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If Only I Had Known

If only I had known

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Photos, Quotes

 

Lose your religion

Imagine that you discover an extremely large wasp nest hanging under your front porch. Imagine that in addition to the insect damage, there is so much dry rot that the porch is very likely to collapse in the near future. Would you fill in the damage with wood putty? Would you slap on a fresh coat of paint? Would you ignore it completely? Or would you tear down the porch and rebuild it from the ground up?

In Mark 2:18-22, people ask Jesus the question, “How come your disciples don’t do religion like the Pharisees do religion?” In his response, Jesus explains that he did not come to repair, reform, or remodel religion. He came to replace religion with a relationship. His answer demonstrates that a new day demands a new way of doing things.

The question the people ask centers on religious practices. The Old Testament law required people to fast one day a year on the Day of Atonement. If one day a year is good, the Pharisees concluded that twice a week is even better. By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees fasted each week on Monday and Thursday in order to demonstrate their religious piety. In contrast, Jesus’ disciples went to dinner parties, which confused the average person on the street.

Jesus answers the question with an analogy and two parables. Using the analogy of a wedding feast, Jesus explains that you shouldn’t mourn when you should celebrate.

My daughter, Amanda, will be married next summer. Now I might fast before the wedding in order to fit into my suit and look good in the photos. I might fast after the wedding to lose the extra weight I will gain. But I will certainly not be fasting the day of the wedding. I will be eating, drinking, and celebrating to my heart’s content.

Through the analogy, Jesus says that he is the bridegroom. While he is present, it’s time to celebrate rather than mourn. The day is coming when he will be gone, which prefigures his death. Then it’s time to mourn, but not now.

Jesus adds two parables to reinforce his explanation. Talking about patching an old garment with a new patch, Jesus says that we should not repair when we should replace. Speaking of pouring new wine into an old wineskin, Jesus says that we should not force the new into the old.

Adding the analogy and the parables together, Jesus demonstrates that a new day demands a new way. Salvation is not a matter of patching up one’s old life. It requires a whole new robe of righteousness. Trying to measure up and earn God’s favor through fasting and other religious observances has been replaced with a new relationship based on grace and forgiveness. This should lead us to celebrate God’s good gift and provision for our deepest needs.

We can apply the same principle to how we do ministry today. A generation ago, communication was only verbal and in black and white. Today, our church communicates visually through color, PowerPoint, an email newsletter, and a website. Before, Sunday School was the only method of Christian Education. Today, we host Awana, small groups, a youth group, men’s & women’s ministries, as well as Sunday School. Instead of sharing prayer requests by phone, we now use phone, email, and texting. Instead of providing sermons on tape, we provide them on CDs, our website, and on my blog. In the same way, we adapt and adjust our leadership structure, staffing principles, and methods of evangelism to fit our ever-changing culture.

While our message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone does not change, our ways of doing ministry need to be constantly evaluated and adapted to reach today’s culture.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 23, 2014. It is part of a series on the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Jesus from Genesis to Revelation

In Appendix 1 of his book, The Power of God’s Names, pastor and author includes a chart describing how Jesus is portrayed in each book of the Bible. Please click on the link to download a pdf copy of the chart.

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From cover to cover, the Bible offers us insight into Jesus’ character and purpose. These descriptions from the 66 books of the Bible aren’t actual names, but they give us a deeper and clearer glimpse into the one who has come as Immanuel to the be the living fulfillment and manifestation of God’s names.

 

