Men's Conference on Pursuing Genuine Biblical Revival

May 5 & 6, 2017

Theme: "Capture Our Hearts Again!"

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Ray Ortlund
Pastor of Immanuel Church (Acts 29 plant in Nashville, TN)
President of Renewal Ministries
Regional Director of Acts 29 Network
Formerly Assoc. Prof. of OT & Semitic Languages @ Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL)
Council Member & regular blogger at The Gospel Coalition
Author of commentaries and many books including Isaiah: God Saves Sinners in the Preaching the Word Series Commentary Series, When God Comes to Church: A Biblical Model for Revival Today, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ in the 9 Marks Building Healthy Churches Series and most recently Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel.

Pre-Conference Workshop - 2 Sessions (Content to be released soon)

Special Guest Speaker: Dr. Tom Schreiner
James Buchanan Harrison Prof of New Testament Interpretation, Professor of Biblical Theology and Associate Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY)
Author of many commentaries and books including The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law, The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance; The King in His Beauty, and Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Series.

Registration opens soon at

Hosted by:
Union Lake Baptist Church
8390 Commerce Road
Commerce, MI 48382

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Where is the promise of his coming?"

In light of Rob Bell's recent denial of the existence of hell, I have been spending time in 2 Peter. Consider these two quotes:

"...scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, 'Where is the promise of his coming?'" 2 Peter 3:3-4.

"...the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment." 2 Peter 2:9.

Men will deny the reality of Christ's return. This equates to their denying the reality of God's impending judgment on sin. As a result, such men will scoff at the idea of a place of eternal torment, scoff at the notion of God's furious and unending wrath for sin coming to bear on those who reject His redemption offered in Jesus. Two results come from such heresy: (1) they will give themselves over to their sin, as they fear no consequence from it and (2) they will entice others with a "gospel" that is false and leads to destruction rather than life.

When men alter the gospel so as to remove any mention of the penalty and judgment on sin, it nevertheless remains true. This leaves the unrepentant, lawless man in the most perilous place, as hell is real and awaits them. But for those who have heard the old powerful gospel and believed, they revel not in their sins but in the fact that they have escaped God's wrath for those sins. For those who have heard the good news of Jesus taking the wrath in their stead, they set their hope on the sure promise that "there will be richly provided for [them] an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" 2 Peter 1:11.

Rob the gospel of the reality of hell, and men will never see their need for such rich provision as they will never see their grave danger. With Love Wins, Rob Bell does the greatest damage to every soul that believes the lie that no judgment, no penalty, no wrath, no eternal hell awaits those without a Substitute Wrath-Bearer.

In God's providence, the first plenary session of Fellowship in the Gospel, will feature Rico Tice's message on "Recovering the Offense of the Gospel" focusing on the reality of hell. Such a timely message...I hope to see you in May.

Early Registration Pricing Ends March hurry and register you and a friend at

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Evangelistic Musings in Light of "Christianity Explored"

Rico Tice co-authored Christianity Explored which is a 10-week evangelistic Bible study through Mark's gospel. Rico is the keynote speaker at Fellowship in the Gospel 2011 this May.

Cliff at our church has led it 3 or4 different times. Tonight was the 2nd week of the study that I am leading (for the 1st time). The format is not ingenious. The "marketing" of it is not slick. However, it is honest. Everyone knows what they are going to get: a Bible study in order to examine some basic questions about Jesus, a Bible study that will include reading the Bible themselves and being prepared to talk about questions concerning that reading. When I first learned of this study I thought: Could sharing the gospel really be this easy? Inviting people to a non-threatening "discussion" to explore Christianity? Would anyone be interested? Would anyone come?

Experience alone is telling me that it does "work" in the sense that some people do in fact come when they are invited. Will anyone be saved through this course? I can't say that for sure. What I can say is that it is providing a venue to share the gospel with people. This caused me to think about my own involvement in evangelism. I've always thought I wasn't very gifted at it. Despite my ease of talking to people, I've never felt very artful at leading conversations to spiritual issues.

