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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Russia 2017 update – Thanksgiving edition

“Please Stop Giving!” Did you ever wonder what it would be like to preach a sermon in which you told people to stop giving because their generosity was overwhelming the accounting office? Did you ever fantasize about having so many resources for ministry that you couldn’t spend them all?

“Please stop giving!” is the theme of Moses’ message in Exodus 36:1-7. The people of Israel were bringing their gifts to help in the construction of the Tabernacle. The gifts kept coming every day until Moses cried a halt. They had plenty of resources to do the work, and more besides.

1“Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.” And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.

“Please Stop Giving!” is the message I get to shout about my trip to Russia in March 2017. Because of your prayer support and your generous financial gifts, the trip is now fully funded. God has once again provided all that is needed and more besides. Thank you Lord!

While the financial needs are met, your prayer support is still needed as much as ever. Please pray for the visa application process which begins in early December. (The window opens 90 days prior to the trip.)

Thank you for your prayers, gifts, and encouragement. Praise God for answered prayer!

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2016 in Ministry, Russia, Scripture

 

Sermon series bookmarks

Three or four times a year, I give the congregation of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, a bookmark listing the upcoming series and passages I will be preaching on. It gives people an idea of what is coming and encourages the folks to read the passage prior to the message. It also informs the congregation if there will be a guest speaker or if one of our interns is preaching. (This bookmark says I will be out of town twice during the winter months–for my daughter’s wedding and for a ministry trip to Russia.) Here is the one which was distributed this past Sunday. (If you click on the image, you can download it as a pdf file.)

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Pray boldly

PowerPoint Presentation

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

What does it mean to pray “in the name of Jesus”?

At the risk of sounding crass and sacrilegious, how do you motivate God to say, “Yes,” to your prayer requests? When you bring your petitions to God, how do you persuade Almighty God that he should act on your behalf?

When my children ask me to do something, they often give their reasons as to why I should do what they wanted. They might say, “Dad, could we do … because …” or “Dad, you promised …” or “you said …” Needless to say, their requests got more expensive and their arguments more sophisticated over the years.

When you pray and ask God to do something, what is the “because”? What reasons do you use to convince him?

Those questions led me to the gospel of John where Jesus instructed his disciples to pray in his name.

John 14:13–14 – Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 16:23–24 – In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

What does it mean to pray “in the name of Jesus”? I grew up thinking that every prayer had to end with “in Jesus’ name, Amen” or else God would not listen or answer. It was the “Open Sesame” at the cave of Ali Baba, the secret password to enter the throne of heaven.

To ask in Jesus’ name might mean serving as his representative or ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). It might entail presenting God a blank check since he can do beyond what I hope or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). It could mean entering God’s presence with confidence and boldness because of what Jesus did for me on the cross (Hebrews 10:19-22). While these principles are true, I believe there is much more to it than this.

In the Old Testament, God’s name always reveals his character. I believe that praying in Jesus’ name means recognizing his nature and attributes. It means coming to God in light of who he has revealed himself to be. Praying in Jesus’ name means asking for things that are consistent with his character and purpose.

Before you brand that as a heretical idea, here are three Old Testament examples where men of God approached God in this manner.

Abraham interceded for Sodom by reminding God he was a just judge (Genesis 18:22-25). He reminded God of what he promised in Genesis 15:14.

Moses interceded for Israel by exhibiting a concern for God’s reputation (Numbers 14:10-19). He asked God to demonstrate his power consistent with what he had revealed about his character in Exodus 34:6.

Daniel interceded for the city of Jerusalem on the basis of God’s glory and reputation (Daniel 9:16-19). He asked God to keep his promise to restore the nation of Israel back to the land.

Perhaps you are reluctant to pray in this fashion because it sounds like manipulation. When I manipulate another person, I am trying to get them to do something they don’t want to do. However, when I motivate the individual, I am asking them to do something they ultimately want to do.

When I remind God of his character, promises, and reputation, I am not trying to change God’s mind. I am merely asking him to be true to his word. I am asking God to glorify himself by acting in a manner that is consistent with his character and purpose.

Let me encourage you to study the names of God and then come to him in light of who he has revealed himself to be. (You can find a list of God’s names in the sermon notes.) Study the promises of God and then use those promises in your prayers. Here are a few examples of what this might look like.

  • Pray for people who are hurting on the basis of Psalm 23. Ask the Good Shepherd to restore their souls and lead them to green pastures and quiet waters.
  • Pray that Jehovah Rapha, The Lord who Heals, would touch and heal a sick friend.
  • Pray 2 Peter 3:9 for someone who is lost and doesn’t know Christ.
  • Pray Isaiah 30:21 when you need direction and guidance.

Pray boldly and specifically. Make requests that are consistent with God’s character and purpose. Remind God of his promises and ask him to be true to his word. Pray in the name of Jesus. And then step back and proclaim, “Look at what God has done!”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 20, 2016. It is the final message in a series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Is the Holy Spirit active in your life?

alive-in-the-spiritBook Review: Alive in the Spirit: Experiencing the Presence and Power of God, by A. W. Tozer, Compiled and Edited by James L. Snyder

What does a Spirit-filled life look like? What does a Spirit-filled church look and act like? How do you balance biblical instruction and personal experience regarding the role of the Holy Spirit? These are the questions asked and answered in A. W. Tozer’s book, Alive in the Spirit: Experiencing the Presence and Power of God.

