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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Rx: Preaching will keep a church healthy

The leaders of a local church are to follow the model of a shepherd. The pastors and elders serve as a team to feed, lead, protect, care, and model Christlikeness for the flock. Feeding the flock through preaching and teaching must remain the #1 priority of the pastors and elders. The presence or absence of good preaching can keep a church healthy or speed its decline.

Pastor and blogger Tim Challies explains this fact in two insightful blog posts.

“Destroy a church in 4 simple steps” looks at four principles found in 2 Timothy 4. (1) Reject truth; (2) Reject truth-tellers; (3) Embrace false teachers; and (4) Embrace false doctrine will lead to the decline and downfall of a local church.

“Protect your church in one easy step” explains how preaching (2 Timothy 4:2) will keep a church on the right track. “The church that remains faithful to God is the church that remains faithful to the Word of God.” We should (1) Preach expositorily—“Preach the Word”; (2) Preach persistently—“Be ready in season and out of season”; (3) Preach practically—“Reprove, rebuke, exhort”; (4) Preach patiently—“with complete patience …”; and (5) Preach doctrinally—“…and teaching.”

Looking to a future in which people will not tolerate the truth, Paul tells Timothy to remain faithful to his central calling: To lead the church with and through the Word of God. It was Paul’s charge to Timothy 2,000 years ago and today that same charge goes out to you and to me. As God’s people living in that age of itching ears, we must remain confident in and committed to nothing less than the faithful, week by week preaching of God’s precious Word.

Good advice and well worth following. It certainly resonates with my values and convictions.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Church, Preaching, Quotes, Tim Challies

 
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Truth in black & white

4-30 MacArthur - truth

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Quotes, Tim Challies

 

The colors of spring

Spring is blooming around our house. God’s creative handiwork, and my wife’s green thumb, are on display.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Chicopee, Photos, Spring

 

How to destroy a church

Destroy a Church in 4 Simple Steps” is another insightful post from the mind of Tim Challies. I found it especially timely as I am preaching through 1 Timothy where Paul charges his protégé, Timothy, to confront false teachers and teach sound doctrine. Words to take to heart.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in Church, News stories, Tim Challies

 

Remodeling project

One of the dynamics of ministry is that everything is always in process. You take people from where they are and strive to move them forward to greater maturity in Christ. You don’t always have the opportunity to take a project or a person from start to finish.

In light of that, it’s nice to do a project around the house where you actually finish something, where you can see the before and after. Over the past month, I have remodeled the main floor bathroom in our home. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to do something with my hands and see a project through to the end.

Before – 1  After – 2

By way of summary, I scraped off the popcorn ceiling, put up crown molding, removed the old tile floor, painted the walls, put down an underlayment and cement board before laying new tile and grout, put in a new cabinet, sink, lights, and fixtures. The project is now complete. Below is a gallery of photos of the project from start to finish.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in Home, Photos

 

Faith@Work

“I Owe, I Owe, It’s Off To Work I Go,” is the attitude of the average person in America when it comes to working. In the typical work week, we spend more time wishing than we do working. We figure it’s a good day if we did nothing but still got paid.

Faith@Work  Turn Work into Worship  Dilbert - I did nothing and still got paid

What a contrast to what the apostle Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 6:1-2. As Christ followers, we should be the very best employees. If we fail to give our best efforts on the job, we risk the credibility of our faith and we rob our employer of possible blessings.

This passage is not the easiest to understand. Paul lived in the first century and we reside in the 21st century. He wrote from the Roman Empire and we read it in Massachusetts in the USA (at least I do). Paul addressed slaves and we are employees. We need to discover the principles that can serve as a bridge between our two cultures.

The principle we discover in this passage is that we are to work hard and treat our employers with respect and honor. Rather than viewing work as a curse, we need to remember it is a sacred duty assigned to mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). In addition, all of us are called to serve regardless of our social, educational, economic, racial, or gender status (Galatians 5:13).

While the principle is clear, it raises two questions as to implementation. “What if my employer is an unbeliever?” is the first question that comes to mind. The answer is that we need to remember that regardless of whose company logo and signature is on our paycheck, we are serving Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:22-24). Whether your supervisor is as devious as Mr. Burns, as dimwitted as the pointy haired boss in Dilbert, or somewhere in between, we are ultimately serving Christ. Because they are in a position of authority, we need to honor our employer, regardless of how he or she treats us (1 Peter 2:17-18).

When we don’t work hard, when we don’t give our best efforts on the job, when we choose to dishonor our boss or employer, we put our faith at risk. Paul says we are to honor our employers so that “the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.” If we are as lazy, disrespectful, and indifferent as everyone else we work with, they have the right to conclude that Christ has not made any difference in our lives. That’s a sobering and scary thought.

“What if my employer is a believer?” is the second question Paul addresses. Because we are both part of the family of God, we cannot afford to treat our boss with disrespect. Rolling of the eyes, talking back, rude gestures, pinning their face on a dart board, derogatory nicknames—none of these should be part of our vocabulary or practice. Instead, we should seek to be a blessing so that our supervisor and/or employer can receive all of God’s blessings.

Faith@WorkHere are a few ideas of how to practice faith@work. Be the most: “on time” employee; respectful; hardest working; caring/loving; dependable; cooperative; productive; and servant hearted. Pray for: your supervisors; the company owner; your coworkers; the company to be profitable; and God’s blessing on the company.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 27, 2014. It is part of a series in 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

The benefits of good preaching

The two topics I read about the most are leadership and preaching. Regarding the latter, I’m working my way through Saving Eutychus: How to preach God’s word and keep people awake, by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell. The authors take their theme from Acts 20:7-9; preaching should never bore people to death.

