December 2007


primer1.jpgDo you ever hear the phrase, “You need to preach the gospel to yourself every day” but you have no idea how to practically do this in your life?  Last year, I came across a booklet by Milton Vincent called A Gospel Primer.  After going through it, and returning to it, I can tell you that I have yet to find a better resource (besides the Bible) to help me preach the gospel to myself every day.  And the great thing is that you can download this resource for free!  So, start 2008 with this great resource by downloading a copy for yourself and for someone else.

*Note to LBC members: Let me know if you want a copy and I’ll get you one with binding

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By God’s grace, I anticipate great things for 2008.  I hope my life will be LESS about some things and MORE about other things.  Here’s what I mean. 

In 2008, I desire for my life to be:

LESS talking, MORE doing

LESS grumbling, MORE thanking

LESS worrying, MORE trusting

LESS hurrying, MORE resting

LESS planning, MORE praying

LESS striving, MORE depending

LESS internalizing, MORE evangelizing

LESS complicated, MORE simple

LESS professional, MORE disciple

LESS taking, MORE serving

LESS about me, MORE about others

LESS about my kingdom, MORE about His kingdom 

Like many of you, I enjoyed some good time with family over the holidays.  It was a very refreshing time to just sit back and talk to my relatives and eat lots of food, especially Christmas cookies.  Yes, I had my share of holiday treats, but while I was gone I fasted–not from food, but from blogging. 

Let me just say that it was a very beneficial experience.  Instead of thinking so much about who was looking at my blog, I cared more about who was sitting right across from me at the dinner table.  Instead of thinking so much about writing that next post, I cared more about the next conversation I would engage in.  And instead of wondering if anyone had made any comments on my blog, I cared more about what kind of comments I could give to those in my presence.  So, it was personally a good experience for me to remember to keep blogging in its proper place.  It definitely has its purpose (and I’m glad God uses it for his glory) but it never was meant to take us away from truly doing “life together” with others–especially family.

(BTW … In all honesty, I did take one peek at my blog while I was gone!!)

by Mark (Doug’s twin brother) from Kyoto, Japan.

“What a title for your first guest blog,” you are thinking, right?

For thousands, perhaps for millions in the U.S. and Japan, Christmas is not a ho-ho- jolly time. The suicide rates soar at precisely “the best time of the year”.

If you are even down a little bit during the holiday season this year, I want to encourage you. You are not alone! Especially in my single years, and even some this year, I have experienced the blues of Christmas. What can you do? Where can you turn – especially when your family is far away or gone and most or all of your friends have left? Is there any hope to be found this Christmas?

My prayer is that as you read this that your heart will warm during these cold winter days! There is hope for you!

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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  I pray that God would remind you of the wonder of our Savior as you celebrate the mystery of God becoming man.  The incarnation truly is incredible!  To quote a Sovereign Grace song from their CD, Savior

God invisible appears, endless ages wrapped in years

He has come who cannot change

And Jesus is his name

As my family and I make the journey to Iowa for Christmas, I asked my twin brother, Mark, to be my guest blogger.  Many of you know that Mark and his wife Maki are missionaries in Japan.  They are proud parents of their 6 month old son named Noah. 

Over the years, Mark and I have had to adjust to doing life apart, instead of “life together.”  If you’re a twin, you understand how hard it would be to not see yours very often.  However, I thank God for Mark and his ministry with Maki in Japan. They encourage me immensely in the way they humbly serve and invest their lives into people.  It’s a slow work, but a work that’s already changed many lives for eternity.  Mark also challenges me to think beyond my little world here.  He has a huge heart for missions as he longs for others to participate in God’s heart for all the peoples of the world. 

So, as you approach these next two weeks, I encourage you to check in once in awhile and see what Mark has posted.  He will bless you and challenge you to be a blessing to this world. 

(Note: I know Mark would never mention it himself, but if you’re interested in learning more about how you can partner with him either prayerfully or financially, please let me know.)

Growing up, there was an evergreen tree in my front yard.  Sometimes I would stare out my bedroom window and just look at the tree.  The evergreen was especially fun to look at in the winter, as the snow rested on its branches seemingly unaffected by the cold.

Today I finished reading through the book of Hosea.  I stopped and paused to reflect on one verse in particular–Hosea 14:8–where God says,

I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.

The first question I asked myself was, “Why would God compare himself to an evergreen?  Why?  What’s the significance?  After reflecting for awhile I wrote down some of my own thoughts.  Then I looked to Charles Spurgeon for some help.  Here’s what he says in regards to this verse:

The Lord has compared himself, in his condescending mercy, to a green fir tree. The fir tree in the East yields a most goodly shade. Neither the burning heat of the sun, nor the drops of pouring rain can pass through the dense foliage, and therefore it affords a welcome shelter to the traveler. But shade is not enough for a man; he requires food, and the fir tree fails in that respect, for it yields no repast for the hungry. To complete the picture, therefore, when the Lord deigns to compare himself to a green fir tree, he adds, “From me is thy fruit found.” Our gracious God is like a fir tree for shade, but like the apple tree among the trees of the wood for fruit. We sit under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet unto our taste.

These words humbled me.  God likens himself to an evergreen tree who forever stands strong for us, providing shade and security for us in the midst of life.  But he is more.  He is the source of our fruitfulness.  Any fruitfulness we have is a direct result of our being connected to him.  Without him we can do nothing (John 15:5).  But through him we can do all things (Phil. 4:13).  We can both taste the fruit of being one with Him and experience the fruit of living for Him.

God is our evergreen.  In the summer sun he is always there to give us shade.  In the rain and lightning, when other trees are torn apart, he stands his ground.  And when the winter comes, when all the leaves have gone and the cold snow blankets the ground, our evergreen keeps standing strong not touched by the cold. 

May we praise Him for being our evergreen this Christmas season. 

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