I’m going to take a few days off from blogging because I will be attending this year’s Desiring God conference in Minneapolis. I plan to post my reflections once I return.
I was reading this morning and was particularly struck by this passage from Mark’s Gospel:
“And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." And the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death.” (Mark 14:60-64, ESV)
Jesus, the one who did not deserve condemnation and death, received condemnation and death on my behalf. Jesus stood where I should have been. Jesus became my substitute, a sacrifice of atonement on my behalf.
I could try and comment more about what it means that Jesus became my substitute, but I don’t think I could say it any better than the hymn writer Phillip B. Bliss who wrote,
“Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood—sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior!”
“Here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.”
“Because of the sheer volume of error and because of the importance of the doctrines reinvented by the author, I would encourage Christians, and especially young Christians, to decline this invitation to meet with God in The Shack. It is not worth reading for the story and certainly not worth reading for the theology.”
What about you? Did you read The Shack? What did you like about it? Did you have any concerns as you read it?
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Due to a power outage in my area this edition of I ‘Like’ Fridays was delayed a day. Here are the items I marked as ‘like’ in Google Reader from this past week.
Want to give to Haiti and don’t know which group(s) are trustworthy? Here’s a good list.
As the pastor of rural church with an ‘older’ group of members this post caught my eye.
I am becoming a Kevin DeYoung ‘fan’. As a pastor who preaches weekly I enjoyed comparing notes with Kevin’s process.
I blogged about this post here. Thanks to JT for bringing it to my attention.
We watch it because our wives like it. (Is that still the story we are going with guys?)
Short video, good definition, interesting looking book, even more interesting author’s last name.
Lot’s of Roe v. Wade posts this week, this one stood out the most to me.
Scandals related to the sexual misconduct of public figures are nothing new. In fact these stories can hardly be called shocking anymore due to their regularity. So, when I read the news Thursday about former U.S. Senator John Edwards I was more disappointed than I was surprised.
The story of Edwards’ affair is old news. What has recently surfaced is his admission that he fathered a child as a result of this affair. Reading the report of his admission, I was particularly struck by this statement:
“It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me…To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry.”
I have no intention to judge the sincerity of his apology or to make this into an issue about politics. The point I want to make is that news stories like this provide us with a representative sample of what is happening in almost every town in America. The obvious difference is that most extramarital affairs will never be made public like this.
Stories like these are good reminders to myself and to anyone else who reads this that every choice we make has lasting consequences. The good choices we make can be a blessing to many, but the sinful choices we make can cause irreversible damage.
We all sin, and the good news of Jesus Christ is that in him there is grace and forgiveness and reconciliation with God (Romans 3:23-24; 5:9-11). However, the consequences of our sinful choices remain no matter how hard we try to reverse them.
I can’t imagine being in Edward’s shoes, having to explain to his daughter one day about this “relationship”, about why he felt it was necessary to deny his paternity, and to advise her to “do as I say, not as I do.” It is no wonder that so many times the sins of one generation are repeated with the next.
The moral of Edwards’ story goes far beyond “look before you leap.” Instead, we are better off not leaping at all. We are better off if we look for and follow “the way of righteousness” (Psalm 1:6).
With cup of coffee in hand this morning I treated myself to watching a video of D.A. Carson’s recent lecture at ETS entitled The Changing (Changeless?) Face of Evangelicalism. I don’t exaggerate, it truly is a treat to listen to Dr. Carson speak and to read his books. I had the privilege of sitting under his teaching for one class while I was a seminary student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Dr. Carson’s lecture, as you can discern from the title, was on the current state of evangelicalism. What does it mean to call oneself an “evangelical”? Is it a label tied to history? Does it define a set of doctrines or convictions? Does it refer to a certain kind of Christian lifestyle? Is it synonymous with “Conservative Christian”?
The video can be viewed or downloaded from The Gospel Coalition website courtesy of Crossway Books. In the meantime I am looking forward to the release of Dr. Carson’s book Evangelicalism: What Is It and Is It Worth Keeping? this September. I imagine this book will do much to further the conversation.
I wonder if the term “evangelical” (and its related cognates such as “evangelism”, “evangelist”, etc.) is indeed losing its intended meaning similar to the way the term “fundamentalism” and terms related to it have changed over the years.
