Archive for January, 2018

Sermon in a Sentence


I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on the Elder Position Paper on Eldership (“What Are Elders and Why Do We Have Them?”). Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: Elders are a team of men in a local church who shepherd, teach, and pray for the congregation with a servant’s heart and attitude.

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And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“Make disciples” is the one and only command in Jesus’ Great Commission to His church (“go,” by the way is not a command – it’s assumed). How we make disciples can be summed up in three letters – E. B. and C. – taken from the Great Commission itself.

The letter E stands for evangelism. Making disciples, as we go, has to begin with proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. The letter B stands for baptism. When people respond positively to the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, they’re to be baptized. So what about the letter C?

The letter C stands for catechism. I know, I know! Many evangelical Christians (especially those in non-denominational Bible churches, charismatic churches, and other non-Confessional Protestants) don’t know much about catechisms. If they do, they sometimes have an almost allergic reaction. But what Jesus says near the end of the Great Commission speaks directly to the purpose of a catechism.

A catechism teaches the basic doctrines of the faith in a question and answer format. That’s a tremendous way to teach a believer “to observe all that” Jesus commanded them.

In 2017, Crossway published The New City Catechism which is designed to accomplish just that – the discipling of believers in Christ. It contains 52 questions and answers that are meant to be memorized, recited, and learned by heart. The questions and answers are simple and understandable in an easy to read format. There are illustrations, Scripture proofs, and even answers that can be shortened in order to be more easily memorized by younger children. Importantly, helpful instructions are also provided.

Here’s the first question and answer: “What is our only hope in life and death?” “That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and in death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”

I highly recommend The New City Catechism as a tool in the making of disciples – not just others, but yourself. Get it, read through it, and begin to memorize the questions and answers. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll grow as a result of it.

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on John 18:25-40. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: On his way to the cross, Jesus teaches us the truth is of utmost significance, external religion cannot reach the heart, and that he is in absolute control of the circumstances.

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Into every life a little rain must fall. Into every life a little discouragement must come, too (sometimes a lot). Something you’ve put your heart and soul into fails. Someone you’ve invested in turns their back on you. A marriage, or another significant relationship, falls apart. You’re given a diagnosis that isn’t what you expected at all (and not in a good way). You’re passed over for a promotion – again. You read the email that begins with “there was a lot of interest in this job,” but they’re not interested in you. Christians aren’t immune from discouragement, either. Something doesn’t happen the way you wanted – something you’ve prayed about (a lot) and worked for. The result of all of these is the same, discouragement.

But what can be done about it? You won’t be surprised to know the answer is in the Bible! In Psalm 43, the sons of Korah tell us how we can deal with discouragement. The remedy comes in one verse in particular: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” 

When we find ourselves discouraged, according to Psalm 43:5, we need to be honest with ourselves and God. Notice that the author didn’t hide the fact that he was “in despair” and “disturbed within” himself (another translation says “downcast”). His discouragement was real and he didn’t candy-coat it or deny it. God knew the state of his heart, so what could be gained from trying to hide it? None whatsoever. When we’re discouraged, we should say so – to ourselves and to God. But we can’t stay there.

When we’ve admitted our discouragement, the next thing we should do is look to God. The psalmist says, “Hope in God,” which could also be translated “put your hope in God.” Discouragement should cause us to take our eyes off of ourselves and lift them to God. If we continue to focus on ourselves (and gaze at our own navels), the fog of discouragement will never lift. But if we do the hard thing and direct our focus upon God, the fog disappears and we see things more clearly. Looking to God and trusting Him gives us perspective.

When we look to God in the midst of our discouragement, we should be encouraged. Why? “For I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God,” says the psalmist. No matter how bleak things look now and no matter how dark and thick the discouragement, know that the clouds will break and the sun will shine. There will be a time when you will “praise Him” once again because the soul-despair you’re experiencing will not last forever. God will have the last word and it will be good!

Discouragement – common to us all – is neither unstoppable nor final. Dealing with it requires us to be honest with ourselves and God, look to God, and be encouraged. After the rain falls, the sun shines – it might not be right away, but we can count on it.


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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on John 18:1-24. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: On His way to the cross, Jesus was in complete control of the situation, protects His sheep, and is at peace with His Father’s plan.

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Undoubtedly, one of the most important things we can do for fellow Christians is to pray for them. That’s true of pastors and elders – pray for those under your spiritual care. It’s true of parents – pray for your children. It’s true of grandparents – pray for your grandchildren. It’s true of every congregation – pray for your pastors and elders. It’s true of all of us – pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ!

