Monthly Archives: April 2017

It All Comes Down To Love

Sometimes, the simplest commands are often the hardest to obey. Three times in his first letter, the apostle John instructs his readers to “love one another” (2:7-11; 3:11-18; 4:7-21). It is a simple, straightforward command. Yet, it is difficult to practice in daily life.

Instead of showing love by listening, we monopolize the conversation. We criticize instead of affirming. We believe the universe revolves around us. We demonstrate indifference, respond in anger, and are unwilling to forgive. All of these work to destroy relationships.

In 1 John 4:7-21, John makes the argument that Because God loves us and lives in us, we are to love one another. John instructs Christ followers to love one another three times in the passage with a fourth time as an implication.

We are to love others because God loves us (7-10). John’s exhortation to love one another is based on the fact of God and his love. He relates our responsibility back to God’s character and example. Our responsibility to love is rooted in God’s character (7, 8). The proof of God’s love for people is that he sent his only Son to provide eternal life for us (9-10). When we love others, it identifies us as followers of Jesus (7). If we don’t love others, we really do not know God (8)

We are to love others because God lives in us (11-16). The demonstration of love by God is our model for showing love to others. As God manifested love in us then by sending Jesus Christ, so he manifests his love among us now as we love one another. The unseen God reveals himself through the visible love of his followers (12). No one has seen God in his pure essence without some kind of filter. Whenever we love one another we make it possible for God to “abide” in close fellowship with us. Furthermore God’s love reaches a fullness and depth in us that is possible only when we love one another. When we put our trust in Christ, God comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit (13-15). If we don’t love others, God is not in our life (16)

We are to love others because God’s love is perfected with us (17-21). The demonstration of love by God is our model for showing love to others. As God manifested love in us then by sending Jesus Christ, so he manifests his love among us now as we love one another. Full grown love produces confidence (17-18). Our love becomes complete in the sense that we can now have confidence as we anticipate our day of judgment. We need not fear the judgment seat of Christ if we have demonstrated love to others. God took the initiative to love us and we responded to him (19). Our ability to love and our practice of love come from God’s love for us. We are to love the members of God’s family (20-21). Love for the unseen God will find expression in love for our brothers and sisters whom we can see. It is easier to love someone we can see than it is to love someone we cannot see. If we don’t love others, we are lying about our relationship with God and have reason to fear the Day of Judgment (17, 20)

Because God loves us, we are to love one another. Because God lives in us, we are to love one another. Because God’s love is perfected in us, we are to love one another. How can you demonstrate love this week?

During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 30, 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 Game Plan for New Dads

Book Review: The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing up for the biggest game of your life, by Benjamin Watson

Becoming a dad for the first time often feels like navigating uncharted waters without a map. Fortunately, NFL tight end Benjamin Watson has written a helpful book providing guidance and encouragement for men entering fatherhood for the first time.

Most men are scared or nervous when they hear they are going to become a father. Then, when they hold their child in their arms for the first time, they feel elation and pride and wonder how they can avoid hurting this fragile creature. What if you cause harm without even knowing you are doing something wrong? I don’t care how many Super Bowl rings you wear, what your job title is, or what kind of car you drive, when your wife is pregnant for the first time, many men would rather turn the other way than ask, “How do I do this? How can I help?

This book is for those guys: You don’t have to wing it for the next nine months—in fact, you shouldn’t! I hope I can provide guidance for those of you scratching your heads and wondering where you fit into this whole process.

Using sports analogies, the book is divided into five parts. Training Camp covers the beginning days of pregnancy. Regular Season deals with the basics of how a woman changes, her needs, baby showers, and budgets. Super Bowl covers what happens during the delivery. Postgame deals with what happens when the new family comes home. Off-Season reminds dads that they don’t have to be perfect, but they do need to be present.

The book is well-researched, honest, encouraging, and thoroughly Christian. Benjamin and his wife, Kirsten share their testimonies about faith in Jesus Christ from beginning to end. This is a book I wish I had read some 30 years before my firstborn came into the world.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers 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 April 29, 2017 in Books, Parenting, Quotes


Grace can reach even those whom we think will never receive it

Ty Cobb was one of the all-time greats in the game of baseball. He had a .367 lifetime batting average, with 4,191 hits and 892 stolen bases. He won nine straight batting titles. But Ty Cobb was also the meanest man in baseball. Known for stopping at nothing to win, he would insult, humiliate, and even injure other players in his quest for victory. Even his own teammates once rooted against him when he was in a tight race one season for the batting title. He was known to make unprovoked racial slurs. He had three wives, all of whom he verbally and physically abused. He was constantly involved in fistfights, arguments, and tirades against fans and players. He once pistol-whipped a would-be mugger so badly that the face of the corpse could not be identified. Cobb was worth millions because of his early investment in Coca-Cola. When he died, he had in his possession millions in stocks, bonds, and cash because he was an early investor in Coca-Cola. And yet it would be hard to find a more apt specimen of total depravity. But the story does not end there.

