Reblog From The Ligonier Ministries


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Today I’m doing another reblog.  This one is from Ligonier Ministries.  Before I leave you to read in peace, though, I thought I’d remind you all about NaNoWriMo.  It starts today, and I’ll be at Borders from about 4:30-6:30 today working on my book.  You’re all invited to join me.  Tomorrow, I’ll probably post something for you showing a bit of my writing process, because I’m actually learning a lot from NanoWriMo even before it started. 

Enjoy!

Receiving the Baton

by Bob Kauflin

As I run the final laps of my race on this earth (however long the Lord allows that to be), one of my greatest joys and desires is to serve the next generation.

When I was in my twenties, I assumed, somewhat arrogantly, that my friends and I had better ideas than anyone who was older than we were. That covered everything from music styles to leadership practices to how to raise a family.

Thirty years and many humbling experiences later, I’m aware that no generation starts in a vacuum. Whether we know it or not, we’re standing on the shoulders, wisdom, and experiences of those who have gone before us, and we should seek to learn as much as we can from them.

I realize that sounds a little selfserving coming from a guy in his midfifties. But many of the young leaders I’ve had the privilege of working with, especially in the areas of church music and worship, understand better than I ever did the importance of benefiting from the past while forging a new path into the future. And I thank God for them.

Last year I gave a message on transferring ministry responsibility to the next generation. In my preparation, I came across some principles for passing the baton in a relay race that are surprisingly relevant for young leaders.

The race is about the baton, not the runners

A relay race is meaningless unless the baton is successfully passed from one runner to the next. A runner without a baton is running in vain.

For Christians, the “baton” is the gospel. As he neared the end of this life, Paul wrote to Timothy, “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (2 Tim. 1:14). These are the words of a man who knows he will soon face death and is more aware than ever what must be passed on. “Guard the good deposit.” Guard the good news that Jesus Christ has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (1:10). Of all that we receive from those who have gone before us, nothing is more important.

When we’re being mentored, we naturally hope to pick up ways of thinking, practices, and methodologies that are helpful. That’s a good thing. When we spend a lot of time with someone, we might even develop similar vocal inflections, mannerisms, or a way of laughing.

But whatever else you learn from those you’re looking to, make sure you receive the gospel. Whoever your teachers and mentors might be, they aren’t as important as the gospel they’re proclaiming.

The point isn’t to become the next Billy Graham, the next John Piper, or the next whoever. The point is to be faithful to the unchanging gospel: “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). As you apply what you’ve learned from others to your life and ministry, make sure you don’t miss what matters most.

A relay race involves more than one person

In the often individualistic world of track and field, the relay is a unique race. It requires teamwork that other races don’t. The runner who crosses the finish line is integrally dependent on those who have run before him.

Likewise, we need those who have gone before us. We’re running the same race. Hebrews 11 is a clear reminder that we are but one piece of the glorious tapestry God is weaving together for His glory.

Having a relay mindset means being one of the faithful men Paul describes to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:2). What can keep you from being part of the relay team? Rarely interacting with those from another generation. Spending the majority of your time reflecting on the ideas of your peers. Criticizing any idea or practice that doesn’t rate high on the relevance or coolness meter. Only reading books that were printed in the last decade — or worse, confining your reading to the blogosphere or Twitter.

Cultivating the humility that recognizes the need for voices older and wiser than your own isn’t easy. But it’s well worth the effort.

Runners must develop a mutual dependence and trust

Relay runners spend hours together practicing their handoff. They study each other’s habits, know each other’s speeds, and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

While simply listening to teachings of more mature Christians will bear fruit, a secure transfer requires a bond of trust. That trust is developed through shared experiences, open-ended discussions, applying the gospel to sins and successes, and demonstrating a steadfast trust in God in the midst of disagreements and difficulties.

Work hard to find someone you can not only learn from, but share life with. Practice eagerly learning, humbly receiving, and faithfully implementing what you’re learning, all the while trusting God’s Holy Spirit to bring fruit through your labors. Make it easy for those who have run the race before you to pass on what they’ve learned.

After all, before too long, you’ll be passing the baton to someone else.

To read more from Ligonier Ministries, click here

“Dad! Look, Dad!”


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When I was seven years old, I’m pretty sure I just existed.  I didn’t cared much about having friends, knowing my parents or sister intimately, or even being entertained.  I always had thoughts going through my head, and I didn’t mind sitting on my own for hours, doing nothing.  In fact, I would have rather sat around doing nothing than just about anything.  I didn’t feel bored.  I didn’t necessarily need to read books or watch TV, although I harbored an impressive love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 

Most of the time, I just wanted to exist, though.  This introversion manifested itself in my obsession with playing with blocks, hotwheels cars, and paper airplanes.  Whenever I stayed home sick from school, I would fold about ten paper airplanes and line them up in the kitchen.  One at a time, I’d throw them down the hallway to see which one would go the farthest.  Then, I’d line them up at the end of the hallway and throw them back.  This wasn’t exactly fun, but it was the kind of thing that allowed me to sit by myself and just exist.  Maybe that’s why I like video games nowadays.

