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Archive for September, 2011

Just a Thought

In today’s North American church, are there too many church-planters? The last decade has seen an explosion of pastors – mostly young – planting churches. But, to use a marketing term, is the market saturated?

Let me make clear that church-planting is a good thing and I have nothing against it. God calls some pastors to start new churches and others to shepherd and teach established churches. My concern is with the wisdom of so many planters and so many plants. I’ve seen Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church-plants located next door to an established Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church. Is that really wise? Is it a wise use of kingdom resources?

I understand the lure planting a church has for a young pastor. You have the chance to be involved in God building something from the ground up. You don’t have to deal with decades or more of built-in problems that come with an established church. You can set a tone from the start and do things the way you think they ought to be done immediately. You can target your outreach to people or groups established churches may have forgotten or ignored.

If I were asked, my advice to young pastoral students would be to find a faithful, Bible-believing church, join it, and then do everything you can to serve and strengthen it. At some point, God may call you away. But until that time comes, be faithful and serve. Established churches, especially small ones, need you and your gifts.

When it comes to church-planting, the apostle Paul’s method seems best to me. In his letter to the church at Rome, he wrote, “and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build upon someone else’s foundation” (Rom.15:20). While it’s true that Paul had a foundational ministry to the Gentiles that will never be repeated, the principle still stands. A church plant next door to an established church doesn’t fit that principle, in my opinion.

Church-planting is good. Too many church-planters aren’t. Just a thought.

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“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

Nothing the world has to offer – wealth, fame, power, etc. – will last forever.

Everything God gives by His grace – forgiveness, life, freedom, etc. – will last forever and will never fade away.

Therefore, it only makes sense to focus our attention and ambition on what is eternal and not what is temporal.

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Sermon in a Sentence

This morning, I was privileged to preach on Ephesians 6:1-4. Here is a summary of my sermon in the space of one sentence: Children are to obey their parents because it’s right, it’s God’s law, and there is a promise of blessing attached to the command; while parents are to nurture and not exasperate their children.

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In his book The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story, D.A. Carson explains the importance of the bodily and physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

As important as the cross is, it is not the end of the story, for all of the New Testament writers focus equally on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The resurrection accounts are rich and diverse. There is no way they can be reduced to mass hallucination. Jesus appeared to many people many times over a period of forty days or so. He appeared to ones and twos; he appeared to as many as five hundred at a time; he appeared to the apostles more than once; he appeared in locked rooms; he appeared on the seashore and ate some fish that he was cooking for them. The witnesses multiply. He shows up when they are not expecting him, and he shows up when they are. He cannot be categorized or dismissed or domesticated. The resurrection appearances are simply too frequent, too diverse, and supported by too many witnesses. What do you do with them?

If you think that the early Christians made this up or were somehow hoodwinked or fell victims to mass psychology of some sort, it is hard to explain why they were willing to die for their faith. If the resurrection is a fairy story a bit like “Hansel and Gretel,” my question is, “How many have offered to die for Hansel and Gretel?” But they early Christians were willing to die for their conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead. They had seen him, touched him, handled him, eaten with him, after he had risen from the dead – and they were transformed by him. In fact, he promised them resurrection bodies of their own one day. They believed that he was Lord.

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Sermon in a Sentence

I had the privilege this morning of preaching on Ephesians 5:25-33. Here’s a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Spirit-filled husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church, as they love themselves, and as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church.

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No Free Lunches

According to Milton Friedman, you can sum up economics in one sentence (paraphrased): “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

As long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve reacted, almost viscerally, to the statement by saying,”Yes, there is! Salvation is free!” There may not be free lunches in economics, but there certainly are when it comes to God rescuing us from the penalty, power, and presence of our sin against Him, I thought. Doesn’t Romans 6:23 say, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord”? Of course it does.

Salvation is free for anyone who humbly repents of his or her sin, and places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. There is no work or level of achievement that is required to be reconciled to God – simply faith.

But salvation was not free for the One who accomplished it. The first part of Romans 6:23, which I did not quote earlier, says, “For the wages of sin is death.” The penalty for sin is death and because God is just it must be paid. Someone paid it – Jesus Christ (the same Jesus Christ who committed no sin Himself). Earlier in the book of Romans, Paul wrote, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (5:8-11).

Salvation is free for me as a repentant sinner, but it cost Jesus His very life. Milton Friedman was right.

 

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As we moved closer to the 10-year anniversary of the Islamic terrorist attack on the United States on September 11th, 2001, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of articles and statements on talk radio and television┬ámade about the lessons we’ve learned.

I’m glad we’re thinking about the subject, but I don’t think we in the United States, and Western Civilization in general, have learned that much. What people have “taken away” from 9/11 is different, sometimes wrong, and often dangerous. Dennis Prager published this column which echoes my thoughts. Please read it and reflect on it. One lesson I’ve learned from 9/11 and the ten years that have followed is that the United States desperately needs revival – sent sovereignly by God and focused on the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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