PASTOR TIM COWELL
"If we're going to evangelize a culture, we can't start with the gospel. That's the big mistake in much of modern evangelism...You can't start with the gospel because they don't understand what their relationship is to the law of God."-John MacArthur
“To keep our souls in a constant state of mourning and self abasement is the most necessary part of our wisdom.” John Owen, Mortification
God Moves In A Mysterious Way
By William Cowper
- God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
- Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
- Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
- Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
- His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
- Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
This year's Camp Regeneration crew. What a great bunch!
The reports are just now rolling in from Camp Regeneration in Glorietta, NM. Pictured here with Pastor MacArthur is my daughter, Lily, with her good friend Grace Ballard from Liberty Bible Church in Plain City.
Another incredibly successful Good News Club outreach. I am amazed at the stamina and focus of this year's team. Two clubs at two new locations every day this week including extreme prep, set up, snacks, songs, teaching, missionary biographies, games, and clean up. God answered all our prayers as the Gospel message was spread, and life long relationships established. All for Christ's glory (1 Cor. 10:31)
An astonishing 50 kids at good news clubs yesterday and the numbers continue to grow every day. Praise God!
It's easy to feel like a small fish in a big pond here in Utah. But every once in a while God reminds us of how important it is that we are here. I felt that way today as I read what Bernie Sanders tried to do to ruin Russell Vought's chances to be named to President Trump's cabinet.
Naturally we expect that an unbeliever like Sanders would hate Vought for his integrity and solid adherence to Christian doctrine. But what I didn't see coming was the following exchange.
“I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about,” Sanders said. “I will vote no.”
The next two senators who spoke also stepped into the fight. Cory Gardner, the Republican senator from Colorado, chastised Sanders: “I hope that we are not questioning the faith of others, and how they interpret their faith to themselves,” he said.
Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland defended [Sanders]: “I don’t think anybody was questioning anybody’s faith here,” he said. Van Hollen said it’s “irrefutable” that comments like Vought’s suggest to many that he’s condemning all people who aren’t Christians. And he asserted that Vought’s view of his faith is wrong: “I’m a Christian, but part of being a Christian, in my view, is recognizing that there are lots of ways that people can pursue their God,” Van Hollen said.
Now I try to stay clear of politics unless they help me clarify the Gospel. But this helps bring clarity in another way. The need for churches that teach good doctrine. How can a man call himself a Christian and not believe the exclusive nature of the Gospel? This is a primary doctrine. What kind of church would let him express such blasphemy. The fact is...JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO ETERNAL LIFE (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). If Van Hollen were at my church, I would have to call him to repent of his false doctrine. If he refused, our church would most definitely discipline him as a heretic. I desperately wish Van Hollen's church, if he even has one that would claim him, would call him to account.
2 Timothy 4:16 "At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them."
Praise God that so many children came to Good News Club today!!! We had our biggest turnout ever by far with 17 kids. This is a true lesson in faith and perseverance. It seems like only a few weeks ago we were so discouraged because we had a club day when no children showed up (Hebrews 11:6).
"True Christian community is something few believers ever experience because it requires that each individual let go of self and allow his life to be poured out on behalf of others...it means a willingness to die to our own interests, our own reputation, our own rights, our own way of doing things, our own comfort, convenience, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. To die means to lay it all down. To give it all up. To let it all go." Nancy Leigh Demoss,The Quiet Place
Satan is a finite being. That means he has to deal with people one at a time. If that is true, and it is, then it is likely that neither you nor anyone you know has ever been tempted by Satan. And if Satan isn't tempting us, and we know that God never tempts us to sin, we have only ourselves to blame when we respond sinfully to life circumstances. We must remember that the Bible says that we are clay pots, refuse containers in which the treasure of the Gospel is delivered to a dying and condemned world. This knowledge is especially helpful when people treat us this way.
“Luther has nothing in his mouth but privies filth and dung with which he plays the buffoon...He would cast into his mouth the dung which other men would spit out into a basin. If he would leave off the folly and rage and the till now too familiar mad ravings, if he will swallow down his filth and lick up the dung with which he has so foully defiled his tongue and his pen…to carry nothing in his mouth but the bilge water sewers, privies, filth, and dung. We will take timely counsel whether we wish to leave this mad friarlet and privy minded rascal with his ragings and ravings with his filth and dung…” --Sir Thomas More, Responsio Ad Lutherum, 1523
“The great bellweather of disturbance and sedition, a person who would have vied with Mohammed himself, both for boldness and imposture, a viper so swollen with venom that it must either burst or spit its poison.” Directed to John Owen by critic named “Parker”
Thought for the day: There are hundreds if not thousands of religions in the world. I see this as proof positive that the vast majority of people are going to hell (Matthew 7:13-14). Many people say, "They can't all be wrong can they?" But I look at it from the opposite angle--"They can't all be right." This is because of the 'Law Of Noncontradiction', which states that "Two statements that contradict each other cannot both be true." And we all know that each religion contains statements that contradict other religions. So as one of my neighbors astutely pointed out, "Doesn't it just depend on where you were born?" She's right. If you are born in China, you will most likely be a Buddhist. If you are born in India, you will most likely be Hindu. If you are born in Saudi Arabia, you will most likely be Muslim. If you are born in the Bible Belt, you will most likely be a Christian. And yes...If you are born in Utah, you will probably be a Mormon. But that doesn't mean that everybody's right, it just means that everybody's wrong. There is only one right (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), and just because many people born in America happen to identify with the right religion, doesn't mean they are going to heaven (Matthew 7:22-23).
It is always interesting to me what my children latch on to from the pulpit. My kids have heard hundreds of MacArthur sermons and yesterday my son cited one of them. MacArthur was talking about how he came to be married to Patricia and Titus said, "John Macarthur said he knew she was the one because she was so generous...you could see it in her sandwiches."
1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."
Tonight marked the end of Shepherd's conference 2017. It was a great time of fellowship and hours and hours of instruction from the most gifted Bible expositors of our time. Some 4,500 pastors and church leaders were there to celebrate and help mark the 500th Anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. It was great to get to know Pastor Casey Ballard (Liberty Bible Church in Plain City) better as we traveled together. Casey and I went to TMS around the same time. Below are some pictures from our trip.
Exactly twenty years ago today, I asked Sylvia Roxanne Olivares to marry me. She has turned out to be the perfect help-mate for me, particularly in ministry. She loves the Lord with all her heart and she is completely submissive to His will. I am amazed at what the Lord accomplishes through her. Unselfishness is her defining trait.
"I cannot understand how you theologians and preachers can apply to the Church Scripture promises, which, in their plain meaning apply to God’s chosen people, Israel and to Palestine and which consequently must be future. The prophetic books are full of teachings which, if they are interpreted literally, would be inspiring, and a magnificent assurance of a great and glorious future; but which, as they are spiritualized, become farcical…as applied to the Church they are a comedy." -Robert Louis Stevenson, 19th Century Author and Scottish Presbyterian
Our daughter Ella amazed us all today by taking 1st place in her very first gymnastics competition she has ever competed in. Thanks to coach Bev Lloyd of Heber Handspringers and her encouragement from the moment we arrived in Utah.
"Grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God's master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons." - Samuel Rutherford
It was wonderful to have the Blair family stay with us this week. Pastor Rob and I served on staff together for a few years at Fellowship In The Pass Church in Beaumont, CA.
“I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to talk to us. Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this: That we allow ourselves to talk to us, instead of talking to ourselves…Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself…The main art in the matter of spiritual living, is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have address yourself, you have to question yourself, preach to yourself. You must say to your soul—“Why art thou cast down? What business have you to be disquieted?” You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself and say to yourself—“Hope thou in God!” instead of muttering in this depressed unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note…Defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world and say with this man—“I shall again praise Him for the help of his countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God. ” (D. M. Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression)
“We have turned the love of God and the Gospel of Christ into a divine endorsement of our delight in many lesser things, especially the delight in our being made much of. The acid test of Biblical God centeredness and faithfulness to the Gospel is this—Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, OR because at the cost of His Son He enables you to enjoy making much of Him forever. Our fatal error is believing that wanting to be made happy means wanting to be made much of. It feels so good to be affirmed. But the good feeling is finally rooted in the worth of self, not the worth of God. This path to happiness is an illusion. There are clues in every human heart even before their conversion to Christ, and one of those clues is that no one goes to the Grand Canyon, or the Alps to increase his self-esteem. That is not what happens in front of massive deeps and majestic heights. This distortion of divine love into an endorsement of self-admiration is subtle, it creeps into our most religious acts. We claim to be praising God because of His love for us, but if His love for us is, at bottom, His making much of us--Who is really being praised? We are willing to be God centered, it seems, as long as God is man-centered. We are willing to boast in the cross as long as the cross is a witness to our worth. Who then is our pride and joy?” John Piper, Introduction to God Is The Gospel
"I understand that one of the most accurate ways to detect and measure the activity of God is to note the amount of opposition that is present. The stronger the persecution, the more significant the spiritual vitality of the believers. Surprisingly, all too often, persecutors sense the activity of God before the believing participants even realize the significance of what is happening." -Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected
Thanksgiving to God is my favorite thing to do!
