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Monthly Archives: March 2018

All Hail King Jesus

Spring is the season of expectations.

In MLB baseball, every team starts out in first place, believing that this is their year. In the NFL, teams prepare for the draft, hoping they get the right player to help put them into the Super Bowl.

Around the house, people begin their spring cleaning to declutter the storage room or clean out the garage. Others plant flowers and resolve to rid their lawn of crabgrass, moss, or dandelions.

Palm Sunday is a day that is all about expectations. The king is coming and he is going to make changes. We tend to think of Palm Sunday as a day of celebration. We have children waving palm branches. We sing songs of praise. But after the confetti settles, what are we left with? Is the king on his throne? Do we all live happily ever after?

Not hardly.

The reality is that Palm Sunday is a declaration of war, not a day of celebration. The king throws down the gauntlet and pushes for a confrontation. Palm Sunday is a day when expectations clash head on.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus Christ presents his claim to be the Messiah. He introduces his credentials. He orchestrates events that fulfill the Scriptures. He calls attention to himself and challenges the religious establishment. This was the only time in his ministry when Jesus actually planned and promoted a public demonstration. Up to this event, he had cautioned people not to tell who he was. He had deliberately avoided public scenes.

Now, Jesus throws down the gauntlet. He publicly presents his credentials. The responses he receives range from praise and adoration to statements of personal expectations to outright resistance and disrespect.

Three events immediately precede Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and help explain what occurs. (1) For the third time, Jesus predicts his imminent death (Matthew 20:17-19). (2) In a discussion on rank and privilege, Jesus explains that greatness is based on service (Matthew 20:20-28). (3) In a nation of spiritually blind people, Jesus gives sight and salvation to the blind (Matthew 20:29-34).

Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is one of the few events of his life recorded in all four gospels. By weaving them together, one can gain a composite view of the chronology of the events that took place on that day.

Jesus makes preparations for his entrance into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-3, 6, 7a; Mark 11:1-7a; Luke 19:28-35a; John 12:2, 12). As Jesus departs from Bethany, he sends two of his disciples into a small village, Bethphage. He gives them detailed instructions in order to enable them to fetch a donkey on which he plans to ride into Jerusalem. The disciples carry out Christ’s command.

Jesus starts riding toward Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4, 5, 7; Mark 11:7b; Luke 19:35b; John 12:14, 15). The disciples throw their garments on both of the animals, and when it becomes clear that Jesus wishes to ride upon the colt, they assist him in mounting it. Jesus starts riding toward Jerusalem. Jesus is deliberately staging the manner of his entrance into Jerusalem to fulfill the prophetic expectations of Zechariah 9:9.

People accompanying Jesus from Bethany spread their outer garments on the path, while others cut branches from the trees to help pave the way (Matthew 21:8; Mark 11:8; Luke 19:36). Between the garments and the branches, they are giving Jesus the “red carpet treatment.”

Pilgrims already in Jerusalem who had heard about the raising of Lazarus join in the celebration (John 12:1, 12, 13a, 18). The crowds in Jerusalem pour out of the city to join with those on the road to welcome the Messiah.

As the two groups meet, the enthusiasm mounts (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9, 10; Luke 19:37, 38; John 12:13b). As the crowd moved along, they shouted words of praise, celebrating the arrival of Israel’s Savior, the Messiah-King. Hosanna is literally a plea to “save now.”

The excitement reaches a climax as those who had seen the resurrection of Lazarus bear testimony (John 12:7).

Beside themselves with envy, the Pharisees appeal to Jesus to stop the celebration (Luke 19:39, 40).

As Jesus sees the city of Jerusalem, he weeps (Luke 19:41-44). Jesus knows that the praise will soon turn to scorn and the voices crying, “Hosanna!” will soon be shouting, “Crucify him!”

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the entire city is stirred (Matthew 21:10, 11; Mark 11:11, 12). Everyone is asking, “Who is this?”

On Palm Sunday, the question is asked, “Who is Jesus?” (Matthew 21:10). Some think he is the Messiah (Matthew 21:9). Others believe he is just a prophet (Matthew 21:11). What the people missed is that Jesus had already presented his credentials.

  • Jesus is the suffering servant who will die for his people.
  • He has power over sickness and death.
  • Jesus is omniscient, knowing all.
  • He is Lord of all. He fulfills prophecy.
  • He is the king who brings peace.
  • He accepts worship.
  • He is compassionate.

