John Piper's Christmas Poem

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In this smelly place he lay,
Smelly like the swine,
Smelly like the rotting hay,
Like your sin, and mine.
Do you see how low he lay?
Do you see how low?
There is lower yet to go.
Lower yet to go.

He is lying where they eat,
Lying where the swine—
Lying like a piece of meat
Where the hungry dine.
Do you see the flow complete
Do you see the flow?
There is greater love to show
Greater love to show.


Such a happy toddler there,
Happy like the birds,
Happy like the morning air
Filled with happy words.
Does he see or know or care?
Does he see or know:
O, how deep will be his woe
Deep will be his woe?

Knowing God was born like this
Knowing this is he,
Knowing somehow this is bliss
For the swine and me,
Is this love's full glow and kiss?
Is this love’s full glow?
There are deeper things to know,
Deeper things to know.

Mary musing every year,
Musing on her son,
Musing with a rising fear
Who will be the one:
Who will strike the blow and spear?
Who will strike the blow?
Does she know that blood must flow?
Know that blood must flow?

Jesus hanging on the tree,
Hanging like the meat,
Hanging there for swine like me,
Gives his flesh to eat.
Here is Life brought low and free.
Here is Life brought low.
O, how vast the debt I owe
Vast the debt I owe.



The Gospel, Theology, and Life

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One of the most frustrating aspects of being a pastor (for me at least, I can't speak for anyone else) is consistently seeing a blatant lack of interest in theology from people who say they desire to love God and serve Him faithfully. There seems to be a persistent idea that theology is dry, boring, and not especially beneficial (or even downright harmful) to the everyday life of the Christ follower. That somehow spending time studying God will get in the way of loving and serving God.

This seems to me to be a terribly flawed and destructive idea for several reasons. Just a couple of those reasons:

  • How can you really love God if you don't know who He has revealed Himself to be.  It would be like saying you love your wife but calling her a blue eyed blonde when she is really a brown eyed brunette. The person you are professing love for is someone other than who your wife is.
  • How can you serve God faithfully if you have no idea of how He has interacted with His people throughout history? 
  • How do you identify false views and ideas of God if you have no standard of truth with which to contrast those views?
I would like to spend most of this post, however, dealing with what I think to be the most damaging result of a lack of interest in theology, namely that every sin and every hindrance to our following and loving Christ like we desire to is ultimately the inevitable result of living out bad theology. 


If you do not listen to The­ol­ogy, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones – bad, mud­dled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trot­ted out as nov­el­ties to-​day are simply the ones which real The­olo­gians tried cen­turies ago and rejected.  ---  C.S. Lewis

 Somehow we have come to have this idea that it is possible to live a live devoid of theology.  That if we somehow just avoid the topic altogether we will be free to pursue God without the constraints that theology would burden us with.  The truth, however is that even to attempt to pursue God, to even acknowledge belief in God at all, is to demonstrate that we do indeed have some sort of theology.  The question is never do we have a theology but do we have a right and accurate theology.

First off, we need to understand that our theology is not to be found in what we say we believe about God, it is borne out in how we choose to live out our lives, in the decisions we make with our money, in our marriages, in how we raise our kids, etc. It is easy to say on a Sunday morning in church or in your small group that you believe the Bible, that you believe God loves you unconditionally, and you trust God with your life.  Watch someone close enough for long enough and you will eventually find some behavior or decision they make that demonstrates that, at least in that area of their life, they don't really believe those things at all.  Often we don't even realize that we hold to a faulty view of who God is or how He works.

Why do we so often run from God when we have sinned?  Why do we not, as he tells us to, run in repentance to Him for forgiveness and restoration?  Because at some level deep inside we don't believe He loves us unconditionally.  At some level we believe we have to achieve and maintain a certain level of holiness/cleanliness in order for God to love and accept us.  So we run and we try to clean ourselves up enough to earn our way back into His favor.

Why do we so often choose not to give to our church, to the poor, to the needy?  Because at some level we do not believe God when He says he will take care of us if we really trust Him with our money.

Why do we so often fail at relationships?  Because we don't really believe that God's way is the best way.  We don't believe that if we serve others that ultimately it will bring us joy.

Why do we so often  fall prey to addictions?  Because we don't really believe that God is enough for us.  We don't believe that He alone can satisfy us so we seek other, earthly means to satisfy our longings.

At the end of the day, if you dig deep enough into any situation, the root cause of every ill we face is that we don't really believe the things God has told us to be true about Himself in his Word.  We are constantly falling victim to our own bad theology.

The good news in all this is that the solution to every ill we face as individuals, as churches, as communities, as a race is found in Christ and in knowing Him for who He has revealed Himself to be.  Which is why at the end of the day there really is only one message worth proclaiming to anyone, only one word of counsel to give anyone, only one method for overcoming addiction........the Gospel.

What does that mean for those of us in ministry (which is anyone who is a follower of Christ by the way, not just those on staff at a church)?  It means the only thing worth sacrificing for, the only thing worth abandoning this world for, the only thing that will really impact our world is serving our God as ministers of His Gospel.  Nothing else works and anything else separated from the Gospel will affect temporary change at best.

