Lessons From My Son

I remember when our daughter was born, nearly 12 years ago, God used her to teach me more about His character.

It's happening again. He is using my 2 month old son to teach me more about his ways.

Last night is was through his smile.

My son woke up with some tummy troubles last night. He wasn't crying but he wasn't sleeping either. After listening to him repeatedly start to drift off, only to wake up and cry, I took him in my arms and started talking to him.

My wife and I were blessed to watch him as he opened his eyes, looked at me and smiled. For the next 5 minutes, each time I talked to him he would repeat this process. He then drifted off to sleep contentedly.

He knew my voice and was comforted. The same way I am when I hear God's voice.

The Bible says in John that the sheep hear His voice. (John 10:27) It is a comfort to me when I know that God has spoken. A recent example was a service at our Fellowship a few weeks back. I usually give the message but really felt I had nothing, message wise, for the week and really felt my heart stirring towards worship. In fact I had a particular song in my head. I felt I should ask another brother to fill in. He agreed. That Sunday, unbeknown to the two of us...God had spoken the same things into our hearts in different ways. I sang the song I felt the Lord told me to sing and it EXACTLY matched the message my friend was bringing that day. We both got excited because we knew we had heard the Father speak.

And we smiled...Just like my son when he hears my voice.


5 Questions with John Armstrong

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is
John Armstrong. John is president of ACT 3 and his online commentaries regularly appear there. Act 3 is located in Carol Stream, Illinois. John also served as a pastor for more than twenty years. He is an adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College Graduate School. He holds degrees from Wheaton College, Wheaton Graduate School, and Luther Rice Seminary. He is the author or editor of a number of books including The Catholic Mystery, Five Great Evangelists, Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper, and Understanding Four Views on Baptism

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hi John,

Question 1: What one word would describe your current relationship with God?


Question 2: Your new book, Your Church is to Small, is about unity. In a nutshell, can you describe the Biblical case for unity?

Unity is rooted in the Trinity and vitally connected to our corporate redemption in Christ. John 17 clearly reveals that just as the Father and the Son related to one another in his incarnational relationship as a man to his Father so we are to relate to each other relationally in order for the world to see that the Father really did send the Son.

Question 3:
Why do you think we, the church overall, get unity so wrong today?

We believe being right is more important than loving our brothers and sisters. We see wide scale unity unless we first see it one-to-one in relationships that transcend our comfort zones. Unity in the same comfort zone is not unity, just agreement.

Question 4:
How do you respond to those who say we can't be unified with denominations that embrace things that go against God's Word, like homosexuality for example?

I remind them that the list of things we must work on is a mile long but the one thing we cannot escape is Jesus’ clear teaching in John 13-17. While I do disagree with ordaining practicing homosexual ministers I do not believe this constitutes the one reason I can walk away from a brother or sister who confesses faith in a biblical and proper way. I am not the judge of who is or is not a real Christian so I am compelled to practice love toward all while in a local church I would also practice discipline in a responsible way.

Question 5:
Is unity possible today? What does it look like?

Yes, it looks like what happens when various churches in a city begin to pray, interact, serve and do Christ’s mission as one for the kingdom, not for their own growth in numbers or dollars. It is too rare but it is happening and a new generation hungers to see it expressed. I give examples of how it happens in the book.

Thanks you so much John.

There you have it. I would encourage you to check out the Your Church Is To Small website for more additional resources.

Make sure you pick up a copy of John's book, Your Church Is To Small, right away.

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.


Your Church Is To Small

Unity is not a cool topic to talk about. It is not something that is all the rage of churches around the world. You won't find 15 look alike books on the topic or hear many pastors preach about it on a regular basis. Frankly, unity gets short shrift when it comes to our local churches.

It's a topic that John Armstrong tackles head on in his new book, Your Church Is To Small, just released by Zondervan.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I went into this book. I believe in unity in the body of Christ. I haven't always seen it though in my travels. I have witnessed pastors standing in a bookstore refusing to acknowledge each other due to doctrinal differences, ministerials that broke apart because of how we practice church instead of focusing on WHO we worship!

Needless to say, John's book was a much needed breath of fresh air on a topic that seems stale in the body of Christ. This is not a book you can plow through in one sitting. John delves deeply into the topic and I found myself having to put the book down and chew on what I had just read. There is a lot of meat in this book. It also will raise a lot of questions. John does his best to answer those questions and reservations throughout the book. He looks at unity in the past, present and future. He builds naturally one to the other and I am left wondering, how did we get so far from what God intended.

Yet the book ends with hope as John shares a few stories of what unity looks like today and in the future. I for one am excited. I believe we can get to a place where we recognize we are all branches off of one vine. Unity does not mean uniformity. It does mean we need to practice love!

Your Church Is To Small is written by John H. Armstrong and published by Zondervan. Make sure you get a copy of a book destined to be a classic. I would also encourage you to check out the new website www.YourChurchIsTooSmall.com There you can find out more about John Armstrong, the book, and “Beyond the Book” articles.

Thanks to Zondervan for providing me an advance copy of this book.


First Love

Ah first love. There is such emotion, such passion. When I fell in love with my wife, Sarah, there was all that and more. I was consumed by her. I wanted to do everything to please her, to woo her, to win her heart.

I found my interests matched hers, at least for a time, and that we shared similar thoughts.

Then we got married.

"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." Revelation 2:4

When I fell in love with the Lord, when I surrendered my heart to Him, there was also great passion. I had a great frenzy of desire to please Him. I through myself into the relationship wholeheartedly. I wanted to do everything for the Lord. I wanted to pray without ceasing, to win the lost, to work, work, WORK!

