On Sunday, September 30, 2012, the congregation of First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, held an installation service to formally install me as Senior Pastor. Rik Martin took some wonderful pictures during the service. (Thanks, Rik!)
Monthly Archives: September 2012
On Sunday, September 30, 2012, the congregation of First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, held an installation service to formally install me as Senior Pastor. Here are the comments I made to the congregation at the end of the service.
I began by reading Joshua 1:1-9.
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
In many respects, I can identify with General Joshua this morning. While I don’t claim to have his leadership abilities, I can identify with his circumstances. Joshua followed Moses, one of the greatest leaders who ever lived. I am following Pastor Tim Jones and Pastor Sam Hollo, and the other godly pastors who have served the church.
Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. First Central has wandered a bit over the past five years. On more than one occasion, you probably wondered, “Aren’t we there yet? Do we have to circle this mountain one more time?” Like Israel on the verge of entering the Promised Land, we, too, need to recapture vision, direction, and momentum
I can also identify with the challenges Joshua faced. Crossing the Jordan River was no easy task because the river was at flood stage. Crossing the river meant a declaration of war on the people of Canaan. On top of that, Joshua was not leading a group of Navy SEALS, Green Berets, or Army Rangers. He was leading a ragtag group of shepherds, farmers, and brick makers. With New England becoming more unchurched and spiritually resistant, pasturing a church is no easy task either.
Since I can identify with Joshua’s situation, I take encouragement from the three commands God gave Joshua. Each command was followed by a promise.
Joshua was told to cross the Jordan (2-5). Accompanying the command was the promise of success. Like the Oklahoma land rush in the 1860’s, Joshua and the people would receive every acre of land they walked on. However, the promise of success comes after command to obey. The Jordan River would not part until the people stuck their toes in the water.
I am reminded that we have to take the first step in faith, and then follow it with further steps of obedience.
Shortly after arriving in Chicopee, we purchased a GPS system for our car. My wife nicknamed it “Maggie.” As helpful and reliable on Maggie is, she only works when we bring her along or plug her in. Not so with God. He promises Joshua, “I will be with you. In fact, I will never abandon you or leave you alone.”
The second command is to be strong & courageous. In case Joshua didn’t get it the first time, God told him three times (6, 7, 9).
I’m guessing Joshua was intimidated and unsure of the challenge. I can certainly sympathize with him. That’s why Joshua, and I, need to be told to live boldly and courageously.
Once again, God promises Joshua that Israel will inherit the land. When my children were younger, I used to read to them at night. Generally, the chapter would end on a note of uncertainty and the kids would beg me to read another chapter. I told them they’d have to wait until tomorrow night. But as they were getting ready for bed, I would read ahead to know how the story turns out. By promising success, God was telling Joshua how the story would turn out. He would be on the winning side.
Once again, God promised that he would be with Joshua and not leave him alone.
The third command is that Joshua was to meditate on Scripture and obey it (7-8). Joshua was to think on Scripture so much that he would mutter it to himself. Rather than merely read it and memorize it, he was put it into practice and obey it. The Bible should fill our minds and transform our hearts.
Once again, God promised that Joshua would be successful. He would be successful in what God wanted him to do.
What is your Jordan River? What is the obstacle you face today? What does God want you to do? How does he want you to obey?
Take the first step in faith and follow it with further steps of obedience. Be strong and courageous. Live boldly because of God’s promises. Become a student of the Scriptures. Meditate on God’s Word and obey it.
This afternoon, Carol, my cousin, Janet, and I combined history, literature, and culture as we toured the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA. As it turned out, today was their annual Emily Dickinson Poetry Marathon where the goal was to read all of her poems (close to 1,800). You could come and go as you pleased, so each of us each read three poems. It was an enjoyable, enlightening time.
