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Monthly Archives: March 2019

Don’t Harden Your Heart

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This statement has been made by a number of people including Sir Winston Churchill, Edmund Burke, and philosopher George Santayana.

The writer of the book of Hebrews wants his readers to learn from the mistakes made by the nation of Israel. After discussing the positive examples of Moses and Jesus (3:1-6), the author of Hebrews now moves to the negative example of the Israelites who, by their own disobedience to God, fell in the wilderness and failed to reach the promised land (3:7-19). The author explains that because God punished Israel for their disbelief and rebellion, we should avoid making the same mistake.

Remember the lessons of the past: Israel hardened their hearts and rebelled against God in disbelief (7-11).

While a human author penned Psalm 95, God himself was speaking through the Holy Spirit. By making this statement, the author of Hebrews elevates the authority of Scripture. In using this quote from Psalm 95, he explains that Israel did not listen to God. Instead, they constantly rebelled, tested, and rejected God’s instructions and authority.

Israel had a heart-head problem. They went astray from God in their hearts. They did not know God in their heads. The persistent practice of sin and rejecting God led him to issue his verdict. They would not enter the land. When we rebel, we place ourselves outside God’s protection.

Don’t make the same mistake in the present: Don’t harden your heart and miss out on God’s blessings (12-19).

Don’t be deceived by sin (12-13). Every Christian must guard against a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. We need to constantly ask ourselves—Do I believe God’s Word…trust his promises…obey his commands…avoid compromise? In addition, we are to check each other’s spiritual pulse so as to ensure those around us are not taken in by the lure of sin. We need to be asking each similar questions—Do you believe God’s Word…trust his promises…obey his commands…avoid compromise?

Hold fast to Christ until the end (14). Since we are partners with Christ in salvation, we are to follow him wholeheartedly. By persevering to the end, we demonstrate the reality of our salvation.

Don’t harden your heart in disbelief (15-19). One of the ways we harden our hearts is by thinking we have time and can put off a decision. Instead, we need a sense of urgency that “today” is all we have. We can also harden our hearts by thinking the message applies to other people and not us. In so doing, we act in rebellion against God.

The author closes his warning with six questions, or three pairs of questions. The second question in each pair answers the first questions. All total, they point out that while there were a few exceptions—Moses, Joshua, Caleb—Israel’s rebellion was total. As a result of their unbelief, the people of Israel did not enter the promised land. When we choose not to believe God’s Word, we will also miss out on his blessings.

Check your spiritual pulse. Ask yourself these questions. Am I listening to God’s voice? Do I have an unbelieving heart? Am I growing closer to God? Do I allow others to correct me? Who am I encouraging? Lord, help me to practice this today!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 31, 2019. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Preview of Hebrews 3:7-19 – “Don’t Harden Your Heart”

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Exploring the mysteries of the mind

Book Review: Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel: A Novel, by James Markert

Is there a cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s? Is it possible to regain lost memories? Is there a balm to heal broken relationships? These are the questions posed by author James Markert in his latest novel, Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel.

The story revolves around Vittorio Gandy who returns home after spending thirteen months fighting in Europe during World War II. He returns home a changed man. Today we would say he is suffering from PTSD. His young son doesn’t remember him and his wife is scared of him. On top of that, Vittorio’s father, Robert, once a well-known sculptor, is now losing his mind to the ravages of Alzheimer’s.

One night, Robert disappears. His loved ones go to the only place he might remember—the now-abandoned Tuscany Hotel that he once built and managed along with his beautiful wife and muse, Magdalena. When they find him, Robert’s mind is sound and his memories are intact.

Before long, word gets out that drinking from the fountain at the hotel can restore the lost memories of those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. As the rooms fill up with guests, Vittorio is afraid to partake of the healing waters. He wants to be freed from his haunting memories of the war but is also afraid that drinking the water might come with a terrible price.

