Sunday, May 31, 2009

3 questions I find myself thinking about on Sunday mornings

So here are the 3 questions I find myself thinking about on Sunday mornings (and truth be told, Mon-Sat as well).

  1. Has what I am about to preach made any affect on me personally? Has it stirred my affections for Jesus Christ? Has it produced humble, repentant fruit in my life? Can I think of tangible ways in which I am different for having poured my life into it the previous week? The LAST thing the church needs is a hypocrite preaching to them about things that ultimately have been of no lasting value in his own life. God forgive me when I have done that!

  2. Have I given careful attention to the gospel concerning what I am bout to preach? I cannot just assume this will happen. I have to think, "Am I preaching a message that could be given at a civic club, a mosque, or a synagogue with a few minor tweaks?" Or is what I am preaching the radical nature of a gospel that fundamentally changes everything? Have I considered how the life of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ has changed the discussion on this topic?

  3. Have I considered how this affects "us" not just "me" or "you" (in the singular). In other words, much of the New Testament is given to an assembly of people, not just an individual. Even the portions that were given to individuals were often meant for a larger community. Have I paid attention to that? Have I considered that this passage speaks to a greater church community, not just isolated individuals?
I think I do better when these 3 questions have done work on my sermons.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Does grammar impact prayer?

As I was thinking more about what I shared in the last post, I ran across another helpful insight into my prayer life.

Paul uses a verb form in the prayers of verse 5 (May God grant you) and verse 13 (May God fill you) that really functions as "an appeal to the will" of God. Wallace says that this request is a "polite request without a hint of doubting what the response will be." While the verb form itself may indicate a request or prayer is merely a possibility, because we know who God is, and what He is like, that possibility becomes a reasonable expectation and something worth setting our hope on.

Imagine what that meant to Paul. Imagine what that means to you when you pray these types of prayer.

Wallace goes on to say that "prayers offered to the semi-gods of Athens could expect to be haggled over, rebuffed, and left unanswered. But the God of the NT was bigger than that. The prayers offered to him depend on his sovereignty and goodness. If uncertainty is part of the package, it is not due to questions of God's ability, but simply to the petitioner's humility before the transcendent one."

So, we can approach God with confidence asking Him to fill us with joy and peace, and for Him to grant us endurance and encouragement. We can know we are not trying to force his reluctant hand to act on our behalf. He is gracious and glad to give good gifts to His children who ask for them.

The God of...

I am stuck in Romans 15 again, but my attention has just been drawn to several aspects of God's grace found in this chapter.

He is said to be the
  • God of endurance (5)
  • God of encouragement (5)
  • God of hope (13)
  • God of peace (33)
According to one of best resources I know on the subject, we can legitimately substitute "who produces" in the place of "of" in the phrases above.

So, then we have a
  • God who produces endurance
  • God who produces encouragement
  • God who produces hope
  • God who produces peace
Sounds like exactly what I need. A God who works in me and on me as I follow Him. A God who changes me from the inside out. A God who sees my woeful lack of being able to produce internally anything of lasting result.

I think I know how God desires me to pray today!

Is it even possible

Is it possible for us to live in a growing, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ, but still have unresolved, unrepentant issues with another brother/sister in Christ?

My first inclination is to put up my defenses, and think of how I might have been sinned against, or misunderstood, or essentially have no guilt in a relationship that has gone sour. But, I don't think that I can stop there. I believe that I have to make effort to make sure relationships are reconciled.

Romans 12:18 reminds me of this...
If possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
In preparing for this Sunday's message, I ran across the prayer of Paul in Romans 15 which says
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In harmony with each other, in accord with Christ Jesus. Not separated at all, except for the comma. In other words, God's good plan for Ogletown is a joyful harmony that extends from what we share in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Too good not to share

There is nothing like telling someone that you love about something great they can enjoy and find useful. I feel like that when I think of a resource I have found in recent days. It is printed by a company (The GoodBook Company - I love the name!) from the UK, who recently opened a base of operations in the US.

The resource is called TableTalk, and essentially is a family devotion tool. We have started using TableTalk recently with our family (my wife, and children, ages 5 and 2). God has used it to provide some consistency in an area where we have often come up short. Why is it so helpful? Several reasons.
  1. The Bible is OPENED, and real text is read. I appreciate and use The Big Picture Story Bible and the Jesus Storybook Bible, but there is no substitute for reading the very words of Scripture.
  2. The portions of Scripture are truly “bite-size” allowing our kids to focus for a short amount of time.
  3. There are interactive portions that help the Bible come alive.
  4. Each day ends with a focused prayer time. It brings me joy that my son is learning a variety of things to pray for.
  5. There is some continuity to the study, so that every night we are not jumping to a new unrelated story to what we looked at the day before.
  6. The big story line of the Bible is always in view. It highlights the gospel themes of God’s rule, our sin, Jesus’ death, and our redemption almost every day.
  7. Although we are not using a complementary resource just yet, I am also thrilled to know about the XTB (eXplore The Bible) series that is for kids (who are readers) to do their personal devotions on the same Scripture that TableTalk uses for that particular day.
I could say much more, but this resource has helped my wife and I fulfill our responsibility to teach our children to be disciples of Christ. I think I would pay 5 times what they charge, knowing the value of what it has brought to our house.

