Monthly Archives: October 2012

#TGCNE12 – Breakout 1

“Perspectives on ministry in New England” was a panel discussion with four pastors.

How can you contextualize the gospel for your area?

Slow down, listen, learn before changing things

What barriers do you have to overcome to share the gospel?

Fear of man is the chief idolatry of our day

How do you disciple?

Revitalize SS, small groups, community, intentional groups

School of Christian Formation

“A true New Englander always sits with his back to the wall because he doesn’t trust anyone.”.

Church planting

The runway is long. Planters need mentoring, support. We must be careful and do it well.

Reach the community through children’s ministry

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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Church, Scripture, The Gospel Coalition


#TGCNE12 – D. A. Carson

During plenary session 3, D. A. Carson spoke on “The gospel shape of Scripture.”

The gospel is news, and what you do with news is announce it. That’s why there is so much emphasis on preaching, teaching and witness in Scripture.

Carson painted a panorama of Scripture to show how Scripture is permeated with the gospel.

You can’t set the synoptic kingdom of God against Paul’s soteriological kingdom. The kingdom is always about the cross.

When you say everything is the gospel, you begin to lose the gospel.

During the final session, Carson spoke on “The gospel shaped mission.”

He did an exposition of Revelation 12. In his presentation, he took a reformed/covenant approach to his interpretation—“The woman represents the messianic community. The focus in this chapter is on the covenant people of God; the church.” (In other words, the church replaces Israel.) He also took an allegorical interpretation of the 1260 days saying it was symbolic of the Maccabean revolt.

Will the world get worse or better before Jesus returns? Look at the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Both will grow until the end. There will be periods of revival and well as times of persecution.

We need to face the fact that we face the devil himself. He is antagonistic because he knows he is defeated.

We need to analyze our situation biblically and theologically. We must recognize and use the weapons that God has given us.


Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Scripture, The Gospel Coalition, Theology


#TGCNE12 – John Piper

During the plenary session 2, Pastor John Piper spoke on “The gospel-shaped mind.”

The gospel shapes a life through worship.

God created you with a mind and a heart. The mind serves the heart and it results in a white hot affection for God.

(Taking notes on Piper is like reading his books. He is deep and thought provoking, but he talks so fast and doesn’t’ repeat himself. Thus you only catch portions. Unlike his books, you can’t reread to make sure you understand. That being said, he is animated in his delivery and passionate about God, both of which keep the listener engaged.)

See Luke’s version of the great commandment

Use your mind to stoke your passion for God in the heart

Submit your mind objectively to the truth, not subjectively

The mind is then released from self-exalted pursuits

This forces the mind to serve the heart

During the plenary session 4, Piper spoke on “The gospel-shaped heart.”

(In his intro, Piper did a good job synthesizing the different speakers and their topics and drawing a cohesive theme throughout the conference.)

In answering the question, “what is the gospel?” Piper said that the gospel is:

A plan – this involves predestination and God’s foreknowledge

An event – Christ died for us

An achievement – propitiation through substitution

A free offer for faith – Romans 3:28

An achievement applied to you – Acts 10:48; forgiveness

Gets us God – 1 Peter 3:18; God gives us the gift of himself

We are freed from guilt, fitted for joy, and fulfilled in God. The gospel frees the heart from the misery of guilt. The heart is then fitted for a new range of affections. The heart is shaped by what is fulfilled in Jesus.

What is meant by affections? Not bodily emotions, but spiritual affections

Why would the mind serve the heart? John 8:32

Shouldn’t action be included in the goal? The facets of behavior come out of the heart

How does this all relate to the glory of God? You glorify what you are satisfied in. White hot affection is as far from lukewarm as can be.

Keys to successful ministry as a pastor

Pursue your joy in God, even if it costs you your life

Hebrews 13:17 – be happy in the delights of ministry—our people rely on us

2 Corinthians 1:24 – our mission is to come alongside people to work for their joy. In preaching, we spread a banquet for people, who respond with “Ahh!”—worship.

If we follow Scripture, people will be protected from (1) dead orthodoxy or plastic pragmatism; and (2) anti-intellectualism or charismatic excesses.

Philippians 1:20-21

If you want to magnify God, then treasure him more than all that life can give and all that death can take.


Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Scripture, The Gospel Coalition, Theology


#TGCNE12 – Pastor Tim Keller

During the pre-conference session, Pastor Tim Keller spoke on the topic of “The gospel shaped ministry.” He began by asking the question, “How can the church have a missionary encounter with western culture?” I believe he was referencing work done by Bishop Leslie Newbegin (?). Keller said that the church that is effective must be a different kind of community. It must be a:

Contrasting community—it must show the world a different way of living

Servant community—it must do more than just evangelism

Non-divisive, unifying community—while we are to be different from the world, we are not necessarily different from other believers

Lay-launching community—individual Christians must carry the message. Because of this, the average believer must become more theologically astute. (This resonates what I believe about the need for church-based theological education.)

Suffering community—outside of the west, suffering is one of the keys to the health and growth of the church

Prophetic community—the key must be a community of the word. This is the key to its health and growth. Without this sixth characteristic, the church is no different from any other organization.

In a blue collar community, your pastoring sets up your preaching; in a white collar community, your preaching sets up your pasturing.

The gospel is news, not advice.

Christianity is a message that if believed, leads to a new way of life.

You have to say something, not just do something. If doctrine doesn’t matter, if you just live, you convey that if you live a certain way, you can be a Christian. This leads to a doctrine of justification by works.

“We celebrate being people of the word, but we appear to be enamored by everything but the word” David Wells

During the first session of the conference, Keller spoke on “The gospel-shaped life.” He focused on four basic questions:

What is the gospel?

The gospel is news, not advice. Advice provides counsel.. News is something you must respond to. Advice says, “Here’s how to find God.” Jesus said, “I’m God, come to find you.”

Does the gospel shape a life?

Many say the law shapes a life, not the gospel. The gospel shapes us and gives us a new motivation.

What does a gospel shaped life look like?

1 Corinthians 6:19, “You are not your own, you are bought with a price.”

Christianity fulfills you but humbles you at the same time.

We are citizens of the city of God, but we should also be the best citizens of the city of man.

Unless you let the gospel go deep, you turn your cultural choices into moral absolutes.

How does the gospel shape a life?

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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Scripture, The Gospel Coalition, Theology



October 19-20, Carol and I attended the New England regional conference of The Gospel Coalition. The plenary speakers were Pastor Tim Keller from New York City, Pastor John Piper from St. Paul, MN, D.A. Carson from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, and Pastor Stephen Um from Boston. The theme of the conference was “The Gospel Shaped Life,” or how the gospel not only saves us, but also shapes every part of our life and ministry. In the following posts, I share my notes from the different speakers.

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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in The Gospel Coalition, Theology


The Supremacy of Christ – Colossians 1:1-8

The letter to the Colossians was written by the apostle Paul during his first Roman imprisonment (60-61 A.D.). He is mentioned three times in the letter (1:1, 23; 4:19) as the author. Epaphras, who had helped found the church (1:7-8; 4:12-13) came to Rome to tell Paul that the church was under attack by false teachers. These teachers taught a syncretistic belief system that was a mixture of Greek philosophy, Jewish legalism, and Jewish ceremonial practices. They built a system were one could begin with Christ and work one’s way up to God. It combined ascetic disciplines, secret passwords, astrology, and elements of Christianity. It was very complex and intellectual.

Paul responds by penning this epistle. In Colossians 1:3-8, Paul offers a prayer of thanksgiving for the health of the church. By directly praying to the Father, Paul addresses one element of the Colossian Heresy. You don’t have to go through an intermediary to reach God. Because of what Christ did for us on the cross, we can come boldly into God’s presence.

In today’s world, we evaluate how healthy a church is by the “4 B’s”—Bodies (how many people attend), Buildings (how big the church campus is), Budgets (how much money is given), and Baptisms (how many were saved last year). For extra credit, we add two more “B’s”—Books (how many books the pastor has written), and Broadcasts (whether or not the pastor is on radio, TV, or podcasts). In contrast, Paul measures the health of the church by the evidence of their faith, love, and hope (4-5).

In addition, Paul gives thanks for the fact that the gospel is bearing fruit (6)—the church is growing both numerically and spiritually. Paul is also grateful he is part of a team who faithfully serves and shares their faith (7).

Questions for evaluation:

Based on Colossians 1:1-8, how would you rate the corporate health and maturity of your church on a scale of 1‑10 (10 being highest)?

  1. Are your prayers marked by a spirit of thanksgiving?
  2. Is your faith centered on God?
  3. Are you active in showing love to all people?
  4. Do you have a confidence about what God will do in the future?
  5. Are you sharing the gospel?
  6. Are you involved in serving others?
  7. Is your church consistently growing spiritually and numerically?