Palm Sunday declares boldly that Jesus is the Sovereign King who brings Salvation.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 25, 2018. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Speaking up about the ills of society

Book Review: A Call for Courage: Living with Power, Truth, and Love in an Age of Intolerance and Fear, by Michael Anthony

Far too many Christ followers are afraid to address the ills of society. They cower in the corner and hide from the attacks of the world. Rather than circle the wagons, pastor and author Michael Anthony believes we need to sit up, stand up, and speak out. He wants to mobilize and equip followers of Christ to walk by faith rather than by fear. That is the theme of his book, A Call for Courage: Living with Power, Truth, and Love in an Age of Intolerance and Fear.

In the first few chapters, the author addresses some of the areas where Christianity and moral values are under attack. He speaks about intolerance, religious freedom, sexual orientation, mind control, haters, and other societal issues. Rather than presenting points and counterpoints, his approach is to stress how to speak the truth in love. While speaking out about our convictions, we should do it in a winsome manner.

The strength of the book is in chapter 12, “Battle Plan,” where he describes 20 methods or strategies to stand up and speak out about issues of concern. Each chapter ends with a list of “Courageous Humility in Action,” practical ideas you can implement in daily life. The final chapter aims at “cultivating a courageous, humble church.”

The weakness of the book is that much of his ideas on based on his personal experience in how he addressed the issues. While encouraging, the reader might feel like they cannot identify with what he is doing. He also invites readers to participate in his movement, the national week of repentance, and his website couragematters.com.

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 March 23, 2018 in Books, Culture

 
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Enough grace for today

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2018 in Health, Scripture

 

Clean Hearts in a Dirty World

Is holiness possible today?

We might agree that holiness is an essential characteristic of God. We might also agree that Scripture says that we are to be holy. But if we are honest, we don’t think that we can ever be holy ourselves.

When it comes to holiness, there are many misconceptions. We have the idea that holy people are religious fanatics, and we don’t want to be thought of as “holier-than-thou.” We believe that a lifestyle of holiness will cause us to be miserable. Former quarterback Joe Theismann allegedly explained to his soon-to-be-ex second wife why he had an affair: “God wants Joe Theismann to be happy.” Holy people are hypocrites, or so we believe. A hypocritical Boston tycoon once told Mark Twain, “Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the top of Mount Sinai in the Holy Land and read the Ten Commandments aloud.” “Why don’t you stay right home in Boston,” suggested Twain, “and keep them?”

Scripture calls us to live holy lives. In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we are told to set our hope on Christ and live a holy life. I don’t believe God sets us up for failure. If he gives us a command, it is with the expectation that it is possible to do it.

Verse 13 begins with the word, “Therefore …” I was always told that anytime you see the word, “therefore,” you need to find out what it is “there for.” What Peter is saying is that in light of our great salvation (1-12), we are to live differently. Salvation should have an impact on our lives. In fact, Peter points out five areas where salvation changes how we live.

  • Mental outlook (1:13). We are to set our hope solely on God.
  • Lifestyle (1:14-16). We are to live holy lives.
  • Worship (1:17-21). We are to live life governed by reverence for God.
  • Relationships (1:22-25). We are to love one another.
  • Spiritual disciplines (2:1-3). We are to be nourished by spiritual food.

Today, we are looking at the first two areas. We will examine the remaining three areas after Easter.

Mental Outlook (1:13). We are to set our hope solely on God. Peter begins with the idea of having a steadfast hope. This is much more than a wishing well kind of hope. “I hope it doesn’t snow this week. I hope my team wins the World Series.” It is a confident expectation of what God is going to do. By linking it to verses 1-12, Peter is saying that on the basis of what happened when Christ came the first time, we are to put our full confidence in what will take place when he comes again.

We are to act like we mean business. We are to prepare our minds for action. It literally says, “gird up the loins of your mind.” It pictures someone wearing a long garment. If they wanted to move quickly or run, they would gather up the garment and tuck it into their belt. Today, we might say, “Roll up your sleeves and get to work.” We are to have a sense of intentionality about how we think. We need to gather all the random, disparate thoughts and focus them on God and his kingdom.

John Brown, a 19th Century Scottish theologian said, “Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervours, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wils.”

