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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Rainy Daze

Humor for a rainy day

Calvin & Hobbes - darn ol rain Calvin & Hobbes - dress for rain

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Calvin and Hobbes, Fall, Fun

 

Take a Stand on Moral Issues

We cannot be silentBook Review: We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, & the very meaning of right & wrong, by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Twenty years ago, not one nation on earth endorsed legal same-sex marriage. Now, access to same sex marriage is increasingly seen as a basic human right, one enshrined in law by the Supreme Court of the United States. In less than a single generation, Western cultures have experienced a moral revolution.

With the movement toward same-sex marriage and the normalization of homosexuality gaining momentum, some churches are running for cover. Yet our Christian responsibility is clear—we are to tell the truth about what God has revealed concerning human sexuality, gender, and marriage. No one said it was going to be easy.

This statement sums up the purpose and the theme of Dr. R. Albert Mohler’s latest book, We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, & the very meaning of right & wrong. In his book, the author examines how the transformation occurred and how we got to this point.

The sexual and cultural revolution began with the arrival of birth control and divorce. At the time, most Christians didn’t realize that separating sex from procreation and “no-fault” divorce set the stage for a total redefinition of marriage and the family. The sexual revolution laid the foundation for the moral revolution and those who advocate same-sex relationships. A redefinition of sex and gender not only leads to a redefinition of marriage, but also to the transgender revolution. This naturally leads to marriage as an institution disappearing from our eyes.

After describing the historical and cultural trends leading to where we are today, Dr. Mohler asks and answers the question, “What does the Bible really say about sex?” For biblical Christians, this is the most important question of all. The author follows this chapter with one addressing the issue of religious liberty. He closes the book by answering 30 basic questions that Christians are asking today.

Dr. Mohler closes the book with “A Word to the Reader.” He states,

In a very real sense, everything has now changed. The highest court of the land has redefined marriage. Those who cannot accept this redefinition of marriage as a matter of morality and ultimate truth, must acknowledge that the laws of this nation concerning marriage will indeed be defined against our will. We must acknowledge the authority of the Supreme Court in matters of law. Christians must be committed to be good citizens and good neighbors, even as we cannot accept this redefinition of marriage in our churches and in our lives.

We must contend for marriage as God’s gift to humanity—a gift central and essential to human flourishing and a gift that is limited the conjugal union of a man and a woman. We must contend for religious liberty for all, and focus our energies on protecting the rights of Christian citizens and Christian institutions to teach and operate on the basis of Christian conviction.

We cannot be silent, and we cannot join the moral revolution that stands in direct opposition to what we believe the Creator has designed, given, and intended for us. We cannot be silent, and we cannot fail to contend for marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

In one sense, everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The cultural and legal landscape has changed, as we believe this will lead to very real harms to our neighbors. But our Christian responsibility has not changed. We are charged to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to speak the truth in love. We are also commanded to uphold the truth about marriage in our own lives, in our own marriages, in our own families, and in our own churches.

We are called to be the people of the truth, even when the truth is not popular and even when the truth is denied by the culture around us. Christians have found themselves in this position before, and we will again. God’s truth has not changed. The holy Scriptures have not changed. The gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. The church’s mission has not changed. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

Challenging, insightful, and thought provoking. Well worth reading and pondering.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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 September 28, 2015 in Books, Culture, Marriage, Quotes

 

Money Talks

When it comes to money, there is a wide range of opinions.

  • “Whoever says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.” Donald Trump
  • “If riches are a curse, may God smite me with it and may I never recover!” Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
  • “Get all you can; put it in a can; protect that can!”

While we may pursue affluence, we live with a scarcity mentality—there is only so much to go around so you better not squander it. This attitude creeps into the church and our approach to worship.

According to Barna Research:

  • The average person gives 2.1% of their income to charitable causes.
  • 17% of Christians say that they “tithe” (give 10% of their income to God’s work).
  • Only 3% actually give that amount.

Many pastors avoid talking about money for various reasons:

  • It makes everyone uncomfortable, and we want people to be happy.
  • People believe it is a personal issue, a private matter.
  • We don’t want to offend newcomers.
  • We want to avoid the stereotype of “The church only talks about money.”

When you study the Scriptures, you discover:

  • About 500 verses on prayer.
  • Fewer than 500 verses on faith.
  • 2,300 verses that deal with money and possessions.
  • Jesus said more about money than he did about any other subject, including heaven and hell combined.
  • Over 10% of the New Testament relates directly to financial matters.
  • Money is a barometer of our spiritual health.

In light of what Scripture teaches, our church is beginning a five-part series on Generosity. The theme of the series comes from 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.

“…whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Giving demonstrates our Dependence on God (Mark 12:41-44).

After Jesus finished his public teaching in the Court of the Gentiles (Mark 11:27-12:40), he entered the Court of the Women. Against one wall of this court were 13 trumpet-shaped collection boxes for receiving worshipers’ freewill offerings. Many people gave large amounts, and Jesus did not condemn them or comment on their gifts. One unnamed widow gave two lepta (Mark 12:41-44). This was the smallest bronze Jewish coin in circulation. Two of them put together added up to less than one penny in value.

Jesus said that the widow gave more than all the others. Most gave out of their material wealth at little cost to them. The widow gave everything she had out of her poverty. Most gave what they could spare. The widow spared nothing.

Her gift illustrates that generosity is not determined by the amount, but by the attitude with which it is given. The question is not, “How much did you give?” but, “How much did it cost you to give?”

