What's Your Prediction for 2019?

You’ve seen them before, haven’t you – those silly declarations that Jesus will return on a particular day based on some lunatic’s bizarre interpretation of an obscure Bible text blended weirdly with a current event?

To be sure, Jesus may return as he promised in 2019, but as Jesus said, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know (Acts 1:7).”

We place good emphasis on the latter part of Jesus’s words, but let’s not forget the first part of his assertion. Dates and times belong to the Father – not only the date and time of our Lord’s return but the date and time of every activity related to you. The day of your birth was according to the Father’s will as will be the day of your death. All the days between are no different.

We know next to nothing of what a day might bring, but that does not mean the day is random. Looking back on 2018 recalls events you did not see coming. Looking ahead to 2019 is like looking through a pipe into the moonless, starless sky. There’s nothing but blackness. Yet your dates and times from 2018 were under the providence of God, and your dates and times in 2019 will be too. While we will make our plans for the year to come, the Lord will determine our steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Be hopeful, Christian friends, about 2019, not because you’ve crafted a strategy sure to work, but because your Father who is in heaven has.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Of the Father's Love Begotten

Of the Father's love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.

Oh, that birth forever blessed
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Savior of our race,
And the Babe, the world's Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.

O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him
And extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.

This is He whom Heaven-taught singers
Sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the Long-expected;
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Here to Help With Your Last Minute Christmas Shopping from a Pastor's Point of View

"I'm just not much of a reader."

I'm sure you've heard it before. Maybe you've offered the phrase yourself. But in an age of growing smartphone use, that self-estimation isn't going to cut it much longer. Smartphones are about images and words. We read from them and write on them over and again throughout any given day. Because of your smartphone, you likely are more of a reader and writer than you think you are.

Here are the facts:

  • 80% of American men and 75% of American women own a smartphone.

  • 94% of the Gen Z and Millennial generations own a smartphone while 89% of older Millennials and those up to age 49 own a smartphone.

  • Even retirees embrace smartphones at nearly 50%.

Can we agree the excuse, "I'm not much of a reader," is no longer a valid statement for you and others like you?

Let me connect this to Christmas and the time you're spending right now not buying that last minute gift. You've got one week left to purchase a gift for that hard to buy for family member or friend, how about a book?

You can get recommendations on a wide range of subjects from teachers and the internet. Here are a few from a pastor.

For middle school, high school, and college age guys: Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle. In a handful of chapters, Ryle exposes the four temptations young dudes face: laziness, lust, loving pleasure, and peer pressure. More than exposing the problems, he shows the way out.

If you want to gift a study Bible, I have been using the Zondervan Study Bible for about two years. Without exaggeration, this tool is like having a whole library of Bible helps on every page. It is outstanding.

Only time will tell if a newly published book will stand the test of time. If I were to speculate, I'd anticipate Kevin DeYoung's The Hole in Our Holiness to rise to that level. In less than 150 pages, DeYoung will help you in your maturing Christian Life. As a bonus to all you Vikings' fans, Kirk Cousins endorsed this book!

I am surprised how many Christians have neither read nor heard of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. If you give one book as a gift or read one book in the coming year, this is the book. Be sure to read both parts one and two. I actually enjoy part two over part one, but you have to read part one to understand part two. I read this book every other year because it's good for my soul.

You have to read Elisabeth Elliot. Begin with Through the Gates of Splendor, the story of her husband's death along with the deaths of four other missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador. At the time of her husband's martyrdom, Elisabeth was 29-years-old and the mother of a 10-month-old girl. When you've finished her first-hand account of the events leading up to the massacre, read more from her. Her writing produced helps for the whole church, but especially for the girls and women of the church, help we desperately need.

If none of these recommendations fits your gift list, hit me up with a question, and I'll make a suggestion.

I don't recall the first time I heard him say it nor do I know if the quote was original to him, but I was very young when I heard my pastor, Bill Schroeder, say the two influences that will most significantly impact your life are "the people you meet and the books you read." I think he had that right.

  • God has given you a good mind, so read.

  • God has given us good authors, so read.

  • God has given us a wide variety of interests and no shortage of authors on our favorite subjects, so read.

  • God's method of revelation of himself to the church is a book, the Bible, so read.

Happy last minute shopping, and thank the Lord for ebooks and two-day shipping on those online book orders.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

 

About Those Church Business Meetings

It’s December, so we can expect in our churches…

  • The most awesome performance of Away in Manger by the cutest 2-3 year-olds.

  • Flexing our lungs as we sing the Gloria from Angels We Have Heard on High.

  • Reading from Matthew and Luke the record of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • Sermons from our pastors connecting the babe in the manger to the savior on his cross.

  • Annual meetings where we address the budget of the church and the elected officers in the church.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

For our church my hope is our annual meeting contributes to our unity as we come together to discuss the future and our commitment to the ministry of Jesus in the year to come. Money is a part of that future, and the safest place to talk about money should be a local church where Jesus Christ is Lord.

Money conversations in the church can be hard. Like time, money is finite resource. Like time, we spend money only once and then it is gone. Like time, we are responsible to God for our stewardship of the money we possess. Like our use of time, our use of money is subject to opinions within the church.

Which ministry gets more money? Which ministry can be successful with less money? Which maintenance project must take place this year? Which maintenance project can be put off for another year or so? How do we address the needs of staff members within the legitimate constraints and limitations of our resources? What do we set aside for future needs and unanticipated expenses?