Not long before he died, Cobb was visited by a Presbyterian ministry named John Richardson. Cobb curtly told the preacher to leave. Two days later he returned. This time Cobb listened as Richardson explained to him the plan of salvation. Hearing of Christ’s love for sinners and how he had come to die for the likes of Ty Cobb, the “Georgia Peach” was overcome with emotion. Richardson continued to explain the necessity of repentance toward sin and faith in Jesus as the only way of salvation. Cobb told the preacher he was ready to put his complete trust in Jesus Christ as his Savior. Two days before he died, Ty Cobb told Richardson, “I fell the strong arms of God underneath me.”

Cited in 1-3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family (Preaching the Word), David L. Allen, p.191-192


The Good News of the Gospel

Book Review: The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teaching, by John MacArthur

“Salvation is a creative work of God, not a do-it-yourself project for sinners.” While that quote sums up John Macarthur’s perspective on 2 Corinthians 5, it could summarize the message of his latest book, The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teaching.

The approach of the book is to use

some of the principle evangelistic texts from Paul’s New Testament epistles, we will survey the gospel as Paul proclaimed it. We’ll consider several important questions, including: What is the gospel? What are the essential elements of the message? How can we be certain we have it right? How should Christians be proclaiming the good news to the world?

As Dr. Macarthur explains in the introduction,

My design in this book is to explain the most important gospel texts from Paul’s epistles as clearly and as thoroughly as possible. I hope to underscore (as Paul did) the eternal importance of gospel doctrine and the absolute necessity of getting it right.

In Chapter 1, “Things of First Importance,” Dr. Macarthur uses 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 to lay out the basics of the gospel, including the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In Chapter 2, “First, the Bad News,” he uses Romans 3 to stress that all have sinned and no one seeks God. Chapter 3, “How can a Person Be Right with God?” uses a question posed by Job to illustrate the dilemma we all face. Chapter 4, “Sola Fide” explains that we are saved by faith, not by works. Chapter 5, “The Great Exchange” deals with the doctrine of substitionary atonement. Chapter 6, “Alive Together With Christ” describes the power and results of the resurrection. Chapter 7, “The Lessons of Grace” compares grace and legalism. In the appendices, Dr. Macarthur includes four sermons preached on these topics along with a glossary of terms.

For those who are concerned that Dr. Macarthur overemphasizes Calvinism, he offers an explanation and a balance.

We have stressed the sovereignty of God in salvation because that doctrine stands out prominently on the face of this text (2 Corinthians 5:21). It’s an amazing and counterintuitive truth. After all, God is the offended deity. But reconciliation for sinners comes at His instigation, through an atonement that He sovereignly provides. (p. 91)

God’s sovereignty does not eliminate human responsibility. God holds us responsible for what we do and don’t do, and it is perfectly just for Him to do so. He doesn’t control human actions by constraint. (p.92)

Just as God’s sovereignty doesn’t eliminate the sinner’s responsibility, likewise the plea for sinners to “be reconciled to God” poses no actual contradiction to the fact that God is the One who sovereignly draws those who do respond to the plea. (p. 93)

…the point to grasp here is that no one is compelled by force or coercion to reject the gospel message. They do it freely, by their own choice. Those who turn away in unbelief are therefore wholly responsible for putting themselves under God’s condemnation. (p.94)

The book will stretch your thinking on the topic and give you a much better understanding of the doctrine of salvation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> 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 April 28, 2017 in Books, Scripture, Theology


1 John 4:19

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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in 1 John, Scripture


Expository preaching is trendy – Who knew?

According to blogger Tim Challies, “The Hottest Thing at Church Today” is expository preaching.

According to a new study by Gallup, the hottest thing at church today is not the worship and not the pastor. It’s not the smoke and lights and it’s not the hip and relevant youth programs. It’s not even the organic, fair trade coffee at the cafe. The hottest thing at church today is the preaching. Not only is it the preaching, but a very specific form of it—preaching based on the Bible. And just like that, decades of church growth bunkum is thrown under the bus. As Christianity Today says, “Despite a new wave of contemporary church buzzwords like relational, relevant, and intentional, people who show up on Sundays are looking for the same thing that has long anchored most services: preaching centered on the Bible.”

