“When God Writes Your Love Story” by Eric & Leslie Ludy

I have never been much of a fan of Christian relationship books.  I guess we got off to a rocky start when my girlfriend broke up with me in high school some time after reading “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”.  But there have also been other reasons for skepticism, as there hasn’t been much worth reading or reccommending.  That, and I didn’t feel that I needed to read a book on relationships to receive godly instruction.

When I was in high school, it was a moot point, really.  There just wasn’t really much of an opportunity for a dating relationship.  There were certainly temptations to pursue relationships with girls that I knew weren’t Christians.  I remember being so divided in my heart with my attraction to a girl, but knowing I just couldn’t mess with a deeper relationship.  So they just remained friends, with the hope that they may turn to Christ.

When I moved on to College, the challenge shifted a bit.  I was certainly in possibly the best situation to find a good Christian girl: a solid Christian college in Southern California.  I did manage to find one that led to a horrible situation, and fortunately I was able to get out before falling to too much comprimise.  But four years passed, and I graduated without ever having a serious relationship.  Again, not necessarily due a lack of effort or pursuit, but God never brought anything into my life.

There were times when I sincerely struggled with being single, but I knew I needed to find my satisfaction and contentment in Christ alone.  I was convicted that God would bring the right girl around and that I shouldn’t rashly pursue something for the sake of a personal, fleshly desire.  But I hadn’t necessarily read this anywere, short of the pages of Scripture.

Recently, I realized the need to be able to reccommend a book to students struggling with the issue of relationships.  I had heard good things about this book, so this is where I started.  After reading it, I’m not sure I would have to read much else.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t any other valuable books on the subject, but the book the Ludy’s write thoughtfully deals with all of the issues students struggle.

The main point of the book is to trust God with your love life.  Every believer needs to come to a point where they will not make rash decisions and relationship choices they know don’t please God.  Instead, they need to trust that God, the all-knowing, grace giving Savior, to do what is best in the life of a believer.  That can be scary and difficult, but we need to understand that God has a better idea of what is best for us.  We must surrender this portion of our hearts and minds to God.

Another section of the book that I admired was the stressing that we must preserve ourselves, not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually, for our future spouses.  There is much emphasis on saving yourself for marriage, and that is appropriate, but there is hardly any emphasis on protecting themselves from giving themselves emotionally to their boyfriend or girlfriend.  That can just as damaging.  And we can’t make the mistake the Pharisees did in thinking it was just the act, not the heart or thought, that condemned a person.

This book not only speaks to how to properly pursue a relationship, but gives adivce to those dealing with singleness.  They stress the importance of that time in their lives, and how beneficial it can really be.  They not only speak to this, but also provide applicable steps a person can take to know whether the one they are with is the one that God has brought around for them.

I would say this is a must read for all teenagers, and we are going to be starting a relationship series in our high school group. I have noticed recently that more and more of our teenagers are making comprimises in this area of their life.  And if there is a dangerous area of your life to comprimise in, this is it.  Sin in this area can lead to widespread destruction, and often times leaves a wake of consequences and painful scars in its path.

Pastoral Appreciation Month

Before I start, let me mention that this is not intended for anyone involved in my church.  I don’t write this to make you all aware of this, as it is something you have already done and done well.  This isn’t me fishing for more appreciation.

October is a special month in the life of a pastor, or at least it should be.  October is officially “Pastoral Appreciation Month”.  I don’t know who named it that, why they have October, or why they just limit it to a month (ok, I understand why they did that), but I thought I would make everyone else aware of what this month is.  This is an opportunity to show your pastor/shepherds what they mean to you and to help repay the encouragement they have brought to your soul.

Obviously, this is something that should be a year round practice, but it is nice to focus on a month for this.  Our church here in San Gabriel is full of people who write in notes, give gift cards, and hugs of encouragement every year during October.  And on one Sunday, the pastors are called up on stage during the service and publicly thanked.  The wives are given lovely flowers, the pastors are given a gift card, usually to a restuarant, and this year the children’s program made folders of papers the children made thanking each pastor.  It is small, but it goes a long ways.

So what can you do for your pastor?  Here are some helpful hints from one!

