Sunday, June 28, 2009

A letter from a husband/father...

Below is the letter I mentioned in my sermon today. It is a letter that Ray Ortlund Sr. wrote to his family before he went to be with the Lord. His son, Ray Ortlund Jr. found the letter in his father's desk. What a great example of godliness from a father and husband to his family!

Dear Family,
"The time has come for my departure" (2 Tim. 4:6). It's strange to write this when I'm feeling well and vigorous, but unless Christ returns first that departure time will come. When you read this it will have happened.
I have had a great journey with Jesus Christ. From childhood I have known about God and revered Him. The name of Jesus has always been precious to me. I thank my dear parents for this heritage. Now, life on earth is over and I go to meet the Lord face to face. I trust in Him as my sure Savior and rest in His grace at this momentous time of my death. I do not fear death. (I don’t like the pain, blood, and guts of it all!) Actually I have been anticipating this new adventure and at the time you read this I will be with Christ in heaven. So it’s happened and I’m now in God’s presence, probably shocked at all I’m seeing for the first time.
I am sorry for my sin and failures which have been many, but I know Christ has forgiven them. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Some of those sins have been against you, my dear family, and I am sorry. You probably know my sins better than I. Some you don’t know, I know all too well. But "where sin abounds grace does much more abound."
My dear Anne has been my most treasured friend. If she is still living as you read this I know you will treat her well. When she goes to heaven God will give her blue ribbons and gold medals. What a great woman and wife! She has loved and stood loyally by me all our life together. And our last years have been our best. May God reward her for hard work, a forgiving spirit, relentless faith and enthusiastic acceptance of life as it came. She is a woman of God... my Cadillac. We shall meet on the other side and sing a duet of praise to God. As you know, Psalm 34:3 has been our verse. We trust you’ve seen that we did magnify the Lord.
Each of you children and spouses have been the joy of my life, as have been the grandchildren. I include Melinda and John in this because they are family to us, too. I have never doubted your love for me and you have been too kind. I will see you in heaven and we'll bless God together.
I urge you to remain true to your Savior. I have no doubt that you will. Love each other deeply in your marriages. Keep your family ties strong. Lay up treasure in heaven because the stuff of earth is empty. Bank accounts, houses and furniture mean nothing to me now. Actually they never did. Beware of sin, and confess it as soon as you discover it in your life. And let the Spirit's gift of joy color all your life. As you mature remain a happy person in Christ. Get even sweeter as you get older. Sour old people are a pain.
In my death be sure God is glorified. Jesus glorified the Father most in His death. John 17:1-5 tells us He faced impending death with that prayer for the Father to be glorified. So at my memorial service glorify God. Have a holy party. I was saying to Anne recently that this world has become less attractive lately and I feel a bit out of place. So it's good to go "home" now. I 'd like to make my burial simple. Cremation is fine with me. Bury my remains in a simple container to wait for the resurrection of my new glorified body. If cremation upsets you then don't do it, of course. I want you to be comfortable with it all.
Heb. 13: 20,21: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
I love you all and each one. I’ll see you sooner than you think!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sovereign Grace Music for Children

To Be Like Jesus contains twelve worship songs that teach the fruit of the Spirit in a creative and memorable way.Through these songs kids will learn that Jesus is our perfect example of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,and self-control. More than that, they’ll discover that we can’t be like Jesus unless we trust in the power of his cross to forgive us and the power of his Spirit to change us.

Purchase the CD HERE! You may also purchase an MP3 download of the album and begin listening today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Time Away

This Sunday my family and I embark on our family vacation which will take us to the eastern part of the United States where I will begin my three month sabbatical. As I prepare to step away from my pastoral position at Trinity for a time, let me share with you two things: what a pastoral sabbatical is, and specifically how I plan to use mine.

What is a pastoral sabbatical?

