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Can You Pass the Litmus Test?

Perhaps you remember learning about litmus tests back in high school chemistry. The main use of litmus paper is to test whether the solution is acidic or alkaline. We’ve adapted the concept and use it as a social indicator to classify someone favorably or unfavorably. Issues such as one’s position on abortion, same sex marriage, defense spending, economy, and others are used to categorize a political candidate as conservative or liberal.

What is the litmus test that determines if a person is truly saved from sin? Is there a test to determine if a person’s faith is real or phony? According to the apostle John, our behavior always reveals our beliefs. In 1 John 2:3-6, John explains that obedience is the litmus test of love for God.

In this passage, the apostle asks two questions that helps determine whether one’s faith is real or phony. Do you walk the talk? Do you walk the walk?

Do you walk the talk? (3-5a). John’s thesis statement is found in verse 3: Knowing God is evidenced by our heartfelt desire to obey him.

Ancient Greeks believed you could know God through your mind. Modern Greeks placed on emphasis on emotions and experience. The Jews believed you could know God through the Law. John said that to know God and to love God is to obey him.

Obedience is not a popular word today. Some may have grown up in a homes or churches where obedience and righteousness were pounded home so often that today they reject the idea. That is what John is combating. Real knowledge of God contains an intellectual, moral, and spiritual component that cannot be separated.

Verse 4 is the converse of verse 3. It explains that the one who claims to know God but is consistently disobedient is a liar. The one who keeps God’s word (5) is indwelt by the truth and the love of God has done its work in their life.

Can You Pass the  Litmus Test?Our conduct should match our testimony. We should obey the great commandment—love God and love people—and the great commission—share your faith and make disciples. Obedience is the litmus test of love for God.

Do you walk the walk? (5b-6). Love is incomplete if it does not produce any deeds of love.

Abiding in Christ is another synonym for having an intimate relationship with him. John’s point is that a person who is abiding in God will obey God just as Jesus obeyed the Father and demonstrated his relationship with him.

We demonstrate our relationship with God by living in the same manner that Christ lived—servant, humble, spoke the truth, kind, patient, compassionate, forgiving, and sacrificial. An intimate relationship with God will be shown in Christlike behavior. Obedience is the litmus test of love for God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 22, 2017. It is part of a series on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

God shaping events

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Samuel Rutherford once stated that we should “praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace.”  He went on to explain that the “hammer molds us, the file shapes us and the fire tempers us.”  All three experiences of course are painful, but we can praise God for them because we know and love the God who wields them.

A. W. Tozer, commenting on Rutherford’s statement, wrote, “The devil, things and people being what they are, it is necessary to use the hammer, the file and the furnace in the holy work of preparing the saint for the sainthood. It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”

(Gene Getz, Joseph: Overcoming Obstacles Through Faithfulness.  Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1996, p. 109.)

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2017 in A. W. Tozer, Joseph, Quotes, Tim Challies

 
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Christians are like snowflakes

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Posted by on January 19, 2017 in Quotes, Winter

 

Russia 2017 – January update

I am now one step closer to returning to Russia in March. I booked my airfare last week and picked up my Russia visa this afternoon. God provided financially to fully fund the trip and he answered prayer in granting the visa. The only thing remaining is to finish reviewing my notes. Last year I taught Romans 1-8 and this year I hope to teach chapters 9-16 and finish the book. Please pray for me as I review and refresh my notes. Please pray for the students, that God will bring those he wants to be there and that their hearts will be prepared. Thanks.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Ministry, Russia

 

Why people leave the church

At a recent meeting of our elders, deacons, and deaconesses, one of the questions asked was, why have people left First Central and were the issues addressed and/or corrected? I said there was no common denominator and sometimes the reasons were vague.

Here are the reasons I have heard over the past year, or at least, the ones I remember. They include personal reasons, doctrinal differences, church government issues, personal preferences, and personal attacks. They are listed without comment.

Personal reasons

  • I want to go to a church closer to where I live.
  • If I change churches, my spouse might attend more often with me.
  • I just got married and I’m going to my spouse’s church.
  • I don’t fit here.
  • We’ve found a place where we can better use our gifts.

Doctrinal differences

  • Deaconesses (female deacons) are not biblical.
  • One person has not returned after I pointed out what Scripture said about her lesbian relationship.

Church government

  • Our budget is too high. We should not have a gap between our giving and our budget plan.
  • The elders do not practice church discipline. (One said the elders were too harsh. Another said we were too lenient.)
  • The elders are too controlling.
  • The elders should make all the decisions. We should not have a congregational government.

Personal preferences

  • I can’t worship at First Central.
  • The Spirit of God is not moving at First Central.

Personal attacks

  • The pastor’s wife did not speak to me.
  • The pastor sent me a note instead of calling me on the phone.
  • The pastor is not a shepherd.
  • The pastor’s sermons don’t inspire me. He is just a Sunday School teacher.
  • The pastor doesn’t preach enough evangelistic sermons.
  • “I think the music is awful and the Pastor has no heart… The Pastor is a jerk – very knowledgeable but still a jerk.”
  • Some of the leaders lack humility.
  • The heart and soul of some of the worship leaders.

SIGH! Ministry can certainly be challenging.

PowerPoint Presentation

 

 

 
 

Training, Equipping, & Raising up Servants for God’s Kingdom

One of the goals in our 2020 vision for First Central Bible Church is to raise up our own staff. Another goal is to send out missionaries from our own church. We have the unique opportunity to accomplish both goals in one family.