Do we talk about hope enough?

As I was preparing this morning for Sunday's message, I ran across several references to "hope" in Romans 15.
  • Verse 4 - Scripture was written that we might have hope.
  • Verse 12 - The Gentiles will find hope in the root of Jesse (Jesus Christ).
  • Verse 13 - God is the God of hope.
  • Verse 13 - The power of the Holy Spirit makes us abound in hope.
So, do we find ourselves hoping in Christ? When our world blows up, do we look to the Spirit to help us abound in hope? Do we turn to the Scriptures to give us hope? Do we let our hope in God fill us with joy and peace because we believe in Jesus?

I think I need to adjust some of the ways I encourage people. I need to remind them more often to not lose hope. I also need to remind myself of that and pray that God will bring ministers of hope in my life.

For the Christian, our hope is not just wishful thinking, or pie-in-the-sky fairy tales. It is hope rooted in the love of the Father, the cross of the Son, and the working of the Spirit.

So this is my prayer for Ogletown today. It was actually the prayer of Paul for the church at Rome, and I am positive I cannot improve on it.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Words from "A Broken Heart"

As I was reminding myself this morning of the good news of Jesus Christ, I came across these short powerful lines from a prayer in The Valley of Vision called "A Broken Heart."
I am guilty, but pardoned
I am lost, but saved
I am wandering, but found
I am sinning, but cleansed

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Men's Bible Study

I normally don't use the blog for shameless promotion, but there are exceptions to most everything, or so my Greek professor led me to believe.

I mentioned on Men’s Night and on Sunday morning that I would be leading a men’s Bible study. I have felt led for some time to lead this kind of study, and God seemed to open a door here for me to do it.

Essential details: we will meet at the OEx at 6:30am, and it will be for 5 weeks, beginning tomorrow morning. My prayer is that we will take some time to hear from God’s Word together, humbly work it out in our own lives, and pray for each other. Don’t feel obligated to be there every week if you have other commitments. I am hoping that God will use these weeks in my life to shape me into the image of the perfect man, Jesus Christ.

You are in my prayers, and I would love to see you tomorrow. If you have any questions, please email me or give me a call.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What does justice look like?

When I was preparing this morning for a look at the parable of the "Workers in the Vineyard" in Matthew 20, I ran across this thought
Justice [is not] a passive idea waiting to be violated, and it certainly is not to be defined by self-centered interests. Justice requires positive action seeking the good for all persons, especially the poor. True justice - at least God's justice - seeks mercy and ways to express love.
Stories of Intent by Klyne Snodgrass, p. 378

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Baptism on Sunday

I am looking forward to Sunday, and I want you to be a part of our services. We will have a joint baptismal service between services celebrating together God’s work in the life of our Ogletown family. It will serve as the conclusion of the first service and the beginning of the second service. So, if you normally attend the 9:00 service, we will invite you over to the Sanctuary as we celebrate God’s work in the lives of several people at our church. If you normally attend the 10:30 service, we ask you to come a little early to church.

The logistics may be a little crazy, but I think it will be a day in the life of Ogletown we won’t soon forget. I can't wait to see you Sunday.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

There's a Wideness in God's Mercy

Here is a beautiful hymn that expresses in a powerful way some of what I said in this morning's message from Daniel 9.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.

’Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
It is something more than all;
Greater good because of evil,
Larger mercy through the fall.

If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
’Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Was there ever kinder shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us
Come and gather at His feet?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Biblical productivity

How do you balance time? How do you determine priorities? How do you practice good stewardship of the 168 hours that God gives you each week?

A thought-provoking, gospel-oriented series of posts by C.J. Mahaney helped me think through some new categories. They have been compiled into a single pdf document.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good news and bad news

Could God be a nice God and not hold anyone accountable? For the good news to be good, does there have to be bad news as well? This comment was insightful.
Without the concept of judgment one does not even need salvation, and any urgency about life and its importance, about justice, or even about God is, if not lost, at least greatly diminished. Grace is only grace if the outcome should have been otherwise, and the significance of life depends on accountability for life. We may not like judgment, but it is a central and necessary message of both Testaments and especially Jesus' teaching.
Stories of Intent by Klyne Snodgrass