Giving is an Act of Worship (Proverbs 3:9-10).

If you wanted to invite your mayor, senator, governor, or president over to house for dinner, would you serve them leftovers? Then why do we approach worship with the attitude of “If there is any … money after I pay bills … time after work and bowling … energy after I take care of family … money after my vacation … time after I watch the game … then I will give, serve, and/or worship.”

Proverbs 3:9-10 explains that we are to give God our first and best. Far too often, we give God our leftovers. We honor ourselves with our wealth and give God what we can afford to do without.

These verses point out the proper sequence—we give, and then God blesses. Too often, we get this backwards. We say, when God blesses me and meets my needs, then I will give. The proper order is … Give … honor God with the first and best … then he will bless and meet needs.

If we give a 15% tip for good service at a restaurant, why do we balk at honoring God with our finances when he gave us salvation?

Giving is an Act of Obedience and Faith (Malachi 3:10-12).

The command in Malachi 3:10, “put me to the test,” confuses us. We’ve been told never to test God, and yet this says it’s ok. It helps to understand that there are three words for test in the Hebrew language.

  • “nasa” means testing God in the sense of challenging or disputing his presence or power and thus provoking him to anger.
  • “sarap” means testing or refining a substance such as gold.
  • “bahan” means testing with the idea of proving the dependability of something.

It is this third word, “bahan,” that is used in Malachi 3:10. We are to test God to prove he keeps his promises.

God challenges us to prove that his promises are true about giving. If we give, God will meet our needs. While this instruction is linked to Israel and the Old Testament Law, it is echoed in Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. This is a command and a promise for us today.

If we take God at his word and give generously, what might he do to meet our needs (Malachi 3:11-12)? Could he cause our car to be more fuel efficient so we spend less money on gas? Could he prevent our children’s teeth from getting cavities so we spend less money at the dentist office? Could God cause our clothes not to wear out so we spend less money on clothing? If we take God at his word and give generously, what might he do to meet our needs?

Over the next 90 days, I want to encourage you to put God to the test regarding his promise about giving. Between now and December 31 (which technically is 96 days, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as 90 days), please consider making the following commitments:

  • I will worship God with my giving.
  • I will give generously.
  • I will give my first and my best.
  • I will trust God to provide for my needs.
  • I will look to see how God meets my needs.
  • I will share the results so others can praise God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 27, 2015. It is opening message in a series on Generosity. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

In the shade of the old apple tree

Today we took a drive to Outlook Farm, a U-Pick apple orchard in Westhampton, MA. We didn’t pick any fruit, but we did go for a stroll in the orchard and enjoyed the flowers, pumpkins, and gourds around the store.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Fall, Flowers, Massachusetts, Photos

 

Are we persecuted or just offended?

Dr. Russell Moore has written a thought provoking article entitled, “The Difference Between Being Offended and Being Persecuted.” In his opening paragraph, he states,

There are two key mistakes American Christians tend to make when thinking about the intersection of religion and culture. The first is to have an attitude of a “majority” culture, a mindset that incorrectly conflates a civic morality with Christianity and seeks to build coalitions to “turn America back” to Christ. But there is another mistake too, and that is to have a fearful, hand-wringing siege mentality. While it’s true that religious liberty is genuinely imperiled, perhaps more than at any time since the revolutionary era, we will not be able to articulate our commitments in this arena if we don’t know how to differentiate between state persecution and cultural marginalization, between public oppression and personal offense.

Click on the link above to read the entire article.

(Thanks, Tim Jack, for turning me on to the article.)

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Culture, News stories, Quotes

 

Discovering true happiness

HappinessBook Review: Happiness, by Randy Alcorn

Not only is it possible for Christ followers to be happy, it is God’s desire for us to experience happiness, joy, and gladness to the full. This is the conviction of author Randy Alcorn. He has written an exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, book to proclaim that the quest for happiness comes from God himself. It is Alcorn’s expressed desire that we understand why we should be happy, change our perspective, and develop habits of happiness.

The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 examines our longing and search for happiness. The author explains how God has wired us to seek happiness and how sin seeks to prevent us from experiencing it. Part 2 explores the happiness of God himself. Alcorn gives considerable attention to explain that God is happy and that he wants us to be happy. Part 3 surveys the numerous biblical passages that speak of happiness, joy, and gladness. The author explores a number of Hebrew and Greek words and demonstrates how the Bible repeatedly shows that our creator wants us happy. Part 4 addresses ways to live a Christ-centered life of happiness. Alcorn details several different habits that help one pursue happiness.

I found the book to be insightful and challenging. It changed my understanding of happiness and will change how I teach the topic in the future. In the past, I’ve taught that God wants us to be holy, not happy. In attempting to point out that they world’s pursuit of happiness is incorrect, I’ve communicated that happiness and holiness are incompatible. I now understand that is incorrect. Happiness is a biblical concept and pursuit, provided we seek our happiness according to God’s direction and provision.

The downside of the book is that it feels overwhelming. Part 3 especially feels like one is drinking from a firehose. The author piles Scripture references, word studies, and quotes from Puritan authors, and countless other saints upon each other. In the end, you want to throw in the towel and shout, “OK, I’m convinced already!” While the book is good and the arguments convincing, it just feels like too much.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.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 September 25, 2015 in Books

 

Finding success in obscurity

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Interesting to see this graphic the same week our staff and elders are discussing the book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent & Barbara Hughes.