OCTOBER 2017 / VOL. 1 NO. 2

FIRST THINGS FIRST / The Gospel as Center

"The gospel is the astounding announcement that all of God's pure wrath against sin landed on His Son. Now, with His righteousness fully intact, God can be both 'just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.' You won't hear a story like that anywhere else!"

- David Shibley, Entrusted: Anchoring Your Life in the Gospel

ON MY HEART / I'm Stirred Over This

As I write this, the world is on edge watching the war of words between the heads of two nuclearized nations. God forbid that we would experience a nuclear conflagration. Such an exchange would carry unspeakable consequences. We must stand in the gap, crying out for God's mercy. "He makes wars cease to the end of the earth" (Psa. 46:9). Added to the man-made threats are natural disasters on a scale heretofore unseen. In a recent trip to south Texas I saw devastation to a degree I had never witnessed in America. Are these "the beginning of birth pains" Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24? The rapid succession of calamities - epic storms in our country, floods in India and Nepal impacting millions, the Caribbean's hurricanes, and Mexico's earthquakes - calls us to rise to this hour in the Spirit's wisdom and power, conveying and modeling the hope of the gospel. May we carry the spirit of the sons of Issachar who understood their times and knew the course of action God's people should take (1 Chron. 12:32).

AND I QUOTE / Perceptive Thoughts

"And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we shall not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God's truth abideth still.

His kingdom is forever!"

- Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

WHAT MATTERS MOST / Big Things in Life and Ministry

"The unexamined life is not worth living," noted Socrates. Yet reflection and examination are easily shoved out of our busy schedules. That's why personal spiritual retreats are so important. I work to take at least four 1-2 day spiritual retreats yearly. The only way these retreats will get on your calendar is for you to schedule them, protect them, and keep them a high priority.

IN THE NEWS / Understanding the Times

In a recent Vatican news release, Catholics were told that time in purgatory can be reduced by following the Pope on Twitter. (Pardon my chuckles!) I commend the Vatican spokesmen on their impeccable sense of timing. They have reminded us again why the Reformation was (and is) so necessary! Five hundred years ago this month, on October 31, 1517, history records that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Little did he know that inconspicuous act, given wide coverage thanks to Johannes Gutenberg's printing press, would be one of the most significant turning points in church history. God used Luther to recover the centrality of the gospel. Backed by Scripture, Luther returned clarity to the gospel message - we are saved by grace alone, justified by faith alone, and redeemed by Christ alone! A joyful result of the Reformation is that the Bible is again seen as the final authority, not the church or its traditions. Jesus Christ is acknowledged as the one and only head of the church. We share much in common with our Roman Catholic friends. However, crucial theological differences remain concerning the most vital of all issues - how are we made right with God? This is an ideal time to remind your flock why we are Protestant Christians.

FROM MY PEN / What I've Written

"Christ's servants never pursue greatness for its own sake. The end game is God's glory and advancing His kingdom. Their lives point past themselves to a great Redeemer. They echo the prophet's desire for the fame of His name: 'Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.' (Isa. 26:8, NIV). In today's warped world we have traded greatness for mere celebrity. But laurels and limelight are never at the forefront of those who are great for God. You will see in the lives of these great servants a refreshing disregard and distrust of accolades. One can only imagine what their reaction would be to today's fixation with celebrities. No doubt they would have labeled it real, repugnant idolatry. We all appreciate affirmation, but the applause these great ones sought most was the applause of heaven."

- David Shibley, Great for God: Missionaries Who Changed the World

WHAT I'M READING / Expanding My Horizons

There are a few books I return to often. I call them my "perennial reads." These are books that are so enriching and impactful that I can't absorb their richness with a single reading. One such book is John Bunyan's classic allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress. Do your soul a favor: Sit outside in a quiet place, watch the colorful leaves fall, and read this book slowly.

WHERE'S YOUR MAN? / Making Disciples

Every Christian leader needs a "Timothy" (someone he's mentoring), a "Paul" (someone who is mentoring him), and a "Barnabas" (someone he can count on for encouragement).

PREACHER TIPS / Insights from 50+ Years

"No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house" (Luke 11:33, NLT). Here Jesus affirms legitimate marketing and challenges His followers to leverage their light for maximum reach. People are rightly repelled by marketing based on hype or half-truths. In today's climate overuse of superlatives, always spotlighting victories but seldom acknowledging defeats, and being just a little too slick can have the reverse effect of a negative connotation toward us and the church or organization where we serve. Still, marketing can and should be used to help us have the broadest possible reach. But be sure those who help you craft your message, marketing, and platform have a heart of integrity, always seeking to exalt Jesus. We are to leverage our light - placing it on a stand - for greatest visibility and impact. But churches and ministries must be marketed truthfully and be undergirded by a clear mission that is consonant with Christ's mission. 

EYES ON THE PRIZE / Living for Eternity

"Every day is a new opportunity to discover what eternal business might be lurking in the ordinary business of being human."

- Bruce Wilkinson, A Life God Rewards

YOU ARE APPRECIATED / Thanks for Your Faithfulness

Thank you for raising high the standard of the gospel and displaying the love of Christ in this time when so many are in great pain. Stay steady, leaning into your relationship with the Lord and drawing on His life-giving Spirit.

GOD BLESS YOU! / A Benediction from Scripture

"Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all" (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

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