Category Archives: Preaching

Clean Hearts in a Dirty World

Is holiness possible today?

We might agree that holiness is an essential characteristic of God. We might also agree that Scripture says that we are to be holy. But if we are honest, we don’t think that we can ever be holy ourselves.

When it comes to holiness, there are many misconceptions. We have the idea that holy people are religious fanatics, and we don’t want to be thought of as “holier-than-thou.” We believe that a lifestyle of holiness will cause us to be miserable. Former quarterback Joe Theismann allegedly explained to his soon-to-be-ex second wife why he had an affair: “God wants Joe Theismann to be happy.” Holy people are hypocrites, or so we believe. A hypocritical Boston tycoon once told Mark Twain, “Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the top of Mount Sinai in the Holy Land and read the Ten Commandments aloud.” “Why don’t you stay right home in Boston,” suggested Twain, “and keep them?”

Scripture calls us to live holy lives. In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we are told to set our hope on Christ and live a holy life. I don’t believe God sets us up for failure. If he gives us a command, it is with the expectation that it is possible to do it.

Verse 13 begins with the word, “Therefore …” I was always told that anytime you see the word, “therefore,” you need to find out what it is “there for.” What Peter is saying is that in light of our great salvation (1-12), we are to live differently. Salvation should have an impact on our lives. In fact, Peter points out five areas where salvation changes how we live.

  • Mental outlook (1:13). We are to set our hope solely on God.
  • Lifestyle (1:14-16). We are to live holy lives.
  • Worship (1:17-21). We are to live life governed by reverence for God.
  • Relationships (1:22-25). We are to love one another.
  • Spiritual disciplines (2:1-3). We are to be nourished by spiritual food.

Today, we are looking at the first two areas. We will examine the remaining three areas after Easter.

Mental Outlook (1:13). We are to set our hope solely on God. Peter begins with the idea of having a steadfast hope. This is much more than a wishing well kind of hope. “I hope it doesn’t snow this week. I hope my team wins the World Series.” It is a confident expectation of what God is going to do. By linking it to verses 1-12, Peter is saying that on the basis of what happened when Christ came the first time, we are to put our full confidence in what will take place when he comes again.

We are to act like we mean business. We are to prepare our minds for action. It literally says, “gird up the loins of your mind.” It pictures someone wearing a long garment. If they wanted to move quickly or run, they would gather up the garment and tuck it into their belt. Today, we might say, “Roll up your sleeves and get to work.” We are to have a sense of intentionality about how we think. We need to gather all the random, disparate thoughts and focus them on God and his kingdom.

John Brown, a 19th Century Scottish theologian said, “Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervours, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wils.”

In addition, we are to be sober-minded and avoid mental intoxication. Rather than live a life of self-indulgence, we are to live discipline and self-controlled lives.

What distracts you from focusing on God? Are there other things that you place your hope in? If you really believed Christ would return today, how would you live? Wrestling with these types of questions will help us to focus our thoughts and hope squarely on Christ.

Lifestyle (1:14-16). We are to live holy lives. Holiness refers to purity or moral integrity. It involves separation from all that is morally impure and evil. It is dedication to a life of righteousness. As these verses explain, God has called us to a life of holiness. It is NOT optional.

Rather than command us to be obedient, Peter says we are to act like obedient children. In essence, we have an obedient nature and should act in light of that.

We are to actively resist our own temptations. Rather than be controlled by our desires, we are to control them. As unbelievers, we were ignorant of God’s standards. Now that we know better, we should live differently.

Holiness should permeate every aspect of our being. We are to be holy in the classroom, on the playground, at work, at home, in our workplace, in our schools, in our homes. Holiness should pervade every area of our lives and personalities.

In pursuing holiness, we demonstrate the family resemblance. God is the ultimate model of holiness and we are called to be like him.

