Archive for September, 2010
In the question about prophecy over tongues, the apostle Paul prioritizes prophecy over tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1) because the clear, intelligible word edifies the gathered assembly (church), whereas, tongues are unintelligible and do not edify the assembly.
I am in no way equating the spiritual gift of prophecy with preaching, however, there is a principle in 1 Corinthians 14, that the priority in the gathered assembly is to be on the clear, intelligible word from God.
Therefore, since we should seek to prioritize the clear, intelligible gospel word from God when we assemble together as a church, what are some things each of us can do to prepare to hear God’s word?
Here are some suggestions for listening to God’s word when we gather. The points in bold are from Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons by Christopher Ash. I have combined the author’s points in some cases and have added the text after each point.
1. Gather regularly (weekly) with God’s people to hear the gospel word. It is important to assemble together! Together we display the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10). Gathering together also reminds us we are not alone. When we are together we encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25)! If we are to edify one another, we must meet together regularly, weekly. What are some reasons you are inclined not to assemble with God’s people? We want to encourage you to gather with us on Sunday mornings AND Sunday evenings. We purposely seek to present a balanced diet of New Testament (Sunday mornings) and Old Testament (Sunday evenings). If you only attend one of our gatherings, you are receiving an unbalanced biblical diet.
2. When you gather with God’s people, expect God to speak. Do you expect to hear from God when you gather with God’s people? God created by His word; He sustains us by His Word; He has given us His Living Word, Jesus; and now He has given us the written Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, whenever we hear God’s word in the Bible, we are to receive it as the very words of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
3. Admit God knows what you need better than you do. We live in a day and age when people want their ears tickled (2 Timothy 4:1-5). You may not like what you hear in preaching because it offends or convicts or exposes sin; however, this is precisely what God’s word is supposed to do (Hebrews 4:12-13). One of the biggest reasons people don’t gather with the church is sin – they don’t want their sins exposed. In other words, they can’t stand the fact that the word of God exposes their sin, so they simply stop gathering. Yet, it’s important to know that there is no better place for you to be! Don’t let Satan deceive you!
4. Make sure the sermon comes from the text of the Bible. This means you must know the Word of God for yourself. Prepare your heart by reading the preaching passage and the related meditation passage. Ask yourself, what is the main point of this passage? Ask, who, what, why, where, when, how questions of the text? Ask the Holy Spirit for understanding, and test what you hear against Scripture just like the Bereans did (Acts 17:10-11).
5. Do what the Bible says TODAY. After the sermon, reflect on what God is teaching you and do it (James 1:22-25). Write down the many ways you are to obey the teaching. Pray and ask God for grace and for the obedience of faith. Ask yourself good heart questions—Is there something in my life that I am treasuring more than Christ? What prohibits me from obeying what the Lord is calling me to do? Then, obey NOW – Today by faith (Hebrews 3:12-14)!
Here is a conference I can recommend to women with confidence. In fact, I am planning on sending my 19 year old daughter, along with my wife for a mom/daughter get-a-way!
Here is a brief description:
Being a woman is complicated, especially being a young woman in this mixed-up world…. W wants to help you apply the Bible’s teachings on womanhood to the situations that women often find themselves in. Being all that God has designed you to be isn’t always easy and without tribulation. W is intended to help and encourage you to live out your calling to make an eternal difference in His Kingdom.
W will encourage you to grow deeper in your faith and conference speakers will also address the biblical teachings on purity, relationships, dating, marriage, balance, wise spending, spiritual walk, making a difference, and more.
W is designed for young women, high school and college students and young adults. This Friday night and Saturday conference will be held on the campus of Southern Seminary on Nov. 19-20, 2010.
Here is a loving conversation amongst brothers who disagree on multi-site churches. Enjoy!
As a church we are constantly reminding ourselves what our mission is in light of who God is and what He is doing for His glory. As we began our sixth year together in September, I preached a five series sermon on God’s mission for us.
Simply stated, High Pointe exists to see all peoples become whole-hearted followers of Jesus Christ by reaching unbelievers, gathering worshipers and making disciples to the glory of God. Here are the accompanying messages:
The first time Jeanine and I walked into the doctor’s office to confirm her first pregnancy, we were overwhelmed with information, questions and directives. We were told that there were certain tests that we needed to take to confirm the health of the baby. We were young, and we assumed that the doctor knew best. When the doctor gave us the results, he informed us that the results of the test indicated that our child had a higher than normal chance of having Down Syndrome or trisomy 21 (when the 21st chromosome divides into three instead of two).
