Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From Matthew to Jonah

"Today we are going to embark on a journey as a church. This journey will take us several months and I pray this journey will help to shape our lives for the glory of God. Our journey is to see and savor the Messiah Jesus. My aim this morning and over the course of our study in the Gospel According to Matthew is that you would say over and over, “What a Savior!” and that the story of our Savior would so saturate your mind and heart that you would exalt His supremacy in all things."
Those were the opening comments to the first sermon I preached on the gospel of Matthew in July 2008. Lord willing, this series will conclude over the next two Sundays as I preach over Matthew 28:16-20 (the Great Commission). From my end I can sleep well knowing that I delivered that which I received and did not avoid even the most “difficult” of passages (though the temptation was strong at times). During this period I have taught through other books of the Bible on Sunday evenings but the main worship gathering for Memorial Church has been centered on the study of God through the Gospel of Matthew.

So what’s next? That is a question I’ve gotten a lot and prayed through myself for many weeks. If the Lord wills I intend to preach a sermon on the doctrine of the church (a rare topical departure) followed by a sermon on worship from 2 Samuel 6. Then we will begin going through the Old Testament book of Jonah. This is a powerful little book that magnifies so many attributes of God. Jonah is not the hero of the story- quite the opposite actually. We will study a God who rescues and a God who takes disobedience very seriously.

Right now I am slowly reading through Galatians in preparation to preach through this book in 2011. Somewhere in between I also hope to preach a short three week series on the family. That gives you an idea of what to read in advance and how to pray. God’s Word makes God’s people and I believe the preaching ministry is a key component in the greater ministry of the Word that will make disciples and glorify God in and through our church.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What is the Bible primarily about?

I've said before that the Bible is not a high school yearbook. When the yearbooks would come out the first thing you did when you got it was to find your picture (and if you were an extrovert, to find all your pictures in all your activities). In contract the Bible is not for you to find yourself but to know God and His redemptive plan through His Son Jesus. The video below puts Tim Keller's words with images from Gustave Dore. I'm a big fan of Dore's work and I really appreciate Keller's ministry so this is a good combo. Enjoy...

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ideas for Family Worship

Family worship does not mean worshipping the family (though that can happen and needs to be guarded against) but simply worshipping the Lord together as a family. Family worship is not a substitute for the regular worship assembly of the family of God (i.e. your local church). It is simply exalting Christ in your home and training children to worship.

-The guys at the Resuregence blog offer some good tips HERE.

-They also make a case for family worship HERE.

You may not be a gifted teacher and you might not feel adequately knowledgable about the Scriptures but you can stay one day ahead and fill your home with God's Word.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Heart of Christianity

Doug Wilson (who I disagree with on certain issues is spot on here) quotes President Obama and offers an excellent response.

President Obama (discussing the proposed ‘Ground Zero’ mosque): "For in the end, we remain 'one nation, under God, indivisible.' And we can only achieve 'liberty and justice for all' if we live by that one rule at the heart of every religion, including Islam-that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”

Doug Wilson: “That religion is Americanism, ick, poo, a religion that wants all the "sectarian" faiths to take their place on the god shelf, and adopt as their central belief whatever the president says their core values ought to be. But in the case of the Christian faith, it is not the Golden Rule -- the heart of Christian ethics, sure, but ethics is not the gospel. Christ crucified, buried, and risen -- that's the rule at the heart of our faith. Not only is it the center of our faith, it is a center that cannot, by any means, be made to fit on the rickety god shelf of the secularists.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on Youth (and Children's) Ministry in the Church

I spent ten years as a youth minister before becoming a pastor at the church where I now serve. Over that decade I did a lot of things well intended but ultimately un-Biblical things in youth ministry. Mainly these things concerned leading students to have an over-dependance on me as their spiritual leader rather than their parents and the pastor, spending more time planning activities than studying Scripture and praying, making the hype of an event more memorable than the content of my teaching, etc, etc, etc. Now that said, in spite of my limitations and lack of wisdom the Lord made disciples and was glorified.

About halfway through my 'youth ministry days' the Lord really began convicting me from Scripture to make His Word center in whatever I did. Fun and games have their place but mainly those few hours a week I was with the teenagers was to make the gospel clear, instruct them in the Scriptures, and do whatever I could to reinforce the discipleship that needed to be taking place at home. I began doing things that would see me decrease and the parents increase as the lead disciple-makers of their children.

Some would argue that youth ministry is totally un-Biblical and all age-divided discipleship should be abolished in the church. While we must guard against dividing the family by an over-emphasis on age-specific ministries we do not have to swing the pendulum to the extreme to still hold parents accountable to carry out their Biblical responsibility. After all, the church is called to make disciples, not just make disciples of dads. There is no doubt that the kind of youth ministry that most churches have employed over the last three decades has produced awful results and has a doomed future (READ HERE), the church can still make efforts to come alongside parents to help train their children in God's Word.

Our church must have a clear vision or aim for what we are doing to train our children and teenagers. The gospel must be at the forefront. The methods must be carefully scrutinized so that the message is not compromised. We also must be careful that parents do not abdicate their responsibility because they feel their efforts are inferior to the bells and whistles of the church program. Parents must be equipped. Good youth or children's ministry partners with parents, makes the teaching of the Word central, and makes sure God (not human creativity) is what resonates most in the hearts and minds of our young hearers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Libertarian Free Will

Here is a great definition of Libertarian Free Will. I do not know anyone who argues that we have this kind of free will. God has given us freedom to make choices but sadly our choices are always conditioned by the sin nature and our will is in bondage to that nature. Thanks be to a merciful and gracious God who shatters that bondage and causes sinners to be born again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Preaching the Cross

About a month from now I plan to conclude the series through Matthew's gospel that I've been preaching for the last two years. A lot has changed in my life over the course of this series so there is some sadness as I think about putting away the Matthew commentaries and turning my focus to another book of the Bible. I can only hope that my congregation and those who have visited with us on Sunday mornings have been ministered to by the preaching at least half as much as I have in preparing the sermons.

Over the last three weeks I've been unpacking chapter 27 and the verses particularly on the crucifixion of Jesus. We'll soon turn to the resurrection but the time I've devoted in study on the cross alone has made an enormous impact on my heart. I encourage everyone to devote time and reflection on what our Lord accomplished on the cross. We often so focus on the drama of the cross we forget its perfectly fulfilled deed. Jesus died to pay a ransom and to purchase forgiveness for those who God has mercifully willed to save. How humbling a thought... He did this while we were still dead in trespasses and sins!

I am continually amazed that my God would save me. It is mesmerizing because there is nothing I've done to or could ever do to merit such grace... but that is grace. This is so humbling and I pray the humbling, amazing, and transforming message of the cross would continuing to shape our congregation as it is shaping me.