Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Bible Reading Program

Grace Church of Old Bridge (NJ) is hosting a Bible Reading Program for 2011. The program consists of reading one chapter in the Bible each day. The chapters that are selected will take us through the story or action portions of the Bible.

You can read on-line each day at or you can pick up a paper copy of the readings and notes each month at the church.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Religious or Wise?

This is the time of year when we think about the Christmas story. After Luke 2, the main part of the Bible that we learn the events surrounding Christ's birth is the beginning of the book of Matthew. Luke tells about the shepherds, manger, angels, the trip to Bethlehem and more. But Luke doesn't tell us about the wise men. Matthew is the one who tells us about the wise men.

The wise men appear in Matthew 2 and are immediately contrasted with the religious leaders in Jerusalem at the time Jesus was born. The wise men probably travelled for two months to see the newborn King. The religious leaders refused to travel five miles to discover whether or not the report of the wise men was true. The wise men searched for Jesus, worshiped Jesus, and gave gifts to Jesus. The religious leaders ignored Jesus.

We have a choice. We can be "religious" and use spiritual stuff for our temporary advantage. Or we can be wise and follow Jesus. I encourage you to be wise with your life. Seek for Jesus. He will receive you and save you from sin. Worship Jesus no matter what the cost. And give Jesus the gift of all that you are- time, money, ability, and more.

Merry Christmas. Remember to be wise.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Prayer For a Price? You've Got To Be Kidding!

In the comments section of my previous post someone asked me to check out a site that he thought was interesting and to give him my opinion. I did a little digging and quickly discovered that the commenter was none other than the author of the other site. The site that he was stealthily (dishonestly?) promoting is a web-site in which you can post prayer requests and pay money to make sure that your request gets prayed for by a certain number of people. In addition, you can pray for the requests and receive tokens so that other people will pray for your requests.

One of the first thoughts I had was that the Reformation in the 1500's included a similar issue (indulgences) where people could pay money in order to get dead relatives out of "purgatory" sooner. But people profiting off of religion actually goes back much farther than the Catholic church. Jesus famously cleared the traders out of the temple because they were using religion as a means to financial profit. When Jesus sent His disciples out to serve He instructed them in Matthew 10:8, "Freely you have received, freely give." Paul warns Christians in 1 Timothy 6 against people who think that religion (godliness) is a means toward financial gain.

Not only does the very concept of paying for prayer go against Biblical principles, but the examples of prayer requests that were on the site were all self-centered. One person wanted to lose a certain number of pounds. Another person wanted a certain minimum score on a test. Someone else wanted their football team to win by a specific number of points (to cover the spread?). Someone else had a political request. Noticeably absent were prayers about God's glory and spiritual growth.

I doubt that I have to encourage you to hold onto your money. Most people aren't going to spend money on prayer. But I do encourage you to guard your heart. We are all in danger of focusing our prayer time on our physical and financial needs instead of on the the great God who meets our needs.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christ the Savior

The second verse of the Christmas carol Silent Night ends with the words "Christ the Savior is born. Jesus was indeed born for the mission of saving His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). The gifts and parties, the decorations and food of the Christmas season are all very nice, but they are not the real reason that Christ came to earth. He came to be the Savior of His people.

What difference should it make to you that Christ came as Savior? First, you should respond to Christ's mission by accepting Him as your Savior from sin. Christ's sacrifice on the cross of His righteous life bore the penalty of sin that you deserved to pay. That sacrifice only becomes effective to you by way of faith in the work of Christ on your behalf. Receive Christ as your Savior by faith and receive the forgiveness He acquired for you.

Second, we should respond to Christ as our Savior by worshiping Him for His act that procured our salvation. We should not grow tired of praising Christ for the cross. Instead, we should be like the one healed leper in Luke 17 who returned to give glory to God. Jesus commended this leper and wondered why the other nine did not do the same thing. Clearly Jesus expects us to worship Him for saving us from our sins.

A third response to being saved by Christ should be to tell others what Christ has done for us. This is what Jesus told the man that he cast a demon out of in Mark 5. That man wanted to travel with Jesus. Instead, Jesus told him to go back to his town and tell people what God had done for him. If Jesus has saved us, then it becomes our job to tell other people what we have experienced and how they can experience the same thing.

Finally, if Jesus has saved us from our sins, then we should respond by living free from continued sin. Romans 6 makes this conclusion quite convincingly. Jesus didn't just pay the penalty for our sin. He also changed our allegiance. We used to be devoted to sin. Now we should be devoted to living out God's righteousness in our lives. We will not always live perfectly, but we can live in a way that is consistent with having a Savior.

Is Jesus your Savior? If not, why not receive Him today? If He is, then live like it by worshiping Him, telling others about Him, and living free of the sin from which He saved you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


It's funny to find out how your children perceive you. We were at a McDonald's the other day and a Stevie Wonder song started playing. This caused me to share a story with my oldest two kids who were there about how I had never heard of Stevie Wonder as a singer when I was a kid. Instead, I had a friend at Awana named Steven who had the nickname "Stevie Wonder." I thought it must be since everyone thought he was so cool. This caused me to wish that I had an equally cool nickname- something like "Davie Wonder." At this point my wife and kids cracked up and my oldest daughter said in dis-belief, "you mean you were a nerd?"

My wife was shocked that the kids had no idea that I was a nerd before she made me over. She takes all the credit for changing me to the point where I am the cool dude I am today (although I'm still waiting to be called Davie Wonder- oops, there goes my inner nerd sneaking out again). Mostly, my wife was rightly impressed with herself for changing my nerdiness so much that our teenage daughter had never suspected my nerd-like roots.

Of course being called a nerd somehow got me just a bit defensive. I began to share that I actually fit with the athletes at school as well as with the brains. I thought I was bragging when I shared that I had the second highest GPA in my graduating class (even though there were only 16 of us). My son wanted to know who had higher grades than me. When I said that her name was Rachelle, his reply was, "ha- you got beat by a girl!" Okay, that's humbling. First, I'm a nerd because I had good grades. Then, I'm not enough of a nerd because a girl had even higher grades than me. I don't think I'll ever understand my kids.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chirst the King

If you go to your search engine and type in "Christ the King" you will be directed to web pages for various churches and schools. But Christ did not become popular as "King" while He lived on earth. Make no mistake- Jesus came to this earth to become King. He came to establish His kingdom. But during the thirty-some years He walked the dusty landscape of Palestine, He was not recognized as King.

Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, clearly presents Christ as the one who came to be King of His people. From the very beginning of the book Matthew establishes the kingly identity of Jesus. The first section of the book is a list of names. Most people will skip this list or just skim over the names. But if you look closely, you will see that the list traces the kings of the people of Israel from David until the time when they ceased to have kings. But the genealogy does not end there. It continues on a straight line right to Jesus. Matthew is very clearly informing us that Jesus stands in the royal line of King David. Jesus deserves to be seen for who He truly is- King Jesus.

How should our lives be different if we know that Jesus is King? First, we should submit to Jesus as our king. This means that we will trust that His way to God is right and we will accept His payment for our sin.

Second, we should use our time like Jesus is our king. A king expects his followers to come when called. Jesus calls us every day to spend time with Him in the Bible. Jesus calls us every week to spend time worshiping him with His other followers in church.

Third, we should use our money like Jesus is our king. Let's stop asking how much we have to give and begin asking how much we can give to our king.

Fourth, if Jesus is our king, then we should be His heralds. While we may not use the words, "hear ye, hear ye" we certainly should deliver the message of the gospel to the people with whom we have the privilege of interacting.

Finally, if Jesus is our king, then we should submit to the lower authorities that He has placed over us. Government leaders, church leaders, family leaders, school leaders, employment leaders- all of these people have responsibilities to serve us. We should serve King Jesus by submitting appropriately to these leaders.

Every part of the Bible was written by God for a reason (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Matthew didn't leave us to wonder why He included a genealogy at the beginning of the list. Instead, Matthew pointed to Jesus as Messiah and showed that Jesus came to be king. Are you living like Jesus is your king?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Spurgeon Quotes- sermons preached in 1887

Here are a few quotes from Charles Spurgeon taken from Volume 33 of his sermons.

"A self-righteous man's religion is nothing but a painted pageantry to go to hell in!"

"Let us enjoy Heaven on the road to Heaven."

"The greatest Believer would not believe for another moment unless Grace were constantly given him to keep the flame of faith burning."

"All the agony of death lies in the foresight of it- death itself is the end of all agony!"

"To the Believer it is not death to die!"

