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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Is Fellowship With God That Important?

When the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI three weeks ago, Carol and I watched the game in a pub in Wanaka, New Zealand. Since New Zealand Daylight Time is 18 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, the game came on during lunch time on Monday, February 6.

We were in Wanaka for our youngest daughter’s wedding. On that Monday, the guys went one direction for a bachelor party; the girls another direction for a bachelorette party; and the parents went on a safari of the region. Since our tour ended by 1PM, Carol and I found a pub to watch the Super Bowl.

We learned later that the bachelor party started out at a pub watching the game. Thinking the game would only last 3.5 hours, the host scheduled several adventure activities like jetboating and off-road racing. As it turned out, it meant that the guys left the Super Bowl with five minutes remaining in regulation. Consequently, they missed the Patriots tying the game in regulation and winning in overtime.

Some people view a relationship with God in the same fashion. It is simply one of many good activities and options in their life. As long as heaven is secure, how important is fellowship with God on a daily basis?

That is a question the apostle John addresses in 1 John 2:28-3:3. Using one of his favorite terms, John encourages his readers to abide in Christ. He explains that abiding demonstrates one is part of God’s family and will prepare a person for Christ’s return. Those who abide in Christ will be prepared to meet him when he returns.

Q: Why should I abide in Christ? (2:28a). A professor in grad school was fond of saying, “Until you answer the why question, the price is always too high.” John seems to anticipate that question. After telling his readers, “abide in him,” John goes on to give several reasons after the phrase, “… so that …”

A1: You will be prepared for Christ’s return (2:28b). The return of Jesus Christ will be more than a Sunday School awards banquet. We will stand before God and answer for how we lived our lives. No one wants to be embarrassed because they are unprepared. We want to be able to enter his presence boldly rather than cower in shame in a corner.

A2: Abiding reveals whose family you belong to (2:29). In the same way that a child has their parents’ eyes or nose, so righteous living is the family trait of those who are part of God’s family.

A3: Abiding reveals your attitude about God’s grace (3:1). Rather than view God’s love in a “ho, hum” manner, John expresses a sense of amazement. “Look at that! We are called God’s children. Unbelievable!” Our sense of security comes from recognizing what God has done for us.

A4: Abiding allows God to transform you (3:2). John explains that God is in the process of transforming us from “then” to “now” to “not yet.” One day, we will be like Christ. As great as our experience with Christ is right now, it is only the tip of the iceberg compared to what it will be later.

A5: You will stay prepared for Christ’s return (3:3). John comes full circle when he explains that the hope of heaven produces purity on earth. We are to engage in a continual process of moral purification.

When I became an instructor with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries some 30 years ago, I had to promise not to teach a WTB event with sin in my life. Each time the faculty gathers, there is a ceremony where we are asked to recommit to that promise. Next week, I will be in Georgia where Phil Tuttle, the president of Walk Thru, will ask me if my life is pure. I want to make certain of my answer so that I am not ashamed when the question comes.

In the same way, the one who abides in Christ will be prepared to meet him when he returns. Abide in Christ. Be prepared when he comes back.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 26, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

A glimpse of God’s amazing grace

grace-is-greaterBook Review: Grace is Greater: God’s plan to overcome your past, redeem your pain, and rewrite your story, by Kyle Idleman

Pastor and author Kyle Idleman has penned another insightful and helpful book, this time offering insight and perspective on the grace of God. Rather than being a theological treatise, his book is aimed at helping his readers see and experience grace as if for the first time. As with his previous books, he digs into the subject by combining Scriptural teaching with his own story and the story of others.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is about the fact that grace is greater than our mistakes—our guilt, brokenness, and regrets. Part 2 explores the idea that grace is greater than our hurts—our wounds, bitterness, desire for vengeance, and resentment. Part 3 wraps up the discussion by stressing that grace is greater than our circumstances—our disappointments, weakness, and despair.

