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Category Archives: First Central Bible Church

July update for FCBC

Below is a letter sent to the congregation of First Central Bible Church to update them on Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.

 
 

Kicking Away the Crutches

When I broke my leg three years ago, I became quite familiar with crutches and canes. After the initial surgery, I progressed from a wheeled chair in the hospital to a wheelchair and walker in the rehab center to a walker, crutches, one crutch, cane, and finally nothing under the care of my physical therapist. At each stage, I had to learn new skills and gain confidence before moving to the next stage.

Unless I was willing to let go of the walker, I could not start using crutches. If I hung onto the crutches, I could not progress to a cane. If I did not put the cane away, I would never be able to stand and walk on my own two feet.

There are times in our lives where we allow certain things and/or people to become crutches that we lean on for support. When that occurs, God often removes our crutches so we will lean on him alone. You see that pattern in 1 Samuel 19-22 where God removes everything and everyone that David leaned on. In so doing, David learned that God was enough.

God removed five things that David depended on.

  • Job/position: David had a leadership position in the army (18:5; 19:8) and was the court musician (18:10). Saul tried to kill David on three occasions (18:10-11; 19:9-10). When David fled and escaped, he lost his job and his position.
  • Family/home (19:11-17): Michal deceived her father, Saul, so David can get away. She lied to her father and said, “David threatened to kill me.” The lie infuriated Saul. After this event, David and Michael will no longer live in harmony.
  • Mentor: David flees to Samuel (19:18). When someone informs Saul where David is hiding, he flees and leaves Samuel behind (20:1).
  • Friend: David questions Jonathan, “Why is your father trying to kill me?” (20:1). David is extremely discouraged (20:3). Jonathan discovers the truth and shares it with David (20:12-41). David and Jonathan separate (20:42).
  • Self-respect: With nowhere to run, David turns to the enemy and hides among the Philistines (20:11-15). David feigns madness.

After losing everything and everyone he depended on, David hides in the Cave of Adullam (22:1-2). There he is joined by outcasts and renegades. When his crutches were gone, David learned to depend on God alone.

At his lowest point, David writes three psalms. Psalm 142 seems to be written when David is at rock bottom. Psalm 57 appears to be written when David is on his knees pouring out his heart to God. Psalm 34 sounds like David is back on his feet.

David cried out to God for deliverance (Psalm 142:1-7). He was intentional about seeking God (Psalm 34:4). David discovered that God was his refuge (Psalm 57:1-3). He expressed confidence about trusting God (Psalm 34:5). Despite his circumstances, David chose to praise God (Psalm 34:1-3; 57:5, 9-11).

Have you allowed your career, opportunity to make money, or success to become a crutch? Have you allowed family to become an idol? Have you placed your confidence in your educational degrees or ability to think and reason your way out of a problem? Have you taken pride in your health or your ability to control your life? What if God were to remove each of these things from your life? Could you trust him and learn to depend on his alone?

Don’t allow anything or anyone to become a crutch. Put your weight on God and let him support you.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 12, 2020. It is part of a series of expository messages on the life of David. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

What are you leaning on?

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church, we will turn our attention to 1 Samuel 19-22 in our ongoing study of the life of David. In these chapters, God is removing all the things and people that David depends on for strength. When he reaches the bottom, David will cry out to God. The theme of the section is that God removes our crutches so we will lean on him alone. Here is a video preview of the message, “Kicking Away the Crutches.” Please join us on Sunday, either in person or online.

 

The Marks of Friendship

How many friends do you have? Are they friends or acquaintances? Are they friends of convenience? Circumstances? Commitment? How do we know the difference? What does a biblical friendship look like?