As we evaluate our lives, we should ask ourselves several questions. Does this activity conform to the character of God? Is it the natural outcome of a life that has benefited from salvation? Will it stand up to God’s scrutiny in that final day when we stand before his presence?

We are to set our hope on Christ and live holy lives.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 18, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


The Majesty of Salvation

What difference does salvation make in our lives? Is salvation just a matter of a hope in heaven? Is it just pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by? What difference does salvation make in the boardroom? On the assembly line? How does salvation affect our ethics? Our marriage? Our family? Our time with our grandkids? What difference does salvation make when we face an uncertain future? How does it affect how we face persecution?

In 1 Peter 1:1-12, the apostle Peter presents the idea that understanding the nature of salvation provides encouragement for those facing an uncertain future threatened by persecution. The main idea of the passage is that because our salvation is secure, we have hope for the future and joy in the present.

Someone might ask, Why is salvation even necessary? Don’t all roads lead to the top? Isn’t God too big for one religion? Aren’t people basically good? Yes, we might have problems, but it’s a disease, weakness, bad habit, or victimization. It’s not sin, after all.

In the first chapter of his letter, the apostle Peter talks about the nature of salvation. Salvation is new birth (3) to a living hope (3). Salvation brings us a secure inheritance (4). Our future salvation is secure (5) in which we will be redeemed (18). However, salvation is only available to those who put their faith in Jesus Christ (2, 14, 21).

In verses 1-2, Peter presents a theology of salvation. As he explains it, each member of the Trinity is involved in our salvation. We are chosen by the Father. We are set apart by the Spirit. We are forgiven by the Son. We are saved in order to be obedient. Other passages of Scripture point out our role in the process and that God holds us accountable for our choices. But Peter focuses on what God does to secure our salvation.

After laying the foundation, Peter then describes the nature of salvation (3-12). These 10 verses are an English teacher’s nightmare. It is one long sentence in which Peter piles words upon words giving praise to God for our salvation.

Our salvation provides hope for the future (3-5). Salvation comes from the mercy of God where he demonstrates his kindness to us. Because Christ conquered sin and death through his death, burial, and resurrection, we can have a personal relationship with him. As a result, we now have a secure inheritance that is death-proof, sin-proof, and time-proof. Our inheritance won’t perish, spoil, or fade away. It is protected by the power of God for us.

Our confidence leads to joy in the present (6-9). In the midst of trouble and difficulty, it is easy to forget what God has done for us. Peter wants his readers to experience joy in their present circumstances. To do that, we need to understand that trials are temporary and short-lived compared to eternity. They are also necessary because uses trials to shape our character in the same way a goldsmith uses heat to purify gold. With this perspective, we can show our love for Jesus and rejoice with glorious joy.

Our salvation was revealed in the past (10-12). We enjoy something today that the prophets and angels only dreamed about understanding. If they spent so much time trying to decipher what God was going to do, how much more should we enjoy our salvation and tell others about it?

Praise God that our salvation is secure! Praise God that the trials we experience are not meaningless, but refine and purify our faith! Praise God that his promises about Christ have been fulfilled! Because our salvation is secure, we have hope for the future and joy in the present.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 11, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


A heart shaped by grace

People occasionally ask me why I do what I do. Why do I go to Russia once a year to teach and train leaders? Why do I mentor students through online classes at Regent University? Why did I teach a class on the character and habits of a leader last fall? Why do I invest in interns?

My passion for leadership development is because I failed as a leader. When I started in ministry, people assumed I knew what I was doing and no one mentored me. Getting fired from my first ministry was the best thing that happened to me because it shaped the course of my ministry. I learned the hard way of how to lead and I wanted to help others succeed without making the same mistakes I did.

As we see in the apostle Peter’s first letter, his message is shaped by several key events that took place earlier in the gospels. As we begin our study of 1 Peter today, we’re going to focus more on the background of the letter. Next week we’ll begin our exposition of the letter.

