Daryl Witmer and AIIA is hosting Why Jesus 2016, the Northern New England Conference on Evidence for Christian Faith. The event will be held on May 7 in Bangor, ME. Click on the link or the photo below for more information.
Monthly Archives: January 2016
Visual Theology has produced a print of the “Five Solas of the Reformation.” You can download a digital copy suitable for an 18X24 print or smaller size for handouts. Good resource for teaching on the Reformation.
Pastor, author, and blogger Tim Challies is currently doing a series on the character of a Christian. His aim is to show that the character qualities of elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) are actually God’s calling on all Christians. This week’s study is on the quality, “Above reproach” or “blameless.” He explains that
“above reproach” is first a legal word that indicates a kind of innocence in the eyes of the law. It means that no one can legitimately rebuke you or make any charges against you that will stick. They may accuse, but your conduct will eventually acquit you by proving you blameless (“blameless” being a far more common translation than “above reproach”). Your life is so consistent that your reputation is credible, you are an example worth following, and you do not make the gospel look fake by teaching one thing while doing another.
Tim provides some questions for self-evaluation to measure the quality in one’s life as well as some “Prayer Points” we can use to ask God to develop the quality in our lives. Very helpful study.
For more on the topic, read the article by Dr. Mohler, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem.”
Recently, one of the elders at our church took a leave of absence from the Council of Elders to address some personal matters. The Council of Elders sent a letter to the members of the church explaining what we were doing and why we were doing it.
As you would expect, we received a wide range of responses. A few people expressed their appreciation for the explanation and affirmed the actions of the elders. One person criticized me and the elders in an anonymous letter. Two people asked why the letter was necessary.
Without getting into the specifics of this situation, let me give five reasons why communication of this sort is appropriate. While this instance was not part of church discipline, my reasons touch on the question, “Why practice church discipline?” (My reasons skip over the fact that the practice and process of church discipline was prescribed by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17).
- We are a community of faith. The actions of one—individual, couple, family—affect all of us for good or ill. No one lives and acts in isolation. The sin of Achan (Joshua 7:1) resulted in a national defeat (Joshua 7:2-12) and his family’s death (Joshua 7:24-26). In contrast, a godly man’s action can impact his great-grandchildren (Psalm 78:5-6).
- Leaders, especially pastors, elders, and deacons, are held to a higher standard (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). By taking action, we demonstrated that we take the qualifications for leadership seriously.
- The goal is always restoration (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1-2). The instruction in Matthew 18:17 to treat the person as “a Gentile or a tax collector” does not mean shunning or ostracizing the individual. It speaks of treating them with grace and trying to win them back. We specifically ended our letter with a request to pray—for the person, the family, and the church body.
- Actions and communication of this nature promote the purity of the church. Leaders who persist in sin are to be rebuked publicly “so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 6:20). While our specific situation was not a sin issue, it does tell the church that we take sin and leadership seriously.
- By taking action and addressing the issues early, we dispel gossip and head off rumors.
Two or times a year, I schedule a Concert of Prayer at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. Rather than talk about prayer or share prayer requests, we use the Scriptures to guide our prayer time. For the latest one, I used Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 to guide us in praying for the ministries of our church. You can use the guide below or download a pdf version of the booklet.
A Concert of Prayer
January 17, 2016
A Model Prayer – Matthew 6:9–13
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.] (While not found in most early manuscripts, many of us learned the prayer with the last sentence.)
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
God’s name reveals his character. Praise God for who he is and what he has done.