As young parents we were shocked; we didn’t know what that meant; we didn’t know what to think or do. On September 9, 1991, our first daughter was born. The test we had taken had proven to be a false positive.
In a blog post on the New York Times website, one mother explains why prenatal testing harms as much as it helps. Needless to say, this post caught my attention. I couldn’t agree with this mom more, and I celebrate with her the sanctity of human life – ALL life. For all life is precious before God since we are created in His image and likeness.
Here is a helpful excerpt from the post:
. . . although I declined, I’m not opposed to prenatal testing. There are benefits to knowledge. According to Dr. Brian Skotko of Harvard Medical School, studies have demonstrated the helpfulness of prenatal diagnosis. Women who know ahead of time that their babies have Down syndrome are able to celebrate their arrival into the world, and often these women feel better prepared for the challenges they might face as a parent.
On the other hand, the way these tests are administered, the way information is provided to women and the way our culture talks about and conceives of individuals with chromosomal abnormalities contribute to my concern that prenatal testing more often serves to devalue all human life and to offer parents and doctors an illusion of control.
I am sure others have already shared this information through the blogosphere. However, I just became aware of this offer this week, and I wanted to share it with you!
christianaudio is making available for free (download only) the second edition of John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions. This offer expires December 31, 2010. Audio books are a great way to listen to books while you travel, exercise or mow your lawn. If you would like to download a copy of this audio book for free, here are the instructions:
- Click here to find Let the Nations Be Glad.
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- Add the book to your cart.
- During checkout process use coupon code GLAD10.
For many Americans the church has become largely irrelevant; they like Jesus, but they don’t like the church. There are many and various reasons why this may be the case, but one reason to be sure is that the church has accommodated herself to contemporary culture. The result is a church that is weak in truth and strong in entertainment. That this is a great concern among evangelicals is seen in some of the critiques being published over the last decade: The Coming Evangelical Crisis by John Armstrong; No Place for Truth by David Wells; Selling Jesus by Douglas Webster; and Dining with the Devil by Os Guiness. This warning is not new, however. Francis Schaeffer warned about the church’s accommodation to culture in 1984 in, The Great Evangelical Disaster. Consequently, a surprising number of Christians are abandoning the church.
Ironically, evangelicals are not the only ones giving up on the church. It seems that even unbelievers seeking the truth are coming to terms with the fact that in many cases church is not the place for answers. As I speak with unbelievers, they tell me they are frustrated by Christian’s hypocrisy and the fact that too many churches seem more interested in entertainment than truth. Seekers don’t care so much about music styles, power point presentations or innovative communication techniques; they care about real answers to their real questions—everything else is peripheral. This was confirmed to me several years ago when my little brother, who was not a believer at the time, told me about his experience at a church he attended at the invitation of believing friends. He shared how the church did all it could to express itself in a contemporary manner and that when the speaker began to speak he threw Twinkies into the audience to illustrate a point in his message. When I asked what the speaker’s point was, my brother said the speaker was trying to communicate that most people’s theology is “creme-filled.” When I further asked what text the speaker used, my brother could not recall that any particular text was used (he had just witnessed Twinkie theology). My brother summarized his experience by saying that it was like a bunch of adults trying to do “cheesy” youth camp stuff on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately, I hear these kinds of stories all too often from frustrated seekers.
Though Schaeffer was right when he said it will be a disaster when the church accommodates to culture, and though in many ways that is precisely what we are seeing, I do not believe we should abandon the church. Instead, we should be willing to reform the church. However, this is not a task for the faint of heart. Church reform takes courage and commitment. In order to reform the church, we must once again become God-centered instead of man-centered. Ministers must preach the whole Bible, telling people what they need to hear instead of simply what they want to hear.
Find a church that is willing to stand firm on God’s Word; commit yourself to Christ’s work in that place; and pray for God’s glory to be manifested there. Don’t give up on the church, for the church is God’s eternal plan by which He is displaying His manifold wisdom to the cosmic powers (Ephesians 3:10)!
