A Year of Decablogging


This April marks the one year anniversary of The Decablog.  If there was a parade, I somehow missed it.

There has been a proliferation of “year of ___” books recently, encompassing everything from Biblical Womanhood (didn’t read it but it sounds awful) to Pies (didn’t read it but it sounds amazing).  I don’t think that either Kennicott or I could honestly call this “a year of Decablogging.”  He would probably call it a year of continuing to serve as Pastor of Ephesus Church and seeking to Biblically guide his family; while I would call it the year of the giant move, entering full time ministry, and just hoping to get all my kids and wife back in the car as we drove from WA to SC.

The Decablog fits into our lives when there is time, but I know we both enjoy it and are excited about the road ahead.  To commemorate this auspicious occasion I have added a new page to the site header (RSS stalkers click through).  “Highlights and Harangues” is a compilation of our longer articles from year one.  These are the original and mostly extended pieces we’ve written rather than the links and quotes we’ve shared along the way.  If you’re started following this blog more recently you might enjoy browsing through the list.

The Decablog is a small blip on the internet radar, but I do pray the Lord would use even our feeble musings for his glory.  If a donkey can speak in the service of the King, Nick and I will keep typing away.  Here’s to another year of Decablogging!

(by: Nicolas Alford)

Biblical Responses to The Boston Bombings

Christian Living, News, Prayer, The Gospel

Like most, I received the news of yesterday’s attacks in Boston with a familiar sickness.  While this sort of mass murder should always grieve us, it is undeniable that that which hits closest to home hits hardest.  The familiarity I felt was to that day many Septembers ago when I woke up to shaky video clips of planes crashing into buildings and people who could be my friends and relatives running for their lives in a city not so different from my own.  Now we have footage of a fireball going off in an unsuspecting crowd, of people gathered for a day of fun and sport instead fleeing for safety, and of heart rending violence played out on a Boston sidewalk.

This is heavy on my heart today, and so as I think through a Biblical response I wanted to share what I feel is an appropriate way for the Christian to respond to these horrific events.  Specifically, a Biblical response to the Boston bombings includes…

1. Appropriate Sorrow

When Jesus saw human suffering he was moved with compassion (Mark 1:41 et al).  The Creator is intimately concerned with the pains, fears, and sorrows of His creatures.  Following His example, our hearts should ache for those who have lost loved ones, for those who are even now waking up in hospitals- facing a life forever changed by the violence that erupted yesterday, and for a nation once again dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Christians ought to respond to tragedy with open hearts ready to grieve with those who grieve (Romans 12:15) and with open hands ready to relieve suffering as we are able (Galatians 6:10).  We ought to be driven in prayer to cry out for those in pain, and to seek the Lord’s mercy and comfort for them in their day of sorrow.

2. Righteous Anger

We do not worship the impersonal and passive idol of Deism.  Our God hates injustice.  He is the advocate of the widow and the orphan.  He hates what happened in Boston with a righteous fury, and it is not wrong that we feel anger about it as well.  We should be angry that men spit in the face of God, breaking his sixth commandment and treating as worthless that which God has called “very good” and “made in His image” (Genesis 1:27, 31)

3. Chastened Patience

It is easy for righteous anger to slip into imprudent haste and unwarranted conclusions.  We don’t yet know who committed yesterday’s crime, and the history of “first reports often overturned” should make us patient about speculation until more information is known (Proverbs 18:17).

4. Transcendent Hope

It is wrong for Christians to be nonplussed by tragedy under the false guise of being “spiritually minded” or a false understanding of “trusting God’s sovereignty.”   However, it is also wrong for us to “sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).  The promise of the gospel gives us a confidence that can transcend even the darkest hour, even when that “dark hour” bombards us through rebroadcast on the 24/7 news cycle.  We do not rest our hopes in the hands of men, nor are they dashed by men’s wicked deeds; rather we rest them in the hands of God who is governing and guiding this world toward a great deliverance and future glory (Romans 8:18-25).

5. Eager Longing

Every time a bomb or a bullet rips through a human being it leaves more than a trail of medical trauma and human suffering.  It leaves behind the exit wounds of a fallen world crying out for deliverance.  May God help us to have our hands quick to relieve the suffering of the present hour even as our hearts long for the age to come- the age of no more tears, no more sadness, no more death.

