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Archive for July, 2012

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7)

What do you worry about? What makes you anxious? How do you handle your worries? What do you do with your anxiety?

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us what we should do, as Christians, with whatever makes us anxious. These two sentences are built around two commands – one negative – “Be anxious for nothing” – and the other positive – “let your requests be made known.” When should we “let our requests be made known”? “In everything.”  How? “By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” To Whom? “to God.” Who? Those who are in “Christ Jesus.” What is the result? “The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds.” In short, Paul says, “Don’t worry about anything. Pray about everything.”

These two verses contain a promise and a principle.

A Promise: Through prayer, God will give us peace in place of anxiety. That’s an amazing promise! We don’t have to worry about anything! Our worry can be exchanged for His peace through prayer that is full-orbed (including thanksgiving, not just requests). As we pray, God gives us a supernatural peace that only He can give. Like a sentry, that peace guards our hearts and minds.

A Principle: Ask God for what you prefer, then defer to Him. We’re commanded to make our requests known to God in prayer – regarding everything (not simply big things or “important” things), and then submit, or defer, to Him for the results. We say, “Lord, this is what I want, but You’re sovereign and You know what’s best for me, so I submit to You.” This has been called “Preferential-Deferential Prayer.” This is how we ought to pray for ourself and others.

How can we deal with our anxiety? By claiming God’s promise and acting according to His principle.

 

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This morning, at our church’s Family Camp, I had the privilege of preaching on Philippians 4:6-7. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Through prayer, God promises His children peace in exchange for anxiety.

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Other than wording, what makes our English translations of the Bible different from each other? Are all English translations equally accurate?

Choosing a Bible: Understanding Bible Translation Differences, by Leland Ryken, answers those questions and provides guidance in the choice of a translation. Choosing a Bible is a quick read (it’s a booklet adapted from a full-sized book called The Word of God in English), but full of information.

Most of the differences in English translations come as a result of different philosophies and goals. As the Word of God is translated from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek to English, should it be rendered in a word-for-word manner (essentially literal), a thought-for-thought manner (dynamic equivalence), or should it be paraphrase? Ryken explains the strengths of essentially literal translations and the weaknesses of translations which are based on the philosophy of dynamic equivalence.

Translating the Word of God is a very serious undertaking. It’s critical that we know what God has told us. He has spoke to us in His Word and translations must be faithful to the original manuscripts if we are to know, understand, and obey Him. There is a lot at stake in translating and choosing a Bible. I’m thankful for Ryken’s help on both counts.

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I attended a 9 Marks workshop at Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was encouraged, inspired, and caused to think about a number of things as a result of the talks and the question-and-answer sessions. All day Monday and Tuesday morning, several hundred of us were reminded of the nine marks of a healthy church.

The organization – 9 Marks – was started by Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., to remind and help churches recover the essential elements, ingredients, or “marks” that characterize churches that are healthy and pleasing to God. None of the marks are unusual or new. We can find each of them clearly taught in Scripture. This is what churches who take God and His Word seriously are supposed to be doing.

What follows is a summary of the nine marks as they were presented by each of the speakers.

1. Expository Preaching (Mark Dever) – The Word of God is to be preached in such a way that the point of the text is the point of the sermon, is explained in its context, and is applied to those who hear. If we get this right, everything else will follow.

2. Biblical Theology (Michael Lawrence – senior pastor of Hinson Memorial Baptist Church) – A theology that encompasses all of Scripture, with Jesus being seen as the interpretive key, must be taught.

3. Biblical Gospel (Zach Schlegel – assistant pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church) – The church must protect and proclaim the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – as it’s found in the Scripture. People must believe the true gospel in order to be saved.

4. Biblical Conversion (Michael Lawrence) – If we understand biblical conversion properly, we will understand that we need to be made new, not nice; we need to be saved, not sincere; and we must call people to become disciples, not simply make decisions. Conversion is the work of God, not man.