"Remember, that Hell for the orthodox will be quite as horrible as eternal ruin for the heterodox."

"It will be a dreadful thing to go to hell with a sound head and a rotten heart!"

"To live without Christ is not life, but a breathing death!"

"When we struggle against tribulation or persecution, we may be warring against untold benefit."

"Preachers need not seek for larger spheres- let them be faithful in those which they now occupy. A Brother recently said to me, 'I cannot do much with a hundred hearers,' and I replied, 'You will find it hard work to give in a good account for even a hundred people.' I confess it very quietly, but I have often wished that I had a little congregation, that I might watch over every soul in it. But now I am doomed to an everlasting dissatisfaction with my work, for what am I among so many? I can only feel that I have not even begun to do the hundredth part of what needs to be done in such a Church as this!"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

God's Love and Your (Football) Success

It probably would have been a good idea for Buffalo Bills wide-receiver to go home and read Romans 8:28-39 before tweeting last Sunday night. On Sunday afternoon Johnson dropped a pass in the end zone that probably would have caused his team to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a huge upset. Instead, Johnson became hugely upset at being the goat of the game, and decided to blame God with this tweet:


If I set aside my thoughts on the grammar, spelling, punctuation, spacing, and capitalization of tweets in general and this one in particular, I end up with only a theological problem with what Stevie Johnson has said. Johnson's theology seems to be that as long as he acts in a way that pleases God, then God should give him a good life.

The apostle Paul had no such misconceptions. He had experienced the "tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword" that some might suggest could separate a Christian from the love of God. Paul testified that neither those things, nor anything else would ever be able to separate a follower of God from His love for them- the love that is gloriously displayed through the cross of Christ.

Paul did not deny that much trouble comes to the life of a believer. In verse 36 of Romans 8 he even quotes from the book of Psalms to show that God's followers have always experienced great hardship. Problems in life are not a sign of God abandoning his followers. But problems in life might show us when we have stopped relying on God and started to try to earn physical blessing from Him instead.

I don't know what Stevie Johnson's relationship with Christ actually is. But I can assure you that if you are a follower of Christ two things are true: 1. You will have problems, 2. God's love for you is eternal and will exhibit itself most permanently through granting you eternal salvation.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Don't You Do Something?

When I read on the Kindle my family can't tell right away what I am reading. The other day my daughter Nicole came into the room and asked if I was reading the Bible. I wasn't. "Spurgeon?" she inquired. A very good guess, to be sure, but also incorrect. I informed her that I was reading a book by John Piper who was both a pastor and a writer. Nicole suggested that since I was a pastor that I also should write something. "What should I write?" I asked. She suggested that I write my own biography. I told her that I didn't think many people would want to read about me since I haven't done very much in my life. Her response was, "Well, then you should do something!" Good advice from a brand new teenager.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All Things Work Together For Good . . .

How can Romans 8:28 be true? We quote it so often when life stinks. Some Christians are even tired of hearing it. The verse seems to be an easy answer for pastors to give when we just don't know what to say about a tragic event.

In reality, the verse itself begins to give the answer as to how such an outrageous claim can be true. It is true that all things work for good to those who love God because God has called us according to His purpose. The following two verses elaborate on that theme even more. They let us know that God's complete directing of our salvation is the good in which we can rejoice.

God's plan of saving people begins with His selection of them to receive His special love. Those He foreknows in this way are ones that He also determines to conform to be like Jesus. When we experience pain, loss, suffering, and any other bad thing, we should remember that God uses those experiences to make us more like Jesus than we were previously. In addition to making us like Jesus, God also is the one who declares us right with Him (based on the work of Christ on the cross), effectively calls us to faith in Christ, and grants us eternal life.

God has sacrificed much in order to take care of our eternal issues. It would be inconsistent of God to fail to handle our more immediate, physical problems. In fact, God is in control. He is using our problems to make us like Him. He is using those problems for our good. The promise may seem outrageous to you, but God's proof of the truth of His promise is overwhelming. Accept it as true. Your problems will still exist, but you will be able to see them for the good that God intended in your life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Swiss Family Robinson

I have really enjoyed the Kindle that the church gave me for Pastor Appreciation Month. It is a terrific gift. I think I actually like reading it better than reading "real books" (physical books- you know, the kind with paper that are all over my study).

One of the things that I have done with the Kindle is download and read some free classic books. Many of these books I've read before. One such book is Swiss Family Robinson. It has been many years since I first read this book, but I remembered that I liked it. I also remember my grandfather telling me that it had been one of his favorite books. My dad has since mentioned that it was a book that he enjoyed. And now my son has begun to read it also- on the Kindle of course. I think he just wanted an excuse to use my new toy.

One of the things that struck me as I read this book for the first time as a parent is how much parenting advice is built right into the story. The book is told from the point of view of a dad who has been marooned on an island with his wife and four sons. Throughout the book he corrects the character flaws of his boys through instruction, and also through carefully assigning work projects to each boy based on areas in which that boy needs improvement.

The author also gives much spiritual teaching. The family constantly recognizes the hand of a gracious God in all that happens to them. They remember to give thanks and to study the Bible regularly.

Much of the teaching of the book involves the physical world. The book talks about how they survived by making use of the plants and animals on the island. It also introduces various geological information as they tour their island and make good use of all that is available to them.

There is a reason that some books stand the test of time and become classics. Perhaps this book has survived because it creatively teaches many lessons in the midst of a compelling story. Most of my reading centers on non-fiction, but this book reminds me of the value fiction can play in communicating truth.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Creator, Ruler, Reconciler

Colossians 1:15-20 exalts Christ for who He is. It shows that Christ is our creator. He made the world. He made people. He created the angelic or spiritual world in addition to the physical world. It is by the power of the eternal Christ that everything continues to exist and to operate.

In addition to being our creator, Christ is also our ruler. He is the head of the church. He is the source of the church. He is the leader of the church in every area, including the area of resurrection. Christ ultimately rules not only over the church, but also over all things.

Along with being creator and ruler, Christ is the great reconciler. He makes peace between God and men. He will one day restore this fallen creation to it's original glory. The cross of Christ was the means through which Christ made peace between sinful man and a holy God.

How should a knowledge of Christ's greatness impact our lives? First, we ought to worship the one who made us, rules over us, and gives us peace with God. Second, we should trust the one who holds this life together- the one who will restore the earth to it's former glory- the one died on our behalf. Trusting Him means accepting Him as our way of salvation. It also involves living our lives for His glory and pleasure. Finally, a picture of the greatness of Christ should be a picture that we want to show to other people. Just as grandparents find any excuse to show off pictures of their grandchildren, we ought to make opportunities to present Christ to the people with whom we interact.

Christ is great for many reasons. Let's make sure we remember His greatness and act according to it.

Colossians 1:15-20:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It Happens

One of my responsibilities as "dad" is to get the toilet un-clogged. This is not my favorite part of my dad job-description. In fact, I'm sure that un-clogging toilets is not even in my top ten favorite parts of being a parent. Nevertheless, I plunger onward.

Recently I was again called on to make the water flow through the pipes. For some reason I was having a particularly difficult time convincing the poop to get un-stuck. After working for several minutes one of my children suggested an easier method. She informed me that if I would just walk away, it would clear up on its own. At least, that's what always works for her. What a great laugh my daughter provided me. She didn't understand what was so funny. I explained that the reason the toilet re-gained it's ability to flush all of those times was not because the problem just went away, but because I was continually fixing those problems.

Some time after I stopped laughing (and had considered crying) and after I finally had a break-through with that current back-up, it occurred to me that we might fail to notice the work of our Heavenly Father. We are happy when problems in our lives just work themselves out. But we don't always see that God was the one who was behind the scenes actually fixing the problem. Let's remember to look for evidence of God at work, even when we don't immediately notice Him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Building Update

The plans for an addition to our building are continuing to take shape. The Building Committee of Grace Church met with our site engineer yesterday. The engineer has showed us his plans and helped us choose some of the landscaping and make some style choices for the front of the building. The engineer should be ready to submit our permit application to our township next month.