1 Samuel 7:12 "Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."
"Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die." Ezekiel 18:27-28
My long time Brother in the Lord, Uncle Charlie, came out from Texas for a visit. So we are driving up Guardsman's Pass in Midway on our way to Silver Lake in Brighton, and we are admiring the flaming Red Maples and golden Yellow Aspen trees and Lily asks if we can stop on the side of the road and just blaze our own trail into the forest. We all agree. We get about a quarter mile into the forest and I snap some wonderful shots and all of a sudden Uncle Charlie shouts out "Moose!". I turned to look and there was a bull, a cow, and a calf all about 50 yards off. A whole family. I snuck up to within about 15 feet and snapped these pictures. All because Lily asked us to stop in the middle of nowhere. I love that kid.
God gave me this quote for my birthday...
“Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” -Charles Spurgeon.
I just returned from my first experience at the Exalting Christ Conference held at the home of Cornerstone Seminary and Community Bible Church in Vallejo, CA. Dr. Bruce Ware was among the main speakers. It was a wonderful time getting to know Tim and Therese Menez, and staying at their home in Clayton. I also enjoyed meeting Pastor Tony Sanelli of Grace Bible Church in Pleasant Hill, CA and Pastor Scott Menez of Riverbend Community Church in Ormond Beach, FL. A pleasant and somewhat unexpected surprise was running into several TMS alumni.
Today our family completed our first 5k run at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City along with the Odom family.
My crew. They may not all be spiritual giants (although some of them certainly are), but they always believe God for the future and love what He is accomplishing. It's always better to do things His way.
Ecclesiastes 5:7 For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.
This Sunday marked the four year anniversary of our church. I am just flat amazed at how God keeps us going (Romans 8:31).
More pictures from the Good News club outreach.
This is Good News "5 Day Club" week and we are running three clubs. One in Midway, one in Kamas, and one in Park City. Today was and incredibly successful day in Kamas with over 30 kids registered so far.
Also enjoy this video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COrTLcirwbs
A missionary in the jungles of New Guinea caught the spirit of our Christian faith in these words:
“Man, it is great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old devil’s heaviest guns, to have him at you with depression and discouragement, slander, disease. He doesn’t waste time on the lukewarm bunch. He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back. When you’re on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up, and some don’t bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on mourning? No, sir. That’ the time to pull out the stops and shout, Hallelujah! The old fellow’s getting it in the neck and hitting back.” (Ray Stedman, Spiritual Warfare)
Today we completed our Vacation Bible School program. We stand amazed at God's goodness. To enjoy the video summary click this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ii4IOJRWcuo
"...But the people who know their God will display strength and take action." Daniel 11:32b
We have a new kitty in the neighborhood. These pictures were taken yesterday at a house walking distance from the church.
Today marks a very important day in the life of a man who is very important to me personally. Pastor Walter Price retired from 32 years of ministry at Fellowship In The Pass Church in Beaumont, CA. He is the pastor who ordained me and our family cherishes him as the best head pastor we have ever had the honor of submitting our lives to. Thank you Pastor for your amazing example and faithful declaration of God's truth.
I still feel like I am descending from a mountain top after attending the 2016 Shepherd's conference with David Ferranti, Richard White, and Charlie Hernandez. I don't think I have ever been to a more uplifting, spirit filled, Bible centered conference. The speaking line-up was much better than last year, and by that I mainly mean it wasn't so academic and philosophical. Praise God!!!
We all came away with a sense that what we are doing is super important and that numbers don't matter and suffering is to be expected as success is measured in our faithfulness to THE MESSAGE. The accommodations were amazing, the volunteers served joyfully, and the fellowship was unprecedented. I haven't laughed and cried like that for years. Paul Washer was my personal favorite speaker but Steve Lawson was excellent as usual and Al Mohler, Nathan Busenitz, and Ligon Duncan were memorable as well. Phil Johnson was vintage telling us to avoid the temptation to be "Clever, Coy, or Cool". I also loved Dr. Barrick's helpful seminar on reaching Muslims with the Gospel...I saw a lot of paralells with Mormons. I have a renewed zeal for ministry which I believe is the goal of Shepherd's Conference. Thank you Pastor MacArthur.
Richard White points to our church on the Grace Advance display at Shepherd's Conference.
Praise God! We ordained our first Elder today after three years exactly. David Willis is a man I am deeply grateful to God for. I am confident that he will faithfully serve this body as long as he and his family are here.
Sometimes life doesn't make sense, and I've found that usually humans are at the center of the confusion.
"The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9
1 Peter 3:16 And keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
1 Corinthians 4:3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.
"In a world in which the sovereign holy God regularly employs plagues, famines, wars, disease, and death as instruments to punish sin and bring mankind to repentance, the idolatrous image of God as pure benevolence and love cannot really be believed, let alone feared and worshiped in the manner prescribed by both the Old Testament and New Testament.” --Richard Lovelace
* It's strange how a hundred dollars seems like such a large amount when you donate it to church, but such a small amount when you go shopping.
* It's strange how 2 hours seem so long when you're at church, and how short they seem when you're watching a good movie.
* It's strange that you can't find words to say when you're praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend.
* It's strange how difficult it is to read one chapter of the Bible, but how easy it is to read a popular novel.
* It's strange how everyone wants front-row-tickets to concerts, but they want to sit in the last row at Church.
* It's strange how we need to know about an event for Church 2 - 3 weeks before the day so we can include it in our agenda, but we can adjust our schedule for other events in the last minute?
* It's strange how difficult it is to learn a fact about God and share it with others, but it's easy to repeat gossip.
* It's strange how we believe everything that magazines and newspapers say, but we question the words in the Bible?
The Mighty Men
2 Samuel 16:6
Churches that start with a foundation of deception look like this.
As my daughter and I pulled into the church parking lot this morning, the temperature gauge read minus 15 degrees! No wonder we had a low turnout for church today. We were quite literally "The Frozen Chosen".
Brrrrrr...You know it's cold when your hands feel like frostbite in your own office. Just got done shoveling the church entry for the second time this week. Next week it looks like snow for six straight days. Hope my snowblower returns from the repair shop in time. Should be a very wonderful white Christmas this year.
This post is just me trying to be a little more circumspect than usual.
Ephesians 5:15 "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise..."
A few days ago I realized that we had just passed the third year anniversary of my call to pastor this church (Nov. 11, 2012). At the same time I stumbled across a helpful article written by Thom Rainer who is a trusted authority in Southern Baptism circles, especially at the Seminary level. I wanted to share this as it affords some wise things to consider, not only for GFBC, but for any church with a relatively new pastor.
Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Reasons for the Third Year Departure
- The honeymoon was over from the church's perspective. The church began seeing the imperfections in the pastor's ministry. Many brought concerns about those imperfections to the pastor.
- The honeymoon was over from the pastor's perspective. Some of the promises made by those who first sought the pastor were unfulfilled. Some of the pastors indeed felt they were misled.
- When a new pastor arrives, most church members have their own expectations of the pastor. But it is impossible to meet everyone's expectations. By the third year, some of the members become disillusioned and dissatisfied.
- Typically by the third year, the church has a number of new members who arrived under the present pastor's tenure. Similarly, some of the members who preceded the pastor have died or moved away. The new members seem great in number to existing members. Some are threatened by these changes.
- In any longer term relationship, that which seems quaint and charming can become irritating and frustrating. The pastor's quirks thus become the pastor's faults.
- All relationships have seasons. None of them can remain on an emotional "high."
Possible Ways to Address the Third Year
Here are a few ways to address that dangerous third year of a pastor's ministry. None are a panacea; but some may be helpful.
The third year of pastoral tenure does not necessarily have to be dangerous; but it is many times.
- Have an awareness of the possibility of a third year letdown. It is not unusual, and you are not alone.
- Be prepared for the down season to last a while. The dropout rates for pastors in years four and five were pretty high as well.
- Surround the pastor with prayer. Be intentional about praying for the pastor's emotional, physical, and spiritual strength during this season.
- Keep the church outwardly focused as much as possible. Church members who are focused inwardly tend to be more critical and dissatisfied.
- Be aware that pastors who make it through these seasons are usually stronger on the other side. Their churches are as well.
- Church members need to be highly intentional about encouraging the pastor and the pastor's family. While they always need encouragement, they really need it during this season.