Our church was forced to consider this not long before I came to serve as their pastor. For many years the name of our church was “Fundamental Gospel Church”, in fact many in town still refer to it by that name. Today, in large part due to our adoption in to the EFCA denomination, our church is now know as Cornerstone EFC. Our leadership realized that the once positive name “Fundamental” did not communicate the same positive sense that at the time of its founding 50 years prior.
I would encourage you to watch the video and consider what Dr. Carson is saying. What do you think? What is the state of evangelicalism, particularly in America? What do you think the term conveys today; is it positive or negative? I’m looking forward to hearing your comments.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means for me to “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Ex. 20:8). I am being challenged to really nail down what my conviction is about the Sabbath and then to put those convictions in to practice.
The thing that seems to complicate the situation most for me is that Sunday is a ‘work day’. In what sense should that day be a day unique from the other six? I take a day off during the week, a day that I don’t spend at the church. But that day is hardly a day of rest. It’s a catch-up day to get to things that have been neglected for a week.
As I try and discover how the Sabbath is supposed to be observed, one thing seems to be loud and clear: I need to slow down. All those things I want to do, all those books piled up to be read, all that time that would be better spent with people. Busyness seems to steal from them all.
I’m reading Scripture, I’m reading books, I’m praying and thinking. But I’m not at a clear answer yet. So tell me, what is your Sabbath like? What has worked for you? Do you have strict rules you follow? When do you know you’ve sabbathed? I’m listening.
My RSS reader of choice is Google Reader. If you also are a user you know that there is an option to ‘like’ the postings that you read. So here are the things that I ‘liked’ this week. Maybe you will ‘like’ them too!
Shalom series and no evening Facebook, email or TV experiment for 6 weeks - from Vintage Faith by DanKimball
In Defense of Proselytism: Talking Points for Brit Hume - from Kingdom People by Trevin Wax
Five Ways to Comply with the New FTC Guidelines for Bloggers - from Michael Hyatt’s Blog by Michael Hyatt
It is Wednesday, do you remember what this past Sunday’s sermon was about? Maybe you don’t remember all that your pastor said, but hopefully there is something that is still sticking in your mind from the text of Scripture that was preached.
To assist you in this spiritual exercise I’ve been posting my list of suggestions on how to get the most out of the message. The first post offered suggestions to help you engage as a listener during the sermon. The second post listed some ideas on how to further mine and apply the message. Today I offer the final three suggestions that might help you take your journey in the Word a bit deeper.
No passage of Scripture can be fully exhausted in a morning service. For those who want to dig a little deeper into the discussion and study of a passage there are some great tools available. One such tool that can be used is a Bible commentary.
In a commentary the author studies the passage in greater depth and brings out much of what is behind some of the words, phrases, and ideas the biblical authors use. Like Bible translations, some commentaries are better than others. When you are ready to select a commentary it is wise to seek out recommendations. One resource that I have found helpful especially for moving from text to application is the NIV Application Commentary series.
A similar but less in depth resource is a good study Bible. I highly recommend the ESV Study Bible from Crossway. The NIV Study Bible and NLT Study Bible are also very good. The study notes can add to your understanding of the passage of Scripture and may even offer some guidance as to how to make personal application.
When you look at an entire book of the Bible in sequence you will begin to notice words, phrases and themes that appear again and again. Many times these repeated ideas are key to understanding the message of that book of the Bible as a whole. Some people like to underline or highlight these words directly in their Bible; others will simply keep a running list of things that stand out in their reading. Whatever method works for you, consider keeping some record that will add to your study and understanding of Scripture.
The most important thing for a Christian is not to learn more about the Bible; the most important thing for a Christian’s study of the Bible is to apply it to his or her life. For some this step is aided by keeping some sort of a record of how they have chosen to apply what they are reading and hearing on a week to week basis.
This may take the form of an actual journal where regular entries are recorded. But this could also be something as simple as writing a reminder on the back of a bulletin: “In light of this passage, this week I plan to…” Again each of us knows what works and does not work well for our own personalities. The key is to find something that works for you to help bring what we are hearing into practice as believers growing in Jesus Christ.