Not only is good theology (knowing God as He really is) a good thing for us to pursue, really it is the only thing.
Not only is good theology useful to us in our pursuit of loving and serving God, it is by definition impossible to love and serve God without it.

So love God with all your heart.  Serve Him faithfully and sacrificially.  Just make sure it is really Him you are loving and serving and not a man made, inadequate substitute created from your faulty theology.


How to Destroy a Church

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Below is a quote from D.A. Carson concerning ways to destroy a church. Great things to be aware of as a person on staff at a church or even as a member of a church. It is our responsibility to be on the lookout for these things and when possible prevent or eliminate them.

The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it-admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism-all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. --- D.A. Carson

Christmas Lights and Chick-fil-a Cows

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Tonight our family went to a pretty neat walk through Christmas light display with some good friends of ours. Before we met them to head out to the lights we ate supper at the Chick-fil-a Dwarf House in town. (For those of you who don't know, a Dwarf House has a regular Chick-fil-a on one side and a full serve restaurant on the other.) After eating, and on the way to meet our friends, this is the conversation that occurred between myself, my 7 year old son Jace, and my 3 year old daughter Sophie:

Jace: Why do the Chick-fil-a cows say "Eat more chicken"?

Me: Because most fast food restaurants serve things like hamburgers. You know what hamburgers are made of?

Jace: Cows.

Me: Yep. So the cows want us to eat more chicken because then we aren't eating hamburgers.

Jace: I get it. So the cows want us to eat more chicken so we don't eat them.

Me: Yes.

Jace: What I don't get is why do they want us to eat more chicken? Why not some food besides chicken that is not hamburgers?

Me: Because the cows are advertising for Chick-fil-a and Chick-fil-a serves chicken sandwiches so they want us to eat Chick-fil-a food. I guess if they were just random cows that didn't want to get eaten they might mention other foods but since they are Chick-fil-a cows, they say "Eat more chicken." Regular cows could say "Eat more pigs" I guess.

Sophie: Pigs are not yummy!!


You can always count on entertaining conversations at our house.

Why I Do What I Do

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If you are reading this you probably know that I am a family and children pastor. If you didn't know that......well, you do now.

Working with children has a lot of ups and downs. One of the tasks that is most prominent is sowing the Gospel into the hearts and minds of kids. It isn't always apparent that anything worthwhile is actually occurring. This is especially true on those Sundays when a teacher or two is out sick and the kids act like they mainlined caffeine and sugar before being dropped off. On those days, survival seems to be the main objective.

There are days and moments however, when God uses one child to remind you why He called you. One of those moments happened for me last night. A good friend of mine and my wife posted this as her status on Facebook:

While putting Ivan to bed he said, "I love you mommy, but I love Jesus gooder, because he died so that we don't have to." I asked how do you know all that and be so little. He said, "Mr Sheldon told me." *sniff* *sniff* thank you Mr Sheldon.


In a moment God reminded me that the success or failure of the ministry I steward for Him is not dependent on children behaving, or Sundays running smoothly, or even how many kids we can pack into church for a given event. It is all about how faithfully we are communicating the Gospel to the kids God sends our way.

Thanks Ivan for reminding me of that.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
--Romans 1:16

Being a parent

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In this article, John Piper posted a list of things we should be doing for our children as believing parents. While I don't pretend that this list is all inclusive, I don believe it is more than enough to keep me busy as the parent of 4 children. I think it is easy to focus on our job to teach and hold accountable our children to doing the things God requires of them and to train them in the way they should go. Sometimes we forget or maybe avoid some of the items on this list. I know I have some work to do. The list is after the jump......

* Let there be much spontaneous celebration verbally of every hopeful sign of life and goodness in our children.
* Let us forgive them often and be longsuffering.
* Let us serve them and not use them.
* Let us lavish them with joyful participation in their interests.
* Let us model for them the joy of knowing and submitting to the Lord Jesus.
* Let us apologize often when we fall short of our own Father’s requirements.
* Let us pray for them without ceasing.
* Let us saturate them with the word of God from the moment they are in the womb (the uterus is not sound proof).
* Let us involve them in happy ministry experiences and show them it is more blessed to give than to receive.
* Let them see us sing to the King.
* Let us teach them relentlessly the meaning of the gospel in the hope that God will open their eyes and make them alive. It happens through the gospel (1 Peter 1:22-25).





Matt Chandler

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For those of you unfamiliar with Matt Chandler, he took over Highland Village Baptist Church 7 years ago. Since then God has grown it from 160 or so people to over 6000. If you listen to any of his podcasts you will discover that he does not preach to "tickle the ears". He boldly proclaims the full counsel of God to his flock. Over Thanksgiving, Matt had a seizure and when he underwent an MRI a tumor on his frontal lobe was discovered. This video was recorded a day or two before he had surgery to remove the tumor. Matt is 35 and is married with 3 young children.

Pretty powerful video.....

Video from Matt