The sermon was preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. on October 21, 2012. To download a copy of this sermon outline, click on the link.

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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in Bible Study, Colossians, Preaching, Scripture


Boston buildings

Carol and I attended The Gospel Coalition New England regional conference in Boston the past two days. Within a short walk of the Back Bay Events Center were a number of architecturally intriguing buildings.


Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts, Photos


Christ is the answer

The world is searching for peace. People long for a sense of purpose and meaning. Men and women search for answers to the questions of marriage and parenting. People want to base their lives on truth that will survive the tests of time. Paul’s letter to the Colossians provides an answer for each of these questions.

This Sunday, I will begin preaching through the letter to the Colossians at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. The logo for the sermon series focuses on the conviction that Jesus Christ is far superior to anything and everything we try to build our lives on.

(I got the idea for the logo from another church and decided to create my own.)


Pondering the imponderables

Some of the burning questions that people wrestle with today include the following:

  1. Did the universe evolve, or was it created?
  2. Are all world religions equally valid? Do Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormons, Roman Catholics, Baptists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses all worship the same god?
  3. Is truth relative? Is an idea or a conviction only true if it works?
  4. Is Jesus Christ just another good teacher, along with Mohammed, Confucius, and Buddha?
  5. Do I have to go through Mary or a saint to get to God?
  6. How are a man and a woman to relate to one another in marriage?
  7. How can I avoid having a child-centered home?
  8. How can I have a positive relationship with my employer/employees?
  9. How will this present age end? Should I be afraid of a nuclear war in the Middle East?
  10. Do I need to follow a certain diet to be a Christian?
  11. Do I need to follow certain rules or a specific schedule or dress a certain way to be a Christian?
  12. Is Jesus Christ enough, or do I need to supplement Christianity with another philosophy?

Each one of these questions is addressed in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The Bible is a timeless book that speaks to the issues we wrestle with today.

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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Bible Study, Preaching, Scripture


Falling with grace

In his book, Sifted: Pursuing growth through trials, challenges and disappointments, pastor and author Wayne Cordeiro says that pastors and leaders do not know how to fall gracefully. In a chapter dealing with expectations and criticism, pastor Cordeiro began with the following story.

A friend of mine, Alex Daniels, is a stunt man. Early on in his career he learned how to fall, which has been essential to his longevity. He visited me some time ago, and while walking down the stairs into our lobby, he decided to trip. Yes, you read that right—he decided to trip.

His body hurled headlong down the last few stairs with great commotion, and then he lay motionless on the tile floor. Our two unsuspecting receptionists screamed. One sat frozen; the other began dialing 911. I started hunting for our liability insurance papers. In an instant, Alex sat up and had a good laugh. Falling down the stairs was simply part of what he could do as a stunt man.

Many actors, even if they aren’t stunt men, must also learn to fall. As a child, I was riveted by watching them leap from moving trains, from horses at full gallop, and from run-away stagecoaches. Even athletes learn to fall. Most people who have played sports have at some point had a coach teach them how to dive and roll. Judo enthusiasts and those who practice the martial arts all learn, as one of their primary lessons, how to fall. So do dancers and rock climbers.

For the most part, we never learn this as Christian leaders. Many of us fall poorly. When others criticize or critique the work we put so much effort into, we grow defensive or take it personally. When we fail at a service, are unsuccessful after taking a risk, or trip over our own ineptitude, we show that we are vulnerable, that we have not learned how to protect ourselves and fend off attacks. Often, the injury we receive affects not only us but our ministries.

I can certainly identify with what he is saying. Many know that I was fired from my first church ministry. I had not done anything wrong, but neither had I done enough right, and the church wanted to make a change. Going into my next ministry, I found myself constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering if my next misstep would result in another pink slip. It took me a long time to realize I had lost my freedom to fail. I was afraid to take risks and would only undertake safe assignments.

I was fortunate to have a senior pastor who publicly told the church on several occasions that he expected his staff members to make at least three mistakes a year. If we weren’t making mistakes, we weren’t trying new things.

If I am honest, I still wrestle with falling even today. I know it is ok to fall. I know that failure is not fatal. I know that if I’m not falling, I’m not learning. I know that as a leader, I need to be stretching, risking, and trying new things.

Mentally, I know all the arguments. But it is still difficult to give myself permission to fall. That is why I find the words of pastor Cordeiro encouraging and affirming.

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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Books, Character, Personal growth