I’ve gotten way off track. 

So when I was seven years old, my family lived in Flagstaff, AZ amongst the squirrels and pine cones, and our story starts on a day when I just felt like existing.  I think I was stacking up some wooden blocks in the living room, probably walking little people up one side of a block structure, then down the other side.  It was either a Saturday or a summer weekday, and I’m pretty sure it was just Dad and me at home.  He came into the living room and asked me what I was doing.

“Playing with little people,” I said.

“Do you want to run some errands with me?” he asked.

Sometimes running errands really wasn’t that bad, but I didn’t want to do it that day.  Running errands with Dad was way different from running them with Mom.  Usually, I’d spend a lot of time sitting in the car while my dad dragged me from hardware store to post office to who knew where, and I just didn’t want to go.

“Do I have to?” I asked. 

“Yeah.  Come on.”

“NooooOoooo,” I whined.  “Can’t I stay home?”

‘Nope.  Get your shoes on.”

I was a relatively obedient kid, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t complain.  I whined while I put on my socks.  I whined while I put on my shoes.  I whined while my dad locked the front door and led me out to the car.  I actually felt like crying because I don’t think my dad had ever so unflinchingly forced me to do anything before.  He was the kind of dad who woke me up at two a.m. so I could eat freshly made cinnamon rolls before they cooled off.  He was the dad who took me to Dunkin Donuts on the way back from music lessons and let me eat poptarts for breakfast (yeah… I was highly motivated by food and still am). 

Why was he doing this to me?  I pouted at my dad.  I pouted out the car window.  I pouted and pouted and pouted. 

Then, something magical happened.   I saw the strangest, coolest thing ever! 

“Dad!” I perked up.  “Dad!  Look!  Look it!  It’s Leonardo!  Rafael!  Look Dad!  Look!”

Just a block or so away, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were hanging out, talking with kids!

My dad smiled.

“Can we go see them?” I asked.

“Sure.” 

I became really nervous as my dad parked the car and we headed over to where my heroes stood, just in front of a movie theater.  I was more than a little chicken, so I didn’t really want to talk to the turtles.  I just wanted to look at them from closeby, which I got to do as my dad led me to the movie line and got us tickets to see the newest Ninja Turtle movie, The Secret of the Ooze

It was pretty much the coolest day of my young life. 

After watching the movie, my dad took me straight home, and I completely forgot how angry I’d been at him just a couple of hours before.  At some point over the next few weeks, though, it occured to me that we hadn’t run any of my dad’s errands.  Then a few days after that epiphany, I found out that there hadn’t been any errands to run.  My dad had concocted this entire plan just to bond with me.  Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

The Beauty of a Weekend Away


Right now, it’s Saturday night.  I’m on Kayla’s bed, trying to remember all of the wonderful things that’ve already happened this weekend.  For those of you who don’t know, I made a trip up to Phoenix yesterday to spend time with an amazing family that has impacted my life in beautiful ways (oh yeah, and all those Crossing friends who I tend to take for granted because they’re always around).

I rode up to Phoenix with Roommate Amy, and it took us forever to get here.  Partly, we just didn’t leave Tucson for a bit because I had to take the beast to my parents’ house and pack some stuff, and getting off the couch at the end of the workweek isn’t always easy :).  Once we were on the road driving in a dark, straight line for about 20 minutes, I started to fall asleep.  It happens.  My roommates complain about it kind of a lot, but I’d like to say that I stayed up late three nights this week to appease them.  Amy was super nice to drive me up here, but is anyone really surprised  that I was tired?  It’s unfortunate that it happened when she was talking about something pretty significant in her life, so we decided to stop for coffee so that I could stay awake and talk.

Then, take into account the 100 or so ounces of water I’d consumed… plus the caffeine… and of course I had to pee about an hour later.  “No I can’t hold it… I’m sorry, but I’m not going to make it four more exits no matter how fast you drive.  I have to go now!”

So we stopped for a bathroom.

We arrived to the wine tasting pretty late, and I haven’t had alcohol for a month (I decided to take a break from it for spiritual reasons.  No – I didn’t actually have a problem, but I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t one lurking around the corner).  So after a month of no drinking and the equivalent of 1 glass of wine in my system, I got tired really fast.  Before I conked out, though, Dave gave me a little thing he’d clipped out of the paper about a writer’s conference happening tomorrow (well, today now), which meant SO much.  Writing is hard – mostly because it’s lonely and risky, and I’m terrified.  That’s why it warmed my heart to hold that little piece of paper.  I wasn’t only being verbally supported, but Dave was pushing me a bit further than I would have pushed myself.  Also, that lovely night helped me to release all of the angry-at-my-fifth period and tired-of-listening-to-privileged-white-kids-whine work blues.

