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Monthly Archives: May 2018

Listening to Sermons

The natural tendency when listening to a sermon is to think:

  • Boy, too bad so-and-so isn’t here. They really need to hear this. Maybe I’ll get a CD and give it to them.
  • Who does the pastor think he is talking about this topic? He is not perfect either!
  • When is church going to be over? I wonder what’s for lunch.

Instead, our first thought should be, “God, what do you want to me to learn from this message? What do you want to teach me about yourself? About myself? About your plan? How do you want me to respond to your Word?”

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Preaching

 

Church prayer lists

In his book, Word Centered Church: How Scripture Brings Life and Growth to God’s People, author Jonathan Leeman includes a chapter, “The Church Prays.” He opens the chapter with a rather convicting (and accurate) observation.

A church’s prayer list will tell you a lot about that church and its members. Many church prayer lists that I’ve seen look like this:

Don’t forget to pray for… The Mason twins’ laryngitis … The senior ladies’ Sunday school bake sale … The Thomases’ sale of their home … The youth group’s car wash … The Robinsons, our missionaries in Ecuador … Summer jobs for our high school students … Bill’s pneumonia … Bill’s aunt’s double-pneumonia … Unspoken requests

When I first arrived in Kentucky for seminary, I joined a small Baptist church that had a prayer list much like this one. The vast majority of items were health requests (I’ve underrepresented the percentage here). Few of the items were relevant to the church as a whole, except for one of two “ministry” requests, like a missionary known only to the one member of the missions’ committee. And the person who read the list in our church’s Wednesday night prayer services never failed to have us raise our hands for “unspoken requests.”

This last category amazed me. If you’re not going to share the request, so that the church can own it with you, what good is acknowledging an “unspoken request”?

In fact, I think this category reveals something about how many churches and Christians view prayer. Prayer is a mechanism for inducing the Almighty to do what you want, and it’s essentially a private exercise.

J. I. Packer is surely right when he says that “prayer is the measure of a man, spiritually, in a way that nothing else is.” Our prayers reveal what our hearts want. They reveal how we regard God, His glory, and His power. And they reveal the quality and measure of faith—do we pray often and carefully, or not much at all?

The same must be true of a church’s prayers. They reveal what a church truly values, and where it places its hope.

Ouch! As uncomfortable as it may be to admit it, I think he has touched on a truth. As individuals and as a corporate body, we need to reexamine what we pray for and how we pray.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Books, Church, Prayer, Quotes

 

Death is so unnatural

In my lifetime, I have buried my father, brother, mother, two hamsters, and one cat. I’ve also presided over 50 funerals of children and adults. In addition, I’ve attended a number of memorial and graveside services.

As we were driving home from the vet when we put our cat to sleep, I was struck with the thought, Death is so unnatural.

God originally wanted us to live forever. The Garden of Eden contained both the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and sinned, God sent them out of the garden lest they eat of the tree of life and live forever in a sinful state (Genesis 3:22-24).

When God recreates the world in the new heaven and new earth, one of the things he does away with is death (Revelation 21:4). Death brings with it tears, mourning, crying, and pain. All of those will be removed when God establishes the new heaven and new earth. The tree of life will be present in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:2).

Death and funerals are unnatural. They are one of the consequences of sin. One day they will gone. One more reason to long for Jesus’ return and joining him in heaven.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2018 in Heaven, Scripture

 

Living Proof

Imagine that you work for a PR firm. You have been assigned the task of rebranding a group with a questionable background. In the past, they have been accused of cannibalism, immorality & incest, atheism, political disloyalty, arson, splitting families, destroying the economy, and inciting rebellion among workers. What would you do to change their image?

When Plato was told that certain individual was making slanderous charges against him, Plato’s response was: “I will live in such a way that no one will believe what he says.”

Plato’s response is similar to the advice given by the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 2:11-12. He was well aware that Christians were accused of many things, including those charges mentioned in the first paragraph. Peter’s advice to the first century believers and to us as well is to live in such a way that unbelievers will be convinced and God will be glorified.

These two verse serve as a bridge between the opening section of the book on salvation (1:1-2:12) and the following section on submission (2:13-3:12). Not only do these verses describe the mission of the church, but they help us to understand how we are to submit as individuals to God’s plan. Verse 11 presents the instruction negatively while verse 12 states it positively.

Live like a Foreigner (11a). Rather than issue a command, Peter appeals to our sense of what is right. He comes alongside as a friend rather than as an apostle. He reminds us that since this world is not our true home, we must resist the temptation to “go native.” We must travel light and not adopt the values of the culture in which we find ourselves.

Live a Disciplined Life (11b). Like Odysseus, we must resist the siren song of the world. The world encourages us to pursue pleasure, nurse grudges, be materialistic, harbor jealousy, champion individualism, become cynical and critical, pursue selfish ambition, and follow the gods of sex, money, and power. We must remember that we are in a spiritual battle and these desires wage war and attack our souls. We must stand firm and resist.

Live a “Good” Life (12a). Keep in mind that unsaved people are constantly watching to see how we live and respond to the events of life. A “good life” is composed of good deeds. Do you have a solid marriage? Are your children respectful? Are you a good employee? Do you pay your bills on time? Do you act honestly? Are you a good neighbor? These questions help to define what excellent, honorable behavior looks like.

Live Convincingly (12b). We must realize that our lives are an advertisement for Christianity. While we may be accused of wrongdoing, we should live in such a way that unbelievers will be convinced and God will be glorified. The “day of visitation” could refer to a time when God brings judgment on the wicked or when he brings mercy and salvation to his people. In terms of good works, serve your neighbors, organize a block watch, be a tutor at a local school, serve as a sports coach, help out at a crisis pregnancy care center or a homeless shelter, or become a volunteer at a senior center.

Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf was a leader of the Protestant mission movement in the 18th Century. He established the Order of the Mustard Seed with the following guiding principles: (1) Be kind to all people. (2) Seek their welfare. (3) Win them to Christ.

Live a godly life in order to prove your salvation is real.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 27, 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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Unanswered prayer

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2018 in Prayer, Quotes, Tim Challies

 
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Don’t get too comfortable

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2018 in 1 Peter, Scripture

 

Farewell, Mittens

This morning, Carol and I said “Goodbye” to our beloved cat, Mittens. She came to my mom in 2003 as a kitten. When mom passed away in 2005, we joked that Mittens was part of “the estate.” We had her for the past 13 years. She traveled up & down the west coast twice and cross country once. Once small enough to fit in a bathroom sink, she grew into a large cat. She even made her appearance in the annual family Christmas photo. Though much loved, she declined physically in the past month to where we had to make the difficult decision to say “Goodbye.” Mittens was much loved and will be much missed.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2018 in Family & Friends, Photos