As this study continues, so does my introspection. Convicting questions are arising. Maybe the problem with my involvement in evangelism has little to do with not having the right program or promotions. Maybe the problem all along has been my lack of faith or perhaps even being ashamed of the gospel.

God's plan includes saving people from all tribes and nations. What if it really is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation? What if I need to simply engage people to see if anyone is willing to hear it? My recent experience is telling me that these things are true. Ands, as it turns out, they bear out what I read in the Scriptures. God's man goes and tells men God's message of salvation. Sometimes they reject him. Sometimes God uses that message to transform them.

As I ponder, I am led to this: I'm thankful for the fact that the very good news with which I've been entrusted, tells me that there is no penalty I will ever face for my failures to carry it. This gives me freedom. It empowers me to change course. It give me hope that God can indeed use me in evangelism...despite what I have failed to do up to this point.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City) BONUS DAY 8

Well, God specifically gave us two desires of our hearts by delaying our flight by one day. One thing we were a little sad about was the fact that we missed getting to know the Hornbrooks at the beginning of the trip because of their attendance at Sam's Mom's funeral. The other thing was some of the guys had wished we did more physical work for them.

God heard us. We had a full day of reglazing their windows (about half done) and painting the exterior of their home. It was a great day of work and fun. It was also an extra day of being with our dear friends. We were able to solidify our friendship with our partners in the gospel. We love this family. It was sad to leave them. We prayed around them in the courtyard of their home and then finally headed off to the airport.

It was a great trip. God is good. Pray for the effects of the trip to be long-lasting and transformational: for Chelangos and Gringos alike.

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City) Day 7 - Part 2

In the Metropolitan Cathedral across the square (Zocalo) from the City Government Building there is an item of particular note. The first is the large crucifix with Jesus having dark skin and knees bent to the right (as you're looking at it). The legend goes like this: the priest's habit every morning was to kiss the feet of the crucifix. One morning he noticed that Jesus' knees were bent to one side which caused him to think something was strange and so he did not kiss it, this so-called "miracle" was to warn the priest as someone had put poison on its feet to try and kill the priest, thereafter the skin turned "miraculously" dark.

After the market, Justyn took my place on the back of the motorcycle and we went over to Joel's house for an awesome dinner (our 7th in a much for the diet). Thankfully Gary didn't die from trying to breathe water on the ride over because of my mascot joke (sorry Gary, but it's true...zebras do get their sides torn out by lions). We dined and laughed, got a tour of the 3-story home, went out on the rooftop and got a great view of the volcanoes and mountains...all while the motorcycle cop stood watch by our vans. Joel and his wife were so hospitable and fun. We really had a wonderful time. Two beautiful Christian friends.

Now it was Von's turn on the motorcycle. We headed over to the Basilica. There's actually two basilicas: the original and a new one built in the70's. Sam pointed out the most striking visual of a statue of Pope John Paul II next to the old basilica which is severely sinking. It was difficult to walk through the old basilica as it is sloping to the front left corner so badly. The architecture and artwork of the arched ceilings and small side chapels to the various saints were stunning as you would probably expect.

A legend regarding the Basilica (that the former Abbot of the Basilica along with many others question due to apparently forged documentary evidence which was produced after the fact to try to "verify" the miracle) goes like this: Mary appeared to Juan Diego, who was an Aztec convert to Christianity in December of 1531. She requested that a shrine to her be built on the spot where she appeared, Tepeyac Hill. Diego had been tending the gardens at the time and brought a gift of flowers collected in his cloak to give to the bishop when he reported Mary visit. When he opened his cloak to present the roses it revealed the image of Mary imprinted on the inside of the cloak—this cloak is now worshiped as a relic in the new Basilica.