In addition, we are to be sober-minded and avoid mental intoxication. Rather than live a life of self-indulgence, we are to live discipline and self-controlled lives.

What distracts you from focusing on God? Are there other things that you place your hope in? If you really believed Christ would return today, how would you live? Wrestling with these types of questions will help us to focus our thoughts and hope squarely on Christ.

Lifestyle (1:14-16). We are to live holy lives. Holiness refers to purity or moral integrity. It involves separation from all that is morally impure and evil. It is dedication to a life of righteousness. As these verses explain, God has called us to a life of holiness. It is NOT optional.

Rather than command us to be obedient, Peter says we are to act like obedient children. In essence, we have an obedient nature and should act in light of that.

We are to actively resist our own temptations. Rather than be controlled by our desires, we are to control them. As unbelievers, we were ignorant of God’s standards. Now that we know better, we should live differently.

Holiness should permeate every aspect of our being. We are to be holy in the classroom, on the playground, at work, at home, in our workplace, in our schools, in our homes. Holiness should pervade every area of our lives and personalities.

In pursuing holiness, we demonstrate the family resemblance. God is the ultimate model of holiness and we are called to be like him.

As we evaluate our lives, we should ask ourselves several questions. Does this activity conform to the character of God? Is it the natural outcome of a life that has benefited from salvation? Will it stand up to God’s scrutiny in that final day when we stand before his presence?

We are to set our hope on Christ and live holy lives.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 18, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Shine brightly

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2018 in 1 Peter, Maine, Quotes

 

Questionable recruiting

I received this email note last night.

Hi Mark,

I’m Steve, CEO of Restless Bandit, and we work with companies to find top talent. We saw that you have experience as a Senior Pastor at First Central Baptist Church. Our matching algorithms identified you as a great candidate for Davisville Church’s open position: Youth Pastor. Your skills and background make you a great match; if you’re interested, you can see the job description and find all the details to apply here.

If you want to learn more about me you can check out my LinkedIn profile by searching for Steve Goodman or by clicking here. You can also learn more about Restless Bandit by checking out our press page here.

We want to bring you the best jobs. If this was not a good match, update your information here so we can improve your results.

Thanks for your consideration!

All the best,

Steve Goodman

CEO, Restless Bandit

33 New Montgomery Street

San Francisco, CA 94105

P.S. To ensure you continue receiving great job opportunities, please add us to your trusted senders.

I’m not sure what algorithm they are using, but I certainly question the accuracy. 1) After 14 years as a Senior Pastor, why would I want to be a Youth Pastor? 2) Who would want to hire a 63-year-old youth pastor anyway? 3) Their info is not correct since we changed the name of the church to First Central Bible Church almost two years ago. This tells me their research is not accurate and doesn’t give me much confidence in the rest of their note.

Needless to say, I unsubscribed from their mailing list.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2018 in Ministry, Personal growth

 

Russia 2018 – March update

It is now less than four weeks before I leave for Russia. While I don’t have a completely clean bill of health quite yet, both my primary care physician and my surgeon said that there is nothing preventing me from traveling. The blood clot(s) in my calf are still present. My primary care physician is changing my medication and sending me to a specialist. He did say, however, that it shouldn’t be an issue for me while traveling.

I continue with PT (physical therapy) twice a week and I do 45-60 minutes of exercises & stretching 2-3 times a day to rebuild the strength in my leg. I am now using a cane to walk. Several times a week I either go into the church’s gym and walk 2-3 laps or go to a local mall and walk the length of it.

A study of the book of Revelation appears to be very popular as the classes are starting to fill up. 23 students are registered for the first week in Anapa. They will come from Anapa, Pyatigorsk (9 hours to the south), and Crimea (a long bus, ferry, and bus ride). I haven’t heard yet on the class in Elista, but I anticipate it will be packed as well.

Praises

  • The trip is fully funded!
  • The travel arrangements are all made.
  • I received my visa.
  • My leg/hip is getting stronger!

Prayer requests

  • Greater insight and understanding of the book of Revelation.
  • Complete recovery and full health and strength in my leg/hip.
  • Be able to walk without the cane by end of March.
  • Blood clot(s) in calf completely gone.
  • Be able to travel without limitations.
  • Safety and protection for those who will attend the classes.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement. I’m in your debt.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2018 in Ministry, Missions, Prayer, Russia