Friday, August 26, 2011

The Seven-Minute-Sabbath Challenge Update

Well, the week is almost through, and I know a number of you have taken the Seven-Minute-Sabbath Challenge, I pray that your prayer times have been meaningful. Today I came across this video with Anthony Campolo and the topic of prayer and presence. I found it fitting in light of this week's Challenge.



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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

THE SEVEN-MINUTE-SABBATH CHALLENGE


THIS PAST SUNDAY I CHALLENGED our Sunday morning service to join me in a Seven-Minute-Sabbath-Challenge.

The Challenge was to take 7 minutes everyday of silence before the LORD. To help facilitate this time I suggested that they take a portion of the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as a guide to their thoughts.  This Seven-Minute-Sabbath was not to be a time of asking or giving thanks, or even of praising God, rather it was to be a time of silent listening for the Voice of God.

I broke up the week in the following manner:
Monday: Matthew 6:9
Tuesday: Matthew 6:10
Wednesday: Matthew 6:11
Thursday: Matthew 6:12
Friday: Matthew 6:13
Saturday: For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, Forever
I then added to the Challenge by encouraging each person to find someone this week, who is not a follower of Jesus Christ, and simply ask them, "What comes to your mind when you hear the name Jesus Christ?" Their purpose, here again, is not to try to "save" the person or have an opportunity to share the Four Spiritual Laws, but rather just to listen and learn.

I don't know this will go this week, but I know this, I am praying that God, our Abba, will speak to each one in a way that is very clear, so that they can give witness to the reality of a God who speaks.

I challenge you, readers of this blog, to join the family at Felton Bible Church as together we seek to learn the blessed discipline of taking Sabbath, a gift that God as given to us. (Mark 2:23-28)  I would love to hear how it went with you.
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

AMAZING GRACE, HOW SWEET THE SOUND

THE WORLD AROUND US SEEMS TO BE FALLING apart at a record place. Add to that our Scripture passage for this coming week, Revelation 8:1-13, and we must wonder if we will ever see any good in the near future. Looking at our nation's economic woes, the wars and rumors of war in places like Syria (see the renewed US sanctions) and in some of our newest countries like South Sudan, and add to that the drought that has been affecting the American Southwest, and one has to wonder if this is truly the beginning of the birth pangs of the End Days. (Matthew 24:1-8)

And yet, a closer look at the Scripture in question and we can see the grace of God still at work. I don't wish to "give-away" too much of the message I am working on for this Sunday's installment of "Hope During the Hard Times," but I would like to have us consider the grace of God even in the midst of the blowing of the trumpets of judgment (Revelation 8:6-13.) Once again the Lord seems to leave a remnant of His creation to stand. Even in the hardest of times God provides places of hope. Even as the eagle cries out, "Woe! Woe! Woe!" (Revelation 8:13) there is the reality that God is at work, His grace is still abounding, and there is hope, even in the darkest of times.

So, let us not give up hope, rather let us look for the measures of grace with which God lavishes each and every day, and let us give thanks for His amazing grace!
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

THE OPENING OF THE HOLY TEXT


IN MY PRESENT SERIES OUT OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION, one of the most difficult aspects is being true to the text.  As never before I have prayed, "Lord God, help me know and preach the truth regarding Thy truth.  To put it another way, after reading a number of commentaries on the passages in question, all I truly desire to do is to speak the truth. I want to get it right. It means serious, prayerful study, and that the Holy Spirit will not only illumine my heart and mind, but also the hearts and minds of those who listen.


Today I came across and interview with the late John Stott. The interview was conducted by Albert Mohler for Preaching magazine in 1987. I very much appreciated Dr. Stott's explanation of the importance of the study and proclamation of the Word of God. In defining Biblical preaching Stott said,
I believe that to preach or to expound the scripture is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him. I gave that definition at the Congress on Biblical Exposition and I stand by it, but let me expand a moment.
My definition deliberately includes several implications concerning the scripture. First, it is a uniquely inspired text. Second, the scripture must be opened up. It comes to us partially closed, with problems which must be opened up.

Beyond this, we must expound it with faithfulness and sensitivity. Faithfulness relates to the scripture itself. Sensitivity relates to the modern world. The preacher must give careful attention to both.