In chapter 2, “Preaching that changes the heart,” the authors argue that preaching should focus on

… helping people to hear what God is saying in the text.

Where God is explaining something, we need to help people to understand. Where God is warning us, we need to help people feel the urgency and weight of that. Where God is wooing us, we need to help people feel the pull of his love. Where God is correcting us, we need to show people that they are going the wrong way and to help them get back on track. Where God is comforting his people, we want people to fell the security and warmth of his comfort. And that, in a nutshell, is expository preaching.

The authors conclude the chapter by listing eight benefits of expository preaching.

What are the advantages of teaching the Bible in this way?

Expository preaching:

  1. does justice to the biblical material which makes it clear that God works through his word to change people’s lives—as it ‘uncages the lion’ and allows God’s word to speak.
  2. acknowledges that it is God alone, through the Spirit, who works in people’s lives, and that it is not our job to change people through clever or inspiring communication.
  3. minimizes the danger of manipulating people, because the text itself controls what we say and how we say it. The Bible leaves little room for us to return repeatedly to our current bugbears and hobbyhorses.
  4. minimizes the danger of abusing power, because a sermon driven by the text creates an instant safeguard against using the Bible to bludgeon (or caress) people into doing or thinking what we want them to do or think.
  5. removes the need to rely on our personality. While we all feel the weight, at times, of having little ‘inspiration’, energy or creativity, if our focus is on allowing the immense richness of Scripture to speak in all its colour and variety, the pressure is well and truly off.
  6. encourages humility in those teaching. While it can be a temptation to think that we are somehow special because we are standing at the front doing most of the talking (and, on a good day, receiving the encouragement), getting it straight that the key to preaching to the heart is simply uncovering the power and freshness of God’s words helps to keep us in our place.
  7. helps us to avoid simple pragmatism. If our focus is on working consistently to enable people to encounter the God who speaks through the text, we will not feel under pressure to address every single issue and topic as it comes up in the life of the church. Conversely, working through the Bible week by week will force us to cover subjects that we wouldn’t choose to address in a million years. In other words, expository preaching is the simplest, longest-lasting antidote we have to pragmatism.
  8. drives us to preaching the gospel. … expository preaching is also uniquely valuable in that it persistently drives us to the Lord Jesus Christ (wherever we are in the Bible) and so ‘forces’ us to preach the gospel—that is, to spell out what God has already done for us in the death and resurrection of his Son, and then to move from that grace to what God asks and enables us to do. When we preach the gospel we are not simply telling people how to be good or leaving them to wallow in the overwhelming sense that they are irredeemably bad.

 

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2014 in Books, Preaching, Quotes

 
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The scars of evil

4-22 - The scars of evil - Guinness

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Quotes, Tim Challies

 

Is it well with your soul?

Soul KeepingBook Review: Soul Keeping: Caring for the most important part of you, by John Ortberg

Is it well with your soul? When was the last time you contemplated the health of your soul?

Pastor and author John Ortberg has written a thoughtful book that will cause you to think about how to keep your soul healthy. As the author explains, far too often we confuse the health of our soul with salvation. Rather than going that direction, Ortberg explains that a healthy soul leads to a deep, satisfied spirituality as opposed to a restless, dispassionate faith.

The author identifies the benefits of a healthy soul. A redeemed soul can be:

  • To be able to say yes or no without anxiety or duplicity
  • To speak with confidence and honesty
  • To be willing to disappoint anybody, yet ready to bless everybody
  • To have a mind filled with more noble thoughts than could ever be spoken
  • To share without thinking
  • To see without judging
  • To be so genuinely humble that each person I see would be an object of wonder
  • To love God

The book is a cross between Ortberg’s attempt to honor the life and ministry of his mentor Dallas Willard, and an explanation of Willard’s teaching on the subject of soul care. For those who enjoy Dallas Willard’s books but have a hard time understanding them, Ortberg has a way of explaining the concepts in a more understandable manner.

In the first half of the book, the author explains what a soul is and how his conversations with Dallas Willard helped shape his understanding of the topic. In the second half, Ortberg discusses the needs of a healthy soul and how to address those needs. I found the second half of the book to be more practical and helpful than the first half. As all of John Ortberg’s books, the author includes self-deprecating, humorous stories about his life and family to illustrate his concepts. While the book is short and can be read quickly, it is worth taking your time to read slowly, pause, and ponder how to implement the ideas in order to make sure your soul is well.

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.

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Books, Personal growth

 

What are you doing with what God gave you?

One of my colleagues likes to say that God has two questions and two answers for us. the answers to the two questions can’t be interchanged. Neither works to answer the other question. God’s first question, “Why should I let you into heaven?” can only be addressed with the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not of works, so that no one can boast.” God’s second question to us, “What did you do with the life I gave you?” finds its response in verse 10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We don’t earn our salvation–Jesus does that. But when it comes to the stewardship of our lives, we can’t offer up Jesus’s work on our behalf. God expects us to do something with what we have received. In other words, sitting smugly on our donkeys with our ticket punched to heaven doesn’t cut it for what God had in mind when he gifted us with salvation.

Reggie McNeal, in Get off your donkey! Help somebody and help yourself

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Books, Ministry, Quotes