Applying for permits costs money. Before we spend that money, the Building Committee wants to make sure the entire church is informed and in approval of the plans. In order to inform the congregation, the Committee will call a special congregational meeting for our church immediately following our next Fellowship Dinner (after church on Sunday, November 21). At this meeting I expect that the plans for the building and the plans for the parking lot and driveway will be presented. In addition, the cost of the project and the needed monthly payments will also be shown. Once we spend the money on permits, that money will be wasted if we come back later with a different plan or if we decide not to build the building that we apply to build. As a result, it seems important that we all are in agreement on the building plans before we apply for the permits. Additionally, once we borrow money for the building, our monthly mortgage cost will rise. We need to make sure that the people of Grace Church are financially committed to the project before we shoulder a new mortgage.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Proud Papa

My daughter asked a terrific question during our Bible reading last night. She wanted to know why the pronouns had changed from "they" to "we" in Acts 16. We talked about the fact that Luke wrote the book of Acts. The kids were able to realize that the transition from "they went and did things" to "we went and did more things" meant that Luke had joined Paul's group. My daughter also wanted to know why Luke didn't just say that he began travelling with Paul.

I was very proud of my daughter for noticing this very minor change. It not only showed that she was paying attention, but also lets me know that she is already equipped to handle the first step of studying the Bible for herself- the step of observing what the text actually says.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quotes About Reading

"The man who never reads will never be read. He who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains proves that he has no brains of his own." C.H. Spurgeon

"And in all this reading, our objective is not so much the accumulation of knowledge as the stimulation to think Christianly." John Stott

"Unread Bibles are evidences against rebels, and are unbecoming in believers." C.H. Spurgeon

"Either read or get out of the ministry!" John Wesley

"This much is certain; we will never preach more than we know and we will never preach above our reading." Albert Mohler

(speaking of preaching) "There is no profession in which performance depends so much upon the accumulation of insight and information." John Killinger

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

100 and 100

You are currently reading the one hundredeth post on this blog. In addition, our church Facebook page now has 100 fans. You may now access Grace Church of Old Bridge's Facebook page with this link:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Quotes about Prayer and Preaching

"Whatever else a preacher does in preparing for the pulpit, let him above all pray." Arthur Pierson

"Spare neither labour in the study, prayer in the closet, nor zeal in the pulpit." C.H. Spurgeon

"Prayer will singularly assist you in the delivery of your sermon; in fact, nothing can so gloriously fit you to preach as descending fresh from the mount of communion with God to speak with men." C.H. Spurgeon

"Great talents you may never have, but you will do well enough without them if you abound in intercession." C.H. Spurgeon

"The minister who does not earnestly pray over his work must surely be a vain and conceited man." C.H. Spurgeon

"Good preaching is born of good praying." John Piper

"We can preach competently, earnestly, faithfully, intelligently, interestingly, missionally, passionately, humorously, and even brilliantly. But we fail when we do no preach prayerfully." Phillip Jensen and Paul Grimmond

"All preaching must be prayerful, because no preaching is effective unless God is at work in it." Phillip Jensen and Paul Grimmond

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quotes About Prayer

Here are some general quotes regarding prayer. Tomorrow I intend to post quotes about prayer in relation to preaching.

"When a local church ceases to depend on prayer, God ceases to bless its ministry." Warren Wiersbe

"When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do;
When we depend upon education, we get what education can do;
When we depend upon man, we get what man can do;
But when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do." A.C. Dixon

"When I fail to pray, the best I can do is the best I can do. I forfeit my spiritual potential. But when I pray, the best i can do is no longer the best I can do. The best i can do is the best God can do. And He is able to do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine." Mark Batterson

"The condition of a church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer-meetings." C.H. Spurgeon

"Church members who never pray for the good of the church, have no love for it;" C.H. Spurgeon

"Praying will make you leave off sinning, or sinning will make you leave off praying." C.H. Spurgeon

"We have our requests, not always as we pray, but as we would pray were we wiser." Robertson Nicoll

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quotes About Worship

"The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied." Jonathan Edwards

"Worship is all about consciously reflecting the worth of value of God." John Piper

"Worship is an active response to God whereby we declare His worth. Worship is not passive, but is participatory. Worship is not simply a mood; it is a response. Worship is not just a feeling; it is a declaration." Ronald B. Allen and Gordon L. Borrror

"Reverent corporate worship, then, is not optional for the church of God . . . Rather, it brings to expression the very being of the church. It manifests on earth the reality of the heavenly assembly." Edmund Clowney

"As angels find it their highest joy to praise god continually, should we not also delight each day to sing God's praise, counting this as the highest and most worthy use of our time and our greatest joy?" Wayne Grudem

"The alternative to worship is apostasy." William Lane

Here is one that was just "published" the day after I initially posted these quotes:

"We can worship God by serving our neighbors, but once a week we are called to serve our neighbors by worshiping God." Kevin DeYoung

Friday, September 24, 2010

Event Filled Week

My daily commute involves walking from my living room to my basement. That commute got slightly longer recently when my study moved one room farther away in the basement. One result of working from home is that there are some weeks in which I don't get out of the house much. This past week was not one of those weeks.

After church on Sunday I was able to take my two youngest daughters to Great Adventure. They loved the rides (well, most of them). On Monday I went with my younger son to his first Yankee game. We took the ferry to Manhattan and then took the subway up to the Bronx. The Yankees made the night special by winning the game (most people probably thought that it was special that a monument was unveiled in Monument Park for George Steinbrenner and that Joe Torre, Don Mattingly, and a bunch of other famous Yankees were there, but my son just wanted the game to begin and was happy that we won).

On Tuesday I headed to Pennsylvania for yet another interview in my ordination process. That night we had a great Bible study at the church which also happened to be well attended. On Wednesday I met with the pastors in the denomination who are most local to me. Thursday night was soccer games for my boys. Friday found me driving to Cape May, NJ for a meeting for a church plant in our denomination. Friday was the longest drive, but was actually far less tiring than Tuesday's trip to PA because my dad let me borrow his car. We have two more soccer games on Saturday morning.

In case you were wondering- I love my commute, but I also enjoy getting out of the study and doing other things.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Too Funny Not To Share

The best lines are near the end. I enjoyed this clip, so I hope you will also.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Building Update

The Building Committee at Grace Church continues to work. Right now the committee has most of the plans made for an addition to our current chapel. The addition would seat 120 people and have bathrooms and some kitchen space. It would be connected to our current sanctuary, but that sanctuary would become classrooms. The building would be able to be seen by the road since it will be tall and since the parking lot will sit right in front of the building and extend a bit into our current front yard. Much of the yard would remain, but some more trees from the tree line would have to come down to accommodate the flow of traffic. Also to accommodate traffic, the current driveway would be widened so that cars could enter and exit at the same time- quite a novel idea, don't you think?

At this point in time the site engineer has already provided us with the basic overview plans of what the property would look like when the addition was completed. That is the picture at the top of this page. The completed plans should be able to be reviewed by the committee at our October meeting.
While the engineer decides what the property layout will be, it is the job of the architect to plan the inside floor plan for the new building. That is exactly what our architect is in the process of doing for us. We should have some preliminary results from him in the next couple of weeks.
Once we approve the engineer's final plans (which require some interaction with the DEP first) we will be about ready to apply for our permits. All of this is a long process, but it will be worth it when we are able to gather and worship in a building that suits our needs.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Worship Songs

I found this post both entertaining and enlightening. I trust you will do the same. You have to look at the links to fully appreciate the intent of the "worship rant."

Thursday, August 12, 2010


In 2004 Eternal Perspectives Ministries copyrighted the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. On the front of the book jacket, just above the title is this quote from Stu Weber: "Other than the Bible itself, this may well be the single most life-changing book you'll ever read." That's a huge claim to make- unless you only expect people to read one book. Other endorsers of this book include Joni Earekson Tada, Hank Hanegraaff, and Rick Warren.

I found the book to be tremendously helpful in causing me to think about a Christian's eternal future in heaven and how to prepare for it during this life. In particular, Alcorn's ideas showed me that the New Heaven will be a restored earth that is far greater than we currently experience. I had previously thought that the New Heaven would be separate from the New Earth and that Christians would be able to travel between them. Alcorn shows from Scripture that God will be reigning on earth and that wherever God is present and ruling is Heaven.

One strength of this book is in dispelling false ideas about Heaven. People tend to associate Heaven with boredom of sitting on a cloud and strumming a harp. Alcorn disproves this and other stereotypes and whets our appetites for the sheer thrills and excitements that we will experience throughout all eternity.

Another myth that this book disproves is the idea Alcorn terms "Christoplatonism." Alcorn uses this term to refer to the idea that many Christians have that heaven will only be "spiritual" and not "physical." Many people seem to believe that what is physical is evil and won't last for eternity. This book handily disproves such false assumptions. One easy argument against this concept is that God created our current earth and deemed it "very good." Alcorn shows that heaven will be a very real, physical location- and that location will be on a literal earth.

