Thursday, February 28, 2008

birthday

It is my younger sister's 17th birthday today. (Well, probably yesterday by the time I actually post this.) I was going to try to get her out of school for lunch today, but I was denied by the secretary at the school, and although I could have pretty easily persuaded her to let me do, I decided not to press the issue.

Birthdays (and holidays in general) have always been scattered and haphazard at my house. Today, for instance, there was really no formal celebration. We will be having lasagna together on Sunday but there isn't any formal celebration. Sometimes we try...and it usually is pretty uneventful.

I've found that I like this way of celebrating these things. I don't like lots of extravagance for a day out of the year when someone was born or something great happened. I don't mind acknowledging the fact and praying a special blessing on them...but the idea of celebration of birth has always been a little weird to me.

Call me crazy, but I kind of enjoyed it when I missed a couple of my own birthdays in college.

I wonder if anyone back in the day (meaning Jesus and earlier) celebrated birthdays...what about those who lived to be 900? Do you think they had some weird thing equivalent to us putting candles on a cake? Somehow, I doubt it.

May our lives be continually bent on this then: magnifying the grace of Christ displayed on the cross in all things. And instead of asking the questions "what's wrong with celebrating a birthday?" instead we should ask "how does this celebration magnify the one who redeemed me?"

(For the record, I'm not going Jehovah Witness and rejecting holidays.)

-joe

a little late

I was busy yesterday evening so I didn't have a chance to check this over and post it. So, I'm doing it over my lunch hour (after holding my nephew for 10 minutes or so.)

Recently, there have been lots of things springing up in the church that I perceive as good things. There is a study going on discussing Mark Dever's The Gospel and Personal Evangelism that is sparking some great conversation and action.

There are several women who are now holding an outreach Bible study at a (for the most part) retired apartment complex here in Rochester. That makes my heart sing. (It would sing more if some dudes would step up to the plate, but...at least we are talking about Jesus.)

There is a swell of people wanting strong discipleship from the leaders of the church. There are youth getting excited about missions abroad. There are new folks coming to church every week. There are two baptisms in the next month.

These are great things. I'm excited for them.

And then, I hear that at the book study on Dever's book there was a lengthy discussion that went on concerning who is really saved. Now, the discussion came about because the book warns against emotional responses to the Gospel instead of heartfelt and true repentance and belief...it is good to know that there is a difference and to do our best to guard against it. But...it lead to some folks saying that you basically have to be perfect in order to be saved. You have to lead the "sermon on the mount" life or you don't have saving faith. Hold the phone...Put down the fish. Did you hear that? That is absurd. Ridiculous. And a great insult and de-glorification of the great salvation offered through Christ on the cross.

Thankfully a friend of mine (I am not in the study because I work with the youth) stopped things and said. "HOLD UP! Are you insinuating that unless you live a perfect life that you are not saved? Are you serious?! Let me lay it down John Piper style. We are saved because of Jesus substitutionary death on the cross and we are renewed to life by the same Spirit that resurrected Him from the grave. That is the "blazing center" of the Gospel. That is what we are talking about here. The center. The middle. The most important thing. We are talking about evangelizing and you are talking about the effects of sanctification and whether or not you can tell someone is saved. That is absurd. Jesus saves and then we live holy. Living holy means nothing without the cross and that is what we are to be doing...evangelizing the good news of the death of Jesus."

Whew. I am glad that he was there. I am also glad that through God's providence I am preaching on sanctification this Sunday. Oh Lord, let me speak openly and honestly and through the power of your Spirit so that these wretched thoughts will be cast out from among our midst.

-joe

Sunday, February 24, 2008

missions

Last week after Senior High youth group I told the kids that starting this Sunday we would be spending time in prayer for a nation or people after the regular meeting.

Tonight, we spent some time hearing about Kosovo from one of the guys in the group and then I cast some vision to them about the unreached people of the world. My lesson for the night was the majority of Romans 9 and the lead-in to Romans 10 and that our duty is to faithfully and joyfully preach the Gospel so that God will redeem His people.

We are taking the vision of John Piper and calling everyone to be a "Goer or a Sender." Tonight we began the first step in sending: getting a heart for the unreached of the world.