5. Biblical Evangelism (Zach Schlegel) – Evangelism takes place wherever and whenever the gospel is preached with a view to conversion. Social action, inviting people to church, sharing your testimony, having a spiritual conversation, or someone making a “decision” is not evangelism.

6. Biblical Membership (Jonathan Leeman – Editorial Director of 9 Marks) – Church membership is a relationship between a Christian and a church which recognizes the Christian’s standing in the kingdom of God and involves submission to the church for their spiritual care and well-being.

7. Biblical Discipline (Jonathan Leeman) – Church discipline is an aspect of discipleship that involves both instruction and correction. This kind of loving action is the key to revitalizing our churches.

8. Biblical Leadership (Mark Dever) – Qualified, godly, mature elders are absolutely crucial to a healthy church. These men lead the church by teaching the Word of God. A plurality of elders is best.

9. Biblical Discipleship (Mark Dever) – A culture of discipleship (following Christ) must be developed in a church. People who are growing and maturing in their walk with Christ should be normal in our churches, not abnormal.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out Mark Dever’s books The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and The Deliberate Church. 

Once again, there’s nothing earth-shattering among these marks. They’re what God says the church should be doing and it was good to have the reminder.  It was also good to know that we’re on the right track at Immanuel.

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching on Joshua 23-24 (Joshua’s farewell address and covenant-renewal ceremony). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Choose today to be loyal to God by remembering what He has done, understanding what loyalty is, recognizing the consequences of disloyalty, and recognizing the seriousness of the decision.

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Passion in Ministry

Paul Tripp listed 6 Traits of a Pastor in Awe of God in a blog post earlier this month. The third trait – dealing with passion – jumped out at me:

No matter what is or isn’t working in my ministry, no matter what difficulties I am facing, no matter what battles I am fighting, the expansive glory of God gives me reason to get up in the morning and do what I have been gifted and called to do with enthusiasm, courage, and confidence. My joy isn’t handcuffed to circumstances or relationships. My heart isn’t yanked wherever they go. I have reason for joy because I am a chosen child and a conscripted servant of the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the great Creator, the Savior, the Sovereign, the Victor, the One who reigns and will reign forever. He is my Father, my Savior, and my Boss. He is ever near and ever faithful. My passion for ministry does not come from how I am being received. It flows out of the reality that I have been received by him. I’m not enthusiastic because people like me, but because he has accepted and sent me. I’m not passionate because ministry is glorious, but because God is eternally and unchangeably glorious. So I preach, teach, counsel, lead, and serve with a gospel passion that inspires and ignites the same in the people around me.

Wow! May the Lord give me and my pastoral brethren that kind of passion!

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“The embarrassed don’t learn.” (Old Jewish saying.)

If you’re too embarrassed to ask a question when you don’t understand something, you won’t learn much of anything. The truth of the old Jewish saying was brought home to me today.

The church lawn mower is on the fritz. One of our elders took it into the shop and was told there were several problems. “The air intake,” he told me, was one of them. At that very moment I was confronted with a choice. I could respond to him by saying, “Oh yeah, the air intake! That can be a real problem” (pretending that I knew what he was talking about, but actually remaining completely clueless). This time, though, I didn’t do that. “What’s that?” I asked, and he told me.

On this occasion, at least, I wasn’t embarrassed to be engine and mechanically challenged and asked for an explanation. Now I know what an air intake is and does, although I’m not sure how long I’ll remember it!

The application is simple: the next time your pastor uses the word “hypostatic union” and you don’t understand it, ask him what it means. The next time your Sunday School teacher talks about the “kenosis” theory, don’t nod your head approvingly because you think it has something to do with osmosis (it doesn’t!). Risk the embarrassment and ask a question. You’ll learn and so will a lot of other people who didn’t know and didn’t say anything.

The embarrassed don’t learn, but the unembarrassed do!

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