One thing that I know for sure is that I am expendable for the Lord's work here in Utah. If He wants to clear the slate and start over, it's entirely within His prerogative to do that. But my hope and prayer is that I will be at this church for the rest of my life.
In our day, people are applauded for seeking truth but ironically when they find it they are vilified as intolerant.
Galatians 4:16 "Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?"
Our family just returned from spending a week in Dallas, TX with the Hernandez family. The Lord blessed the time beyond our wildest expectations. An added benefit was worshipping the Lord on Sunday at Living Hope Bible Church in Mansfield. Below is a picture of the Pastor, Brent Osterberg posing with Charlie Hernandez and myself. Pastor Brent also graduated from Grace Advance and got his M.Div. at Southwestern Baptist Theological in Fort Worth, TX. Living Hope Bible was planted in June of this year. The church meets in a Karate studio.
Another baptism Sunday today! Praise God that He is gracious to open more and more eyes (John 3:3). A special thanks to Holiday Inn Express in Heber and their general manager Jeremy for letting us use the heated pool.
These are the people I have been praying for since we arrived in Utah. Thank you Jesus!
Our church is coming down from a mountain top church experience this weekend with the team that came out from Cornerstone Church in Jackson, WY. We spent Saturday serving one of the families in our church at their property in Coalville and on Sunday Bryan Chassard, a fellow TMS grad, filled the pulpit. Their church plant is about four years older than ours and their history was immensely encouraging to our body.
Today we were able ordain our first deacon, David Willis. Another amazing milestone in our church's history. God is so faithful. (1 Timothy 3:12-13).
On Baptism Sunday we had three Baptisms scheduled. But what many of you don’t know is that we actually had five baptisms. One person decided to follow the Holy Spirit's lead and get baptized even though they were not on the schedule. And then, unbeknownst to me, I baptized my cell phone…
And there were many people rejoicing about that because they thought that it meant that I would finally transition to a smart phone. It’s true, I am the only pastor I know that doesn’t use a smart phone. I guess you could psychoanalyze that. Please don’t. But what they didn’t know is that I have a backup dinosaur phone, which I will now be using.
My point is that I am not Mr. Technology and I am very comfortable with that. I try to only learn new technology if I have to. But I am very grateful for people around me who are up on technology. I am very impressed by what they can do. And on occasion they bless me with their knowledge. Recently one of our new members purchased an IMac for the church and ProPresenter software. I remember when our church in California used that software. I never thought I would be the pastor of a church that uses it. Praise God for people in the body who move us along into the 21st Century. I look forward to how God will use it and how He will interface my 20th Century ways with this cutting edge equipment. (1 Cor. 10:31)
"A faith which does not transform character and reform conduct is worthless. Saving faith is proved to be genuine by bearing the blossoms of godliness and personal piety." Arthur Pink, 1937.
My new favorite worship song:
"You Are Sovereign Over Us" by Aaron Keyes
There is strength within the sorrow, There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning, With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting, Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding, You're teaching us to trust
Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever, Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
You are wisdom unimagined, Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens, Reaching down in endless grace
You?re the Lifter of the lowly, Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me, Your promises are my delight
Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good, You turn it for our good and for your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
You?re working for our good, You?re working for our good and for your glory
God has brought GFBC through times of famine and heartache. But now there is joy, unity, hope, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. People are getting saved, and following the Lord in obedience. Thank you Jesus!!!
"God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called."
On Sunday, after two and a half years, our church celebrated a milestone with our very first Baptism service. It was the largest gathering in our church’s history with almost sixty people present to witness four individuals declare their allegiance to Christ at Deer Creek Reservoir which is located about five miles from our church building.
Naturally, our church is in mourning over the recent SCOTUS June 26th decision to endorse homosexuality, the very sin God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for practicing (Genesis 19). In so doing our nation has most certainly invited the curse of Romans 1. However, the marvelous spectacle of these people publicly standing for Jesus is, by contrast, cause for great rejoicing.
"To convert a sinner from his eternal doom is an event of far greater significance than the deliverance of an entire nation from temporal evil." -John MacArthur, 5/24/15
After church today I took the kids down to the river. We filled up our inner tubes and started floating. Last summer I made about 5 complete trips from the Midway bridge down the Provo river to Deer Creek Reservoir. It's one of my favorite things to do because it is amazing to me that such pristine settings are within walking distance of my home. In the past I have only seen birds and small game. But today I was in for a big surprise. The whole trip down the river takes about and hour and fifteen minutes. Most of the trip is quite mild. The only things you need to watch out for is sharp sticks which will pop your tube (and possibly you), and big boulders just under the water's surface that can bruise your bum pretty bad.
After playing with the kids in the water, Sylvia arrived on her bicycle and I set out. About a mile down the river I encountered a pair of Sandhill Cranes. Then, a little further, a huge Osprey. I was deligthed to see two Trout fish jump out of the water and cross eachother in midair. How do they do that? Next up was a beaver swimming across the river. Then I came across two deer drinking out of the river. They spooked as I passed by and yelled "hello". I had never seen deer on any of my past journeys down the river. I encountered about five different fly fisherman along the way. They were a little annoyed by me (especially the one I almost bumped into). Toward the very end, the last half mile or so there was a bend in the river and as I came around the corner I couldn't believe what I saw. Standing on the western shore was a massive bull Moose. Words cannot describe what I was feeling at the time. I had never seen a bull moose in the wild before. I froze in a combination of fear and wonder. His anterlers were so huge. He was at least seven feet tall. Then I noticed my tube was headed straight for him. I had a paddle but I didn't want to do anything to upset him. Then when I was about 15 feet away he started to back up and then he turned to run. I was so relieved. But then he must have had a change of mind. He turned and came back, this time with his legs firmly planted right on the water's edge. By this time my tube was about a foot away from him floating at an excruciatingly slow pace. I dared not look at him in the eye as his majestic head towered directly above me. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that he was knodding at me. His waddle was about about 14 inches and it was swinging in all directions. I prayed to God that he wasn't about to charge. I would be dead if he did. As I passed by I took great interest in my own belly button. I didn't feel safe until I was about 20 feet away. At that point I did look up to see that he was tracking me like a bloodhound. Finally, he stepped into the river and crossed effortlessly. Then he jumped into the tall grass and disappeared. I did not have a camera but I sifted through the pictures of moose on the internet to try to find the one that looked most like the one I encountered.
My family needs a new car. Our transmission is going out on our minivan. Estimates are $2,500-$3,000 to fix. I was looking at the Bugatti Veyron. It has a topspeed of 254 mph. Apparently you can get one for about $1.5 million. Actually I know a much easier way to get one. I could just take one for a test drive and not return it. But I guess the problem with that is that the thrill would be very temporary. So temporary in fact, that I would be a complete fool to try it. So temporary in fact, that I am not even tempted to try it. It's that obvious that the Veyron is not, and never will be, part of Tim Cowell's life (although I understand Simon Cowell has one up for sale).
For those struggling with adulterous thoughts out there. The other person is the Veyron. You can't have that person. The thrill would be so temporary that you would be a fool to forsake all the good things in your life for him or her. You shouldn't even be tempted. Get real. Are you going to exchange your whole life for a feel good moment? It would make Satan's day--but you wouldn't get anything but pain. You would end up looking like this guy.
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life." Galatians 6:7-8
Had a great two day visit from Carl Hargrove, the new director of Grace Advance. The white guy with tattoos is Andy Lynch, the pastor of Stansbury Park Baptist Church (A Grace Advance revitalization church) in Tooele.
Imaginary conversation with a Jehovah's Witness
JW: Jesus is not God.
Chr: What do you mean?
JW: I mean Jesus is not the one and only true God Jehovah.
Chr: O.k., so when the Bible says "God," what does it mean?
JW: That depends on the context. In one place, the Bible calls Satan "the god". The word "God" can be used many ways.
Chr: I see. So if the Bible says "The Church of God," what does it mean by "God"?
JW: Well in that case, it does mean the one true God of heaven.
Chr: I see. One more question. When the Bible says--"Shepherd the Church of God, which He purchased with His own blood" in Acts 20:28, who is it calling the one true God of heaven?
On Tuesday of last week I heard that Mark Kleven had passed away during the night. Many of you may know that he was the single most influential person on me over the first decade of my new life in Christ (1993-2003). He was also a big brother to me and my closest friend during that time. I have done many funerals and many tributes over the years, but this tribute will be different because Mark shaped who I am today more than anyone. His life mattered.
My relationship with Mark began in December of 1993. It was at that time that I became baptized and I started attending the college class at Eagle Rock Baptist Church. It was called “Crossroads.” Mark had just taken over the teaching responsibilities from Roger Baker. Mark was almost 40 at the time. I was 19.