The book contains material previously unpublished. Dr. James L. Snyder combed through numerous sermons by Tozer to compile the material. He tried to capture Tozer’s conversational tone as well as his passion for the church, the body of Christ.

Tozer’s conviction was that the church had largely ignored the Holy Spirit.

I believe we need to bring the Holy Spirit of God back into the church, back by prayer, obedience, and confession, until He literally takes over. Then there will be life and light and power and victory and joy and fruit in our lives. We can live on a different level altogether, a level we never before dreamed possible.

Every church has an obligation to regularly examine itself to see if what it is doing is on the solid foundation of the Holy Spirit. The tendency is to drift, as the Scriptures often warn us. I need to be careful that my life is solid on that foundation. If I am not building my life and ministry on the foundation of the Holy Spirit, I will not be pleasing and glorifying to God.

Throughout the book, Tozer addresses both personal as well as corporate aspects of the Spirit’s ministry. He describes what a personal walk with the Spirit looks like as well as how a church should function when the Spirit is at work.

Tozer places a high priority on what Scripture says on the subject before factoring in personal experience with the Holy Spirit.

I want to pursue this Holy Spirit every day of my life. I want my walk to be in complete harmony with the Holy Spirit. This has been the challenge of my life and will be until the day I graduate from this life into the next. Then I will pursue Him even more and with better equipment.

Throughout this book, I have tried to be as careful as I can to back everything up with the Word of God. If you find anything in this book that does not square with the Word of God, you have the obligation to throw it out. Nothing we say about the Holy Spirit should in any way contradict the Word of God.

Reading Tozer’s thoughts on the Holy Spirit and the state of the church, you have to remind yourself that he died in 1963. His evaluation and perspective is still very accurate today.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Bethany House through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse/bookreviewers. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2016 in A. W. Tozer, Books, Holy Spirit, Quotes, Scripture

 

The writing on the wall signals change

After a three-year discussion, our church voted in June to change our name from First Central Baptist Church to First Central Bible Church. Changing our letterhead, website, and email was relatively quick and easy. Changing our exterior signs took a bit longer. This week, the transformation was completed and our exterior signs now reflect our new name.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2016 in First Central Bible Church, Photos

 

Profiles of Bible Women

31-women-of-the-bibleBook Review: 31 Women of the Bible: Who They Were and What We Can Learn from Them Today, by Holman Bible Staff (written by Len Woods)

Len Woods of Holman Bible Staff has written a handy volume profiling 31 women of the Bible. It is the companion volume to 31 Men of the Bible. 20 of the women are found in the pages of the Old Testament and the remaining 11 in the New Testament. Like its companion volume, each profile is 4 pages long. The first page is a famous painting or artwork of the character. The next two pages give a summary of the woman’s life or a snapshot of one scene from her life. The final page contains a “Takeaway” or key principle for application as well as a “Food for Thought” section which contains 3-4 questions for discussion.

The book is designed as a devotional aid or a tool for daily study. It is small enough to carry in a backpack or briefcase for reading on the go.

The book was written to remind readers of Scripture of three great truths: (1) Women have played an indispensable role in the great story of the Bible; (2) Bible people were flawed, flesh-and-blood folks—not unlike us; and (3) The most vivid and valuable lessons come not from a lecture but from a life.

It appears the book aims to whet people’s appetite for further study. Rather than being an exposition of a biblical text or an exhausting study of the character’s life, each account tells a story from the life of the individual. Some include one verse while others contain several Scripture references. The various accounts will challenge, encourage, warn, and help the reader.

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Publishing through the B&H/Lifeway Bloggers program http://www.bhbloggers.com/. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2016 in Bible Study, Books

 

‘Stache Bash

Tonight was the ‘Stache Bash in Awana at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. Leaders and kids competed to see who had the best mustache. It was another fun night of games, dress up, Bible lessons, and songs. I even sported one. Another memorable evening.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2016 in Awana, First Central Bible Church, Fun, Photos

 

Getting below the surface in order to live intentionally

hows-your-soulBook Review: How’s Your Soul? Why Everything that Matters Starts With the Inside You, by Judah Smith

How do you get people to go below the surface? How do you promote intentional living? Pastor and author Judah Smith does it by asking the unique question, “How’s your soul?” His hope is to encourage people to let their soul find its ultimate fulfillment in a relationship with God. Only he can love, heal, strengthen, and then guide each individual every day. This is the theme of Judah Smith’s latest offering, How’s Your Soul? Why Everything that Matters Starts With the Inside You.

Using humor, personal mistakes, stories, and examples, the author opens the Scriptures and describes how to find lasting emotional satisfaction and stability by bringing our lives and feelings into alignment with God’s truth. His aim is to help people get out of survival mode and live each day with eternal significance.

While the book is short and easy to read, you will profit more by slowing down and thinking through each chapter.

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 November 16, 2016 in Books, Personal growth

 

The High Cost of Health Care

A humorous look at today’s health care options.

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Posted by on November 15, 2016 in Culture, Fun