“Broken relationships are a razor across the artery of the spirit. Stemming the hemorrhage and binding the wound should be done as quickly as possible. Yet all too often, it takes months or years. And sometimes, the bleeding never stops. True reconciliation is one of the most powerful of all human interactions.”
Dr. Richard Swenson, in Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives
It is unfortunate when people choose to nurse a grudge rather than nurture grace. It is regrettable when someone cherishes a perceived slight rather than granting forgiveness to the offending party. It is heartbreaking when an individual continues to fan the flames of bitterness rather than quenching the fire through reconciliation.
As a pastor, I have seen the truth of Dr. Swenson’s quote played out in the lives of people. Sad to say, some choose to keep the wound open rather than apply the healing balm of grace and forgiveness. Because of their unwillingness to extend grace, it makes me wonder if they have truly experienced grace to begin with.
Book Review: Grace: More than we deserve, greater than we imagine, by Max Lucado
Practical. Biblical. Encouraging. Helpful. That pretty much sums up my feelings about the latest offering from Max Lucado.
Grace: More than we deserve, greater than we imagine takes us below the surface of the topic of grace. We know the word, but not the true meaning. We tend to think grace is limited to our salvation.
Max Lucado expands our understanding of grace by explaining what it means to live a life that is shaped by grace. He shows how grace provides strength for daily living and how it transforms us from selfishness to generosity.
Like a typical Max Lucado volume, the book draws its inspiration from the life and ministry of Jesus. He illustrates the principles with stories from newspapers, people in his church, as well as from his own life.
The book is relatively short, as the content only fills 151 pages. The remaining 50 pages contain a reader’s guide designed to take the reader deeper into the topic. The guide contains 12 studies to be used as a weekly devotional. Using a quote from the book to frame the week’s theme, the guide provides some selected Scripture passages to read and think deeper about the theme. The study then poses questions how to implement the topic in daily life.
While I liked the book and was encouraged by it, I’m not convinced it is worth buying, simply because of the length. I would be more apt to check out a copy from my local library or perhaps buy a used copy. It is certainly worth reading, just not paying full price.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
In response to the ending of the Seattle Seahawks – Green Bay Packers Monday Night Football game, a Green Bay TV station decided to inject a little humor into the day by using a “replacement weather guy.” Watch the video and enjoy a chuckle.
“Are you settled yet?” is a question we are often asked. While the question is simple and straightforward, it is not that easy to answer.
On the one hand, our boxes are unpacked, our furniture is placed, and the house is decorated for fall. We took care of our cars—drivers’ licenses, insurance, inspections, and registration. We registered to vote and got our library cards. We are discovering new stores and restaurants. We are finding our way around town. We still need to find doctors and dentists, but that will come with time. So, yes, we are settling in as residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
On the other hand, I was reminded this week that we are travelers on our way to heaven. In that sense, we will never feel completely settled.
From a human standpoint, I am originally from Denver, CO. I grew up in Southern California (Santa Ana, Anaheim). As an adult, I have lived in Dallas, TX; Anaheim, CA; Wheaton, IL; Redmond and Sammamish, WA; and now Chicopee, MA.
Because of my background, my sports loyalties will always be divided. Coming from Denver, I follow the Broncos and Rockies. Growing up in SoCal, I rooted for USC in football and UCLA in basketball. I followed the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Kings, and Rams. When we lived in Dallas, we became fans of the Cowboys. (As a Texan, there are only two true sports—football and spring football). While in Wheaton, we rooted for Da Bears and the Bulls. In Washington, we rooted for all things Seattle—Mariners, Seahawks, Sonics, Sounders, and UW Huskies. Now in New England, we will add new teams to the list.
I am from a number of places. But I am going to heaven. I may be a resident of Massachusetts, but I am a citizen of heaven. I have a passing interest in a variety of teams, but my true loyalty is to the Kingdom of God.
Because my heart is divided and drawn heavenward, I will never feel completely settled here on earth. Nor should I. Because if I do, I will have lost my spiritual focus.