of attending a GA without worry over what could go wrong.  Far from it.  Today, World Outreach held a meet and greet.  A few hours of getting to know the missionaries of the EPC.

Many stories today.  We heard from couples preparing to hit the field in Siberia, Lebanon, Congo, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Afghanistan.  It was encouraging to hear about the ways that these missionaries are prepared to serve.  Some are educators.  Some are lawyers who will use their expertise to help small businesses get off the ground.  Doctors and nurses who will serve the poorest of the poor.  However, the main reason they are going, is to share Jesus Christ.  There is a concerted effort in the EPC to take the Gospel to the Muslim world.  To bring the love of Jesus to parts of the world that know only terror and mayhem.

I am impressed with the boldness and ambition of these missionaries.  It certainly makes the routine work of local pulpit ministry seem quite tame!

I am looking forward to meeting up with a group of Former PC(USA) pastors tomorrow for dinner.  We have all hung together via a FaceBook group.  Their stories have encouraged me at times when I was at a low point.  So many friendly voices.

Tomorrow morning, we have workshops focusing on transformation and church vitality.  After dinner, Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City will be preaching the opening worship service.  Good night.

May 21, 2014, 3:28 PM

On the Trinity

Last week, we looked at the "infallible Word of God."  One of my key concerns in that message was to drive home the point that we must, as students of the Word, be willing to interpret it as a whole.  The Bible is a presentation of Jesus Christ from beginning to end that accentuates the trajectory of God's redeeming purposes in this world.

We need to move away from taking various, isolated verses of Scripture and saying, "Aha!  You see?  The Bible promotes ________!"  (Fill in the blank with whatever offends you.)  The Bible does record in its pages many disturbing things that humans have perpetrated on other humans.  The Fall into sin and death has painted an ugly picture throughout human history.  The Bible does not hide from that reality.  But, it does show how God is working his purposes out in Jesus Christ.  All things, as N.T. Wright likes to say, "will be put aright in the end."  In the meantime, the Word of God gives us traction in an otherwise slippery bog of reality.  It sets our sights.  It helps us to find, and be found by God.  And, finally, to find the words of life that he longs to write on our hearts.  Scripture doesn't lie to us (it's infallible!).  It is a book that must be digested over a lifetime.  It is a bottomless book, and it will never be mastered.

This coming Sunday, we will be looking at the second Essential of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (which counts officially as #1, since the Essential of the Infallible Word of God was presented as the introduction and foundation to the Essentials).  The Holy Trinity: We believe in one God, the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To Him be all honor, glory and praise for ever!

As a preview of that message, I present a quote from the second century Church Father, Irenaeus in his work, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching.  Look carefully at how he introduces this subject -- how much weight he gives to Trinitarian thought (emphasis mine):

"This then is the order of our faith, the foundation of our building, and the support of our conduct: God the Father, uncreated, uncontainable, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith.  The second point is this: the Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who appeared to the prophets, each characteristically and according to the Father's ways of disposing; through Christ all things were made, and he also at the end of the times, to compplete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and effect communion between God and man.  And the third point is: the Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, the patriarchs learned the things of God, and the righteous were led into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way upon the human race, renewing man in all the earth unto God."

The Trinity has been, from the earliest times in the Christian Church, a foundational truth to be cherished.  Looking forward to preaching "Above Us, Before Us, & Inside Us" -- a phrase borrowed from Herman Bavinck's description of the Trinity in his Reformed Dogmatics.  

May 17, 2014, 7:59 AM

Christianity 101 Sermon Series

Beginning Sunday, we will begin a new sermon series that will cover the "Essentials" of the Faith.  Although there are seven formally listed, there are really eight.  You have to begin at the foundation:  The Word of God.  That is where it all begins for the Christian:  God has spoken, and His Word is Truth (John 17:17).

This list comes from the Constitution (Vol. 2) of our new denominational home, The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).

This Sunday, we will cover the "Introduction" to the Essentials: The Infallible Word of God.

Here it is...

Essentials of Our Faith

All Scripture is self-attesting and being Truth, requires our unreserved submission in all areas of life.


The infallible Word of God, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, is a complete and

unified witness to God’s redemptive acts culminating in the incarnation of the Living Word, the Lord

Jesus Christ. The Bible, uniquely and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final

authority on all matters on which it speaks.

