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Do you see yourself as God sees you?

UnqualifiedBook Review: (Un)qualified: How God uses broken people to do big things, by Steven Furtick

How would you describe yourself? “I am …” Would you focus more on your weaknesses and limitations, or on your strengths? Would your description be similar or different to how God describes you?

Those questions are at the heart of Steven Furtick’s latest book,       (Un)qualified: How God uses broken people to do big things. The author believes that most of us focus on our weaknesses and conclude that we are unqualified to do anything for God. But as Scripture points out, God loves unqualified people and does some of his best work in and through them.

The author explains that the book came about after years of wrestling with the questions of self-acceptance and self-improvement. However, it is not your typical self-help book.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by your failures or exasperated by your weaknesses, this book is for you. But let me warn you, I’m not going to tell you fifteen ways to fix yourself in fifteen minutes a day. I’m not going to give you ten principles of perfection or seven secrets to success.

I want to do something that is, I hope, a lot more valuable.

I want to be real.

Real about struggles. Real about sin. Real about who God is and about who we are and about who we aren’t. Real about self-esteem and self-help and about how sometimes we can’t seem to fix certain things … and maybe we aren’t supposed to.

This is a book about finding and embracing who you are in light of who God is. It’s a book about coming to terms with the good, the bad, and the unmentionable in your life and learning how to let God use your mess for your benefit.

Like the author’s other books, this one is filled with entertaining stories, good principles, and Scriptural examples. The last third of the book is stronger biblically when the author tells the story of the patriarch, Jacob.

As a pastor and teacher, I know there are two ways to teach truth. You can teach stories and principles and illustrate them with Scripture or you can teach Scripture and principles and illustrate them with stories. In my opinion, this book falls into the first category. While the book is interesting, it is another example of “Bible Lite.”

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Books, Quotes

 

Promoting Prayer

As a follow-up to our Women’s Ministry showing the movie, War Room, my wife, Carol, updated our Women’s Ministry bulletin board. I’m obviously biased, but I think she did a wonderful job. She also did the board/banner above with the new tag line for Women’s Ministry

IMG_2771

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in First Central Baptist Church, Women

 

Embracing Change, Part 2

A few days ago, I stood on my soapbox and ranted about the phrase, “I hate change!” and why I believe we should embrace change. While I am still bothered by the statement, I also feel a sense of sadness for what we lose when we take that position.

When we resist change, we miss out on new ways to praise and worship God. The Old Testament is filled with the instruction, “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10).

When we resist change, we miss out on all the new things God is doing. On this topic, I think it is sufficient to let Scripture speak for itself.

Psalm 40:3 – He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Isaiah 43:18–19 – “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 57:10 – You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint.

Isaiah 62:2 – The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.

Isaiah 65:17 – “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

Jeremiah 31:31 – “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,

Lamentations 3:22–23 – The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Ezekiel 36:26 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Peter 3:13 – But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Revelation 2:17 – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Revelation 21:5 – And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Embrace change. Allow God to do a new work in your life.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Is commitment optional?

I’m teaching a series on 7 Stages of Spiritual Growth, adapting material developed by Bruce Wilkinson while he was part of Walk Thru the Bible. I came across one of my cartoons which illustrates how many people approach the idea of commitment.

auditing total commitment

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2016 in Fun, Personal growth

 

Fatherhood 101

Our Tuesday night Men’s Fraternity at First Central Baptist Church is working our way through Volume 6 of 33 The Series. This volume covers a man and his fatherhood. Here are the foundational principles for the first session which the rest of the volume will build on.

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Five Foundational Truths of Fatherhood

1 – Family was God’s idea

Psalm 127:3–5 (ESV) Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

2 – Fatherhood is a God-given commission

Fathers are commanded to train up and discipline their children.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 29:17 (ESV) Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.

Moses told parents to diligently teach the commands of the Lord to their sons and daughters.

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (ESV) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

3 – Fatherhood takes intentionality

Authentic Men: Reject the cultural norm of the detached dad; Accept the responsibility of this sacred commission; Lead their families courageously regardless of setbacks or confusion.

4 – Wise fathers focus on the heart

The heart is the wellspring of life

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV) Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

Luke 6:45 (ESV) The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

5 – Wise fathers are grace-dependent

Authentic men recognize their own brokenness and need for forgiveness.

Romans 3:23 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Luke 7:47 (ESV) Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

33 The Series: Volume 6—A Man and His Fatherhood; Session One: Foundations

 

Embracing Change

man_on_soapboxI am bothered when I hear someone say, “I hate change!”