In the Fall of 2014, we received a special gift of $248K to use for “Kingdom Impact.” We saw it as a unique opportunity to invest in our own people and pursue our 2020 vision. We added Chris Ames and Jack Gilbert as interns, Robin Dolbow as Director of Children’s Ministry, and helped Dave Krok with tuition as he pursues ministry education.

As Jack Gilbert nears the completion of his seminary education in May 2017, the elders want to move him to the next level of experience. For the past year and a half, Jack served as a 10 hour per week intern. From January to June 2017, we will increase his hours to 24 hours per week. He will continue to preach on occasion and teach the Sojourners on a monthly basis. Jack will attend the elders’ meetings as a non-voting observer to learn more about leadership and teamwork. Jack and Simcha will participate in the monthly elders’ & wives’ Bible study. Jack will graduate from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in May 2017 and prepare for his ordination in June 2017.

Jack and Simcha feel that God is leading them towards missionary service. They are beginning the process of applying to serve with SEND International in Spain. The application and fundraising process will last approximately two years.

In order to help Jack prepare for missionary service and to take advantage of his gifts and abilities while he is still here, the elders want to bring Jack on staff in a temporary, two-year position as a Minister of Adults & Outreach. The full-time position would begin in July 2017. You can read the details in the proposed job description below.

The salary and benefits for this position will come out of the special Kingdom Impact gift and will not affect the General Fund budget.

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Job Title: Minister of Adults and Outreach (full-time, Jack Gilbert)

This position is designed to be a temporary (2-year maximum) position as Jack & Simcha Gilbert prepare to go to the missions’ field. The position will be reevaluated on an annual basis and as Jack & Simcha sense a change in their call to a specific type of field of ministry.

Purpose

The Minister of Adults and Outreach will serve the church by helping our fellowship achieve our purpose of Building a Community to Change the World.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Ensure that the Adult Sunday School classes and Small Groups are taught, led, and shepherded by trained, equipped teachers and leaders.
  • Provide administrative oversight of all adult ministries, including management of budget and setting policies.
  • Ensure that all adults are trained and equipped to confidently share their faith.
  • Develop and oversee a path of discipleship that moves an individual from first-time guest to fully serving member.

Secondary Responsibilities

  • Participate in the visitation of the sick, widows, and the elderly as needed.
  • Be available to assist in weddings and funerals as needed.
  • Be available to preach on occasion.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Organization Relationships

  • Accountability
    • He shall be accountable to the Senior Pastor. This accountability is maintained through regular personal consultations with the Senior Pastor and through staff meetings.
  • Board Relationships
    • He shall attend meetings of the Council of Elders, Christian Education Board, and Board of Missions as needed.
  • Staff Relationship
    • He shall attend all staff meetings and functions.
    • He shall oversee the work of any interns in his area.
  • Qualifications
    • The Minister of Adults and Outreach must meet the qualifications of an elder as outlined in Scripture (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1).
    • He must be gifted as a Pastor-Teacher (Ephesians 4:11-16).
    • He shall have a demonstrated maturity in leadership and decision-making.
    • He shall demonstrate a commitment to the doctrinal statement and to the statement of strategy and vision of First Central Bible Church.
    • He shall have experience in and zeal for the work of pastoral ministry.
    • He should have a heart for and/or be gifted in evangelism.
    • He shall have an ability to work on a team towards specific goals in a mutually edifying and supportive manner.
    • He shall be ordained or in the process of pursuing ordination.
    • He shall have a teachable and open attitude.

Policy Maintenance

The Senior Pastor has the responsibility for the initiation and update of this job description; and with the approval of the Elder Council the Senior Pastor has the responsibility for its implementation.

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Standards of Performance

The Minister of Adults and Outreach will have done his job if:

  • The adult leaders are trained and equipped to teach and shepherd their classes and small groups.
  • Opportunities are provided for vital, supportive, biblical fellowship where relationships are built in an atmosphere of warmth and caring.
  • Opportunities are provided for outreach into the local culture in service and evangelism.
  • He has regular contact with the leaders of the various ministries of the church.
  • He is using all of his spiritual gifts.
 
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Posted by on January 17, 2017 in First Central Bible Church, Scripture

 

The intersection of politics, faith, and culture

reclamining-hopeBook Review: Reclaiming Hope: Lessons learned in the Obama White House about the future of faith in America, by Michael Wear

During President Obama’s first term in office, Michael Wear served in the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He later directed faith outreach for the president’s 2012 re‑election campaign. Wear has now written a book about his experiences in the halls of power.

The book is part memoir about the behind the scenes struggles surrounding some of the administration’s signature achievements, including the adoption tax credit and making human trafficking a presidential priority. The author also reflects on some of the more controversial stories of the previous eight years, including the issues of abortion, contraception, and the president’s change of position on gay marriage.

On the subject of religious freedom, the author makes an insightful comment.

I do not believe that anyone I worked with in the Obama administration, certainly not the president, was motivated by a desire to undermine religious freedom. That was not their aim. Religious freedom is not under attack.

But it is under pressure. Religious freedom is increasingly butting up against other values in stark, personal ways, and religious freedom is often the loser in those collisions. We have a problem of pluralism, of different views and perspective. What must be declared out-of-bounds is not our diverse perspectives, but the zero-sum politics that disregards collateral damage in pursuit of a win. And the administration failed in this respect.

The author concludes by giving practical ways for Christians to be involved in our political system. While you may not agree with the author’s assessment of the Obama administration in relation to faith, you will gain insight from his account.

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 January 16, 2017 in Books, Politics, Quotes