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Monthly Archives: July 2017

Embracing failure

I came across two statements on failure today. One was in a comic strip and the other in a novel. Both emphasize the importance of embracing failure, albeit for different reasons.

“In order to welcome redemption, one must first embrace the utter hopelessness of failure. For how can a man look for rescue unless he knows he is truly lost?” Stephen R. Lawhead in Pendragon (Pendragon Cycle, Book 4).

Until you admit you are a sinner, you cannot be saved. Until you confess your sins, you cannot be forgiven. Until you acknowledge your weakness, you cannot receive God’s provision.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

Perhaps failure, or at least acknowledging and embracing it, should become our signature move.

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Quotes, Scripture, Zits

 

There is a Redeemer

Church historian Clair Davis describes the Christian life as a “combination of amnesia and déjà vu.” He says, “I know I’ve forgotten this before.” In other words, as we follow Christ we keep needing to learn the same lessons over and over because we keep forgetting them. And each time it happens, we suddenly remember that we have had to relearn these very same lessons before.

Of all the things that God wanted Israel to remember, the most important was their exodus from Egypt. God sent plague after plague against the Egyptians, culminating with the death of the firstborn, until finally Pharaoh agreed to let God’s people go. It was a rescue to remember.

To make sure that his people would never forget their salvation, God gave them a special memory aid: Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast was meant to be an annual celebration.

To understand the flow of Exodus 10-11, it helps to see it as a combination of narration and explanation. The author tells the story and then periodically steps back to explain what happened. Narration (10:28-29), explanation (11:1-3), narration (11:2-9), and explanation (11:10).

Moses tells Pharaoh six facts about the final plague. There will be one more plague (11:1). It will happen at midnight (11:4). All the firstborn in Egypt will die, both people and animals (11:5). It will be a time of national distress, never experienced before or after (11:6). However, Israel will be protected (11:7). Afterwards, the exodus will begin (11:8).

In Exodus 12:1-20, God gave Moses instructions about the Passover (12:1-14) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (12:15-20). The Passover lamb was to be a perfect, one-year-old lamb (12:5). The event would occur on the 14th day of the month at twilight (12:6). The blood of the slain lamb would be spread over the doorposts and lintel of each Israelite home (12:7). The meat was to be roasted (12:8-9) and eaten completely, saving no leftovers (12:10). The meal was to eaten in haste, ready to leave at a moment’s notice (12:11). The angel of death would move throughout the land, sparing only those families who had the blood over their door (12:12-13).

Behind the instructions for the Passover is the concept of OBEDIENCE. There is no magic in the day, time, or procedure. There is no merit in the blood of the lamb. The question was, Would Israel follow God’s instructions and place their faith and trust in his provision?

After Moses communicated the instructions to the people (12:21-27), they bowed down and worshipped (12:27), and obeyed the commands (12:28).

The events unfolded exactly as God foretold. After Pharaoh’s own son died (12:29), he summoned Moses and Aaron and told them to leave the country (12:30-32). The exodus officially started (12:33-42). The chapter closes with instructions about how to celebrate the Passover in future generations (12:43-51).

I find it fascinating to compare the Old Testament Passover with the cross of Christ in the New Testament.

Principles

Old Testament Passover

New Testament Passover

Instruction to sacrifice

“Take a lamb . . . and kill it.”

(Exodus 12:3, 6)

“Behold, the Lord of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Condition of sacrifice “Your lamb shall be without blemish.”

(Exodus 12:5)

“. . . the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

(1 Peter 1:19)

Application of sacrifice

“. . . take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses.”

(Exodus 12:7)

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

(Acts 4:12)

Reason for sacrifice “I will execute judgment.”

(Exodus 12:12)

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

(Hebrews 9:27)

Result of sacrifice

“When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you.”

(Exodus 12:13)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

(Romans 8:1)

Remember the sacrifice “This day shall be for you a memorial day.”

(Exodus 12:14)

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

(1 Corinthians 11:24, 25)

“For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7b)

(Chart adapted from Walk Thru the Bible Old Testament Live Event)

Like Israel, each one of us must make the choice as to whether or not we will obey God’s instructions and place the blood of Jesus over the doorposts of our hearts.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 30, 2017. It is part of a series of messages on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Why trust when you can worry?