So, perhaps you should spend some time in prayer for the Serbs and Bosnians and Albanians involved in the recent declaration that Kosovo is independent. Be in prayer for the political unrest, but most importantly be in prayer for people to faithfully declare the great goodness of the Gospel to the folks over there. Feel with Paul the anguish of knowing that there are countless perishing without a saving faith in Jesus and pray for the people that God would be gracious and move withing in them and provoke them to believe and call on His name.

Amen.

-joe

Thursday, February 21, 2008

i need thee every hour

I don't think that any song that I've ever sung in my entire life has ever even come close to the power of these lines:

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.


The truth of these lines when you think of the Lord's prayer (lead me not into temptation) and 1 Corinthians 10:13 and so many other passages just makes my soul go crazy.

I sing this song constantly. When I feel the rush of my flesh welling up I pray this song to God and He graciously answers many times. When my mind begins to delve into matters it shouldn't this song burst forth and drives many wretched thoughts away.

The rest of the song is nearly as good. Here are the rest of the lyrics:

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

Refrain: I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou bless├Ęd Son.


May God keep us all from temptation,

-joe

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the new kid



Well, it's official. My brother and his wife just had the first grandkid in the family. Josiah Benjamin Helt was born just 1 day ago at about 4:30pm. He's already talking and had this to say:

"Uncle Joe is easily the coolest and best person that has held me."

I know that today was supposed to be a deep theology day according to my new plan, but hey...there's a new kid in the family and he deserves some airtime. So here are a few pics of Josiah.

The second picture was the face he made when he saw me...so maybe that earlier comment was a bit on the false side.
----
So, keep my sister-in-law and my brother and their new kid in your prayers and be thinking of your new birth in Christ. Although none of us were as cute as this kid, we were all infants at one point.

-joe

Sunday, February 17, 2008

the deal

Here's my new plan of action so that you can be ready for my postings. On Mondays (Sunday nights) and Fridays (Thursday nights) I will be posting light theology and personal stuff. On Thursdays (Wednesday nights) I'll probably delve a bit deeper into things. So, now that you know, you can be prepared to read stuff on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. I hope you like the new system. It seems much better to me.

---

This morning I preached my first of two sermons while Mark (my senior pastor) is on vacation with his wife. Pray for them both. His wife has ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) so they are spending some quality time on vacation before things get too bad.

I encourage you to spend some time meditating on 2 Corinthians 5:21 today. A good portion of my talk today was on the transfer of our sin to Christ and that he literally became sin. He was your worst (and my worst) sin. He had to deal with being a lustful pervert, a greedy overlord and a self-righteous jerk. He had to deal with the guilt of those sins and the pain of bearing them. And then he had to die--because he loved us.

How great is the love that comes to us. Spend some time thanking him for his sacrifice and have a great few days.

-joe

Saturday, February 16, 2008

life in rochester

My life is almost back into a rhythm. It seems like every time I get things going, then something comes along and messes everything up.

Lessons learned:
1. God isn't so dependent on me that if I shoudl die, His purpose would stop.
2. At the same time, while I am alive I should seek to be used by God for any and all purposes that He has for me.
3. Weddings and funerals freak me out.
4. Disorganization is a killer.
5. Prayer keeps me joyful.
6. Scripture makes me happy.
7. Fellowship gives me peace.

Starting Sunday night I'll be blogging again. Be ready. I've got ideas.

-joe

ps. I'm growing the beard back. I shaved for about a week...and now I have to trim everything so that it looks decent.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

i know

I know. It has been a couple of weeks with nothing from my end of the table. I apologize. Here are my excuses:
1. I'm lazy
2. I'm crazy busy
3. I'm moving
4. I'm more devoted to real life ministry to friends and youth and family than to blogging. And those areas have really taken over.

So, because I have left you with nothing for 2 weeks, I'm not going to post anything deep or inspiring. Instead, I will leave you with some pictures.

Here, in their basic order of appearance, are my looks since 2005 (the goatee is first...and i think it should be brought back). The last one is me after getting my "Extreme Makeover" for a youth fundraiser. Which one do you like?