Thursday, April 30, 2009

Small group or Sunday School class primer

One of the things that I think would be a BIG help for the people of OBC is to be involved in some smaller group of believers organized and prepared to share God's Word and to share life together. I came across some helpful suggestions if you are in such a group.
  • Praying earnestly for God’s blessing on others, the leader and myself.

  • Depending upon the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures.

  • Looking to God to speak to me personally.

  • Approaching the Bible in true humility, not to criticize but to be criticized by God’s Word.

  • Avoiding preaching sermonettes to the group.

  • Endeavoring to participate whenever I can in sharing thoughts or by asking questions.

  • Not monopolizing the study in talking too much.

  • Giving loyal support to the leader and encouragement to others.

  • Being ready, with grace and humility, to agree to differ from others.

  • Never discussing adversely the leader or other members of the group in their absence.

Stay in touch

I am grateful for those who read the blog. I also try to stay connected to people in some other ways, so FYI...
  • You can reach me at Facebook

  • I am also trying out Twitter. So far, I think it is pretty cool.

  • Also, my email address is chill AT ogletown DOT org

Members Meeting last night

In case you missed the Members Meeting last night...

It was great to hear that our church gave over $10,000 to do work through the North American Mission Board. Awesome job! I am glad our church is prepared to give to the cause of missions!

In addition, we heard that we are in a favorable position to offer help to those who are in need in our church family (and extended) through our benevolence fund.

Our "Love Your Neighbor Initiative" which will involve bringing pillows and pillow cases (lots of them) on Sunday for the Sunday Breakfast Mission, is looking like an awesome opportunity for us to bless our community.

We also mentioned that as a result of our discipleship, membership classes, and most of all the Spirit's work, we are looking forward to Sunday, May 17, where several will be baptized and several will be presented who desire to join the OBC family. I cannot wait!

I mentioned that I am "recommitting" to some of my pastoral priorities...
  • Ministry of the Word - I spend a good amount of time studying God's Word. I am appreciative of the privilege of doing that. I am trying to maximize my stewardship of God's Word, by preparing for Sunday morning (my opportunity to impact the most people in one setting). But, I am also committed to using my study of God's Word through many other means like Bible studies, counseling appointments, personal discipleship blog posts, etc. We don't do the body of Christ any good if we only 'intake' the Bible and don't pass it along.

  • Prayer - I am committed to praying better for the congregation. I have to grow in my discipline. This week, I have prayed for many people in the OBC family by name. I am praying that God will grow me in that area, as I submit and obey.

  • People - In a congregation our size, it can be difficult to know where to start in that, but I am committed to shepherding people. I love the family that God has called me to at OBC, and I am praying that God will open some doors for me to tangibly show it!

  • Oversight - I recognize that part of my call and New Testament responsibility is to oversee the congregation. My prayer is that as I do the first 3 priorities well, God will open doors for me to do this one well, as well.
I am grateful for those who were there, and also for all those who care about how God is working at OBC.

Success is...

Success is often measured for us, isn’t it? If you get a certain GPA, you have had a successful semester. If you improve your time in a race, or improve your golf score, you can easily look at it as success. If you attain a certain position in a company, many will view you as successful.

But, a question might be, “What does a successful church look like?” Of course, we could look at some outward indicators like the number of attenders, size of the building, or even the amount that the church collects. And surely, those things have their place, but at the end of the day, I am not sure that God is overwhelmingly impressed with any of them.

But, I do think when God looks at Ogletown, He is pleased to see…
  • A child growing in their understanding of the God who loves them more than they could imagine
  • A small group or a Sunday School class experiencing a level of authenticity or transparency that they have not had before
  • A person using their gifts to serve the body of Jesus Christ, sometimes when no one is looking
  • A couple who decide to follow biblical commands of hospitality, and open their homes to neighbors as well as to brothers and sisters in Christ
  • A teenager who ends up choosing to do what is right, despite the ridicule or embarrassment for not going with the flow
  • Parents who have chosen to do the hard work of shaping their child’s heart, and who do so even when it isn’t convenient
  • People who gather early on Sunday morning to pray (and those who pray throughout the week for our body as well)
  • A college student boldly and lovingly sharing their faith
  • A family who begins to develop a heart that makes them love their neighbor in tangible ways
  • A person who sees their business as more than something to enhance their earthly security, but rather sees it as a platform to share God’s grace
  • A student who takes an extended period of time in their lives (with a measure of personal sacrifice) to invest it in the lives of others

These things are happening at Ogletown, and I believe God is pleased. It seems to me that success can manifest itself in 100 different ways, and sometimes it is hard to measure. But, I take great comfort in knowing God sees all, and is working out His perfect will in our lives. Are we perfect? Far from it! Are we successful? I think we are, at times, but there is always room to grow. Are we dependent on Him for everything we need for life and godliness? You can rest assured we are.