  1. Write a note about what his ministry and preaching have meant to you.  The more specific you can be, the better.  A pastor can receive no better encouragement than specifically recalling ways his preaching has challenged you and helped you to understand God and His desires for you.
  2. Give a gift certificates for dates.  The family life of a pastor can be very taxing on everyone, and one of the greatest ways you can support your pastor is to give him a night away with his wife.  Find out what they like to do together, what their favorite restaurants are, and give them a free date.  If they have children, offer free babysitting!  This will do a lot to recharge the batteries of the pastor, ease the mind of the wife, and give them valuable time together.
  3. Give to the wife of a pastor.  This woman shares her husband with hundreds of other people, sometimes at the most inopportune times.  When a pastor is called out last minute, there is usually a home he is leaving behind.  Meetings add up and it usually ends up taxing the wife of a pastor.  Find out what she likes, what hobbies she has, or pay for some pampering and relaxation!
  4. Support the pastor’s study.  Each October I can always count on at least one gift certificate for my favorite book store.  That is shortly followed by a big annual sale at that store, so the timing is perfect.  Pay for a conference, a class, or just books.  Unfortunately, many pastors find themselves isolated, with not a lot of ways to challenge their hearts, souls, and minds.  Great and encouraging conferences abound, and when your pastor will get back, he will be excited and recharged.
  5. Maybe the most significant thing you could do is to put a hand to the plow!  We all know of the statistics that 10%-20% of the people do 80%-90% of the work.  Often times, this is most reflected in the life of the pastor.  Certainly they are paid, but much encouragement comes from those that also see the value of the local church, and those in the church that the pastors know they can count on to help.  Be dependable, be prayerful, be studious, and take initiative.  If you see a need, instead of making the pastor aware of it, ask yourself how you can meet or fix this need.  Of course there are things that must be run through a pastor, but often times things can be taken care of without his active involvement.
  6. Prayer.  Let them know you are praying for them, building them up in daily times of petition before the Lord.  If you don’t have money to give to the pastor, pray for them!  Wake up early on Sundays to pray for your pastor as he prepares to preach.  Find out what day he does most of his sermon preparation on and spend time that day in prayer.

I hope that some of these things find themselves useful in your desire to show your appreciation to your patsor.  I know that October is almost over, but I don’t think that they would mind if it carried over into November!

“War of Words” by Paul David Tripp

This is a great book to read if you at all struggle with the words you use. I know that I can be known to speak rashly or quickly. The book comes from a counseling perspective about dealing with the issue of communication. Whether its in a parenting situation, a marriage relationship, or just dealing with someone you find difficult, this book is encouraging and convicting.

It has a couple of great chapters that could stand alone, such as one on confrontation and another on what true repentance in this area looks like. One of the great strengths of the book is its appeal to the layperson. This isn’t a call for just pastors to heed, but one that all of the Church are to embrace. Tripp’s desire is to have believers realize their position as Ambassador’s of God, and each of us are to use our communication to represent our King’s communication.

one of my favorite chapters was one where Tripp speaks of people following the king for all the wrong reasons. Working off the sign of Jesus feeding the 5,000, Tripp writes that these people experienced the miracle, but not the sign. the sign was to point them to Christ, but their hearts remained unrepentant.

“What was behind these people’s pursuit of Christ? What did they really want? i do not believe that they pursued Christ out of a humble submission to his messiahship and a willingness to follow him wherever he would lead. Their pursuit of Christ was born instead out of a love for self and the hope that Christ would be the one who would meet their felt needs. They were excited about following the King- but for all the wrong reasons.”

When I read this I saw this in so many lives that I minister to. Tripp goes on to say “I am afraid that many of us respond to Jesus in the same way. What moves and motivates everything we do is not a submission to God’s will and a burning desire for his glory, but our own set of personal desires and dreams. We are excited about the King because we see him as the most efficient delivery system for those dreams. You can tell what really excites us when we fall into discouragement and grumbling, when he does not deliver the “good” that we want.”

This section has given me a lot to think about as far as ministry goes and implications for CORE Week this summer. I think this would be a perfect subject to concentrate on

CORE Week Video: Sterling Goooooold

A fun thing we did this summer was make some score videos.  Rather than have someone get up and announce scores, we decided to make stupid videos of Sterling Gold giving game updates and scoring updates.  We didn’t do a script and tried to do it in one take.  So here are two of them:

CORE Week Video: Kijabe Kan Kan

Here’s a rec video that we did this past summer for our CORE Week.  The game is a favorite out here, and is called Kijabe Kan Kan.  The point of the game is to pull others into the bucket and without letting go of the ropes.  To make it more special for our CORE Week, we fill the buckets with water and soak the area around the buckets.  Enjoy!