The book will help the reader to grasp the truth of God’s amazing grace. It is a truth that is best understood when you experience it.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. 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 February 24, 2017 in Books, Theology

 

The pressures of leadership

peanuts-head-beagle-decisions

I remember days like this …

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in Fun, Leadership, Peanuts

 

Commissioning of Elders, Deacons, & Deaconesses – 2017

During First Central Bible Church‘s annual meeting on January 29, 2017, the congregation affirmed those who would serve as elders, deacons, and deaconesses in the coming year. On Sunday, February 19, we commissioned these leaders. The following was an insert in the bulletin to guide each group and their response during the commissioning. The ceremony served a twofold purpose–(1) It affirmed and commissioned those who serve in these positions of leadership and service; and (2) It reminded the participants and the congregation as to the high calling and the task of each position.

******************

ELDERS

Doug Dolbow, Stan Kulig, Joe Martin, Doug McVeigh, Pastor Mark Wheeler

The elders serve as shepherds and overseers of the church. They work together to feed, lead, guard, care, and model Christlike character for the flock.

Pastor Elders
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? We will.
Will you willingly shepherd the flock God has entrusted to your care? We will.
Will you teach biblical truth and sound doctrine? We will.
Will you help equip people for service? We will.
Will you lead the church as overseers, supervising and managing the church well, ensuring that all things are done with integrity? We will.
Will you guard the flock against false teachers? We will.
Will you pray for the sick? We will.
Will you serve as examples of Christlike character for the church? We will.
Will you serve together as a team, sharing responsibility for leadership and oversight? We will.
Will you work together to keep the church focused on achieving the purpose God has called us to? We will.
DEACONS

Dan Darcy, Sid Floyd, Dave Johnson (new), Cliff Moran, J Noyes, Joe Trevathan

While the elders have a fixed job description, the deacons have a flexible one. They follow the direction of the elders and serve alongside the deaconesses wherever needed to help meet the practical needs of the church. This allows the elders to focus on the ministries of teaching and prayer.

Pastor Deacons
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for deacons in 1 Timothy 3? We will.
Will you follow the direction of the elders and assist them wherever needed? We will.
Will you help the elders in caring for the practical needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deaconesses to help care for the needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deaconesses to manage the benevolence fund with integrity and compassion? We will.
DEACONESSES

Lynn Anderson (new), Lois Darcy, Rose Eldridge, Janet Laroche, Karen Martin, Marion Moran, Connie Noyes, Carol Sumler

While the elders have a fixed job description, the deaconesses have a flexible one. They follow the direction of the elders and serve alongside the deacons wherever needed to help meet the practical needs of the church. This allows the elders to focus on the ministries of teaching and prayer.

Pastor Deaconesses
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for deaconesses in 1 Timothy 3? We will.
Will you follow the direction of the elders and assist them wherever needed? We will.
Will you help the elders in caring for the practical needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deacons to help care for the needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deacons to manage the benevolence fund with integrity and compassion? We will.
CONGREGATION

The congregation is responsible to respect their leaders and submit to their authority. They are to honor those who serve well.

Pastor Congregation
Will you honor the deacons & deaconesses for their service and grant them good standing among you? We will.
Will you obey the elders and joyfully submit to their leadership? We will.
Will you treat the elders with honor and respect since they watch over your souls? We will.
Will you pray that God grants your elders, deacons, & deaconesses a sense of joy as they serve Christ? We will.
 

Wintry Sunrise

 

Sunrise, Sunday, February 19, 2017, in Chicopee, MA. God’s creative artwork on display!

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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in Chicopee, Massachusetts, Sunrise, Winter

 

Defending Against Deception

A knock on the door. A young, well-dressed couple offers you some literature. They ask questions about your spiritual beliefs. They explain things about Jesus that you haven’t heard before.

How do you know if what they say is true? How do you defend yourself against deception? In 1 John 2:18-27, the apostle John explains that those who love God must reject false teachers and embrace the truth.