We must always be faithful to the text, and yet ever sensitive to the modern world and its concerns and needs. When this happens the preacher can come with two expectations. First, that God’s voice is heard because He speaks through what He has spoken. Second, that His people will obey Him — that they will respond to His Word as it is preached.
As I continue to study God's Word, I can only pray to handle it with such seriousness of resolve. To rightly handle the word of truth as the Apostle Paul admonished Pastor Timothy. (2 Timothy 2:15)
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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

DO THE MATH


REVELATION CHAPTER SEVEN IS ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS. Or at least it's about people wanting to know about the numbers contained in the passage, specifically the 144 thousand who are to be "sealed . . . from all the tribes of Israel." (Revelation 7:4)

It's not so much adding the 12,000 from the 12 tribes...that's pretty easy math, it's the BIGGER question of why?  It reminds me of that kid in elementary school who wants to know "why" 2+2=4, they are never simply satisfied with the simple answer of "because that's the way it is."

But, I think, like my friend in elementary school, we can get so caught up in the 144,000 that we miss the more beautiful equation set before us in the passage. It should also be noted that of the 460 some words in this chapter only about 200 deal with the 144,000. That means that what follows verse eight might in fact be the more important part of the equation.

Pay attention to what the Apostle John records in verse nine, "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9) Talk about higher math!

Herein, I believe, is where the focus is to lie, not that the 144,000 are not important, but the really amazing number is that there will be an uncountable multitude from those who are not Israel, and in this number I would be included. Yes, Israel has been God's chosen people, and in some ways they still are, but God heart is too big to be limited to one people, one nation, one language.  God's love is for all people. Even you and me!


So, this coming Sunday, when I am to be preaching from Revelation 7:1-17, where do you suppose my focus will be, on the 144,000 or on the multitude, or on the One to whom the 144,000 and the multitude will bow? Yep! You got that right.  And yes, we will have to deal with some of the "other" interesting events within the chapter, too.

Whether or not we get all the "math" correct on this one I do not know, but this one thing I DO know, I am sure glad I can be numbered with the redeemed. That makes it all add up nicely.
 

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BACK TO SCHOOL! ALREADY?!?


BACK IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS, when I was attending elementary school, we never started school until after Labor Day. Of course we also had no “teacher in service days” to take off, but we did get Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays off, but on the actual day. And yes, it was called, “Christmas Vacation” and “Easter Vacation.” My how things have changed!
     My children have already told me that school starts on August 23rd! Summer is quickly drawing to a close. Pretty soon it’s no more late nights and lazing around, it will be back to the serious endeavors of education. Time for backpacks filled with books and homework every night. Yep, school will be here before you know it! Kind of like the return of Jesus Christ…here before you know it!
     When summer began the beginning of school seemed oh so far away.  We needn’t dwell on it or get ready for the new learning experiences that would await us. It was summer time! Time for swimming, camping, sleeping in, BBQ’s and getting a tan. School was light-years away…or so it seemed. Now it is knocking on the door. Kind of like the return of Jesus Christ…here before you know it!
     In our present sermon series on the Book of Revelation, “Hope During the Hard Times” we are discovering that the return of Jesus is much closer than we may think. It’s been so long since He left (Acts 1:1-10) that we have got to the point of wondering if He has forgotten about returning. Yet we see in Scripture that He has not forgotten, but rather He is patiently waiting, giving the opportunity for people to respond to His grace and love, and be brought into His Father’s family. (1 Peter 3:9-10) It is during this “waiting time” that you and I are called to study His Word (2 Timothy 2:15) and seek to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within us. (1 Peter 3:15) Now is not the time for lazing in a holy hammock waiting for the Lord to appear like someone bringing you a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade, no, now is the time to be ready.  It is time to sharpen ourselves up, like one preparing to enter back into studies, now is not the time for weak minds and sloppy thinking, now is the time to prepare and share.  It’s time to “bone-up” on what we believe, and live lives that prove what we believe matters.
     This must be true for all of us, myself included. In fact, one of the things I appreciate most about being affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America is the importance they place upon their pastors being the “resident pastor-theologian” for each local church. They realize, and firmly communicate to us who are members of the Evangelical Free Church Ministerial that we are not primarily called to our churches to serve as CEO’s or counselors or program directors, but our call is to serve the Lord well by serving His Word well. We are called to be men and women of the Word.
    Recently, this has been driven home to me as I have been asked to chair the local licensing and ordination counsels.  These councils are opportunities for us to “test” the orthodoxy of those who wish to be licensed and/or ordained in the EFCA.  I went through my ordination process 18 years ago, and now having to chair these councils means I also need to hone-up on what I believe. You see, none of us are to simply let things slip by; rather we must heed the warning that the Apostle Paul gave to Pastor Timothy, “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” (2 Timothy 2:14-16)
     So, with that admonition I say to all of us, “It’s back to school time,” for we never know when the Teacher will return, therefore let us always be awake and ready.
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