Archive for August, 2013

Strength to Work?

Posted: August 20, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Its seems like it’s hard to drive by a church this summer without seeing a banner in the front yard advertising the “Kingdom Rock” Vacation Bible School. Group Publishing must have done some amazing marketing because those banners are everywhere.

I thought the visuals looked great, but  I was surprised to see the sub-title on the main graphic. It says, “Where Kids Stand Strong For God.” Some might say that I’m nit-picking, but I couldn’t help that my first thought was “Why does God need anyone to stand strong for Him?” “Isn’t God strong enough to stand for Himself?”

It also bothers me because the sub-title and the main idea each day teaches that we need to work hard. As I look through the topics each day it seems like the kids would be exhausted by the end of the week…. work, work, work! Each day is about getting help with the work, but it’s still all about work. And what if someone does mess up, what do these lessons teach? Get back up and work twice as hard?

The gospel isn’t how hard we can work for God. It’s the good news that Jesus worked hard on our behalf. We don’t need to teach people, especially kids, that they need to stand strong for God because in Christ, God stood strong for us.


Worship Service

Posted: August 19, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Many people view the book of Nehemiah as a case study in project management. Nehemiah knew the need in Jerusalem was for the walls to be rebuilt. He used his position as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes to initiate, fund, organize, and direct the rebuilding of the walls. He overcame opposition from within and from outsiders, and finished the project ahead of schedule (Nehemiah 6:15). However, the book of Nehemiah is more than a story of Nehemiah’s accomplishments. It’s the story of who God is and His accomplishments. 

After the wall was completed, the people gathered in the square before the Water Gate. Ezra stood on a wooden platform that was built for this occasion so that all the people could see and hear him better. He opened the Book of the Law of Moses and read from it. Then he taught clearly from the book so that people understood the reading. The people answered, “Amen, Amen.” And they worshiped with hands lifted up and heads bowed down. (Nehemiah 8:5-8). All of this sounds similar to a modern worship service–with the exception that our services don’t last half a day (Nehemiah 9:3).

Additionally, after the reading and preaching, there was a time for confession and

worship. In chapter 9, we see that the people stood in order to “bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting.” They praised God for being the only God, the creator, and the object of worship in Heaven. He is the Righteous Lord who called Abraham; who made a covenant and kept his promises. God made a name for Himself for His glory. He rescued people and sustained them because He is a merciful God. 

What are the elements that every church worship service must have? 


Here are four things I would include: 

  1. The Word of God clearly read.
  2. Preaching.
  3. Worship,blessing the name of the Lord God.
  4. A reminder of who God is and what He has done for his people. 

     Nehemiah 9:17 “But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.” 

Reason to live in Pittsburgh

Posted: August 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

In addition to my post from yesterday, here are 16 more reasons to move to Pittsburgh. I think most of these are better than the 30 from yesterday.

Moving to Pittsburgh

Posted: August 14, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Why would anyone consider moving to Pittsburgh? Here are 30 reasons why, and I’ll add one more: To join our team to plant a new grace-saturated, gospel-centered church in the city.

Sound interesting? 

Forgiven People Forgive

Posted: August 13, 2013 in Uncategorized
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This is a post from Tullian Tchividijian at Liberate. I liked it so much, though I thought I would share it. 



By now you’ve probably heard of Riley Cooper. Until last week, Cooper’s was a name known only to die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fans; now it’s a household word. Last week, a video surfaced of a drunk Cooper (who is white) using a racial slur (the racial slur) while claiming he wanted to fight all of the African-Americans at a Kenny Chesney concert.

In a statement following the video’s appearance on the internet, Cooper said, “I am so ashamed and disgusted with myself. I want to apologize. I have been offensive. I have apologized to my coach, to [Eagles owner] Jeffrey Lurie, to [General Manager] Howie Roseman and to my teammates. I owe an apology to the fans and to this community. I am so ashamed, but there are no excuses. What I did was wrong and I will accept the consequences.”

