Continue to Pray for Pastor Saeed and Family

A couple months ago I had the privilege of interviewing Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has spent the last year in two different prisons in Iran where he has been tortured, abused, and told to deny his Christian faith. He has led many people to Christ in prison. Naghmeh has spoken multiple times on Fox News and CNN, even in front of Congress asking for her husband's release.

Please watch this powerful interview and continue to pray for Naghmeh and her family. They would love to see Saeed home for Christmas!

Offering H.E.L.P. in Suffering

This past weekend two high school graduates were killed in a car accident here in Humboldt, Iowa, where I pastor.  In light of this tragedy I shared these words on my church Facebook page as a way to encourage our community to give real H.E.L.P. to the hurting families and friends in our area. H – Hope not answers. When people are in the midst of suffering, they need hope more than answers. Hope is not found in solving the problem, but running to a person. Jesus. We may not know why everything happens, but we can hope in the person who understands suffering more than anyone and sympathizes with us in it.

E – Enter into their pain. Empathize with them. Did you know that grieving with someone can be the single most helpful expression of love and care? Weep with them. Just be there for them and be with them.

L – Listen to them & Love them in tangible ways. Seek to understand their situation. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” If you must speak, tell them, “I am standing with you. I am grieving with you.” And love them in tangible ways. Make a meal. Offer a small gift. Spend time with them.

P – Pray for them and Patiently walk w/them through the long journey of suffering. In the deepest of suffering, some may find it hard to even pray. We can intercede for them and carry this burden. And oftentimes, after the initial help has arrived, we forget the one who is suffering over time. But this is when the church is even more needed. To patiently walk with them and be with them through the long road of suffering.

Why did Jesus say, "Don't tell others?"

Yesterday I preached on 4 incredible stories from Mark 4:35-5:43 where Jesus calms the storm, heals the demoniac and the hemorrhaging woman, and raises Jairus' daughter from the dead.  Afterwards, a member of my church asked me a great question: Why did Jesus tell the demon possessed man to go and tell others but told the ones who saw Jairus' daughter being raised to strictly tell no one?  What a great question!  Here's my response: The demon-possessed man was in a Gentile region where not many knew about Jesus or cared about the coming Messiah. In Mark 5:17, after Jesus had healed the man, they begged him to leave the area.  Jesus left, but told the demoniac to go and tell what had happened to him since he would now be the only real witness in this region (Mark 5:19).

Now Jairus and his daughter lived in Galilee. This region would've been Jewish and therefore anticipating a coming Messiah and so Jesus wanted to keep this a secret because he didn't want to stir up a big crowd.  The concern on Jesus' part was that people's attention would be distracted from what he really came to do, namely, the ministry of the word (Mark 1:38).  His essential aim was to preach repentance and faith (the message of the kingdom) and then die on a cross. After he died and rose again, that's when he told his disciples to go and tell everyone who he was because that was the real message he came to bring as the Messiah.

 

Let the Word Get into You this New Year

With the New Year upon us, many of us have a desire to "get into the Word."  I'm with you.  There are many good reading plans to help guide you in this pursuit.  But this year I'm coming at it from a little different angle.  This year, I'm leading my church through the Gospel of Mark.  My goal is for us to meet Jesus and to know him personally and deeply.  To be "apprenticed by Jesus" as Zach Eswine says.  For that to happen, I'm seeking to slow down and soak up the book of Mark.  Instead of getting into the Word, I'm wanting to let the Word get into me. If you'd like to join me (especially if you're a member of Oak Hill), try this approach to reading the Bible this year.  Try reading through the Book of Mark on your own.  Go at your own pace.  When you're finished, do it again.  And keep a journal.  Meditate on what you read.  Talk about what you read with others.  In addition, if you are a member of Oak Hill, take the sermon note sheet with outline and discussion questions each week and walk through it with your spouse or a couple of good friends.  Get into the Word ... and let the Word get into you this year.

Wanna make a difference this year?