John expresses his pastoral concern with the affectionate term, “children.” 10 days ago, I stood before my youngest daughter and her husband-to-be on their wedding day. As I took part in the ceremony, I said, “I have some dad things to say and some pastor things to say.” I understand John’s pastoral, fatherly concern and the desire to prepare his flock for what is to come.

John’s statement, “it is the last hour,” raises the question, “Is he talking about chronological time or theological time?” From other passages of Scripture, we understand he is referring to a theological concept. Hebrews 1:1-2 states that the last days began with Jesus. In Acts 2:16-17, Peter said the last days started with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. John now adds a third characteristic to the last days—the rise of opposition. The fact that the church is under attack indicates it is later than we think.

While The Antichrist will come during the period of The Tribulation, John explains that there are many antichrists present today. These folks left the fellowship (18-19), deny the faith (22), and seek to deceive the faithful (26).

John explains that God has given us the Holy Spirit (20) and the Scriptures (21) to keep us on the right path. The Holy Spirit is assigned a teaching role and enables Christ followers to perceive the truth and distinguish truth from error.

John is primarily concerned about warning his readers about one lie in particular—the denial of the deity and/or the humanity of Jesus Christ (22). In John’s day, there were three individuals or groups whose errors he was combating. Gnosticism, Docetism, and a teacher named Cerinthus.

Gnosticism

Docetism

Cerinthus

Spiritual is good; material is evil

Go deeper through “special knowledge”

Jesus did not have a human body; only an illusion Jesus was a man; the divine Christ came at his baptism and left before the crucifixion

Today, we face similar errors taught by Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Science. Of all the world’s religions, Christianity is the only one that affirms both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

Cults & World Religions

 

Jesus

Salvation

Islam A true prophet

Jesus did not die, but ascended into heaven

Salvation is by Allah’s grace and man’s works
Jehovah’s Witnesses A created being

Michael the archangel who became man

Salvation is by keeping the commandments and being part of the church
Mormons A created being

The elder brother of men and spirit beings

Salvation is by doing good works
Christian Science A man in tune with the divine consciousness Salvation is by correct thinking
Christianity Fully God & fully man

Co-equal & co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone

As John explains, you cannot “have God” without believing in Jesus. If you deny one, you deny the other.

It is not enough, however, to merely reject false teaching. You must also embrace the truth. In verses 24-27, John gives one command, abide, which he repeats twice. We must abide in the truth (24) and we must abide in the Spirit (27). We must ensure that the Bible and the Holy Spirit are welcome in our lives.

We demonstrate the Scriptures are welcome in our lives when we read, study, memorize, meditate, and commit ourselves to obey what it says. We demonstrate the Holy Spirit is welcome in our lives when we are filled with the Spirit and manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 19, 2017. It is part of series in The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

One word that will reinvigorate your marriage

cherishBook Review: Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage, by Gary Thomas

Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage, by Gary Thomas, is one of the better books on marriage I have read in recent years. The author’s premise is that

The way we treat something acknowledges whether we cherish it or hold it with indifference or contempt… Cultivating a cherishing attitude toward your spouse will elevate your marriage relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

Thomas’ first book, Sacred Marriage, focused on admitting and addressing the difficult realities of marriage. Cherish takes a look at the ideal, and while we may never achieve it fully, “pursuing it leads us to a place so beautiful that the journey is well worth taking.”

Most of us don’t want a marriage where we merely tolerate one another because we don’t qualify for a “biblical” divorce. We want our husbands to view us as Eve, the only woman in the world, or our wives to view us as Adam, the only man in the world. We long to be valued, respected, and cherished. Throughout the book, the author presents practical ideas on how to do just that. He explores how to cherish your spouse through your words, actions, attitudes, and deeds. Using real life examples from his own marriage and stories from others, he demonstrates the power that cherishing can have in one’s marriage.

Reading the book and practicing the concepts will give your relationship a new sense of hope and promise. Since God places a high value on marriage, it is well worth the effort.

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 February 18, 2017 in Books, Marriage, Quotes