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Archive for March, 2009

 

Maybe you remember the commercial of a few years ago – it was a public service announcement for the National Basketball Association focusing on the good deeds of some of its players. One particular advertisement featured a boy from New Jersey who went to an event where Keith Van Horn (there’s a “blast from the past”) of the New Jersey Nets spent time reading to and with the kids. At the end of the commercial, the boy is seen on the school bus saying, “It was a good day!”

Yesterday was a good day for me – long but good. Here is a list of reasons why:

  • Good Sunday School class (led by one of our elders). Lots of questions and excellent discussion.
  • Music in the worship service was God-honoring and relevant to the themes in the sermon.
  • I had the privilege of preaching Mark 7:1-23 (a tremendous passage).
  • Spent several hours in the Intensive Care Unit with the family of a friend of one our church members. I’m not their pastor (I doubt they have one), but the friend has visited our church a few times and asked that I come. I was privileged to be with them during their conference with the doctor (where end-of-life issues where discussed also – the prognosis is very serious).
  • In the evening taught a class on the reliability of the Bible called “Can You Trust the Bible?” It’s an 8-week course. The subject was the Bible’s own claim to be the Word of God. Lots of good discussion and questions (yes!).
  • A lady at church took me up on my “challenge” to memorize Psalm 119. I meant it as a joke and she didn’t. Knowing her, she’ll do it.
  • Watched The Amazing Race with Karen and ate some popcorn.

I praise God that even though it was a long day, it was also a good day.

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A couple of weeks ago, I preached on Mark 6:45-52 in our continuing study of that Gospel. After Jesus had walked on the water toward the disciples boat in the midst of a storm, Mark writes, “And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (verse 51).

The disciples had not comprehended the true meaning of the last miracle Jesus performed – the feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:30-44). Their hearts were hard – they were spiritually insensitive.

What causes a hard heart (or a hardening heart):

  1. Difficult times. Experiencing trials and trouble should draw us closer to the Lord, but sometimes they don’t.
  2. Good times. Forgetting about God in times of prosperity and ease is a common temptation.
  3. Disappointments with people, the church, or even God Himself.
  4. Refusal to repent of a particular sin.
  5. Frustration and failure, especially when we’re serving God and trying to do something for Him.
  6. A disconnect between hearing God’s Word and obeying it.
  7. Consistent exposure to the things of God. This can happen to pastors, in particular.
  8. Failure to consider the blessings of God, which goes hand-in-hand with ingratitude.
  9. Failure to spend time with God. We make time for what we love. Many Christians lose their first love as a result of busyness.
  10. A gradual drift away from God.

What are the cures for a hard or insensitive heart?

  1. Recognize the possibility of having a hard heart. It can happen to any of us. It’s best to identify it soon and deal with it appropriately.
  2. Repent! Confess hard-heartedness and ask God for forgiveness.
  3. Spend more time with God in His Word.
  4. Spend more time with God in prayer.
  5. Make it a point to have good, accountable fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
  6. Consider the blessings of God on a regular basis. Before your head hits the pillow, thank God for at least five things.

A hard heart is not what God wants for us. He wants us to have hearts that are soft, pliable, and sensitive.

Your thoughts on the cures and causes of hard hearts are welcome.

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Resolved, Never willfully to omit any thing , except the omission be for the glory of God; and to frequently examine my omissions.

Sin is both by commission (doing what we shouldn’t do) and omission (not doing what we should do). Edwards is rightfully giving due attention to what he wants to avoid as well as what he wants to achieve. Holiness and being a Christian consists not only of what we do, but also what we don’t do – all for the glory of God.

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Resolved, To cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

This resolution continues the thought of the 25th resolution which deals with Edwards doing everything he can to root out whatever causes him to doubt God’s love for Him. He says he will “cast way” whatever my hinder his assurance in that regard.

That sounds to me like something we should all do.