As we entered the new Basilica we saw a few people walking on their knees as penance for their sin. It was one of the saddest things we had seen. People worshiping idols instead of the living God and trying in vain to atone for their sins instead of trusting in the perfect life and sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City) Day 7 - Part 1

Since the beginning, Monday has been slotted as the sightseeing day, but we got the most unexpected blessing. Joel is a member at Iglesia Nueva Vida and is "Director for America" ("America"= North, Middle & South Americas) in the Mexico City Government. His office is in charge of "General Coordination of International Relations," and his boss reports directly to the Mayor. Of course, the mayor of the 3rd largest city in the world (1-Tokyo, 2-Seoul) is a pretty big deal. Anyways, we planned on visiting El Zocalo which is the square in downtown Mexico City (2nd in size only to Red Square in Moscow) and the Mexico City Cathedral, the market for souvenirs and if there were time...the Basilica.

Traffic and parking is pretty difficult, but Joel had us park the two mini-vans right in front of City Goverment Building facing the square and the cathedral. Policemen took the vans away to park somewhere. We were escorted into the building past scores of scowling policemen. We were taken right up to the 3rd floor to a conference room for coffee and light refreshments, were given some tourist gifts, and saw photos of the mayor with other famous mayors: Bloomberg in New York, Daly in Chicago as well as with the president of Spain. Next we were led through Joel's boss' office up a few wooden steps and out the window facing the square onto a terrace with probably the best view in the city of the square, cathedral and presidential palace. We truly felt like VIP's...but just wait.

Joel's assistant then escorted us to the famous stairwell that the mayor takes pictures on with VIPs. We got a couple of pictures of the whole team on this stairwell. Onlookers were trying to figure out who these slovenly dressed Gringos were. As we walked outside, the vans pulled up and everyone piled into the vans...that is except me. I rode on the back of the motorcycle that a uniformed policeman who would be our escort for the day. It was a great ride to the market. I was really enjoying soaking in the city...that is until the flatbed truck turned in front of us and clipped the left handlebar. The officer calmly straightened out and kept us from being knocked over. We arrived safely at the marketplace which was very large with an open air central area. After Tom & Chris marveled at the Pittsburgh Steelers poncho, we all scattered to do our souvenir hunting.

Well, it looks like we might actually be leaving today. So I'll finish off Monday's report from the airport. Pray we make it out soon.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City) Day 6

Sunday finally arrived so that we could meet and worship with the entire church family. This would prove to be a river of worship and sweet fellowship. The church grounds are quite an oasis. The property originally was a recreational park open to the public. Apparently this was the case for some 15 years. Thereafter, it was used (by the current owner) as a family get-a-way. It is a perfect setting for the church. It is a 1.75 acre piece of land, approximately 100 feet wide and 700 feet deep, and is stepped down on various platforms to negate the continuous slope from the front to the back. There is a playground, an eating area, an in-ground pool, a volleyball court, a frontenis court, an out building with bathrooms, a large building that serves as the sanctuary which has three different levels: one large meeting area, one step-up to a wet bar, and one more step-up to the "kiosko" which is a octagonal room with lots of window surrounding an eating area and with a look-through to the sanctuary.

So many new friends are now ours. One of my favorite introductions was to an older woman, Eladia (Alejandro's abuela or grandmother). She was the Eva Wesman of Iglesia de Nueva Vida (New Life Church). Such a kind and joyful lady. Her grandson, Alejandro, had this impressive "spinner" belt buckle that was like a spinning tire rims. I remarked on how cool it was. Later that day he came up to me (translating through Sam) and handed it to me as a gift. I was flabbergasted. Even though it is potentially offensive in Mexico to refuse a gift, the bond of Christ I believe trumped the potential offense. I put my arm around him and told him that though I was so moved by his kindness, I was too old for such a cool gift, and that I merely wanted the gift of his friendship. What a special blessing from God.

Another wonderful experience was seeing all of the children running around and kicking soccer balls, simply enjoying their surroundings. I so hope that God's good pleasure will include the church being able to purchase the land. I understand that they have about 50% of the purchase price in hand. The men prayed together for many things, including God doing something unexpected and spectacular to obtain it for them.