The book is a well written, engaging story. While there is no overt Christian message in the book, it is a wholesome story about honor, friendship, and encouragement. You agonize with Vittorio as he tries to understand his parents and you root for him to rebuild his relationship with his wife and son. And secretly, you wish that there was a fountain that would heal and restore memories. An enjoyable story well worth reading.

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 28, 2019 in Books

 

Don’t copy another preacher, be yourself

H. B. Charles, Jr. has good advice for preachers in his book, On Preaching: personal and pastoral insights for the preparation and practice of preaching. In a chapter entitled, Developing your style in preaching, he encourages preachers to “Be Yourself.”

Preachers inevitably learn to preach by listening to other preachers. Even if we receive formal training, we are still shaped by the preaching that we hear, not just the theory that we study. We are all influenced by preaching voices in our heads. To this day, I have to limit how much I listen to my favorite preachers, lest I carry them into the pulpit with me on Sunday morning. I want to be a voice, not an echo. Preaching is truth through personality. So be yourself. The congregation will forgive you for not being Dr. so-and-so. They will not forgive you for not being you!

 

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2019 in Preaching, Quotes

 

Arguing for a better grade

What teacher hasn’t encountered a student like Sally Brown, or perhaps their helicopter parents, arguing for a better grade?

In my short time as an adjunct professor, I’ve come across a few. 😉

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Culture, Peanuts

 

A NASCAR fan?

Bumper sticker on the back of a VW Jetta – “I’m not speeding; I’m qualifying”

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2019 in Culture, NASCAR

 

Jesus > Moses

People love to make lists and debate about who is better. We even created a new symbol and phrase—the G.O.A.T.—the Greatest Of All Time. We debate the greatest quarterback, NBA team, baseball player, Olympic athlete, Superhero, movies, songs, and even Super Bowl commercials.

For the Jewish people, at the top of the list was Abraham. But a very close second was Moses. He was divinely chosen for his task. He delivered Israel through an incomparable display of power. He was the lawgiver. Moses was Israel’s greatest prophet since God spoke with him face to face rather than dreams or visions. He was Israel’s historian, having written the Pentateuch. Moses was the most humble man on the earth.

And yet, as great as Moses was, the writer of the book of Hebrews wanted his readers to know that Jesus was greater than Moses. Jesus is superior to Moses because he is God’s Son serving over God’s house (Hebrews 3:1-6).

Focus your attention on Jesus (1). The author is writing to people who are part of God’s family, who have been set apart, who participate fully in salvation, and who have confessed their faith publicly. The writer reminds his readers that Jesus was sent by God to speak for God and to represent God to mankind. He wants them to know that because Jesus tasted death for everyone, because Jesus is a merciful and faithful high priest, he deserves our full attention.

Jesus is greater than Moses because he has a better calling (2-4). Some years back, my wife and I toured St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It is the beautiful church designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren. While we praise the building, we praise the architect and builder even more. In the same way, while Moses is praised for delivering the Law and the plans for the tabernacle and helping to build the nation of Israel, we praise Jesus even more because he created all things.

Jesus is greater than Moses because he has a better position (5-6). On the one hand, Moses was a faithful servant who worked among God’s people and pointed them towards Christ. On the other hand, Jesus is the Son who rules over God’s house.

The author of the book encourages his readers to hold fast to their faith. He is not suggesting that they need to work to earn or keep their salvation. That would contradict everything Scripture teaches. Instead, he is affirming that those who hold fast their confidence and hope are proving that they are truly born again.

Because Jesus is greater than Moses, we need to focus on Christ and hold fast to Christ. Focusing on Christ requires time and discipline. We must study the Scriptures in order to grow in our knowledge of Jesus and our love for Jesus. We need to spend time in prayer, communicating to and with him. Holding fast to Christ involves obeying what God’s Word teaches. We need to develop a deep, abiding relationship with Christ where we cling to him and gain our strength from him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 24, 2019. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.