Friday, August 29, 2014

Moments of Peace.

With our children being ages 7, 4, and 2 sometimes living at peace within our home can be a little difficult. Especially if the children are tired. But there are other times when by God's grace shalom is experienced and enjoyed in our home, if only for brief moments. Here was one of those moments a few days ago.

I was preparing our evening meal in the kitchen and the kids were suspiciously quiet in the living room. So I recognized the need to check in on them. What I found was our children enjoying books with our oldest reading to our youngest, and our 4 year-old enjoying his own book by himself. I thanked God as I went back into the kitchen.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Boys, Food, 'Nuff Said.

The families that make up our small group have a lot of boys. This was all of them who were at our last gathering.

Feeding time is when they are both the most quiet and the most obedient. Thumbs up boys!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Church = "A Pillar and Buttress of the Truth."

We have been working through Ray Ortlund's book, The Gospel in our Sunday School class this summer at Oakdale. In chapter 4 Ortlund looks to 1 Timothy 3:14-15 to help us get an understanding of what the church is and what it is called to be. In 1 Timothy 3:15 the church is referred to as a "pillar and buttress of the truth." 

Ortlund:
Your church is called to be a pillar lifting high the truth of the gospel. The one truth that will outlast the universe, the one truth that can help sinners and sufferers right now, deserves to be put on clear display. We must not allow anything in our churches to compete with the high visibility of the gospel. A church has no right to act like a community bulletin board down at the local grocery store, covered over with business cards, ads for apartments for rent, notices about lost pets, and other agendas that compete for people's attention. A church exists to be a pillar that holds up the truth of Jesus so obviously that everyone can see it.

But a church is also called to be a buttress. Why? Because the gospel does not feel strong to many people. Other things grab their attention - a new diet plan, a better self-image, getting the kids into the right colleges. Such distractions feel like the key to a better future, while the gospel feels like an itty-bitty lifestyle option for the weekend among those with a religious bent. Many people make their decisions about the gospel based on how it feels. That's where the buttress comes in. A church can offer living and palpable proof that the gospel makes a real difference for real people living in the real world. That is also why we gather - to embody the truth of the gospel together so that people are intrigued by it. As a pillar and buttress of the truth, our churches are God's plan A for world redemption, and he has no Plan B.

Find the book here.  Ray Ortlund is the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Female Gospel Workers are Needed.

(The following is an ad for The great ministry of 20Schemes in Scotland. This first appeared on Challies.com)

Tracy finally reached the end of herself. For twenty-eight years she had been in a relationship with a cheat and a drug addict. Her life was “…a roller coaster, loads of ups and downs. Some times I ask myself when will I ever get off? I have had enough.” She became desperate for the strife and pain to come to an end. Tracy had never been to church and really didn’t know many Christians. Later, she put it this way: “I believed in God, but I thought to become a Christian you had to be perfect. Christians were good people who looked down on us.”

Caroline grew up in a rough part of Edinburgh. Her first experience of church was going to Sunday school as a child. “When I was younger I went to Sunday school because we got free sweets.” As a young teen she turned to drugs and alcohol. “I discovered cannabis, we soon discovered ecstasy and alcohol…I got into the habit of jumping from one relationship to another, always feeling lonely. I just went through life feeling something was missing.” She became pregnant while in a short-term relationship. The father got in trouble with the law and was sentenced to life behind bars. Her only release was more drugs.

Female Outreach WorkersTracy and Caroline both live in schemes, housing developments in Scotland. And both of their lives took a sudden and unexpected turn. Caroline’s friend Tasha encouraged her to start going to a Bible study. Tracy’s husband experienced an extraordinary salvation and encouraged his wife to come to church with him. Both Caroline and Tracy encountered the person of Jesus through the witness of his church. They have been transformed.

Tens of thousands more unreached and unsaved women live in Scotland’s schemes. Many are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Some are trapped in prostitution. Others have experienced a life of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Most are struggling just to provide a safe and loving home for their children.

Female Outreach Workers are essential to successful gospel ministry in Scotland’s schemes.

20schemes is actively recruiting women who will make a two-year commitment to this unique mission field, and join one of our church-planting teams.

Our vision is to see healthy, gospel-centered churches planted or revitalized in housing schemes all across Scotland. There is a desperate need for biblically faithful women to join the work—to befriend and disciple women just like Tracy and Caroline, and to be a part of what God is doing to build his church where there is no church.