I hope that you have found these suggestions to be helpful in your study of Scripture. As a pastor my prayer for my congregation is always that they would not just hear what I would have to say, but that they would hear clearly what God is saying to them by the Holy Spirit through the reading of His Word. If you have other suggestions for moving from sermon to application I would love to hear from you.
May God bless the preaching and the hearing of His Word.
In yesterday’s post I discussed the first three of ten suggestions on how to get the most out of the pastor’s sermons. Today we explore four more ways that you as the listener can better engage the message that you hear.
Image by Gare and Kitty via Flickr
Doing these things will not make the transition from hearing to application automatic. However, the way we listen to sermons can sometimes prove the old adage to be true: “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
Does your pastor publish a preaching schedule? Many times the following week’s sermon passage will be noted in the worship bulletin, in a monthly newsletter, or on the church calendar.
Why not take advantage of this by simply reading through the passage once or twice prior to coming to worship? You would be surprised how much this can enrich the whole worship service when you have had a chance to preview what’s in store for that morning.
If this information is not currently available to you, be sure to encourage your pastor to publish his preaching texts ahead of time. You and your congregation will be blessed for having it.
Most of us have been reading from the same Bible translation (if not from the same copy of the Bible) for many years. We tend to stick to what we are used to. However, the Lord has blessed English speakers with some great versions of the Bible that can enrich our study of his Word.
In many evangelical churches the sermons are typically based out of the New International Version (NIV). Personally, I also keep a copy of the English Standard Version (ESV) on my nightstand, and I often read other versions in my personal Bible study such as the New Living Translation (NLT), the New American Standard (NASB), and the Holman Christian Standard (HCSB). Some translations are better than others, but simply reading a passage from another version can open your eyes to what is being said in the text that you might otherwise have missed.
As you read your Bible and listen to the messages, keep a list of questions that arise in your mind. If you are reading the passage before the sermon, write down any questions you have that you hope to have answered as a result of hearing the message. If you don’t get those questions answered, seek out the Pastor or someone who can clear up anything you might be wondering about.
As you listen to the message preached, there may also be new questions that are raised in your mind. Be sure to write those questions down and seek the answers. You can do this either through your own study of the Bible or by asking someone else for insight. Whatever you do, don’t settle for leaving your questions unanswered.
A great place for seeking answers is in a group setting. More than likely your question is shared by someone else who might just be a little too afraid to ask. While sermons tend to be more one directional, groups allow dialog and learning from one another.
If discussion groups aren’t available through your church, see if you can’t invent your own. All you need is at least one other person that will think out loud with you about what you are hearing and reading from God’s Word.
Tomorrow I will conclude this three-part series of posts on getting the most out of the messages. Until then work at digging deep into God’s Word. You won’t be disappointed by what you find there.
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My guess is that few people other than the pastor are thinking much about tomorrow’s sermon. In fact most people will probably not begin to think about the sermon until the preacher speaks his first words.
It is the pastor’s responsibility to engage his hearers, but it is also the hearer’s responsibility to engage what he hears. To help my congregation to become more engaged hearers I put together a list of ten suggestions which I called ‘How to Get the Most out of the Message.’
Not everyone will adopt all ten suggestions into their Sunday routine. But making an effort in one or two of these areas to become more engaged before, during, and after the message will go a long way.
I am going to present this list in a series of three posts. Use what you find helpful and be sure to comment with your own practices.
That may sound like an obvious suggestion. Many people already bring their Bible with them to church. Others will use the pew Bible or will read the text printed in the bulletin or projected on the screen. The reason that we need to bring a Bible with us is so that we are able to see with our own eyes what we are hearing with our ears.
We are not only learning what the Bible says, but we are also being taught how we are to use the Bibles we have. Since the sermons we hear are (hopefully) based on what the text of the Bible says, we need to be able to verify what we hear with what is printed on the page.
Taking notes is more than just filling in the blanks. In many churches what is provided in the bulletin is merely an outline. On some occasions there may even be no outline provided at all. What we need to be writing down is what we need to be taking home with us from what we’ve heard.
It’s not about getting down the right answer; it’s about what God is saying to me through this text of Scripture. For some that may be a single word, a phrase, a specific verse, an illustration, or some specific recommendation for application. What you write down is what you need to take home.