The church service was a blessed gathering. Gary preached a powerful message out of Genesis 50 with these opening words: "We have seen in the Joseph Story that God is actively at work in the major events of history, but have you ever considered that God is at work in the events of your life?" In addition to Genesis 50, he led us to various other Scriptures to support his three main points:

(1) God's servant humbly submits to God's plan,
(2) God's servant rests in His covenant promises, and
(3) God's servant lives expectantly.

It was, I believe, used powerfully on a number of levels, including capping the men's conference with the culmination of Joseph's story as well as challenging the church on so many issues that are prominent in the church. I was given the opportunity to pronounce a benediction from 1 Samuel 8:56-58 which pretty much summed up the conference and Gary's sermon:

"Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. The Lord our God be with us,as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers."

Following the worship service, the Chelangos and the Gringos played volleyball and frontenis into the late afternoon. Mike & I held the court for a good while. Mike with one good leg played the back court while I played up. We had a blast and probably played 20 games.

We said goodbye to many of our new friends and then made the trek back to our temporary residences: Don, Chris, Von, Jeff C. & me to the Hornbrooks...Gary & Scott to Shangri-La formerly "the Cold House" (Rene, Ofelia & Michelle's home)...Justyn & Tom to Shangri-La 2 (Carlos' house across the street)...and Mike & Chuck to Shangri-La 3 (Alberto's house).

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City) Day 5

Saturday started early for me...actually it just continued from Friday as I stayed awake until around 3:30am. I felt led to read through Session 4 & 5 notes, read the texts, and think through some more of the teaching points and applications. I think a lot of people think I'm nuts, but I do this probably once a week. It's something about the absolute quiet of being the only one awake and just soaking in the Scriptures. I think it was valuable time as Saturday's teaching sessions were especially free in my delivery and powerful with the Spirit giving me words to say at critical points. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

One of the things I wanted to happen on this trip was that many of the men would get the opportunity to share a devotional. Saturday morning was Chris' turn. He shared a devotional based upon the metaphor of light common in the Scriptures. Much discussion was had around the fact that Christians need to have the light of the gospel shined on their sin.

The final day of the Retiro de Varones was at hand. We began Session 3 per usual with singing. The Gringos & Chelangos could have been lifelong friends by this time. There was an obvious bonding that had taken place. Incidentally, one of the high points of our days here has become when we greet each other at the start of any particular day. These Mexican friends have a wonderful way of greeting each other: a handshake followed by a quick hug and slap on the back finishing with a second handshake. After the early head-butt near misses in the first days of our trip...we are now old pros. The key is hugging with your head going to the right. You may never know how important of a tip this is! Now greeting a lady is altogether different: shake their hand and lean in TO THE LEFT with a cheek-to-cheek pretend kiss. Don nearly started an international incident mixing up these two greetings (alright I made that part up).

Justyn started things off with sharing his salvation testimony. Justyn shared how after an earlier profession of faith, his life didn't seem to be about his love for the Savior. He then shared the beautiful truth that God caused him to be born again to a living hope in the resurrected Savior...and caused his heart to delight in gathering together with the Saints to worship Him. Is there anything more glorious than hearing how God caused another sinner to turn to Him in repentant faith in Jesus' work?

Next, Tom got up and defied the definition of either a testimony OR a devotional. Truth be told it was closer to a sermon...except it was based upon the testimony of his life's trials...yet he tied it to Joseph's story in Genesis in a devotional way...I guess it was a "testivotional sermon." Because of the incredible story of Tom's supernatural peace and faith in the face of trial after severe trial...and what's more aspects of various trials that none of us knew...aspects of God's super-abundant grace in Tom's darkest hours that we also did not know...the description wasn't quite right. Mike suggested it was a "testivotional sermon with a Pugno twist." Chuck's testimony in Costa Rica last year was the only other time we had experienced such a powerful time of sharing of trial and rescue. Tom's story was not something any of us...Chelango or Gringo alike...could have been prepared for. God change us as the rescue of one man encourages the hearts of the saints!

