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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Reversing a decision; Restoring convictions

After facing heavy backlash for their original decision, “World Vision Reverses Decision To Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages.” Their letter of announcement opened with this paragraph.

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

Good for them. Their letter shows humility and brokenness. But you have to wonder what they were thinking when they made the decision in the first place. Did they think the evangelical community would not object? Now the question is, will they hold to this conviction once the gay community starts pushing back for reversing the decision. I’m guessing the story isn’t over yet.

 

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Culture, News stories

 

What to do with World Vision?

Now that World Vision has decided to allow employees to engage in same sex marriages, how should Christians respond? Should we continue to support the organization financially? Should we cancel our support and move it to Compassion International or Food for the Hungry? What is a thinking Christian to do? These are the questions addressed in Matthew Lee Anderson’s thoughtful post, “On whether Christians should keep supporting World Vision.” He examines the issues from several angles and proposes some solutions. Thanks go to Tim Challies for posting the links. Well worth reading and considering prayerfully.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Culture, News stories

 

When the pursuit of unity might lead to compromise

“World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages”

World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.

Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian Charities.

Click on the link above to read the five page article in Christianity Today.

“Franklin Graham Statement on World Vision”

“I was shocked today to hear of World Vision’s decision to hire employees in same-sex marriages. The Bible is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Click on the link above to read the full statement

“On World Vision and the Gospel”

World Vision, an evangelical relief organization, announced today that they would now hire persons who are in same-sex marriages. The organization said, further, that this was no capitulation, just a recognition that some groups supporting World Vision have differing views on sex and marriage.

This is no surprise, on one level. The constellation of parachurch evangelical ministries founded after World War II have been running headlong, with some notable exceptions, toward the very mainline liberalism to which they were founded as alternatives. Some think if we can just barter away Christian orthodoxy fast enough we can catch the wave of that Presbyterian Church (USA) church growth boom.

But here’s what’s at stake. This isn’t, as the World Vision statement (incredibly!) puts it, the equivalent of a big tent on baptism, church polity, and so forth.

Click on the link above to read the full explanation from Russell D. Moore

WOW! On a personal level, I find World Vision’s announcement surprising, shocking, and saddening. I wonder what my friends who work there think of the decision. Time will tell what impact this decision will have on their ministry and on the Christian community at large.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Culture, News stories

 

Connecting people to Christ via social media

Yesterday, two guest couples checked out our church. One couple hailed from North Carolina. They were visiting friends in Three Rivers and looking for a church to attend while in our area. They Googled “expository preaching” and found First Central. They visited our website, listened to some of my sermons, and came eager “to hear the word preached.” I jokingly remarked, “That’s a scary thought. You listened to my sermons and still wanted to come.”

Another couple moved to Springfield last fall from Denver, CO. I remarked that Denver was my home town and we spent a few minutes talking about the city. They wanted to be closer to family members in the Boston area. They commented on my “beautiful family with adult children,” which indicated they visited our website. My wife, Carol, talked with them after the service and learned it has been a hard winter for them. They came from a large church with a traditional style of worship, hymns, and choir. They are looking for a similar type of church. They also remarked to Carol about how helpful our church website was.

We are hearing more stories that people do not search for churches in the Yellow Pages or newspaper. They Google and check out the church’s online presence (website, Facebook) before stepping foot on our campus. While we are doing a good job now, as evidenced by these two couples checking us out, we need to be even more mindful and intentional as we move into the future.

 
 

The Secret of Effective Ministry

If you like college basketball, then the month of March feels like heaven on earth. I grew up in Southern California during the heyday of UCLA basketball. Coach John Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years. The story is told in They Call Me “Coach” of a writer who attended one of the Bruins’ practices during the Final Four. He expected to see the team working on strategy. Instead, Coach Wooden had the team running layup drills. Coach Wooden knew that the best teams focus on the fundamentals.

The apostle Paul believed the same principle was true of ministry. The secret of effective ministry is found in balanced growth in all areas of life. If we want to impact the lives of people, we need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word, deepen and mature in our character, sharpen and hone our skills for ministry, and use our spiritual gifts to impact others. Effective ministry requires balanced growth in our content, character, competence, and call. That’s the message of 1 Timothy 4:6-16.

The Secret of Effective MinistryEffective ministry requires growth in our …

Content (6-10). We need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word. Each one of us should have a plan to deepen our knowledge of the Bible and theology. We might consider reading books on church history and Christian classics.