Would you pray about joining us? We are praying for many faithful women to begin the journey of becoming a Female Outreach Worker with 20schemes.

To find out more about how you can partner with 20schemes, or to apply to join us, visit 20schemes.com.

(If you got this on email, click here to see the video.)


20 Schemes - Female Gospel Workers from 20schemes on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An Open Letter to a New College Freshman.

My niece is about to begin her first semester of college. She would be my first niece or nephew to do so. So this means that I am definitely getting older, but not as old as my sister and brother-in-law since my children are over a decade away from college life. (Love you sis!)

I have thought over what advice I should give to my niece as she begins college. I considered the things that I wish I would have been aware of back when I began my first semester, many moons ago. I have come up with a few and so I offer them now to my niece (if she will actually read this) and to any other new college freshman.

Dear freshman,

I know you don't think you need any advice or counsel from some guy who is old enough to have a niece in college, but I am offering it to you anyway. When I was in your situation, I would have loved for a pastor to spend an hour with me and talk with me about what to expect and what to make priorities in my life for the next few years. But I was too afraid to ask. You might be too. So here, I am just going to do the next best thing for you, and that is share just a few thoughts that if considered and taken seriously may definitely help you to get off to a good start and head in the right direction.

1) Introduce yourself to as many people as you can on campus. Introduce yourself to the classmates you sit by. To your professors. To your professors' teaching assistants. To the cafeteria staff. To the students living on your floor or your wing, even if the first time you meet them is in the shower. This will help you to establish relationships with others much more quickly, and will do the job of breaking the ice early. The ice does get harder and thicker the longer you wait to introduce yourself to others you may spend the next three or four years with, so just do it as soon as you can. You'll be amazed at the friendships you will begin.

2) Communicate early and often with your roommate. Whether or not you will enjoy your college experience will depend greatly on how well you get along with your roommate. Maybe you are good friends prior to college and that is why you chose to live together, or maybe the first time you meet is when you move in to your dorm. Whatever the case may be, be intentional about communicating early and often. Work out your living arrangements. Get to know each others' class and activity schedules. Talk about how you want your room set up. Settle early whether or not you will be eating together at the cafeteria or both being on your own. Get an understanding of whether or not you are sharing your food and drinks with each other or not. You don't have to be best friends with your roommate to have a good experience, but it will help you tremendously to just be able to communicate with one another early on in the relationship, and then regularly as the year goes on.

3) Don't Skip Chapel. This is primarily for Christian college students but it can also apply to students at state schools which have campus ministries. College is such a unique time where you will have the opportunity to hear a great variety of different people share either from God's Word or from their experiences within the context of a chapel service. Not everyone who speaks or shares will be helpful. On the majority of college campuses, not many will even be biblical with their worldview and teaching. But its good for you to be there to hear the different perspectives and points of view that come onto campus, plus you getting in the habit of chapel attendance will assure that you will be there when the strong Bible teacher or on-fire missions speaker shows up through which God will give you direction or your calling. Looking back on my time as a student at Northwestern College, I wish I wouldn't have skipped so many chapels.

4) Get Involved in a Local Church. Find a good, solid, Bible-preaching local church. This will help you to get through the host of left-leaning chapel speakers you will listen to on campus. This will also help you to really get to know what being a part of a local church is like since you are now on your own, and not just attending with your parents. Get to know the people there. If a family invites you over for dinner, accept their invitation. Don't make up some excuse like you really need to get back to campus and study (they'll know you're lying). Allow the church family to serve you but at the same time, find a way to serve the church while you are there. When you find a good church, become a member. Volunteer in their youth ministry, or their nursery, or their worship team. Join a small group in the church and not just one made up of other college students. Get to know families with children, and older retired couples. Meet and get to know the pastor or pastors. College is not a four-year vacation from church. No college on-campus ministry can take the place of a local church. If you don't know where to begin to look, talk to your pastor at your home church and ask him for recommendations. Taking this bit of advice may help you thrive in your college experience more than any other.

5) Avoid the Party Scene. I have never met anyone who did avoid drinking parties and then later in their adult lives regretted it. No one ever regrets keeping themselves away from trouble, heart-ache, and impurity. Regrets will surely come however, if you put yourself in a situation where something stupid may very likely happen, or you have a much greater chance of doing something stupid. There is plenty of enjoyment to be had and many great people to get to know without having to do it in the context of guys and gals pouring excessive amounts of beer down their throats, and trying to challenge each other to participate in risky behavior. The friends who will do you the most good, and who will truly care for you in college and beyond are those who wouldn't encourage you to make a fool of yourself at some frat party.