We all get sick, go on vacation, get called away for work, or occasionally just can’t be in church on a particular Sunday. When this happens take advantage of the resources available so that you can stay on track with what is happening. This is especially important when the sermon series takes listeners through a whole book of the Bible. Often times what we hear on any given Sunday will build off of what has come before.
Hopefully your church offers ways to hear the sermon when you are gone. Some churches provide the opportunity for listening online or downloading the message from the website. For those who do not have access to the internet, messages may also be available on CD. If these resources are not available a written transcript or copy of the pastor’s notes may be upon request. The point is be proactive.
Depending on when you read this post there may still be time to adopt some these practices as your own for this Sunday’s worship. In my next post I will offer the three more suggestions for getting the most out of the message. Until then don’t just listen to the sermon, engage it!
In the last 48 hours we’ve had a good 6 to 8 inches of snow pound us. Ever wonder why God brings the snow?
According to Job 37:5-13 (ESV) God has at least a few good reasons:
1) To give us a sense of His wondrous power.
“God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend.” (v. 5)
2) To slow us down from our busyness and cause us to rest.
“For to the snow he says, 'Fall on the earth,' likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it. Then the beasts go into their lairs, and remain in their dens.” (vv. 6-8)
3) To accomplish His will in the world, either for our correction or for our blessing.
“From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.” (vv. 9-13)
Snowstorms can really be an inconvenience from our perspective, but God is sovereign even in winter weather. So praise God for the snow!
Image by GavinBell via Flickr
Monday night as we were putting the kids to bed the power went out. That by itself is not all that unusual where we are. We new it was something bad when it was accompanied by a loud POP! At first I figured our space heater had just tripped a circuit breaker.
It turns out the pop sound (actually two) that we heard were a couple of our surge protectors doing their job. Fortunately the casualties only include a space heater and the two surge protectors. All of our other electronics were spared. I don’t know what was the actual cause of the power surge but I know it was area wide and not something we caused.
In the midst of running to the basement to reset the tripped circuit breakers my mind was troubled with a couple thoughts. First, I was hoping my TV, stereo, DVD player, Wii, computer and other toys weren’t harmed. Second, I was praying that there wasn’t some dangerous faulty wiring hiding behind one of our walls soon to burn the house down.
This morning as I was reading my Bible I came across this familiar passage:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV)
I know that my ‘treasures’ are not only vulnerable to moth, rust, and thieves, but to power surges and lightning strikes as well. I bought a new heavy duty surge protector to keep my ‘treasures’ safe in the future but common sense tells me that they will never truly be safe.
The only thing that is truly safe is to treasure the things of God; the things that are not vulnerable to the worst this world can throw at them. I am convinced and convicted that too much of my heart is attached to these earthly treasures.
Lord Jesus help me to treasure heavenly things!
On my first listen my thoughts were of surprise mixed with a bit of disappointment. Turn to the Christian faith? That’s close, but is that really helpful to someone in this sort of situation? I would have liked Brit to have been a bit more specific. What about Jesus Christ? What about the gospel? What does turning to the Christian faith even mean?
The second time I listened, I thought of something different. Did you notice how Brit didn’t bad mouth Tiger’s present religious views? Yes, he did say that he didn’t think Buddhism provided the kind of answers that Christianity could. Yes, some will find such comments unacceptable when religious tolerance is supposed to be the norm. But if we can try to look at things from Brit’s perspective, he seems to be extending Tiger the opportunity to find a solution. He doesn’t appear to be just another commentator pointing to the already evident problem.
So on my third listen I concluded with this thought. What if I were given 40 seconds to offer my thoughts on the solution to humanity’s greatest need? What if I had the means to communicate my faith on such a stage? Could I do it succinctly, clearly, and not leave anything essential out? Am I ready when my time comes?
What about you? Are you ready?
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Deepak Reju over at Church Matters: The 9Marks Blog quotes Donald Whitney’s Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of the New Year.
Here is the question that stood out most to me:
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
I’m becoming more and more convinced that time is one of our rarest resources. Once it is gone you can never make more of it; once it passes you can not recapture what has been wasted.
Jesus reminds us that none of can add a single hour to our lives (Matt. 6:27; Luke 12:25). What we need is wisdom from God to number our days in such a way that we honor Him (Ps. 90:12).
What about you? What will be your greatest challenge in 2010? To see the rest of the list follow this link to Deepak’s post.