May we all say “Amen, come quickly Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

One Last Thought

As I ready this post for publication, one last thought does come to mind.  Yesterday people gathered in Boston to participate in a sport that celebrates the joy of running- the undeniable lift that a human being experiences when putting his God-formed body to use in a display of God’s brilliant design and the admirable discipline of human training.  Yet wicked men instead made them run in panic and fear.  This inversion of God’s good creation is at its root Satanic- it is open service to the one who entered the Garden with a message designed to flip God’s good creation on its head.  But Satan doesn’t win, and the goals of yesterday’s attack are ultimately futile (Genesis 3:15).  We worship and serve the Christ who died to overturn death, who suffered to erase suffering, who is in the business of fixing broken things.

Does he not use this very picture to show us what he is doing?  “…they shall run and not be weary…” (Isaiah 40:31).  And so I say again: Amen, come quickly Lord Jesus.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

The Joy Of Longevity

Christian Living, The Church

hourglassOne of the great joys of being part of one local church over a lifetime is having the opportunity to see the Lord’s work in the lives of His people as they grow and mature and travel through the various stages of life along the long, dusty, narrow road of the Christian life. I hope that over the last 5 1/2 years as my family has been at Ephesus Church, God’s people have seen growth and maturity in me – not simply as a pastor, but as a Christian, as a husband, as a father, and as a friend. Along the journey, each of us have taken hits from one another, we’ve been helped, we’ve been hurt, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve rejoiced, we’ve mourned, we’ve sinned and been rebuked, and we’ve had great opportunities to rejoice because of the work of God in our lives. And the longer we continue in the journey together, through all the difficulties and all the pains and all the ups and downs, the more we will see with increasing clarity the great blessings of God upon His people.

In my time as a pastor, one of my favorite things has been to see people come to faith in Christ – some young, some old – and having the opportunity to sit back and watch the Lord at work in growing, shaping, maturing, and moving them from one level of understanding and faith to another. It’s a marvelous work God does, and I delight in getting to see it. I hope the people at Ephesus Church see the same in me: A young man with rough edges getting smoothed out, learning more about what’s most important and overlooking more of what’s of lesser significance. I hope there’s a great progression of our helpfulness toward one another as we do life together at Ephesus Church, realizing that sometimes when iron is being sharpened, there will be sparks – but those sparks are often necessary.

I just had a birthday this week, and I’m realizing the older I get, the more I am amazed and love what God does within the local church. Taking broken and sinful people, redeeming us, and then setting us on course together toward the great celestial city in which we all hope and can see with greater and greater clarity as we move closer and closer to that great end with Jesus. It is a supernatural work of God. The fact that Christians are in local churches together, worshipping with one another, is a supernatural work of God! For those outside of Christ, all that the church is amounts to a complete waste of time, a foolish endeavor, and an infringement on their opportunity to maximize worldly pleasures. But for Christians, meeting together for worship is the greatest time of the week! We long for it, we delight in it, we want more of it. Once a week, God takes us from the depths of the valley and places us on the mountain of transfiguration that together we can behold his glory! What a marvelous gift it is!

By the grace of God we are who we are as a church, we are who we are as a people of God, we are who we are as His children – loved, cared for, nurtured, sustained, and saved from the wrath to come. By the grace of God, we who were broken and battered and messed up in all sorts of ways have had our names written in heaven forevermore. And having the opportunity to see the fruit of God’s work of redemption year after year in the lives of his people is one of the greatest joys in the family of God. The longer we persevere with the same people in the same local church – even when it’s tough – the greater the joy! If the Lord wills, my 5 1/2 years at Ephesus Church will turn into a lifetime. I don’t want to be anywhere else!

(By: Nick Kennicott)

Conducting Effective Prayer Meetings

Ministry, Prayer, The Church, The Gospel, Worship

Recently Pastor Max Doner posted a short article on Reformed Baptist Fellowship discussing the value and validity of holding a regular church Prayer Meeting.  He lists several reasons for the decline of the Prayer Meeting’s popularity, none of which I would quibble with, but I would amend to his list one major reasons that the Prayer Meeting suffers: we’re often not very good at conducting them.  I’ve been in prayer meetings that seem almost electric in their spiritual intimacy and gospel zeal, and I’ve been in others that would make a sloth go looking for something a bit more invigorating.

Small wonder that the Prayer Meeting isn’t treasured when they are far too often sloppy, disjointed, unfocused, and bland.  We who are tasked with leading such meetings should approach them as we would any other gospel labor- with a careful plan to glorify God, edify His people, and help light evangelistic fire in the souls of the people.  This takes forethought.  I must confess that I have personally presided over some prayer meetings that were hastily put together- and it bore the sort of fruit one would expect.  But in God’s grace, I’ve also been able to conduct some where we felt the blessing of Christ in the way Pastor Doner describes in his quotation of Matthew 18: 19-20:  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Here then are 12 tips I’ve found helpful in conducting effective prayer meetings.

