Monthly Archives: September 2009

Is “Deacon” Just a Servant? (Russ Moore)

Russ Moore has a very good article on the office of deacon that I highly recommend to all of you.  I’d love to know your thoughts!

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Blue Grass Christian Camp Suffers Serious Flooding

(This is a letter from the workers at Blue Grass Christian Camp just outside of Winchester, Kentucky.  Please pray and help if you can!)

As many of you may have heard already, we have experienced major flooding here at Blue Grass Christian Camp. The water from Boone’s Creek swelled to levels not seen in at least 20 years. Everyone is safe and none of the residences here on the camp were damaged. However the current and debris from the flood has leveled our maintenance shop. The tools and equipment we use in our daily operations were in there, and now are strung out for miles down the creek. We have recovered some tools, and some we will be able to salvage but some will be a complete loss. Other damage includes complete loss of the compressor for our kitchen appliances, 3 furnaces, and 3 water heaters. We have groups scheduled to be here at the camp starting on Thursday (our Wednesday group has already cancelled) and depending on the status of our kitchen and water heaters we may have to reschedule with these groups as well which means that we will also suffer a loss of revenue for this weekend. We have been meeting with some contractors and service tech about repairs, but we have no definitive answers at to time frames yet. I have attached a couple of pictures of the flood and the damage.
Several people and group have already inquired as to how they can help. I will answer these questions as well I can as right now, and will send out more information as we get it.

1) Is there work you can help with? Yes, if you are interested in coming our today, we would have cleaning up small natural debris (limbs and such) and/or cleaning dorms and building which were not effected by the flood but still need to be cleaned and prepared for the potential of hosting our groups later this week. This work can be done throughout the week and even after dark. If you would like to come out later this week, we will have a dumpster here tomorrow morning (Tuesday) and we begin cleaning up the debris from the shop and basement. You could come any time during daylight hours to help with this, someone will be here. You can also email me or Kelly ( ) if you have any question or want to set up a time to come out. Email is the best way to contact us.

2) Do you have insurance to cover this? We have spoken with our insurance agent and he will be here later today to survey and make reports. We have $10,000 in flood insurance and that is all that will be covered.

3) Do you need financial assistance? The answer to this question is yes. The camp is always dependent upon monetary gifts from individuals, groups and churches to operate. Due to the loss of revenue that we have incurred and possibly will incur in days/weeks to come even day to day operations may become tighter financially. Our initial estimate (and this is sure to change) is that it cost about $35,000 to replace the contents of the shop and kitchen equipment that has been damaged. This does not include the cost to construct a new maintenance building. So any help would be appreciated. We are working to post new information as well as an online giving link on our website within the next 24 hours. You can check that out at

4) If you know someone with access to a backhoe and or skid loader the camp could use these to help in clean up.
We will continue to send out updates as we know new information. Also please feel free to pass this information along to others that may be interested.

Bobby Cairell
Kelly Brandenburg
Adam Tipton

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God is Not a Beggar? Why Your Ministry Must Become More Pathetic Before It Can Be Less Pathetic (Russ Moore)

Just a crucial sermon for preachers and pastors! Click here to watch.

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Attend Evening Worship

"… attend evening worship. If we believe the whole day is the Lords day, then it ought to be framed with worship. Morning and evening worship in the Reformed tradition is the single most powerful and effective total congregational disciplesh…ip program in the history of Christianity. I have never known a family that was faithful in Sunday evening attendance in an evangelical church, that, when the great crises of life came, did weather the storm and walk in faith, and persevere." Ligon Duncan on ways to promote family religion

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CCEF Counseling Booklets–Help for our Discipleship

We are working on our discipleship ministry by using materials we believe will help apply the gospel of Jesus Christ directly to our people’s hurts and difficulties. These booklets will be a great help in that vision. Take a look at the video from CCEF:

Now get all 26 titles in the series of Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) booklets from New Growth Press at a special savings over the individual discounted prices!

Titles in this set:

* Lane, Conflict: A Redemptive Opportunity
* Lane, Forgiving Others: Joining Wisdom and Love
* Smith, It’s All About Me: The Problem with Masturbation
* Jones, Restoring Your Broken Marriage: Healing After Adultery
* Petty, When the Money Runs Out: Hope and Help for the Financially Stressed
* Emlet, Angry Children: Understanding and Helping Your Child Regain Control
* Smith, Divorce Recovery: Growing and Healing God’s Way
* Smith, How to Love Difficult People: Receiving and Sharing God’s Mercy
* Smith, When Bad Things Happen: Thoughtful Answers to Hard Questions
* Lane, Freedom from Guilt: Finding Release from Your Burdens
* Powlison, Recovering from Child Abuse: Healing and Hope for Victims
* Welch, Eating Disorders: The Quest for Thinness
* Emlet, Help for the Caregiver: Facing the Challenges with Understanding and Strength
* Powlison, Healing after Abortion: God’s Mercy Is for You
* Smith, Help! My Spouse Committed Adultery: First Steps for Dealing with Betrayal
* Lane, Family Feuds: How to Respond
* Welch, Living with an Angry Spouse: Help for Victims of Abuse
* Jones, Single Parents: Daily Grace for the Hardest Job
* Smith, How Do I Stop Losing It with My Kids?: Getting to the Heart of Your Discipline Problems
* Tripp, Peer Pressure: Recognizing the Warning Signs and Giving New Direction
* Smith, Help for Stepfamilies: Avoiding the Pitfalls and Learning to Love
* Smith, Who Does the Dishes?: Decision Making in Marriage
* Tripp, Helping Your Adopted Child: Understanding Your Child’s Unique Identity
* Smith, Should We Get Married?: How to Evaluate Your Relationship
* Powlison, Renewing Marital Intimacy: Closing the Gap Between You and Your Spouse
* Powlison, Facing Death with Hope: Living for What Lasts