I then taught Session 3 from Genesis Chapter 39 with the theme: "The Lord is with His People Both in Prosperity and Adversity" (or "God is Faithful to His Covenant Promises Despite the Circumstances of His People"). This might have been my favorite session to teach. Of course, it was pretty close to a four-way tie. Tom's story played so well into the message of Joseph's severe trial, languishing in prison. I especially enjoyed roughing up the translator as I grabbed his shirt sleeve, acting out Potiphar's wife snaring Joseph's garment. Sam pretended to brush off his sleeve in disgust after I let go...getting a pretty good laugh. The tension of the story, however, was not to be alleviated for long. You see, we saw the progression of sin in this chapter as we tracked Potiphar's wife's sin ramping up as the story continued. I spoke of the dangers of dabbling in sin as they quickly rise to the level of getting a stranglehold on you (of course, demonstrating the strangling on Sam!).

After the teaching time, all of the men went outside and either played volleyball or frontenis. Frontenis is basically outdoor racquetball without one side wall or the ceiling to play off of. Two players play against two other players. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and forge even closer friendships. Thereafter, we at lunch together. We were served a hobo stew of sorts. It had chicken and cactus which had been cooked in a sauce inside tinfoil. I know no one will believe me...but I ate it and loved it. So much for food anxiety. The crazy thing is that this was the second day I had eaten cactus! Lunch was followed by more sports. I really enjoyed the frontenis, playing a lot of games. Von, Rene, Mike, and Sam were all regulars to the court.

Finally, we approached the final teaching session, Session 4 from Genesis 41 with the theme: "The Sovereign God Exalts the Prisoner Joseph to Ruler of Egypt in Order to Save Himself, His Family and the World from Famine." A significant portion of the message dealt with the fact that only God's people understand the mysteries of the Kingdom and we need to share that message with unbelievers and believers alike. I urged the brothers not to despair in trials as God is with them in those trials to make known His salvation. I also shared a pointed gospel presentation as I had been thinking about one young man that was in attendance that does not yet know the Savior. That young man has been with us at all of the sessions and appears to truly being enjoying himself. Pray for his salvation.

The day ended with prayer and fellowship back at the Hornbrooks' home. I about collapsed from exhaustion and slept like a rock. As much as I enjoyed teaching the sessions, I was glad to have them completed. Pray for leaders to rise up out of our church and the Mexican church. That is our hearts desire for both churches to plant new leaders are needed to go and to replace the ones that go.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City) Day 4

We got going early Friday. Sam took us to the tallest aqueduct in Latin America. I know it doesn't sound that impressive. We joked that it was probably the only aqueduct in Latin America. It turned out to be a very valuable day of fellowship with our new Chelango friends. We spent lots of time fellowshipping with the brothers. We walked atop the aqueduct over a deep canyon stream. At two points there is a small arch we had to duck underneath. There's a pretty good picture of Mike going through it. Afterwards we hiked around the other side, walking across two different rope bridges that reminded me of a Indiana Jones adventure. At the end of the hike there was a little playground with some equipment/rides we had never seen before. One in particular was a big hit. Two different people ride it standing up. It twists around and seesaws. We really connected with each other as we laughed and talked and messed around.

Afterwards, we drove to Tepozotlan which was a really quaint little city that the local government has placed a lot of building restrictions on to keep it that way. We ate in an open-air restaurant facing the plaza and a spectacular view of the local cathedral. Some had steak, some had ram, all were well-satisfied. We then all walked around the plaza together, getting to know each other even better. The gospel truly has its own culture. Middle-American & North American cultures are no match. The friendships being formed were palpable. We shared candy and treats from the street vendors, walked through an old cemetery and then loaded up the two mini-vans.