At my Baptism I gave my testimony and said that I was willing to do anything for Jesus. I said, “My life is a blank check made out to God. He can cash it however He wants.” Within a month Doogie Costello asked if I would go to Africa, Paul Ferguson asked if I would be a youth worker, and Mark Kleven asked if I would take over as president of the college class as Garrett Miyahira was moving on with Roger. I remembered my promise to God…so I said yes to all three.
With the two of us leading Crossroads together we immediately began a deep friendship. Add to that the fact that we both loved baseball (especially the Dodgers), we had both just broken up with the person that we had thought we were going to marry, and, most of all, we both knew that our singular passion in life was to serve God—The Lord knew Mark would be the ideal man to disciple me. Mark’s leadership style was simple. Model the Christian life, and give the Holy Spirit plenty of room. We did Boyscamp ministry together, and also the Union Rescue Mission ministry (at both the Union St. location and the San Pedro St. location). I can still picture Mark, standing in front of hundreds of homeless men, preaching powerful messages, hollering and waving his hands to keep them from dozing off, with his little paperback Bible in hand. We would all smile when he really got going. We went witnessing on Brand Blvd. in Glendale, visited shut-ins and brought them cookies we had made in the church kitchen. My favorite time of the week was Tuesday night Bible Study. We’d start with singing and fellowship. Then Mark would teach a lesson. Then would come the prayer time. Oh boy. Those prayer times were most memorable. Nobody had any guile or pretention. People just poured out their hearts for hours. If anyone’s prayer lasted less than fifteen minutes we all felt cheated. Often we would be on our knees until midnight (Mark had bad knees from playing too much baseball, but that didn’t stop him from praying on his knees). That’s how I was raised in the faith. Praying for hours. I thank my big brother for that.
I loved all those things about Mark but the one characteristic I loved most was his perpetual availability. If I ever needed Mark (these were the days before cell phones), I knew exactly three places to look. First, I could go knock on the door of the trailer where he lived in his parents driveway. Sometimes, I would knock on that door in the middle of the night, and he would always welcome me in. Second, if he wasn’t in his trailer, I could find him walking up and down Colorado Blvd. wearing a t-shirt and shorts, listening to sermons on his Walkman (I do this myself now, but I use an MP3 player). He loved MacArthur, Sproul and Kennedy. But if he wasn’t in one of those two places, I knew just where to find him--guaranteed. He would be sitting in a booth at Burger King, reading his Bible. I can remember knocking on the glass and him looking up and smiling. We had many good heart to hearts over a Whopper and fries.
I learned so much from him over the phone. I could ask him any question and he was ready with an answer, like he’d been thinking about it for weeks already. Sometimes I would ask him difficult questions. One time I said, “Mark, I feel like I’m blind to the way people perceive me. How do you perceive me?” He thought for a moment and said, “Timmy, you are like a bull in a china shop. But I’ll have that over these Christians that are just sittin’ around on their fanny all day.” I had never heard the phrase “bull in a china shop” before—but it really helped me. Another time Sylvia and I had just parted ways with a church and I called him to commiserate. I said, “Mark, something was wrong, but I don’t know what it was. I can’t put my finger on it. We were just so miserable there.” After listening to some symptoms, Mark said, “I’ll tell you what was wrong. That’s a seeker sensitive church!” I was mystified. I had never heard the term before. But Mark patiently explained the term to me and he was 100% right.
The last ministry venture we ever did together before he and Julieta moved to Lancaster was the missions trip to Moldova in 2000. He led that trip. People who know me know that I don’t travel well…especially overseas. We had been traveling for 27 hours when we finally pulled into the village of Rascaeti. I was exhausted and nauseous. Reading from my memoirs—“By this time I was at my breaking point. I cannot ever remember feeling so tired in all my life. It was painful. I began entertaining thoughts of demanding to be taken to our lodging. I thought about screaming. I thought about just passing out on the muddy road. I couldn’t even pray. I sensed that I was becoming delirious and I hoped that I wouldn’t do anything I would regret later.” My waning levels of endurance must have become apparent to Mark. The local Pastor, John Cernat, pulled up to the bottom of a muddy hillside in the rain because his Escort could not make it up the hill to the home we were staying at. We would have to hike up the hill in pitch black darkness in pouring rain, carrying all of our luggage (four large suitcases and two carry-ons). Without hesitating, Mark and Pastor John literally took the bags from us. They had our personal suitcases on their backs and the VBS suitcases in their free hands. Again from my memoirs—“With each step our shoes got heavier as they collected more of the signature Moldovan mud. Then we started up another hill. We all were slipping and sliding, just short of totally losing our balance. Then the inevitable happened. Mark slipped and fell in a big puddle of mud. His light blue, almost white, jeans had suddenly become saturated with the dark liquid that was probably 90% animal waste. But he just laughed and got right up with a smile. I didn’t appreciate it then as much as I do now but I promise I will never forget it.” It’s true. I can still remember Mark’s Christianity in action which fit so well with his life verse—Philippians 3:10.
"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers - and it was not there in her fertile fields and boundless forests - and it was not there in rich mines and her vast world commerce - and it was not there in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution - and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
- Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy In America
The GFBC kiddos rarin' to go pass out Mother's Day flowers to our ladies (1 Timothy 2:15). Pauly's debut at two years old went surprisingly well as he successfully brought Noni a Gerber Daisy.
"You have to come to God hungering and thirsting for righteousness, not believing that you have it. Hell will be full of people that admired the sermon on the mount." -John MacArthur
We've been talking a lot about Church Membership at our church the last few weeks. When wrestling with this subject, the following delineations have been very helpful to me.
Primary Issues- If you do not believe this, you are not a Christian (These issues cover the doctrine of God, the Bible, Mankind, Sin, Judgment, and Salvation)
Secondary Issues- If you don't believe this, you could be a Christian but we may not be able to be members of the same church (These issues usually stem from the church's statement of beliefs. For instance, someone who believes that the sign gifts are still active in the modern church, would be completely out of alignment with a church that teaches that the sign gifts have ceased).
Tertiary Issues- If you do not believe this, you could be a Christian and we both could very easily be members at the same church. (These issues are usually interpretive in nature and do not have a direct effect on belief and practice. An example would be the identity of the Anti-Christ in end times theology.)
“The church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)
That’s why society sees the Church as the enemy. The Church is always making an issue out of the Bible. If it wasn’t for the church, the Bible would just be sitting on a dusty Library shelf somewhere…not being read. The church exists to champion the Scriptures. That’s why we’re here! Our purpose is to be a burr in the saddle of those who preach tolerance. We preach the polar opposite of tolerance. We preach Christ crucified and that was no random act of kindness.
I absolutely love these kids. God has given them each a unique personality for His glory.
When I think of Mark Dever, I think of a man who holds fast to the ancient ways (even though he was educated at Oxford).
Jeremiah 6:16-"Thus says the LORD, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it."
Today I am at Shepherds Conference with two men that came with me from Utah. There are 4,500 pastors here. I don't get to hang out with MacArthur or Begg or Mohler, but I did have an amazing experience this morning. I got to meet Burt and Sam. They started Grace community church in a kitchen in someone's home. They purchased the property where it is now located, and Burt built the current worship and admin building. These men were medicine to my soul as they not only have a fifty plus year history of faithfulness to their church and Pastor, but they were still out serving the body even though both are in their 80's. They come early early morning to welcome all the conference attendees. Besides their wives, there are no other charter members left among the 10,000 plus members at Grace.
“There is no panic in Heaven! God has no problems, only plans.” -Corrie Ten Boom
Former Megachurch Pastor Rob Bell: A Church That Doesn't Support Gay Marriage Is 'Irrelevant'
Hmmm...I think the only thing I like about this headline is the first word.
Psalm 19:14 "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD my Rock and my Redeemer."
"Sinner, tell God your misery even now and He will hear your story! He is willing to listen, even, to that sad and wretched tale of yours about your multiplied transgressions, your hardness of heart, your rejections of Christ. Tell Him all, for He will hear it. Tell him what it is you need—what large mercy—what great forgiveness! Just lay your whole case before Him. Do not hesitate for a single moment! He will hear it." -Charles Haddon Spurgeon
"There never was His like amongst the choicest of princes, He's always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold, He always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on His shoulders. If He bids us carry a burden, He carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea, lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in Him...His service is life, peace, and joy. O that you would enter on it at once. God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day." -Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Final sermon, June 7, 1891)
Yesterday Lily quoted this verse at dinner from her private devotions.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you: And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you." Isaiah 43:2
In case I have failed to post this quote from Steve Lawson before:
"If you please God, it doesn't matter whom you displease.
But if you displease God, it doesn't matter whom you please."
Tonight we had a blessed Christmas Eve Service complete with a kids program, worship and a reminder from God's word about the most incredible gift ever given (Ephesians 2:8-9).