Here’s what the apostle Paul wrote: “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:19-20).

The “this” Paul referred to was his house arrest in Rome at the time he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi. His circumstances could have been worse, but they were still bad – he could have been in one of the many Roman prisons. Paul’s circumstances caused  anxiety among the Christians in Philippi. They were worried about him and about the spread of the gospel. As a result, they prayed for Paul, for which he was profoundly grateful. We know, too, that he prayed for them. When we pray for one another, we go before God’s throne of grace in intercession – pleading for them and asking that God’s will be done and that He be glorified.

Let me give you some ideas of what we can pray for each other:

  • That they would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
  • That they would glorify God in all things (1 Cor. 10:31).
  • That they would be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:2).
  • That the fruit of the Spirit would be developed and displayed in their life (Gal. 5:22-23).
  • That they would love God and others with all they have and all they are (Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:28).
  • That they would give cheerfully and generously (2 Cor. 9:6-7).
  • That they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (Col. 1:10).
  • That they would delight in the Word of God (Ps. 1:2).
  • That they would fix their eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2).
  • That they would trust God with everything in their life (Prov. 3:5-6).
  • That they would have the boldness to preach the Word of God with boldness and confidence (Acts 4:29).

This is only a small list, but it’s a good place to start. You’d love it if someone were to pray these things on your behalf, so do it for others!

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on the topic of praying the Psalms (which kicks off Prayer Week). Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: In the Psalms, David teaches us to stretch ourselves in prayer, grow in prayer, and recognize our dependence upon God in prayer.

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Well-Driven Nails


“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.” (Ecclesiaistes 11:12)

The wrath of God is regularly minimized and downplayed by Christians. We tend to focus more on His love or His grace, but we do so to our own detriment – we’re not portraying God the way He has revealed Himself to us in Scripture. Gavin Ortlund has some good insights on the subject.

Laws that allow assisted suicide aren’t the panacea many thought. In fact, many who want their diseases treated are being pressured into the financially cheaper option of suicide. “Right-to-die” has morphed into “duty-to-die.” Helena Berger writes about it in The Hill. This is a serious ethical issue and we need to think Christianly about it.

“Remarkable Biblical Memorization” is the title of an article written by Justin Poythress about his father, theologian and professor Vern Poythress. The piece is short, but you’ll be challenged by it.

What do students in a student’s ministry need? They need to take the Bible and their spiritual growth as seriously as they take their school studies and sports. Jen Wilkins makes the case.

“Jesus is Lord.” That seems like a simple statement, but it’s packed with meaning. When someone says it, they’re saying eight things according to Jesse Johnson. Jesus is Lord!

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Andre Seu Peterson, of WORLD, has some very good thoughts on optimism and thankfulness.

Your mother once told you about the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise won the race because he was an optimist. People say it’s because he was persistent, but he wouldn’t have been persistent if he hadn’t been optimistic first. Optimism precedes perseverance. The Apostle Paul observes that dynamic when saying that we have faith and love “because of the hope” (Colossians 1:5). No hope, no reason to get out of bed.

The pessimist’s problem is all in his eye. His eye is defective. He sees everything the same shade of blah, like the Dwarfs in The Last Battle. “Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip.”

“The eye is the lamp of the body.” That is, all experience is filtered through it. “So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).

Christians who are not by nature optimists may have to work a little at becoming so. Here is how you do that—by a conscious, constant cultivation of thanksgiving. This works magic in changing a bad “eye” to a clear eye, and you will be astounded at how much better the world looks. Try it and you will sit before a blank sheet of paper and complain that you have nothing good to put on your list, and then you will come up with 25.

When you get better at it, you will not only have the good things on your thanksgiving list but the bad things and disappointments too. For you will start to see how these bad things were the very ones God used to mature you. I hate to think of what my life would be now if I had been cursed with only pleasant things.

George Müller (1805-1898) is one of the biggest optimists I know of. That crazy guy decided to distribute tracts and to witness among the Jews in London, and he reports, “I had the honor of being reproached and ill-treated for the name of Jesus” (The Autobiography of George Müller). Must be a blessing in there somewhere, right? That’s like the Apostle Paul saying, “I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).

Come again? If there are “many adversaries,” how does he see it as a “wide door for effective work”?

That’s how an optimist sees.

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