The story about the fifty people called Dove World Outreach Center which has caught the nation’s attention is particularly personal to me because I lived in Gainesville, Florida for ten years and married a Gainesville girl.
More importantly, however, it is particularly personal because this small band of people are casting a shadow on all followers of Christ, and the media is more than happy to feed the impression that such behavior is characteristic of Christianity. How should Christians think about burning the Quran?
Andrew Lisi, another former Gainesville resident and Florida Gator has some wise and helpful words which he shared with a friend who is currently working in Gainesville with Campus Crusade. Here is what he said:
It seems to me that the best road for a gospel-saturated Christian to take is not standing on the one side of the road with all-exclusive hate or on the other side with all-inclusive love. Both are ultimately extremes that do not address the heart of the issue. The middle road seems to be the only-exclusive love that Christ offers through the Cross, which rejects hating enemies (Matt. 5:43-44) and loving the the world (1 John 2:15-17) while embracing love of enemies and hating sin. The response we must have as Christians is to reject the utter hatred of people like Pastor Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center, while at the same time not making the mistake of being purely reactionary by standing on the other side of the road, united only in protest, not in love.
Carl Trueman shares that, much like the building of the Muslim community center at Ground Zero in New York, the act is legal but stupid. Trueman concludes his blog post with the following words:
This Koran burning is childish; it will at best only draw attention to the book and fuel curiosity; at worst, it could jeopardise young people serving their country. Christians would be better served spending the time praying for the conversion of their Muslim neighbours and reaching out to them with love and with God’s true word, rather than with a box of matches and acts of counterproductive immaturity.
Spurgeon in a sermon titled, “Additions to the Church” from Acts 2:47, delivered on April 5, 1874:
“The sermon preached by Peter at Pentecost was the arrow of the Lord’s deliverance to three thousand, and there is no reason why the Lord should not cause one of ours to be the same. Three thousand cannot be converted if only a hundred are present to hear; but with this rest assembly, and thousands of smaller ones, within gunshot, why should not the slain of the Lord be many? Assuredly the divine Comforter can as readily bless three millions as three individuals.
But it would appear from our text that the additions to the Pentecostal church were not made in a mass at all times. The Spirit of God was still with them, but their increase was more gradual. “The Lord added to the church daily of such as should be saved.”
Whether they come in troops, or one by one, we will welcome them, the woman who lost her money was glad to find one piece, although she would have been even more glad to have found a purseful if they had been lost.”
What do you think, feel when you hear the word “evangelism”?
For too many Christians, the idea of evangelism raises anxieties. Some cringe at the thought of having to memorize an outline gospel presentation – “will I leave something out?” “Will I mess it up?” For some, the anxiety is so great that it leaves their stomach tied up in knots. Of course, there are always those few who get excited about “evangelism.” They are ready to tackle unbelieving people to the glory of God.
I think most people struggle with evangelism because they believe the wrong things about God, Christ, the gospel and evangelism. Some mistaken beliefs lead to evangelical “terrorism.” Consider the crusades of Christian history, or consider Gainesville, Florida’s Dove World Outreach Center’s highly publicized plans to burn copies of the Quran on September 11. Such responses turn Christianity on its head. Such folks may call themselves Christians, but rest assured, these are not the ways of Jesus.
On the other hand, most of us struggle with mistaken beliefs about God, Christ, the gospel and evangelism that lead to evangelical cowardice. Our fear of man is such that we don’t evangelize. It is almost as if we are saying, “I’d rather someone go to hell than think poorly of me.”
Since we are being renewed in knowledge after the image of Christ (Colossians 3:9-10), I want to suggest that when our thinking in renewed regarding God, Christ, the gospel and evangelism, we will approach evangelism more biblically. So then, let us learn about evangelism from Jesus Himself.
For Jesus, doing the Father’s will and completing the Father’s work was more satisfying than food.
It is the Father’s will to create a people in His image and fill the earth with His glory (Genesis 1:26-28). The Father is now creating this people through Christ. Notice how Jesus explains the Father’s will:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40).
So we see that the Father’s will is that all who look to Christ in Faith would remain in Christ and have eternal life. It is Jesus’ food to receive all whom the Father gives Him and guard them until He raises them up on the last day.
