Monthly Archives: November 2014

I give thanks

David’s opening words in Psalm 138 arrested my attention.

“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (1-2)

I was stunned as much by what David didn’t say as what he did say. David doesn’t say, “I feel thankful. I am grateful. I feel like praising God. I want to worship God.” David doesn’t say anything about his feelings, emotions, desires, or longings.

What David says is, “I give thanks … I sing your praise … I bow down … and give thanks …” Regardless of his circumstances, regardless of his feelings, regardless of whether his life is good, bad, or mediocre at the moment, David makes the choice to give thanks and praise God.

David’s thanksgiving is not tied to his circumstances. Instead, it is directed towards God’s character and attributes. “I give thanks to your name.” Knowing that in the Old Testament, God’s name always reveals his character, David is choosing to praise God for who he is. He also praises God for what he has done—his faithfulness.

Through this psalm, David taught me two essential principles of thanksgiving:

  • Thanksgiving is a choice I make regardless of my circumstances.
  • Thanksgiving is directed toward God for who he is and what he has done.

Give God your praise and thanks, not just one day a year, but every minute of every hour of every day of every year of your life. As long as you have breath, make the choice to give thanks.

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Posted by on November 27, 2014 in Scripture, Thanksgiving Day, Worship


Don’t worship a shimmering mirage

Several summers ago, during a drought and food shortage along the West Coast, more than thirty brown pelicans from California crash-landed on asphalt and sidewalks in various parts of Arizona. The state’s Game and Fish Department officials nursed the emaciated, bruised, and scraped-up pelicans back to health. They concluded that the dehydrated pelicans, due to mirages created by the sun’s reflection on the hot and cool layers of air, mistook the pavement for water and attempted to land. Gliding in with their thirst to settle on water they had been desperately longing for, the pelicans experienced a jolting shock when pain came instead of relief.

I know that feeling. It’s familiar to all of us idol factories.

God refers to our propensity to exchange his glory for worthless idols by using a metaphor of water and thirst. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13). We build our own broken containers from dream vacations to long-sought promotions to sex sprees to substance abuse. We are deluded by the assumption we’ll be able to use them to quench our soul’s thirst. It’s why Jesus offered the Samaritan woman what he called “living water.” She had been trying to land her thirsty longings on the asphalt of failed marriage after failed marriage, and he was offering her the opportunity to dive into real water.

At its core, the issue is our misdirected worship. We weren’t created to worship those things as a human being, that’s not the purpose for which I was originally made.

Taken from life with a capital L: Embracing your God-given humanity, by Matt Heard

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Posted by on November 26, 2014 in Books, Quotes, Scripture, Worship


If Only I Had Known

If only I had known

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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Photos, Quotes


Lose your religion

Imagine that you discover an extremely large wasp nest hanging under your front porch. Imagine that in addition to the insect damage, there is so much dry rot that the porch is very likely to collapse in the near future. Would you fill in the damage with wood putty? Would you slap on a fresh coat of paint? Would you ignore it completely? Or would you tear down the porch and rebuild it from the ground up?

In Mark 2:18-22, people ask Jesus the question, “How come your disciples don’t do religion like the Pharisees do religion?” In his response, Jesus explains that he did not come to repair, reform, or remodel religion. He came to replace religion with a relationship. His answer demonstrates that a new day demands a new way of doing things.

The question the people ask centers on religious practices. The Old Testament law required people to fast one day a year on the Day of Atonement. If one day a year is good, the Pharisees concluded that twice a week is even better. By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees fasted each week on Monday and Thursday in order to demonstrate their religious piety. In contrast, Jesus’ disciples went to dinner parties, which confused the average person on the street.

Jesus answers the question with an analogy and two parables. Using the analogy of a wedding feast, Jesus explains that you shouldn’t mourn when you should celebrate.

My daughter, Amanda, will be married next summer. Now I might fast before the wedding in order to fit into my suit and look good in the photos. I might fast after the wedding to lose the extra weight I will gain. But I will certainly not be fasting the day of the wedding. I will be eating, drinking, and celebrating to my heart’s content.

Through the analogy, Jesus says that he is the bridegroom. While he is present, it’s time to celebrate rather than mourn. The day is coming when he will be gone, which prefigures his death. Then it’s time to mourn, but not now.

Jesus adds two parables to reinforce his explanation. Talking about patching an old garment with a new patch, Jesus says that we should not repair when we should replace. Speaking of pouring new wine into an old wineskin, Jesus says that we should not force the new into the old.

Adding the analogy and the parables together, Jesus demonstrates that a new day demands a new way. Salvation is not a matter of patching up one’s old life. It requires a whole new robe of righteousness. Trying to measure up and earn God’s favor through fasting and other religious observances has been replaced with a new relationship based on grace and forgiveness. This should lead us to celebrate God’s good gift and provision for our deepest needs.

We can apply the same principle to how we do ministry today. A generation ago, communication was only verbal and in black and white. Today, our church communicates visually through color, PowerPoint, an email newsletter, and a website. Before, Sunday School was the only method of Christian Education. Today, we host Awana, small groups, a youth group, men’s & women’s ministries, as well as Sunday School. Instead of sharing prayer requests by phone, we now use phone, email, and texting. Instead of providing sermons on tape, we provide them on CDs, our website, and on my blog. In the same way, we adapt and adjust our leadership structure, staffing principles, and methods of evangelism to fit our ever-changing culture.