6) Get Serious About Your Daily Bible Reading and Prayer. Now is definitely the time to get serious about this. You will need to be swimming in God's promises and God's truth daily to keep your faith strong in college. Dealing with the atheistic theories and worldview presented to you in classes and even sometimes in chapel. Handling the challenges that the college social life will throw at you. Preparing yourself for the calling that God has for you in the future. All these things will greatly be helped by your daily spending time in God's Word and praying for His help and for understanding. Use a strong Bible reading resource. I would highly recommend this one here. Or this one here. But use something. Commit yourself to a time and place to do your daily Bible-reading. Tell someone else about it who can hold you accountable. And then do it.

I have limited myself to these six things. I could definitely write more. But I think you'll be doing pretty well if you really get this. Never forget there are many people in your life who you know to be doing pretty well in their adult lives now, who could probably give you some help and counsel if you just asked them. Enjoy these days and this time, but always remember, you have most of your life to enjoy after college, and this is the time to prepare yourselves for the rest of your life.

Sincerely,

Clinton D. Hogrefe, M.Div, NWC Red Raider Alumni  Class of '97


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

For Husbands, Follow-Up to This Sunday's Sermon.

This past Lord's day I preached from 1 Peter 3:1-7. My title, "Holy Wives and Holy Husbands." God's Word to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7 is, "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."

We considered the admonition to "live with (our) wives in an understanding way." What does that mean for us, what will that require of us? Well today at the mens' channel at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood there is a helpful article that has given me some help, maybe it will provide some for you too.

The title is "Getting a Ph.D in Your Wife." by Dave Jenkins, here is his conclusion:

This is so important because, until you see your life this way, you will continue living however you please. Paying lip service to glorifying God by the way you live. A life that truly reflects God’s grace is one that takes serious both His grace and applying that grace to all of life. That is why the approach so commonly given as advice to married couples on dating one’s spouse is so dangerous. It isn’t just one day that you need a week to spend with one another. No, you need each other every day. You need to grow in loving your wife everyday as you are growing in God’s grace. As men we are called to this because loving our wives isn’t a suggestion, it is a command! There are real stakes here, that even our prayers (as 1 Peter 3:7 teaches) will be hindered if we do not show kindness and love to our wives. Date your wives, men, not just one day of the week but every day.

Get a Ph.D. in your wife. That takes time I know, I’m still learning, repenting, and growing in this. Continue on men of God—love Jesus, love your wives, and watch as God uses ordinary in powerful ways for His glory.
Read the whole thing here. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cooking in Our House.

Please click over to Adam Ford's comic today at Adam4d.com  He illustrates what my family experiences quite often at our house. It's called - When My Wife Cooks - When I Cook.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Honor and Love.

One of the regular routines that I have enjoyed with my young family has been the bedtime routine. I'm sure our routine is not that much different then most other young families, but there is one aspect of it for us that we have particularly enjoyed. That is reading a chapter out of C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia books.

We can't do it every night, so we treat it as a special privilege when we do. I began this late last year and we have worked through the first four books so far, just finishing Prince Caspian last week. My favorite character in the book series (besides Aslan, of course) is Reepicheep the Mouse. Lewis gives this little mouse the heart of a lion, as he is the most courageous, and most loyal and courteous of any of the talking animal characters.

As we finished Prince Caspian the other night we were shown a great example of the honor and loyalty that Reepicheep gave to his Lord Aslan, the honor that he had for himself as a small creature in Aslan's world, and the honor and love that his loyal friends had for him as their leader.

The scene begins with the group of mice carrying their leader Reepicheep close to Aslan. The mice had just loyally and courageously fought in the battle and defeat of Prince Miraz's Telmarine army. But it came at a great cost to Reepicheep. He is severely injured and worst of all for him and the other mice, his tail was a casualty in the battle. So Aslan tells Lucy to use her magic bottle of healing ointment upon Reepicheep's wounds, which she does giving new life to the courageous Mouse. But unfortunately, he still no longer had his tail. We pick it up after he discovers this and Aslan is speaking with him about it.

"I am confounded," said Reepicheep to Aslan. "I am completely out of countenance. I must crave your indulgence for appearing in this unseemly fashion."