Character (12). Though in his 30’s, Timothy felt intimidated by the task of leadership. Rather than focus on his age, Paul encouraged him to be an example of godly character. We are to model Christlikeness to all those around us. We should demonstrate measurable growth in obedience, honesty, integrity, humility, courage, and the fruit of the Spirit. We should grow in our ability to withstand temptation.

Competence (13). Paul encouraged Timothy to become proficient in reading and teaching the Scriptures. As Christ followers, we should develop a plan to sharpen our skills in Bible study and prayer. We should hone our ability to share our faith and disciple others. We should seek to grow in our ability to lead and manage our time. We should become more proficient in teaching and evangelism so that we can share what we believe with others.

Call (14). In our day, we have placed an emphasis on discovering our spiritual gifts. In contrast, Paul instructed Timothy not to neglect using his spiritual gift. Each of us should seek to use our spiritual gifts for maximum impact. We should have a better understanding of who God designed us to be, including identifying lifelong goals, core values, and a sense of purpose.

Effective servants are lifelong learners (15-16). They practice, focus, immerse, and persist in pursuing growth. They keep in mind that the goal is progress, not perfection. People should be able to see growth and change in all areas of our lives.

The Secret of Effective MinistryThis passage places the responsibility for personal growth squarely on our individual shoulders. We are to become lifelong learners and grow in our content, character, competence, and call. Other passages of Scripture reveal that the Holy Spirit assists us in this process. He illumines the truth and guides us as we study. He deepens our character and helps us mature. He equips us and anoints us so we can become more effective in using our skills. He gives us spiritual gifts and confirms our sense of call. Growth is a partnership where we work together with God to become more effective.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 23, 2014. It is part of a series on 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

The Secret of Effective Ministry

 

Escape velocity

A spacecraft needs to travel at 25,000 MPH to break free from the gravitational pull of the earth. It takes a tremendous amount of thrust and energy to escape the forces that pull it back to the earth.

There are times when family exerts gravitational forces to prevent us from breaking free of their orbit.

In the third episode of season three of the BBC television show, Sherlock, it is evident that Sherlock has not escaped from the gravitational pull of home. When Sherlock and his brother, Mycroft, are together, Mycroft still sees his younger brother as a stupid little boy. Both Mycroft and Sherlock hide their smoking when confronted by their mother. Neither has become independent from their mother’s values.

In episode 16 of season 4 of the CBS television show, Blue Bloods, “Insult to Injury,” a conversation takes place between Jamie and his father, Frank. Jamie is a patrolman on the NYPD and his father is the Police Commissioner. Jamie asks how long it took his father to become a detective. His father replies, three years. Jamie said it took his older brother three and a half years. He then remarks he has been a patrolman for four years. His father asks if he feels something is holding him back.

While the gravitational pull of family is difficult to break, the gravitational pull of the old sin nature can feel even stronger. Whether we have been a believer for one day or 50 years, our old sin nature tries to convince us that it is still in charge of our lives. We cannot say “No” to temptation. We must give in to sin. Or, so it wants us to believe.

In contrast, Scripture makes it clear that the gravitational pull of sin was broken on the cross. We don’t need to generate the necessary escape velocity through our own strength. Through his death on the cross, Jesus broke the power of sin over our lives.

In Romans 6:6–11, the apostle Paul describes it with these words.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

We no longer need to orbit sin and temptation. Christ has set us free from the gravitational pull of sin. We can now soar to new heights of life in Christ.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Personal growth, Scripture, Theology

 

Challenges provide a catalyst for growth

When people recall their personal-best leadership experiences, they always think about some kind of challenge. Why? Because personal and business hardships have a way of making people come face-to-face with who they really are and what they’re capable of becoming. They test people, and they require inventive ways of dealing with new situations. They tend to bring out the best in people. When times are stable and secure, however, people are not severely tested. They may perform well, get promoted, and even achieve fame and fortune. But certainty and routine breed complacency.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner in The Leadership Challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations, Fifth Edition

I find it interesting that a business book echoes what Scripture says about the benefits of trials and tests.

Romans 5:3–5 (ESV)  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James 1:2–4 (ESV)  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If business leaders and the writers of Scripture agree that trials and tests are catalysts for our personal growth, why do we avoid change and opt for comfort instead? Why settle for the familiar rather than embrace the new, especially if God uses the latter to help us grow and mature?

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Books, Leadership, Quotes, Scripture