Author: Peter was one of the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19). The word, apostle, is used in a technical sense of one who was sent on a mission. He was part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. Along with James and John, Peter was present during Christ’s transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8) and when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 26:37). His name, Peter, was actually a nickname given to him by Jesus (John 1:42) and means “rock.” Jesus saw potential in his life and pictured his future strength of character.

Recipients: The letter is written to both Jewish (1:1; 2:12) and Gentile (2:10) believers who were scattered abroad because of persecution.

Date: The letter was written from Babylon (5:13) which is probably a code word for Rome. It was most likely written about A.D. 64, just before the persecution begun by Emperor Nero.

Theme: The theme of the book is Hope in a Hostile World. 1 Peter was written to Christians who were experiencing various forms of persecution. Peter exhorted them to steadfast endurance (5:13) that resulted from putting one’s focus on Christ even though they lived as aliens and strangers (2:11). Peter reminded his readers that we have a living hope because of a living Christ (1:3).

Divisions: There are three main divisions in the book. Each one focuses on a theme and answers a basic question. Salvation: What does it mean to be a Christian? (1:1-2:12). Submission: How are we to living in relationship to others? (2:13-3:12). Suffering: How should we respond to those who oppose the gospel? (3:13-5:14).

The events of Peter’s life shaped his heart and his message.


Heart Shaping
Matthew 16:13-23 Peter confesses that Jesus is the Son of God.

Christ will build his church and Peter will be involved.

1 Peter 1:15, 20-21; 2:4-8

Jesus is the Holy One who called you.

Jesus is the cornerstone of the Church.

John 13:1-10

Peter was proud and unwilling to have Jesus wash his feet. 1 Peter 5:5-6 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Matthew 26:30-35, 69-75 Peter is unaware of the spiritual warfare taking place.

Operating in his own strength, he denies Jesus three times.

1 Peter 5:12

Stand fast in the trued grace of God. Don’t give up and walk away.

John 21:15-17

Jesus restored Peter and gave him a task—Be a good shepherd of God’s flock. 1 Peter 5:1-4 The elders are to shepherd the flock of God. They are accountable to the Good Shepherd.
Acts 10:9-16 Peter was prejudiced. God had to help him understand that the body of Christ is bigger than his narrow theological convictions. 1 Peter 2:9-10

The body of Christ is unique.

When you compare Peter in the gospels with the message of 1 Peter, you see a profound transformation. Peter goes from spiritually dense to spiritually discerning; from listening to Satan to listening to God; for worldly minded to heavenly minded; from proud to humble; from walking away from Christ to standing fast in God’s grace; from having a narrow view of the gospel to having a broad view of the church; from being a failure as a disciple to being a restored servant; from being a stumbling block to God’s plan to being used by God to help build the church.

Life Lessons:

  • Nothing is ever wasted in the will of God. The trials and experiences we go through are part of God’s curriculum to prepare us for an even more determinative ministry.
  • Failure is not fatal. No matter what you’ve done. God can forgive and restore and use you in ministering to others.
  • Don’t allow pride to keep you from serving and ministering to others.
  • The Body of Christ is BIG. It is bigger than just us and those of our narrow theological persuasion.

This is a synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 4, 2018. It is the opening message in a series on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


To the Church in Laodicea: A Church that was Self-Sufficient

In a recent series of comic strips, my favorite theologian, Calvin & Hobbes, conspired to keep his babysitter nemesis, Rosalyn, locked out of the house.

While it is humorous in a comic strip, it is sad in real life. It is even sadder when the person we lock out of our lives is Jesus Christ. In Revelation 3:14-22, the church in Laodicea had pushed Christ out of the church, but didn’t even know he was missing.

In Revelation 1:11, Jesus sent a message to each of seven local churches in Asia Minor. Jesus rebukes the church in Laodicea for its self-sufficiency and materialism which blinded them to their spiritual poverty. He exhorts them to repent and open their hearts to pursue a deeper relationship with himself. This letter tell us that We need to repent of our self-sufficiency and materialism. We must pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus.