"It becomes you very well, Small One," said Aslan.

"All the same," replied Reepicheep, "if anything could be done. . . Perhaps her Majesty?" and here he bowed to Lucy.

"But what do you want with a tail?" asked Aslan.

"Sir," said the Mouse, "I can eat and sleep and die for my King without one. But a tail is the honor and glory of a Mouse."

"I have sometimes wondered, friend," said Aslan, "whether you do not think too much about your honor."

"Highest of High Kings," said Reepicheep, "permit me to remind you that a very small size has been bestowed on us Mice, and if we did not guard our dignity, some (who weigh worth by inches) would allow themselves very unsuitable pleasantries at our expense. That is why I have been at some pains to make it known that no one who does not wish to feel this sword as near his heart as I can reach shall talk in my presence about Traps or Toasted Cheese or Candles: no, Sir - not the tallest fool in Narnia!" Here he glared very fiercely up at Wimbleweather, but the Giant, who was always a stage behind everyone else, had not yet discovered what was being talked about down at his feet, and so missed the point.

"Why have your followers all drawn their swords, may I ask?" said Aslan. 


"May it please your High Majesty," said the second Mouse, whose name was Peepicheek, "we are all waiting to cut off our own tails if our Chief must go without his. We will not bear the shame of wearing an honor which is denied to the High Mouse."

"Ah!" roared Aslan. "You have conquered me. You have great hearts. Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people, . . . . you shall have your tail again."
What examples of love for us. Reepicheep, willing to live and continue to serve even at great loss to himself. His fellow mice, willing to sacrifice to the point of giving up their honor and dignity just to sympathize and identify with their beloved chief, and Aslan, honoring and blessing his creatures who love one another and honor Him so well. Yet, reminding them that their honor and dignity doesn't come from anything in or on themselves, but from Him. Is our devotion for Christ the Lord where it needs to be, that we are willing to live without that which provides us with outward honor and dignity in our lives for His sake? Is our love for one another in the church such a love that we are willing to sacrifice our time, our resources, or even lay down our very lives for one another? I believe if we did, we like the mice, would be blessed and honored by the Highest of all High Kings, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Farming is in Their Hearts.

For a few days Esther loved dressing up in her farming outfit. Yes she is wearing three straw hats at the same time. She always wants to have a few extra to give away.

The boys got some new equipment at the Albert City Threshermens and Collectors show. So they had to try it all out and do a little couch farming.

Mom and Dad were just so excited that they are sharing the toys nicely, although Luther the younger one, is doing most of the sharing here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Open Letter to Those Who Struggle With Eating Disorders.

From author Emily Wierenga at DesiringGod.org
I know, it’s not easy: when the world tells you that you are what you eat, or what you weigh, or that you’re only as good as your calorie count or the number of followers on social media.

The world weighs with numbers; the Lord weighs with grace, and you owe him nothing, friend. Everything and nothing. He has paid it all. He wants you to rest and trust him. He’s got you covered.

Here are five truths I want you to tuck into your heart, today, and carry with you.

1. You have a voice.
2. You can be free of anorexia forever.
3. You are more than your eating disorder.
4. You are not crazy.
5. The rest of your life is not determined by this moment.
Read the explanations of the five truths and the whole post here

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

You've Gotta See This.

So this video was quite inspiring for me. In 25 years I want to be this guy, except dressed in a Brewers jersey and hopefully with a little more hair. They are calling it the Major League Baseball fan catch of the year and quite possibly of all time. See the video and read the story here.

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP Photo

Monday, August 11, 2014

2014 Marcus Fair.

Packer had been talking all week about driving the motorcycle with the horn. Well, here he is with one hand on the handle-bars and the other honking the horn as he went by.

Packer with the same riding style. His partner Luther getting the hang of it too. Just like Ponch and Jon used to patrol the LA Freeways in CHiPS.

Not a bad looking pair eh?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Piper on The Incalculable Wonder of Being a Christian.

From John Piper: 
Being a Christian means experiencing the supernatural every day. Living as new creatures in Christ is amazing beyond calculation (Galatians 6:15).

The fact that many believers do not know this, and do not feel as if it were true, does not surprise us, because Paul prayed for believers that we “may know the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18–19). Evidently he thought the Ephesian believers needed God to teach them the wonders of what they had experienced. He was praying for God to show them who they were. God must show us, by his word, who we are by his work.