On our way to church this morning, Lily spotted two bald eagles in flight about a half mile from our house in Midway. We stopped to take some pictures and video of the beautiful birds. It was the first time any of us have ever seen eagles in the wild. "Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?... From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off." Job 39:27, 29
Today I had the privilege of waiting tables at the 2014 Christmas Tea. I can't imagine a better Christmas gift than to see Christ honored in so many ways. The rich fellowship, the rejoicing over the Christ centered message brought by our own Debbie Willis, my lovely wife leading the singing, and the incredible servant hearts of all who were there!
Whether it was by counsel of others, or of Queen Mary's own desire, we know not, but the Queen spake with John Knox at Holyrood and had long reasoning with him, none being present except the Lord James Stewart, while two gentlewomen stood in the other end of the house.
At one stage in the interview, John Knox pleaded the case of the true church of Christ which he was determined to represent.
Queen Mary: "Yea, but ye are not the Kirk [church] that I will nourish. I will defend the Kirk of Rome, for it is, I think, the true Kirk of God."
John Knox: "Your will, Madam, is no reason; neither doth your thought make that Roman harlot to be the true and immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ. Wonder not, Madam, that I call Rome an harlot; for that Church is altogether polluted with all kind of spiritual fornication, as well in doctrine as in manners. Yea, Madam, I offer myself to prove, that the Church of the Jews which crucified Christ Jesus, was not so far degenerate from the ordinances which God gave by Moses and Aaron unto His people, when they manifestly denied the Son of God, as the Church of Rome is declined, and more than five hundred years hath declined, from the purity of that religion which the Apostles taught and planted."
Queen Mary "My conscience is not so."
John Knox: "Conscience, Madam, requireth knowledge; and I fear that of right knowledge, ye have none."
Knox’s conclusion of the Queen after the interview was: "If there be not in her a proud mind, a crafty wit, and an indurate heart against God and His truth, my judgment faileth me."
This is a very astute observation. I don't know anything about the author or the website, but the sentiment is dead right.
"LDS doctrine is subject to sudden reversals. While other churches cling to the Bible, Mormons believe new revelations can overthrow past injunctions, including those written in scripture. “Nowhere does the Bible proclaim that all revelations from God would be gathered into a single volume to be forever closed,” the church contends." ("Divine Revision: How Mormons Will Come To Accept Homosexuality", By William Saletan, www.slate.com, 11-12-2014)
2 Chronicles 36:15 And the LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place;
16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
Today Apple CEO Tim Cook had this to say in an opinion editorial published by Bloomberg Businessweek.
"So let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."
This statement reminds me of the Apostle Paul's editorial in Romans.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,...For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error...and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." (Romans 1:18, 26-27, 32)
Is it any wonder that the logo for Apple is fruit with a bite out of it?
Today at 12:05pm, we were told that we lost our baby. Our baby, our sixth child, died approximately at 11 weeks. We never got to meet our baby, but we know that he/she is in heaven.
"But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." 2 Samuel 12;23
"Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you."" Jeremiah 1:4-5
God wants us to treat the necessities of this life the way we treat our hobbies, and He wants us to treat His Word the way we treat our necessities.
"I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food." -Job 23:12
In a case involving criminal charges against a superstar Minnesota Vikings football player, the Assistant District attorney of Montgomery County, Texas said that the player is entitled to certain conduct except when that conduct “exceeds what the community would say is reasonable.” A Christian does not believe that our standard should ever be what the “community would say is reasonable.” God’s Word is the standard. The Word of Christ is the standard. We can obey the laws of the land as long as those laws do not conflict with God’s word, but when they do, we are constrained by Scripture.
By the way, Christian out there, the community finds a great many things "reasonable" that are not reasonable by God's standards. Who are you going to fear?
- Psalm 2:11 "Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling."
- Matthew 10:28 "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
- 1 Peter 1:17 "And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth."
- John 12:42-43 "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
"Preach the Word and somebody will be driven:
- Either the people will be driven to obey.
- Or the people will be driven away.
- Or you, the pastor, will be driven out!"
"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him" Job 13:15
Today Reuters reported that of the 31 states that still ban gay marriage, only three have presented cases to the Supreme Court. Of those three (Utah, Virginia, and Oklahoma), Utah is the only one where the "state's governor, attorney general and a majority of the state legislature" support the present ban on gay marriage. Utah lawyers argue that this makes for an ideal case for the Supreme court to consider because Utah's unanimity should help to avoid any procedural problems about who is speaking on behalf of the state. Let's pray for wisdom and courage for our Governor, Gary Herbert (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
My human father chose to not be part of my life so I have always struggled to understand what God's design for a father is all about. I had a grandfather from the World War II generation that I lived with from the time of my birth until I went away to college. He sort of raised me, at least as much as any male figure did. He had lived through the depression years, and so he taught me a dilligent work ethic and how to manage money. But he was not a Christian, so he did little to disciple my soul. I can still remember the only spiritual sentiment he invested in me during those years was a prayer he prayed at every dinner meal--"Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let this food to us be blessed. Amen." Sadly, he lived his life independent of God and as a slave to his flesh. In fact I still struggle with some of the same sins that reigned unchallenged in his life. But recently I have really come to some glorious conclusions about biblical fatherhood. The father who is revealed in Scripture:
1. Has a love that is unconditional
2. Disciplines with right motivation that is tempered by grace
3. Is present and dependable
4. Is trustworthy
5. Is a protector
6. Is a provider
7. Is self-sacrificing
8. Is worthy of emulation
"Struggling with demons is bad, struggling with the flesh is bad, struggling with Satan is bad, but it works for our good. Why? Because it sends us to our knees to pray. It drives us to God. It devastates our spiritual pride. It shows us where we're weak and vulnerable. It crushes our otherwise proud heart. I think part of Peter's usefulness was that he lost the struggle so many times his human pride was obliterated or nearly so." -John MacArthur (1-6-02)
"FAMILY OR CHURCH?"
A rebuttal to Michael Farris' social media post on August 25, 2014
After reading this Facebook Post by Mr. Farris, I am concerned that he is advocating a viewpoint that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ should be assigned a subordinate position under “family.” That is, he seems to think that it is reasonable to fulfill all responsibilities and loyalty to the Lord’s church, insofar as it doesn’t interfere with family business.
He says—“There is not one single occasion in the New Testament where we are told to give priority to the Church over our human families. Not one.” This is especially hard to understand given that he makes the following claim: “I read every New Testament verse for the following words: church, family, father, fathers, mother, parent, and parents. I looked at several hundred Bible verses and surrounding passages in the process.”
I would ask him this simple question? Jesus had an earthly family—Where did Jesus put the priority? To answer that, let’s first look at Matthew 12:47-50.
Matthew 12:47 And someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." 48 But He answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold, My mother and My brothers! 50 "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."
Apparently the Holy Spirit viewed this confrontation as so important for us to be made aware of, that He arranged that it be included in all three synoptic gospels (cf. Mark 3 and Luke 8). And yet Mr. Farris, after reading “every new testament verse,” did not find it to be relevant to his post. I believe it is.
Let’s walk through it together. Jesus is with His disciples (i.e., not His biological family members) and someone tells Him that He is being sought by His mother and brothers (i.e., His biological family members). Now if Mr. Farris was correct, Jesus might be expected to say something like this to His disciples—“Uh, hang on guys, I have some family business to take care of and I wouldn’t want the concerns of God’s people to interfere with that.”
But instead Jesus responds with this radically unexpected statement--"Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold, My mother and My brothers! 50 "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."
Jesus just dissed His biological family in the extreme. Why? His biological family was not first priority to Him, because He was not first priority to His biological family. Actually they thought He was crazy.
Mark 3:21 “And when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses."
What about Peter? Does he seem like a guy who puts family before church? Not likely. How about Paul? In the writings of Paul we see more than fifty references to the word “church” but only two vague references to the word “family.” Paul never talks about his own family primarily because the church is his family. The same is true of Peter. What about Stephen? What about all the disciples? Didn’t they all have biological families? They certainly did. But notice their families are not the priority of their lives. Each disciple (with the exception of Judas) gave up their lives for the church. In fact, every martyr in history gave up their lives trying to defend the purity of the church. That would not have happened if they put family first.
Jesus said—“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life." (Luke 18:29)
Somehow people flip that to mean—“There is no one who has left the church for the sake of the family, who shall not be rewarded greatly.”
Consider the church in Acts 5 which was roughly 5,000 in size. It says “they were all walking in one accord” (v. 12). Do you think any of them had unsaved biological families? Certainly they did. But listen to verse 13—“But none of the rest dared to associate with them…” So if I am a member of the Acts 5 church, and my biological family refuses to associate with me because of my affiliation with the church, what am I supposed to do? Put family first? Leave the church so I can “honor” my unsaved parents? Absolutely not. Luke 18:29 speaks very clearly that when we are faced with a choice between the church and family, we must choose church.