I certainly recommend this book to all Christians. While the claim to be possibly the most life-changing book you'll ever read certainly seems overblown, I would agree that this book is certainly in the discussion of the top ten most helpful books for Christians in America today. If heaven is our eternal destination, then we ought to know about where we hope to go. In addition, we should learn how to use our lives productively now in order to assure our greatest reward when we arrive in heaven.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Missions Thoughts

In the previous post I mentioned some of the strengths and weaknesses of a missions philosophy that was proposed in the book Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. One aspect of the his proposal that I did not mention before involved the likelihood of missionaries from Western countries to be involved in ministries that were not related to evangelism or church planting. I appreciated Yohannan's analysis of the situation. Of course ministries of mercy such as schools and hospitals and providing food are good things to do. But Yohannan was concerned that we have more missionaries involved in these ministries than in proclaiming Christ to people. The proclamation of the gospel is mankind's greatest need, so it is problematic when we ignore this need in order to meet lesser needs.

I am not against ministries of mercy. Neither is Yohannan. But we both agree that these ministries need to follow the gospel and must be given less priority than the gospel. It is not enough to have a hospital if we never tell the sick people about Jesus. In my opinion, this focus on the evangelism and church planting is a strength of Yohannan's philosophy.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I recently finished reading Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. Yohannan is an Indian man who now serves his people from America by raising money and prayer support for national missionaries throughout Asia. Yohannan started the agency "Gospel For Asia" which publishes the missions magazine Send.

Gospel For Asia primarily spreads the gospel through Asia by training and supporting local Christians to be missionaries to their own people and to other people groups within their reach. Yohannan seems to have written this book primarily to raise additional funds for the work. In fact, the book was sent to me for free. He provides compelling reasons why this ministry is worthwhile and effective. He points out that Asians are more likely to give a hearing to the gospel if it is shared by someone from their culture. He shows that the cost of a national missionary is vastly less than the cost of a foreigner travelling to a new location, learning language and culture, and travelling back. In fact, for the price of supporting one foreign missionary, Yohannan claims that about forty nationals can be supported. Yohannan also claims that the nationals are reaping a huge harvest of souls and starting churches with a far greater effectiveness than foreign missionaries.

While this author convinced me for the most part of the reasonableness of his thesis, I do still have a few concerns. The tone of the book is often accusatory of Western Christianity for living like people in the West. Yohannan wants us to give a lot of money to help Asians reach other Asians through Asian methods. He doesn't seem to recognize that the church in the West must also use culturally accepted methods in order to reach the people closest to them. Yohannan seems to try to make us feel guilty for enjoying food at our fellowship dinners. He is also very critical of the money spent on church buildings in the West when that same money could have purchased more church buildings in Asia. The fact of the matter is, life and building materials simply cost more here. In my community the church building itself can be a very real hindrance to people coming to church; therefore, it makes sense to us to spend a reasonable amount of money in order to serve the people of our community.

The other disagreement I had with this book was that Yohannan seems to blame each Western Christian for every Asian who dies without Christ. My understanding of the Bible is that each person is responsible to God for his own sin. Of course it is our joy and duty as believers to share the wonderful good news of God's grace through Christ with the world. But the fact that certain parts of the world have not been reached as effectively as we would like is not necessarily an indictment of Christians from other cultures. I find that this accusation lacks theological precision.

Despite these critiques, I still found the message of this book to be compelling. I know that I would appreciate an infusion of cash in our church. I can make the case that outside money would greatly aid our effectiveness. So it doesn't take any imagination to prove to me that an infusion of cash into the ministry of the gospel in Asia could also be highly useful. If it is true that God's money can be better used by supporting national workers, then we should give careful attention to this program.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

5 OPTIONS- Reprise

Last week I wrote about the five options that I perceived our congregation had in front of us regarding a building. A few people left comments and gave suggestions. Now it is time for me to weigh in with my opinion on the options.

Option 1 is to build the big building that we would like to own. This is appealing because it is exactly the building that will best serve our needs. This option is not feasible at this time because it is too expensive. The Executive Director of our denomination told me that this option is financially not an option to us right now- though it might be in the future.

Option 2 is to do nothing. Our Executive Director also informed me that this option is not an option to us either. It was very clear to him that our facilities do not facilitate our congregation. We need to do something. While we have made these facilities work for us for a period of years, we have not seen any growth. It is likely that our facilities are hindering people from checking out our congregation.

Option 3 is to build an addition to our current chapel. There are several ways that this could be done, but the elders have suggested that the best type of addition would be a multi-purpose room that would initially serve as a sanctuary and would have bathrooms. Our current chapel would be converted to classroom space. This is a very attractive option to me. It is far less expensive than building an entirely new building. It could be built much sooner and would make our current property usable to us. This option could be done in such a way that the addition would not infringe on the site plan for the larger building and parking lot. That means that if God chooses to bring many more people to our church, that we would still be able to build the larger building where we had originally planned to build it. This first addition could later become a fellowship hall, or we could add onto it in the back to make it a gym.

Option 4 is to sell our property, buy a parsonage, and lease a meeting space for the church. This option is unlikely to work from a strictly financial standpoint.

Option 5 is to sell our property, purchase a building as a space for the church to meet, and help the pastor find his own housing. This option is also appealing to me, but I fear that I need to be careful of my motives for liking this option. I have worked out financial scenarios where this option is possible for our congregation. The advantage is that the church gets into a usable and more affordable property, and perhaps is able to do it in a short period of time. The disadvantage to the church is that it would only own a building and not a parsonage. This is where I say that I have to watch my own motives. Parsonages can be very good investments for churches because once the house is paid for, the church only needs to pay utilities and maintenance for that house instead of paying a pastor enough money to rent or buy a home. Some pastors appreciate not having to be responsible for the home in which they live. But many pastors (myself included) enjoy the experience of home ownership and appreciate the security it provides. It seems to me that many churches that already have parsonages tend to keep them, but churches that don't already have them don't bother acquiring them.

The elders of our congregation have had some extended conversation about these options. At this time we recognize the need to continue to reach out to our community and strive to grow our congregation. At the same time, we want to make plans for facilities that actually will serve our congregation. I would say that we are leaning toward eventually adding an addition to our current chapel, but that decision is certainly not finalized. We are currently trying to improve our financial situation so that we can pursue better facilities. Please pray for the church and leaders to have wisdom. Pray for God to provide opportunities and finances. Pray for us to act with wise faith.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


This blog was started because the Building Committee of Cottrell Corners Community Church thought it would be a good way of keeping the church informed as to the progress of building program. I trust that this blog has accomplished that much and more.

In this article I would like to speak for myself rather than for the Building Committee of the church. I would like to present what I consider to be all of the options that the church has regarding a future building. Our Committee only has the task of preparing to build a building on our current property. Today, I would like to suggest that this building is only one of our many options. I don't necessarily intend to sway you as to which one we should pursue. I would like to point out that we have choices. We are not yet locked into any course of action. We should consider our alternatives. Perhaps you will think of an even better alternative that I have not considered.

Before presenting the options, let's first remember what we are doing. Cottrell Corners Community Church is a small congregation that has been around for almost 16 years. We gathered for worship for the first 10 years at an elementary school in Aberdeen, NJ. Six years ago we purchased four acres of land in Old Bridge. We renovated a small chapel on the property which is where we have been gathering for worship ever since. The property also contains a parsonage and a rental home. The chapel does not have classrooms or bathrooms, and the chapel only has room for about 80 people. A low ceiling in half of the chapel presents some challenges to visibility. In addition, the chapel sits over 200 feet from the road and is blocked from view by trees.

In order to solve these challenges a Building Committee has been formed. The Committee determined that we should build a building in the front of our property that can be seen by the road. The building should have classrooms, bathrooms, a kitchenette, and a sanctuary with seating for at least 150. Floor plans for this building have been acquired from an architect. An attorney and engineer have been retained. A builder has been discovered. Some money has been raised. Financing has been explored. The engineer has explained the permit process.

The first, obvious, and probably most desirable option for the church is to build the building that the committee designed. This building was designed with our exact needs in mind. It will be an attractive building that simply by sitting on the property might attract people to visit the church. The only thing that is keeping us from building this building is the cost. The committee has succeeded in planning for this building to be built at a very reasonable cost. The problem is that we don't have the $500,000 (minimum) that is needed or the means of paying the additional mortgage on that amount.

