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Category Archives: First Central Bible Church

There is No Room for Tolerance

We seem to think that tolerance is the ultimate virtue. We fail to understand how dangerous tolerance can be. Too much tolerance can:

  • Result in a loss—If your football tolerates the other team and allows them to score, it will cost you a game.
  • Cost you money—If a manufacturer doesn’t follow the specified tolerance in machining a part, it will cost extra when they have to machine it a second time.
  • Compromise your health—If you tolerate cancer cells in your body, you won’t have long to live.
  • Kill millions of people—The British government’s policy of appeasement towards Adolf Hitler helped contribute to the Holocaust and the death of millions during WWII.

What is true physically is also true spiritually. Exodus 32 explains that God is graciously intolerant of sin. We should be as well.

By way of background, Moses prepared the nation of Israel to hear from God (Exodus 19). God spoke the 10 Commandments in the hearing of all the people (20). The people were frightened by the voice of (20:18) and asked Moses to speak with God and then relay the information to them (20:19-21). God communicates the law to Moses (21-23) and Moses passes it on to the people (24:3). The nation reaffirms their commitment to be obedient (24:3-8). Moses, Aaron, and the leaders worship in God’s presence (24:9-11). Moses and Joshua go up on the mountain (24:12-13), leaving Aaron, Hur, and the elders in charge of the people (24:14). Moses spends 40 days on Mt. Sinai (24:15-18) receiving the plans for the tabernacle and the practice of worship (25-31).

No sooner was the ink dry on the contract, the people of Israel walked away from God and broke the first three of the 10 Commandments (32:1-6). Less than six weeks after receiving the 10 Commandments, the people begged Aaron to make them a visible god. He satisfied their desire by crafting a golden calf. Based on the people’s response, he did a good job. He also made an attempt at syncretism by suggesting they worship the Lord while bowing before the idol.

When we do what is popular rather than what is right, we fall into sin. When we choose convenience over commitment, we fall into sin. When we forget who God is and what he has done for us, we fall into sin.

When it comes to sin, God is graciously intolerant (32:7-14). God explains to Moses what the people are doing. Unless Moses intercedes, God will rightfully destroy the nation. Moses reminds God that Israel is his people and that his reputation is at stake.

We should be graciously intolerant of sin (32:15-29). Moses breaks the tablets of the law to signify that Israel had broken them. He burned the idol, ground it into powder, and made the people drink the concoction. This symbolized the powerlessness of the idol and made the people feel the pain of the consequences.

Moses confronted Aaron about his lack of leadership. Aaron responded by blaming the people (“You know how they are”), Moses (“If you weren’t gone so long”), and everyone but himself (“The golden calf just magically appeared”).

Moses drew a line in the stand to determine who was still committed to obeying God. The Levites responded and were God’s instruments in surgically removing the instigators of the rebellion. While it appears harsh that 3,000 men were killed, consider that it was only 3,000 out of 2-3 million people.

We should intercede for other people (32:30-45). Moses goes back up the mountain to intercede for Aaron and the nation of Israel. He even offers to die himself in exchange for God sparing the rest. God rejects Moses’ offer and explains that he will be fair in his punishment.

How’s your tolerance level? Do you have any golden calves you need to get rid of? Any areas of compromise where you are crossing lines you know should not be crossed? Are there any sins you’ve become far too familiar and comfortable with that need to be gotten rid of?

If the answer is “Yes” to any of these questions, stop what you are doing and repent. Turn to God and seek his forgiveness. Just like Aaron, you can be forgiven and restored. But don’t wait, thinking you can avoid God’s judgment.

God is graciously intolerant of sin. We should be as well.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 17, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Why am I not surprised?

One week ago, I met with our church leaders to talk about vision and direction. I shared my perception that we were a busy church, but not necessarily effective or fruitful. I spoke of my concern that we were too inwardly focused and overemphasized fellowship. I believe we need to be more purposeful and intentional in making disciples and reaching the lost.

On Sunday, I preached on Exodus 19 and how to prepare to meet with God. (It’s part of a series on the life of Moses.) I emphasized that before entering God’s presence, we should ask ourselves four questions—Am I willing to obey? Am I ready to listen? Have I prepared my heart? and, Do I respect God’s presence? Several mentioned how much the message challenged them. One said it was the best message they heard me preach in the five years I’ve been at the church. Several gave me hugs. One said as long as I keep preaching like that, I was their pastor. I continued to hear affirming comments a few days later.

