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Archive for July, 2011

I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 5:1-2 this morning. Here is a summary of my sermon in the space of one sentence: As children of God, we should imitate Him by continuing to live a life characterized by love, following the example of Jesus who gave Himself up for us.

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John Stott, British pastor and author, died yesterday. He was 90. He was a faithful pastor, excellent student of the Bible, and was spoken well of by nearly all evangelicals. He will be missed by us all.

In honour of Stott, here are five good books that came from his pen. These aren’t the only five, and they aren’t in any specific order.

  1. Basic Christianity. The title explains what the book is all about – the basics of Christianity focusing on the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is an excellent introduction to the faith.
  2. The Cross of Christ. An in-depth look at what was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross, as well as what it means to live in light of the cross.
  3. Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century. A primer for preachers. The first sentence sets the tone for the rest of the book – “Preaching is indispensable to Christianity.”
  4. Your Mind Matters. A small book with a huge point – what we think about and how we think about it has tremendous meaning. Stott explains how our minds need to be renewed and every thought taken captive to Christ.
  5. The Message of Acts (part of The Bible Speaks Today series). Stott makes sense and identifies nonsense in the historical book of the New Testament.

These five books are a good place to start when reading Stott. All of them are classics, and therefore well worth reading. Enjoy!

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I had the privilege of preaching on the book of Proverbs this morning during our worship service at family camp. Here is a one-sentence summary of my sermon: Watch your mouth – your words have tremendous power.

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“God seems to have a fondness for average Joe’s.” So says Troy Meeker in Average Joe: God’s Extraordinary Calling to Ordinary Men.

He’s not just talking about men with the name Joe, either. “You’ll find average Joe’s everywhere. Good men, honest men. They are hard working, genuine, and steadfast. More often than not, they are absent from the great halls of debate, ivory towers of scholastic achievement, of the family trees of aristocracy. Instead they mow grass, sell insurance, build furniture, drive trucks, manage restaurants, and fix plumbing. They can be found serving coffee at the local diner, selling tires, or pastoring a small church. In our hurried pace we often pass them by as we rush off to our next appointment or event.”

Meeker, who is the co-founder of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in central Oregon with his wife Kim, spends fourteen chapters telling stories of the men who have deeply impacted his life and the biblical principles and character qualities they represent. He also tells the story of a very rocky time in his own marriage.

Average Joe is a good book for ordinary men who wonder if their life can have significance, even if they aren’t a CEO, famous, or a billionaire.

(Waterbrook Multnomah gave me a free copy of this book to review.)

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Question – Should you read from one Bible or more than one?

Answer – You should have a primary translation of the Bible that you study. It’s good to have a consistent reading of Scripture when you’re digging deeper – observing, interpreting, and applying the Bible to your own life. Become familiar with its wording – its rhythm, so to speak.

You should also have a secondary translation for study, as well. It’s a good idea to “check your work” by comparing the two versions.

For study and regular use, I recommend the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible (1995 Update). These two English translations are by far the best and most accurate available today. They’re excellent for reading, study, and memorizing. I study, preach, and teach from the ESV  because although it’s as literal in its word-for-word translation as the NASB, but is more readable (easier to read).

You should have many Bible translations that you read from. A secondary Bible could be any of the following: The New Testament in Modern English, by J.B. Phillips; The New King James Version; and The Holman Christian Standard Bible. I would also highly recommend The Disciple’s Literal New Testament, which is the closest you’ll get to reading the New Testament in Greek. This is certainly not an exhaustive list by any means.

Reading in another translation does something very important – it slows you down. If you’re too familiar with a verse, passage, or chapter, it’s quite easy to skim or skip over material quickly. You don’t pay as careful attention as you normally would when read a familiar section that “fits like an old shoe.” When you slow down, though, you’re forced to think and linger over the meaning of Scripture (which is a large part of the biblical practice of meditation).

What about the New International Version? I can no longer recommend this translation because of the many serious changes, not only in translation but philosophy, since the 1984 revision. The latest revision – done in 2011 – is horrible and reflects the worst of agenda-driven gender-neutral political correctness. Unless you have a 1984-or-earlier NIV, don’t use it.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 4:25-32. A summary of my sermon in one sentence is as follows: As Christians, we are to speak truth to one another, not let anger be fanned into flame, work hard to meet the needs of others, speak what blesses and benefits others, and be kind to each other.

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You’re tired, maybe to the point of exhaustion. You’ve worked hard and don’t think you have much more to give.

Don’t give up! Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” You can receive rest from the Lord when you ask for it by faith.

Listen to the words of the apostle Paul: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). If you don’t give up, and continue to do good to God and others, you’ll receive a reward from Him – it may not be today or tomorrow, but you can be certain it will come.

There is hope for your weariness! Trust God and keep going.

 

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Inside Out

The Bible is clear that all of our words and deeds start in the heart. The heart is indeed “the heart of the matter.”

In Matthew 15 and Mark 7, Jesus said that a whole variety of activities have their origin in a person’s heart. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:17), He said that a bad tree produces bad fruit. James wrote that “faith without works is dead” (2:26). What’s on the inside will show itself on the outside – guaranteed.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:

Take for example the realm of music. A man may play a great piece of music quite accurately. He may make no mistakes at all, and yet it may be true to say of him that he did not really play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. He played the notes correctly, but it was not the Sonata. What was he doing? He was mechanically striking the right notes but missing the soul and the real interpretation. He wasn’t doing what Beethoven intended and meant. That, I think, is the relationship between the whole and the parts. The artist, the true artist, is always correct. Even the greatest artist cannot afford to neglect rules and regulations, but that is not what makes him the great artist. It is this something extra, the expression, it is the spirit, it is the light, it is the whole that he is able to convey. There is, it seems to me, is the relationship of the particular to the general in the Sermon on the Mount. You can’t divorce; you can’t separate them.

The Christian, while he puts his emphasis on the spirit, is also concerned about the letter, but he is not concerned only about the letter. He must never consider the letter apart from the spirit. On the one hand to claim the spirit without living according to God’s law is to be a liar. On the other hand, to try to live out the law without the spirit is to be a hypocrite. They both go together. The spirit is the right attitude and the letter is the obedience that comes as a result.”

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It was warm – close to hot – in the sanctuary on Sunday morning during the worship service. We opened two doors opposite each other in the sanctuary in order to get some air movement, hoping to cool the space a bit.

About half way through my sermon, a couple of dogs about fifty yards away starting barking  – more like high-pitched yapping, actually. Everyone noticed it, thereby making it a distraction. At first, I thought about asking someone to shut the closest door or closing it myself. Then I began to get irritated. I thought about walking over to the door and yelling “Shut up!” to the dogs (which would have been thoroughly inconsistent with a worship service). I didn’t end up doing either, and the dogs mercifully stopped less than a minute later.

I doubt the barking dogs would make me the cussing pastor, but they might bring out the angry and grouchy pastor in me. In Genesis 1:28, after created man in His image and likeness, God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” They were to take dominion over their physical environment and bring it under submission (a command that has never been revoked, by the way). The harder thing, though, is to take dominion over yourself and bring your sinful nature into submission. It’s a lot easier for me to make dogs stop barking, or simply yell at them, than it is to bring my sinful nature under control.

With a bit of time to reflect, I can thank God who, in His providence, used those dogs to help me remember my responsibility to take dominion over myself (as He’s given me the strength to do by the Holy Spirit).

 

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 4:17-24. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and as part of His church, we are not to live like non-Christians, which involves putting off the old way of life, having our minds renewed, and putting on the new way of life.

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