To most observers, Cooper seems sincere and legitimately contrite. Only God knows, of course. But it’s not the quality of Cooper’s apology that interests me, it’s the reaction of Cooper’s teammates to the apology.

Two very different reactions from two different teammates (both African Americans) illustrate very powerfully some very famous words of Jesus.

The first reaction to Cooper’s apology came from his quaterback, Michael Vick. You remember Vick? The quarterback who spent nearly two years in prison for running an illegal and deadly dog-fighting ring? Vick said:

“As a team we understood because we all make mistakes in life and we all do and say things that maybe we do mean and maybe we don’t mean. But as a teammate I forgave him. We understand the magnitude of the situation. We understand a lot of people may be hurt and offended, but I know Riley Cooper. I’ve been with him for the last three years and I know what type of person he is. That’s what makes it easy, and at the same time, hard to understand. But its easy for me to forgive him.”

Vick also tweeted: “Riley’s my friend. Our relationship is mutual respect. He looked me in the eyes and apologized. I believe in forgiveness and I believe in him.”

On the other end of the spectrum is LeSean McCoy, the Eagles’ star running back:

“I forgive him. We’ve been friends for a long time. But in a situation like this you really find out about someone. Just on a friendship level, I can’t really respect someone like that…I guess the real him came out that day. The cameras are off, you don’t think nobody’s watching or listening, and then you find out who they really are. And to hear how he really came off, that shows you what he’s really all about.”

Now, I know that LeSean McCoy used the words, “I forgive him.” But he completely (and immediately) undercuts those words: “You really find out about someone…I can’t really respect someone like that.” Listen to the most important difference between Vick’s and McCoy’s statements:

Vick: “We all make mistakes and we all do and say things…”

McCoy: “That shows you what he’s really all about.”

Notice that where Vick says “we,” McCoy says “he.” Michael Vick puts himself in a category with Riley Cooper. While LeSean McCoy seeks to distance himself from a former friend, Michael Vick puts himself next to the accused.

The difference between Vick and McCoy? Twenty-one months in a federal penitentiary and a deep knowledge of what it feels like to need forgiveness.

In Luke 7, a sinful woman anoints Jesus’ feet with oil. As she did so, she wept and wiped her tears from Jesus’ feet with her hair. To answer the disgust of Simon the Pharisee, his host, Jesus tells him a story and asks him a question:

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (v. 42-47).

Michael Vick has been forgiven much. When he was a social pariah, the Eagles gave him a second chance. LeSean McCoy is apparently less in touch with his own brokenness. His reaction reveals that he doesn’t think he’s a gross sinner in need of gigantic forgiveness. I’m sure he would admit that he’s not perfect. But he clearly sees Cooper as worse—less righteous—than he is: “That shows you what he’s really all about.”

To the extent that we ignore (or run from) our own sinfulness, we will be unable to care for other sinners. We will be unable to extend forgiveness to others until we are honest about the extent to which we are forgiven. The most forgiving people are those who are coming to daily, deeper terms with their own need for forgiveness. Ungracious people are those who haven’t come to grips with their own dire, daily need for grace.

Michael Vick knows that he (and we) are more like Riley Cooper—foul transgressors in need of forgiveness—than McCoy would like to admit, which is why Vick’s first instinct was to forgive. And whose reaction do you think will inspire Cooper to deal with whatever issues he has? Vick’s or McCoy’s? Who will he confide in? Who will he listen to? To which player will he turn? Who’s in a better position, therefore, to guide him, help him?

“I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

He Giveth More Grace

Posted: August 5, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I named my blog “Grace Upon Grace” because in recent years I have come to realize that God’s grace is not just necessary for salvation, it is necessary to sustain and grow my Christian walk every day. This powerful song by Annie J. Flint captures the depth of God’s inexhaustible grace. Please leave a comment if you know of a modern arrangement to this song. 

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.