Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sometimes a Light Surprises

Here is a hymn written by William Cowper called Sometimes a Light Surprises. The last stanza is a summary of the text we looked at this morning. Although Cowper battled depression in a huge way, still we are fortunate to hear his words of hope in the midst of suffering.

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing but He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens, no creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice.

Some follow up questions from Sunday's message from Habakkuk

A Sunday School class is following up the message on Sunday with a discussion and application of some of the main points of the message. Here are some of the questions from this morning's message.

<>< <>< <>< <><
Habakkuk wrestled through his answers to the “how long” and “why” questions of Habakkuk 1:2-3.
  • What are reasons that Christians/non-Christians might give (accurate or not) for “how long” and “why” God is doing something?
  • How might these types of questions strengthen our hope in God?
  • How might these types of questions weaken our hope in God?

Habakkuk struggled because it seemed like 2 of God’s attributes were in conflict (1) His almighty power and (2) His perfect character.
  • When you are going through pain which of these are you most likely to question? Why?
  • Which of these are you more likely to hold on to? Why?
  • What is your biblical basis for holding on to these things?

Verse 2:3 implies that patience will be needed for Habakkuk as he wrestles through life. How is patience cultivated in your life?

He speaks of idols in 2:18-20. An idol, according to Ken Sande, is “something other than God that we set our hearts on, that motivates us, that masters/rules us, and that we serve.”
  • Can you identify the idols of our culture?
  • Can you identify your own idols?
  • How do we glamorize our idols (2:19)?
  • How does glamorizing our idols lead to further destruction?

He asks for God to remember mercy even in wrath (3:2) Do you view these 2 traits to be incompatible? Why or why not?

How is your vision of God corrected by chapter 3?
  • What did you already know about God?
  • What incomplete or inaccurate thoughts have you had?
  • Should the strong statement in 3:17-19 be considered as optimistic, pessimistic, and/or realistic? Why?

MORE PERSONAL QUESTIONS to be asked with accountability relationships in mind.
  • What deep struggles have you had that make you ask big questions of God?
  • Have you asked those questions in faith or unbelief?
  • What Christian brother or sister can walk with you through these times?
  • What Christian brother or sister needs you to walk with them through these times?
  • What is your role in personal ministry?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Until all have heard

"Until all have heard, ___________"

That was the way an email I received recently ended. The email was from friends who are committed followers of Jesus, committed to spreading the message of his love, his death, and his life for sinners. What a reminder of the "Share" in the "Build-Share-Introduce" strategy I mentioned on Sunday.

Of course, we want all to "repent and believe," but they can't and won't repent or believe until they have heard. And they won't hear unless someone tells them. And they won't go, unless they realize they have been sent by Christ and His church. Seems like I remember Apostle Paul telling us that in Romans 10.

So, part of what we have to be doing at Ogletown is to be reminding ourselves that we have permission (and much more) to follow God's mission!

Who will hear today, as a result of our sharing?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Building real relationships - ordinary life

Surely, we often make entry-level evangelism harder than it really is.

I have learned from some friends as well as authors and speakers how to make room in my life of unbelievers. It is not always easy, especially when the super-majority of your friends are in the church!

One way is to go to some of the same locations for weekly tasks (i.e. the cleaners, coffee shops, restaurants, gas stations, etc.). That often puts you in contact with the same people. So, I frequent a specific Dunkin Donuts and have enjoyed a growing friendship with the two people behind the counter. I was convicted one day that too often I view people as if they are only there to serve me, so now when I go into DD particularly, I try to think of ways to serve them. I have been blessed in the process.

Another way to meet people is to walk and play. Seriously, one of the secretaries at our church talked about how many people she and her husband had met as a direct result of walking their dog. And what about playing? My good friend Ben encouraged me to play with our kinds in the front yard instead of the back yard. It is amazing how many of our neighbors we have come to know, love, and appreciate because of that little step.

Simple, ordinary, but I am praying that God would use my life for His extraordinary purposes.

Building real relationships - beginning steps

Last night at our evening service for the Love Your Neighbor Initiative, Stan asked the students (and adults) to think back through their day considering whether they had
  1. Noticed someone
  2. Prayed for someone
  3. Listened to someone
  4. Shared their life with someone
Basic questions? Sure. But, it does give a starting point for the first point of the plan for evangelism we talked about Sunday, and that is we should be building real relationships with people.

So, think through those questions each day. Ask them to yourself (or others) each night.

Jeremiah in the morning

While reading through the book of Jeremiah can be difficult, it is also challenging. You hear God's voice as He calls out a nation's sin, and then you look inside your own heart, and realize He is calling out your sin! Here are some challenging verses I read this morning from the first three chapters
1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

1:19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”

2:5 Thus says the Lord: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?

2:8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me;

2:11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

2:22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.

2:35 You say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’ Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’

3:10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.”

3:13 Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the Lord.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Quote from Spurgeon

A word from C.H. Spurgeon (an old English Baptist preacher) on our subject this morning.
"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for. "
God, fire up our hearts to see people and love people like this.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thanking God for our staff

I rarely write about our staff on this blog. That certainly is not because I don't appreciate what they do. Truth be told, I think the main reason why I don't write more is that I hesitate using the blog for any type of self-serving hype or self-promotion. However, I do know that God's Word says to give honor where honor is do.

I am grateful for our staff for several reasons:
  • They see their role as a ministry, not just a job.
  • Because they love each other, the office is not a place of drama where so-and-so is not speaking to so-and-so. I am telling the truth when I say I haven't seen ANY of that in the 22 months I have been here.
  • There is an environment of teamwork and friendship.
  • They accept loving correction, and desire to constantly be improving.
  • They do not gossip. They care more about people than information.
  • They are extremely resourceful with being good stewards of our resources.
  • They manage the stress of changed plans, managing volunteers, and a pastor who is trying to learn to communicate better.
  • They love and listen to people.
  • They work hard when no one is watching.
  • They have a heart for people who don't know Jesus Christ. We pray for friends/family often to come to Christ.
  • They make leadership a joy (see Hebrews 13:17).
  • Because they serve well, I believe that our church leaders are free from distractions, and able to serve Christ with all their heart. What a blessing.
Having said that, our staff is not perfect. We all have areas of growth. We all are, God-willing, increasing in our sanctification. No one knows that more than we do. Their 'boss' is CERTAINLY not perfect, just ask them. But, God's grace shines through them. Continue to pray for us. And thank you for supporting OBC in such a way that it allows our staff to serve Christ and you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Everything we need

This past Sunday, we looked at 2 Peter 1 that reminded us that we have everything we need to live a godly life. I thought about that in light of people.

In a 'positive' way, I believe that some of the resources God gives us to enable us to live a godly life are other believers who help us. We will not persevere until the end with our faith without people encouraging us along the way, not to lose hope.

In a 'negative' sense, I think we have to recognize that we cannot use the excuse of people as to why we don't live a godly life. If a sovereign and omniscient God has given us everything we need, then we can rest assured that He has provided us what we need to deal with difficult people. So, our lack of following and obeying Christ cannot be justified because the people with whom we cross paths are not acting godly. The implications of that are staggering when we think how that applies to our spouses, our kids, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers. In other words their lack of godliness does not mean I am prohibited from manifesting Christ in m life. No excuses. Unlimited resources. Sounds like we need God's gracious work in our lives!