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Monthly Archives: November 2018

Preaching that Connects

Preachers must know the Scriptures and their audience. They must know what they are saying and whom they are saying it to. That is the advice and counsel I received in seminary classes, books, and preaching workshops.

“Have you been following me around? How did you know I needed to hear your message today?” “Have you been stalking me? What you said today spoke to my heart.” Comments like these encourage me that I must be doing something right and that the Scriptures are touching people where they live.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2018 in Encouragement, Preaching

 

What will people remember about me?

I have officiated and/or attended a countless number of funerals during my lifetime. I have conducted memorial services for family, friends, members of the congregation, and strangers I’ve never met. I have led services within our church and for local funeral homes who had a client that desired a clergy member for the event.

During these services, I have heard funny stories, whispers of regret, thought provoking comments, empty phrases, and polite comments. I have witnessed people who praised the dearly departed’s cooking ability and flower arrangements. I have heard tales about their gracious manner, witty repartees, and insightful comments. Still others told stories about their loved ones’ generosity, helpful gestures, and winsome personality. I have laughed, cried, felt somber, been joyful, and experienced every emotion in between.

On many occasions, I have left the service feeling that their loved one must have been a wonderful, delightful person. But I wondered, did they love Jesus? If so, why didn’t anyone speak about their faith?

When it comes time for my funeral, what will people remember about me? Will they talk about who I was or what I did? Will they focus on my character or my behavior? Will they tell funny stories? Will they speak of what I taught or events I planned? Will anyone comment on my faith? Will they say that I loved Jesus?

Perhaps I should be more intentional about how I live now rather than leave my legacy to chance. Maybe I need to model the qualities that I want people to remember about me.

What will people remember about you? What legacy do you want to leave?

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2018 in Funerals, Personal growth

 

Is “Be Yourself” good advice?

Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy has the words, “BE YOU” printed on his play sheet.

While running errands, I passed a church where the banner, “Be Yourself” was prominently displayed out in front of the church.

Is “Be Yourself” good advice?

During one of the NFL games featuring the Chicago Bears, the sideline reporter made a point of explaining the “BE YOU” instruction. If I remember correctly, it was a reminder from the coach’s daughter (?) that he got the head coaching job by being himself rather than trying to be a different person. In that sense, “Be you” is probably good advice. An NFL coach needs to model authenticity and integrity.

However, “Be Yourself,” strikes me as inappropriate for a church slogan. If I understand Scripture correctly, I am called to “Be holy.” It is one of the foundational principles of the Old Testament law. Not only was it required of the priests (Leviticus 21:6, 8), it was also required of each member of the nation of Israel (Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; Numbers 15:40). Holiness was an essential characteristic of those who were devoted to God and took on the vow of a Nazirite (Numbers 6:5). Because God lived in their midst, the nation was to be holy (Deuteronomy 23:14).

Lest we think that holiness was only an Old Testament concept and is not binding today, the command is repeated several times in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16). God has called Christ followers to be holy (Ephesians 1:4). Husbands should disciple their wives so as to present them as holy to the Lord (Ephesians 5:27).

Based on what the Bible says, the Christian life should be one of progress and growth towards greater holiness. If I am content to be myself, I will never rise above my own sinful nature. I will never strive to be more life Jesus Christ.

As a pastor, I should not encourage Christ followers to “be yourself.” I should encourage them to “be holy.” That is what Scripture calls us to be and to do.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2018 in Church, Culture, NFL, Scripture

 

Neighborhood entertainment

I wonder if our neighbors would respond like this if I got on a ladder to put up our Christmas lights.

Maybe next year. 😉

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2018 in Baby Blues, Christmas

 

When Your Resources Run Short

There are seasons in our lives when we feel overwhelmed by the challenges crowding in on us. The requirements are too high, the load too heavy, the task too daunting, the price tag too costly, the emotional toll too draining, and the deadlines far too soon. We cry out for MORE … energy, resources, money, wisdom, health, time …

That is the situation Joshua faced in chapter 10 of his book. Exhausted from an all-night march, he faced the combines forces of five armies. Joshua cries out to God for more time to carry out the task.

Joshua 10 provides us with an example that when we run short on resources, we can ask God for the strength to march—even when we don’t want to (1-15).

The Source of the Conflict (1-5). Led by the king of Jerusalem, five kings in the southern part of Canaan band together to punish the Gibeonites for making a treaty with Israel. Rather than defeat the enemy one city-state at a time, God is using the treaty with Gibeon as an opportunity for Joshua to defeat several enemies at once.

The Secret of Victory (6-15). Even though the peace treaty was made under false pretenses, Joshua chooses to do what is right and he keeps his promise to defend the Gibeonites (6-7). God promised Joshua that he would be victorious and Joshua took him at his word (8). Joshua employed a sound strategy by marching all night long in order to launch a surprise attack (9). Joshua depended on God for assistance. God intervened in a supernatural manner and sent artillery from heaven in the form of hailstones (10-11). Joshua called on God and asked for more time to complete the task (12-15). Since the sun and moon were worshipped by the Canaanites, Joshua’s prayer compels Canaan’s gods to obey the one true God.