In my previous church, I often responded facetiously, “Then you will hate heaven.” When I received a quizzical look, I added, “Scripture says, ‘We shall all be changed’” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

The more I think on the phrase, the more concerned I am because it reflects not only an unbiblical attitude but also reveals a lack of spiritual maturity. Let me get on my soapbox for a few paragraphs.

As Christ followers, we are called to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Resisting change says we want life to be predictable. We want to be in control. Resisting change means we are unwilling to trust God for the unknown.

Hebrews 11 is littered with people who lived “by faith.” Can you imagine if Abraham said, “God, I hate change. I want to stay in Ur rather than follow you to the Promised Land” (Hebrews 11:8-12). What if Moses resisted God’s call at the burning bush because he didn’t like change? (Exodus 3). What if the children of Israel wanted to stay in Egypt (Number 11:4-6) rather than follow the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night? (Exodus 13:21). What a minute! That was their problem. They resisted change and went kicking and screaming.

Resisting change makes it very difficult for pastors to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). It means we don’t want to grow spiritually. We disobey the instruction to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Granted, change can be unsettling. But trials, difficulties, and changes are one of the primary catalysts God uses to stimulate faith and character development (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-12). Rather than resist change, we are to view it as one more trial and welcome it as a friend (James 1:2).

I think we have the mistaken notion that because God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), we should not change either. We seem to forget that God is perfect and holy and we are not. We are commanded to grow and change. 2 Peter 1:5-8 commands us to “add to your faith …” and lists several character qualities we should grow in.

If we are honest, and none of us is quite this honest, when we resist change, we disobey the clear command of Romans 12:1-2.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

When we resist change, we are conforming ourselves to the world’s values. Instead, we are to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind.” This will help us discover God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will. When we resist change, we keep God and his will at arms’ length.

Change your mind about change. Embrace it. Take a step of faith. Who knows, God might use a simple change to jump start your faith and stimulate your growth towards maturity. He might even expand your comfort zone.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Personal growth, Scripture

 

Of Names & New Beginnings

While First Central is getting a new name, it is still under the same management.

Yesterday, First Central Baptist Church of Chicopee, MA, held our annual meeting. For many years, the meeting was held on a Wednesday evening. However, less and less people attended due to busy schedules and the lateness of the start and it essentially ruled out any young families attending. So we adapted with the times and moved the meeting to a Sunday. We held one combined worship service at 10:30AM, followed by lunch in the gym, followed by the annual meeting at 12:30PM. We provided childcare during the meeting so families could attend. Since yesterday’s meeting lasted until 2:30PM, it made for a long day for families. But since it is a once a year event, it’s not a huge inconvenience.

The annual meeting always includes voting on officers and board members. We discuss and vote on our annual operating budget. Those items were completed in the first 45 minutes of the meeting. The rest of the time was devoted to discussing/debating whether or not to change the name of the church.

As explained in a previous blog post, we’ve been discussing the issue for the past 3 years. It grew out of the realization that the label “Baptist” has become a negative one in the eyes of the world. We began to understand that it may be more of a hindrance than a help to us as we share the gospel with people in the community.

We spent over an hour allowing people to voice their opinions, ask questions, and offer positions. Some of it was repetitive since we held several discussions and Q&A sessions in the past. Some of it was new as others spoke up for the first time. To our credit and God’s glory, it was done in a spirit of unity and peace. Passionately presented, Yes; respectfully presented, Yes.

To move forward in the process, the elders asked for a 2/3 majority approval, as we viewed it akin to changing the constitution. Since the previous vote was evenly split (35 yes / 34 no), I was praying for a decisive outcome. I was thinking 80%. Yesterday’s vote was 84 yes and 26 no, a 76.3% approval. A 3/4 majority spoke loudly and gave us a mandate for action!

Now we move forward into the next phase which is proposing alternative names, filtering them down to the finalists, and choosing our next new name.

A few days ago, I came across Isaiah 43:18-19. It was particularly clear and direct in the NIV. I found it to be very timely and apropos to our discussion.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

God is doing a new thing at (the church formerly known as) First Central Baptist Church. While we can celebrate our history and heritage, we need to let go of the past so that we can embrace the new thing that God is doing in our midst today.

Towards the end of our discussion, one person suggested we add a note to our reader board, “Under same management for the past 2,000 years.” Our name may be new (soon), but we still operate under the authority of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church.

Colossians 1:18 (ESV) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

 
 
 
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