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Archive for March, 2010

from desiringgod.org…

As you may have already heard in the sermon from March 27-28, the elders graciously approved on March 22 a leave of absence that will take me away from Bethlehem from May 1 through December 31, 2010. We thought it might be helpful to put an explanation in a letter to go along with the sermon. I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem. But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. How do I apologize to you, not for a specific deed, but for ongoing character flaws, and their effects on everybody? I’ll say it now, and no doubt will say it again, I’m sorry. Since I don’t have just one deed to point to, I simply ask for a spirit of forgiveness; and I give you as much assurance as I can that I am not making peace, but war, with my own sins. Noël and I are rock solid in our commitment to each other, and there is no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side. But, as I told the elders, “rock solid” is not always an emotionally satisfying metaphor, especially to a woman. A rock is not the best image of a woman’s tender companion. In other words, the precious garden of my home needs tending. I want to say to Noël that she is precious to me in a way that, at this point in our 41-year pilgrimage, can be said best by stepping back for a season from virtually all public commitments. No marriage is an island. For us this is true in two senses. One is that Noël and I are known inside-out by a few friends at Bethlehem—most closely by our long-time colleagues and friends David and Karin Livingston, and then by a cluster of trusted women with Noël and men with me. We are accountable, known, counseled, and prayed for. I am deeply thankful for a gracious culture of transparency and trust among the leadership at Bethlehem. The other way that our marriage is not an island is that its strengths and defects have consequences for others. No one in the orbit of our family and friends remains unaffected by our flaws. My prayer is that this leave will prove to be healing from the inside of my soul, through Noël’s heart, and out to our children and their families, and beyond to anyone who may have been hurt by my failures. The difference between this leave and the sabbatical I took four years ago is that I wrote a book on that sabbatical (What Jesus Demands from the World). In 30 years, I have never let go of the passion for public productivity. In this leave, I intend to let go of all of it. No book-writing. No sermon preparation or preaching. No blogging. No Twitter. No articles. No reports. No papers. And no speaking engagements. There is one stateside exception—the weekend devoted to the Desiring God National Conference combined with the inaugural convocation of Bethlehem College and Seminary in October. Noël thought I should keep three international commitments. Our reasoning is that if she could go along, and if we plan it right, these could be very special times of refreshment together. The elders have appointed a group to stay in touch and keep me accountable for this leave. They are David Mathis, Jon Bloom, Tom Steller, Sam Crabtree, Jon Grano, Tim Held, Tony Campagna, and Kurt Elting-Ballard. Five of these have walked with Noël and me over the last two months, helping us discern the wisdom, scope, and nature of this leave. They brought the final recommendation to the elders on March 22. I asked the elders not to pay me for this leave. I don’t feel it is owed to me. I know I am causing more work for others, and I apologize to the staff for that. Not only that, others could use similar time away. Most working men and women do not have the freedom to step back like this. The elders did not agree with my request. Noël and I are profoundly grateful for this kind of affection. We will seek the Lord for how much of your financial support to give back to the church, to perhaps bear some of the load. Personally, I view these months as a kind of relaunch of what I hope will be the most humble, happy, fruitful five years of our 35 years at Bethlehem and 46 years of marriage. Would you pray with me to that end? And would you stand by your church with all your might? May God make these eight months the best Bethlehem has ever known. It would be just like God to do the greatest things when I am not there. “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). I love you and promise to pray for you every day.

Pastor John

Dr. John Piper has long been one of my heroes in the faith.  He is without question one of the three most theologically influential people in my life today.  Above all though he is a godly man.  He walks with Christ in a way I hope too.  He gets it in every way.  I am so grateful for his honesty and transparency regarding his voluntary leave from the church.  Please pray for him during this time…and pray God would use Pastors John’s transparency for good in all our lives.  Grateful for men like John Piper.  Taylor

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29…

This Saturday march 20th 2010 I turn 30 (here is your last chance to get me that special BDay gift), so I thought I would highlight in brief my first almost thirty years.

-My mom says I was a beautiful baby.

-My mom also says I demanded a lot of attention

-I tried to quit school after the third day.

-My dad says when I was “a little boy”  he took me to see Star Wars and I that I was totally captivated by it.

 -I once hid a kitten in my room.  When my mom asked why the door was locked to my room, I replied I had a headache.

-When I was almost 5 my brother was born…he was not was I expecting.

-When I was 7 I had a terrible bicycle wreck involving myself and the pavement.  I was rushed to the hospital where the doctor told my mother it was the worst case of road rash he had ever seen.  Nineteen stitches later in my chin and some serious road rash, I officially had a hill named after me…Taylor Hill.

-I made my first “C” in third grade, it was a sign of things to some.

-In third grade i had my first girlfriend…she was in sixth grade.

-We moved for the first time in my life in the third grade.

-In fifth grade I caught a five-pound bass which hangs in my parents house today.

-Sixth grade was the best year of school by far.

-In seventh grade I came home with 3 “F’s”  on my first report card, but I got an “A” in PE!

-We moved to NC just before starting 8th grade.

-We moved back to AL just after starting the 8th grade.

-In the 9th grade I fell in love for the first time with a Senior who on one glorious occasion said hey to me at lunch.

-In 10th grade I got my first car, a 1987 Nissan pathfinder.  I failed the vision portion of driving exam, but my uncle who was an attorney and took me to the exam talked the nice lady into letting me take the test anyway.  Love you Uncle Gary!

-In the eleventh grade I made my first interception in football, and then I made four more.

-As a Senior I hit the first home run of my life in baseball, and then I hit six more.

-As a Freshman in college I met Tenly…if only it were that easy.

-That same year I also met Jesus.