All of us have seen it happen. People are doing great, loving Jesus, serving the body and all of a sudden some trivial distraction with biological family comes up and tears people away from the body of Christ. It could be going fishing with unsaved adult kids, it could be staying home to have a barbecue with visiting unsaved parents, or even going to Oktoberfest with an unsaved sister-in-law. It can even be something as noble as homeschool events and activities centered on young children still in the home. Those are all nice things, but God has designed the church, not biological family to be the priority.
Galatians 6:10 “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (The priority is not biological family)
Hebrews 13:1 “Let the love of the brethren continue” (The priority is not biological family)
1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.” (The priority is not biological family)
James 2:15-16 "If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself."
We can say we are part of "the family of God", but until we treat our brother and sisters in Christ as a priority, our words are meaningless. If our brother or sister needs our fellowship and encouragement, and we deny them those things when we have the power to grant them, we act like unbelievers.
In the Bible we are instructed to imitate Christ and share His priorities. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down His life for His friends (John 15:13).”
So what does that tell us about Christ’s priorities? Who does He lay His life down for? For which institution did Christ die? The family or the church? Ephesians 5:25 clearly states that Christ gave Himself up for the Church, not the biological family. His blood purchased the Church (in context, the local church in Ephesus), not the biological family (Acts 20:28). Christ saved His best for the Church. So should we. We should never neglect the family God has given us, however, to place the family above the Church is idolatry.
Matthew 25:40 Jesus says—“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Once again, Jesus says “my brethren.” He is certainly not talking about His biological brothers. He is talking about the church.
Luke 14:26 “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”
That’s pretty strong language. What does Jesus mean? Well, to put it straight—A disciple of Christ must not permit biological family to interfere with kingdom work. The only place where kingdom work is happening on earth is the church as it is the only institution on earth that is eternal (Ephesians 5:21).
Let’s not forget Matthew 8:21-22 "And another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." 22 But Jesus *said to him, "Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead."
Nobody, including Jesus, is advocating irresponsibility to family. But if you are forced to choose between one or the other, we are to always choose the church. Missionaries face this choice all the time. God is calling them to the field, grandma is calling the grandkids to watch Disney movies. What is a Christian to do?
When Jesus gave the example that Farris quotes in Matthew 15 of the provision for parents being called “Corban,” Jesus was pointing out that the people were using false religion to get out of fulfilling their moral obligations to their parents. That’s a far cry from devoting oneself to the true church over going hunting with your unsaved brother-in-law, or sending your kids to horse camp on Sunday, or violating biblical commands so that you can participate in a family centered parachurch organization.
I have 5 kids (all homeschooled and all under 12 years of age) and a wonderful wife so maybe I can speak to this. I love my family and do everything I can to make them feel important to me. But our family life revolves around the local church and it always has (even before we had kids).
I’ll give a quick example. My daughter wanted to try her hand at acting and recently found out that the local theater was offering auditions for the part of Tiger-Lily in the production of Peter Pan. We all knew she would be a perfect fit for the part. However we found that the practices were going to require that she miss a few Thursday night Bible Studies at Church. It was a no brainer! How could we forsake the gathering of the saints for something as self-serving and temporal as an acting opportunity? If we had allowed our daughter to try-out and she got the part we would have had to compromise our integrity. This would have amounted to polishing idols for our children.
Mr. Farris, I am sorry but I cannot accept your teaching that church and family are cogs on the same wheel. The church is the foundation of God (2 Timothy 2:19 and 1 Timothy 3:15). The family is not the pillar of truth—Far from it. The family glorifies God like the bees that pollenate the flowers, and like the geese that fly south for the winter, and like the sun that miraculously provides food to the plants, but the family should never take priority over the Church. Sadly we live in a day where many things take priority over God’s church. Let’s work to minimize these distractions, not add to them.
Genesis 11:6 "And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them."
There is a saturation point of evil in the world which will usher in the end of all things and the return of Christ. The internet, with all its perceived benefits, is moving us at a faster rate of speed toward that point, than we could ever move without it.
Today when I came back from lunch there was a light blinking on the church answering machine. When I pressed play there was a very strange man with a thick Australian accent talking something about "an escaped convict" and "I don't believe in Jesus". I thought it was a prank call (I get them from time to time) so I didn't pay much attention to it. However later this afternoon one of the men in the church called and explained that on their recent camping trip his two teenage boys were witnessing to two men they met. The men were apparently from Australia. After I received that call I went back and listened to the message again several times and I believe I have now deciphered the message content as the following:
My name is [???],
I’ve got a couple of your young…I don’t what you call them…students? Parishioners? Um, and an escaped convict here and I’m kind of torn about what to do. I don’t believe in Jesus. These two guys are trying to convince me that I should believe in Jesus…and the escaped convict does believe in Jesus. But anyway, the escaped convict is kind of interested to meet with you in Heber on Wednesday night. So if you know Blake or Colton, and know their phone numbers, give them a call, because they’re good kids…they’re a little bit weird, but they’re good kids.
I am so proud of my "parishioners"!!! Obviously a seed was planted in this man's heart to follow through and call the church like that. I doubt he will ever forget his encounter with these "weird" kids. This poor lost soul reminds me of a sign I saw.
"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you."
2 Peter 1:10
Today marks the two year anniversary since Grace Family Bible Church was incorporated in the state of Utah. Two years is a significant milestone for a church plant. At least that is what I was told in seminary.
"Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" John 11:40
This morning I was dropping off my oldest daughter at "Nature Camp". I always cringe when I do that, especially as I pull into the parking lot and see cars plastered in bumper stickers, one of which read "Make Love, Not War." So I thought I'd prepare my homeschooled pre-teen.
"Lily, are you excited about nature camp?"
"What are you going to say, when they say millions of years? Are you going to yell out, 'That's not true!'?"
"No, I have to respect my authority. When they say 'millions of years' I'll just think 'Hmmm...that's not true.' But I won't say anything out loud."
Very wise. Very wise.
"Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words." Proverbs 23:9
When Lily got home she reported that they didn't say anything at 'Nature Camp' about millions of years. However they did say that the sun is 4.5 BILLION YEARS old, and that there is alien life on other planets.
If only Christians were as relentless about promoting truth as unbelievers are about promoting lies.
'A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.' - Winston Churchill
"Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with them."
"But they said, "Stand aside." Furthermore, they said, "This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them." Genesis 19:9
Tonight we returned from a fabulous ten day road-trip to California. It's our 16th anniversary and we are amazed at God's goodness. Sylvia was asked to speak at the women's prayer breakfast at Fellowship In The Pass Church in Beaumont, CA. There were many ladies in attendance. It was a special time. Many thanks to Nancy Hunt for organizing that day. I was able to have a special breakfast with the men's prayer group I used to lead. It was so good to spend time with these brothers and catch up on their lives. I also taught Pastor Ray Johnson's Sunday School class which was a real treat. Before the lesson, I was able to share a slide presentation that included a summary of our first year and a half in Utah. In the evening our whole family was treated to dinner at our long time friends Barney and Leslie Bagg's home where members of the Faith Builders Sunday School class gathered to spend the evening.
Then on Monday our kids all were able to attend VBS. There were over 250 kids enrolled on the first day (52 in 2nd grade alone). Lily, Ella, and Titus rejoiced to see old friends. They all took turns spending time visiting these friends at their homes.
Many new friendships were formed as well. We ended our trip by visiting Grace Advance colleague Jason Vaughn and his wife Kyla in Las Vegas. They have planted a church, Cornerstone Community, near the heart of the strip.
Some of the participants in Lily's Summer Friendship Bible Club.
Today I was taking my nine year old daughter to her gymnastics class before I went to work. As we were driving down a main boulevard she said, "Daddy, of all the businesses there are, yours is the best one." Things like that make it all worth it.
"God never promised us calm passage... just a safe landing." (cf., Isaiah 41:10)
Have you ever had an encounter with a homeless man that you will never forget? I did yesterday and today. God sent Josh into my life because God knew I was thinking too much about my own problems. God wanted me to get back to the business of being "other-centered". Josh called the church number and said--"I just got into Hebrew [sic] and I was wondering if you could help me out with a place to stay." Later when I asked Josh how he came to call GFBC, he said--"Some lady at the gas station said to call you guys because she was sure you would help." Josh and I ended up spending two days together. He was a wonderful Christian man who was on a journey to find God and to escape his troubled past and the temptations of the material world. We were able to sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17). Josh taught me a lot about living by faith (Hebrews 11:1, 6). At dinner I noticed the tattoo on his arm.
He told me that when he was in prison someone shared Romans 6:23 with him. "For the wages of sin is DEATH". But then the person told him the rest of the verse.