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My Newsletter Article for October 2009

From Your Pastor

October 2009

Homecoming 224

On this inside of this newsletter, you’ll see an invitation to our Homecoming 224. Our church was birthed by our Lord on November 9, 1785, putting us almost at our 224th anniversary. Wouldn’t it be great to have 224 people at our service this coming Sunday? I confess, I tend to shy away from high attendance goals because there is a temptation of looking at people to help us attain a number. Let’s resist that temptation and say that we need to reach people (those who were once a part of our church, or who would be new) to get them under the influence of the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ.

Are You Ready to Arise and Build?

I know I am!

Yet what am I ready to build? Our Arise and Build Team (my name for our Building Committee that I hope will stick) has been working tirelessly out of love for our church and its mission to spread God’s glory from our neighbors to the nations.

By now, many of you should have received a letter from me on behalf of the Arise and Build Team inviting you to the Arise and Build Kickoff Banquet on Saturday, October 24th at 6:00 p.m. I am so encouraged by how this is taking shape, and how others inside and outside the church are kicking in for the Kickoff Banquet! I have already told you about how Ashland Avenue Baptist Church will let us use their facilities for free, and even free up a couple of rooms in their children’s area for child care (up to five years of age). But everything is coming in financially well under what we expected.

To what to I attribute this? Simply this: when we trust God with the money and resources and talents He has given us (remember, it’s not Boone’s Creek’s money—God is simply allowing us to use it to spread His glory in this season), He will take the lead and do things far above what we ask or think!

But back to the question posed earlier: what am I ready to build? Let me answer that by saying this:

I am not ready to build a building—primarily.

In other words, I am not ready to expand simply to expand. To build a building just to say we’re building a building is the acme of foolishness and arrogance.

What I am ready to be is one who will lead this church to build a people of God who chase after the heart of God. When we have the vision that God has for this church (which He lays out beautifully in His Word), we begin to have a heart for those who are lost and dying without Him. He has called us to be His truth agents in this world.

You see, God has called us to arise and build a church, not a building. The building serves as a by-product of the mission and vision of the church. The fellowship hall space, recreation space for all ages, the classroom space—these are pressing needs for our church.

And be careful not to put money on the throne of the universe. What do I mean? Some say, “We can only move on what God wants if the funds are there.” Really? Are we putting money as our Lord? If God has called us to move on something, we must move and watch Him remain faithful in providing for what we need from the treasure trove of Christ’s riches and glory! In the process, we will grow from “In Money We Trust” to truly behaving the way that even our money speaks: “In God We Trust.”

The Sundays in October will be our Arise and Build Month leading up not only to the Banquet, but also to our Arise and Build Commitment Sunday on Sunday, November 1. Begin praying about what role God would have you to play in this significant vision for our church. I will be preaching (Lord willing—He sometimes has other plans) through Jonah, titling the series: “Reluctant or Ready?” As for me, I’m ready!!

BMen Bigger Breakfast on Sunday, October 10 at 8:30 a.m.

It’s important for the men to get together for some fellowship, some food, but also some focus as we evaluate who we are as husbands, parents, workers, and retirees and our place in the mission of the gospel. It is crucial for all of our men to be at this breakfast so we can get down to business for what God would have us to be. I look forward to seeing you there.

Leadership Retreat on November 7 (Lord willing)

Are you serving on a committee? Do you have some position of leadership (deacon, Sunday School, etc.)? Then I would urge all of us to come together for a leadership retreat. This is a time where all of us get away to a neutral site to examine where we are as leaders of Christ’s church in Christ’s world. The tentative location will be Blue Grass Baptist School and will take place from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. It is time for us to look at what God calls us to do and to streamline who we are in light of the mission God has placed on our church. Please RSVP at 263-5466 or

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Cremation vs. Burial: What’s a Christian to Think

Recently, someone sent me an e-mail inquiring about the pros and cons of cremation vs. burial. 

I drew their attention to a great article by Russ Moore entitled “Grave Signs: The Godly Waste of Christian Burial.”  Read through it and let me know what you think!

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Practical Tips for Preaching a Funeral

Today (Tuesday) was an exceedingly sad day — I had to preach a funeral of a member who was of great encouragement to me. While I feel the immense privilege of preaching a funeral and being able to minister at such a critical time, I find that there are some lessons that I have learned in regards to preaching a funeral sermon.