The second option which the church could pursue in regards to a building is to do nothing. We are currently surviving in these facilities. We are paying our bills. We are meeting for worship and Bible studies. The work of a church is at least partly being accomplished in our current building. This is the least expensive option, though it could become very expensive if our failure to build also results in a failure to grow or handle growth. Incidentally, the option of doing nothing is the default option. This is the option that we are actually pursuing if we decide to wait to build a large building until we secure enough money for that building. While we might be okay for a time to pursue this option, I believe that the long-term health of the church will be advanced better through an option that puts us into a facility that meets our needs.

A third option to consider is to do smaller building program on our property. An addition that is built onto our current chapel would be far less expensive than a new building that is built out front. The reason is partly because the addition would be smaller and partly because the addition would not require the extensive site work that the new building requires. If we were to build a decent sized "box" in our current parking lot we could have bathrooms, a kitchenette, and a sanctuary. We could connect it to our current building and use that building for classrooms. We could make the addition quite tall so that it would be seen by the road, especially after we finish taking out a few trees from the treeline. The new parking lot could be gravel and simply extend into our front lawn.

A fourth option is to sell our property, buy a house for the pastor to live in with the profit, and lease a property to use as a church building. This is basically what the church did for the first 10 years when we met in a school. Those years have shown us that we don't want to rent a "Sunday-only" property. But if we could lease a property that met our needs we might be able to get into a more usable building sooner. I personally don't consider this to be a strong option due to the financial considerations. The lease rates per sqare foot in our community make this option difficult to achieve.

The fifth option for our church would be to sell our current property, purchase a new church building, but not purchase a pastor's home. I would need some initial help getting into housing, but it might be able to be done. The advantage of this option is that the church might still be able to own a building. It would be a building and property that had space for our needs, including classrooms and bathrooms. We would have to find a property that we could acquire cheaper than our current property. We would put the profit from the sale of our current property toward the purchase of the new property. We would need a new mortgage for the remainder of the sale amount, but that new mortgage would be less than our current mortgage.

These are the five options that I can think of. Please comment on any other options that you think up. Also, please comment on which, if any, of the options you believe to be most useful to us at this time and why. I'll wait a little while to give my opinion, but if you read this post carefully you will probably see which one's I like the best.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


In the past two days I have learned of two strong, New Jersey Christians who have gone to be with the Lord. In the coming days their lives and service to Christ will be celebrated. Their families and friends will grieve, and rightly so. But the families and friends of these men will also rejoice in knowing that these men are now receiving the reward for their labors done for Christ in this life.

When C.H. Spurgeon died one of the hymns that was sung at a funeral service contained this line: "By death I shall escape from death." That blessed truth gives assurance to believers in Jesus Christ. We are living for more than this life. We are living for eternity. Death out of this life leads us into an eternal life which has no end. This escape from the second death is only provided to followers of Jesus.

Have you made sure that your death from this life will provide you with your escape from eternal death?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Building Update- June 2010

Your Building Committee at Cottrell Corners Community Church has met again and remain active. The current state of our progress is that we are waiting on the engineer to be ready to apply for permits. The engineer had some delays with NJDEP, but we have hopes that he will have everything prepared very soon. Once he presents us with the plans, we can either make changes or proceed by submitting the plans to Old Bridge Township for approval.

We continue to discuss ways to make the new building environmentally friendly. We have gathered information about solar panels and more is on the way.

We will continue to to more research regarding financing. The people of the church have given and are continuing to give. But of course the amount of money that is needed is still quite large. The more money we have available, the better shape we will be in when it comes time to get a loan.

One thing that will help the building project is if more people are part of the church. Ironically, one thing that will help the church gain people is the new building. We all need to do more in order to introduce our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family to our congregation. Please don't feel that you have to wait until we have a new building to invite people to church. I encourage each of us to invite as many people as we can to come join us as we seek to know God together.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Next Best Thing to Grace

In reading through Spurgeon's "Lectures to My Students" I came across the following quote. The context of this quote is related to making sure people are able to pay attention to a sermon. In this section of the lecture Spurgeon is talking about the physical room in which people meet. He says:
"The next best thing to the grace of God for a preacher is oxygen. Pray that the windows of heaven may be opened, but begin by opening the windows of your meeting-house."

Later in the same paragraph he lamented that many church buildings were not well designed for ventilation. How do you like his proposed solution to that problem?
"Provided all such chapels were properly insured, I could not pray for their
preservation from fire."

I don't know if churches in England in the 1800 made a lot of insurance claims after that. I trust Spurgeon never had a class action suit filed against him by the insurance companies.

Spurgeon then went on to explain how he had solved the ventilation problem in his congregation.
"In my former chapel in Park Street I mentioned to my deacons several times my
opinion that the upper panes of the iron-framed windows had better be taken
out, as the windows were not made to open. I mentioned this several
times, and nothing came of it; but it providentially happened one Monday that
somebody removed most of those panes in a masterly manner, almost as well as if
they had been taken out by a glazier. There was considerable consternation, and much conjecture as to who had committed the crime, and I proposed that a reward of five pounds should be offered for the discovery of the offender, who when found should receive the amount as a present. The reward was not forthcoming, and therefore I have not felt it to be my duty to inform against the individual. I trust none of you will suspect me, for if you do I shall have to confess that I have walked with the stick which let the oxygen into that stifling structure."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Follow up about Meetings

In the previous post I reviewed a book about how to participate in effective elders meetings. Just for fun, here's a look at what happens when meetings go too far.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good Things- Small Packages

The book Meetings That Work by Alexander Strauch is not large. In fact, you could probably read it in under an hour. But don't be fooled by the size. This book contains a big message. It was written by the man who wrote what I consider to be the definitive work on church elders. That book is called: Biblical Eldership. This much smaller book only addresses one area of eldership- the area of meetings.

Elders do spend significant time in meetings, so it stands to reason that we want to make the most of that time. Strauch's tips for effective meetings begin with some brief thoughts about why elders' meetings are so important. Some reasons include: caring for the spiritual health of the congregation, building character on the part of the elders, developing leadership skills, enhancing morale and accountability, and training future elders.

Once the importance of meetings has been established, Strauch takes the major portion of this book to provide tips on how to make meetings better. Interestingly, the major part of that section is concerned with the character and participation of the elders themselves. If the elders are acting with Christ-like character toward each other, the meeting will be more effective.

Next, Strauch provides some priorities for meetings. These priorities are people, prayer, and the Word of God. If there is a weakness in this book it is that Strauch doesn't provide much guidance regarding that final priority- growth in our knowledge of God that can be accomplished during the meeting of the elders.

As the end of the book approaches, the highly practical tips for participating in meetings are provided. One piece of counsel that I appreciated had to do with the agenda. Strauch highlights the importance of the agenda with these words: "Adequate time spent in preparing an agenda, talking it over with others, thinking it through carefully, prioritizing items, and eliminating needless items guarantees a more productive meeting." One tip for the agenda is to send it out to all participants in advance and let people edit it. Another useful hint was to differentiate between major discussion time and quick items of business. One other piece of advice that stuck with me was that the agenda can list "future business" at the bottom so that the current meetings does not become too overloaded.

We have all heard the maxim that "good things come in small packages." This book is an illustration of that saying. Though it is small, it provides some very good and useful advice.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Power Tools

Perhaps you remember an old sit-com with Tim Allen called "Home Improvement." The father in this show (played by Tim Allen) was the host of a show that taught about repairs to the house. He was always trying to "super-charge" any tool to make it more powerful. His antics lead to lots of laughs.

Once you begin to use power tools you start to see the appeal that they had over Tim. Something about driving a nail with the touch of a button or sawing a board with a power saw really does make a man want to grunt with glee (a far less manly show from what I can tell) over the power that he holds in his hands.

I spent some time working with my power tools last week. I was moving my study to a different room. [As an aside, please notice that a pastor has a "study," not an "office," because his primary task is to study the word of God.] In the process of moving I needed to cut the top shelf off of each of my bookshelves because the new room had lower ceilings. I then had to re-assemble all of those shelves into a new book-shelf. Then I had to build one more bookshelf in a size that would fit the new room. It felt good to use the nail-gun, the mitre saw, the circular saw, a drill, and an impact driver. There is a real sense of satisfaction tearing things up and building new things out of them. In the words of an even older TV show that I rarely saw (The A-Team), "I love it when a plan come together."