On this sure foundation we affirm these additional Essentials of our faith.



1. We believe in one God, the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and

eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To Him be all honor, glory and

praise for ever!

2. Jesus Christ, the living Word, became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit

and His virgin birth. He who is true God became true man united in one Person forever. He died

on the cross a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. On the third day He arose bodily

from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He now is

our High Priest and Mediator.

3. The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ and to apply the saving work of Christ to our hearts.

He convicts us of sin and draws us to the Savior. Indwelling our hearts, He gives new life to us,

empowers and imparts gifts to us for service. He instructs and guides us into all truth, and seals us

for the day of redemption.

4. Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent

upon the work of God’s free grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in

Christ alone for their salvation, and thereby justifies them in His sight. Only such as are born of

the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children of God and heirs of eternal life.

5. The true Church is composed of all persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ and the

sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit are united together in the body of Christ. The Church finds

her visible, yet imperfect, expression in local congregations where the Word of God is preached

in its purity and the sacraments are administered in their integrity, where scriptural discipline is

practiced, and where loving fellowship is maintained. For her perfecting, she awaits the return of

her Lord.

6. Jesus Christ will come again to the earth–personally, visibly, and bodily–to judge the living and

the dead, and to consummate history and the eternal plan of God. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

(Rev. 22:20)

7. The Lord Jesus Christ commands all believers to proclaim the gospel throughout the world and to

make disciples of all nations. Obedience to the Great Commission requires total commitment to

“Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.” He calls us to a life of self-denying love and

service. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God

prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)


These Essentials are set forth in greater detail in the Westminster Confession of Faith.


In Essentials ...................... Unity

In Non-Essentials ............. Liberty

In All Things ..................... Charity

May 4, 2014, 12:33 PM

Church Names List

Here are the names that we will be voting on next Sunday (May 11th).  Check back througout the week.  I will be updating as I receive any further nominations.  CS

05/04/2014 1:29 pm

  1. Beverly Heights Presbyterian Church
  2. Christ Community Church
  3. Christ Presbyterian Church
  4. Church of New Hope
  5. Covenant Presbyterian Church
  6. Enduring Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church
  7. Evangelical Christian Church of Salem
  8. Faith Fellowship of Salem
  9. Glenvar Presbyterian Church
  10. Glenvar Presbyterian of New Hope
  11. God’s Grace Church
  12. Good News
  13. Gospel Light
  14. Gospel Truth
  15. Grace of God Presbyterian Church
  16. Green Hill Presbyterian Church
  17. Hilltop Evangelical Presbyterian
  18. Hilltop Presbyterian
  19. Holy Spirit
  20. Holy Spirit Church
  21. Holy Spirit Presbyterian
  22. Hope
  23. Hope Church
  24. Hope Eternal
  25. Hope Presbyterian Church (7 nominations)
  26. Immanuel Presbyterian Church
  27. Living Word
  28. Maranatha Presbyterian Church
  29. Mountain View
  30. New Covenant Presbyterian Church
  31. New Faith Presbyterian Church
  32. New Grace Presbyterian Church
  33. New Hopes Presbyterian
  34. New Life (2 nominations)
  35. New Life Church
  36. New Life Evangelical Church
  37. New Life Presbyterian Church (3 nominations)
  38. New Light Presbyterian Church
  39. New Salem
  40. New-Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church
  41. Promise of Peace Presbyterian Church
  42. Redeemed Evangelical Church
  43. Renewed Hope (2 nominations)
  44. Restored Hope
  45. Restored Hope Evangelical Church
  46. Salem Community Church
  47. Salem Evangelical Presbyterian Church
  48. Salem Faith Fellowship Church
  49. Trinity Presbyterian Church
  50. United Fellowship Church
  51. Vision Church
  52. West Salem
  53. West Salem Presbyterian

March 12, 2014, 4:02 PM

Prayer & Fasting

On Tuesday, March 18th, I along with the Session of New Hope Presbyterian Church are calling for a day of prayer & fasting.  The Session will be meeting at 6:30pm with our Response Team (PRT) from the Presbytery of the Peaks on that evening at Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church in Roanoke.  I am asking that you pray for our Session members as well as the members of the PRT.  Pray as we all discern together the way forward for New Hope.  Pray that the meeting will be seasoned with grace and that there will be understanding between all involved.  Pray that the meeting might be free of tension and strife.  Pray that our Lord Jesus would be honored in all that we do.