The Church (14a) – It is possible that the three sister churches—Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colossae—were established at the same time by Epaphras, who founded the Colossian church (Colossians 1:7) as well as evangelized Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13) during Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19).

The City (14a) – The city was located about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia on the road to Colossae. It was the greatest city of the Lycus River Valley. The city had material wealth through its banking industry. They were renowned for producing a garment of black wool fabric. The city was famous for its medical school that exported a powder used for eye salve. The independent nature of the city is demonstrated in the fact that when it was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60, wealthy citizens paid to rebuild the city themselves without outside help.

The Character of Christ (14b) – Jesus described himself as the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. As the Amen, whatever Jesus says is true and certain. As the faithful and true witness, Jesus is reliable and trustworthy. As the beginning of God’s creation, Christ existed before creation and is sovereign over it. As the supreme creator and ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ has every right to critique his wayward church.

The Condition of the Church: Concern (15-17) – There is no commendation given to this church. Instead, Jesus soundly criticized the church. Their biggest failure was that the church was self-sufficient and blasé towards God.

Jesus critiques the church by saying they were lukewarm and that he wished they were hot or cold. The tendency is to think he is talking about one’s spiritual temperature. However, he seems odd that Jesus would rather someone was turned off toward him rather than lukewarm. The description makes more sense when you understand the geography and background of the city.

Laodicea was near two other cities, Hierapolis and Colossae. Hierapolis was a spa known for its hot mineral baths and medicinal waters. Colossae boasted the finest supply of cold, pure, refreshing water. While Laodicea was blessed with prosperity, their water supply was a problem. An aqueduct brought water to the city. Over time, mineral deposits accumulated in the pipes. The water that arrived in Laodicea was lukewarm and mineral laden. It was nauseating and disgusting to drink.

Like the city’s water supply, the church was neither a cold, refreshing drink nor a warm, healing bath. Some churches make the Lord weep, others make him angry; the Laodicean church made him sick. Lukewarm spirituality makes Christ gag.

Their biggest problem was they did not even realize they had a problem. Like the city, the church thought it was rich and self-sufficient. In reality, they were poor. The church thought it was clothed with righteous character. In reality, they were spiritually wretched, pitiful, and naked. The church thought it had spiritual insight. Instead, they were blind.

The Command (18-19) – While he finds the church repulsive, Christ takes time to offer counsel. They were urged to buy three things they did not think they needed.

Refined gold. A goldsmith subjects the gold to intense heat that liquefies the gold. The impurities rise to the top and are skimmed off. What remains is a purer gold of higher carat.

White clothes. Though they had beautiful clothes, they were urged to wear white, which was symbolic of righteousness which would cover their spiritual nakedness.

Salve for their eyes. The medical school offered a special salve to heal common eye troubles of the Middle East. What they needed was not this medicine but spiritual sight.

Christ’s criticism is based on his love. The most undeserving church is still loved by God. Christ rebuked them because he loved them.

The Commitment (20-21) – In addition to gold, clothing, and eye salve, Christ wants them to enjoy his person and his fellowship.

Christ pictured himself as standing outside and knocking on a door. Sadly, the church had pushed Christ right outside but did not even know he was missing. The appeal is for those who hear to open the door. To them Christ promised, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me.

With Christ on the outside, there can be no fellowship or genuine wealth. With Christ on the inside, there is wonderful fellowship and sharing of the marvelous grace of God. To those who respond, Christ promises to give the right to sit with him on his throne and share his victory.

The Challenge (22) – Take the message to heart. Hear and heed the message.

Perceived assets

True condition God’s solution
Banking Poor

Refined gold

Medical school

Blind Eye salve
Textiles Naked

White garments





Relationship with Christ

Principles (1) Self-sufficiency and materialism can blind a person to their spiritual poverty. (2) Jesus rebukes and disciplines his children in order to heal them. (3) To experience renewed fellowship with Jesus, we must be serious enough to change.