- Elohim – “The Strong One” (Genesis 1:1)
- El Elyon – “God Most High” (Genesis 14:19-20)
- Adonai – “Lord” (Genesis 15:1-8; Exodus 4:10-16)
- El Shaddai – “God Almighty” (Genesis 17:1-2)
- Jehovah Jireh – “The Lord will Provide” (Genesis 22)
- Yahweh – “The Self-Existent One” (Exodus 3:1-15)
- Jehovah Rapha – “The Lord who Heals you” (Exodus 15:22-27)
- Jehovah Nissi – “The Lord is our Banner” (Exodus 17:8-16)
- Jehovah Mekadesh – “The Lord who Sanctifies you” (Leviticus 20:7-8)
- Jehovah Shalom – “The Lord is Peace” (Judges 6:24)
- Jehovah Sabaoth – “The Lord of Hosts” (1 Samuel 1:10-11; 17:45-46)
- Jehovah Rohi – “The Lord my Shepherd” (Psalm 23)
- Jehovah Tsidkenu – “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
- Jehovah Shammah – “The Lord is There” (Ezekiel 48:35)
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
- Pray for greater vision, faith, and confidence in God
- Pray for our city, state, and national leaders
- Pray for upcoming elections
- Pray that God will guide our elders as they lead our church
- Pray for the finance board as they manage our money
- Pray for our the decisions we will make at our Annual Meeting
- Pray that God gives us wisdom to evaluate our ministries
- Pray that we would discern where God is at work and what he wants us to do for his kingdom
- Pray that we would become more outward focused
- Pray for our ministries that reach into our community—Tutoring, Awana, Celebrate Recovery
- Pray for our ministries that help people grow—Sunday School, Small group Bible studies, women’s ministries, men’s fraternity, youth group
- Pray that each attender will be fully engaged
- Pray that we would be fruitful and effective, rather than busy
- Pray that we would be willing to change and adapt, rather than hold on to the past
- Pray that God would give us a spirit of generosity
“Give us this day our daily bread,”
- Pray for financial provision
- Pray that God raises up people who are willing to serve
- Pray that God would add new believers to our church
- Pray for greater boldness and open doors—church, missionaries
“forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
- Confess personal sins
- Confess corporate sins
- Confess national sins
- Pray for broken relationships
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
- Pray for our staff, elders, deacons, deaconesses, worship leaders, board and committee members
- Pray for purity
- Pray for willingness to say “NO!” to temptation and sin
“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (While not found in most early manuscripts, many of us learned the prayer this way.)
- Praise God for who he is and what he has done.
In his course on The Gospel of John, Dr. Mark Bailey made an interesting statement about Jesus dying on the cross between the two thieves (John 19:18; Luke 23:39-43). I used his insight to put together the graphic below.
The story is told of a world famous archer who hit the bullseye every time he pulled back his bow and let the arrow fly. On the eve of a prestigious competition, a passerby stumbled upon his training secret. Rather than aim at a target, he simply shot the arrow. Whatever it hit or wherever it landed, he ran up and quickly painted the target around the arrow. A bullseye every time!
Rather than aim indiscriminately, First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, has tried to identify the target so we can know whether or not we come close to hitting it. We asked the question, “What does God want the church to be and to do?” Three passages of Scripture have proven instrumental in helping us answer that question and determining our target. We want to be:
- An Acts 2:42-47 Community of Faith
- An Ephesians 4:11-16 Equipping Community
- An Acts 13:1-3 Sending Community
These passages help shape our vision and values as a church. Our study of these passages led us to craft our purpose statement—“Building a Community to Change the World.”
The first passage, Acts 2:42-47, describes a community of faith that has an ongoing ministry to itself and a powerful outreach to the local geographic area. It is a family of families who are passionate about God’s Word, Fellowship, Worship, and Prayer, and where Outreach is a natural byproduct of sharing life together.
A community of faith is passionately devoted to God’s Word, Fellowship, the Lord’s Table, and Prayer.
- Passionately devoted—Like devoted fans of sports teams, Christ followers are intensely loyal and steadfast in their allegiance.
- God’s Word—The Scriptures shape our commitments, habits, and values.
- Fellowship—More than coffee and donuts, fellowship comes from sharing life together and serving alongside other Christ followers.
- The Lord’s Table—While observing communion is part of the equation, a devotion to the Lord’s Table means the church is characterized by grace and forgiveness.
- Prayer—A community of faith is a burden-bearing fellowship who intercede for one another.
A community of faith practices Inspiring Worship, Sensitive Generosity, and Mutual Ministry.
- Inspiring Worship—Worship was never intended to be dull and boring. Keeping our focus on the “Audience of One” and looking for what God is doing will contribute a sense of awe and wonder towards God.
- Sensitive Generosity—A community of faith opens their hearts, homes, wallets, and calendars in an effort to meet the needs of others.
- Mutual Ministry—Rather than living as loners or putting people on pedestals, a community of faith practices the “one another” passages of the New Testament.
A community of faith impacts the world. Rather than being a program or activity, outreach is a natural byproduct that comes from sharing life together. Christ followers create curiosity through their lifestyle and testimony and cause others to be hungry for what they see in their lives. A fully functioning community of faith is attractive to a watching world.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 17, 2016. It is part of a three-part series on The Nature of the Church. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Craig S. Keener – “God produces in us character that is like his character. God’s character includes love, joy, peace, enduring patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. The more we depend on his grace at work in our lives, the more these aspects of his character will become our own character in him.”
D. L. Moody – “Character is what you are in the dark.”
Thomas Paine – “Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and the angels know of us.”
Max Lucado – “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”
George Washington – “I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”
William Penn – “Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”
Abraham Lincoln – “I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Robert Freeman – “Character is not made in a crisis—it is only exhibited.”