-My junior year of college I transferred to Samford University in Birmingham AL. Later that year Tenly sent me an email from Ecuador and broke of with me.

-I had 2 and 1/2 Senior years at Samford in which I failed Spanish and math no less than twice each.  After I had given them enough money they let me graduate.

-In one of my Senior years I had a kidney stone, it was a bad as advertised. 

-Just prior to the last 1/2 of my almost 3 Senior years of college I told Tenly she would not be invited to my wedding and we would never be togethor…oops!

-At 24 I ran my first marathon, got engaged, and was married.  Last year my brother turned 24 and I told him to simply focus on running a marathon.

-At 25 I moved Tenly and I to Louisville for Seminary. Our fist night alone together while lying in bed I told her I was sorry and didn’t know what I had gotten us into (It was 12 degrees, snowing, and we knew like one person in L’ville). 

-At 26 I ran my best marathon, a 3:34 in Huntsville AL.

-Just before I turned 27 my dad told me I was entering my athletic peak for the next two years.  I got chronic fatige two months later (for almost 2 years).

-When I was 28 Perry Rose was born (July 29th 2008)  It was the best day of my life.

-At 29 I set my personal best on the bench press (I won’t disclose the # because you would not be impressed).

-So here I am three days shy of 30…Hope you feel like you know me a little better now.  Thanks for reading!

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Any of us who said differently would be lying.  We are all influenced by our culture, that goes for all people’s and all cultures.  My question to you and myself is, how much does our culture influence our Christianity?  The answer if we are all very honest is probably more than we than we care to admit.  Does our church, evangelism, discipleship, and missions look more like that of the Bible, or does it look like the church down the street, across town, or the one we try to emulate?  The one word I seem to hear more than any other when it comes to the church and how we are to reach the lost is…its not the Bible…no, its relevance.  Everyone (almost) everywhere (almost) is talking, writing, and trying to be more relevant.  We need more relevant pastor’s (one’s who don’t wear coat and tie), who preach more relevant sermon’s (man centered), who build more modern buildings (with lots of lights and flat screen TV’s), with more relevant music (gotta have contemporary music if you want folks to get excited and saved), and who do really unique things like drink coffee, and twitter.  I am not saying we as Christians should not be culturally relevant.  I am a huge proponent or learing and knowing as much about one’s culture as possible in an effort to engage them.  However, when did the church start caring more about looking like culture than Christ?  Let’s remember friends, not one program, building, or man has ever saved another’s soul. Only the Spirit of Christ is able to accomplish the work of the Christ.  The mission of the church is simple, as you are going and living make disciples (Matthew 28:18).  We are to be evangelists and disciple makers, lovers of God above all, and lovers or our fellow-man.  We are called to be worshipers in all things at all times (Romans 12:1).  We are not called to be like our culture…we are called to be like our Christ (Luke 9:22-24).  If we allow the culture to be our primary source of influence, then we will adhere to their standards, we will accept their ways of thinking as true, and we will compromise.  When it comes to being the church and doing the work of the church does the local body you belong to look like (not the building) the church found in Acts, or the church down the street?  Are we the Christian church or are we the American church?  Do we as a body act more culturally or biblically?  Questions like these pertain to every area of church, how we spend our money, our concern for the poor and needy, our evangelism and missions, our fellowship, our love, and our supreme allegiance and affections.  This is afterall…a heart issue.  Do we love Jesus more than we love ourselves and our own way of living?  Are we consumed by the gospel or the American dream?  Is the Bible our standard of living, or are the Jones down the street (we don’t have as much as they do, but we are not as sinful as they are)?  Culture will never influence God’s word, but the Word will influence a culture.  Remember, not everyone is Western, and not everyone should be.  When foreigners convert to Christ that does not mean they should talk and dress like you and me.  Our faith is just fine without our culture, but our culture is not fine without our faith.

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Matthew 16:26a

Another great point of emphasis from David Platt’s sermon last week from Southern Seminary was, “Jesus is not a means for you to advance yourself.”  So often, so many (myself included) use Jesus a reason for our own personal advancement.  I heard someone once say, “God wants us to have nice things.”  While that may sound good, it’s not supported biblically, and try telling that to believers in a third world context who are overjoyed just to have clean drinking water.  We are good, too good at attempting to use Jesus as the reason/source for fulfilling our “American Dream” and attaining all the nice stuff our hearts desire.  Jesus does not exist so that you and I can have better jobs, more money, and nicer things.  And just as Dr. Platt said…this is afterall a heart issue.  We desire our own personal advancements over the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ.  If we are honest, we think more about our next vacation or flat screen TV that we do the next meal of a poor family of mal nourished child.  This is an indictment against us all.  We as believers have to refocus, reconsider, and recommit our lives to one thing, Jesus and his gospel.  I hear people say all the time, “it’s not about me…it’s about Jesus.”  Well, I ‘m gonna call bull on us all here.  If our lives were truly all about Jesus and not ourselves I believe our lives would look much different from what they currently are.  How we view and spend our money must change.  Save some yes, but give more away.  But more than money, give your life away to others.  Spend time investing in people, building them up in encouragement and live, teaching them to live like Christ.  It’s great if you or I are consistently devoting ourselves to personal growth in Christ, but if we don’t give it away then we are leading self-centered lives where our only real goal is personal advancement in God.  We should desire to be godly…but we should so desire for others to be godly and Christ-like as well.  At the end of the day, the end of our days Christ will not care how much money and stuff we made for ourselves, but he will care how many disciples we made in his name.  Here is my call to you and I, to take serious inventory of our lives that we may lead radically God-centered, Christ driven lives in which we concern ourselves chiefly with one thing…the advancment of the gospel to our neighbor’s, our city’s, our world.    

Matthew 28:18-20

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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