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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Subtly communicating a worldview

Most commercials are loud, direct, and blatant in their message. Retailers like Target, Wal‑Mart, and Toys-R-Us shout “BUY!” Car dealerships shout the same message while high end auto manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes, and Audi tweak the message so it proclaims, “Status!” Drug companies promote health (blood pressure, diabetes, Hep-C, etc.) and pleasure (Viagra, Cialis). Trailers for movies and TV shows shout, “Watch me!”

On rare occasions comes a commercial that promotes a subtle rather than overt message. During the FOX broadcast of the NFL Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving Day, there were two commercials that promoted a very subtle worldview. One praised mankind while the other promoted tolerance and acceptance.

Dodge Ram pickup trucks aired a commercial that was aimed at praising hard-working Americans. However, it is blatantly man-centered. The tagline of the commercial was “Praise the work!” As parents, we teach our children to say “Thank you” to someone who does something for you. As Christ followers, we say “Thank you” to God because we know that all good gifts come from his hand. The Dodge Ram commercial promoted thanking yourself because you did all the hard work required to obtain and enjoy all the blessings you have. Because men and women are strong, wise, creative, and hard-working, they don’t need to acknowledge anyone else. They can “Praise the work” rather than give thanks. A very subtle, self-centered message.

Apple aired a commercial promoting tolerance and acceptance. The commercial, called “Frankie’s Holiday,” began with a Frankenstein creature laboring in a workshop. He took a package and walked down the hill and into the town square. He took out two Christmas lights, one red and one green, and attached them to the electrodes on his neck. He then played “There’s no place like home for the holidays” on his smartphone and started to sing along. The townspeople stared at him in horror and amazement. When one of his bulbs went dark, a young girl in the crowd helped reattach it so it lit up. She then started singing with the creature. Eventually, all the townspeople joined in. The commercial’s tagline is “Open your heart to everyone.” The subtle message was that there are no monsters, only people who are different. We should accept and tolerate all people, especially those who are different. Again, a very subtle, worldview shaped message.

While most commercials air several times during an NFL broadcast, these two commercials were only aired once during the FOX broadcast. Not watching any of the other two Thanksgiving Day football games, I don’t know if they appeared on CBS or NBC. While the commercials were creative and well done, they were frightening in the subtle way they communicated and attempted to shape one’s worldview.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have to be alert and aware of what is being taught and communicated. We have to ask the question, “How does this fit with what Scripture teaches?”

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Culture, NFL, TV

 

Thanksgiving Bonfire & Praise – 2016

Our church, First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, has been gathering for over 110 years at Szot Park for a Thanksgiving Bonfire & Praise service. We sing songs of praise, share favorite verses, tell about what we are thankful for, and then end with coffee, hot chocolate, and donuts. It is one of my favorite services of the year and a wonderful way to start Thanksgiving Day.

 
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I give thanks

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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in Scripture, Thanksgiving Day

 

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

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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.