More questions for meditation

Here are some more questions I got from the book Open Heart, Open Home. These questions also aid in meditating on God's Word.
  1. Is there a warning to heed?
  2. Is there a promise to claim?
  3. Is there a prayer to echo?
  4. How can I see my own experience reflected here?
  5. How can I apply this Scripture to practical, everyday life?
  6. How can I turn this verse into prayer?
I would add one more question that I think is essential, and that is "Where is the gospel found in this passage?" In other words, even in the Old Testament, the groundwork is being laid for belief in the work of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

300(+) times

What is God's most frequent command to His people? He gives it over 300 times from Genesis 15:1 to John 14:27! What is it?

Meditating on Scripture

Meditation can sound intimidating. We often put it in a category of "things we might do at a yoga class." And yet, Scripture speaks of meditation in a normal, real way, without some spooky sense to the word. Listen to what the Psalmist says
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. - Psalm 119:15

I was reading a book called Open Heart, Open Home, and it suggested some questions for meditation.
  1. What is the main truth of this verse?

  2. What other Scripture can I find to illuminate this verse?

  3. Is there any word or part of this verse that I do not understand?

  4. Is there a command or word of advice here to obey?

  5. Is there a good example to follow?

  6. Is there a sin or mistake to avoid?
I will share some more Bible meditation questions another day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weighed and found wanting

Daniel 5 seems to end in an ominous tone. Verse 27 mentions that King Belshazzar was weighed in the balances and found wanting.

It is clear that God is the judge and His assessment is the only one that matters. Before I am too quick to say "That's what pagan kings deserve," I have to realize that in God's eyes, my life apart from Jesus is weighed in the balances. It has fallen short of God's glory. I have not pleased Him or honored Him. Truly, in the righteousness category, I am found lacking (or wanting).

But, then Christ comes. He lacks nothing in the righteousness category. He identifies with me in my sin. He experienced worse judgment than Belshazzar did for my sin. So, that now, according to Romans, he is just and the one who justifies. He is my greatest advocate. I am not left to experience the wrath of God or His judgment.

I receive life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Back to Daniel 5

Everything but the kitchen sink. That is what a friend reminded me of when it describes the things worshiped in Daniel 5.

What is striking is that while the gods of stone, wood, iron, bronze, silver, and gold are praised (4,23), the God of Heaven is starkly absent. At lease He seemed to be in the first part of the evening. The end of the evening told a different story.

Verse 23 reminds us in that chapter that God is a God who sees, hears, knows, and holds our life in His hands.

Have you praised that God this morning?

Monday, April 20, 2009

More thoughts on Daniel 5

I preached yesterday and alluded to Daniel 5. When I read these verses they sounded eerily familiar.

Acts 12:20-24 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. But the word of God increased and multiplied.

Kings come and go. Pride still ruins completely. The gospel also stills go on with great power.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The 2 definitions from today's message

These are in C.J. Mahaney's great book on humility that I alluded to this morning.

Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence on Him.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Where is Jesus in the Old Testament?

In preparing for Sunday's message, I was reminded again that Jesus is not absent in the Old Testament. Truly, He is there. Sometimes, we notice Him clearly. At other times, He is there because we look at fallen humanity, and recognize that He is perfect.

In the book of Daniel, I have seen Jesus in several places...
  • He is the only one who lived with complete resolve to do God's will without one incident of wavering.
  • He is the king over a kingdom that will never end.
  • He is the rock that crushes the kingdoms of this world.
  • He is the 4th man in the fire who is present in mind-blowing trials.
  • He is found in the angel of deliverance in the Lion's Den.

This week, I have seen Him again.
  • He is the opposite of King Nebuchadnezzar who used his glory to puff up his pride and degrade people. Jesus had all authority and used it for our benefit.
  • As the handwriting on the wall reminds us that we are tried by God and found lacking in righteousness, Jesus identifies with us, takes our punishment, and we receive full forgiveness and life, as He experiences the judgment of God on the cross.
Jesus is there in the Old Testament, saving, helping, keeping, loving. He is there as a friend for sinners.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Foundation-stones of the good news

In basketball, part of the foundation of practice and warm-up are layup drills. You will see kids learning to play the game working on these things. You will see NBA all-stars doing these before games in front of thousands of people. Why? Because the layup is still a vital part of the game.

The same could be said for tackling drills in football, the putting green in golf, and batting practice in baseball. You never get past these things. They are the basics of the game whether you have moved on to 'bigger and better' things or not.

A similar thing could be said about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. You do not move past these things if you are a Christian. You have to keep them before you, and see how Scripture applies them to all of life.

Some Scripture texts express these 'basics' pretty clearly. J.C. Ryle says that "These texts are among the foundation-stones of the gospel." (Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, page 58)
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Hebrews 9:28 So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Isaiah 53:5-6 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
These are our layup drills, our batting practice, our driving range, etc. for the Christian life. These are verses worth our meditation, memorization, and study.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

This morning's alarm

This morning the rest of the Hill household was greeted by the youngest Hill singing loudly in her bed...