While our message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone does not change, our ways of doing ministry need to be constantly evaluated and adapted to reach today’s culture.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 23, 2014. It is part of a series on the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Jesus from Genesis to Revelation

In Appendix 1 of his book, The Power of God’s Names, pastor and author includes a chart describing how Jesus is portrayed in each book of the Bible. Please click on the link to download a pdf copy of the chart.


From cover to cover, the Bible offers us insight into Jesus’ character and purpose. These descriptions from the 66 books of the Bible aren’t actual names, but they give us a deeper and clearer glimpse into the one who has come as Immanuel to the be the living fulfillment and manifestation of God’s names.


In Genesis, He is the Creator God
In Exodus, He is your Redeemer
In Leviticus, He is your sanctification
In Numbers, He is your guide
In Deuteronomy, He is your teacher
In Joshua, He is the mighty conqueror
In Judges, He gives you victory over your enemies
In Ruth, He is your kinsman, your lover, your redeemer
In 1 Samuel, He is the root of Jesse
In 2 Samuel, He is the Son of David
In 1 and 2 Kings, He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords
In 1 and 2 Chronicles He is your intercessor and high priest
In Ezra, He is your temple, your house of worship
In Nehemiah, He is your mighty wall, protecting you from your enemies
In Esther, He stands in the gap to deliver you from your enemies
In Job, He is the arbitrator who not only understands your struggles but also has the power to do something about them
In Psalms, He is your song and your reason to sing
In Proverbs, He is your wisdom, helping you make sense of life and live it successfully
In Ecclesiastes, He is your purpose, delivering you from vanity
In the Song of Solomon, He is your lover, your Rose of Sharon
In Isaiah, He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace
In Jeremiah, He is your balm of Gilead, the soothing salve for your sin-sick soul
In Lamentations, He is the ever-faithful one on whom you can depend
In Ezekiel, He is your wheel in the middle of a wheel—the one who assures that dead, dry bones will come alive again
In Daniel, He is the Ancient of Days, the everlasting God who never runs out of time
In Hosea, He is your faithful lover, always beckoning you to come back—even when you have abandoned Him
In Joel, He is your refuge, keeping you safe in times of trouble
In Amos, He is the husbandman, the one you can depend on to stay by your side
In Obadiah, He is Lord of the kingdom
In Jonah, He is your salvation, bringing you back in His will
In Micah, He is judge of the nation
In Nahum, He is the jealous God
In Habakkuk, He is the holy one
In Zephaniah, He is the witness
In Haggai, He overthrows the enemies
In Zechariah, He is Lord of hosts
In Malachi, He is the messenger of the covenant
In Matthew, He is King of the Jews
In Mark, He is the servant
In Luke He is the Son of Man, feeling what you feel
In John, He is the Son of God
In Romans, He is the righteousness of God
In 1 Corinthians, He is the rock that followed Israel
In 2 Corinthians, He is the triumphant one, giving victory
In Galatians, He is your liberty, setting you free
In Ephesians, He is the head of the church
In Philippians, He is your joy
In Colossians, He is your completeness
In 1 Thessalonians, He is your hope
In 2 Thessalonians, He is your glory
In 1 Timothy, He is your faith
In 2 Timothy, He is your stability
In Titus, He is God our Savior
In Philemon, He is your benefactor
In Hebrews, He is your perfection
In James, He is the power behind your faith
In 1 Peter, He is your example
In 2 Peter, He is your purity
In 1 John, He is your life
In 2 John, He is your pattern
In 3 John, He is your motivation
In Jude, He is the foundation of your faith
In Revelation, He is your coming King.


Author Unknown, Cited in The Power of God’s Names, by Tony Evans


Posted by on November 21, 2014 in Bible Study, Books, Quotes, Theology


The Power of One

One Samaritan woman testified to her town, and many believed in Jesus.

One man, Noah, built a boat that saved the human race.

One man, Moses, stood up to Pharaoh and delivered the Hebrews from Egypt.

One woman, Deborah, delivered Israel from the Canaanite oppression.

One man, David, defeated the Philistines when he killed their champion, Goliath.

One woman, Esther, had the courage to approach the king and see her nation spared from extermination.

One man, Peter, preached a sermon that led 3,000 to be saved.

One salesman and Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball, led a young man named Dwight to Christ. Dwight Moody became a blazing evangelist who it is said, led one million souls to Christ in his short lifetime. Wilbur Chapman received the assurance of his salvation after talking with Moody and went onto become a noted evangelist himself. The drunken baseball player Billy Sunday was an assistant to Chapman before becoming the most famous evangelist of his day. One of the fruits of Sunday’s ministry was the forming of a group of Christian businessmen in Charlotte, North Carolina. This group brought the evangelist Mordecai Ham to Charlotte in 1934. A tall awkward youth named Billy Graham was converted during those meetings. According to his staff, as of 1993, more than 2.5 million people had “stepped forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Millions of souls trace their spiritual lineage back to the influence of one man, a simple Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball.

Someone said, “To the world you may just be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” To this we might add, to you they may seem like just one lost soul, but to God that may be a soul who can shake the whole world.

Evangelism Is …: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, by Dave Earley and David Wheeler

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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Books, Evangelism, Quotes


Does God show through you?

The story is told of a child on her way home from church with her mom when she turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.”

“Oh? Why is that?” she asked.

The little girl responded, “Well, the preacher said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?”

“Yes, He is,” her mom replied.

“And he also said that God lives in us. Is that also true, Mommy?” Again, her mother answered yes.

“Well,” said the little girl, “if God is bigger than us and He lives in us, shouldn’t He show through?”

The Power of God’s Names, by Tony Evans

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Posted by on November 19, 2014 in Books, Quotes, Theology