It may seem strange, but we have to be taught that we are walking miracles. “You were dead in trespasses and sins. . . . But God made you alive” (Ephesians 2:1, 5). You may not feel like a walking resurrection, but you are.
Read the whole thing here

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Evangelism: An Over-Looked Spiritual Discipline.



I have admonished and encouraged the Oakdale congregation over and over again to read God’s Word and pray. How spending time in God’s Word and pouring out our hearts in prayer day by day are essential disciplines for the life of a Christian. But up until now, I had never put evangelism in the same category. I guess I had always thought of evangelism as more of our mission, which we will do when God brings us into opportunities where we can share His good news of salvation. I had not thought of it in the same way as reading the Bible and praying.
     But in the book that I have encouraged Oakdale to read this summer, Evangelism, by J. Mack Stiles, we are instructed to consider evangelism not just something we can do when given the opportunity, but rather as a spiritual discipline. This understanding of evangelism did not begin with Stiles though, but rather with Don Whitney whose excellent book, Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life includes a chapter on evangelism as one of the spiritual disciplines believers ought to be practicing regularly. Whitney writes, “Evangelism is a natural overflow of the Christian life. We should all be able to talk about what the Lord has done for us and what He means to us. But evangelism is also a Discipline in that we must discipline ourselves to get into the context of evangelism, that is, we must not just wait for witnessing opportunities to happen” (p. 106).
     Whitney goes on to say, “Isn’t the main reason we don’t witness because we don’t discipline ourselves to do it? Yes, there are wonderful, unplanned opportunities “to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15) that God brings unexpectedly. But I maintain there is a reason for most Christians to make evangelism a Spiritual Discipline. . . Unless we discipline ourselves for evangelism, it is very easy to excuse ourselves from ever sharing the gospel with anyone” (p. 107, 108).
     Do you put evangelism opportunities into your schedule like you would put a Bible Study or a prayer meeting? Is there a context in your life where you would have ample opportunities to get to know others and talk about the gospel with them? Do you have any non-Christians that move around in your social circle? Do you see now why we might really need to discipline ourselves to have evangelism opportunities? For some of us, myself included, if I don’t intentionally find a context where I will be building relationships with those who aren’t following Christ, then I may never even have much of a conversation with one, much less personally talk with them about spiritual things.
     As Mack Stiles encouraged us in his book, “God uses such discipline” (p. 96). May the Lord help us to discipline ourselves to talk about the Gospel with others.   

(This post originally appeared in the August 2014 edition of Oakdale's monthly newsletter)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ten Myths About Lust.

I found these to be true and accurate as to the myths that we justify our lust with and the admonishments that we need to hear.

From Jared Moore at CBMW:

If you embrace these 10 myths about lust, then you will find no remedy for your lust. Instead, you will dive into a “black hole” of sin. Embrace Truth; reject these 10 myths:

1. “I lust because I’m human.” No, you lust because you’re a sinner.

2. “I lust because others dress immodestly.” No, you lust because your wicked heart enjoys the immodesty of others.

3. “I lust because I’m not married.” No, you lust because you love sex more than God.

4. “I lust because I desire marriage.” No, you lust because you desire sexual immorality. Desiring sexual immorality is the opposite of desiring marriage. A desire for marriage is a desire for sexual morality within marriage.

5. “I lust because I cannot help it.” No, you lust because you willfully choose sin over holiness. You’ve developed a lustful habit. Repent and turn to Christ habitually. Live out the holiness He requires until new holy habits are formed.

6. “I lust because my spouse is not as interested in sex as I am.” No, you lust because you desire sex more than you desire God.

7. “I lust because my spouse does not appreciate me.” No, you lust because you believe God is too small to meet your needs abundantly.

8. “I lust because I believe God’s image-bearers are beautiful.” No, you lust because you reject God’s creation (Gen. 1:26-27). Those who lust objectify God’s image bearers, reducing His divine image to a mere object of immoral non-consensual one-sided sexual gratification.

9. “I lust because sexuality is pervasive in my godless culture.” No, you lust because you want to be like your godless culture.

10. “If I fulfill my lusts, they will go away.” No, the remedy for lustful desires is for you to deny yourself (starve your lust), pick up your cross, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23).

The only answer for a lustful heart is constant repentance and faith in Christ.  God is more beautiful and more valuable than fulfilling our lustful desires. If you embrace and meditate on His beauty, all sin will appear ugly and detestable.