"...But the free gift of God is eternal LIFE."
We hear a lot today about people "coming out". I think a more accurate expression is to say people "joyfully put on Satan's jersey."
(James 4:4 and Romans 14:13)
We just enjoyed a wonderful visit from our long time California friends Karl and Mary Traber. Mary celebrated her birthday while here. Karl was converted to Christianity at the Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs after listening to Gene Denler, a Navigators missionary, speak on the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man. Karl went on to become a Sergeant with the LAPD and actually served at the same time as my grandfather, Jack Cowell (a motorcycle officer with LAPD). The Traber's currently attend Fellowship In The Pass Church in Beaumont, CA.
Every day something evil and outrageous is happening in the headlines. How does a Christian keep a positive attitude? Scripture tells us to dwell on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Here is a list of such things.
- God is reigning on the throne
- Jesus is Lord
- In the end, God will vindicate Himself
- Everything Satan and this world mean for evil, God means for good
- God is still doing miracles every day
- He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion
- Worldly ways are self-defeating
- God’s is always faithful
- God plan is perfect
- God is good
There is a difference between "introspection" and "self-examination".
Introspection is when you ask yourself--"Why did I do that?" or "Why am I this way?"
Self-examination is when you ask yourself--"What is God's standard and where am I in light of that?"
God invented marriage. He gets to define it. A rejection of traditional marriage is a rejection of the Bible.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Genesis 2:24
"And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" Matthew 19:4-5
"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." -G.K. Chesterton
"Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." 2 Tim. 2:19
"No man yields to Jesus easily by nature. Tragically, like Legion, men often hold on to their bondage and evil rather than yield to the pain of transformation by Christ’s power and grace." (Sinclair Ferguson, Let's Study Mark, p. 64-65)
"It is not until the Copernican revolution of the new birth demolishes our self-centeredness that we are able to understand our true place as planets, not suns." (Jay Adams in The Grand Demonstration, p. 49)
"Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:8
Well, in the last week we have seen some extraordinary American Para-church ministry activity. First, on Monday, World Vision announced that in a move toward Christian "unity," they have decided to abandon Scripture by implementing a new policy to hire gay married people. Let me see...How should one speak to this?
I think to be a Christian, we have to acknowledge Christ's Lordship. So, whether gossip, abortion, or homosexuality, it's a matter of "confessing" (homologomen) (1 John 1:9) that God is right and every man is a liar (Romans 6:1-2). In this sense we are in complete disagreement with our government. So then, if we are a "Christian" organization that takes money for the cause of Christ, we only hire people that agree that sin is sin, but we do not hire people who deny that sin is sin (2 Cor. 6:14) , namely practicing homosexuals in a gay marriage (because to hire them would be dragging Christ's name through the sewer). "Chick-fil-A" is not a Christian organization so who they hire is up to them.
However, on Wednesday World Vision announced that their board had agreed to reverse its Monday decision and now will only hire people who uphold the Biblical view of marriage. This is all very disturbing. I pray their decision had nothing to do social media or a dip in donations.
I found out today that my dear friend Bob Gordon went home to glory. This picture was taken at my commissioning at Grace Community Church in December 2012. "Bobby G" was the essence of humility and a truly loyal friend. Our loss is his gain (Philippians 1:21)
I admit my quotes of the day often come from people that have been dead for over a hundred years. Like...
"When repentance is more notorious than our sin, then its genuine." -Charles H. Spurgeon
"Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God." 1 Peter 4:11a
This is what I love about MacArthur. I could hear a hundred preachers, and that would not be an exaggeration probably. One of my favorite ways to study the Bible is by listening to preaching. I listen to Baptist, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Prosperity, Charismatics, Messianic, Women, Arminians, Calvinists, Reformed, Independents, A-mills, Pre-mills, some Post-mills, Evangelists, Apologists—People are always giving me good preaching to listen to, and I don’t mind that, just please don’t give me video. I can’t afford to be sitting and watching a video. I listen to preaching as I walk or do work projects around the house. MacArthur is without a doubt the greatest preacher I have ever heard. He’s the most Biblical, and therefore he is the most convicting. Even his opponents admit that. He’s preached well over 3,000 sermons at Grace and I’ve listened to about 500 of them. My image of the perfect day is working in the yard with the wife and family, on a warm day, listening to a MacArthur sermon.
"The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God." Psalm 92:12-13
After a fun night of Christmas caorlling, games and fun with the people who have become our Utah family. God is so good. Everyone is quite proud of the ornaments they scored in our exchange. I'm wearing mine.
On this day 20 years ago, I was baptized by Pastor Rick Mandl at Eagle Rock Baptist Church. It was one of the greatest days of my life. I will never forget how wonderful it felt to publicly identify myself with Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.
Got to be honest, I've never seen this before. The temps have been lower, but I've never been out in it.
I'm realizing that we can only produce life in others by the wear and tear of our own being (John 15:13). Spurgeon wrote, "If by excessive labor, we die...worn out in the Master's service, then Glory be to God. We shall have so much less of earth and so much more of heaven."
I took this photo today, it is very special to me as it is the culmination of a journey, and epic odyssey in the life of GFBC. Agonizing anticipation combined with the unrushed providential hand of God has yielded a tapestry that is an indisputable tribute to His faithfulness (Eph. 3:20). Three months ago I was struck with the notion that something in our church needed to change. I ended up visiting about 40 different locations. I even met with Pastors in the area to see if we could use their facilities when they weren't using them. I had a long list of things that we hoped for in a new location. In the end God had us stay put. We just knocked down a 50 foot wall and now we worship in an expanded facility that is perfect for our needs. God is so good. Out of a list of about twenty requests composed while we still had no clue where God wanted us, He has provided all but one. His mercy and grace are limitless.
This past weekend God touched our church in supernatural fashion by blessing our Bible conference with His favor in a lavish way. Pastor Ray Johnson and his wife Lauri came and poured their lives into our growing congregation and the message of Christ was reflected in their teaching, their fellowship, and their love. You can see the amazing results of what we all were taught at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnoLDsPkr4A
Today we had the honor of Pastor Ray Johnson performing the Parent-Child dedication for our son Paul. It was a very moving time as our church covenanted to support us as we raise him in the fear of the Lord.
"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge."
"The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can't believe the whole universe exists for our benefit."--Stephen Hawking, 1995
Before Chuck Colson was saved, he was chosen of God. He shares these thoughts from his life before becoming "Born Again".
"I remembered the night twenty years before when I stared into the vast darkness from the rail of the U.S.S. Melette, cruising off the coast of Guatemala. There was no possible explanation for how this whole magnificent universe, the glittering array of galaxies and stars, could remain in such perfect harmony without the direction of some awesome power which created it all in the first instance. That there is such a force greater than man seemed indisputable to me."--Born Again, p. 121
The main difference between Stephen Hawking and Chuck Colson is that one has refused to relinquish his sword, the ancient weapon of foolish pride.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools."
Concerning the doctrine of prior election, many pastors and theologians have expressed shocking sentiments. Here are a few examples:
“To suggest that the merciful, long suffering, gracious and loving God of the Bible would invent a dreadful doctrine like this, which would have us believe it is an act of grace to select certain people for heaven, and by exclusion others for hell, comes perilously close to blasphemy.” –Tim LaHaye
“Such a doctrine makes God a monster who eternally tortures innocent children, it removes the hope of consolation from the Gospel, it limits the atoning work of Christ, it resists evangelism, it stirs up argumentation and division, and it promotes a small, angry, judgmental God rather than the large-hearted God of the Bible.—Larry Taylor
“This doctrine’s misrepresentation of God has caused many to turn away from the God of the Bible as from a monster.”—Dave Hunt
But wait...Isn't this doctrine what the Bible teaches???
"And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you."
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will."
"And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED."What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION."So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."
I'm glad there are still some theologians that yield to Scripture on this one.
