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What are you listening to?

This is the opening illustration from my message this past Sunday at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. The message was “Don’t let your faith be contaminated” from Mark 8:11-21. I don’t recall the original source, but it set the tone for my sermon.

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Back when the telegraph was the fastest method of long distance communication, a young man applied for a job as a Morse code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the office address that was listed.

When he arrived, he entered a large, busy office filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background. A sign on the receptionist’s counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office.

The young man filled out his form and sat down with the seven other applicants in the waiting area. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. They muttered among themselves that they hadn’t heard any summons yet. They assumed that the young man who went into the office made a mistake and would be disqualified.

Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, “Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has just been filled.” The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and one spoke up saying, “Wait a minute, I don’t understand. He was the last to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair!”

The employer said, “I’m sorry, but all the time you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse code: ’If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. The job is his.”

 

A mind-bending SciFi thriller

The foldBook Review: The Fold: A Novel, by Peter Clines

Peter Clines latest offering, The Fold: A Novel, is a mind-binding, page-turning, high-octane Sci-Fi thriller. It reads like a cross between Michael Crichton, Sherlock Holmes, and the Syfy 90’s TV show, Sliders.

The main character, Mike Erikson, is a small town New England high school English teacher. While he appears to be just a regular guy, he is actually one of the smartest people on the planet with razor sharp observation skills and an eidetic, photographic memory. He remembers everything he has ever read or seen. He is recruited by an old friend to help solve a mystery. In the California desert near San Diego, a group of DARPA scientists have invented a device called the Albuquerque Door. The device uses a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to “fold” dimensions, thus shrinking distances so a traveler can move hundreds of feet with a single step.

While the invention proves promising, there seems to be a problem that scientists refuse to discuss. Mike is sent to use his observation skills and deductive reasoning to help figure out if the machine is a help or a danger. Every step takes him deeper into the mystery and towards a twist that you don’t expect.

While I enjoyed the story, I did not appreciate the author’s use of profanity. In the second half of the book when the intensity of the mystery ratchets up, one character in particular becomes more profane and litters her conversations with “F” bombs. The author slips one in occasionally and you initially don’t notice it. But by the final chapter, it feels like they are everywhere. It just didn’t seem like it was necessary. While I normally avoid books with profanity, by the time it became noticeable, I was hooked by the story and did not want to put it down.

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 May 25, 2015 in Books

 

Thanks for your service & sacrifice

Memorial Day2

from “Memorial Day look back: Eagle photo touches hearts”

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Memorial Day, Photos

 

Don’t Let Your Faith Be Contaminated

As we go through our daily routines, we are constantly bombarded with distractions of every stripe. Personality conflicts. Complicated problems. Doubts. Skepticism. Busyness. All of these conspire to desensitize our feelings, build calluses on our skin, and harden our hearts. To Maintain a healthy faith, we must Remember what God did in the past, Meditate on his promises in the present, and Trust him to provide for the future.

In Mark 8:11-21, we see the twin dangers of unbelief and forgetfulness. The Pharisees demand proof (11-13) when in reality they only want an argument. The disciples are so focused on present problems (14-21) that they forgot God’s provision in the past. Unbelief and forgetfulness can contaminate and poison our faith if we’re not careful.

As the passage opens, Jesus and his disciples are on the western side of the Sea of Galilee in the region of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees show up demanding irrefutable proof of Jesus’ authority. Rather than seeking convincing proof so they might be persuaded to believe, they only want to argue. Like the person who says, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!” the Pharisees had closed their minds to Jesus and his teachings. Their actions reveal that they were blind and hard-hearted.

Not all questions seek the truth. While Jesus often went the extra mile to dialogue with seekers, he refused the demands of skeptics. Rather than engage in pointless dialogue, Jesus leaves the area.

In their hasty departure, Jesus’ disciples forgot to pack a lunch for the trip. They are so focused on their present problem they forgot Jesus’ miracles in the past (14-21).

With the encounter with the Pharisees fresh in his mind, Jesus warns his disciples not to be contaminated by the unbelief of the Pharisees. While Jesus and his disciples are using the same language, they mean entirely different things. Jesus uses the term, yeast or leaven, metaphorically while the disciples interpret it literally.

In some cases, yeast can be good. It can serve as a pervasive influence in spreading the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:33). But it can also describe the corrupting influence of evil (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). In this case, Jesus is sounding a warning against the hypocrisy and unbelief of the Pharisees.

Jesus warns about yeast and the disciples are thinking they forgot their lunch. Their myopic response reveals they were so focused on their present problem that they forgot Jesus’ miraculous provision not long ago. They demonstrated that they were dense and hard-hearted.

Seeing the Pharisees’ and the disciples’ reactions raises a yellow flag in my own life. Those closest to Jesus are the most in danger of becoming callused and hard-hearted. It is possible to know the Scriptures, see miracles, receive answers to prayer, and yet never allow the truth to penetrate below the surface.

Don’t let your faith be contaminated by …

  • Unbelief – There is nothing wrong with doubt and honest questions. They will lead you to the truth. But unbelief has chosen not to believe.
  • Hypocrisy – Some put on a mask and appear pious and religious, yet deep inside they are antagonistic to Christ.
  • Present problems – We can get so consumed with today’s issues that we forget our God is almighty and all-powerful.
  • Forgetfulness – We can become so distracted that we forget who God is, what he has done, and all of his promises.
  • Hard heart – Unconfessed sin, broken relationships, and compromise can all serve to build up calluses on our hearts.

To maintain a healthy faith …

  • Remember what God did in the past. Keep a journal to remind yourself of what God has done, answers to prayer, miracles, provision, etc. Remembering what God did in the past will bring help in the present.
  • Meditate on God’s promises in the present. Focus on God’s promises and goodness rather than on your problems. They will give you hope for the future.
  • Trust him to provide in the future. Remembering and meditating will lead you to greater confidence in the future.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 24, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

A new perspective of the importance of the church

A fellowship of differentsBook Review: A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together, by Scot McKnight

“God’s mission in this world is to create the church where God’s will is lived out by all of God’s people. God’s new creation grace and love are experienced at the table of Christian fellowship and create a new people, a new community, and a new way of life marked by a holiness the Roman Empire either despised or had never seen embodied in a community.”

The quote above sums up Scot McKnight’s theme and purpose in his book on the church, A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together. He wants to show the world what the church and the Christian life is supposed to look like.

After describing his church background in chapter one, the author describes the nature of the church in chapter two. He uses the metaphor of a salad bowl—a mixed salad of the best kind. The church is to be a mixture of people from all across the map and spectrum: men and women, rich and poor, black and white, and everything in between. The author believes that getting the church right is so important because it is “God’s world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together are designed by God to be.”

McKnight spends the rest of the book describing how grace, love, table, holiness, newness, and the Holy Spirit work together to guide the Christian life and shape the church. He uses the writings of the apostle Paul to flesh out his concepts and principles. He blends together biblical study, personal experiences, and concrete examples in an attempt to answer two fundamental questions: What is the church supposed to be? and If the church is what it is supposed to be, what does the Christian life look like?

The book will challenge your perception of the Christian life and leave you with a greater appreciation for the church.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2015 in Books, Church, Quotes

 

Gone zooing

Carol, Caitlin, and I ventured over to Providence, RI, today to visit the Roger Williams Park Zoo. It was an opportunity to view God’s creative work in all the different animals. As Caitlin pointed out, the Red Panda wins the cuteness award.

 

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2015 in Photos, Rhode Island

 
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Measuring your love for Christ

PowerPoint Presentation

 
 
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