The duck says, "Quack, quack"

If it had been light outside instead of dark, I probably would have enjoyed the song more!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

There is a fountain

Friday I will be speaking from Luke 23:39-43 concerning the "dying thief." Perhaps, apart from Scripture, the best rendering of this story with personal application is found in one of William Cowper's Hymns originally called, "Praise for the Fountain Opened."
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The next few days

This week I will have the privilege of sharing thoughts from God's Word in three different forums. It seems that the Spirit has drawn my heart and attention to look at the Gospel of Luke during this Holy Week. So...
  1. On Wednesday night, I will be leading a Bible study here at the church comparing the beginning of Luke with the end of Luke.

  2. On Friday (at noon), I will be speaking at a Good Friday service at Faith Baptist Chuch on Limestone Road, about the words of Christ to the thief on the cross from Luke 23.

  3. On Sunday, Lord-willing, we will look at Luke 24 and the account of the first Resurrection Sunday.
I am looking forward to God shaping us as we consider Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Things that surprise you (but shouldn't)

A clip from the Hill household this afternoon...
Anonymous Hill: "Tooting in someone's face is NOT appropriate, is it, Daddy? We shouldn't talk about it."

Daddy: "I guess you're right."

Hard-to-detect idols

I have been working through Daniel 3 this week. The story of the three Hebrews being thrown into the fiery furnace because they would not "fall down and worship" the image that King Nebuchadnezzar set up.

They didn't do it, because that sort of act would violate Exodus 20, which says that our allegiance should be to God alone. God spelled it out clearly and any other allegiance is idol-worship.

As I have probed, thought, and meditated on this more, I realize how easy it is to worship idols. John thought so, because he ends his first epistle with a warning about it. I don't think his words are limited to statues and figurines, either.

In many ways the default position of the human heart is to worship something, isn't it? That is how we were born, that is how we live! Show me a 9-year-old, and I will show you someone who is awed by the latest game, toy, or thing. Show me a 39-year-old, and I will show you someone who is loving and sacrificing for a (higher-priced) toy, a relationship, a career, etc. We were made to worship, and our decisions, attitudes, motives, etc. reveal what we are worshipping.

I can honestly say that a big statue really doesn't do much for me on the worship meter. I am really not tempted. But if we say that you worship "the most important thing in the world to you," then my heart is challenged. If we are to look at what we are most concerned about, what we think about, what makes us sad if we can't get it, what affects our life, we are even digging deeper.

Based on those kind of thoughts, something may be good and proper in its place, but the moment it goes from being nice to ultimate, it has become an idol.

If I begin to define idol-worship in those categories, I may not be as far from "falling down and worshipping" things as I would like to be. I may be more like the crowd on the plain of Dura in Daniel 3 who mindlessly bowed before the image, and less like three men who chose to order their life based on God's truth.

Where am I vulnerable? What are some things/feelings that could become idols. I will share those at another time, but God seems to be working me over in that area!

Palm Sunday

A couple thoughts on this Friday morning...

26 years ago to the day (It was Easter Sunday), I was baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ. I still have some memories of that morning, even though I was pretty young. I am grateful that God's grace worked in my heart at a young age, drew me to see the need for clear forgiveness of my sin, and pushed me to trust in God's Son as my righteousness. I am also grateful that it was the Holy Spirit pushing, not my parents. My parents were there guiding my heart, but not rushing the grace-filled work in my life. My need for the gospel seems to grow over time, and so does my appreciation of it.

This coming Sunday will be a special Sunday at OBC.
  • It is Palm Sunday, and we will remember the entry that Jesus had into the city of Jerusalem.

  • We will be looking at the stories of Daniel in the Lion's Den and Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego (actually I prefer Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah).

  • My mom will be here. (always a little added pressure when the parents are in town) :-)

  • Tyler and Jenny Somers will be leading our 9:00 service (and having a concert at the OEX Sunday evening)

  • We will be celebrating Communion.

  • I will be saying something in the introduction of my sermon on Daniel 3 and 6 that I have NEVER said before in a sermon.
Can't wait to see you here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Scripture and impact

All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, so says 2 Timothy 3, but sometimes particular Scriptures stand out in my mind and challenge my heart. They have come up in conversations and in prayers. A few of those recently have been...

  • Romans 15:14-21 - This has given me more insight into how Paul viewed pastoring and ministry.
  • Psalm 118 - The allusions to Palm Sunday and Matthew 21 are so encouraging.
  • Psalm 119:32 - This verse shared with me by someone this week. I am using it as a platform for prayer for our church corporately and myself as well.
  • Deuteronomy 4:7-8 -I mentioned these verses before, but I am still grateful that God speaks and that God is near!
  • James 1:5 - This has been a regular part of my prayers in recent days.
  • Jeremiah 29 - Jeremiah tells the Jews exiled in Babylon to seek the peace of the city. That certainly has an application for us.

I couldn't help but sharing! Are there some Scriptures that have impacted you recently? Feel free to comment!