“The bottom line in this issue is that God is ultimately responsible for the salvation of those who believe. Even if you say God didn’t choose [to send people to hell], you have to say He did choose to create the people that He knew wouldn’t believe. You also have to say that He created a universe and then allowed a fall that would produce people who would never believe and go to hell. So it always backs up to the choices that God made. You can’t get God off the hook! Scripture doesn’t want you to. God will be glorified in His election and salvation of His own. And He will also be glorified in judgment. God is going to accept fully the responsibility for the plan of redemption unfolding in His creation. He launched this creation. He created humanity and every human being who has ever lived, or will live. He determines outcomes, He knows outcomes, and from the very beginning they were established. So you don’t need to rescue God from some thought of being unfair.” Pastor John MacArthur, GTY Broadcast 9-24-13
"Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen human nature. The only reason we think we can will to be saved is because our thinking is corrupt. This false confidence now fills the evangelical world from the self-esteemed gospel to the health and wealth gospel, from those who have transformed the gospel into a product to be sold and sinners into consumers who want to buy, to others who treat Christian faith as being true simply because it works. God's grace in Christ is not merely necessary, but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace….We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by His grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage from sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life and we deny that salvation is in any sense a human work, human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature." –The Cambridge Declaration, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, 1996
"I often hear about ministers who suffer from 'burnout." This is really a self-inflicted condition based on having unrealistic expectations. If a pastor thinks he deserves too much, he will be disappointed. If, however, a pastor understands that he deserves nothing, then he is hard to disappoint. If he understands that he is nothing but a clay pot, replaceable, breakable, and temporary, then all his life will be lived in the joy of the privilege and mercy of ministry. He will be always unworthy and never self-promoting, never self exalting, never defensive, never wounded--all because he is always in awe of the mercy of ministry." Pastor John MacArthur on May 12, 2013.
Today I had to take my brother in Christ, Charlie Hernandez, to the airport. While "Uncle Charlie" was here he played board games, caught fish, cooked Kenyan dinner, taught us songs in Swahili, talked Japanese to the sushi guy at the market, led both our family and our church in worship, played basketball, and generally made a huge Texan sized splash in our podunk town. Our kids will never forget the impression he made. Nor will any of us at GFBC. But most of all we love that Charlie is the textbook example of what happens when someone lives their life totally yielded to Christ. Unfortunately, his lovely wife Lori and their three boys could not make the trip. Hopefully they can come next time. This Friday Charlie starts training to become a N.A.N.C. certified biblical counselor. Praise The Lord!
Pastor Ray Johnson will be bringing the Walk Thru Bible Old Testament conference to our church on September 28 and 29th. We have already been advertising this conference on the radio for a month now. Pastor Ray will also be preaching on Sunday, September 29th, and has agreed to perform the baby-parent dedication for our son Paul.
Also Carma and Charles Naylor are planning to be here for the conference and plan to lead a two week study on Mormonism during the first two Thursday nights in October. Most of our congregation has read Carma’s books on her family’s journey through and out of the cult of Mormonism. We are always grateful for this amazing couple's insights on how to reach and share the true Gospel with those still trapped in darkness.
"Some people love to dwell near a church with a choir and steeple bell. But I want to run a rescue station a yard from the gates of hell." --C.T. Studd, missionary to China and Africa
Yesterday, Sylvia and I shared our 15th wedding anniversary together. We know it is not an especially lengthy marriage, some are celebrating 50, or 60 years (we even know one couple who is at 71 years), but in this day and age where true Biblical marriage is under coordinated attack, we are super grateful. I am especially grateful for the sweet and godly wife God has given me.
To celebrate we were able to find baby sitters (for all 5 kids), and we took a 15 minute drive to Sundance resort, rode the gondola up to the summit, and hiked down to Stewart Falls. It was quite romantic (and exhausting). Thank you Jesus for this wonderful life. We even got to go out for dessert last night after Bible Study!
Today a bird flew into one of the main transformers for the City of Heber and totally knocked out power for three hours. It just happened to be the three hours we needed to conduct church. So we had no sound system, no fans, no lights for the windowless bathrooms, and no words for the songs on the screen. They warned me this would happen in seminary, but I was definitely not ready. But God helped me do something I didn't think I could do. I actually led worship using hymn books. We sang O Victory in Jesus, Crown Him with many Crowns, Great is Thy Faithfulness, It Is Well with My Soul, Come Thou Fount, and Rock of Ages. It was great to sing the old hymns and hear our congregation sing acapella. I don't know what we would have done without the hymn books we lugged from California.
This morning on Grace To You, John MacArthur said--"God has never been surprised by anybody becoming a Christian. It was all planned out from the beginning." I have to say I was very encouraged by that. Especially since I had just watched "The Case For Faith" video by Lee Strobel. I found the DVD to be very man-centered and, in short, a perfect case in point as to why I do not favor apologetics as a means of convincing lost people to come to faith. The DVD begins by telling the story of Charles Templeton who was a well known evangelist in the 1940's. It talks about his inner struggle with doubts concerning the main tenets of the Christian faith. Eventually he denied the Christian faith even publishing a book called "Farewell to God--My reasons for rejecting the Christian Faith". Lee Strobel calls "The Case For Faith" the fruit of an "investigation" into the objections to Christianity. He desires to buttress his faith, and the faith of others, so that their faith will not buckle when these doubts come. The two main objections he addresses are: 1. The Biblical claim that Jesus is the only Way to Heaven, and 2. The existence of evil in a world created by an all powerful and all good God.
Strobel's explanation of the first claim was helpful, as it focused on Christ and His statements about Himself. However, his answer to the second objection was very disturbing. Strobel argued that God created humanity with a free-will and that God cannot overpower our free-will. Ultimately God is not responsible for evil because mankind chose it. That is why God had to send His Son as a means of fixing the problem humanity had created. The cross, then, was a reaction to man's disappointing behavior.
That line of thinking (though incredibly common) is insulting to God and extremely man-centered. The reason Charles Templeton fell away was not because his doubts were not sufficiently answered. He fell away because he was never truly saved (1 John 2:19). A true Chistian will never fall away. Why? Because he or she can't. They didn't choose God, God chose them (John 15:16). Thankfully our salvation does not depend on us, if it did it would be lost--guaranteed. But if God chooses someone, then He will never let them go (John 10:26-29). My ten year old daughter was watching the video and I asked her if she liked it. Her response was--"Well, I thought the beginning was interesting, but when it started saying that God doesn't determine everything, I didn't like it that much." Amen.
Today concludes an amazing week of outreach including another fruitful afternoon of door to door ministry, Salt Lake City Temple evangelism, various work projects, and an incredible Vacation Bible School program. Twenty-seven children attended the VBS, most of whom had no prior affiliation with GFBC. We could not have done it without the team from Family Heritage Church in La Quinta, CA led by Pastor Daniel Russell. Thanks also to KUTR 820 AM station manager, Russ East, who took the initiative in connecting our two churches.
We had some Father's Day fun after church. Some of the dads before they got hit with water balloons and smeared with shaving cream.
Great day of outreach. The temperature was 92 degrees at game time, but everyone persevered and attitudes remained spirit filled. 24 of our church members showed up and were split into four teams. Overall we were able to personally give out 47 business cards, leave 73 door hangers, and have 50 face to face interactions. Several people said they would come to visit our church. Our team had a half hour conversation with a committed Mormon couple who asked a lot of questions. We are excited to see how God will use this. We were all very energized by the whole experience and can't wait to do it again!
This morning I was able to do something I've been wanting to do ever since moving to Utah. I connected with like minded pastors here. It required driving an hour and a half, but it was worth it. I was able to have lunch in Ogden with Casey Ballard, Grant Kolkow, Dave Stolarski, Brett Revlett, and Curtis Egglestion. Three of these guys are graduates of TMS. The thing that unites us the most is our understanding of the sovereignty of God in justification. They helped to remind me why God put us here.
We have experienced some great new changes over the last couple weeks. First of all, after Resurrection Sunday, we realized that our church was growing out of its current space, so we changed locations. We are still at the same address, but in a different suite (108). Instead of 42 chairs we now have 76 available. Also we began our Thursday night Fundamentals of the Faith (FOF) class. The class is growing every week with 16 books passed out so far. There is still time to join so hope to see you there at 6:30 pm.
Finally got my office together and am about to start preaching research for the Gospel of John.
This week I am in California attending the 40th Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church with 3,500 other pastors. Although I have attended about seven or eight conferences in the past, this one is the most special because it is the first one that I will attend as a senior pastor of a church. I am here with one of my leaders, Brian Michaels. So far the messages brought by John MacArthur, Jerry Wragg, Steve Lawson, and Al Mohler have been the most challenging and encouraging.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to visit this page. My name is Tim Cowell and I was called to be the pastor of Grace Family Bible Church on November 11, 2012. I graduated from The Master's Seminary in 2009 and had been at Fellowship In The Pass Church in Beaumont, CA for almost five years. A little while ago, God opened my eyes to the need for more solid Bible believing churches in our country, so I applied to Grace Advance, a church planting program established by Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA. Grace Advance was contacted by a couple of families here in the Heber Valley who had a desire to see a church planted with a strong Biblical foundation. We were a match made in heaven.
I moved here with m wife, Sylvia, and five young children in February but my first official day as Pastor will be March 3, 2013. That day will be pretty exciting as Dr. John Street will be flying out to preach at my installation service. He is the head of the Biblical Counseling department at The Master's College and was a favorite professor of mine in seminary.
Well, I am very excited to see what the Lord wants to do in us and through us in this new world called Utah. Wow, its cold here.