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in Quotes, Tim Challies

 

Pastoral humor

While I would not want the job description of Isaiah or Jeremiah, I would like to have their stubbornness and stick-to-it-tive-ness. I much prefer a congregation that says “Yes” and is committed to obedience, growth, and ministry.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Ministry, Peanuts

 

Fun with Photoshop

Our youngest daughter lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, which has recently experienced quite a bit of rain and flooding. She sent us a link of a photographer who decided to have some fun in the rain. Christchurch photographer Sarah Webber’s photoshopped flood pictures are very creative and fun.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in New Zealand, News stories, Photos

 

The Best Fellowship

The best fellowship does not come during a church greeting time, potluck dinner, coffee & donuts in the fellowship hall session, dinners for six, or any other social gathering. The best fellowship comes as you serve alongside someone. The richest fellowship comes as you serve together and say, “Look what God did!” The best fellowship comes as you work side by side during a mission trip. Rather than being an end goal, the best fellowship is a byproduct that you experience as you labor together in the cause of Christ.

Over the past month, we’ve experienced intergenerational fellowship within our children’s ministry. Last month during our Awana Camp, we had a college student nurse working alongside two experienced RNs. We had a mom and a dad leading cabins alongside teenagers. Our worship team was composed of young parents, high school, and college students. During Camp KidConnect last week, we had teenagers and college students serving alongside retirees. At the end of the week, a businessman who took the week off work to serve giving a hug to his middle school co-crew leader. Our “pie fellowship” (whipped cream pie in the face) lineup included teens, college students, moms, dad, grandfathers, and a 62-year-old pastor.

The best fellowship comes as you pray together, serve together, worship together, and proclaim together, “Look what God did through us!” As church leaders, we need to get people out of the pew, out of the potluck line, out of the classroom, out of the coffee klatch, and onto a ministry team. It is there they will discover what true fellowship looks and feels like.

And with that, I will step off my soapbox. 😉

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Plague of a Hard Heart

The comic strip Prickly City poses some questions many of us struggle with.

These questions most definitely lie behind the events described in Exodus 7-10, the first nine of the 10 Plagues.

As you read through the Bible, you discover four eras of great miracles—Moses & Joshua, Elijah & Elisha, Jesus & the Apostles, and the two witnesses in Revelation 11. The first and the fourth eras were heavy in judgments on the earth. Following each of these wrath-storms, God ushered in a new era of peace and a deeper relationship with himself.

The most pressing “Why?” question surrounding the plagues is, “Why were the plagues necessary?”

God predicted the plagues (Exodus 3:19-20). Rather than being an afterthought or reactionary move, the plagues were part of God’s plan and strategy explained to Moses at the burning bush.

Pharaoh’s nature required the plagues (Exodus 5:2). Pharaoh was stubborn and hard hearted. He had to be convinced and learn the hard way to submit to God’s plan.

The plagues were judgments on the gods of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12). Each one of the plagues was aimed at a god or goddess worshipped by the Egyptians. Together, the plagues demonstrated that Yahweh was the only God worthy to be worshipped.

The plagues affected all the Egyptians. The whole nation suffered as a result of Pharaoh’s callus, obstinate response to the Lord.

The plagues were designed to redeem Israel from slavery so that they could serve and worship God (Exodus 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 7-8, 11, 24, 26).

The plagues were designed to convince both Israel and the Egyptians of God’s presence (Exodus 6:10-12; 7:4-5; 10:2).

God’s grace is evident in the plagues. The plagues occurred over a period of 9-10 months. The first one occurred in July/August when the Nile rises. The seventh plague occurred in January when barley ripens and flax blossoms. The prevailing east winds in March or April brought the eighth plagues. The tenth plague occurred in April. The long period of time, with intervals in between gave the Egyptians more than enough time to repent.

Here are several principles to keep in mind as you consider the 10 plagues: (1) When God judges, he is thorough. (2) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (3) Don’t reject God’s warnings. (4) When God blesses, he holds nothing back. (5) God protects his people, even in difficult times.

God demonstrates his power so that people might know him and worship him.

This is the synopsis of a message delivered at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 23, 2017. It is part of a series on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.