There are five basic principles of friendship that we need to keep in mind. The first is that all of us have a built-in need for relationships (Genesis 2:18). Second, your choice of friends will determine who you become (Proverbs 13:20; 22:24-25). Third, friends share a common bond. In the case of David and Jonathan, it was a confidence in God (1 Samuel 14:6; 17:37, 45-47). Fourth, you cannot be friends with everyone. People are like LEGO building blocks. We each have a limited number of connecting points. Fifth, not all friendships will achieve the same level of intimacy. If you study the life and ministry of Jesus, you see that he ministered to the crowds, sent out the seventy, called the twelve disciples, had an inner circle of three, and was closest to one—John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

In 1 Samuel 18-23, we see the relationship of David and Jonathan. They demonstrate that friendship is characterized by love and loyalty. Each of these prime characteristics has a balancing element which is important since we tend to go to extremes in these areas.

Friendship is characterized by Love (1 Samuel 18:1, 3). After their first encounter, Jonathan’s heart was knit together with David’s. Literally, it means they were chained together. This love was seen in Commitment (1 Samuel 18:3-5; 23:17-18; Proverbs 17:17; 18:24). Jonathan made a binding covenant with David and sealed it by giving him his royal robe, shield, sword, armor, and acknowledged that David would be the next king. This type of love is also seen in Confrontation (1 Samuel 20:1-7). David felt betrayed because Jonathan did not warn him that King Saul was still trying to kill David. They worked out their differences and came up with a new plan to find out the truth.

Friendship is characterized by Loyalty (1 Samuel 19:1-7). On three occasions, Jonathan made a covenant with David to watch his back and protect him. This type of loyalty is seen in Encouragement (1 Samuel 23:16; Proverbs 27:9). When David was at his lowest point, Jonathan came and helped David find his strength in God. Loyalty is also seen in Investment (1 Samuel 20:12-17; Proverbs 27:17). Jonathan helped David look to the future by asking him the “What if?” questions.

Friendship is characterized by love and loyalty. If you want to have that type of friendship, stop looking and start being that type of friend.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 5, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the life of David. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

What does friendship look like?

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church, we will consider “The Marks of Friendship” as we study the relationship of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18-23. Why don’t you join us? Here’s a video preview of the message.

 

The Best of Frenemies

A “frenemy” is “a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.” Perhaps you have worked with a colleague who was a pal one day and stabbed you in the back the next day. 1 Samuel 18 describes how the relationship of King Saul and David deteriorated to the point where they became frenemies for life.

1 Samuel 18 begins a period of intense testing in the life of David in which God will prune and shape David to become the next king of Israel. There are four key words or concepts in this chapter—success, with, love, and fear. You can summarize the chapter with the statement, “David was successful because the Lord was with him. As a result, the people loved David but Saul feared him.”

On the Fast Track: Prosperity, Promotions, & Popularity (1-5). After his defeat of the giant, Goliath (1 Samuel 17), David’s life will change dramatically. He will gain a best friend for life, be granted a commission in the army, and gain the approval of the nation of Israel. Everything he touches turns to gold.

The Price of Popularity: How David Missed the Point (6-16). After the battle, the chorus breaks out into song praising David’s triumph and saying he is ten times the man King Saul is. As the giant, Goliath, dies, the giant of jealousy came to life in Saul’s heart. He starts to keep his eye on David. He seems to follow the advice of Michael Corleone, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

While Saul honored David outwardly, inwardly he was seething with anger. Twice he tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him. When that didn’t work, he sent him to the front lines of battle hoping the Philistines would do the job. Instead, David’s stock continued to rise “because the Lord was with him.”

When In-Laws Become Outlaws: Don’t Marry the Boss’ Daughter (17-30). Since the direct approach doesn’t work, Saul tries a more subtle approach to get rid of David. He tries to use his own daughters to trap and snare David. David turns down the first offer to marry Saul’s oldest daughter. But David does accept the second offer of Michal, who is in love with David. Saul suggests that David kill 100 Philistines in exchange for a bridal dowry. He is secretly hoping the Philistines will kill David. Instead, David proceeds to take out 200 Philistines.

Verses 28-30 summarize the chapter and the four key words/principles. David was successful in everything he did because the Lord was with him. As a result, the people loved David but Saul feared him. “So Saul was David’s enemy continually” (29).