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“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9)

Saturday proved this verse (of course it didn’t need proving – maybe confirmation is a better word). I had my day planned because there were several things I needed to accomplish including my sermon for the next day. Nothing wrong with planning – we need to be good stewards of our time.

A visit to the intensive care unit (as a pastor, not a patient), a flat tire, a visit from relatives that was longer than expected because they helped us fix the flat tire, and a trip to the store all “interfered” with my brilliantly conceived plans.

Days like Saturday are reminders from God that He is in control – we’re not. We can plan – and we should – but the sovereign and good Ruler of the universe always has the last say and final word. We make our plans, He does what’s best for us. I praise Him for that because I wouldn’t want it any other way.

In case you’re wondering, I finished all of my work including the sermon.

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Last night, while listening to the radio, I heard something that made me cringe.

But first, the speaker – someone I respect immensely as a brother in Christ – made a statement I heartily agree with. He said that it’s possible for a Christian to become so invested in politics (even in good causes) that they forget the Gospel. Amen, brother! Preach it!

But then, in the next breath, he used “the Titanic illustration.” You’ve probably heard it and maybe even used it – “This world is passing away. It’s getting worse and worse. In fact, it’s going to Hell in a hand basket. Therefore, if we do anything other than evangelize the lost, we’re wasting our time – we’re simply polishing the brass on the Titanic.”

The logic of this line of thinking is that evangelism and involvement in politics are diametrically opposed to one another- it’s either evangelism or politics. This is a false dichotomy, a logical fallacy. It assumes that there are only two options when there may, in reality, be more. Evangelism and political involvement are acceptable (and may I add, necessary) for all Christians. We can, and must, do both.

If the speaker I referred to has thought through “the Titanic illustration,” I have a few questions for him: Do you vote? If so, why? The boat’s sinking anyway, so what good will your one vote really do? Are you involved in any efforts to relieve suffering or meet needs? If so, why? The ship’s on its way down, why bother to rearrange the deck chairs? Are you active in the fight against abortion? If so, why? If the world is getting exponentially worse, why waste our time? There will always be women who have abortions and men who shamefully urge them on.

If you subscribe to “the Titanic illustration” and are simultaneously involved in any kind of political or social action, it may be that you’re acting inconsistently with your own view.

God has called us to be obedient and faithful to Him in the world in which He has placed us. That vocation includes both evangelism and involvement in our neighborhoods and communities (and dare I say, the culture) for the glory of God.

Something to think about.

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“Change”

 

When Senator Barack Obama was campaigning, he said he would bring  change to and transform America. As President, Barack Obama is indeed bringing change and transformation.

That’s what a majority of American voters wanted and that’s what we’re getting.

The United States is being changed and transformed before our very eyes into a nation and society that is more socialistic than ever before. The latest “stimulus package” is reflects a different vision for America than our founding fathers espoused.

The power and influence of government will be greatly expanded. Taxes will have to be raised substantially if government (or the state) is to take care of us to the extent the “stimulus package” prescribes.

For some, all of that sounds pretty good. For others – like me – it does not. When the size and scope of government grows, freedom vanishes at a corresponding rate. Personal responsibility goes by the wayside – why should we work diligently to care for ourselves and others when the government has pledged to do it?  Care and concern for others, along with generosity, diminishes as the state grows larger – why should we help our families, friends, and neighbors when we see the government “doing such a good job of it”? Gratitude is forgotten – we begin to accept the notion that we are entitled to everything we have (and everything everyone else has) and are no longer thankful for whatever we have. Bigger government doesn’t make us better or holier people. In fact, it makes us worse,

The solution to our problems is not government, or bigger government, it’s God, and the state is always a challenger to His throne.

Even though President Obama will make decisions I don’t agree with and will take the country – most likely – in a direction I don’t agree with, I can’t despair. Despair is the result of having no options whatsoever – nothing else can be done. By God’s grace, we still have a number of options at our disposal. We can pray and work for change and transformation in the right direction, not the wrong one.

Hang in there! Never give up!

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