Miscelaneous of Life

I know I’ve been horrible about updating this thing, so I thought I would put some random things up that don’t exactly make a whole post, but are interesting nonetheless.

Rush Hour

For those of you who don’t know, our Wednesday night program is called Rush Hour.  This past Wednesday we started our time in Lamentations and were working through the first chapter when we were greeted with quite the surprise.  About 15 minutes into the message, I noticed a man walk into the back of the Youth Center.  My first thought was that it was the father of one of the kids and they would just sit in back and listen.  It certainly isn’t rare for this to happen.  But then he started walking up front and I realize he wasn’t a parent.

This man was clearly a homeless person.  He wasn’t in rags, but his clothes were well worn.  Its also not uncommon for homeless people to come around looking for handouts.  So this man comes up and takes a seat on the edge of the rows up front and the kids, one-by-one, begin to realize he is there.  Now I’m trying to think of what to do.  We had no other staff there, as a couple were at the Dodger game, and a couple more were out for various reasons, and the one who was there was actually playing the game with the Jr Highers.  Thankfully, we had one of our college students there sitting near the back, but I didn’t want to have her have to handle this.  I was also thinking that if the guy is going to just sit there, I can let him be and deal with him when I’m done.

But then he started waving his arms around and making gruffing noises when I mentioned prostitutes (I was preaching through Lamentations 1).  I actually had to tone down what I was saying because I didn’t want to say something that would make this guy go nuts.  I’m now thinking of how in the world I can alert someone to come deal with this without stopping the message and causing a scene.  I’m thinking I’m not talented enough to text and preach at the same time, so that wasn’t a possibility.  At this point, I’m just begging for someone to walk in that can take care of this.

Then the guy gets up and walks out the side door to the rest of the campus.  I took a time out, turned to the college student, Meredith, and said, “Get Matt and get him to deal with this guy.”  She pops into my office and he isn’t in there.  So she has to deal with it herself.  So as I’m still preaching, I’m keeping an eye on what is going on and see the guy make his way towards the back and on out the doors.  Never a dull moment!

Warning About “Incognito

This is a warning for parents out there about new browser options that allow a computer to not trace where you have been.  They say that it is for public computer use when you are looking at personal information, but it is becoming known for surfing porn without leaving fingerprints.  Here’s a link that talks about it.  I advise parents to check it out and take the necessary steps to protect your children.  It’s not enough to just check the history, but it is an absolute MUST in my mind to have your family computer in a public room with lots of traffic.  DO NOT allow your child to have their computer in their room.  Temptation abounds and it is a recipe for spiritual disaster.

Speaking of pornography, here is a helpful article by David Powlison about dealing with it from a biblical perspective.

The Pointlessness of Politics

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is the season that I abhor politics.  I have grown tired of both options and wish we had an option where we could tell them to disappear and find two better options.  I feel used as a Republican leaning person and helf hostage over the issue of abortion.  It seems that some politicians know that they can get your vote as long as they vote pro-life when the opportunity arises.  I grow frustrated with a government that can’t spend responsibly and waste my hard earned money.  It kills me that in order to pass the bail out bill, they had to attach billions of dollars of pork to serve their own interests.  It frustrates me that no candidate can be truthful and approach his job with integrity.  They both lie.  They both twist the truth.  They both present a picture that isn’t representative of reality.  It frustrates me that good candidates are ‘unelectable’ because of perceived flaws and their penchant to tell it like it is.  All of this, amongst other things, has pushed my heart to yearn the ruling of Christ.

No matter how much any candidate promotes hope, it will not be found in political reform.  Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3:24, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”  Our only hope is found in God.  Not in politicians, not in elections.  So next time you feel frustrated, remind yourself of the day when Christ will rule on earth in righteousness.

Am I Now a Satisfied Boston Fan?

The Sox find themselves facing another 3-1 defecit, with game 5 tonight.  Their pitching is in shambles, their hitters are confused.  And I’m fine if they lose tonight.  I realized this the other day.  Normally, I would feel a sense of devestation and frustration, but now I know that, “Well, it wasn’t our year.”  I’ve seen more wins in the last few years than at any time in my life.  My two favorite teams have 3 championships in the last 4 years, and both are threatening to do it again.  I never thought I would get to this point, but I’d be fine if they lost tonight, and I wouldn’t be very disappointed.  Now I turn to the Celtics and Cowboys for two more teams making a championship push.  I’m so spoiled now.

Just because I thought this was funny