On Monday evening, I began a new class, the Character & Habits of a Leader, part of a strategy for church-based leadership development. 17 people were present for the first session with two more who will join us for the second lesson.

On Wednesday evening, we launched our fall ministries with Awana, youth group, adult Bible studies, and a prayer group. We had 90 children in Awana with 30 in the youth group. A significant number came from the surrounding neighborhood. The building was hopping!

In addition, we also started two new adult Sunday School classes with a third one coming next month, as well as our women’s Bible studies starting again for the fall.

God is on the move at First Central Bible Church. So much good ministry is taking place.

So, why was I surprised when an individual wanted to meet with me to share what they perceived were my weaknesses as a pastor? Namely, that I was a “good to great teacher, but don’t exhort,” and that I was not outgoing enough and don’t work the room to greet every person (not their exact words but my takeaway.) I responded in two ways. First, I thanked them for what they shared and said I would have to think and pray about what they said. Second, I said that I have been told all my life that I don’t have what it takes to be a pastor and I am tired of hearing it because it is wrong. (For more on that topic, read my blog post on October 26, 2012, “Learning it’s ok to be me.”)

Why am I not surprised … whenever we take a step of faith … whenever we share the gospel … whenever we begin to be successful … whenever we challenge people to serve or share their faith … whenever we begin to make progress and move forward … the enemy seeks to discourage, distract, and sideline us.

On the one hand, I know that criticism comes with the territory. In the words of Rachel Dawes to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, “You’re Gotham’s D.A. If you’re not getting shot at, you’re not doing your job.” On a more spiritual side, the apostle Paul said that we have “conflicts without; fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Criticism is one of the occupational hazards of ministry, even more so in today’s culture.

On the other hand, I am human and freely admit that criticism stings, especially from those within the body who really don’t know me. To be honest, I briefly contemplated walking away into the sunset. Rather than quitting, however, I simply decided to take the day to work at home.

I am reminded once again that this is a spiritual battle. I know that I need to stand firm and resist the temptation to feel sorry for myself and/or flee the battlefield (James 4:7). Like King David, I need to find my strength in God (1 Samuel 23:16). As a steward of God’s ministry, I need to stay faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). If I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant,” then I need to be faithful to serve God with whatever he has entrusted to me (Matthew 25:14-30). As my mentor Kent Hughes used to say, “I need to believe what I believe.”

Time to put my soap box away, armor up, and get back to work.

 

Are you prepared to meet with God?

If you knew that (the mayor, the governor, the president, favorite sports hero, movie star, TV celebrity, etc.) was going to be in church next Sunday, how would you prepare? If you knew that GOD was going to be in church next Sunday, how would you prepare?

Exodus 19 describes how Israel met with God at Mt. Sinai. Through their example, we see four principles that can help us prepare to enter God’s presence. We should prepare our mind, heart, and will before we enter God’s presence. We must be ready to listen, obey, and honor him.

Three months after leaving Egypt, the nation of Israel arrives at Mt. Sinai (1). They will spend the next 10 months in this location. We have the impression from Hollywood movies that Moses only made one trip up the mountain. If you read the text closely, you discover he made seven trips up and down.

Before you meet with God (1-15), ask yourself:

Am I willing to obey? (3-8). After reminding the nation how he delivered them from bondage in Egypt, God explains an “if … then” responsibility. “If you obey … you will be my treasured possession.” Israel would be exalted above all other nations and have a unique priestly role of representing God to the world. The people respond enthusiastically, “Yes, we will obey.”

Am I ready to listen? (9). God is laying the groundwork for communication. However, he would not reveal new truth if the people were not going to listen to him.

Have I prepared my heart? (10-11, 14). God orders the people to wash their clothes, separate from any impurity, and even fast from normal marital relationships in order to set themselves apart for God. While we “come as you are” to God for salvation, we should cleanse our hearts to meet with him in worship.

Do I respect God’s presence? (12-13). Israel was to maintain a secure and sacred distance from the mountain of God. They were close enough to hear God speak to Moses but were to wait until Moses relayed God’s instructions to them. Sadly, we have lost this sense of reverence for God and treat him casually or flippantly. A shallow view of God leads to a shallow life.