In Genesis, He is the Creator God
In Exodus, He is your Redeemer
In Leviticus, He is your sanctification
In Numbers, He is your guide
In Deuteronomy, He is your teacher
In Joshua, He is the mighty conqueror
In Judges, He gives you victory over your enemies
In Ruth, He is your kinsman, your lover, your redeemer
In 1 Samuel, He is the root of Jesse
In 2 Samuel, He is the Son of David
In 1 and 2 Kings, He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords
In 1 and 2 Chronicles He is your intercessor and high priest
In Ezra, He is your temple, your house of worship
In Nehemiah, He is your mighty wall, protecting you from your enemies
In Esther, He stands in the gap to deliver you from your enemies
In Job, He is the arbitrator who not only understands your struggles but also has the power to do something about them
In Psalms, He is your song and your reason to sing
In Proverbs, He is your wisdom, helping you make sense of life and live it successfully
In Ecclesiastes, He is your purpose, delivering you from vanity
In the Song of Solomon, He is your lover, your Rose of Sharon
In Isaiah, He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace
In Jeremiah, He is your balm of Gilead, the soothing salve for your sin-sick soul
In Lamentations, He is the ever-faithful one on whom you can depend
In Ezekiel, He is your wheel in the middle of a wheel—the one who assures that dead, dry bones will come alive again
In Daniel, He is the Ancient of Days, the everlasting God who never runs out of time
In Hosea, He is your faithful lover, always beckoning you to come back—even when you have abandoned Him
In Joel, He is your refuge, keeping you safe in times of trouble
In Amos, He is the husbandman, the one you can depend on to stay by your side
In Obadiah, He is Lord of the kingdom
In Jonah, He is your salvation, bringing you back in His will
In Micah, He is judge of the nation
In Nahum, He is the jealous God
In Habakkuk, He is the holy one
In Zephaniah, He is the witness
In Haggai, He overthrows the enemies
In Zechariah, He is Lord of hosts
In Malachi, He is the messenger of the covenant
In Matthew, He is King of the Jews
In Mark, He is the servant
In Luke He is the Son of Man, feeling what you feel
In John, He is the Son of God
In Romans, He is the righteousness of God
In 1 Corinthians, He is the rock that followed Israel
In 2 Corinthians, He is the triumphant one, giving victory
In Galatians, He is your liberty, setting you free
In Ephesians, He is the head of the church
In Philippians, He is your joy
In Colossians, He is your completeness
In 1 Thessalonians, He is your hope
In 2 Thessalonians, He is your glory
In 1 Timothy, He is your faith
In 2 Timothy, He is your stability
In Titus, He is God our Savior
In Philemon, He is your benefactor
In Hebrews, He is your perfection
In James, He is the power behind your faith
In 1 Peter, He is your example
In 2 Peter, He is your purity
In 1 John, He is your life
In 2 John, He is your pattern
In 3 John, He is your motivation
In Jude, He is the foundation of your faith
In Revelation, He is your coming King.

 

Author Unknown, Cited in The Power of God’s Names, by Tony Evans

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2014 in Bible Study, Books, Quotes, Theology

 

The Power of One

One Samaritan woman testified to her town, and many believed in Jesus.

One man, Noah, built a boat that saved the human race.

One man, Moses, stood up to Pharaoh and delivered the Hebrews from Egypt.

One woman, Deborah, delivered Israel from the Canaanite oppression.

One man, David, defeated the Philistines when he killed their champion, Goliath.

One woman, Esther, had the courage to approach the king and see her nation spared from extermination.

One man, Peter, preached a sermon that led 3,000 to be saved.

One salesman and Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball, led a young man named Dwight to Christ. Dwight Moody became a blazing evangelist who it is said, led one million souls to Christ in his short lifetime. Wilbur Chapman received the assurance of his salvation after talking with Moody and went onto become a noted evangelist himself. The drunken baseball player Billy Sunday was an assistant to Chapman before becoming the most famous evangelist of his day. One of the fruits of Sunday’s ministry was the forming of a group of Christian businessmen in Charlotte, North Carolina. This group brought the evangelist Mordecai Ham to Charlotte in 1934. A tall awkward youth named Billy Graham was converted during those meetings. According to his staff, as of 1993, more than 2.5 million people had “stepped forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Millions of souls trace their spiritual lineage back to the influence of one man, a simple Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball.

Someone said, “To the world you may just be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” To this we might add, to you they may seem like just one lost soul, but to God that may be a soul who can shake the whole world.

Evangelism Is …: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, by Dave Earley and David Wheeler

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Books, Evangelism, Quotes

 

Does God show through you?

The story is told of a child on her way home from church with her mom when she turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.”

“Oh? Why is that?” she asked.

The little girl responded, “Well, the preacher said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?”

“Yes, He is,” her mom replied.

“And he also said that God lives in us. Is that also true, Mommy?” Again, her mother answered yes.

“Well,” said the little girl, “if God is bigger than us and He lives in us, shouldn’t He show through?”

The Power of God’s Names, by Tony Evans

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2014 in Books, Quotes, Theology

 

When man prays, God works

Last week, I wrote a letter to the congregation of First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, asking them to join me in prayer for six specific issues. Here’s a copy of the letter.

First Central Baptist Church

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in First Central Baptist Church, Prayer

 

The Scandal of Grace

judgmentalHi, I’m Mark. I’m a legalist. I come from a long line of legalistic people.

Our patron saint was Inspector Javert of Les Miserables with his philosophy of “Honest work, just reward; that’s the way to please the Lord.” legalism signs 2Our family crest was a Stop sign. We lived by the motto, “Good Christians Don’t.” Good Christians don’t … dance … drink … go to movies … shop on Sunday … play cards … dress casually for church … play sports on Sunday … have long hair … listen to rock ‘n roll music. As a student at Biola College in the 70’s (before it became a University), I had to sign “The Pledge” which outlawed the big 6 no-no’s—dancing, drinking, smoking, using profanity, going to the theater, and gambling.

