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Archive for November, 2010

Sermon in a Sentence

This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on James 5:7-11. Here’s my sermon in one sentence: In the midst of suffering, we are to remain patient until the coming of the Lord.

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We know this is true, but here’s more proof.

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Yes, the food has something to do with it and so do family and friends. But I think the reason I regard it so highly is because of what it means – what it reminds us to do.

This holiday is about giving thanks to God for all of the blessings He’s given us. That’s what the first Thanksgiving was about and that’s what it’s about today, too. It serves to remind us that we should be thankful to God and then express it to Him and other people.

Gratitude is the most basic human virtue. Ingratitude is the worst of vices. To not be thankful for the gifts we’re received is to spit in the face of the Giver of those gifts. We have far more than we deserve, which should produce gratitude in even the coldest of hearts.

As you give thanks today, and I hope you do, be specific (explain why you’re thankful for your family, for instance) and remember the source of your blessings – God.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Thankfulness hath no greater end than itself; as when a man looks upon God as one who hath saved him from hanging in hell, and one he owes his life unto, and so would be content to do or suffer anything for him upon this ground, and is glad if God will but use him or call him to either, is greedy of opportunities of rendering to him, and glad of an occasion wherein he may show himself to love him; is thankful for nothing more than that he is able to anything that pleaseth him, and may be accepted; this man is a thankful man.

So it is unthankfulness when Christians are always whining and complaining, and discontented for what they want, but never praising God for what they have, still a-begging more, not considering what is past…

Thomas Goodwin (“A Discourse on Thankfulness” – Works, Volume 9)

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In his booklet The Religious Life of Theological Students, theologian B.B. Warfield commented on what he thought was the greatest danger experienced by those studying theology. This danger also exists for pastors, also.

We are frequently told, indeed, that the great danger of the theological student lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things. They may come to seem common to him, because they are customary. As the average man breathes the air and basks in the sunshine without ever a though that it is God in his goodness who makes his sun to rise on him, though he is evil, and sends rain to him, though he is unjust; so you may come to handle even the furniture of the sanctuary with never a thought above the great earthly materials of which it is made. The words which tell you of God’s terrible majesty or of his glorious goodness may come to be mere words to you – Hebrew and Greek words, with etymologies, and inflections, and connections in sentences. The reasonings which establish to you the mysteries of his saving activities may come to be to you mere logical paradigms, with premises and conclusions, fitly framed, no doubt, and triumphantly cogent, but with no further significance to you than their formal logical conclusiveness. God’s stately steppings in his redemptive processes may become to you a mere series of facts of history, curiously interplaying to ,the production of social and religious conditions, and pointing mayhap to an issue which we may shrewdly conjecture: but much like other facts occurring in time and space, which may come to your notice. It is your great danger. But it is your great danger, only because it is your great privilege. Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you! Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life, sunk in the daily struggle for bread perhaps, distracted at any rate by the dreadful drag of the world upon them and the awful rush of the world’s work, find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such things as God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore; they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God! (Emphasis is the author’s, not mine.)

I highly recommend this little booklet published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. Warfield’s thoughts are applicable to pastors, certainly, but also to all who minister, to teachers, to parents, and to Bible study leaders. We need to heed this word.

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Sermon in a Sentence

I preached on Psalm 100 this morning – appropriate for Thanksgiving. It was the psalm the Pilgrims read when they landed at Plymouth Rock. Here is the sermon in a sentence: God’s people are called to praise and give thanks to Him because of His covenant blessings and covenant perfections.

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Quick Take on Wealth

 

Everything we have comes from God, but how should we handle it? We need to be aware of three truths.

  1. Wealth should be used to meet basic needs – ours and others. “For we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Tim. 6:7-8)
  2. Wealth is to be enjoyed. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Tim. 6:17)
  3. Wealth should be used to be generous to others. “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”

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Learned and Godly

 

When I entered seminary, one of the first required readings was a little booklet written by theologian B.B. Warfield called The Religious Life of Theological Students. Here is one of the numerous wise comments he made:

But aptness to teach alone does not make a minister; nor is it his primary qualification. It is only one of a long list of requirements which Paul lays down as necessary to meet in him who aspires to this high office. And all the rest (my explanation – referring to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9) concern, not his intellectual, but his spiritual fitness. A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly.

Nothing could be more fatal, however, then to set these two things over against one another. Recruiting officers do not dispute whether it’s better for soldiers to have a right leg or a left leg: soldiers should have both legs. Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. “What!” is the appropriate response, “than ten hours over your books on your knees?” Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that you must turn from your books in order to turn to God? If learning and devotion are antagonistic as that, then the intellectual life itself is accursed, and there can be no question of a religious life for a student, even of theology. The mere fact that he is a student inhibits religion for him. That I am asked to speak to you on the religious life of the student of theology proceeds on the recognition of the absurdity of such antithesis. You are students of theology; and, just because you are students of theology, it is understood that you are religious men – especially religious men, to whom the cultivation of your religious life is a matter of the profoundest concern – of such concern that you will wish above all things to be warned of the dangers that may assail your religious life, and be pointed to the means by which you may strengthen and enlarge it. In your case there can be no “either-or” here – either a student or a man of God. You must be both.

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We need to master the Bible and be mastered by it.

Mastering the Word of God means, as the apostle Paul wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Our knowledge of the Bible (“the word of truth”) must continually grow – the order and names of the books of the Bible, their authors and themes, how they fit into the big picture of Scripture, the central teachings of the Bible among other things. Realistically, we can study for a lifetime and never master it exhaustively, but we must make it our aim.

Being mastered by the Word of God is something different, however. In Psalm 119, David says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. with my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (verses 9-11). We’re mastered by God’s Word when we obey and  submit to it, thereby submitting to Him. This is where the discipline of biblical meditation comes into the picture – as we read the Bible we think and reflect upon how we can best obey it.

We give more time and effort today on mastering the Word. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we can much more attention than we do to being mastered by the Word.

As we master the Word of God, we’ll be mastered by it. That’s the way it ought to be as we live coram Deo.

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Sermon in a Sentence

It was my privilege to preach on James 5:1-6 this morning. Here is my sermon summarized in one sentence: God will judge the rich who hoard their wealth, refuse to pay the wages they owe, live self-indulgent lives, and murder the righteous.

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