Next stop: Alberto's (Nickname: Beto) condominium complex which has a portico that the residence can use. It was a perfect setting. We were excited to see that virtually all the same men were in attendance as the night before. The night began with all of us sitting on the ground in a circle (the chairs had not yet arrived) with Mike giving an explanation of and challenge about accountability groups. The Lord seems to be working among the Chelango brothers. Three of them have already expressed a desire to be involved in accountability. Praise God for allowing us to see some quick fruit.

We sang some more praise songs in Spanish. We knew most of them, but I'm facing the fact that the only reason I know the words to these songs that I love is because the words are on the wall in front of me or my wife is telling me what they are (just one of the million little ways in which my Courtney helps me). We heard some wonderful testimonies which included one Gringo (Scott) and two Chelangos: one testified that 17 years of Alcoholics Anonymous wasn't filling his heart but Jesus Christ now does; the other gave the most incredible testimony of how he tried to cross illegally into the U.S. and got lost in the desert without food or water for nearly a week,, and God saved Him from death in the desert and then saved His soul.

I taught the second session from Genesis 38 with the theme: "God's Uses Tamar's Deception of Disobedient Judah to Continue Judah's Family Line" (or "God Uses Even the Disobedience of His People to Fulfill His Covenant Promises" or "God Uses Even the Sins of His People to Save His People"). I really felt the Spirit's empowerment and the focused attention of the brothers. May God use His Word to change Gringos and Chelangos alike.

Afterwards, we had some refreshments and all the brothers fellowshipped...and fellowshipped...and fellowshipped. Somewhere in the middle of all that God spurred me to grab a young man who has been coming to church for several months but has not yet trusted Christ as Savior. We sat on the edge of the porch hanging our feet over and talked about his soul. I asked him what prevented him from trusting Jesus Christ for salvation. He responded that he didn't want to say a prayer and tell people he believed when he didn't feel like he knew enough. I told him that the only thing he needed to know was the good news of Jesus Christ. I explained the gospel again to him, shared how God saved me, and urged him to repent and believe. He listened intently and has shared our conversation with two of his friends. Pray for this young man to take Christ's burden which is light.

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City) Day 3 - Addendum

Can't believe I forgot our breakfast. To the Hornbrooks' amazement, Carlos' parents, Carlos & Suzy, invited us across the street for tacitos. They were unbelievable. Suzy said she made 63 of them. There were 4 left in the bowl at the end! I shared with our new friends a salvation challenge from Psalm 68: centered around the truth that "Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death." They listened intently. Pray that the Word would do just that: give them an escape from death.

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City) Day 3

The air mattresses groaned as each of us began to stir on Thursday. Mike rolled off the couch, Jeff Cady bounced off of the "matrimonial-sized" mattress, and we sent the valet to the presidential suite (a small private room adjacent to the large living area where the "common folks" slept) to give Senior Ringger his wake-up call and clear away the room-service dishes. We all looked groggily at each other as Chris & Don bounded down the steps, looking well-rested from their oasis upstairs in ACTUAL beds. Even Von fresh from his mani-pedi sneered at them. Thankfully team unity was maintained as Chris & Don were oblivious to the sleep disparity among us.

We spent a good part of the morning organizing & cleaning the house as we anxiously awaited the arrival of the Hornbrooks from their 5+ hour drive home from Sam's mom, Ellen's, funeral. We felt a bit like Mom & Dad were coming up from vacation and we were scrambling to erase all evidence of the big party we had thrown. Anxious statement like these were heard:
  • "How often are dogs SUPPOSED to eat?"
  • "Do you think they even know how many bowls they had to begin with?"
  • "Just throw the dishes in any cabinet. We'll clean them after they've went to bed."
  • "Move that chair over the stain. By the time they find it, another team will be here and get blamed for it."
  • "Can you help me fish out this toilet paper?"
At last, the Hornbrooks pulled up around lunchtime. You should have seen the love in Chuck's eyes for this dear family. Hugs around. We helped them unload and then shared lunch with them. We learned that the first session of Retiro de Varones (Men's Retreat) was to be held at the Hornbrooks' home. When you walk in the front door, you are in a 30 x 12 foot room which easily held chairs for the 30 men in attendance.