My friend and fellow pastor, Stephen Cavness: For those who follow Christ & really want to make a difference this week/year:

Don't wait until sunday morning to "get ready for church" why not start NOW by:

* praying for your pastor as he prays, finishes up preparation,etc. pray that he have wisdom, understanding, clarity, & passion, as well as that he would be faithful to God's Word in his study, life, & proclamation.

*pray for sunday school teachers, nursery workers, ushers, & other church servants

*study your small group/ sunday school lesson!!! you'll be amazed at how much more enjoyable& beneficial your time together is, if what is being discussed is something you have been thinking/ praying through before you got there!

*pray for your own heart & mind to be impacted by God's word, worshiping with the church, & by encouraging & being encouraged by your brothers & sisters in Christ

*pray for visitors who may be there & think of ways to make them feel welcomed (more than just a quick hello & handshake). pray that any who have not trusted Christ will have their hearts pierced by the proclamation of the gospel!

*get on the phone or in the car & bring people with you!!!

Now, imagine if most everyone in our churches "prepared" this way each week- think we might notice a difference?

"Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God!" - William Carey

Christmas is War

This past Sunday, in light of the CT tragedy, I preached from Matthew 2 and Revelation 12 on, "Christmas is War." I'm indebted to one of my favorite seminary professors, Dr. Russell Moore, for his influence on my life on the issue of Christ as conqueror over Satan. I was also greatly helped by D.A. Carson's insights on Revelation 12 from his book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. I hope this message emboldens your faith in our victorious King who has come to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

Why Christmas? New Devotional for Families

Are you looking for a simple devotional to do with your family in the weeks leading up to Christmas?  Barbara Reaoch's Why Christmas? is a helpful devotional to point your kids to Jesus with colorful illustrations and good discussion questions. I just started reading it with my 3 kids (ages 10, 8, and 4) and all of them really like it.  The devotional also comes with Christmas carols that correspond with each of the stories.  It's a fun way to end the night before tucking them into bed!

I also recommend Why Easter? by the same author.

Stepping Into the Story of Your Life in Christ

This past Sunday I preached from Ephesians 2:1-10. I looked at our identity as God's workmanship and asked us to step into the story God has written for our lives. Even though we may feel like we've messed up the masterpiece and scribbled over the story, we don't have to feel stuck in our guilt and shame. God has made us new in Christ and has prepared good works for us to step into. You can listen to the message here.

Offering Real H.E.L.P. in Suffering

This past Sunday I preached on our paradoxical life as Christians. Ours is a life of rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). I used an acronym to remember how we give real help to those who are suffering. H – Hope not answers.  When people are in the midst of suffering, they need hope more than answers. Hope is not found in solving the problem, but running to a person. Jesus. We may not know why everything happens, but we can hope in the person who understands suffering more than anyone and sympathizes with us in it.

E – Enter into their pain.  Empathize with them. Did you know that grieving with someone can be the single most helpful expression of love and care? Weep with them. Just be there for them and be with them.

L – Listen to them & Love them in tangible ways. Seek to understand their situation. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” If you must speak, tell them, “I am standing with you. I am grieving with you.” And love them in tangible ways. Make a meal. Offer a small gift. Spend time with them.

P – Pray for them and Patiently walk w/them through the long journey of suffering. In the deepest of suffering, some may find it hard to even pray. We can intercede for them and carry this burden. And oftentimes, after the initial help has arrived, we forget the one who is suffering over time. But this is when the church is even more needed. To patiently walk with them and be with them through the long road of suffering.

Anything you would add?

Raising Kids in a Prosperous Culture

Jonathan Dodson with a good post on how we can teach our kids to be devoted to the one true God in a culture that beckons them to be devoted to other things. You may also like:

 

Maximize Your Summer

The Prince's Poison Cup

Are you looking for a creative way to teach the truth of the gospel to your kids this summer? I would highly recommend The Prince's Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul. My whole family watched the DVD last night and it prompted a lot of good discussion. Even my four-year old boy was captivated with the story and listened intently. Take a look at this intro video below and buy the DVD and/or book.