I am asking New Hope, and the friends of New Hope to join us on this day in prayer...and fasting if you are so moved by the Lord.  The church sanctuary will be open all day Tuesday.  I will be meeting with the Session before they travel to Raleigh Court for the meeting so that we can pray together.  I would like to pray with you as well.  It would be quite a demonstration of support to fill up the sanctuary during the hours of that meeting.

On another note, calling for a fast is not as common as it should be in the church these days.  Most likely, this is due to the fact that we all like to eat, and ceasing such an activity could be seen as a crazy, extreme activity to be avoided at all costs!  I wanted to provide a primer on fasting for you, since it seems to be a rarity in our circles these days.  Below I am copying a sermon from my friend, Rod Pinder.  Please take some time and read and consider how this might be a way for you to walk even more faithfully with our Lord.

“Prayer and Fasting”  by  Dr. Rod Pinder

Woodbury Presbyterian Church, Orlando, Florida

Matthew 6:5-18,  2 Chronicles 20:1-4

March 2, 2014

Isn’t that a bit over the edge?  I mean confession is one thing, but weeping, mourning, fasting?  Fasting?  But fasting is a biblical practice.  It is a valuable spiritual discipline that has been largely lost in much of today’s church.  So today we’re going to talk about fasting.  I hope there are plenty of refreshments!

I.  Fasting is an aid to repentance.

Joel 2:12  “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

  • Don’t just give stuff up for Lent. (Smoking, gossip, porn, profanity …)

  • Fasting does not earn us merit points.

  • Use fasting to intensify your prayers for strength. Sanctification. Holiness.

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “[People] believe that on their own they can make a new start whenever they want.  But that is an evil illusion:  Only God can make a new beginning with people whenever God pleases, but not people with God.  Therefore, people cannot make a new beginning at all; they can only pray for one.” … “Only where God is can there be a new beginning.  We cannot command God to grant it: we can only pray to God for it.”

Daniel 9:1-19  So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. (v. 3)


II.  Jesus expected us to fast.

Matthew 6:16  “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Matthew 9:15  Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

  • The idea seems to be that we will fast regularly, from time to time.

  • The idea seems to be that fasting will be part of our Christian life.


III.  Prayer and fasting go together.  (See Matthew 6:5-17 and 16-18)

Daniel 9:3  So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

Acts 14:23  Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

  • Fasting turbo charges our prayers. Prayer on steroids

  • Fasting is not a hunger strike.


IV.  There are rewards to fasting.

Matthew 6:17-18  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


V.  Fasting increases spiritual power.

Mark 9:29  So [Jesus] said to them, “This kind [of miracle] can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (NKJV)

  • It is an aid in all manner of spiritual warfare – praying against evil.

  • Some manuscripts/translations don’t include “and fasting.”

  • Maybe the early church added it from experience.


VI.  Fasting helps us seek God.

2 Chronicles 20:3-4  Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.  The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek Him.

Matthew 5:6  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

  • When you feel hunger, let it remind you to pray.

  • “We are hungry, we are thirsty, we are hungry for more of you.”

  • Grasping heaven, letting go of earth.

    Such as:  Self-denial and dying to self.

Mark 8:34  Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

  • Fasting is a way we draw close to God.


VII.  Practical Tips for Fasting.

  • Fast from sundown to sundown?

  • Fast what you can. Skip one meal. Give up meat, soda etc.

  • It gets easier the longer the fast.

  • But sometimes the second day is the harder.

  • Exerciszing actually helps.


  • Drink water.

  • Monitor your blood sugar if you’re diabetic.

  • I need to take medications w/ food, so I have a 100 calorie protein shake.

  • Different kinds of fasts, different durations.

  • I’d encourage you to fast Ash Wednesday.

  • Eat pancakes with us Tuesday night

  • then let your next food be Communion on Ash Wendesday.

  • You may want to get something else to eat after the service.

  • Or you may find that fasting until breakfast the next morning works fine.

  • A few more things. First, fasting helps us to remember the poor.

  • Many of us are so wealthy we rarely go hungry, unlike most of the rest of the world.
  • Fasting also keeps us for taking our material blessings for granted, like spoiled children.

  • Likewise, fasting reminds us of our priorities. In other words.


