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Monthly Archives: July 2013

The 4 to 14 Window

If you are not convinced about the importance of Children’s Ministry, prayerfully watch the video, “It’s time to wake up”. 40% of the world’s population is under the age of 20. We need to raise up a new generation of people to reach the 4 to 14 window.

If you’re interested, you can check out the website for the 4 to 14 Movement, a global initiative to reach, rescue, root, and release children into ministry.

Back in January 2013, I introduced a 2020 Vision to our church, First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. Two of the elements were that (1) our children’s and youth ministries would become the strongest in our church; and (2) our nursery would be the gem or jewel of our facility. Both of these goals fit nicely into a 4 to 14 emphasis.

 

Running Ahead of God

When my brother and I were in high school, some friends invited us to travel with them from Los Angeles, CA, to Tucson, AZ, to visit mutual friends. Since my brother had his driver’s license, he was able to drive part of the trip. We had driven through the night and my brother was at the wheel during sunrise. As our friend who put the excursion together gradually woke up, he looked outside and said, “Why is the sun on the wrong side of the car?” It seems my brother came to a freeway interchange and not knowing which road to take while everyone else was asleep, he took the wrong one. We were headed in the opposite direction! It would take a few hours to catch up to where we got off course and get back on track.

Running  Ahead of GodWhen we take matters into our own hands and run ahead of God, we can create chaos for our lives and get far off track. As Vance Havner once said, “The detour is always worse than the main road.” We need to be reminded that God sees and knows our needs. Consequently, we should wait patiently for him to fulfill his promises rather than take matters into our own hands.

Genesis 15-16 describes a scenario where Abraham ran ahead of God and got off course. In 15:1-8, Abram was concerned how God would fulfill his promise to Abram about having descendents. He wondered if he could simply adopt his servant, Eliezer, as his heir. God assured Abram that he would have a son. But Abram wondered how he could know for certain.

Running  Ahead of GodIn 15:9-21, God tells Abram, “I will make a covenant with you.” Normally, two people would kill several animals, divide them in two, and then walk between them. The implication was that if one person broke their promise, they would receive the same fate as the animals. When God made his covenant with Abram, he alone walked between the sacrificial animals. God demonstrated his covenant with Abram was unilateral and unconditional. His promises were sure and could be trusted.

God also explained they would not be fulfilled quickly. It would be 500-600 years in the future before Abram’s descendents conquered the Promised Land. But delay does not mean denial. Abram simply needed to be patient as he waited for God to keep his word.

Running  Ahead of GodIn 16:1-6, Abram and Sarai forgot the lesson about patient endurance and took matters into their own hands. They decided to use their own methods to accomplish God’s plan. Sarai concluded that since God had kept her childless, he needed her help in producing descendents. Following a custom of the day, Sarai gave Abram her servant, Hagar, as a second wife. But once Hagar got pregnant and looked down on her mistress, Sarai concluded it was all Abram’s fault. As often happens, disappointment leads to doubt, doubt leads to compromise, and compromise leads to blame, chaos, and tension.

Running  Ahead of GodPerhaps no tension is worse than family tension. Hagar runs away since she decides she can no longer endure the abuse (16:7-16). Though she may feel alone, she has not been abandoned. God meets her where she is. In so doing, he demonstrates that he sees our needs and hears our cries for help. Surprisingly, God instructs Hagar to return and submit to Sarai. He also demonstrates that he can turn our mistakes into blessings. Hagar will bear a son, Ishmael, and she will have countless descendents.

While Genesis 15-16 gives us several lessons, there are four that stand out to me:

  • We should wait patiently for God to accomplish his plans rather than take matters into our own hands.
  • We should consider the long-term consequences of our choices.
  • We should base our decisions on the clear teaching of Scripture, not the cultural values of today.
  • We should stay faithful in the trial and learn the lessons God has for us.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 21, 2013. It is part of series on the life of Abraham. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Learning from my misteaks

More-mistakes

Amen to that!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Fun, Personal growth

 

A day well lived

Calvin & Hobbes - a day well lived

I need to get out of the office more often and seize the day!

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Fun

 

R.I.P.

I’ve noticed recently that several Christian friends on Facebook post “Rest in Peace” when a well-known actor, author, or celebrity dies. It caused me to ask the question, what exactly do we mean when we say, “Rest in Peace”?

In one sense, death is a time of rest, at least for our physical bodies. Scripture uses the metaphor of “going to sleep” to describe death. This picture is mentioned three times in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Dr. Luke uses the same concept in Acts 7 and the apostle Paul uses it again in 1 Corinthians 15 on two occasions. In Mark, chapter 5, the daughter of a religious leader had died and Jairus, her father, begged Jesus for help. Jesus said, “She’s not dead; she is asleep.” In this sense, death is a time of rest.

In another sense, death is a time when we rest from our labors and enjoy our inheritance. Hebrews 4 talks about the “Sabbath rest” for the people of God. It links the idea to God’s work of creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh day as well as Israel’s wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. Tying them together, to rest means to cease from our labor of trying to earn God’s favor and enjoying the inheritance and blessings he has prepared for us.

This doesn’t mean, however, that eternity will be spent floating on clouds strumming a harp. Scripture pictures heaven as a place where we engage in meaningful activity. We will be engaged in worship (Revelation 22:1-3), praising Christ for providing our salvation. We will also be serving as we reign with Christ in eternity (Revelation 20:6).

However, these pictures of rest are only true of those who trusted Christ for salvation during their lifetime. Those who rejected Christ as savior will find themselves in hell enduring an eternity of suffering (Matthew 13:42, 50).

With this is mind, we need to be careful about whom we say “Rest in Peace” to. We don’t want to come across as closet universalists who believe all people go to heaven regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle. Nor do we want to communicate that we secretly believe God grades on a curve and the more well-known you are, the more likely you will be in heaven. We also don’t want to act as if this life is all there is, and there is no afterlife. In addition, we don’t want to say “Rest in Peace” simply because we don’t know what else to say.

Eternal rest is only available to those who stopped working to earn their salvation. For the Christ follower, they can go to sleep and later wake up in the arms of Jesus. They can rest and fully enjoy the blessings of salvation and heaven.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2013 in Culture, Funerals, Scripture

 

Conflict reveals character

“Ministry conflict, like general conflict, tests a leader’s personal maturity. What we truly are is revealed in a crisis. Conflict processing is important not so much for learning problem solving, but for its value in revealing character. What we are in the conflict is much more critical than what we do.

Another important lesson . . . is that God uses conflict for His purposes in a leader’s ministry, as well as in his personal life. It is bad enough to go through conflict; it is worse to go through conflict and not profit from it.”

Dr. J. Robert Clinton in The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the lessons and stages of leadership development, Second Edition

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Character, Leadership, Quotes

 

Building a retaining wall

The nature of ministry is process, helping people come to Christ and grow to maturity. Because there is always more to learn and areas in which each of us needs to grow and mature, you never see a finished product. Consequently, it is nice to occasionally tackle a building project and see it progress from start to finish. Which explains why I spent all of my day off yesterday and an hour this afternoon building a retaining wall for a garden planter in the backyard. I had to begin by tearing out the old wall before I could build the new one. Here are some photos that show the various stages of the project.

Before

DSC_0228 DSC_0230 DSC_0231 DSC_0234

During

DSC_0237 DSC_0239 DSC_0242 DSC_0243 DSC_0246 DSC_0248

Finished

DSC_0249 DSC_0252

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Chicopee, Home, Photos