This move made me notice something I had not previously considered. I enjoyed using my power tools. But the entire reason I was using them was so that I will hopefully do a better job in using the ultimate power tool. The Bible is the word of God. It is the basis for my ministry. The books in my study are there to help me understand, obey, and communicate the Bible in a better way. While regular power tools are helpful for putting up bookshelves, God's book is essential for life. From the Bible we learn about successful life, not only now, but for all of eternity. I'll continue to use my power tools. But I hope that I never drift away from the one power tool that has the power to "give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Building Update

The Building Committee at Cottrell Corners Community Church continues to work toward a new building for the church. Though not much has happened this past month, the committee is still pushing forward. We are still raising money. We are also still waiting on the engineer so that we can submit our plans for permits.

One thing that will help make the new building a reality is if we were to have more people to help pay for it. The committee has many ideas for telling people about the church. The most effective way of seeing more people become a part of our congregation is if each of us who are already a part invite our friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors to join us.

Please pray for the advancement of the permit process and the raising of money. Please pray that God would bring more people to be a part of our congregation. And please give action to your prayer by inviting other people to join us at church. Thanks.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fish Out of Water

Several month ago my children attended a birthday party for a girl in the church. This party was set up like a carnival, and we ended up with two fish. Amazingly, the fish are still alive. We keep them separated from each other since they are "betas" and supposedly won't play nicely together.

My daughter was feeding the fish the other day. I was across the room. She casually mentioned that one fish was no longer in it's tank. It had become so excited that it was being fed that it actually jumped out of the water to get the food out of her hand, but landed outside of the tank. Now before all of you PETA people and animal lovers get worried, I'll let you know that I quickly put the fish bank in the water and it is fine. What really surprised me though was that my daughter- who gets theatrical over the appearance of a bug in her room- was not in the least bit worried about her fish jumping out of the tank. Didn't she care that it could die? Why did she take her time to casually let me know about the problem? Here's why- it wasn't her fish!!!!! It was her brother's fish, so she just didn't care as much.

The excitement of the fish could have led to the death of the fish. On the other hand, the lack of excitement on the part of my daughter could also have lead to the death of the fish. It seems like there is a lesson there for us. We need to get excited about the right things and to the right degree. Our excitement (or excitability) over issues in society or issues in our lives might be a very good thing. Sometimes we do need to get riled up and take action. Sometimes we need to jump up and down and make some noise and let people know what is going on around us. But we also need to make sure that we make that noise in a way that doesn't marginalize what we have to say. If we completely "jump out of the tank" we could end up being of no use at all to the very thing that motivated us.

Let's remember that the thing that we should be most excited about is the gospel. God, in His grace and mercy, provided the solution to our problem of sin. Don't be so causal about that good news that you fail to let people know that they can also benefit. And don't jump off the Empire State building just so you will have people listen to you preach while you are falling. I hear that the landing is quite unpleasant, and you won't be able to preach again afterward.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


About 7,000 pastors gathered in Louisville last week for the Together for the Gospel conference. Although I did not attend, I have read some blog posts about the event and I have already watched one of the sessions on-line.

In the session that I viewed there was a great reminder from C. J. Mahaney that those of us who are ordinary pastors are called to be faithful in our proclamation of the gospel. He reminded me that even when we get discouraged, we should remember that God has already done much for us through the gospel. He also pointed out that those of us who preach regularly should be absolutely amazed that our congregation came back to hear us this Sunday after listening to us the Sunday before.

Mahaney also referenced Spurgeon in his message. He tells of a time that Spurgeon said that some preachers should be sentenced to listen to themselves preach and that it would be a fair punishment to them for the sermons that they inflict on others. He said that if those preachers were forced to listen to themselves, they would cry out with the words of Cain, "My punishment is greater than I can bear."

Mahaney's message is a great reminder of his text from 2 Timothy 4 that pastors are to faithfully preach the gospel. The fruit of ministry is up to God, but we are responsible to serve faithfully.

I want to say a special "Thank You" to the people of Cottrell Corners Community Church in Old Bridge, NJ who do me the amazing honor of coming back week after week and allowing me to preach the gospel to them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Churches Grow

I'm always interested in hearing about churches that grow. I enjoy hearing about God's blessing in particular locations. I also like to find out if those churches have any lessons to share with others. As I've continued to read about C.H. Spurgeon this year, I've discovered two reasons that he gave for the tremendous growth his church experienced. The first explanation is fervent prayer. Listen to his second explanation:

"We have used no carnal attractions to gather people together to worship here, we have procured nothing to please their taste by way of elaborate music, fine dresses, painted windows, processions, and the like; we have used the gospel of Jesus without any rhetorical embellishments, simply spoken as a man speaketh to his friend; and God has blessed it, and he will bless it still."

There it is- prayer and the gospel. Jesus promised to build His church. We have the privilege of being a part of that church and watching it grow. Let's do our part by praying fervently and sharing the truth.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Yet Another Update on the Progress of the Building

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to keep people informed regarding the building program at Cottrell Corners Community Church. Our intention is to see a building raised which will be used for God's glory. We believe that the building will help us accomplish our core values of worship, discipleship, and evangelism.

The Building Committee met last night. It was reported that the power company does not currently have a program where they would supply solar panels to us. Other options will be investigate this month.

The engineer is still waiting on the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to investigate our property and say that there are no wetlands. Apparently the hard winter has put the NJDEP about a month behind. The engineer should be ready to apply for the permits we need soon after the NJDEP comes.

The Building Fund currently has a little under $50,000 in it. Plus, we have spent $7,000 on retainer fees for our engineer, architect, and lawyer. The pledges seem to be coming in appropriately. The time frame for our fund drive was scheduled to end in June.

We have been considering some back-up plans if we are not able to afford the building that we have proposed. Actually, it seems like we can afford the building. It is the parking lot and site work that might put the project out of reach. We will consider building a smaller building, but we are not going to make any plans for changing to the smaller building until after June. The engineer shared with me that if we built a smaller building we might not have to do a new parking lot. The builder told me that if we put an addition on our current building we could probably avoid most of the site work costs that appear prohibitive to us.

Many options are being considered by the Building Committee. We are still looking forward and moving forward. Please pray that God will grant wisdom. Please pray that God will provide the permits. Please pray that God will provide the money. And most of all, please pray that we will glorify God through this entire process of trying to build a building that will be used to serve Him.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Is the Young Kid Coming?

A lady in our church hosts a prayer meeting in her home on Thursday evenings. Her home is an apartment in a building for senior citizens. The other people in our congregation who attend this gathering are also retired, including a retired minister who leads the meeting. Because we have other meetings on Thursday nights, I only make it to this prayer meeting once or twice a month. Last night was one of those nights.

Some of the other people arrived at the building before I did. They told me that the security guard asked them if the young kid was coming. They didn't know what he meant. Then someone said, "do you mean the guy with the shaved head and goatee?" Yes, that was indeed the "young kid" he was talking about. They were happy to inform the guard that the young kid was married and had five kids of his own. I don't know if they told him that I also have the extreme privilege of being their pastor. At any rate, it's been a while since I was called young, so that felt good, even if it has to come from someone who works around octogenarians most of the time.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ethnic Blends

Early in the story of the Bible God focused His attention on one nation- the people of Israel. Though God was working with and through them, He still promised that they would be a blessing to all the peoples of the world. When Christ started the church He was very clear that His followers were to take His message of salvation to all the world- specifically to "all the ethnicities." The Christian church quickly expanded beyond it's Jewish origin and spread throughout the Roman empire. Throughout the centuries the gospel has continued to reach new groups of people.

God is very clear that His followers are to become one new group instead of remaining independent from each other. The night before Jesus went to the cross He instructed His disciples with these words: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Thus, we are not to huddle only with Christians who look like us or who were raised like us. Our love for other believers who are different from us is an example to the world that we have truly been transformed by Jesus' power.

It is understandable why many churches are segregated. In some places I have lived it would be impossible to have a church composed of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds simply because the populations of those areas were not diverse. But in other parts of our country and the world, it is scandalous that our churches are segregated based on racial features. Here in the heart of New Jersey I see people that look different from me and from each other everywhere I go. A church that welcomes all of these different ethnic groups is a church that displays God's love to the world.

Here is how one pair of authors stated the matter:

"For in an increasingly diverse and cynical society, people will no longer find credible the message of God's love for all people when it's preached from segregated churches."

