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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Pray big prayers

“Make no small plans, for they have not the power to stir the souls of men.” Anonymous

“Now to him who is able to do abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Leadership, Prayer, Scripture

 

A Matter of Perspective

GODISNOWHERE

Does this mean, “God is nowhere”, or “God is now here”? The answer depends entirely on what you are focusing on.

In the past week, I’ve heard concerned folks comment that people are leaving our church. I’ve also seen 13 people go through our membership class. One person left the church because “the Spirit of God is not moving.” Five people wanting to be baptized might indicate otherwise.

What you look at determines whether you see a problem or an opportunity. What you focus on reveals whether God is absent or present.

2 Kings 6:8-23 presents a powerful example of the importance of perspective. The Syrian army is at war with Israel (8). They send horses and chariots to the city of Dothan in an attempt to capture the prophet Elisha (14). Elisha’s servant launches into panic mode one morning when he wakes to the startling sight that the city was surrounded (15). “Alas, what shall we do?” is his plaintive cry.

Rather than seeing a problem, however, Elisha is confident that God is at work (16). He prays that his servant will have the same insight (17). God answered Elisha’s prayer and revealed the angelic SWAT team protecting Elisha.

“So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

If we act like Elisha’s servant and focus our attention on our problems and complaints, we will conclude that God is nowhere. But if we respond like Elisha and ask God to open our eyes and give us his perspective, we will see that he is now here, and at work all around us.

What are you focusing on?

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Personal growth, Scripture, Theology

 

Granville State Forest

This afternoon, Carol and I went for a walk in the woods at Granville State Forest. It was a beautiful day for a walk along the Hubbard River.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2016 in Massachusetts, Photos

 

Choosing A New Name for First Central – next round

At our annual meeting, the congregation of First Central Baptist Church approved the proposal to change the name of the church (76% approval). (If you want to know more about why we’re making the change, read one of the previous blogs on the subject.) After discussing how to move forward, the elders recommended the following stages in the process:

  • 72 names were submitted during February and March.
    • During April & May, we will use a series of polls to narrow the list to two finalists. Both members and regular attenders will be allowed to participate in the polls. We will use a bulletin insert which people will be asked to fill out on the Sunday of the poll.
    • On April 17, we narrowed the list to 13 names.
    • On May 8, we will ask you to help us narrow the list to the top 6 names we should consider.
    • On June 5, we will ask you to narrow the list down to two finalists.
  • On June 15, we will vote on a new name for First Central during our Semi-Annual business meeting. Only members will be allowed to vote on the final name.

Top 13 Suggested Names

  • Christ Centered Church
  • Christ First Central
  • Church of Faith and Grace
  • Cornerstone Bible Church
  • Crossroads Bible Church
  • Faith Bible Church
  • First Central
  • First Central Bible Church
  • First Central Church
  • First Central Community Church
  • First Central Fellowship Church
  • First Central Gospel Church
  • Grace Bible Church

Please prayerfully consider what God would have us to be called as we seek to fulfill our purpose of Building a Community to Change the World.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2016 in First Central Bible Church

 

Don’t Crack Under Pressure

Pressure comes from many different sources. Some pressure is inherent to the life-stage we are in. Caring for infants, training toddlers, raising teenagers, caring for aging parents … each stage brings its own unique pressure. Some pressure is self-inflicted, such as when we double-book our schedules or overspend our income. Other people can sometimes add to the pressure we feel by wanting us to take on their agenda. This past week, five different individuals/groups wanted me to add an activity to my schedule.

The right amount of pressure can help us fire an arrow at a target. Too much pressure can cause us to crack. In Mark 14:66-72, Peter cracks under pressure and denies Jesus three times. Rather than a sudden fracture, Peter’s failure was the slow erosion that takes place over time. In the hours leading up to his denial, Peter …

  • Boasted too much (Luke 22:31-33)
  • Listened too poorly (Mark 14:27-31)
  • Prayed too little (Mark 14:37-41)
  • Acted too fast (Mark 14:47)
  • Followed too far (Mark 14:54)

Peter’s failure exposes one crystal clear principle: When we follow Jesus from a distance, we will crack under pressure.

While Jesus was on trial in an upstairs room (53), Peter sought warmth in the courtyard (54). Peter seems to have good intentions. He recovered his courage enough to follow Jesus. But his love for Jesus could not overcome his fear of being identified with Jesus.

When you follow Jesus from a distance, you give in to fear. Peter was bold enough to attack a servant with a sword (47), but now is intimidated by a servant girl (66-68). While Peter was not ready to abandon Jesus, he was not willing to confess him publicly either.

As his denials become more forceful, Peter moves further away from the light and from Jesus (68-71). After his first denial, Peter leaves the fire and goes to the entryway, the covered passageway leading to the street. The servant girl sees Peter and begins to tell other people that he is one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter denies Jesus a second time.

