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Archive for September, 2008

An Unworthy Slave

 

Once again, traffic has exposed one of my sins.

I was driving home – on the freeway listening to a sermon, interestingly enough – when I let another car merge into the lane I was in. I was in the far right lane, and the driver of the other car was in a single lane that merged with mine. I slowed down, giving him enough space to come into the lane.

He pulled into the open space and everything was OK, right? Wrong, at least in my mind. Why? He didn’t give me the “courtesy wave.” He didn’t acknowledge that I had let him get into the lane. Basically, he didn’t say “thank you.” He was ungrateful. Didn’t he realize that I didn’t have to let him in, that my act of letting him in was an act of kindness and was very unselfish? Of course, he didn’t. How dare he!

Then it hit me – I didn’t, and don’t, deserve praise or thanks for something I should do anyway. The right thing for me in that situation was to let him merge into the lane. It would be “icing on the cake” if he said “thank you,” but if he doesn’t it shouldn’t matter.

The root of the matter for me seems to be that I enjoy and expect being thanked and recognized when I’ve done something (regardless of whether or not it’s out of my way or not). That attitude and expectation is wrong and sinful because it’s based on pride, vanity, selfishness, and worldliness.

Jesus said,

Which of you, having a slave tending or plowing sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, “Come immediately and sit down to eat”? But will he not say to him, “Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink”? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all these things which are commanded you, say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only what that which we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:7-10)

Yes, it’s possible to be an unworthy slave behind the wheel of a car (even while listening to a sermon).

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Listening to Sermons

 

We know that prayer, Bible study, fellowship, evangelism, and a number of other things will contribute to our spiritual formation and growth. But should listening to sermons be added to the list of spiritual disciplines? Craig Brian Larson thinks so, and makes a good case for it in this article.

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Chuck Colson has good thoughts on the financial state of the United States, especially in the last week. You can read them here. Now is not the time for fear. Remember, God is sovereign.

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Tomorrow, I’ll begin preaching through the gospel of Mark – passage by passage and consecutively. I’ve never preached through Mark, or a book that large, before. I’m looking forward to it!

Because of that, I decided to do something I haven’t done in quite a while – I read the entire book in one sitting.

It took about one hour and twenty minutes and was well worth it. A number of people have extolled the virtues of this practice, but it had been some time since I’d done it. I’m glad I made the time!

Reading through an entire book is helpful for several reasons. It gives you an overview of the book, something you can’t get by reading a verse here or there. You can more easily discern the argument, flow, and tone of the author. The context of individual verses and passages can be better understood, which helps avoid misinterpretation. Finally, we’re reading the book the way many of them (especially the epistles) were originally supposed to be read – in their entirety.

Try it! If nothing else, it will add another dimension to your Bible reading and study. An epistle, such as Philippians, will take about twenty minutes to read. Obviously, a book the length of Genesis will take several hours. Don’t take notes or get bogged down or look up cross-references, just read. Once you’ve read the entire book, read and study it passage by passage.

Read the whole thing first. It will help you understand God’s Word better. Anything that does that is a good thing.

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Live a Holy Life

 

In church the other day, I was thumbing through a small devotional booklet by Max Lucado and came across this entry called “Live a Holy Life.”

You want to make a difference in your world? Live a holy life.

Be faithful to your spouse.

Be the one at the office who refuses to cheat.

Be the neighbor who acts neighborly.

Be the employee who does the work and doesn’t complain.

Pay your bills.

Do your part and enjoy life.

Don’t speak one message and live another.

These aren’t merely rule and regulations. They are simply outpourings of God’s righteousness in us. Find ways to demonstrate his righteousness today. Receive all that he has for you.

Well said! I’m sure we could all add to Lucado’s list.

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Last Sunday, I finished my sermon series called “Out of the Gate” at Immanuel. I wanted to spell out some basic and foundational themes as I start my ministry there and we start a new chapter in the history of the church.

In Acts 2:41-47, we find the essential ingredients of a healthy and well-balanced church. We see:

  1. Discipleship (v. 42 – “the apostles teaching”)
  2. Fellowship (vv. 42, 46a)
  3. Worship (vv. 41, 42, 44, 46a, 47a)
  4. Ministry/Service (v. 45)
  5. Evangelism (v. 47b)

The church’s purpose is to glorify God. The church’s mission is to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20 – the Great Commission). The church’s objectives (or goals) are the five things listed above. When we do those things, we fulfill our mission which leads to achieving our purpose.

We have to strive to be balanced in these areas, even though we’ll undoubtedly be stronger and weaker in some of them. Everything we do as a church needs to be run through this grid. Prospective pastors, and those who have a call, will be asked, “What is your vision for the church?” The Bible’s answer, and therefore God’s answer is “To glorify God by making disciples. We make disciples through a balance of evangelism, worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and service.” That’s our “business.” That’s what we’re all about.

One thing I didn’t emphasize during the sermon is that each individual Christian needs to be balanced in each of these areas, too. If we are healthy and well-balanced as believers in Jesus Christ, then the church will be, too.

May God be pleased to bless us and give us that kind of balance and health. May He have His fingerprints all over our church, just like he did in Acts 2!

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Andree Seu has written another excellent, thought-provoking article. She seems to do that on a regular basis. In “The Active Heart” (Aug. 23/30 – WORLD), she writes:

“Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) has always struck me as a good slogan or political rallying song. I had no idea what it meant. Now I see that it has nothing external about it at all. You will never see someone “fight the good fight of the faith.” It all happened when you weren’t there, alone on a country walk, just between him and the Lord. That’s where the blood and sweat and the dying occurred. By the time you spotted the fellow out in public – in the visible battlefield, or at a PTO meeting, or pushing away some lucrative job offer, or not leaving his wife – the heavy lifting was already done. One often detects a certain peace in the presence of such people.

A couple of paragraphs down, she writes:

And the corollary is that there is no Christian life except the moment-by-moment kind – more pointedly, the moment-by-moment choice to believe God. The Christian life is not lived on the level of doctrine, or our various observances, or our political action, though all these are required. And what that moment-by-moment faith in God looks like a brawl. If there is no constant battle, there is probably no authentic life. The battle can be joyful, but it is a battle. And it comes with a promise:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

I got an illustration of this as I was driving home one day last week. As I was trying to change lanes on one of the freeways I travel (until we move, that is!), a certain car (or to be more specific, the driver of the car) wouldn’t let me or anyone else into his lane. My first thought was, “Just wait until he wants to change lanes! If he’s next to me, I’m not going to let him.”

It was at that point that the battle of the mind kicked in. My attitude was certainly wrong and not Christlike at all. I had to change my mind to something along the lines of, “If he wants into my lane and I’m next to him, I’ll let him in. I need to treat him the way I want to be treated. I need to show some grace.” Just one small example of what Seu was writing about. Moment-by-moment faith really is a brawl, but it’s the brawl God had called us to.

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