Monthly Archives: June 2019

Changing the Rules

Perhaps you grew up with the idea that you had to be perfect to enter heaven. Maybe you believed there was a sign at the gate of heaven that measured how holy you were. Beliefs like that put a great deal of pressure on us to measure up and perform at a very high level. But no matter how good we strove to be, there was still some bad in our lives that disqualified us.

Fortunately, God changed the rules. Instead of entering heaven on the basis of our good works, we can enter heaven through the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf. By changing the rules, God made it possible for us to have a personal relationship with himself through Jesus. That is the theme of Hebrews 7:11-19.

The Old Testament Law did not produce perfection (11-12). The purpose of the Old Testament Law and priesthood was to remove the obstacle, sin, which kept men and women from God. Unfortunately, the Law was ineffective and could not produce the desired effect. Consequently, we don’t need something that is new and improved. We need another priest of a different kind. Instead of coming through the line of Aaron, this priest must be one of a different order of priesthood.

The Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah (13-14). Someone might object that Jesus cannot be superior to Aaron as high priest because he did not come from a priestly tribe. After all, the Old Testament stated that priests came from the line of Levi and not from Judah. The writer of Hebrews is making it clear that God is changing the rules. God designated Jesus as a priest even though no one who served as a priest had ever come from the tribe of Judah.

Jesus is qualified to be our High Priest because of his internal character (15-17). The Old Testament Law specified the external qualifications for the High Priest. They had to come from the tribe of Levi, be married, be at least 30 years old (though tradition said they had to be at least 20 years old), and maintain ritual purity. In contrast, Jesus was qualified to be our High Priest because of his inner moral character and because his life could not be destroyed. Death could not restrain Jesus, nor did it destroy his priesthood. He is able to be our king and priest eternally.

God replaced the old system with one which can bring us into an intimate relationship with God (18-19). Rather than being strong and capable, the Law was weak, useless, and ineffective. It needed to be cast aside and replaced with something better. God replaced the old system with a better one that did what the old one could never do, namely, bring us into an intimate relationship with God.

What are you relying on today? Are you still trying to be good enough and earn your way to God’s approval? If so, you’re going to be disappointed. Take comfort in the fact that God changed the rules. Allow Jesus to forgive your sins and draw you into a personal relationship with God the Father.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 30, 2019. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Awana Camp 2019 – Relive the joy

Relive the joy of Awana Camp 2019 by watching the video. The music is “Live Alive” by Rend Collective from their Campfire II: Simplicity album. Enjoy.


Awana Camp – Day Three

Thursday was the last full day of Awana Camp 2019 at Pine Brook Camp and Conference Center for the kids and staff of First Central Bible Church and Second Baptist Church. It was another day packed with food, friends, games, skits, canoeing, basketball, football, crafts, singing, swimming, Bible lessons, and the end of camp bonfire and sharing time. Thanks for praying.


Awana Camp – Day Two

Day Two of First Central Bible Church & Second Baptist Church‘s Awana Camp at Pine Brook Camp & Conference Center in Shutesbury, MA, was packed with beautiful weather, good food, games, archery, canoeing, swimming, singing, Minute-to-Win-it competitions, Ga-Ga pit, Bible lessons, crafts, tie-dye, campfire, roasted marshmallows, friends, and fun.

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Posted by on June 27, 2019 in Uncategorized


Awana Camp 2019 – Day One

Tuesday was the first day of our annual Awana Camp at Pine Brook Camp & Conference Center in Shutesbury, MA. The camp is a joint venture of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, and Second Baptist Church of South Hadley. We have just short of 60 people at camp, counting campers and staff. Since the first day was rather soggy due to the rain, the majority of the activities were indoors. We had games, singing, Minute-to-Win-it competition, and a Bible lesson. It was a good start to the week.


Lifelong learning?

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Posted by on June 25, 2019 in Peanuts


Why do I need to know about Melchizedek?

Summer is a time for road trips. You gather the family, load up the car, and head out on the open road. One approach is to take the direct route. When we lived in Seattle and our children went to college in SoCal, we made the trip up or down the west coast in 20 hours. Another approach is to take the scenic route. As one friend expressed it, you simply follow the yellow line to see where it leads.

As the author of the book of Hebrews opens chapter 7, it appears he is taking the scenic route through the Old Testament. Chapters 7-10 are the longest doctrinal section of the book. The author wants his readers to understand the importance of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. Jesus belonged to a superior order (ch.7), establishes a superior covenant (ch.8), serves in a superior sanctuary (ch.9), and presents a superior sacrifice (ch.10).

In 6:20, the author stated that Jesus became “a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (This is a quotation from Psalm 110:4, which is recognized as a messianic psalm.) Since many of us don’t know the Old Testament very well, we are unfamiliar with Melchizedek. We don’t know who he is or why he was significant. The author spends the first half of chapter 7 explaining Melchizedek’s identity and the second half of the chapter describing his significance.

