Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 48,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 18 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Fun


10 Ways to Pray for Government leaders

  1. Pray that they would realize their daily need for cleansing of their sin by Jesus Christ.
  2. Pray that they would recognize their personal inadequacy to fulfill their tasks and that they would depend upon God for knowledge, wisdom, and the courage to do what is right.
  3. Pray that they would reject all counsel that violates spiritual principles, trusting God to prove them right.
  4. Pray that they would resist those who would pressure them to violate their conscience.
  5. Pray that they would reverse the trends of socialism and humanism in this nation, both of which deify man rather than God.
  6. Pray that they would be ready to sacrifice their personal ambitions and political careers for the sake of this nation, if yielding them would be in the best interest of their country.
  7. Pray that they would rely upon prayer and the Word of God as the source of their daily strength, wisdom and courage.
  8. Pray that they would restore dignity, honor, trustworthiness, and righteousness to the office they hold.
  9. Pray that they would remember to be good examples in their conduct to the fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters of this nation.
  10. Pray that they would be reminded daily that they are accountable to Almighty God for the decision they make.

Dr. Charles Stanley. Excerpted from The Rebirth of America, Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation, cited in Prayer Lines, Spring 1995.

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Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Prayer, Quotes


Pray for Effective Outreach

Theodore Wedel told the story of a crude lifesaving station. (See previous post for story.) Originally, its sole purpose was to save people who were shipwrecked off the rocky coast. Over time, however, it became a popular gathering place and functioned more as a club for its members. Consequently, while shipwrecks were still frequent in those waters, most of the people drowned.

The apostle Paul sounds a similar warning to the church in Ephesus. In 1 Timothy, Paul gives Timothy instructions how the church is to be organized and structured. In chapter 2, Paul turns his attention to the subject of prayer (1-7) and the role of men and women in worship (8-15). He explains that men are to lead the congregation in praying for the spread of the gospel (2:1-8).

In verse 1, Paul says that prayer is one of the priorities of the church. He uses four words to describe prayer—supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving. Rather than offer a legalistic formula that every prayer should include each category, I believe Paul is using the first three words as synonyms for prayer. His point is that prayer should be laced with thanksgiving. Rather than just ask and make demands of God, we should offer our prayers in an attitude of gratitude.

Specifically, Paul tells us to pray for our government leaders (2). Far too often, we are quick to criticize our leaders and complain about their decisions. Instead, Paul tells us to pray for them because their decisions affect how we live. Leaders can create an atmosphere conducive to the spread of the gospel. The bills they consider and the laws they pass determine whether we will be struggling for survival or whether we can focus on sharing our faith.

Paul goes on to explain that this type of prayer fits in with God’s plan (3-6). God desires that all people come to know his grace and love. Please don’t misunderstand and think that Paul is teaching universalism, that all people will be saved. He already made it clear in 1:18-20 that Christ died to save sinners. Not everyone will accept Christ’s sacrifice. But that doesn’t change the fact that God provided the way of salvation and desires all people to receive the gift. Not only does God desire all people to be saved, he is completely focused on salvation (5-6). As Paul explains, there is only one God, one mediator who brings God and people together, and one plan of salvation. Paul understood that preaching the gospel was his sole purpose in life (7).

In verse 8, Paul explains that men are to take the lead in praying. They are to set the pace in leading the congregation in praying for effective outreach. In saying that they should lift holy hands, he is not emphasizing one’s posture in prayer. Rather, he is contrasting that action with the attitude of contention and conflict. If your hands are lifted up, they are not clenched in anger or pointing fingers at others. One’s attitude in prayer is far more important than one’s posture.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 29, 2013. It is part of a series on 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


A Crude Lifesaving Station

A Crude Lifesaving Station

Written originally in 1953 by an Episcopal priest named Theodore Wedel (Cited in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit, by R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell.)

Lifesaving crewOn a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and their money and their effort for the support of its work. Lifesaving crew 2New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little lifesaving station grew.

Now some of the members of the lifesaving station became unhappy, in time, however, because the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable, suitable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. And so they replaced the emergency cots with beds, and they put better furniture in the now enlarged building, so that now the lifesaving station actually became a popular gathering place for its members. Lifesaving stationThey took great care in decorating it beautifully and furnishing it exquisitely, for they found new uses for it in the context of a sort of club. But fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, and so they hired lifesaving crews to do this work on their behalf, and in their stead. Now, don’t misunderstand, the lifesaving motif still prevailed in the club’s decoration and symbols — there was a liturgical lifeboat (symbolic rather than fully functional) in the room where the club initiations were held, for example — so the changes did not necessarily mean that the original purposes were totally lost.

shipwreck5About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold and wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty people and they were sick people, some of them with black skin, some with yellow skin. The beautiful new club, as you might imagine, was thrown into chaos, so that the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where these recent victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside the main clubhouse.

At the very next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities for being so unpleasant, as well as for being a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose, pointing out that, indeed, they were still called a lifesaving station. Lifesaving station 2But these few were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. And so, they did just that.

