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Archive for January, 2013

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

A pattern emerges from this passage. The first part of the pattern is implied – God allows His children to be afflicted. The passage itself wouldn’t make sense if it weren’t true. Next, God, who is “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort,” gives divine comfort to His children in the midst of their suffering. Then we, in return and in imitation of our Heavenly Father, comfort our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being afflicted and need comfort.

This divine pattern, and the truth behind it, helps us answer two good and oft-asked questions about suffering and affliction: Is there any purpose or meaning in suffering? (Yes! The affliction God allows has the purpose of not only making us more like Him, but also in preparing us to minister to those who are suffering what we have suffered – we know exactly what they’re going through); Where is God in suffering and affliction? (According to the apostle Paul, God comforts personally and He works through His children to comfort each other by His grace and for His glory).

Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

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Last Sunday, I began to preach a short series of sermons on meaningful church membership. Actually, I only made it through half of what I had prepared, so the second half comes next week.

One of the most important passages on the subject is Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” These two sentences teach us a lot about church membership, both on the side of leaders and members. One thing taught clearly is that church members – those to whom the author of Hebrews wrote – are to obey and submit to their church’s leaders. But is that a blanket, or universal, command which covers everything? In other words, should you as a member of a church obey and submit to anything (literally anything) you’re told to do by your pastor and your elders?

So, should I obey and submit to my church leaders? It depends – that’s the answer. Under most circumstances, the answer is yes. There are some circumstances, however, when the answer has to be no. Here are a few of those times, according to Jonathan Leeman in his book Church Membership (pp. 118-119). Obedience and submission should not be given when church leaders characteristically:

  • Make dogmatic prescriptions where Scripture is silent.
  • Rely on intelligence, humor, charm, guilt, emotions, or threats rather than on God’s Word and prayer (Acts 6:4).
  • Play favorites.
  • Punish those who disagree.
  • Employ extreme forms of communication (tempers, silent treatment).
  • Recommend courses of action that always, somehow, improve the leader’s own situation, even at the expense of others.
  • Speak often and quickly.
  • Seldom do good deeds in secret.
  • Seldom encourage.
  • Seldom give the benefit of the doubt.
  • Emphasize outward conformity, rather than repentance of heart.
  • Preach, counsel, discipline, and oversee the church with lips that fail to ground everything in what Christ has done in the gospel and give glory to God.

May God give us church leaders, and may I be the kind of church leader, who are not characterized by any of these things – for God’s glory and our good.

 

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching on the subject of church membership from a number of different passages. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: A healthy church understands and is committed to biblical church membership.

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All of us have found ourselves in the position of not knowing what to pray. In His Word, God speaks with a very clear voice when He tells us to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, but there are times we don’t know what to pray or what to pray about. Here are 25 things we can pray about and for (this list is far from exhaustive):

  1. That God would be glorified (Matt. 6:9).
  2. That God’s kingdom would be built and advanced (Matt. 6:10a).
  3. That God’s will would be done (Matt. 6:10b).
  4. That God would provide all of our needs (Matt. 6:11).
  5. That we would forgive those who sin against us (Matt. 6:12).
  6. That God would protect us from evil and the evil one – Satan (Matt. 6:13).
  7. That we would glorify God in all things (1 Cor. 10:31; 1 Pet. 4:11).
  8. That God would save unbelievers (Rom. 10:1).
  9. That we would boldly proclaim God’s Word (Acts 4:29; Eph. 6:18-19).
  10. That God would give us wisdom, especially in the midst of trials (James 1:5).
  11. That God would establish and strengthen leadership in His church (Acts 14:23).
  12. That God would send us “reinforcements” (Matt. 9:38; Acts 13:2-3).
  13. That God would give us unity and harmony (John 17:20-21).
  14. That we would know God better (Col. 1:10; Eph. 1:17).
  15. That we would do good works (Col. 1:10).
  16. That we may live worthy of God’s calling (Eph. 4:1).
  17. That God would give us a greater sense of His power (Eph. 1:16, 19).
  18. That God would give us strength and endurance (Col. 1:11; Eph. 3:16).
  19. That we would know God’s will (Col. 1:9).
  20. That God would provide miraculous deliverances (Acts 12:5, 12; 16:25-26).
  21. That God would heal the sick (James 5:17-18).
  22. That God would fill us with His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13; Eph. 3:19).
  23. That the gospel would spread and triumph (2 Thess. 3:1).
  24. That we would grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour (2 Pet. 3:18).
  25. That we would lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (1 Tim. 2:2).

That should keep us busy for a while – for God’s glory and our good!

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 22 (Abraham is ready to sacrifice Isaac). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: God wants us to obey Him from the heart and trust His provision.

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I’ve always enjoyed the writings of A.W. Pink (The Sovereignty of God, among others), but have always had some serious reservations about him personally. This article explains why. Read Pink, but proceed with some caution. What he wrote is true – the vast majority of it , anyway – but his life didn’t reflect it.

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My Daily Need

The gospel is so foolish (according to my natural wisdom), so scandalous (according to my conscience), so incredible (according to my timid heart), that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as I should. There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil, than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel. (Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians, p.14)

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