In the wisdom of God he has chosen to fund local churches through the generous giving of God’s people. While he could have provided for every church a money tree the church cared for and cultivated on its property, he has not. Instead, he desires the church to reflect his generosity (2 Corinthians 9) in their own giving. We look like God who gave sacrificially and cheerfully in the giving of his son when we give sacrificially and cheerfully to support the work of the local church of which we are members.

The money conversation at the annual meeting in our churches is much more than a discussion about how to spend our money. The money conversation becomes a conversation about what part each of us will play in the provision of the money the church proposes to spend. You work hard to acquire your money, and you want to see your money used of the Lord to fulfill eternal purposes.

There is no shortage of organizations to which you can give away your money. You give it to the work of your local church because you are a member of that church who believes in the mission of the church and its pursuit in following the leadership of Jesus.

Over the decades and centuries of congregational meetings, less than Christlike communication raised the decibel level in the place normally reserved for worship. I suppose there were times when the emotion rightly fell under the banner of “righteous indignation,” but I suspect more often than not the divisive banter was a failure to be of the same mind in Christ and to esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:1-5).

Maybe it would be helpful for us to read Philippians 2:1-11 or 1 Corinthians 13 before we meet to discuss the business of the church.

We are not a social club nor a local non-profit, we are the church of Jesus Christ, and our business meetings should reflect the personality and character of our leader, Jesus Christ.

I hope we Christians can approach our annual meetings with a prayerful disposition that builds the unity of the church, that honors the name of Jesus, and that causes all of us to leave the meeting happy to have been together with our church family.

We better because in just a few days we will sing together, O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

What Was That That We Just Sang?

Last Sunday morning’s worship was different. You noticed, right?

I have pastoral friends who insist that the worship for Sunday morning not be the same two weeks in a row. They don’t mean different songs or Bible texts; they mean a wholly different worship order. As a matter of preference, I desire more structure.

For us, only rarely will our worship pattern surprise us. When you settle in at 10:30 each Sunday morning, you know the routine – call to worship, private prayer, congregational singing, pastoral prayer, offering, more congregational singing, sermon, and response. Sunday after Sunday that’s how we approach God, and it’s a good way to approach Him.

Maybe the biggest change to our worship comes during the Christmas season when we sing hymns and songs that we do not sing at any other time of the year, as we did last Sunday morning. That can be a problem.

Because we are not familiar with the seasonal text or tune, our singing can become less than inspiring. Let’s face it; some of these Christmas songs are hard to sing. Who besides a hungry newborn has the lungs to sing the Gloria in Angels We Have Heard on High? Or how difficult to sing is that first line in It Came Upon a Midnight Clear?

But we do sing them anyway because that’s what we are supposed to do at Christmas time.

Maybe we should think a little differently about Christmas singing.

Christmas hymns serve us by teaching us amazingly deep doctrine. Think of a line from a favorite Christmas hymn, and it likely contains a doctrinal truth critical for Christianity.

From O Holy Night, “Long lay the world in sin and error” teaches the depraved condition of humanity.

In Angels from the Realms of Glory we sing, “God with man is now residing” and proclaim the incomprehensible, the full deity and complete humanity of Jesus Christ.

The text of We Three Kings tells of “sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying” in anticipation of the cross.

A challenge with some really good Christmas hymns is actually singing them. The tune is just difficult for American voices in 2018. If the tunes are challenging and the texts unfamiliar, why sing Christmas hymns in public worship? Here are some answers.

Christmas hymns offer unique worship opportunities. Charles Wesley penned the words Come Thou Long Expected Jesus in 1744 as he pondered Haggai 2:7 and considered the plight of his fellow Brits from orphans to outcasts. In two brief stanzas he connects Israel’s promised Messiah and the promise of Christ’s second coming. The thought of Christ’s return when he will right all wrongs might inspire worship in your heart. You might even find yourself worshipping by singing a Christmas hymn.

Christmas hymns offer unique evangelistic opportunities. In our pluralistic society, the overt declaration of the person of Jesus Christ through the texts of Christmas hymns makes me giddy. I love to hear Christmas hymns in our schools, at public events, while walking through the mall, and on normally secular radio stations. Places that prohibit “solicitation” by gospel workers unapologetically sing the gospel.

When unsaved family and friends are in your home or car, Christmas hymns in the background may open a door for a gospel conversation. Stopping at the mall rotunda to listen to community choir can lead to discussions about Jesus. “Did you hear the line of that song? Do you know what it means?” may lead you to a chat you’ve been praying for and anticipating for some time.

Christmas hymns offer unique learning opportunities. As a general practice, I hope you have Christian hymns playing in your home and car as a matter of habit. If children romp around your house or when you share in your grandchildren’s world, I hope you play Christian music. During the season, play and sing Christmas hymns, not just FrostyJingle Bells, or I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

Did you know the Christmas hymn Once in Royal David’s City was authored by a pastor’s wife as a way to teach the church children Bible doctrine? The use of Christmas hymns to teach your children great Christian truths will pay dividends far beyond the investment of playing the tune over and again. When they are old, they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

In only a matter of weeks, we will put the Christmas decorations away until this time next year. While I won’t miss the garland, I will miss the Christmas hymns. I suspect you will too. Let’s make the most of the music during the brief time we have them.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.