There was a nice moment somewhere in here in which Lisa put her head on my shoulder and I put my head on her head, and it was nice and relaxed… and I felt loved.

In the morning, I rose around 7:00, which was a perfect amount of sleeping in.  I had breakfast with everyone, then a few of us went on a “hike.”  The hike involved unfortunately hot temperatures and no vegetation.  It ended up being Dave, Mike, Clam, Matt and me 🙂  Upon reaching boring view #23, we decided to climb a hill and get a better view.  It required some bush-whacking, but if you’re not up for adventure, why go for a hike?

So we climbed the hill and talked and took pictures.   For those of you who don’t know, I hate hate hate having my picture taken most of the time… what no one probably knows is why (because I figured it out while talking to Mike).  So here it is… I hate having my picture taken, because of a Tucson Citizen article that featured a lovely photo of just my face, with my mouth completely open (sort of in the shape the Cool-Aid guy does), and no matter how many nice things they write about you in the article, you can’t ever overcome the humiliation of a photo of your plump teenage face covered in sweat and dirt because you’re in the middle of pitching a 13-inning softball game against school and personal rivals – a game that you lost, by one run.  My mom actually did a lovely job of documenting my softball adventures, so after the conversation with Mike, I called her up and asked her to pull out the binder she kept with neewspaper clippings and whatnot, and she definitely found the hideous picture.  I was going to try to post it here for you until I saw it and realized that I’m completely justified in hating that picture.  So mystery solved.  I resolve now to eventually stop hating having my pic taken.

We got back from the hike and rested for a bit before it was time for me to head out to my writer’s converenece, and while I was on Lisa’s computer looking up directions to the conference, Dave asked me if I wanted him to turn on the car to cool it off for me.

“No one’s ever offered to cool off the car for me before,” I said. 

Without me having to say anything else, he went out and started the car 🙂

At the conference, I got to meet a lot of self-published, less well-known authors, who I talked to for quite a long time.  They all told me things that I already know from research, which was encouraging… I’m on the right track.  I also talked to a guy who used to work as an executive at a publishing house, and has since published a book about the industry.  He gave me his email so I could ask questions later.  Then, I met J.A. Jance, who signed my books and talked to me for a bit.  I got a chance to ask her an important question that’s been on my mind a lot lately as I try to understand success (and how to even define it).  I asked her if she still loves writing.  She responded by saying that “It’s really hard to start books.”  We looked at each other in silence for a bit before she added that yes, she does still love writing.  I think, though, that it’s incredibly telling for a NY Times Bestselling author to answer the question that way.  It seemed like she still loves writing, just not that she has to produce and doesn’t have control over it.  J.A. Jance is both a person and a brand, and therefore must create and sell her product.  I doubt she writes much for fun any more.

After the conference, I came back to find that the guys were planning to do a workout video together and I was expected to join in.  Kenbo or something like that… so I changed into my workout clothes, feeling a bit hesitant – you see, I’ve done workout videos with the roommates, and I always feel like a gargoyle.  I step in the wrong places; I don’t have the sexy come-hither look that skinny work out girls have to go along with their spanex and perfect hair.  Really, I just get sweaty and giggly.  However, the video we did today was a nice taebo-like deal, and it was way fun.

Next (I know that day just keeps on being magical) we watched some football on tv, then some LOST, then drank some wine and ate cheese and magical brownie bite things that are to-die-for.  I got to hear the lovely story of Kyle proposing to Brit – applause is probably in order because it was adorable and genuine, and perfect. 

And now, reflecting on the day and these people, I’m so wonderfully humbled.  They show me what it is to love and relax and trust.  They talk me into doing workout videos and getting up at 5:30 to go for a run (which is exactly the kind of stuff that I fight to talk myself into doing).  Speaking of which, I am now going to abruptly go to bed so as to get some sleep before I try to keep up with two guys who run way more often than I do and also get up way earlier than I do.

Ah.  Weekends with the Johnsons.

Update: The run was spectacular.  I’ve been sort of hating running lately, and getting to go with Dave and Mike rejuvinated my running spirit a bit.  They ran at exactly my pace, and we talked and they even urged me to do a second loop (5K) which I declined… but still.  It was nice to have other people to run with.  We even maintained a pace that was under 10-minute-miles 🙂

Turn Off Your Cell Phone Occasionally: It’ll Make You Seem More Mysterious


In case you were wondering, the title of this post has nothing to do with anything.  I was reading some advice for high school grads going to college, and turning off the cell phone was among the advice.  It probably wouldn’t make me seem more mysterious, because I’m already disconnected from Facebook and sort of bad at checking my phone.  I think it would just make me seem antisocial.  🙂  Some of you would probably seem mysterious, though.  Let me know if you try it out.