Now as the years passed, the new station down the coast came to experience the very same changes that had occurred in the older, initial station. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station had to be founded to restore the original purpose.

Lifesaving station 3Well, history continued to repeat itself, so that if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a great number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown!”

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Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Books, Church, Evangelism, Quotes


The world is a stage

Calvin & Hobbes - the world is a stage

True words from my favorite theologian.


Posted by on December 28, 2013 in Fun


Fenway Park

Carol and I celebrated our anniversary in style–touring Fenway Park followed by lunch at Legal Seafoods with our kids. The park is currently playing host to “Frozen Fenway,” a college hockey tournament. Outside of it being a BRISK day, it was an enjoyable experience.

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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Boston, Boston Red Sox, Family & Friends, Photos


God’s great purpose

Psalm 67 explains what God is trying to accomplish in the world. That in John Piper’s argument in “Let the peoples praise you, O God! Let all the peoples praise you!” the final chapter in his book, Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged (John Piper & David Mathis, editors).

Piper sums up the chapter and his exposition of Psalm 67 with this statement,

God’s great purpose in the world is to be known and praised and enjoyed and feared. And the truth about him that he wants to be known and praised and enjoyed and feared is

  • he is the one and only true and living God, the Father of Jesus Christ;
  • he is infinitely just and holy in all his ways, settling all accounts justly either on the cross for believers or in hell for those who reject his truth;
  • he is sovereign over all the affairs of men and nations, and over the saving mission of his church through the all-authoritative, risen Christ;
  • and he is a God of boundless grace to all who come to him through Jesus.

The psalm also points out that we are blessed to be a blessing. Not only are we spiritually blessed, but we are also materially blessed. God doubles our blessing by making us a blessing to the rest of the world by allowing us to share the message of the gospel.

These are good truths to be reminded of during the season of the incarnation.

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Posted by on December 26, 2013 in Books, Missions, Quotes, Scripture


Merry Christmas to all!

The halls were decked and the stockings were hung…

Like most homes, each of our decorations has a meaning or memory–an interest of our children, a place we’ve visited, a significant experience, something we value, etc. One of the more significant ornaments on the tree is The Christmas Nail. It comes with the following poem and/or instructions:

“This is the Christmas Nail. It is to be hung on a sturdy branch, a branch near the trunk, a branch that will hold such a spike without being noticed by well-wishers dropping by to admire one’s tinseled tree. The nail is known only to the home that hangs it. Understood only by the heart that knows its significance. It is hung with the thought: The Christmas tree but foreshadows the Christ tree which only He could decorate for us, with nails such as this.”

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Posted by on December 25, 2013 in Christmas, Family & Friends, Photos


A visit to the Dr.

With two of our kids here for the holidays, we took a visit to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield, MA.

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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Family & Friends, Massachusetts, Photos


Christmas Lights

One of my favorite aspects of Christmas is Christmas lights

In December 1990, which was BC (before cell phones), a snow storm dumped 12 inches of snow on Seattle in 24 hours. It took me six hours to drive five miles during the storm. People abandoned their cars on the side of the road and walked.

DSC_0053At the time, our house was half a block off a major street. The Christmas lights on our house had been turned on. The lights stood out in the midst of the darkness and reflected on the snow. As a result, several stranded travelers stopped and asked if they could use the phone to call for help.

When you are stranded and alone in the dark, lights can attract and guide you to safety. They can be warm and inviting, letting people know that they are welcome and safe inside.

In December 1992, our children were 2, 4, and 6 years old. One evening, we experienced a power outage due to a wind storm. Needless to say, the children were scared. After the lights came back on, the kids were afraid it would happen again.

We gave each of our kids a flashlight to keep near their beds. It helped them feel safe and secure. The flashlight would chase the darkness away. It would also lead them to someone would could take care of them—Mom & Dad.

When you afraid in the darkness, you need someone to lead you to the light so that you can once again feel secure.

christmas_lights - PP-crosshatchPerhaps you feel like you are in the dark this year at Christmastime. Maybe rumors of layoffs at your company leave your job security shaky. Perhaps you are waiting for tests that will reveal you or a loved one is not as healthy as you’d like. Possibly you and your spouse have drifted apart and cracks are appearing in your marriage. Maybe you are facing the prospect of retirement but your finances leave you wondering how you afford to quit working.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could shed a little light on the problems of life so that our darkness would be chased away?

The Scriptures tell us that God sent Jesus to light our way in the darkness.

Isaiah 9:2 – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Manger-and-CrossThe baby born in Bethlehem attracts our attention. One person spoke truth when he said, “We are drawn to the baby in the manger as a moth is drawn to a candle.”

Jesus guides our path to safety and security. He lights or illumines the things that are hard to understand—in the dark about life, questions, problems, relationships. He is ready to welcome us into his presence.

This Christmas, come to the light. You may be attracted by the lights and the decorations. Come close and investigate the meaning and the reason for the season. Look closely at the child in the manger.

If you feel like you are in the dark, confused or questioning, come to the light. The one who claimed to be the light of the world will provide answers, security, and peace. This Christmas, come to the light.

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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Christmas, Scripture