First, spend time with the family of the deceased. There is no substitute for this. It’s not enough to simply preach a sermon during this occasion. There is pastoral work to be done. Be there at least by the day after the family members’ death — after the funeral arrangements have been made and other personal issues are in order. Go to where they are and just sit and listen. Some would say, “I don’t want to intrude on family time.” To that I say, if had the choice of erring on the side of a personal presence or no, I would err by risking intrusion. You will be able to tell in about 15 seconds if it is a bad time — but they will appreciate the gesture and may well give you a better time to come by. And when you do, be prepared to listen, to inquire, to go through pictures, read letters, hear wonderful stories. But most of all, be prepared to be the Lord’s presence to them at that time. Since you are a minister, you are an ambassador for Christ — and even the most pagan individual will see you as such (and may not understand why).

Second, when you preach keep it short — 12-15 minutes top — unless the family asks you otherwise. Yes, the family asked you as the minister to do the funeral — but this time is not about you or your sermonic skills or for you to take pride that the family asked you to preach at such a life-altering occasion. You are there to represent Christ and to give his Word — but take care. The family is emotionally, spiritually and in all likelihood physically drained. And listening takes energy. An economy of words would suit everyone well here.

Three, share the Gospel without fail. Yes, address the reason why you all are gathered in that place. Yes, eulogize and recall some fond memories. Yes, address the family and send your condolences on behalf of yourself and the church you serve. But shame on any minister of the Gospel who does not share the Gospel to people who are most open to hearing about this. Some would object and say, “This is manipulation! You shouldn’t take advantage of people in that state.” But death is what the majority of people are most afraid of, and the finality and mortality of this age is clearly front and center. And, as was the case with this individual’s funeral I did on Monday, this person dealt with some severe medical issues and remained resolute, the family and friends looking on need to know why. So tell them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and give them the encouragement that the Apostle Paul gave in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. [14] For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. [15] For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. [16] For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. [18] Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Fourthly, be the last one to leave. If you end with a graveside service, stay until everyone else is gone. Don’t say, “Amen!” then run to the car. Stay with the family until they leave. Walk out with the last family member if possible. Be the Lord’s ambassador right until the end. If there is a meal afterwards for the family and they invite you to stay and partake, stay and partake. Some very pastoral and teachable moments happen on such occasions that would not happen at any other time. So take advantage of the opportunities God brings your way.

Lastly, touch base with the family one week after the funeral. By now you may be saying, “Matt, I thought this was about preaching a funeral.” Yes, and by you showing that you care outside the pulpit, you will give more credence to what was said in the pulpit. There is something to be said for living a sermon, not just preaching one.

Those are my tips. What about you? Any tips come across your mind?

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It has been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog. I have started one for my church called “Casting in the Creek,” which serves as a vision-casting blog. I also have a preaching blog called Expositionalogistix which is hardly ever used. One I’ve been toying with is one called “American v. Biblical Christianity,” which closely examines how Americans have contorted Christianity to where it looks more like America than Jesus.

I will be moving the last two at least under this blog at Gripped By The Gospel. Time to streamline. May God bless you in your walk with him.

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“When Churches Have Disputes” (Tullian Tchividjian)

One of the hardest issues in pastoral life in following a long-time pastor who founded the church.  That pastor’s identity is in lockstep with the identity of the church—so when God calls a new pastor, there can be some growing pains.

Tullian Tchividjian is the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida—founded and pastored by D. James Kennedy until his death in 2007 for 48 years. 

Now, a small faction has been circulating letters asking for Tchividjian’s removal.  Why?  He doesn’t wear robes like Kennedy, preach political sermons like Kennedy, having the same priorities as Kennedy, etc.  In response, Tchividjian wrote an article in the opinion section of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  I hope you will read the entire article, but the concluding paragraphs sum this servant of Christ’s attitude up nicely:

To get this matter behind us once and for all, the elders and I have called this congregational meeting and a vote will take place on Sunday. You will no doubt read about the result, but whatever it is, I want to say three things to the South Florida community that I love so much and have called home for 37 years.

First, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is not my church, and it wasn’t Dr. Kennedy’s church. It’s God’s church and I want to honor Him and carry on the legacy of Jesus above anything or anyone else.

Second, I remain committed to serving our one new church and the community where we’re located. We are surrounded by so much need for God’s love and the hope that comes from knowing Him and I want this to be the focus of my life and ministry. I want Coral Ridge to be a church in Ft. Lauderdale, for Ft. Lauderdale. We want God to use us to make Ft. Lauderdale a better place to live for everyone, not just us.

Finally, whenever you see any of us who claim to be "Christ followers" behaving in a manner that is unlike Jesus, please forgive us. And please let that be a reflection on us, and not on Him. As imperfect people, we will continue to let you down and disappoint you, but Jesus will never let you down–he will never disappoint you. This conflict has "given the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel", and I am sorry.

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