God came down to meet with his people (16-20). It was not Moses who went up; it was God who came down. God descended in thunder, lightning, and an earthquake. It was a display of his majesty and glory. Moses later went up after God invited him.

God came down to establish a healthy fear of the Almighty (Exodus 20:20), to communicate written instructions for his people (Exodus 24:12), to reveal his word to his people (Exodus 31:18), and to reveal the design for the tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9).

To meet with God, we need a place where we can go daily. We should ask ourselves the four questions to make sure we are prepared. We need to Scriptures since that is where God has revealed himself. We need a journal to record what we are learning.

Prepare your mind, heart, and will before you enter God’s presence. Be ready to listen, obey, and honor him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 10, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Trials, Tests, & Training Wheels

I am a fair weather biker. I have a 45-year-old ten speed bicycle I ride a couple days a week when the sun is shining. I don’t ride in the rain and certainly not in the snow. On days or seasons when the weather doesn’t cooperate, I find other forms of exercise.

My typical biking route is a 6.3 mile circuit in my neighborhood. I don’t aspire to ride in the Tour de France simply because I don’t have time to train for such a race. I content myself with riding for exercise. To be a serious, competitive biker requires graduated training over a long period of time.

The same is true of spiritual growth. In Deuteronomy 8:2, God explained how he used tests during Israel’s years in the wilderness to help them grow and mature.

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

Scripture explains that God uses trials to teach us about himself and to test our commitment. Exodus 14-19 covers a span of three months. The Passover occurs on the 14th day of the first month (Exodus 12:18). Israel leaves Egypt and encounters an obstacle at the Red Sea a few days later (Exodus 14). Three days after the Red Sea, they arrive at Marah, where the water is bitter (Exodus 15:22). On the 15th day of the second month, the people complain about the lack of bread and meat (Exodus 16:1-2). One week later, they complain about the lack of water (Exodus 17:1). A few days later, Amalek attacks (Exodus 17:8). A few days after that, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro arrives to give him some career advice (Exodus 18:1). They arrive at Mt. Sinai three months after leaving Egypt (Exodus 19:1).

At each location, God tested Israel. He uses the trials to reveal something new about his character and attributes. He uses the events to see whether or not Israel would be obedient. He uses the trials to help Israel grow up and mature. The nation progresses from God fighting for them to the nation fighting with God’s help.

 

1 2 3 4 5
Scripture Exodus 14 Exodus 15:22-27 Exodus 16:1-36 Exodus 17:1-7

Exodus 17:8-16

Problem

Enemy at the Red Sea Bitter water No food No water Enemy attack
Attitude Fear Grumbling Grumbling Doubt

Confidence

Test

God fought for Israel God tested Israel God tested Israel Israel tested God Israel fights with God’s help
Insights about God The Lord is my strength The Lord who heals The Lord your God God is present among his people

The Lord is our banner

Lesson to learn

Depend on God for victory Depend on God for health Depend on God for daily needs Believe that God is present and cares for you

Depend on God for victory

What has God been teaching you recently? How has he been testing you? What do you need to do to learn the lesson and move forward?

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 27, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Worshipping at the Downtown GetDown

This morning, the “Dave Krok Experience”–Dave, Jack, Ron, Jessica, Stephanie, Keli, and Lauren–one of First Central Bible Church‘s worship team played on the stage at the Chicopee Downtown GetDown. From 11:00AM – 12 Noon, they were the featured band on the stage in front of the old library. A number of FCBC folks were present to encourage and worship along with the team. Our presence led to a number of conversations during the concert and afterwards.

 

Chicopee Downtown Get Down

First Central Bible Church had a booth at the Chicopee Downtown GetDown, the city block party. We had free bags, a raffle for a gift basket, and pictures for kids to color that would be displayed at City Hall. Tomorrow morning, one of our worship teams will be playing on the stage.

 
 

Color war

Last night, Carol and I hosted a barbecue for the youth of First Central Bible Church. Part of the festivities included a “color war.” Robin D was able to get a couple of group photos, including Jessica doing a “hit-and-run” photo bomb. Great fun.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2017 in First Central Bible Church, Photos