Principles to Practice. If God is with you … you will be successful … you will attract opposition … you need not fear your opponents … your opponents will fear you. Be like David—Follow God & do his work. Don’t be like Saul—If God is at work, don’t oppose his plan or his servants.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 28, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the life of David. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

When friends become enemies

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church, we will explore 1 Samuel 18 and the events that take place after David defeats Goliath. Here is a video preview of the sermon, “The Best of Frenemies.”

 

A new look for worship

Sunday, June 7, at First Central, preaching to masked, spread out people … but at least we’re together.

 
 

June 7, 2020 worship service at FCBC – “Giant Lessons” – 1 Samuel 17

 

Giant Lessons

The story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) is so compelling and well-known it has become the “primary historical metaphor in Western culture for describing any individual or group who overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat an oppressor.” In the sports world, the phrase was used to describe the defeat of the USA men’s basketball team by the USSR in the 1972 Olympics games. In 1980, it was used again to describe the USA men’s hockey team who defeated the Russians in the winter Olympics. Perhaps the classic sporting example occurred in 2007 when the Appalachian State University football team defeated the Michigan Wolverines.

The account of David and Goliath is not primarily a story about human courage and effort. Instead, it is about the awesome power of a single faith-filled life and how it inspired an entire army to victory. The story demonstrates that no matter how big the giant may be, our God is greater still.

The Philistine Challenge (1 Samuel 17:1-11). The Philistine and Israel armies faced off against each other in the Valley of Elah. The champion of the Philistines was Goliath, a 9’9” giant of a man. He challenged Israel to produce their champion and the two would fight for supremacy. Goliath made his intimidating boast for 40 straight days and it left the Israeli army in abject fear.

David comes to the battlefield (12-30). David, who is probably 18-19 years old, is carrying food from his father’s home in Bethlehem to his brothers who are part of Saul’s army. After arriving and hearing what is taking place, David asks if the rumors are true that the one who defeats Goliath will receive riches, tax-free status, and the king’s daughter as a bride. He also asks why Goliath is allowed to mock the God of Israel. David’s older brother, Eliab, chastises David for his attitude.

David prepares for battle (31-40). David’s questions reach the ears of King Saul. Saul scoffs at David and tells him, “It can’t be done.” He is evaluating David in physical terms. David defends himself by explaining that he fought a bear and a lion in protecting his flock of sheep. With God on his side, Goliath is just one more predator to deal with. Saul offers David his weapons and armor but David prefers to tools of a shepherd, a staff and a sling.

The Victory (41-54). Goliath mocked David for his seemingly puny size and lack of armor. David responded in confidence that God would defeat Goliath. The stone from David’s sling knocked the giant out. David approached the giant and cut off his head with Goliath’s own sword. The Israeli army chased the Philistines back home to their own towns.

Epilogue (55-58). Saul might have known David from his time as a court musician, but he did not know anything about his family or his background.

Giant Lessons

  1. This battle was unnecessary. It should have been resolved much earlier (Judges; 1 Samuel 14).
  2. Both fear (11, 24) and faith (52) are contagious. Be selective who you listen to.
  3. A giant’s chief weapon is intimidation (1-11). Recognize that their threats are empty and powerless. Remember who is with you and whom you represent.
  4. If you tolerate a giant, he will take more and more of your territory (25).
  5. Others may criticize you for tackling a giant (28) or tell you “it can’t be done” (33). Listen to God, not the critics. Remember who to fight and who to ignore.
  6. God uses little tests to prepare us for bigger battles (34-37). Remembering what God did in the past will give you confidence for the future.
  7. Keep the giant in perspective (36-37). Remember that the battle is the Lord’s.
  8. Don’t rely on other’s weapons. Use ones you have confidence in (38-40).
  9. Keep your focus on God, not the giant (41-47). No matter how big the giant may be, God is greater.
  10. When God is on your side, you are never outnumbered (45).
  11. Deal with giants decisively (48-51). Put to death the giants of worry, fear, intimidation, and sin.

When you face your giant, keep your focus on God. He will give the victory.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 7, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the life of David. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.