Then life happened.

I have heard these really guilt-ridden messages before where we are hammered to return to our first love.

The concept is great but it's the working out that seems to drive people nuts.

I love my wife passionately. However the longer we have been together the more I realize I can never get back those emotional, giddy feelings of first love that I once had. Nor do I want to. That love was based on feelings and hormones. It was not based on fact. The FACT is my love is deeper than those early days of heightened frenzy. I am more committed, more in love than I was when we first met. Our love is richer, fuller and real. (You can ask her, I'm not making it up!)

I love the Lord more and more each day. However I never want to go back to those days of heightened frenzy where I through myself into EVERYTHING "Christian" to prove my love to God and to keep the emotions going. It wasn't natural. It leads to burnout. I don't have to work to earn God's gift of Salvation.

One verse had become more real for me. It is 2 Corinthians 12:9, which talks about God's strength being made perfect in weakness. I am weak, I need to rest. I need to rest in God and quit trying to strive to win His favor. I need to accept His gift.

I believe that the call to return to our 1st love is not a call to return to a giddy emotion. I believe it is a call to commitment, to a deeper, more passionate love. So kick back, rest and enjoy the Lord!


5 Questions with Aaron Sands

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is
Aaron Sands. He is the Administrative Director for blood:water mission. After almost 10 years of touring and recording with Jars of Clay, Aaron has transitioned into a life closer to home. A part of Blood:Water Mission from the beginning, Aaron continues to work to show dignity, respect and love in the world, especially for those seeing no hope.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hi Aaron,

Question 1: What is the Blood:Water Mission?

We are a grassroots organization that empowers communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and Water crises in Africa. Both through the creative fundraising and advocacy ideas of people throughout the US and through the benefits f medical care, clean water, hygiene training and sanitation, communities are coming together and becoming stronger. People want to make a difference, and we help guide them toward simple ways that make a large and long-lasting difference.

Question 2: How did this ministry get started?

We were started in 2004 by members of the multi-platinum, GRAMMY-award winning band, Jars of Clay, in an attempt to make the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa personal. As they began to tell the stories of our friends overseas, they realized the vital link between living with HIV/AIDS and the need for clean water. Soon after making that connection, we embarked on what was one of our first major campaigns: the 1000 Wells Project, a nation-wide effort to raise enough money to provide clean water and sanitation to 1000 communities in sub-Saharan Africa. In the years since, we have not only solidified our water programs, but have also initiated HIV/AIDS-related programming and plan to have even greater synergy with these programs in the years to come.

Question 3:
How serious is the need?

Put simply, these are matters of life and death for our brothers and sisters in Africa. But the need is also serious because communities in the U.S. and throughout Africa grow stronger and are more sustainable as they engage in addressing the HIV/AIDS and water crises. And that is something that will bring change from generation to generation.

Question 4:
What has Blood:Water Mission been able to accomplish since it got started?

With HIV/AIDS specifically, we have successfully helped launch 3 clinics, testing more than 17,500 people and serving more than 22,000 people. On the water projects side of our mission, we have funded more than 850 water projects, serving an estimated 570,000 people in 11 different countries.

Question 5:
How can people help the ministry?

The great part of our mission is that anyone can help! We are a grassroots organization and truly thrive ff of individual campaigns by our creative supporters. We encourage people to think creatively and use their unique gifts to gather their communities around this cause. We also provide downloadable online resources to make it easy to participate in some of our signature campaigns as well as share ideas for creating your own.

Thanks you so much Aaron.

There you have it. I want to encourage you to go to the blood:water mission website and get involved today. I did and it isn't that hard. Simple acts can make a difference.

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.


Just A Thought #39- The Trojan Horse

Most everyone has heard the legend of the Trojan Horse. If not here is a brief Wikipedia review:

In the best-known version, after a fruitless 10-year siege of Troy, the Greeks built a huge figure of a horse, inside which a select force of 30 men hid. The Greeks pretended to sail away, and the Trojans pulled the Horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the Horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greek army entered and destroyed the city of Troy, decisively ending the war.

Recently, I encountered a trojan horse via my computer. I received a notice in the form of a pop- up, which said my computer was infected with a virus and that I needed new virus protection to deal with it. I made the mistake of clicking cancel on this thing I thought was just an innocent pop- up, and the next day my computer had been infected. I could not open any programs except one browser. It had been infected with a fake antivirus program that was causing problems with my whole system. This thing came in while I was unaware, weakened my system and cut my effectiveness in half.

Sin is like that, too. You may think you are just innocently touching it and the next thing you know your whole system is infected. Sin weakens us, cuts our effectiveness, and leaves us feeling frustrated and worn out. I spent hours trying to fix this computer glitch. I am saddened to admit I don't spend that much time dealing with sin in my own life. I want to change that. When sin crops up I don't just want to repent, I want to get to the root and see it dug out, find out where I let the enemy get a foothold and deal with it.

The only way I could get my computer fixed was to open it in safe mode and restore it to an earlier point. The same thing holds true in my walk with God. When I stumble, I need to retreat to a safe place. That place is in the shadow of His wings! Psalm 57:1 says it best, "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed."

In that safe place I can turn again to the Lord. I can repent and let Him restore me.

I can also make sure I have proper "virus" protection. I can remember the words of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (I could tell you what it says but wouldn't you enjoy looking it up?) and make sure I have on the full armor of God! (Ephesians 6:10-18)

So stay alert, stand on guard and stay in the Word. Take every thought captive and cling to the Father!