The Father’s work is related to His will. The Father is now gathering a people for Himself through Christ. Jesus’ food is to finish the Father’s work, and this is precisely what we see in His conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Speaking with the woman was doing the Father’s will and accomplishing the Father’s work (John 4:31-34). It was THIS that was more satisfying and sustaining to Jesus than food.
If we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:9-10), then doing the Father’s will and completing the Father’s work will be more satisfying than food to us as well.
Can we truly say that doing the Father’s will and completing the Father’s work is more satisfying than food? What is your food? In other words, what is it that satisfies you and sustains you. Where do you turn for satisfaction and sustenance?
Jesus shares several important truths about the Father’s will and work that I think will help renew our thinking about evangelism:
1. We are now in the age of the harvest (John 4:35). Jesus explains that the waiting period between sowing and harvesting is no more; the harvest is now! Jesus announced His public ministry in Luke 4, by stating that now was the year of the Lord’s favor. In other words, Jesus has inaugurated the age of grace, the age of salvation. This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). You see, from now until Christ returns we are in the age of the harvest, when the Father’s work is to gather His people from the four corners of the globe.
2. We WILL bear fruit in the harvest (John 4:36-37). Jesus declares that already the reaper is receiving his wages and harvesting fruit for eternal life. Already, sower and reaper are rejoicing together – because the waiting time between sowing and reaping is no more, for we are in the age of harvest. This is precisely what we see with the Samaritans coming to faith in Jesus in John 4:39-42; this is what we see at Pentecost and throughout Acts; this is what we see in history in the Great Awakening and in ministries of preachers like Spurgeon. The Father is glorified in fruitfulness (John 15:8). Of course, not all harvests are the same. Some reap in great numbers, while others reap one at a time. Nevertheless, because this is the age of the harvest, we will bear fruit.
3. There is great joy in both laboring and harvesting (John 4:36-37). Since the Father has removed the waiting period between sowing and reaping, both sower and reaper are able to rejoice together (see Amos 9:13). We too must rejoice, whether we are sowers or reapers. Reapers get all the “glory” to be sure, but the truth about the Father’s will and work is that some of us will be sowers while others will be reapers. Sometimes we will sow and sow and sow and never reap; at other times we will walk into someone else’s labor and reap immediately. Regardles, one sows, another reaps, but we all rejoice, for it is God who gives the growth (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-9). We must never forget our roles and our dependence upon Christ, His Spirit and one another in the labor.
4. Jesus has commissioned all of us to do the Father’s will and join in the Father’s work (John 4:38). Jesus’ commission is not just for his immediate disciples (John 17:20-26). So then, how do we join Jesus in delighting in the Father’s will and work?
- Pray and Fast for the harvest (Colossians 4:1-4; Luke 10:2). Write down a list of your unbelieving family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc., and begin praying that the Lord would soften their hearts and that the Lord may give you an opportunity to share the good news of the gospel with them.
- Proclaim the gospel word (Romans 10:13-15). This is where a lot of people get hung up. Evangelism is not rocket science; it is having gospel conversations with people about Christ and the gospel. We have conversations all the time with people, even about things over which we disagree: politics, college football, etc. Sometimes we make evangelism more difficult than it really is. Let’s just talk to people. Sometimes these conversations will be brief, while at other times they may be extended. Nevertheless, let your conversations be natural and normal, and whenever the door opens to speak of Christ, walk through it.
- Display the gospel life (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). If our gospel word is not backed up by a gospel life, then our evangelism will seem hypocritical to an already skeptical world.
- Trust God for the harvest (Revelation 7:9-12). If this is the Father’s will, then we can rest assured that He will accomplish all His holy will. If this is the Father’s work, then we can rest assured that He will complete it. This is what the Bible shows us in Revelation 7, as we gaze into a multi-ethnic heavenly assembly which is too large to count.
- Rejoice in the labor and the harvest (Luke 15). As we go, let us rejoice in both sowing and reaping. Let us rejoice with heaven over one sinner who repents. Let us rejoice in the labor, and let us rejoice in our roles. So, whether we eat with sinners as Jesus did, or drink with the weaker brethren, whatever we do, let us do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and let us go out now during the age of the harvest, imitating Paul as he is imitating Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Note: This message was preached at High Pointe on Sunday morning, September 5, 2010, as part three of a vision series titled, “Accomplish the Mission.” You may download a copy of this message.