1. Start with a SHORT devotion from Scripture.

Notice that SHORT is capitalized, which is the typing way of yelling at you.  Keep it SHORT.  Five minutes is best, ten is the absolute maximum.  The goal is to orient the hearts and minds of God’s people toward spiritual matters, not preach a morning sermon part II.  You have gathered the people here to pray, so respect the purpose of the meeting.

Psalm 19 makes an excellent text, as both the glories of God in creation and the fuller revelation of saving grace in the Scripture can be highlighted.  I recently used Ephesians 1 as an opening text and briefly pointed out the Trinitarian nature of salvation.  It can also work to briefly summarize the recent sermon and lead the people into a time of prayerful response or even focus on the words of a hymn.  Whatever you pick, make sure the tone and tenor of your speech is in harmony with the sort of prayer you desire to lead the people into.

2. Begin with a focused time of doxological Prayer.

The Prayer Meeting should not normally be one big mass of open prayer, but should rather be organized into smaller segments with a particular focus.  After giving a SHORT devotion I invite the people to offer a response to God’s Word through prayer, picking up the major themes of the text presented.  Emphasize that this is a time of worship and not for general requests.

You will find that this is new for many people, so you will need to model the sort of prayer you are trying to lead them into.  This is another reason why the Psalms make for excellent devotional material, as they typically model this sort of doxological method.

3. Use the “open floor” rather than the “go around the circle” method.

It is temping to have everyone pray in turn because it forces participation, but I would avoid it.  “Going around the circle” tends to take way too long and it also fosters a situation where people are composing their prayers as the circle gets closer to them, rather than joining with the current speaker with all their mind and heart.

4. Have your second season of prayer be a time for requests and intercession, but with a specific focus.

This is not the time to pray for grandma’s neighbor’s brother’s roommate’s uncle Beau’s arthritis.  Lay a specific area of prayer before the people.  I like to focus on the health of our local church, or the church’s evangelistic witness, or something timely such as the appointment of new Church officers or a specific missionary family.

5. Have your third and last season of prayer be open to the burdens and concerns of the people, but avoid spending more time talking than praying.

This one takes the careful application of wisdom, and doesn’t happen overnight.  You also don’t want to stifle the fellowship of the people of God as they explain a situation or express care for one another, but try to move the “sharing time” into the “praying time” without undue delay.  Leaving this portion of prayer to the end is a major help in this area, as an extended discussion of requests can’t monopolize the whole meeting.

6. If necessary, split up a large gathering into smaller groups.

In larger churches, after the first two seasons of prayer it may be time to split up into smaller groups to share general requests.  This can be done in one room, as the sound of the prayers being offered by different people actually makes a nice soundtrack to your own.  Staying in one room also will keep everyone together for when you bring the meeting to a close (see point 12 below).

7. Don’t do the “recap.”

Everyone just listened to the requests, you don’t need to list them back to everybody.  Just start praying.

8. Encourage “piggyback prayers.” 

Just because someone prayed for something doesn’t mean it is checked off the list and done with.  Encourage others to echo the prayers of their fellow saints with their agreements, affirmations, and Amens.  Again, modeling this is helpful as bad habits may have to be unlearned.

9. Don’t be afraid of silence

Give people time.  I would err on the side of allowing  time to pray rather than ending a session because you think everyone is done.  There are worse things than quiet contemplation.

10. Say Amen with gusto and encourage the people to do likewise.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

11. Make sure that the Prayer Meeting is saturated with gospel realities and gospel priorities.

Pray for conversions.  Pray for growth in grace.  Pray for missions.  Pray for the preaching of the Word.  Pray for evangelism.  Pray for God to be glorified through the salvation of the lost.  Pray in light of gospel realities and gospel priorities.   When asked the secret of his success for the gospel, Spurgeon famously replied “my people pray for me.”

12.  End the prayer meeting in a way that gives it structure and closure.

The two methods I like to use are to either make the last prayer  a reading of Scripture that ends in “Amen,” or to close with a short hymn such as the Doxology.  This gives the Prayer Meeting the feel of a worship service (which it is) and helps to bracket the time as something distinct and special in the life of the church.

I’m sure there are a million ways these guidelines could be adapted to particular situation and contexts, and I would even advise periodically modifying the format so as to not grow stale.  May the Lord revive the Prayer Meeting, and may he use this means to accomplish his purposes unto His glory, our growth, and the salvation of the lost!

(By: Nicolas Alford)