VIII.  Fasting reminds us to depend on God.

Matthew 6:31-33  So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

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January 13, 2014, 7:18 AM

Monday Morning Quarterback

I am slow.  During the week when I am preparing a sermon, I read, I pray, I talk to myself, I lay awake in bed turning the sermon structure over and over in my mind.  Sometimes, I'm on early and I wrap the work up by Thursday night.  Sometimes I don't get moving with the writing project until Thursday night.  If Thursday night is the actual time of "breaking ground," then I can expect to be tinkering and polishing right up to Saturday night.  Oh, the life of a pastor with the relentless approach of the Sabbath!

Last week, I shared on Facebook that the sermon Sunday was going to be on humility.  My pastor friend, Brian Robinson of Layman Church in Roanoke, almost immediately poked me and said something like, "Cool, I'm doing something similar Sunday."  He then mentioned social media as a concern.  Duh.  That one just sailed over my head.  I didn't think much more about it because I already had my thought track on the sermon and nothing was going to get in the way...even a wise sermon tip.

Sunday afternoon following church, as I was pulling my car into the home garage, the light finally came on (not just the garage light):  Social Media!  Social MEdia.  Narcissism.  Selfies.  Interminable me-ism.  "Hey, look what I'm doing!" "Ain't my kids the greatest?!"  Bragging in passive ways and other circumlocutious ways.  Social media doesn't exactly provide fertile soil for humility to grow.  Not saying it can't happen; or that it can't be a good platform for good.  Just saying.

Epic fail.  How could I miss that opportunity on a sermon focusing on humility (and pride)?

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And by the way, how do you like the hypocrisy of this self-referential blog entry?   ;-)

November 23, 2013, 8:45 AM

Study Leave

I always appreciate the privilege of study leave.  As most of you know, I usually head down to Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando each winter to spend some time in sermon planning and reading.  This year was extra special because I was invited to preach at the church that I called home for the six years when we lived in Orlando -- Woodbury Presbyterian Church.  (Q.  What does a preacher do on his vacation?  A. What he does when he works.)

However, before Sunday, on Saturday night, I worshiped at Northland Community Church in Longwood, Florida.  Northland, one of the largest churches in the country, is a Saddleback/Willow Creek type "seeker" experience.  Technologically sharp, and tuned into the next generation of worship style, Northland is quite an experience.  Northland always amazes me with the enormity of everything they do, and yet, they deliver the same orthodox message that you would hear in a much smaller sacred space.

Sunday morning was at Woodbury, where I always look forward to being with my Florida family for renewing old friendships and catching up with the latest happenings and seeing how things are going in that community.  I am grateful for my friendship with Rod Pinder, the pastor at Woodbury, that has stood the test of time.  The conversations we have over a meals or coffee are always edifying.  I thank him for the preaching invitation.

Sunday evening, I traveled to Sanford , Florida to worship at St. Andrew's Chapel.  St. Andrew's is the exact opposite of Northland, with the exception that both churches are faithful in a high view of Scripture and both retain tenaciously what I would call some of the other basics of the Faith -- the person of Christ; the singularity and necessity of Christ's saving work; the centrality of a personal salvation that works out into the community and so on.  St. Andrews, though, is very high church as opposed to Northland's more relaxed approach.  I was encouraged to see the diversity of membership at St. Andrew's.  Young and old.  Singles and families.  Older couples and younger couples.  It brought tears to my eyes to realize that church CAN be trans-generational, and be tradiitonal at that!  My mind was blown -- in a good way!

During the week, I sat in on a couple of classes and chapel at RTS.  My, how nice to sit in on classes for mere enjoyment without the stress of taking notes or worrying about the paper due...or the exam that would test me on my comrpehension of the lecture.  Just joy and leisure.  And of course, the solitude of study time and reading time in the library -- I do not think it an overstatement to say that my spiritual battery gets re-charged during these study breaks.  So, thanks to my church family for making these trips possible!

This Sunday, I will be preaching the sermon that I preached at Woodbury last Sunday.  The sermon is called, "Homesick."  I want to talk to you about our desire, or lack of desire for heaven.  It is, as a matter of course, normal to hear people say that when they die, they will go -- and want to go -- to heaven.  However, do we really long for heaven?  What does it mean to long for heaven?  Well, I've said enough.  Hope to see you on the Lord's Day.

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