Monthly Archives: May 2015

Don’t Let Your Faith Be Contaminated

As we go through our daily routines, we are constantly bombarded with distractions of every stripe. Personality conflicts. Complicated problems. Doubts. Skepticism. Busyness. All of these conspire to desensitize our feelings, build calluses on our skin, and harden our hearts. To Maintain a healthy faith, we must Remember what God did in the past, Meditate on his promises in the present, and Trust him to provide for the future.

In Mark 8:11-21, we see the twin dangers of unbelief and forgetfulness. The Pharisees demand proof (11-13) when in reality they only want an argument. The disciples are so focused on present problems (14-21) that they forgot God’s provision in the past. Unbelief and forgetfulness can contaminate and poison our faith if we’re not careful.

As the passage opens, Jesus and his disciples are on the western side of the Sea of Galilee in the region of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees show up demanding irrefutable proof of Jesus’ authority. Rather than seeking convincing proof so they might be persuaded to believe, they only want to argue. Like the person who says, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!” the Pharisees had closed their minds to Jesus and his teachings. Their actions reveal that they were blind and hard-hearted.

Not all questions seek the truth. While Jesus often went the extra mile to dialogue with seekers, he refused the demands of skeptics. Rather than engage in pointless dialogue, Jesus leaves the area.

In their hasty departure, Jesus’ disciples forgot to pack a lunch for the trip. They are so focused on their present problem they forgot Jesus’ miracles in the past (14-21).

With the encounter with the Pharisees fresh in his mind, Jesus warns his disciples not to be contaminated by the unbelief of the Pharisees. While Jesus and his disciples are using the same language, they mean entirely different things. Jesus uses the term, yeast or leaven, metaphorically while the disciples interpret it literally.

In some cases, yeast can be good. It can serve as a pervasive influence in spreading the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:33). But it can also describe the corrupting influence of evil (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). In this case, Jesus is sounding a warning against the hypocrisy and unbelief of the Pharisees.

Jesus warns about yeast and the disciples are thinking they forgot their lunch. Their myopic response reveals they were so focused on their present problem that they forgot Jesus’ miraculous provision not long ago. They demonstrated that they were dense and hard-hearted.

Seeing the Pharisees’ and the disciples’ reactions raises a yellow flag in my own life. Those closest to Jesus are the most in danger of becoming callused and hard-hearted. It is possible to know the Scriptures, see miracles, receive answers to prayer, and yet never allow the truth to penetrate below the surface.

Don’t let your faith be contaminated by …

  • Unbelief – There is nothing wrong with doubt and honest questions. They will lead you to the truth. But unbelief has chosen not to believe.
  • Hypocrisy – Some put on a mask and appear pious and religious, yet deep inside they are antagonistic to Christ.
  • Present problems – We can get so consumed with today’s issues that we forget our God is almighty and all-powerful.
  • Forgetfulness – We can become so distracted that we forget who God is, what he has done, and all of his promises.
  • Hard heart – Unconfessed sin, broken relationships, and compromise can all serve to build up calluses on our hearts.

To maintain a healthy faith …

  • Remember what God did in the past. Keep a journal to remind yourself of what God has done, answers to prayer, miracles, provision, etc. Remembering what God did in the past will bring help in the present.
  • Meditate on God’s promises in the present. Focus on God’s promises and goodness rather than on your problems. They will give you hope for the future.
  • Trust him to provide in the future. Remembering and meditating will lead you to greater confidence in the future.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 24, 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.


A new perspective of the importance of the church

A fellowship of differentsBook Review: A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together, by Scot McKnight

“God’s mission in this world is to create the church where God’s will is lived out by all of God’s people. God’s new creation grace and love are experienced at the table of Christian fellowship and create a new people, a new community, and a new way of life marked by a holiness the Roman Empire either despised or had never seen embodied in a community.”

The quote above sums up Scot McKnight’s theme and purpose in his book on the church, A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together. He wants to show the world what the church and the Christian life is supposed to look like.

After describing his church background in chapter one, the author describes the nature of the church in chapter two. He uses the metaphor of a salad bowl—a mixed salad of the best kind. The church is to be a mixture of people from all across the map and spectrum: men and women, rich and poor, black and white, and everything in between. The author believes that getting the church right is so important because it is “God’s world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together are designed by God to be.”