It is an intentional time away from the people and routine of one's local congregation in order to recalibrate one's spiritual perspective, rest one's body, reinvigorate one's mind and renew one's family relationships. A sabbatical provides a pastor a period of disengagement to remind him that he is a person, not just a pastor; that he is married to his wife, not the church; that he has a lot to learn from wise teachers from elsewhere, not just from the books on his study shelves. A sabbatical is a gift to a pastor, but it is also a gift to the congregation he serves, for it reminds them that their greatest need is not their pastor but Christ.

What am I planning for my sabbatical?

1. Education
In July I will be at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina taking two classes, one on church leadership and one on the theology of Jonathan Edwards. After I return I will work hard to finish my reading assignments and complete assigned research papers - hopefully by early August.

2. Time with family
After I complete my schoolwork, I plan to do a number of things in August and September with my family. They include a Cub Scout family camp in Minnesota, rebuilding and painting our fence with Carson and Evan, taking Terri to a pastoral couples retreat center in Wisconsin for a week, reading lots of stories, taking lots of bike rides and spending a few days alone with our boys while Terri has the opportunity to get away by herself for awhile.

3. Time alone with God, the Bible and my books
I will likely take a few days at Assumption Abbey in Richardton to pray, read and write. I may also do that at a friend's cabin. Though I need to do some reading to get ready for my Proverbs sermon series, most of my study will involve my continuing exploration of several theological topics, continuing to wrestle with Christianity and contemporary culture, a potential writing project I'm thinking of pursuing and enjoying some great works of fiction. I look forward to the chance to spend unhindered time in prayer, and some time practicing the spiritual discipline of just 'being' to the glory of God.

While I'm 'away' you'll still often see me in church and around town. Feel free to ask me how my sabbatical is going, what I'm learning, whether or not I'm resting and how you can be praying for me. I'll be happy to share.

Our other elders are eager to continue ministering to you while I'm 'away'. Vince is going to be preaching a series on I Timothy beginning next Sunday. I'm excited to hear it! He and Doug, Dave and Jay are here to serve you, teach you, pray with you and encourage you any way they can. My time away won't diminish ministry at Trinity at all.

Finally, let me say 'Thank you' for being the kind of congregation that would think to give their pastors an occasional sabbatical away for rest and growth. It reflects your generosity and your Kingdom-focus. All of us Perrys are tremendously grateful for the gift of the next three months.

Grace and peace,


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Suicide of the Soul

"The paradox of self-love is this: The more you fill the self, the more it echos with the emptiness of unfulfillment. Living in itself and for itself, the self remains mysteriously unsatisfied and insatiable."

- Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, p. 52

Who are you giving yourself away for, to the glory of God, today?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chess, Church and American Culture

"Years ago, Aron Nimzovich became the defining personality at the heart of a revolutionary and unconventional form of chess. It was called Hypermodern. It was a response to what is commonly known as classical chess. In classical chess, you control the middle, protect your pieces, and, by all means possible, leave yourself with no weak spaces. Hypermodern chess saw the board differently. You relinquish the center, you send your bishops to the edges, and you allow perceived and present weaknesses in exchange for the opportunity to return with greater strength.

I think there is much for the church to learn from this innovation. I am convinced that the friction of postmodernism can create tremendous traction for the church if we will do much the same. Concede the [cultural] center - the church is supposed to live on the edge anyway."

- Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force, pp. 60-61

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bringing Bella Home

A Trinity Church family made the local news Monday evening. The story was about the four- year-old little girl they are in the process of adopting. Her name is Bella and she is from Ukraine.

If you missed their story on the news last night click HERE to watch it from the local news site.

If you would like to stay up to date with the latest news on the adoption you can visit the Burckhard's blog HERE.

Engaging the Whole Person

The biblical mandate for Christians to evangelize requires two things: clear, bold proclamation of the gospel and thoughtful, compassionate, relational engagement of the unbeliever. Our evangelical subculture often promotes the first without the second or practices the second while ignoring the first. What does entering into a gospel-focused relationship which balances both look like? Denis Haack points us to the wisdom he recently received in this regard from a surprising source: a Muslim named Eboo Patel.

