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Archive for May, 2013

Here are three posts I’ve come across in the last few days that I think are thought-provoking.

Mark Dever on “How to Survive a Cultural Crisis.” He thinks the church is entering a time when the culture is being more and more hostile to biblical values and those who hold them – Christians. I think he’s right.

Philip Nation on “When your Sermon in Only a Single.”  Every pastor, this one included, wants every sermon to be a home run, but it doesn’t happen that often. What happens then?

Justin Taylor posted parts of two other posts and called it “The Difference between Congregational Worship and a Concert.” This is what we’re striving for at the church I pastor.

All of these articles are good reads. They give us some things to think about Coram Deo (before the face of God).

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We’re called to make a defense for the faith as disciples of Jesus Christ. “Always be ready to give an answer” (1 Pet.3:15) is still our call and charge.

Being equipped and ready to explain what we believe and why (broadly called apologetics) is important, but the way we do it shouldn’t remain static. In other words, it doesn’t do us any good if we answer questions people aren’t asking (or the people with whom we’re talking). In generations past, the question of biblical authority was crucial. More recently, the issue of truth (and whether or not it even existed) was on the front-burner. Now, not so much.

What seems to be important today id freedom. Marvin Olasky, in the March 23rd issue of WORLD, wrote:

When many young Americans are primarily yearning for freedom, talk about objective truth may swim right by them. That’s why some of the most successful pastors with young people start out not by talking about truth but about freedom. Tim Keller in Manhattan, for example, tells his youthful audience: You may think you’re free, but you’re not. In shunning Christ you have made yourself a slave to money, or sex, or to a particular body image, or success, or…something.

Those who shun Christ embrace slavery of some kind. Those who embrace Christ gain freedom: As Jesus said to the Jews who believed Him, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The University of Texas at Austin and many other institutions have carved onto administration buildings those words from John 8:32, but I have yet to see on the walls Christ’s follow-ups: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin,” and “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36).

We all need all those verses and we need to get the order right, because truth leads to freedom yet freedom does not necessarily lead to truth. Sadly, college professors these days typically advocate freedom and skip over the means by which we will gain it – so students often do the same. That leads to my apologetic question: Is it unproductive to talk about eternal life with young people who don’t yet care about it? Or to talk about Truth with those who don’t think it exists? Why not talk about our shackles and how Christ breaks them?

Very good questions and worth discussion.

 

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 28:1-22. Here’s a summary of my sermon in one sentence: When we’re scared, God encounters us and gives us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to respond to Him.

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Daniel Darling has some very interesting thoughts about Christians going to church on Sundays. Read it here and think about it. In my book, he’s absolutely right.

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Every week that I preach (which is most weeks), I post a “Sermon in a Sentence” where I summarize what I’ve said in one sentence. There are times when that isn’t easy, but I try. Today, though, I want to post everything that I said Sunday. Don’t worry – it’s short! It wasn’t a full-length sermon.

A bit of context is helpful: Immanuel Community Church’s new vision and direction was presented by our two new elders. At the end, I gave my thoughts.

           Let me say first that I love the new vision and direction! But I’ll be honest  — as I’ve been set free to do – I’m both excited and scared.

As we wrap things up this morning, I’d like to take a few minutes – and by that I actually mean “a few minutes” – to give you my hope and prayer for us as a church.

In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, a number of Jewish exiles were returning from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God and, ultimately, the city itself. As they go about doing what God has called them to do, there’s a phrase that’s repeated…and it’s an important one.

Ezra 7:6 says, This Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. Chapter 7, verse 9 reads, For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. Chapter 7, verse 28, Ezra himself says, “I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.” Ezra 8:18 puts it this way – spoken by Ezra, “And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, 18.” In 8:22, Ezra says, “For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” We have the response next in verse 23: “So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.” In 8:31, it says, Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. And in Nehemiah 2:8, Nehemiah himself says, “and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

The good hand of God was on Ezra and Nehemiah. What that means is that the Lord helped them, provided for them, and protected them – and He did it every step of the way. The only reason those two men, and everybody who followed their lead, succeeded and were faithful to God was because God’s good hand was on them – without it, they would have failed.

My hope and prayer for this church is that the good hand of God would be upon us. May He help us. May He provide for us. And may He protect us. We need to ask God – not just ask Him, but implore Him – to put His good hand on us by His grace and for His glory. I challenge you to pray for the next 30 days – every day – that God’s good hand would be upon us – that He would bless us by giving us success and prosperity in advancing His kingdom. I’m going to do that, and I ask you to join me for God’s glory and our good.

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This morning, I had the privilege of giving my hopes and prayers for Immanuel: My hope and prayer for Immanuel is that the good hand of God would be on us to help, provide, and protect us as we seek to advance His kingdom.

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One of the three scandals President Obama and his administration are embroiled in currently involves Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed at an American consulate by Islamic terrorists. In my opinion, the President (and all the President’s men and women) have the very best to cover up their lack of response. They decided not to send military help, even though they were aware of what was happening in real-time. One of the administration’s reasons for not intervening is inexcusable. Jonah Goldberg wrote the following in National Review:

Obama and Clinton have insisted that they did everything they could to help the Americans besieged in Libya; they just couldn’t get help to them in time.

That’s simply untrue.

But even if that were true, it would still be a self-serving falsehood.

If you see a child struggling in the ocean, you have no idea how long she will flail and paddle before she goes under for the last time. The moral response is to swim for her in the hope that you get there in time. If you fail and she dies, you can console yourself that you did your best to rescue her.

But if you just stand on the beach and do nothing as the child struggle for life, saying, “Well, there’s just no way I can get to her in time,” it doesn’t really matter whether you guessed right or not. You didn’t try.

The White House and the State Department had a moral obligation to, at least, try to help the Americans in Benghazi. They may or may not have been successful, but they would have been able to say they tried. They didn’t, so they can’t. That’s beyond sad. It’s disgusting. We expect better than that from our leaders whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican.

(Note: You can read Goldberg’s entire article here.)

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