What can we do? Very simply, make friends with people from other cultures, share the gospel with people from other cultures, and worship with people from other cultures. It may not be easy, but it is a very necessary way to display Christ's love to our world.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Preaching to Myself

Sometimes the person who most needs to hear the sermon that the preacher is preaching is the preacher himself. That's what happened to me this past Sunday. I had been feeling a little bit discouraged last week. Maybe I wasn't having a full-fledged "pity party," but I was a bit down. I wished that we would be reaching more people for Jesus. I wished that we had a building that would accommodate our needs- (I'm not asking for much- just a meeting space with bathrooms and classrooms and a large enough area for a sanctuary. Ok, I'd also like for it to be able to be seen from the road). But I wasn't seeing those things happening.

In the book Humility- True Greatness, C.J. Mahaney quotes Martin Lloyd Jones as saying, "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?" That was my problem. I was only listening to the discouraging things that were going on around me. I should have been reminding myself of God's greatness.

In fact, the message I needed to hear was the same one I was preparing for our people. That message was from Habakkuk 3. In this chapter the prophet Habakkuk had a lot of things that could have discouraged him- beginning with the captivity that his nation was about to experience. Instead of staying dejected, Habakkuk asked for God's help. He then reflected on the ways that God had helped in the past and remembered the great character of God. Those memories lead Him to declare his trust in God no matter how bad the circumstances around him would become. The memories lead him to praise God.

Once I preached that message to myself I was indeed happier and more content. I trust that we all can remember to remind ourselves of God's goodness. When we preach that message to ourselves we will be remembering why we can trust God no matter what is going on around us.

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Socks

Want to feel great? Go buy a package of new socks. Then open the package, take out the first pair, and put them on your feet. Doesn't that feel great? I had not had that experience in quite some time. My socks had become threadbare. In fact, some of my socks were so bare of thread, that my feet came right through them. Lately, at the encouragement of my lovely wife, I have been throwing away socks with holes. I had so few left that in order to have clean socks our laundry needed to be done quite often. My wife has often joked about shopping for new clothes being a better choice than doing laundry. She just followed up with that joke and brought me home some new socks last night. Putting them on this morning was almost a religious experience. They felt great on my feet- all of that warm and cushioning material.

The joy of my new footwear did not last long. One of my children clogged a toilet this morning (again). When I went to fix the problem, I ended up with an overflowed toilet. My nice warm socks quickly turned to dirty, cold, wet, disgusting socks. No way was I going to wear them all day. They came off my feet and went on the laundry pile.

Once I got the bathroom and myself cleaned up, it occurred to me that my sock mis-hap might be a small illustration of our spiritual lives. When God saves us, He makes us new creatures. He washes us clean from all the sin and filth that we had previously committed. We are like that brand new pair of socks. But it usually doesn't take us long to dive back into the filth of sin. We might not mean to, but old habits die hard. God doesn't throw us away and just get out a new pair. Instead, when we confess our sins, we are forgiven by God and cleaned up. In a sense, we are continually going through the washing machine of God's grace.

I intend to enjoy my new socks. But I hope that I will also remember to appreciate the new life that God gives me and the forgiveness that I receive from Him on a regular basis.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where do the people come from?

I'm always interested in learning about churches that have been effective in reaching more people for Jesus. In the process of reading a biography of the 18th century preacher C.H. Spurgeon, I came across this quote of how he had built such a large congregation. Here's what he said:

"Somebody asked me how I got my congregation; I never got it at all. I did not think it was my duty to do so. I only had to preach the Gospel. Why, my congregation got my congregation. I had eighty, or scarcely a hundred when I preached first. the next time I had two hundred: every one who heard me was saying to his neighbour, 'You must go and hear this young man!' Next meeting we had four hundred, and in six weeks eight hundred. That was the way in which my people got my congregation. now the people are admitted by tickets. That does very well; a member can give his ticket to another person and say, 'I will stand in the aisle,' or 'I will get in with the crowd.' Some persons, you know, will not go if they can get in easily, but they will go if you tell them they cannot get in without a ticket. that is the way congregations ought to bring a congregation about a minister. A minister preaches all the better if he has a large congregation. it was once said by a gentleman that the forming of a congregation was like the beating up of game, the minister being the sportsman. But there are some of our ministers that can't shoot! I really think, however, that I could shoot a partridge if I fired into the midst of a covey, though I might not do so if there were only one or two."

It sounds to me that Spurgeon found that people would come if they were invited to something and found out that there was a good reason to continue to come. I doubt that it will work for us to have bouncers at the church door with an exclusive guest list, but that would certainly be cool to see.

What do you think? Whose job is it to bring more people to church? And does a pastor tend to preach better if there are more people there to hear him? I'd love to hear your comments.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When Life is Hard

The message this past Sunday was from the first chapter of the book of Habakkuk and the first verse of chapter 2. In that message we considered that God's power is so great that He works through and in spite of the evil intentions of wicked people. God's total control, or sovereignty, should be an encouragement to us when we endure especially rough times in our lives. Habakkuk's conclusion was that even though he did not understand how God could use the bad things that bad people were doing, he himself was going to wait and see what God would do. Habakkuk came around to a place of trusting that God is in control, God is good, and God would accomplish what is good and best.

An example of God working in the midst of evil is found in the very first book of the Bible. Joseph's brothers lied about him and then sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up in jail for a crime that he had refused to commit. Yet Joseph met someone in jail who later put him in front of Pharaoh. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, that he put Joseph in control of his whole country- and Joseph saved that country from a famine. Joseph went on to tell his brothers that even though they intended to harm him, God was working to bring about what was good.

Perhaps the greatest example of God working in spite of the bad intentions of others is the example of Jesus going to the cross. The religious leaders at that time hated Jesus and literally had Him murdered. But while Jesus was on the cross, He bore the wrath of God against sin. His death was intended by His enemies to harm Him, but was used by God to bring about salvation for all who trust in Christ.

When you face situations that you don't think are fair, remember that God is greater than your situation. And remember that if you have received salvation from your sin through the work of Jesus on the cross, then you have already received more than you deserve. God is consistent. He will continue to bring good out of evil. Our responsibility is simply to rely on Him.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Building Update

The Building Program at Cottrell Corners Community Church continues to move forward. We are at a stage in which it is difficult to discern forward progress. Both the architect and builder mentioned to me in the past week that the stage we are currently "stuck" is the hardest and longest part of a building project. That stage is the acquiring of permits.

Our engineer thought that he would be ready for us us to submit our permit request to the Township of Old Bridge by the middle of March. Unfortunately, all of the snow that we have had this past month has kept the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection from visiting our site to give their approval. The engineer can't submit our requests to the Township until after the NJDEP has visited. In other words, we are waiting for snow to melt. Incidentally, this reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin was trying to use a hair dryer to melt the snow from his yard because he had lost a quarter. I'm not quite ready to get out the hair dryer, but I sure am praying for warm weather.

Other aspects of the building program are continuing to be investigated and planned. More research will go into the possibility of acquiring solar panels. We also learned recently that financing might be difficult, but there are still some things that can be done to receive it.

Please continue to pray for God's direction and His leading. We only want to build if/when/what/how/where/He leads. Our intention, as our slogan says, is that we really will be "Building To Serve."

The Secret to Success

Charles Spurgeon was one of the most successful pastors of all time. When asked the secret to his success, he simply replied, "My people pray for me."

Do you want to have success is following God? Pray for it. Do you want your church to have success in reaching people for Christ and helping them follow Him better? Pray for your church. And pray for your pastor.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First Person Narrative Preaching

This past Sunday I preached the three "Lost and Found" stories of Luke 15. A shepherd found the one sheep out of a hundred that had wandered away. A woman found her one coin out of ten that had been misplaced. And a father received back his one son who had left the family. The point of these stories is the joy that God has over sinners who repent. God's love for people is evident in these stories, especially when the context is viewed. Jesus told these stories to the Pharisees because they condemned him for spending time with undesirable people (tax collectors and sinners). Jesus told these stories in order to let the Pharisees know that these undesirable people are actually very desirable in God's eyes.

In order to communicate these stories I used a style of preaching called "First person narrative." This style is described by Haddon and Torrey Robinson in their book It's All In How You Tell It. This brief book recommends a technique that has been used by preachers for ages. The technique is simply becoming one of the characters in the story and telling the story from that perspective. For the three stories in Luke 15 I became a tax collector and came in and told the congregation what it was like for Jesus to stand up for me and tell the self-righteous Pharisees that I was valuable to God.