McKnight spends the rest of the book describing how grace, love, table, holiness, newness, and the Holy Spirit work together to guide the Christian life and shape the church. He uses the writings of the apostle Paul to flesh out his concepts and principles. He blends together biblical study, personal experiences, and concrete examples in an attempt to answer two fundamental questions: What is the church supposed to be? and If the church is what it is supposed to be, what does the Christian life look like?

The book will challenge your perception of the Christian life and leave you with a greater appreciation for the church.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> 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 May 23, 2015 in Books, Church, Quotes


Gone zooing

Carol, Caitlin, and I ventured over to Providence, RI, today to visit the Roger Williams Park Zoo. It was an opportunity to view God’s creative work in all the different animals. As Caitlin pointed out, the Red Panda wins the cuteness award.


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Posted by on May 23, 2015 in Photos, Rhode Island


Measuring your love for Christ

PowerPoint Presentation


Grace that penetrates the hardest heart

Some people are beyond God’s grace, or so the prevailing logic tells us. Some folks are so hard-hearted they can never be reached, and we tend to buy into that myth. However, 2 Chronicles 33 presents a starkly different view of the power of divine discipline and God’s grace in the life of King Manasseh.

Manasseh was the wayward son of a godly father. His dad, King Hezekiah, could tell stories of God’s deliverance. In contrast, Manasseh, led the nation to a new low in depravity—idol worship, child sacrifice, occultism, and much, much evil.

1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asheroth, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. And the carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God, of which God said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever, and I will no more remove the foot of Israel from the land that I appointed for your fathers, if only they will be careful to do all that I have commanded them, all the law, the statutes, and the rules given through Moses.” Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.

God spoke graciously and kindly to Manasseh. But he ignored God for 55 years. God finally said, “Enough is enough,” and used a much harsher approach to get his attention.

10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon.

In the midst of oppression and captivity, Manasseh came to his senses. He humbled himself, and cried out to God. Whether he was sorry for what he did or sorry he got caught, he was truly sorry and begged for mercy. And God heard and forgave. In his grace, God restored him back to his kingdom. And in the end, Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

The story of Manasseh should be an encouragement to us not to stop praying for family and friends who have walked away from God. God can still break through and bring repentance. It may take 50 years and his severe mercy, but he can break the hardest heart. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.

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Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Bible Study, Character, Prayer, Scripture


Give Hell Fits

Every pastor should live such a life that he causes hell to shiver. Make up your mind that you will not be content to live anything less than a sold-out, on-fire, radically righteous, ridiculously loving, God-centered, Word-filled, Christ-exalting, Satan-stomping life. Decide that you will be a pastor who God uses to the absolute maximum of your abilities. Become a spiritual gate-kicker and one who snatches souls from the flames of hell. Be such a holy warrior that your life gives headaches to hell itself.

Dave Earley in Pastoral Leadership Is …: How to Shepherd God’s People with Passion and Confidence

While the author aims his quote at pastors, this is a standard of spiritual excellence that every Christ follower should aspire to.

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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Ministry, Quotes


When God transforms little into much

“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” The Imitation Game

Last night, Carol and I watched The Imitation Game, the story of mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who built a machine that broke the Nazi Enigma code in WWII. The quote above was repeated several times in the movie and grabbed my attention.

Yesterday morning I preached on the feeding of the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10). It is the second of two feeding miracles in the gospel of Mark. In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus feeds the 5,000. In both miracles, Jesus takes a little and turns it into a lot. He uses five loaves and two fish to feed between 5,000-20,000 people (6:30-44). He takes seven loaves and a few sardines to feed 4,000 people (8:1-10). Jesus can take a little and turn it into much.

I often hear people comment, “God can never use me. I have nothing to offer. I don’t have any gifts.” I’ve been known to downplay and discount my own contributions on occasion. “I just don’t have the gifts/personality/abilities/charisma that ___________ has. How could God ever use me?”

And yet, those are the people that God loves to work in and through. If I make myself available to him, he can take my little and use it for his glory. Though I or anyone else may not imagine anything of me, God can use what I have to do things no one can imagine.

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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Bible Study, Movies, Scripture