For those unfamiliar with the concept, expository preaching is simply explaining what the text means and what it looks like in real life. It is a balance between explanation and application. It’s what I was taught to do years ago at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Seems my old-fashioned approach is now a trendy practice. And now that I’m a bald-headed expository preacher, I must be doubly trendy. Who knew?

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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Preaching, Tim Challies


Don’t let your Bible get dusty

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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Bible Study, Tim Challies


The intersection of faith & sports

I recently discovered the “Above & Beyond” podcast hosted by Brock Huard of 710 ESPN Seattle. Brock played quarterback for the UW Huskies and several NFL teams. He is now a radio talk show host and ESPN college football analyst. His first podcast was a conversation with Matt Hasselbeck, former NFL quarterback.

On the first episode of Above & Beyond, Brock sits down with friend and former Seahawks teammate QB Matt Hasselbeck. From growing up with Christian parents to spending time at Green Bay with Reggie White to running away from baptism, Matt shares some of the most important moments from his faith and sports journey.

I appreciated the sports stories, but especially how each one shared how their faith impacts their careers and family life. Brock will be doing the podcast every other week. I look forward to the next one.

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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Faith, News stories, NFL, Seattle, Sports


Don’t Settle 4 Fool’s Gold

Eureka! This simple Greek word—meaning “I have found it!”—became the life slogan for thousands of California gold prospectors in the mid-1800s. It summed up every treasure hunter’s dream and expressed the thrill of striking pay dirt. For James Marshall (the first to discover the precious metal in 1848) and the “forty-niners” who followed him, the term meant instant riches, early retirement, and a life of carefree ease.

However, world-be prospectors quickly learned that not everything that glittered was indeed gold. Riverbeds and rock quarries could be full of golden specks that were entirely worthless. This “fool’s gold” was iron pyrite, and miners had to be careful to distinguish it from the real thing.

In the same way, Christians must learn how to distinguish teaching which is biblical and sound from that which is not. We need to be wary of spiritual fool’s gold. That is the subject that the apostle John addresses in 1 John 4:1-6.

Don’t believe every teacher who comes along (1). Some of John’s readers were being swept away by false teachers. John is telling them to take the time to test and see if what they are being taught is true.

Some theology being taught today is the equivalent of eating a candy bar. It is sweet, tasty, and filling, but it has absolutely no nutritional value. In fact, it can blunt your appetite for healthier fare. Rather than blindly consuming everything we hear, we need to put it to the test and see if it is true or not. John provides two tests we can use.

Test #1: What do they say about Jesus? (2-3). In the same way you can identify a follower of Christ by their works, you can identify a false teacher by their message. Rather than ask, “Do you believe in Jesus?” we should ask, “What do you believe about Jesus?” A false teacher will err on either the humanity or the deity of Christ.

Test #2: Who are they listening to? (4-6). John reminds his listeners that they are victors, that they have overcome. They are not necessarily more intelligent or more skilled than false teachers, but they possess the Holy Spirit. In contrast, the false teachers are listening to the world (4-5) rather than to the truth (6). A teacher’s doctrinal beliefs are often revealed by the character of their followers.

As Christ followers, we must practice discernment. Get into the Scriptures for yourself on a regular basis. Ask God for wisdom to know truth from error. Ask God to give you ears to hear and a heart to obey.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 23, 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.


The intersection of faith and life

Yesterday afternoon I had a difficult and disappointing phone conversation that was the culmination of five months of dialogue with an insurance company. I was angry about my perceived mistreatment. Why did they put me through a five month ordeal if this was going to be the outcome? Why did they make me jump through so many hoops if it was going to turn out this way? It’s not fair! I want justice!

I decided to blog about the encounter. I would catalog their many and varied sins, and broadcast my slights for all the world to read and heed. I would do my best to shame them.

Then I remembered I recently gave our church leaders a handout on how to deal with criticism and complaints. If I followed my own instructions regarding the guidelines of Matthew 18:15, I needed to deal with the company privately rather than publicly. I was also reminded of what I taught while in Russia last month. I explained to the pastors and leaders that Romans 12:19 instructs us not to seek revenge, but rather to leave it in God’s hands.

Rather than tell the world, I wrote a letter to the company expressing my frustration. Rather than attempt to publicly embarrass the company in a blog post, I wrote this post confessing my embarrassment at discovering I am still rather self-centered, selfish, proud, and ill-tempered when I don’t get my own way. SIGH!

Romans 7:15, 24-25 (ESV)    For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Character, Personal growth, Scripture