About an hour later (Luke 22:59), the bystanders confronted Peter because they identified him by his accent. Feeling the pressure of possible arrest and persecution, Peter vehemently denies Jesus a third time, even calling curses down upon himself if he is lying.

A rooster known for its pride and “cocky” strutting reminds Peter of his foolish boast (72). Hearing the rooster and remembering Jesus’ words, Peter breaks down and weeps. Peter, the rock, has cracked under pressure.

Fortunately for Peter, the church, and us, failure is not fatal. Though he failed, Peter repented (72). Jesus went out of his way to restore Peter back to a relationship with himself and to ministry (Mark 16:7; John 21:15-19). Peter became the rock who led the early church (Acts 1-5).

I take three key lessons away from this passage. (1) Don’t follow Jesus from a distance. (2) Don’t rely on your own strength. (3) Don’t give up when you fall.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 17, 2016. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Prayerfully choosing a new name

FCBC family—As we move forward in the process of changing the name of our church, this Sunday, April 17, we will narrow our list of 72 recommended names down to 12. Ballots will be in the bulletin and you will be asked to fill them out and return them before you go home after the worship services. Remember that the purpose of changing our name is to help us become more effective in reaching the lost in our community. Please prayerfully consider what name God has for us. Thanks.

 

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in First Central Bible Church

 

Sports Team Night at Awana

Once a month we have theme nights in Awana at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. Tonight was “Sports Team Night” where everyone was encouraged to wear a shirt, jersey, or sweatshirt with their favorite team’s logo. Miss Robin told a Bible story about the apostle Paul running the race. It was another great evening of Bible learning, games, snacks, and fun.

 
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At the Center of All

Challies_Apr10-16-03

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2016 in Quotes, Tim Challies, Worship

 

No religion in heaven

No religion in heaven

Occasionally, cartoonists get it right.

I’m sure the writer of the comic strip, Non-Sequitur, was trying to poke fun at religion in his comic this week. On the one hand, the strip portrays a cynical view that religion is cause of all the conflicts in the world. On the other hand, the writer inadvertently told the truth about heaven.

Religion will not get one into heaven. Only those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will enter heaven.

In John 14:6, Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In Revelation 22:3-4, the apostle John described heaven as a place where, “The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They shall see his face and his name will be on their foreheads.”

Heaven is not a place for religion. Heaven is a place of deep relationship with Jesus, our redeemer.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Fun, Heaven, Scripture, Theology

 

Letting go of a favorite ministry

The advice given to aspiring writers is that you have to “kill your darlings.” The phrase was first coined by William Faulkner who said, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.”  Stephen King followed up by saying, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings” in his book On Writing. 

The phrase refers to those parts of a manuscript that we have simply fallen in love with but are no longer needed for the story and can perhaps even be distracting to the reader. It can be a character, a phrase, an image, a joke, etc. The challenge is that writers tend to feel maternal towards these “darlings”, but once a manuscript has grown these items might need to be pruned.

The same advice needs to be heeded by pastors and ministry leaders. We can become so enamored with favorite ministries, phrases, illustrations, names, etc., that we are reluctant to make changes when those ministries, phrases, illustrations, names, etc., are no longer effective.

Our church, First Central Baptist Church of Chicopee, MA, is going through the process of changing our name. We recognized that the label “Baptist” is no longer a positive label in our area. It took our congregation two years just to acknowledge that we needed to make a change. Now, we are considering what our new name should be. Of the 72 names submitted for consideration, 16 of them tried to keep “First Central” as part of the name. In contrast, one member recommended letting go of the past and adopting a completely new name.

Last month, our Christian Education Board decided to rename our summer VBS (Vacation Bible School) program. We recognized that the term “VBS” is a Christian code word. We also acknowledged that a summer program with “School” in the title might be a deterrent to children. “Who wants to go to school in the summer?” Since our Children’s Ministry is known as KidConnect, we adopted a new name, Camp KidConnect, for our summer ministry. One person responded, “Well, I’m still going to call it VBS.”

Names can certainly fall into the “darlings” category. So can ministries. When I was in grad school, one of my professors quipped, “When the horse is dead, it’s time to dismount.” Admitting a program is no longer effective and needs to be discontinued is one of the most difficult discussions churches face. We fall in love with programs. We fondly remember how they impacted our lives in previous years. Our rose-colored-glasses make it difficult for us to honestly evaluate the present effectiveness of the ministry. They cause us to be reluctant to “pull the plug” and kill our darlings, and to stop a ministry or activity that is no longer reaching its intended goal.

For God to begin a new work in our lives, churches, and ministries, we have to let go of the past.

Isaiah 43:18–19 (NIV84) – “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.