Sam played the guitar and led us in worship songs in Spanish. We heard testimonies from a couple of Chelangos as well as a testimony from Tom. Tom was confused about the difference between a devotional and testimony. He looked at me for help...and of course I hung him out to dry.

The Theme of the Retiro de Varones was "The Gospel is the Key to Interpreting the Entire Bible & the Key to a Life of Faith." I taught the first session out of Chapter 37: "God's Covenant Love is Sure Even in the Face of Hatred & Evil" (with Sam interpreting). It was a great first session as the Spirit opened the Word of Christ and gave understanding. The power and applicability of the Scripture easily transcended both the American & Mexican cultures. It was such a great honor to share the Word with our new friends, our Mexican brothers.

Afterwards, we had a great time of fellowship as we enjoyed some refreshments, with many new friendships forged. Clusters of Gringos & Chelangos spoke about the faith as Jamie headed up a crew of wonderful Christian ladies who made the fellowship possible. Ofelia, Michelle, Natalie & Nicole helped Jamie prepare and serve the food, dessert, and drinks. As the Mexican brothers eventually left for their homes, the Gringos refined their elementary abilities to utter the correct Mexican phrases and shake & hug in the Mexican way.

God is good. Conference Session One in the books.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Battling Sin with the Gospel

The only sin that can be successfully fought against is forgiven sin. We cannot begin to deal with the activity of sin in our lives until we have first dealt with its guilt. So here again we go back to the gospel and its assurance that god through Christ has dealt with our guilt.

The assurance that God no longer counts my sin against me does two things. First it assures me that God is for me, not against me (see Romans 8:31). I am not alone in this battle with sin....

Further, the assurance that God no longer counts my sin against me, and that in my struggles with sin, He is for me, produces within me a strong sense of gratitude....

This twofold effect of encouragement and gratitude together produce in us a desire to deal with our sin. Make no mistake: Dealing with our sin is not an option. We are commanded to put sin to death. It is our duty to do so. But duty without desire soon produces drudgery. And it is the truth of the gospel, reaffirmed in our hearts daily, that puts desire into our duty.
~ Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, pp 35-36

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City) Day 2

Today was a full day! The symphony of snoring in the Hornbrooks' living room finally came to an end. Soon thereafter the brothers that stayed "off-site" joined us for breakfast. Afterwards, Jeff Cady shared a discussion-provoking devotional on the love we ought to show one another. Love that is sacrificial, unconditional. It was a timely message. We then broke into groups of 3s and 4s to pray together. It was a sweet time knitting our hearts together, begging God to help us to love after the pattern of Jesus' love.

A bus pulled up in front of the house...a big tour bus. We all had two seats to ourselves with seats left over. After we lathered up with suntan lotion and half of us disregarded the local custom and wore shorts, we headed out to San Juan Teotihuican to see the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. We spent about an hour in a little museum highlighting the Mexicas' culture (the ones who lived around the pyramids). All of us went up the 235 uneven steps of varying heights and pitches (yes, Tom counted them). One of our guys (who will remain unnamed) felt dizzy, nauseous and "everything looks really bright." No problem. God sent us with a paramedic (Justyn) on the team so Jeff Cady was fine (well, he was unnamed for a little while). Many, many street vendors at every turn.

The highlight of the day, however, came prior to our ascending the pyramids. It came in the form of a devotional that one man shared about the grave error we make when we overlook sin and focus on the sins of others instead. The thing he said that has stuck in my head is this: "When we minimize our sin, we minimize Christ's death." This devotional was a rich time where frank and loving encouragement was shared by many. We are so foolish to hide our sin as it keeps us from greater fellowship with God. It is only when we are open about our sin that we find God's powerful and freeing forgiveness. Justyn's poignant summary was: "We won't be afraid to take deep looks at ourselves because we know that whatever we find there is covered by the cross."

