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Sermon in a Sentence

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I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 29. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A God-centered life receives power, comfort, and strength, from the all-powerful God.

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My Testimony

This is my testimony. It’s your testimony, too, if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. The details may differ slightly, but this is our story. Praise God!

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Sermon in a Sentence

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 7. Here is a summary of his one sentence: A God-centered life is one that trusts God who is a righteous judge.

Well-Driven Nails

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“The words of a wise man are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11).

It’s been awhile, but here are some articles and ideas that were of interest of me and hope they will be to you, too.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember the iconic photo of the “Napalm Girl.” A young naked Vietnamese girl running down a road after being sprayed with napalm. Her name is Kim Phuc Phan Thi and she writes an article for Christianity Today about how those bombs led her to Christ. It’s a great story!

Jordan Standridge has written a response to a question a boy named Emanuele asked Pope Francis. He wanted to know if his father–an atheist–will be in heaven. From The Cripplegate, Standridge wrote “What Pope Francis Should Have Said to Emanuele.” It’s very good and has a clear presentation of the gospel.

What is joy and can we regularly experience it as Christians? Ligonier Ministries has posted an article by R.C. Sproul that answers that question.

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia, thinks Christians should “unhinge” themselves from the Old Testament. Is he right? Gary Demar  doesn’t think so (I don’t either). Here’s Demar’s response. Stanley has been on the trajectory toward apostasy for some time now, and it’s sad to see.

Please remember to pray for Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who has been imprisoned by the Turkish government for nearly two years. Read about it here.

Sermon in a Sentence

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Dr. Nicolas Ellen preach on Philippians 3:12-14 (“How to Deal with the Past”). Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: Put your past in the hands of God and rely on His grace to function in the present and move forward in the future.

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I enjoy hearing how other people read the Bible and study it. What do they do? How do they go about it? Greg Koukl, president and founder of Stand to Reason, gives three tips for Bible reading.

Prayer is hard. I’ve already told you this. Bible reading, on the other hand, is easier—at least for me—but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. This critical source of nourishment also needs a plan, along with a personal pledge to fulfill it. As with many things, a good plan abets the pledge. It helps me be consistent and effective. Here’s mine.

I face three challenges in being steady in the Word with reading, study, and reflection: first, what to read (which Bible); second, where to read (which passages); third, how to read (what method helps me best understand what God’s Word teaches).

First, which Bible? There are three options: 1) a word-for-word, literal approach like the NASB or ESV; a thought-for-thought translation (“dynamic equivalent”) like the NIV; or a “free” translation or paraphrase like the Living Bible.

Here’s my advice. As a rule, select a solid translation and use the same translation the rest of your life. That one step will help you remember verses—often word for word—even if you’re not actively trying to memorize them. As the years pass, the same specific words read over and over will slowly settle into your soul.

For most of my Bible reading I use a real, straightforward, word-for-word literal translation—in my case, the NASB. I cut my spiritual eyeteeth on it, and I’m not changing. No need to, either. My version has cross-reference notes in the margins. And I use them. They help me get a sense of the connectedness of Scripture. I also have other translations handy for comparison—easy to get on the cheap at thrift stores.

Now, where to read. I have recently recommitted myself to an old wisdom, a kind of first principle of spiritual growth: If I’m going to be a serious disciple, I need to read the entire Bible. All of it. Every word. Regularly. So I’ve renewed my goal of reading the Bible through in a year.

Truthfully, I’ve never actually finished in 12 months. Sometimes it takes me two years or even a bit more, but the Bible-in-a-year objective keeps me disciplined, organized, and moving steadily forward. When I finish, I’ll start again.

I need the whole counsel of God—and so do you—and the only way to get it is to read it all. There’s no way around it. There are different ways to do this, though. Don’t start in Genesis and try to plow your way through the Pentateuch by March. You won’t make it. If you Google “Bible in a year plans,” you’ll find manageable options. Right now I’m using the “Book-at-a-Time Bible Reading Plan” from Discipleship Journal.

Start at the beginning of the plan (January) or start with the current date—or even jump around a bit if you like. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re working through entire books and checking them off until you complete the whole Book.

And don’t neglect regular “off schedule” reading in Proverbs and Psalms. They serve different purposes. Proverbs are for the mind—for judgment; Psalms are for the heart—for receiving comfort or expressing joy, sorrow or lament. We need them both, regularly, so don’t go long without dipping into these wonderful books. They refresh the soul in vital ways.

Finally, how I read. In brief, I read slowly and actively. I pay attention to the details and especially to the flow of thought. I circle repeated words, draw lines between related concepts, check cross references, jot brief thoughts or questions in the margin (in pencil). If my mind drifts while reading, I go back to where I drifted off and start again.

I also mix my reading with prayer. It’s hard not to. Sometimes I pray the prayers of the Bible as if they were my own. Other times I pray the content of a passage, for me or for others. I pray the words, express wonder, give thanks, offer praise, confess shortcomings, ask questions.

So, there’s my brief tutorial. Like many things important, but sometimes burdensome, consistency is key. So step up. Read regularly, read slowly, read thoughtfully, and read the full counsel of God. Again, action always beats intention.

There are some very good thoughts here. I hope they’re helpful for you!

Sermon in a Sentence

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This morning I had the privilege of hearing Alan Shlemon preach on “Bad Arguments Against Religion” as part of an apologetics weekend. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A reasonable defense of Christianity is needed because false ideas are obstacles to people believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.