Over the years, some have tried to explain away the miracle of the sun and moon standing still by saying it was just a poetic expression of simply a natural phenomenon. Others have tried to find a scientific explanation for how God performed the miracle. According to verse 14, the issue is not how God performed the miracle. The real issue is that God answered the prayer of a man.

When we run short on resources, we can ask God for the strength to engage—even when we are afraid (16-28). Joshua and his men pursue the five armies and defeat them completely. In so doing, they learned a valuable lesson—Press the battle according to God’s plan and leave the miracles to him.

When we run short on resources, we can ask God for the strength to pursue—even when we are tired (16-28). In a series of conflicts, Joshua defeats the southern part of Canaan.

There will be times and seasons when we run short of time, energy, wisdom, and resources. We need to remember that we can call on God to provide the resources we need. He will listen, answer, and fight for us.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 25, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Winning comes easy

This week’s comic, Betty, had an interested take on both our obsession with winning and our aversion to having to work for it.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2018 in Culture

 
Image

Gratitude

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2018 in A. W. Tozer, Tim Challies

 

Thanksgiving Bonfire & Praise Service 2018

Each year on Thanksgiving Day, members of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, gather at 7AM at Szot Park for a time of praise, sharing meaningful verses, singing, and giving thanks. We end with coffee, hot chocolate, and donuts. It is one of my favorite worship services and a great way to start the day. Since it was only 11 degrees F, the cold kept more than a few people away. But those who were present were encouraged and thankful.

Psalm 138 – Of David.

   I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; 2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. 3 On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.

4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth, 5 and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. 6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

 

 

 

 

How might the book of Revelation play out in real life?

Book Review: The Lawless One and the End of Time, by Lonnie Pacelli

How might the book of Revelation play out in real life? Where might the Antichrist come from? What world events might pave the way for his arrival? Those questions and others fueled the imagination of author Lonnie Pacelli and started him writing his first fiction book, The Lawless One and the End of Time.

The book begins in 2066 with an assassination attempt. The story then backtracks to 2030 where we are introduced to four 14-year-old boys who are students at Naples Academy in Italy. The book traces their growth over the years and explains how one becomes an arrogant scientist who discovers the cure for cancer, one becomes a high-tech genius who creates a hologram network, one becomes a charismatic lawyer who prosecutes abusive Catholic clergy, and one becomes an acclaimed professor who uses his Autism to give hope to individuals and families who are affected by Autism. And, by the way, one of them becomes the Antichrist.

Overall, I enjoyed the book very much. It came across as realistic and plausible in how it portrayed end times events. While biblical, it didn’t come across as preachy. The characters seemed like real people in how they responded to crises and challenges. The dialogue seemed natural and believable.

I found the book to be a bit slow in the beginning as the author described the world events that set the stage for the story. As I continued to read, the story pulled me in and made me not want to put it down. It became more interesting the deeper I got into the story.

I was initially confused by how the author jumped back and forth in time. Part of it stemmed from reading a Kindle edition where I couldn’t go back and forth easily to check dates. The author began with the assassination attempt in 2066 before going back to 2030. He would then follow one character for several years and then go back to a different character and follow him forward. It reminded of speed skating in the Olympic games where the skaters start at different intervals and change lanes during the race. The skaters don’t come together until the very end. After a while, I got used to the time jumps and it became a natural part of the story.

There were a few places where it seemed like a word was missing and I felt the book might have benefited from an editor going through it one more time.

As I said earlier, I enjoyed the book and heartily recommend it. The author’s website, http://www.lawlessone.com/, includes a list of all the Bible references the details of the book are based on. It is a good resource for those who want to learn more about the end times.

I received a Kindle edition of this book for free from the author in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2018 in Books, Scripture, Theology

 

Risking it all to save a community

Book Review: Enclave, by Thomas Locke

In his latest offering, prolific author Thomas Locke (a pseudonym for Davis Bunn), pens a tale of a dystopian future and the one man who can turn things around. Part sci-fi, part coming of age tale, part apocalyptic yarn, the book pulls you in and doesn’t let go until the end.

The story takes place one hundred years after the Great Crash, an event that rewrote society and economics. America is now a collection of enclaves, city states that are governed at the local level by harsh tyrants and loosely tied together by the farce of a federal government.

One of the enclaves, Catawba, has discovered a new vein of gold beneath the feet of their citizens. They entrust a young trader named Caleb with getting the gold to the market. However, Caleb has a secret of his own. He is one of the “adepts” who has extrasensory powers he is only discovering. The story follows Caleb on his journey to both market the gold and to discover who he is and what his purpose is in life.

On the one hand, I enjoyed the book and was pulled in by the story. On the other hand, I was confused as the story went back and forth between the stories of several main characters. The ending left me wondering if there will be more books in the series.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Revell, a division of Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers 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 November 20, 2018 in Books