A long bus ride back ended with the most amazing, delicious meal of tacos. I don't have the words to describe how incredible they were. It was an eating frenzy. To quote Mike's worn-out, overused, no-longer-meaningful description: "I love tacos."

More tomorrow. Pray for the Hornbrooks' long trip back home and the start to the men's conference.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fellowship in the Gospel International 2011 (Mexico City)

The day began for me with Justyn & Gretchen coming to the house for coffee and a quick bite before a time of prayer. Mike & Tom picked us up and took us to Metro Airport. Everyone was on-time and got through security with no problems. I went to the bathroom while the rest of the gang boarded. There is nothing worse than being in the restroom and hearing on the loud speaker: "Last call for passenger Jeff McKeever to board Delta Flight..." After an uneventful and half-empty flight, we arrived in one of the biggest cities in the world this afternoon...Mexico City. Chuck, who lived here for 3 years, gave us the birds' eye tour of the city as the plane came in for its landing. We all pushed the red button that randomly lets you know if your bags will be searched...and everyone was sent through with the "green light."

A few steps out into the concourse and we were greeted by Rene & Ofelia and their daughter, Michelle, as well as Freddy. On the way from the airport, Freddy stopped (Don, Chuck, Justyn & I were in his car) and showed us two different pyramids. After we arrived at Hornbrooks' house, Freddy's wife, Grisel, also came over to greet us after we arrived. The highlight of the day for me was Michelle's answer when I asked her if she was a Christian. She explained that the tragedy of her nephew (her brother's son) being diagnosed with leukemia caused her and her family to realize the hopelessness of their ritualistic religion. It was during this time that Nathaniel (Sam & Jamie's son) invited Michelle to a youth event at Iglesa Nueva Vida Bautista (Hornbrook's church) where she heard the good news of Jesus Christ and believed...followed by her family! I told her that her story was worth coming to Mexico City for. She demonstrated oe of the things we will teach at the men's retreat: that just like Joseph's troubles (in Genesis 37ff) our troubles are to be seen from the viewpoint that God employs trials and tragedies for the purpose of saving His people.

We have not yet seen the Hornbrooks as they are several hours away for the funeral of Sam's mom, Ellen, which is tomorrow. Most of us are staying in their house, while Scott & Gary are staying at "the cold house" (Rene & Ofelia's) and Justyn & Tom are staying across the street at Carlos' house (a neighbor).

Another really awesome thing I witnessed of our men was the rich biblical fellowship that was occurring throughout our time together. Men were talking about difficulties, praying together, studying Scripture for devotionals they would share, men talking about theology and various Scripture passages, other men simply rereading the story of Joseph.

It's been a good trip already, because God is good. Please pray that we will used well and that the conference will change men's lives, Mexican and American alike.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I have a practice of reading, slowly and prayerfully, through a book on the gospel as part of my devotions, marking and collecting my favorite quotes. Here's a brief sample:

“The glory of the gospel is this: The one from whom we need to be saved is the one who has saved us.” ~ R. C. Sproul in Saved from What?

“The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.” ~ John Stott in The Cross of Christ

“The gospel reminds me first that what I actually deserve from God is a full cup churning with the torments of His wrath. This is the cup that would be mine to drink if I were given what I deserve each day. …That God, in fact, has given me a cup that is full of “every spiritual blessing in Christ,” and this without the slightest admixture of wrath, leaves me truly dumbfounded with inexpressible joy.” ~ Milton Vincent in A Gospel Primer for Christians

“Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low-grade quilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity. It’s just the opposite! God is glorified when we believe with all our hearts that those who trust in Christ can never be condemned.” ~ C. J. Mahaney in The Cross Centered Life

“You don't have anything to prove to us or the world. The work is finished at Calvary, and that work alone has unlimited meaning and value.” ~ Jack Miller in The Heart of a Servant Leader

I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.” ~ D. A. Carson in The Cross and Christian Ministry

“This is the gospel by which we were saved, and it is the gospel by which we must live every day of our Christian lives.” ~ Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace