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Monthly Archives: October 2017

Trunk ‘R Treat 2017

Trunk ‘R Treat is First Central Bible Church‘s annual community outreach on Halloween. We provide a safe, fun environment where families can come for candy, hot chocolate, hot cider, and games. This year we added four stations where we told the gospel story from creation to fall to redemption to restoration. It was a very good evening with lots of families in attendance. Thanks to all who made it a success.

 
 

Honest lessons about life and business

Book Review: Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, by Chip Gaines

If you are a fan of the HGTV reality show, Fixer Upper, you will enjoy reading Chip Gaines book, Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff. Chip shares honest and humorous stories about his successes and failures in life and business.

The book is divided into three parts. In Part 1: A Time to Learn, Chip shares about his background. He tells stories about growing up, playing baseball, juggling three businesses in college, and lessons he and his wife, Joanna learned in the early years of their dating and marriage. In Part 2: A Time to Grow, he tells stories about how they got started in retail, remodeling houses, and fell into reality TV. He also explains how the town of Waco, Texas, helped shape his identity and approach to life. in Part 3: A Time to Build, Chip talks about where they are headed in the future, including why they are ending their popular TV show after the current season. He challenges his readers to pursue their own dreams and how he does that with his employees.

Rather than being a book about business principles, it is more about life lessons and how to invest in and take a chance on yourself. The book is entertaining and encouraging.

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 October 31, 2017 in Books, TV

 

Taking anonymous criticism to a new low

I’ve received a variety of anonymous notes criticizing me over the years. The package that arrived in today’s mail with $.42 due for postage takes the cake!

I guess I’m doing something right when the enemy uses others to try to discourage me.

Definitely an odd sense of timing that this arrives at the end of “Pastor Appreciation Month.” Pardon my sarcasm.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2017 in Criticism

 

Count Your Days to Make Your Days Count

How many days do you have left on planet earth? 50 years? 10 years? 6 months? 25 days? How will you use your time? How will you invest your days for the kingdom of God?

Moses was no stranger to conducting funerals. Over the course of 40 years of wilderness wanderings, he buried 1.2 million people. It comes out to one funeral every 17 minutes; over 82 funerals each day for 40 years.

Spending time with death gives you a unique perspective about life. In Psalm 90, which was written by Moses, he encourages us to count your days to make your days count. He communicates this theme in three movements.

Man is immortal, but God is eternal (1-6). If we want to characterize someone as old, we say they are older than the hills. Moses pictures the oldest object he can imagine, the mountains, and recognizes that God is older still. He has no beginning or end (2). Throughout the generations, people have found him to be a welcoming presence (1).

While our soul may be immortal, our lives are relatively short (4-6). We came from dirt and will return to that form. Even if we live as long as Methuselah who reached 969 years, our lives are a blip on the timeline of eternity. We are like a page on a calendar, a 3-4 hour night watch, a puddle after a rainstorm, or a short dream. Like the grass, we are here today and tomorrow in the compost heap.

Life is short because of sin (7-11). As sinful people, we live under the wrath of God (7, 9, 11). Our days are brief and filled with pain and sorrow. While we may put on a mask and hide from each other, God knows the secret sins of our hearts (8). Life on earth is brief, even for God’s best (10).

Because sin mars our lives, we need help to enjoy any kind of significance or success. Consequently, Moses begs, “God, help me count my days to make my days count” (12-17).

Moses asks God for four things:

  • “Give me wisdom” (12). Moses asks God for a sense of perspective about the shortness of life.
  • “Give me mercy” (13). Moses recognizes he desperately needs God’s help.
  • “Give me joy” (14-15). Enduring a dark night of the soul, Moses longs for joy just as a night watchman looks for the sunrise.
  • “Give me success” (16-17). Moses asks for sense of success and significance.

The movie, Papillon (1973), starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. It told the story of two prisoners in the French penal system who were sentenced to Devil’s Island. Throughout the movie, Steve McQueen’s character proclaims his innocence. Towards the end of the film, there is a dream sequence where stands before a judge. The judge declares him guilty and McQueen continues to proclaim his innocence. The judge states, “I accuse you of a wasted life.” McQueen drops his head and says, “Guilty. Guilty.”