Melchizedek was a King-Priest (1-3). The author goes back to Genesis 14 where Abraham encountered Melchizedek after the battle of the five kings. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, had been captured, and Abraham and his trusted servants set out on a rescue mission. On the successful return journey, Melchizedek, the King of Salem, comes out to greet Abraham. Abraham gives him a tithe (10%) of the spoils as a thank offering to God Most High. Melchizedek, in turn, blesses Abraham.

From this story, we learn seven facts about Melchizedek. (1) He was the King of Salem. (2) He was a priest of God Most High. (3) His name means king of righteousness. (4) King of Salem means king of peace. (5) We have no record of his father, mother, or genealogy. (6) We have record of his beginning or end. (7) He is like the Son of God in that he remains a priest forever.

Some have concluded that Melchizedek was an angelic being. Rather than put forth a supernatural origin, the author seems to be emphasizing his unique position. Others have concluded he was the preincarnate Christ. However, the author says he resembles the Son of God. Most likely, Melchizedek was an historical person of whom we know very little.

Melchizedek was greater than Abraham (4-10). The author gives us four details to emphasize Melchizedek’s superiority to Abraham. (1) Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils to Melchizedek. The lesser thanks the greater. (2) Melchizedek blessed Abraham. The greater blesses the lesser. (3) Melchizedek had an eternal priesthood. Without a recorded ending, his priesthood seemingly lasts forever. (4) Levi paid titles to Melchizedek through Abraham. Though not yet born, there is a sense in which Levi also gave a tithe through his great-grandfather.

In his commentary on Hebrews, Chuck Swindoll shows the significance of the relationship between Melchizedek and Jesus.


In the narrative, Melchizedek was …

In his nature, Jesus Christ is …

A priest outside the Levitical priesthood, therefore not a minister of the Law of Moses, which came much later

The ultimate Priest outside the Levitical priesthood, therefore not a minister of the Law of Moses, which he fulfilled
A “king of righteousness” according to a translation of his name

The true King of Righteousness, because he purchased righteousness for us on the cross

A “king of peace,” as Salem means “peace”

The real Prince of Peace, who will one day bring a kingdom of universal peace
Without a record of parents, having neither his beginning nor end recorded in Scripture

The eternal Son of God, having neither beginning nor end, eternally one with the Father and the Holy Spirit as God the Son

Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: Hebrews. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017. p.108

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 23, 2019. It is part of an ongoing series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.



Who was Melchizedek and why is he so important?

One of the more mysterious characters of Scripture is Melchizedek. He makes a cameo appearance in Genesis 14 and then resurfaces in the book of Hebrews. This Sunday at First Central Bible Church, we will be studying Hebrews 7:1-10 as we ask and answer the question, “Why do I need to know about Melchizedek?”  Here’s a preview of the topic.


Don’t be a snowplow parent

As parents, we often want to protect our children from hardship. We want to spare them from pain and difficulty. We don’t want them to go through what we did. However, instead of helping our children, we may be hindering their growth. That is the conclusion of an article in Sports Illustrated entitled, The Rise of the Snowplow Sports Parents.”

The author of the article explains the term, snowplow parenting.

The phenomenon also reflects what’s happening in the rest of society, says psychologist Madeline Levine, an expert on the topic. “It used to be helicopter parenting,” she says. “And now it is snowplow parenting, which is much more active: It means you are doing something to smooth the way for the child. It’s not just that you’re hypervigilant—it’s that you are actually getting rid of those bumps, which robs kids of the necessary experience of learning and failing.”

Towards the end of the article, hockey agent Allain Roy realized he was not doing his son any favors by being overly involved in trying to advance him in sports.

Two years ago, hockey agent Allain Roy was flying home with his teenage son after spending several thousand dollars to take him to a weekend baseball showcase to improve his chances of getting a college scholarship. He started wondering, Is this worth the investment? How much is too much involvement? He started typing out his thoughts into a post for his agency’s blog, writing, “As we rush to fix every little blemish in our kids’ lives and try to influence their way to success, we cause more irreparable damage than we know.”

In contrast to that, I remember a statement I heard some years ago when Carol and I were helping our youngest daughter, Caitlin, get settled into the dorms at Gordon College. During one of the sessions for parents, Dr. Judson & Mrs. Jan Carlberg shared some words of encouragement. Jan Carlberg used the phrase, “Struggle is a holy word.”

As parents, our desire is to smooth out the path for our children. We want to shield them from pain. When a child calls home to say they are not getting along with their college roommate, we want to storm the administration to demand a change. When that same child says they are unhappy after the first week of school and wonder if they made the right decision to go away to college, we want to jump in the car or on a plane and bring them home forthwith. Yet, when we do that, we often stunt our children’s growth because we don’t allow them to struggle.

Jan reminded us that God uses trials as a catalyst to help us grow. As James 1:2-4 says in The Message, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so that you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

Struggle is part of God’s strategy to help us and our children grow to maturity. Avoid the temptation to be a helicopter and/or and a snowplow parent. Struggle is a holy word.


When did the world change?

“Little changes, like small steps all along the way, bring you to a different place. One day you wake up and things are not the same anymore.”

Stephen R. Lawhead, in Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1)

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Posted by on June 18, 2019 in Quotes