Back in the spring, Carol and I were in my home state of Colorado for a week long retreat at SonScape. On our day of Sabbath, we visited Breckenridge, where we picked up this plaque, which now hangs in our kitchen. Good advice.
Monthly Archives: August 2019
St. Francis once called to one of his young monks, “Let’s go down to the town to preach.” The novice, delighted at being singled out to be the companion of Francis, quickly obeyed. They passed through the principal streets, turned down many of the byways and alleys, made their way out to some of the suburbs, and at length returned by a winding route to the monastery gate. As they approached it, the younger man reminded Francis of his original intention. “You have forgotten, Father,” he said, “that we went down to the town to preach!” “My son,” Francis replied, “we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We have been seen by many; our behavior has been closely watched; it was thus that we preached our morning sermon. It is of no use, my son, to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!”
Eve had to be talked into sin by Satan (Genesis 3:1-7). Cain was so angry he could not be talked out of sin, even by God (Genesis 4:1-8).
When we give into anger, we give the devil a foothold in our lives (Ephesians 4:26-27).
In Hebrews 10:38-39, the author of the book encourages his readers to live by faith. But what does that look like in real life? How do you live by faith … if you are the only Christ follower in your family … a single parent … a senior living on a fixed income with rising expenses … faced with temptation … filled with doubt … part of a dysfunctional family … faced with an overwhelming task … plagued with questions? What does it mean to live by faith in today’s world?
Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the “Hall of Fame of Faith.” We tend to elevate the individuals listed here to superhero status. The reality is that they were ordinary people who took God at his word and acted accordingly. The chapter is a call to stumbling, bumbling Christians to live boldly in today’s world. The author’s argument is that if these people lived by faith, so can we.
Faith is not simply a set of beliefs or a creed. It is not a blind leap of faith that is contrary to logic and reason. It is not a “hope so” optimism. In Hebrews 11:1-3, we learn that faith brings confidence in God’s promises and show trust in his character.
The Essence of Faith (1). Faith is both a present and continuing reality. Depending on your translation, verse 1 may describe the objective sense, “substance,” or the subjective sense, “confidence” or “assurance.” It helps us to understand that faith is both a conviction and a sense of certainty. One author described it as the title deed on which we build our lives. The verse also helps us to understand that faith is the organ that helps us to see the unseen.
The African Impala is a beautiful animal that can jump over a height of ten feet and a span of 30 feet. But it can be kept in a zoo enclosure with only a three-foot wall. The reason is that the impala will not jump where it cannot see where its feet will land. Faith enables us to trust God and to venture into the unknown and the unseen.
The Testimony of Faith (2). The people of old described in chapter 11 bore witness to God, and he bore witness to them. Verse 2 becomes the thesis or theme of the chapter as it describes that the life of faith is the only way to please God.
An Illustration of Faith (3). Faith enables us to develop convictions about creation. Verse 3 refers back to Genesis 1 where we read, “and God said, ‘Let there be …’” and the universe sprang into existence. The verse affirms the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, creation out of nothing.
The question we must all wrestle with is, Will your life be characterized by your trust in God? Will you take God at his word? Will you obey his commands? If we want to receive God’s approval, we must build our lives on the foundation of faith.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 25, 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.
Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll has written a very encouraging article on the call of ministry. “The Most Magnificent Life” is found in the Summer 2019 edition of DTS Magazine, the publication of Dallas Theological Seminary.
Dr. Swindoll affirms the experience of many, including myself, of the compelling sense of “having” to do ministry because nothing else would satisfy.
I often think that most who study at DTS are here because they can’t help it. It was the great preacher of the Victorian era in Great Britain, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who said, “Do not enter the ministry if you can help it.” If you can’t, you are entering into something as permanent as marriage, till death separates you. You are in it for the long haul . . . for life.