"Patel, a Muslim, argued [in a recent lecture at Mayo Clinic] that we are in a dangerous period of history where religious rivalry often ends in violence. He pointed out that the media tends to portray religion in terms of conflict, often ending in sectarian violence. This need not be, Patel said, the only narrative that is told. The Mayo Clinic, he said, in contrast demonstrates how people of multiple faiths or no faith can respect one another and can work together for the common good. This story needs to be told more widely since religious faith, globally, is not diminishing but is increasing.

During the Q&A following his lecture, Dr Patel was asked about evangelism and whether his vision of “proactive cooperation” among believers of various faiths conflicted with their mandate to proselytize. His answer was, I think, both personal and very wise.

Patel said he respected his friend’s faith commitment that included the mandate to pray for his salvation and to evangelize him. That conversation should occur, he said, but it shouldn’t be the only conversation that occurs. We also need, Patel said, to get to know one another; to listen and ask questions; to learn each other’s traditions, ideas, and beliefs; to respect one another; to learn from one another; and to work out how we can live and work together for the common good.

I like that way of putting it: evangelistic conversations should occur but they shouldn’t be the only conversations that occur."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Father's Day Gift Ideas

Father's Day is quickly approaching. This year, rather than a tie or new power tool, let me suggest that you buy your husband or father a book to further his sanctification and growth in grace. You'll be blessed by the Spirit's transformative work in your man's life. Here are some titles that would fit the bill, currently available on our Trinity Church Book Table (in the new library):

The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott

Water of the Word by Andrew Case

Sex, Romance and the Glory of God by CJ Mahaney

Boy's Passage, Man's Journey by Brian Molitor

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Our Misled Loyalty (to the self via the state)

We in 21st century America (Christians included) may be the most narcissistic in history. We want it all, we want it now, and its the job of the government to give it to us. How did we get in this mess? Missiologist Leslie Newbingin provides a very thoughtful analysis. Read it carefully and then consider how our nation's evolving self-focus has informed your own thinking.

"From the Enlightenment onwards, it is the 'rights of man' which has seemed axiomatic. To the founding embody the principles of this new philosophy, it seemed necessary and natural to begin with the famous words: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' The rights of the human person are the unquestioned starting point from which all else follows.

These rights include the right to pursue 'happiness.' Happiness was hailed by the eighteenth century philosophers as 'a new word in Europe.' In place of the joys of heaven to which the medieval person was encouraged to look forward, Enlightenment people looked forward to 'happiness' here on earth.

Hannah Arendt (On Revolution, 1963) has pointed out that, for some at least of the American founding fathers, the happiness intended was the 'public happiness' of actively shared responsibility for public life. She also shows, however, that while any sort of private hedonism was very far from their purposes, the course of events led inexorably to an interpretation of their language as meaning the pursuit of private wellbeing. The result is that the world becomes a place where each individual has the 'right' to pursue 'happiness' in the domestic and privatized sense, and it is the responsibility of the state to see that this right is honored.

Nationalism [read 'patriotism'], therefore, becomes our effective ideology, always in times of crisis proving stronger than any other ideological or religious force [think American flag draped and 'God Bless the USA' saturated Christian churches after 9-11]. If there is any entity to which ultimate loyalty is due, it is the nation-state. In the twentieth century, we have become accustomed to the fact that - in the name of the nation - Catholics will fight Catholics, and Protestants will fight Protestants. The charge of blasphemy, if it is ever made, is treated as a quaint anachronism; but the charge of treason, of placing another loyalty above that of the state, is treated as the unforgivable crime. Tha nation-state has taken the place of God."

- Leslie Newbingin, Leslie Newbingin: Missionary Theologian, A Reader, pp. 195-96

The reason for this mess? Our primary pursuit of present, private happiness.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Would you own a pub?

"I have concluded that Jesus is much more concerned about who we are than what we do."
- Mike Hale, Brewer & Owner of Hales Ales Brewery and Pub, Seattle, Washington (and a very orthodox and outspoken Christian)
Your biblically informed thoughts?