Questions to consider: (1) Are you making progress in the Christian life? (2) Where do you need to change and/or grow? (3) Are you willing to change? (4) Who will hold you accountable? (5) If “YES,” repent & pursue a deeper relationship with Christ.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 25, 2018. It is the final message in a series on The State of the Church. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


To the Church in Philadelphia: A Church that was Faithful

While I was in the rehab center back in November, I applied for a disability parking placard from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). When I called two weeks later, I was told it took two months to process and I would receive it in February. Frustrated by the bureaucracy, I forgot all about it. Two weeks ago, I received a letter from the RMV asking me to surrender my driver’s license because the doctor who signed my original application noted I was medically unable to drive. I called to explain that was three months ago and was no longer valid. I was told I needed a note from my doctor saying my condition had improved and I was medically cleared to drive.

Rather than taking your driver’s license away, what if someone wanted to take heaven away from you? What if you were told that the door to heaven was closed and you were no longer welcome? What if your church told you to stay away and you could no longer attend?

In Revelation 1:11, Jesus sent a message to each of seven local churches in Asia Minor. While the believers in Philadelphia may have been excommunicated from the Jewish synagogue, Jesus send them a letter (3:7-13) encouraging them that the door to heaven is always. That hope would help them remain faithful in the midst of trying circumstances and persecution.

Jesus wants us to remain faithful in difficult situations. We must keep his word if we want to remain faithful.

The Church (7a) – The church was possibly founded as an outreach of Paul’s ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:10).

The City (7a) – The city was located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis. It was located in an area noted for its grapes but afflicted with earthquakes which destroyed the city several time, most recently about AD 17. With an economy based on agriculture and industry, Philadelphia enjoyed considerable prosperity. Because it was located in a vine-growing district, the worship of Dionysus was its chief pagan cult.

Philadelphia was situated in a strategic place on the main route of the Imperial Post from Rome to the east, and thus was called “the gateway to the East.” It was also called “little Athens” because of the many temples in the city.

The Character of Christ (7b) – Jesus described himself as the one who is holy and true, who holds the key of David, and is able to open or shut a door which no one else could open or shut.

Holiness speaks of his purity and total consecration to God. He will not lead his people into moral error. True or faithful would remind the believers that Christ can keep his promises and carry them to completion. Jesus is reliable. He can be trusted. The key of David refers to Isaiah 22:20-23 where Eliakim was the steward of Hezekiah and possessed the key of David. He was the gatekeeper who allowed access to the king and the king’s presence.

Christ alone has the authority to admit persons to his heavenly city. Because he is holy and true, no one can ever argue that his admission of some and refusal of others is unrighteous.

The Condition of the Church: Commendation (8-10a) – Though small in number, the congregation had a powerful impact. Though they had little strength to oppose the forces of evil, they kept Christ’s word and were faithful. It is not the size of the church that determines its ministry, but faith in the call and command of the Lord.

Jesus has placed before the church an open door. This could mean an open door for evangelism (1 Corinthians 16:9). As the “gateway to the East,” they had a unique opportunity to carry the gospel to the cities of Phrygia. It could also mean an open door to heaven (Revelation 4:1). Christ has placed an open door into the eternal kingdom, and no one can shut it.

The believers were faithful and loyal. They had not denied Christ even though they had opportunity to do so. Despite the pressure, they were faithful.

Christ refers to their enemies as the synagogue of Satan. They were Jews who opposed the believers’ Christian testimony. The day will come, however, when all opponents of the faith will have to acknowledge the truth. This probably refers to a future event of judgment.