A calling of God fuels the passion of the one going into ministry. He’s the One who lights our fire and fans the flame. There is no magic in these buildings, in the desks, in the library, or in the books. Seminary is extremely hard work. Students think more in-depth than ever in their lives. They endure rigorous testing. They don’t casually arrive or come on a lark—they pray about it. They seek advice, and because they can’t help it, they come. They are in it because they can’t stay away. They are compelled by the Spirit of God to be here!
I can’t imagine being fulfilled doing anything else other than ministry. Could I be successful in doing something else? Maybe. Could I find fulfillment? Never. It’s the most fulfilling, the most rewarding of all callings. The most magnificent life a person can have is to be in the nucleus of God’s will, and for those who decide to study at DTS, that’s called preparing for a lifetime of ministry.
Click on the link to read the rest of the article.
The African Impala is a beautiful animal that can jump over a height of ten feet and a span of 30 feet. But it can be kept in a zoo enclosure with only a three-foot wall. The reason is that the impala will not jump where it cannot see where its feet will land.
Faith enables us to trust God and to venture into the unknown and the unseen. Hebrews 11:1 explains, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Don’t let fear of the unknown or unseen keep you a prisoner. Trust God and take a bold step of faith.
“If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow” is the first of the seven maxims in Prof. Howard Hendricks’ book, Teaching to Change Lives. To be an effective teacher/preacher, Hendricks argues, you must be a lifelong learner.
One of the occupational hazards of ministry is that it is easy to fall into the trap of only studying for the next lesson or sermon. You have to be intentional about widening your field of reading and learning or else your field of interest and expertise will become far too narrow.
Over the past couple of years, I have personally benefitted from some of the online courses offered by Dallas Theological Seminary. I am able to learn from different professors as they teach on a topic or book of the Bible. I recently finished the course on the book of Acts and am now starting Understanding God’s Covenants. The courses are free to everyone.
I also try to listen to audiobooks, lectures, or sermons while I am exercising. I just finished listening to The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, a classic tale of revenge and redemption. I just started listening again to The Best of Prof, a collection of sermons and lectures by Dr. Howard Hendricks.
I also try to read eclectically. I am working my way through Knowing God, by J. I. Packer, in order to sharpen my theological understanding. In addition, I am in book five, Grail, of the six-volume series, The Pendragon Cycle, by Stephen R. Lawhead, which is a retelling of the King Arthur stories. By reviewing books for different publishers, I am exposed to new and different authors. Through the courses I teach for Regent University, I become acquainted with various authors and textbooks as well as having to answer questions of students.
The online courses, audiobooks, theology, and novels is in addition to studying the book of Hebrews which I am preaching through on Sunday morning. I am also developing lessons on leadership development for a conference in Moscow in October.
I want to continue my education and growth so that I have something to offer. I don’t want to fall into the trap of relying on old lessons and greatest hits. I want to stay fresh and growing.
As I was exercising one morning last week, I was struck with the fact that the older I get, the harder I have to work to keep my heredity at bay. In that sense, my parents did not do me any favors by passing on their genetic makeup to me.
My father had high blood pressure all his life. When I was in my 20’s, our family physician told me never to get heavy if the condition was hereditary. Now that I am in my 60’s, I have to pay more attention to what I eat and how much I exercise. On top of that, my dad had glaucoma and my mother had cataracts. I have to get my eyes checked on an annual basis to keep track of those potential conditions.
At to that my recovery from a broken leg/hip two years ago. I continue to do my therapy exercises trying to regain more strength and mobility. I feel like Frodo Baggins at the end of The Lord of the Rings where he tells Samwise Gamgee that some injuries never heal completely. Despite all my efforts and exercises, I wonder if my leg will ever be 100% again.
If I go to this much trouble and effort for my physical health, how much more attention should I pay to my spiritual health? In the same way that I have to exercise and have annual physical checkups, I need to exercise spiritually as well. Colossians 3:5-17 instructs me to allow my old sinful habits and practices to die. In their place, I need to cultivate healthy spiritual character qualities. I need to stop my old bad habits and cultivate some new healthier habits of the heart.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whether spiritual or physical, I need to work hard to ensure good, healthy habits.