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Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Death of a Conscience

The Internal Revenue Service once received a letter from a conscience-stricken taxpayer. It read, “Dear Sirs: My conscience bothered me. Here is the $175.00 I owe in back taxes.” There was a P.S. at the bottom that read, “If my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send in the rest.”

pinocchio 2If you do a Google search of the word, “conscience,” you will come up with a variety of results.

  • “A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.”
  • “A guilty conscience needs no accuser.”
  • “A clear conscience is a good pillow.” African American proverb
  • “A clear conscience is the sign of a poor memory.”
  • Benjamin Franklin said, “A good conscience is a continual Christmas.” Francis Bacon said something similar, “A good conscience is a continual feast.”
  • Vincent Van Gogh said, “Conscience is a man’s compass.”
  • Ogden Nash quipped, “There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball, and that is to have either a clear conscience or none at all.”

If you follow Nash’s advice and get rid of your conscience, watch out for trouble. As Mark 6:14-29 demonstrates, when we silence our conscience, we can commit unspeakable crimes.

Mark 6:14-29 describes the clash of two contrasting figures. John the Baptizer was austere and simple; King Herod Antipas was flamboyant and ornate. John was righteous; Herod knew no taboos. John was a man of immense moral courage; Herod was a man who lives in spineless relativity. John kept his conscience but lost his head; Herod lost his conscience and his soul.

This passage describes the death of Herod’s conscience. His conscience deteriorates from sensitive (17-20) to broken (21-28) to guilty (14-16) to dead (Luke 23:6-12).

Herod placed John in prison because he had the audacity to say that adultery was sin. Herod had seduced his half-brother’s wife, Herodias, and convinced her to marry him. To do so, he had to divorce his current wife. John spoke up and declared it, “Sin!” (18). Herodias took it personally and wanted to kill John (19). Because Herod respected John, he placed him in prison (17, 20).

Herod’s family was extremely dysfunctional. Even Hollywood couldn’t make this stuff up. Herodias sent her daughter, Salome, to dance at the king’s stag birthday party (21-22). This task normally fell to professional dancers and prostitutes. Herodias was willing to sacrifice her daughter’s honor to get her own way. Salome was willing to sell her services to the highest bidder (23-25). Herod was too drunk to know the difference. He was willing to do anything to please his family and his guests (26-28).

After the deed is done, Herod starts to feel guilty (14-16). When he hears about the miraculous ministry of Jesus, he assumes John has come back to haunt him.

As we learn later in Luke 23:6-12, Herod’s conscience goes from sensitive to broken to guilty to dead. While Jesus is on trial prior to the crucifixion, he orders Jesus to be mocked and mistreated. Herod stands face to face with Christ and felt nothing at all.

When we silence our conscience, we rationalize our sin. We call adultery a choice made by consenting adults. We refer to abortion as a choice. Homosexuality becomes an alternate lifestyle. Arrogance becomes good self-esteem. Lies become “photoshopped memory.” The clear commands of Scripture become optional suggestions.

Brewster Rockit - Lying = Photoshopped Memory

Calvin & Hobbes - selective denial

When we silence our conscience, we go along with the crowd. One compromise leads to the next one. We focus on pleasing other people. We use our power to satisfy our lusts. When we silence our conscience, we can commit unspeakable crimes.

The question is, How is your conscience? Is it healthy? Or is it dying?

To develop and maintain a healthy conscience, follow a four-step process:

  • Hear God’s word. Ask the question, “What does Scripture say about ___________?”
  • Obey God’s word. Commit yourself to obey and practice whatever Scripture teaches.
  • Confess your sins. Keep short accounts with God.
  • Receive forgiveness. Enjoy the benefits of a clear conscience.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 22, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Can one person change the world?

PossibleBook Review: Possible: A Blueprint for Changing How We Change the World, by Stephan Bauman

Can one person truly change the world? Can I change the world? While we may answer “Yes” to the first question, we feel like the answer to the second question is “No.” “It may be possible for other people to bring about lasting change, but there is no way that I can do that. I’m just an ordinary person.” At least, that is what we tend to believe.

Stephan Bauman, the president of World Relief wants to change that perception. The pervading theme of his book, Possible: A Blueprint for Changing How We Change the World, is that ordinary people can effect lasting change. But they need help in doing so, starting with the understanding that they need to change themselves first.

Can we change the world? I believe people like you will do extraordinary things when given the chance, turning some of the most entrenched, seemingly intractable situations of our day into something hopeful, something …

Possible.

I believe “there are no ordinary people,” only people who are bold enough to think they can save a life, or some corner of the world, and fierce enough to try.

Bauman’s book is divided into three parts. Part 1: “Recovering our call” aims to convince the reader of the need of world poverty. This section challenges the reader to refuse to accept the world as it is. Part 2: “Reframing the problem” presents the idea that change is possible. If you start small and believe, there is no telling what might be accomplished. Part 3: “Remaking the world” provides a blueprint for how and where to start in effecting change.

Far too often, relief agencies make a variety of mistakes in trying to raise awareness of the need. They may convince people that they only way to help is to give money. They may burden their audience with undue guilt and/or desensitize people to the need. In telling their stories, they may convince the reader that you have to be an extraordinary individual to have any kind of impact. Bauman does the opposite. He explains biblical principles without being preachy. He tells stories of small acts done by ordinary people. Most importantly, he gives a concrete, practical outline for how to discover your passion and where you can use your gifts to make an impact in the battle.

Change is possible. The battle can be won. A very encouraging, helpful book.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Books, Quotes

 
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The heavens display God’s artistry

Psalm 89-5-6

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Chicopee, Photos, Sunrise

 

Awana Grand Prix – 2015

Tonight was the Grand Prix in the T & T program of Awana at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. It was another fun evening of racing, ice cream, and a Bible story.

 
 

Church discipline


“…if church members were actively involved in giving private words of gentle admonition and in praying for one another when the first clear evidence of sinful conduct is seen, very little formal church discipline would have to be carried out, because the process would begin and end with a conversation between two people that never becomes known to anyone else.”

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Church, Quotes

 

A prayer of St. Patrick

St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a popular prayer attributed to one of Ireland’s most beloved patron saints. According to tradition, St. Patrick wrote it in 433 A.D. for divine protection before successfully converting the Irish King Leoghaire and his subjects from paganism to Christianity. (The term breastplate refers to a piece of armor worn in battle.)

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

When St. Paul referred to putting on the “Armor of God” in his letter to the Ephesians (6:11) to fight sin and evil inclinations, he could have been thinking of prayers just like this one!

Understanding the words of this prayer will certainly change our perception and observation of the day set aside to honor St. Patrick.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2015 in Holidays, Prayer, Quotes, Scripture

 

The benefits of expository preaching

Derek Thomas has written on “6 Advantages of Consecutive Expository Preaching,” or why we should preach through books of the Bible. His conclusions echo many of my own convictions. Personally, I am committed to expository preaching, which I mean to explain the text and apply it to daily life. In my sermons, I want to teach the whole counsel of God. Over time, I try to find a balance between preaching through Old Testament books, New Testament books, and topical subjects. Whether I am preaching a book or a topic, I still strive to do exposition and balance explanation and application.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Preaching