In more recent years, my legalistic brethren have added to the list. Good Christians don’t … read Harry Potter books … use Scripture translations other than the King James Version … use contemporary music, especially with drums and guitar … put their children in public schools … celebrate Halloween …

Most important of all … Good Christians don’t associate with the world. Good Christians never attend office parties where there might be drinking. Good Christians only do business with other Christians—plumbers, accountants, gas stations, doctors … Good Christians run from church to Bible study to Christian schools to Christian concerts to … Good Christians avoid all contact with the world.

Because of my background, I desperately need to learn from Jesus’ example in Mark 2:13-17. Not only did Jesus associate with sinners, he actually went to dinner parties with them. Jesus was a friend of sinners, horror of horrors. On top of that, he had some pretty strong words for me and my legalistic brethren. Jesus was the enemy of the self-righteous.

The passage describes Jesus’ encounter with Levi, the tax collector. Levi operated a toll booth on the Via Maris, the way of the sea, a trade route that ran from Damascus to Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. Levi’s toll booth in Capernaum was near the halfway point.

The tax collectors of Jesus’ day were considered the scum of the earth. They were viewed as traitors because they purchased a tax franchise from the Romans. They practiced extortion and greed in collecting and enforcing the taxes. Worst of all, they were Jews who did business with Gentiles. As a result, they were excommunicated from the local synagogue and could not worship. In addition, they were deemed untrustworthy and not allowed to serve as a judge or a witness in a legal proceeding. Consequently, Levi would have been the poster child for “Least likely to become a Christian.”

Centuries ago, a number of workmen were seen dragging a great marble block into the city of Florence, Italy. It had come from the famous marble quarries of Carrara, and was intended to be made into a statue of a great Old Testament prophet. But it contained imperfections, and when the great sculptor Donatello saw it, he refused it at once. So there it lay in the cathedral yard, a useless block. One day another sculptor caught sight of the flawed block. But as he examined it, there rose in his mind something of immense beauty, and he resolved to sculpt it. For two years the artist worked feverishly on the work of art. Finally, on January 25, 1504, the greatest artists of the day assembled to see what he had made of the despised and rejected block. Among them were Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Pietro Perugino, the teacher of Raphael. As the veil dropped to the floor, the statue was met with a chorus of praise. It was a masterpiece! The succeeding centuries have confirmed that judgment. Michelangelo’s David is one of the greatest works of art the world has ever known.

Christ saw in the flawed life of Levi (tax collector) a Matthew (writer and evangelist). He still sees men and women with his consummate artist’s eye today. He sees in us what no one else sees.

Christ called Levi to become a disciple, and he immediately followed. While Peter and John could return to their fishing enterprise, Levi could not return to his tax booth. For him, following Jesus involved great risk and a high price. There was no turning back.

ThemedParty-PP-ink outlinesShortly afterwards, Levi threw a party where he invited his friends and business associates to come and meet Jesus. In that culture, sharing a meal was viewed as one of the most intimate forms of friendship. The scribes and the Pharisees could not fathom why Jesus was even there, let alone engaged in the meal and conversation. In their minds, eating a meal with the riff-raff of society was even worse than touching a leper (1:40-45).

Jesus responds to their questions by quoting a well-known proverb. For him to avoid sinners made as much sense as a doctor avoiding sick people.

I believe that Jesus calls us to live scandalous lives today. If we follow his example and strive to be truly Christlike, then we must love and accept sinners as they are. Acceptance does not equal approval, however. But it does mean we need to treat unbelievers with respect and dignity.

In dealing with the world, I was taught to isolate myself and avoid all contact. Some go to the other extreme by “going native” and adopting the world and its value. Rather than isolation or assimilation, the Christian life is to be one of mission.

We should put together a list of people we consider least likely to become a Christ follower. Then we should start praying for them by name. Perhaps we could host a neighborhood barbecue to get to know our neighbors and build a relationship with them. We could pose a question like, “Is there really a God?” or “Is the Bible reliable?” to get a discussion started. With the holidays approaching, we could invite some unchurched friends to a holiday gathering and share what Jesus means to us.

Oliver CromwellDuring the reign of Oliver Cromwell, there was a shortage of currency in the British Empire. Representatives carefully searched the nation in hopes of finding silver to meet the emergency. After one month, the committee returned with its report. “We have searched the Empire in vain seeking to find silver. To our dismay, we found none anywhere except in the cathedrals where the statues of the saints are made of choice silver.”

To this, Oliver Cromwell eloquently answered, “Let’s melt down the saints and put them into circulation.”

If we want to impact the world for Jesus Christ, we need to follow Jesus’ example and get back into circulation. We should take the risk of being misunderstood or criticized and scandalously dispense grace to those who need it most.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 16, 2014. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
 
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