Archive for February, 2012

Yesterday, I went to a coffee shop to do some of my sermon preparation. What struck me, in addition to Genesis 2:16-17, was one of the other customers. In fact, he was sitting at the table next to me.

He was friendly. He talked to nearly everyone who came into the shop, but didn’t push himself on anyone, either. He was pleasant in his demeanor and looked like he enjoyed his stay. I couldn’t detect any phoniness whatsoever.

In the course of our conversation, after I told him I was a pastor, he told me he was tutor and a public information officer for the Bahai religion. He said he writes articles for their website and is a representative of Bahaism.

That idea got me thinking. Whether or not we have an official title or position, you and I are public information officers and representatives of the Triune God. It’s our job to represent Him to everyone we come into contact with.

I don’t know how well my new Bahai friend writes, but I know how well he relates to peopleIn that regard, he represents Bahai very well. What about you and me? It matters.

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Sermon in a Sentence

Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 2:4-15. Here is a summary of my sermon in the space of one sentence: God placed Adam in the garden, provided for him, and had a purpose for him.

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Sermon in a Sentence

This morning, I had the privilege of listening to a great sermon by Duane Decker of China Outreach Ministries. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: King Saul’s downhill slide (and anyone else’s) – brought on by carelessness, callousness, cynicism, and corruption – can be cured by our position in Christ, our posture with Christ, and our provision through Christ. We also enjoyed an update from Duane and Jodi on the ministry of C.O.M. Praise God for what He’s doing!

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“What do I need the church for? Can’t I read my Bible and grow and worship on my own?” Sadly, the attitude I call “Me, Jesus, and my Bible” is still present among Christians today. This attitude is a denial of the truth that healthy spiritual growth always takes place in the context of Christian community – the church.

Why Church Matters by Joshua Harris deals with this issue in a readable and persuasive way. Harris, senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, tackles the issue head-on by saying that no Christian should be satisfied with being part of the universal church only. We should commit ourselves to a specific local church because it is the only institution God has promised will endure forever. The church is where God works in this world.

Aside from all of the other god material in this book, the most helpful is chapter 5 — “Choosing Your Church.” Harris gives ten questions that must be asked  (and answered) about a prospective church: Is this a church where God’s Word is faithfully taught? Is this a church where sound doctrine matters? Is this a church in which the gospel is cherished and clearly proclaimed? Is this a church committed to reaching non-Christians with the gospel? Is this a church whose leaders are characterized by humility and integrity? Is this a church where people strive to live by God’s Word? Is this a church where I can find and cultivate godly relationships? Is this a church where members are challenged to serve? Is this a church that is willing to kick me out? Is this a church I’m willing to join “as is” with enthusiasm and faith in God? These are all great questions.

Why Church Matters is easy to read, short (119 pages, not including the study guide in the updated version), and a solid answer to the question of what place the church has in the life of a Christian. By the way, I liked the original title better – Stop Dating the Church.

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

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“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

Cindy Hamilton, a member of our church, died earlier this week. It was my honor and privilege to lead the memorial service we had for her at Immanuel this afternoon.

Cindy battled cancer for the last two years, but you wouldn’t have known it if you had spent any time with her. Her life was characterized by a deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ, and not by her cancer. Her trust in God was strong and constant. She was convinced God is sovereign and that His plan for her was good. Cindy was an inspiration to all of us in the way she remained faithful to the Lord and always sought to encourage others. She would be the first to tell you, though, the only reason she was faithful is because the Lord was faithful to her first. Cindy lived well and she died well. May that be said of all of us!

We’ll miss Cindy, but we rejoice in the knowledge that she is in the glorious presence of God in heaven. Physical cancer and spiritual cancer – sin – are no more for her. Praise God! We’re confident that we will see her again – all because of the amazing grace of God.

“We grieve, but not as those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

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Sermon in a Sentence

I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 2:1-3 this morning. Here is a one-sentence summary of my sermon: God’s example of resting on the seventh day is a principle which applies to us today.

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“How many people go to your church?”

I get asked that question a lot, but I’m never quite sure how to answer it. I could give a strictly factual answer, but don’t want to encourage the “bigger-is-better, bigger-means-God-is-blessing” attitude that’s so prevalent today (especially since the church I pastor is not large by any stretch of the imagination). I could avoid the question altogether. Finally, I could give an answer that helps people ask better questions and focus on more important issues.

Tim Challies has written a piece that helps us ask and answer this question better. You can read it here.

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 1:28. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: We are to reproduce a godly offspring and heritage through bearing and bringing up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

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Don Carson is a scholar of the highest caliber. More than that, he is a man with a “mind on fire for God.” Pascal, who coined that phrase, would be proud.

The majority of Carson’s books are scholarly in nature, but this one – The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story – is written on a more popular level. Don’t get me wrong, Carson’s scholarship is found everywhere in the book, but just about anyone will be able to understand and learn from what he’s written. In other words, you don’t have to be a theologian to read, understand, and benefit from this excellent book.

“What’s the Bible about?” Carson answers this question in the course of fourteen chapters by saying, “It’s about God revealing Himself to us. In the Bible, He makes His person and work known to us.” Each of the chapter titles make this clear by beginning with the phrase “The God Who…” (“The God Who Made EVerything,” “The God Who Becomes A Human Being,” and “The God Who Declares the Guilty Just” are three examples.)

I recommend this book because it’s written well and clearly. It covers a number of theological subjects while not being shallow (which is an accomplishment in and of itself). It’s also doctrinally sound – the most important point.

The God Who Is There is both a good introduction to the Bible and a good introduction to Christianity. It would be a good book for non-Christians as well as new Christians, but those of us who aren’t either would benefit from the strengthening of our foundation.

Tolle Lege!


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