On to business. 

I’m going away for a week in October, so prepare yourselves for a week without STILL GROWING and my bright, shining face.  I will be in Burnsville, NC reading and writing on the porch. 

This weekend is the wine tasting, hiking, churching in Phoenix weekend and I’m jazzed. 

I deleted the entire first chapter of my manuscript and rewrote it.  I think what I have now is better for getting my readers’ attention and keeping it.

My mommy has been sending me a billion greeting cards (one-a-day) and they’re all delightful and make me smile.

I took more than a week off of running, and then did four miles last night.  I was mentally burned out, so the break did me some good.  I’m at exactly 10-minute miles, which is perfect. 

I’m working on some blogging entries that just may include some masterpiece comic strips I’m creating in Paint… who knew Paint would eventually come in handy?  I will say that it’s way harder than I remember to create masterpieces in Paint.  🙂  Anyways, keep your eyes open for some visual aids coming soon to aid me in telling the stories about That One Time When I Jumped Off a Balcony to Impress a Boy, Why It’s a Bad Idea to Stick a Key In an Electrical Outlet, and Cocker Spaniels Are Stronger Than They Look. 

I’m off to work, now… so bright wishes for a lovely day to everyone!

When One of Us Forgets the Tune


1 Kings 8:61

“Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day.”

I had a disagreement with someone this week, and it was perfectly polite at the time, but the implications of what was said have been eating at me for the past couple of days.  Basically, someone disagreed with me calling sin… well, sin.

We were talking about the situation where a Christian is sleeping with his/her boyfriend/girlfriend before marriage.  I didn’t yell or condemn or even get that worked up because I mostly wanted to go to sleep, but we were driving back from a game night type thing (I don’t know why everyone wants to have serious conversations with me after my bedtime.  Can’t we limit our post-bedtime conversations to bunnies and rainbows?)  But anyways, this person was trying to make me see that once a person engages in sin for awhile, it’s really difficult to stop.

My response: Yes.

Of course it’s hard.  Of course it breaks our hearts and tears us to pieces… but that doesn’t mean that everyone who slept with someone prior to marriage should just keep on sleeping with him/her.  It doesn’t somehow make me a more graceful Christian to pat the friend on the back and say, “Wow.  This must be so hard for you.  I’m really sorry you’re going through this.”  You know what a Christian who understands grace says?  She says, “Christ died for you.  He took a beating for our sins.  We don’t keep sinning so that grace can abound.”  She says, “Stop it.”  There is no part of the Bible that leads me to believe that God only takes sin seriously if it easy for us to avoid.

At Bible study this week, a friend brought up the point that it’s really difficult to believe that we have a gospel – good news.  When we’re trying to tell people about Jesus, there’s a competition going on in their heads between Jesus and sin (we’re going to keep running with the sex before marriage example).  So, can we honestly say that Jesus is better than sex?  My personal opinion is that when we tell our Christian friend that it’s okay for him/her to continue in sexual sin, we’re really showing that we don’t believe turning away from the sin is the best thing for him/her – that Jesus is the best thing for him/her.

The verse I started out with from 1Kings draws a clear connection between heart and obedience.  There are a million verses in the Bible that make this connection, which is why I’m irked by the philosophy that it is somehow more magnificent-hearted to send warm wishes in a friend’s direction, than it is to confront them. 

Don’t tell anyone that sin is… well, sin.

I was listening to a Highland Village sermon a while ago, and it was about how the gospel is inherently confrontational because Jesus is the light and everything else is in darkness.  Therefore, sharing the gospel is equivalent to shining light into the darkness.  It is light confronting darkness.  Why, then, do we shy away when it comes time to shine?  Why do we think it’s somehow holier to leave our friends in darkness?

I know that I’m not very good at this, but ideally, we ought to be able to simultaneously show our friends that we love them and that sin is… well, sin.  Of course it’s hard to turn away from sin.  That’s why we have friends – so that we can hold each others’ hands and walk the path together.

I’m going to end with one of my favorite quotes.  I’ve forgotten who said it (or maybe I never knew).

“A true friend knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the tune.”

Is Facebook a Farce? (via Fungai Neni)


I’m reblogging another person’s post because it’s amazing and Wednesday is occasionally my day off from blogging anyways. 🙂

Enjoy!

Is Facebook a Farce? To everyone who wished me a happy birthday on Monday on my Facebook profile, thank you. But it wasn’t really my birthday. Before you work up a sweat, please allow me to explain. I am getting so tired of this over-reliance on Facebook to keep people up to date with everything happening in their peers’ lives that I wanted to see just how many people would realise that they had already wished me a happy birthday this year, on my real birthday months … Read More

via Fungai Neni