Each of us should ask God the question, “What do you want to do with my life? Where should I invest my time?”

Count your days to make your days count.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 29, 2017. It is the final message in a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Replace our sorrow with joy

Psalm 90:15 – Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.

I was teaching a two-week course in the Bryansk Bible Institute in February 1997. The school met in a large Baptist Church in Bryansk, Russia, about 250 miles southwest of Moscow. In between class sessions, I wandered through the church to look at the facility. I noticed this verse from Psalm 90 painted on the front wall of the sanctuary. Curious about the significance, I asked for the backstory.

The church was heavily persecuted during the Communist era. At one point, the church was closed and used as a storage warehouse. The congregation petitioned the local officials to allow them to reopen the church. The local officials said, “No.” The people petitioned the officials in Moscow, who said, “Yes.”

The congregation cleared out the church and began meeting again for worship. The local KGB officials decided to close the church permanently. On a fateful evening, the congregation gathered inside the church for worship. The KGB officials gathered outside the church and threatened the people inside. The local community heard what was taking place and came and formed a ring around the KGB officials. What followed was a time of antiphonal praise as the people inside the church sang one verse of a hymn and the community outside the building sang the next verse.

Eventually, the KGB officials had enough and called for the local fire department to bring their fire engines to disperse the crowd with water cannons. They then brought in bulldozers and hooked chains to the church walls and tore the building to the ground.

A few days later, word came from Moscow to leave the church alone. As the people tell the story, within one month, all the KGB officials had died from unnatural causes. The church saw it as the judgment of God.

For some time, the church met in homes. In the mid-90’s, they received official approval to rebuild the church. I saw a video of the dedication ceremony in 1996 where they carried the Bible from the old house church to the new facility and the congregation and community paraded behind with shouts of joy.

They painted Psalm 90:15 on the front wall of the church, asking God to replace their years of sorrow with years of joy.

After hearing the backstory, all I could say was, “Wow! Praise God!”

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Psalms, Russia, Scripture

 
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Keep the sea out of the ship

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2017 in Church, Quotes, Tim Challies

 

Squirrel!

I believe I’ve attended some meetings like this. I know I’ve preached a sermon or three that ended abruptly due to a squirrel showing up. 😉

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Non-Sequitur

 

Making sense of contemporary Islam

Book Review: Muslim: What You Need to Know About the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion, by Hank Hanegraaff

Is Islam a religion of peace? Does culture under an Islamic caliphate outshine culture under Christianity? Does Islam blend church and state or keep them separate? Is Islam a threat to the west? What do we need to know to understand Islam?

Hank Hanegraaf serves as president of Christian Research Institute (CRI) and hosts the internationally syndicated Bible Answer Man broadcast and the Hank Unplugged podcast. In his latest book, Muslim: What You Need to Know About the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion, the author seeks to provide insight into the many questions surrounding Islam.

In the Introduction, the author states,

Islam is the only significant religious system in the history of the human race with a sociopolitical structure of laws that mandate violence against the infidel. This graphic global reality makes Islam a religious ideology espousing terrorism as a permanent policy rather than as a temporary expedient. Such is historical reality, from the early seventh-century Medina massacres to the 9/11 twenty-first century Manhattan massacre and beyond.

The current narrative is that to tell the truth in this regard is tantamount to radicalizing Muslims and exacerbating hostilities that may otherwise lie dormant. A common refrain has reverberated throughout the West: “Islam is not our adversary.”

Still later in the Introduction, the author asks,

Are such acts of terrorism a function of a hijacked religion, or is this what we should expect from authentic Islam? … Is it possible to attribute the reality of millions of peace-loving Muslims to a sort of cognitive dissonance that allows them to enjoy their teachings and traditions despite the bloody history in which they were forged? Could it be that what they wish were true about their religion isn’t actually so?

To answers these questions, the author uses a series of acrostics to explain the facts about Islam. He codified the fact around the acronym M-U-S-L-I-M.

  • M – Muhammad: From rages to riches to radicalization. The author takes a close look at the life and legacy of Islam’s quintessential man.
  • U – Unreliable Revelations: The emperor has no clothes. The author points out the discrepancies in the Qur’an. He shows that the Qur’an sanctions murder, adultery, stealing, false testimony, and coveting.
  • S – Sharia is state and state is sharia. Rather than being a sanitized religion in the Western sense of the word, Islam is a comprehensive socioeconomic-political juggernaut riding on the rails of sharia. One of the core values of sharia is inequality for women.
  • L – Levant: Crossroads of world history. The Levant is a land-bridge linking three continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa). The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem reflects Islam’s unmistakable message—Islam is the culmination of Judaism and Christianity, and Muhammad is the climax of the prophets.
  • I – Islamic State: Return of the caliphate. The author explains that Islamic State is a moniker not only emblematic of a twenty-first-century terror network but is indicative of the way of Muhammad.
  • M – Major Muslim Misapprehensions. To explain the differences between Christian and Islamic beliefs, the author employs another acrostic—D-O-C-T-R-I-N-E. He explains what Christianity and Islam believe about the Deity of Christ, Original sin, the divine Canon or doctrine of Scripture, Trinity, Resurrection, the Incarnation, New Creation or doctrine of salvation, and Eschatology or the doctrine about future things.

The book is thoroughly researched and well written. It is well worth the read.

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 October 24, 2017 in Books, Culture

 

Building Renovation Proposal

During yesterday’s meeting at First Central Bible Church, the elders introduced a proposal to renovate our facility.

Here is a pdf version of the PowerPoint slides that will give you a better understanding of the scope of the project.

Here is the brochure that was handed out at the conclusion of the meeting.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2017 in First Central Bible Church

 

When You Come to the Fork in the Road

Life is filled with many choices. Some are very easy. Paper or plastic? Coffee or tea? Soup or salad? AM or FM? Some are more challenging. Do you act now or wait? Do you make a commitment or keep your options open? Some choices are life altering. College? Career? Marriage? Family?

At every fork in the road, we have to decide if we will walk by sight or by faith. We have to decide if we will follow Christ or not.

As significant of a leader as Moses was, there are no tombs in Egypt where he is buried. There are no monuments erected to honor him. This is in large part because of the choices Moses made during his lifetime.

Hebrews 11:23-29 explains that Moses faced five significant crossroads of faith. He faced five major choices that altered the direction of his life. Would his parents follow the world? Would he accept the sinful? Would he choose a comfortable life? Would he settle for status quo? Would he leave a legacy?

By faith, Moses’ parents resisted the pressure of the world (23). Every parent thinks their child is the most beautiful, gifted child in the world. Moses’ parents were no exception. They thought God had great plans in store for their son. Because of that, they stood against the edict of Pharaoh and refused to put Moses to death. In doing so, they provided Moses with an example to follow.

By faith, Moses refused the sinful (24-26). We are told that when Moses was 40 years old, he refused … choosing … considered. If you take those statements in reverse order, you notice that Moses considered the alternatives—Egyptian family or Israelite family; pleasure or mistreatment; treasure or reward; short-term gain or long-lasting benefits; pursue sin or follow Christ. Moses made a deliberate choice to identify with God and his plans and then walked away from the sinful pleasures of Egypt.

By faith, Moses left the familiar (27). After his encounter with God in the burning bush, Moses was tasked with leading Israel out of Egypt and back to the Promised Land. His faith helped him see reality. Pharaoh may be the most powerful man on earth, but Yahweh was the most powerful being in the universe. Pharaoh might make his life miserable now, but God offered rewards in eternity. Pharaoh might think he is in charge, but God is ultimately in control. Recognizing the truth helped Moses leave behind a comfortable lifestyle and instead endure a difficult challenge which God called him to.

By faith, Moses did the unusual (28). If your neighbors painted their house bright pink, you might chalk it up to being eccentric. But what if they painted their home with blood? That’s what Israel was asked to do in the Passover, put the blood of the lamb on the doorpost and lintel of the house. Moses and Israel took a step of faith and trusted God’s plan, and that action spared them from death on that fateful night.

By faith, Moses inspired a nation (29). Moses’ choices to follow God set the example for the nation of Israel. They followed him through the Red Sea and on to the border of the Promised Land.

What choices are you facing today? Will you walk by sight or by faith? Whom will you choose to follow? Make the choice to follow Christ.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 22, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2017 in Uncategorized