The Commitment (10b-12) – Because the church was faithful and willing to endure patiently, Jesus promised to keep them from the hour of trial. The hour of trial will be terrible for all who live on the earth. Christ also promises that he will coming soon. They were encouraged to hold on to what they have so that they do not lose any heavenly rewards because they fell into sin.

Everyone who is an overcomer will become a pillar in the temple of God. This is a picture of stability and security. Because believers have identified with Christ by faith, he will identify himself with them. Jesus will write his name on the faithful believers.

The Challenge (13) – Take the message to heart. Hear and heed the message.

Principles (1) God is more interested in faithfulness than success. Perseverance is the key to receiving the rewards God has for us. (2) Jesus has the key of David. He is able to provide access to heaven to those who keep his word. He can be trusted to keep his promises.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 18, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on The State of the Church. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Repenting (again) about rehab

One definition of repentance is to change one’s mind. That being the case, I have repented (again) about rehab.

On December 8, 2017, I wrote a blog post explaining I changed my mind about rehab. Rather than merely doing exercises as a means to an end, I needed to view rehab as my primary task. In January, I returned to the pulpit (so to speak, since I haven’t actually used a pulpit in years) and started preaching again. I explained to folks that I had two priorities, preaching and rehab.

Now that we’re in the middle of February, I have to repent all over again about my attitude. My rehab exercises and stretching takes up a huge chunk of my day. If I do them correctly, I’m spending 45-60 minutes three times a day working my way through the list of recommended activities. That’s 2-3 hours out of my day for rehab! I feel the pressure of time and self-imposed deadlines. I have places to go, people to see, and things to do. I don’t have time to do rehab.

However, if I cut corners and skip a session or three, I will postpone my recovery. It will take me much longer to get back to full health and strength. In addition, I might fall short of my goal of being able to walk unassisted when I leave for Russia on April 8.

So I repent of my laziness and busyness. Rehab and preaching must remain my only priorities for the next few weeks. If I can do other things, I will. But I cannot commit to anything else for now. There will be time later to open up my schedule for other activities.

I have to once again give myself permission to heal and recover. I have to acknowledge that my priorities and schedule are different during this season of life. It won’t last forever, but for now, recovery needs to be my focus.

Time to start the next round of exercises.

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Posted by on February 16, 2018 in Health, Personal growth, Preaching


Russia 2018 – February update

I’m now within 8 weeks of leaving for Russia. The details are coming together.

  • The travel arrangements are all complete. My visa arrived in the mail. The airfare has been purchased and hotel reservations have been made. (I also purchased travel insurance for the airfare in the event I am not cleared to travel.)
  • I am currently preaching an 8-week series on The State of the Church, examining the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. The most recent sermon was on the letter to the church in Sardis: A church that was dead (Revelation 3:1-6). The series helps me cast vision for First Central Bible Church as well as prepare to teach Revelation in Russia.
  • I’m reading through different commentaries and resources in order to gain an overview of the book as well as a better understanding the details.

Regarding my health, my recovery from a broken leg/hip is progressing.

  • The surgeon said that the break is now healed.
  • I go to PT (physical therapy) twice a week and I do about 45 minutes of exercises & stretching 3 times a day to rebuild the strength in my leg.
  • I graduated from a walker to crutches last month. The next goal is to go to one crutch by the end of February. By the end of March, I hope to be walking on my own without any aid.
  • My primary care physician still has me on Coumadin (blood thinner) to get rid of the blood clot(s) and swelling in my calf. He will do another ultrasound in March to check on the progress.
  • I started driving again four weeks ago and am back in the office 3 days a week.


  • The trip is fully funded!
  • The travel arrangements are all made.
  • I received my visa.
  • My leg/hip is getting stronger!

Prayer requests

  • Greater insight and understanding of the book of Revelation.
  • Complete recovery and full health and strength in my leg/hip.
  • Be able to walk without crutches or cane by end of March.
  • Blood clot(s) in calf completely gone.
  • Be able to travel without limitations.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement. I’m in your debt.