I began with a normal introduction. Then someone in the congregation came forward and read the text. While the verses were being read, I slipped out and got into costume (tunic and headpiece from a Christmas program shepherd's outfit- plus sandals). When the reading of the text was completed, I came in and introduced myself. Then I told the stories. I used several props for the stories. I had hidden a stuffed animal of a sheep, so when the shepherd found the sheep, I found that stuffed animal. I also used a broom and a flashlight to look for the lost coin. I found the lost coin on the floor about half way back in the sanctuary. After I told the stories, I left the sanctuary from the front (looking for Pastor Dave), removed the costume while circling around the outside of the church, and then re-entered as myself from the side. I then concluded the sermon by talking about the meaning of the stories and how they applied to our lives.

The reaction that I received from taking the position of a character in the story has been very favorable. I trust that the point was well-communicated. Though I don't see this as a normal way of delivering a sermon, I can see using this technique again in the future.

Friday, February 19, 2010

You Never Know

For the past few years I have taken on a fairly ambitious reading project. One year I read Calvin's institutes. Last year it was Grudem's Systematic Theology. This year I am reading some volumes of Spurgeon's sermons. I am also reading a biography of Spurgeon.

Spurgeon was a man who wanted to be useful to God. He was perfectly content to pastor a small church. But God had far a larger ministry in store for Charles. He ended up pastoring a "mega-church" in London for most of his adult life. But Spurgeon's ministry was not limited to his church, or even to his century (the 1800's). Many of Spurgeon's sermons were printed and published. Eventually many of these sermon's were published together as a series of over 50 large books. They are still available today, and many sermon's are available on the Internet.

My dad gave me five volumes of Spurgeon's sermons. I began reading volume 19 in December (of 2009). There are 61 sermons in 732 pages- not short pages by the way. The first owner of this particular book, Rev. George Headley, Jr., inscribed his name one the first page of the book. Rev. Headley was my dad's pastor and mentor when Dad was in college. From notes left in the book it is obvious that Pastor Headley was benefitting from Spurgeon's writings as early as 1972. Below Pastor Headley's name is the signature "Rev. Jack Peters 10-92." The marginal notes on some of the pages were obviously left by him. Curiously, he noted at the end of one message that he had read that particular sermon after PRM (Prayer Meeting?) on 10-16-91. So Dad owned and benefited from the book sometime in the early 90's. Now I am reading and quoting from this same book almost twenty years later.

I doubt that Charles Spurgeon expected that sermons he preached in the 1800's in England would continue to benefit pastors and their congregations in the 1900's and 2000's in America. By God's grace, that is exactly what happened. Three pastors and their congregations have made use of just one copy of one book. You may not feel that the things that you are doing will have much impact on anyone. But because of God's grace, you never really know how God will use your work to serve people you aren't even intending to serve. So be faithful. Continue to serve. And leave the long-term impact of your work up to God.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Christian's Great Business

C. H. Spurgeon preached a sermon in 1873 titled, "The Christian's Great Business." This sermon had Psalm 51:12-13 as a text. Those verses state: "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." The first point made in this sermon is that the people who tell others about God are one's who have already been forgiven by God. It is important for those of us who have received salvation from God to tell others about the great salvation that they can also receive.

It is not unusual for Christians to mention that we should tell other people about Jesus. We are great at telling each other that we need to do it. I'm afraid that I'm better at recognizing the need to share the gospel than I am at actually sharing the gospel. But Spurgeon mentioned a motivation for actually sharing the gospel that I rarely hear. Of course we are told that we should tell others because they desperately need to hear the good news. We are told to tell others about God because He said to do it and because it brings Him glory. We are told to tell others because we have received so much and should share out of obedience and gratitude to God. But Spurgeon also mentioned that we should tell other people about forgiveness through Christ because doing so will add to our own joy. We all like to be the one to share good news. The gospel is the greatest news in the world, so it is our privilege and joy to tell other people about it. And when the gospel you share is received by someone, that is going to bring you greater pleasure.

God cares about people. He cares about you enough to save you from the penalty of your sin. He also cares about you enough to offer you joy as you share the gospel. Now all you need to do is receive that joy by talking to people about Jesus or by inviting them to church where they will hear about Him.

Monday, February 8, 2010

On the last Sunday of Janauary I preached the annual "State of the Church" message at Cottrell Corners Community Church. I also provided a letter which summarized the main themes.

You can listen to the message here:

You can read the letter here:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Knowing God's Will

What am I supposed to do with my life? Who should I marry? What should I study? Where should I go to school? What job should I try to get? All of these questions are important to followers of God. And good followers of Christ desperately want to ensure that they make the right decisions when they face these, and other, decisions.

I recently read two books on the topics of God's will and/or spiritual discernment. Kevin DeYoung wrote an entertaining little book called, Just Do Something. Tim Challies wrote a less entertaining, less "little" book called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Both books are well founded on Scripture. Both might prove helpful to people who are searching for God's plan.

Perhaps the most important take-away from both of these books is that God's will for a person's life is already contained in Scripture. Of course there is no chapter and verse that tells you what job to take. Instead, God's will that is revealed in Scripture is His moral will for your life. God is very clear that His will for believers involves things like sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). God's will for each Christian is the same in the sense that He calls us all to make decisions that are based on the teaching of Scripture. God's will for you is based on what is right and wrong. And He has clearly revealed that He desires you to choose to do right rather than to choose to sin.

While God's will is already revealed, this does not mean that choices about who to marry and where to go to school are unimportant. It does mean that we have freedom to make those choices based upon how those choices will help us to be more like Christ. One school might help you know God better. But there might be several schools that are all equal in how they will help you fulfil God's plan. In those cases, a Christian has freedom to "just do something." So, don't be paralyzed about a decision. Don't spend hours and days agonizing between which of two perfectly good options is actually God's will for your life. Instead, limit your decisions to things that will most help you be like Christ. Then make a decision and be content that God's will has been accomplished.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quote About Suffering

"sometimes God works a greater wonder when he sustains his people in trouble than he would do if he brought them out of it."

These words were spoken by C. H. Spurgeon in a sermon about Jesus calming the storm. He pointed out that Jesus allowed His followers to be in the storm, and He did not stop the storm immediately. The same thing is true in our lives as well. Our Lord doesn't always keep us out of the troubles of life, but He does help us get through those troubles.

Hit the Links

No, I'm not a golfer. Here are a couple of sites to check out that might be helpful or interesting to you. This web site takes clips of sermons and makes them into hip-hop music videos- very cool. For the techies- someone edited the launch announcement of Apple's new iPad down to the descriptive words.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Valley of Vision

I finally acquired the collection of Puritan prayers titled, The Valley of Vision. I had already enjoyed the CD from Sovereign Grace by the same title. Though I have read through most of the book quickly, I can tell that I really need to go through it a page at a time and study the deep theology and rich Scripture that went into each prayer. I highly recommend this book for its devotional value. Be warned that the Puritans lived a long time ago, so the language used can be a bit tough. But if you are not deterred by the language, you should be blessed by the well written prayers of people who obviously thought deeply about what they were saying to God. You might think it odd to read prayers, but I still challenge you to try it. I myself was a bit skeptical of the idea, but having begun to read, I've discovered tremendous value in what they wrote.

One thing that I have appreciated are the various ways that each prayer addresses God. For example, here are the titles for God used in the first line of each of the first five prayers:

Three in One, One in Three, God of my salvation
O God whose will conquers all
O Lord God, who inhabitest eternity
O Fountain of all good
My God

Here are just a couple of quotes to whet your appetite:

"May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened,
that I may honor Thee by my entire dependency
and the greatness of my expectation." p. 116

"Teach me the happy art of attending to things temporal
with a mind intent on things eternal." p. 134

"oft-times spiritual comforts are at their highest
when physical well-being is at its lowest." p. 157

"if I do not live a life that satisfies thee,
I shall not live a life that will satisfy myself." p. 166

This book contains a lot of deep theological truth, and presents those truths in some flowery language. It might be difficult to read straight through, but most people should find tremendous blessing from reading one page a day and thinking about what they read.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

It is apparent that my children are growing up in a slightly different culture from the one in which I was raised. I had to lead a memorial service on Saturday, so I mentioned that I was going to put on a suit. Becca immediately stated, "But Daddy, it's not snowing outside." I guess that a "snow suit" was the only type of suit she knows about. When Charissa found out that it wasn't a snow suit, she suggested that maybe I was going to change into my bathing suit. These kids clearly have had limited exposure to formal attire.

The other day my wife made a concoction for dinner that she calls "sloppy rice." It is the meat from sloppy joe sandwiches, but on a bed of rice instead of on hamburger rolls. When Charissa saw what we were having she exclaimed, "We're having slappy rice." I'm not sure when she has ever been slapped by rice, but she must have been pretty sure that it had happened.