Monthly Archives: June 2007

Are You Prepared For Your Future? Part II

(Preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on June 24, 2007. To listen to the sermon via mp3, just click on the link to the side.) 

(To read Part I, click here.) 

Be Faithful with the Master’s Treasure

Jesus asks another question to his listeners: “And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own” (Luke 16:12, ESV)? The manager wasted his master’s possessions — thus the reason of his release from the rich man’s employ. This posed a concern for his ability to take care of his own possessions. Since this manager was so inept in taking care of possessions entrusted to him by another, would he fare any better being responsible for his own?

Darrell Bock notes, “If someone is unfaithful as a steward, why should that person be entrusted with ownership? Handling wealth is a preparatory lesson for other responsibilities before God.” God entrusts to us a number of treasures for us to use for his glory and our good. The first treasure is entrusting man with dominion over the earth and continuing the species through procreation. Genesis 1:27-28 says plainly:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:27-28, ESV).

He entrusts us with the treasure of the Gospel. Second Corinthians 4:5-7 says:

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:5-7).

Paul describes the Gospel as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” as the gospel, as “this treasure.” God places that treasure in us, the “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7) — he places that treasure in all who are followers of Jesus Christ.

He entrusts us with time. The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:15-17 says: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17, ESV).

He entrusts us as believers with spiritual gifts. The Apostle Paul says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, ESV).

Pertaining especially to this particular parable, he entrusts us with the treasure of this world. Psalm 50:10-11 establishes to whom all things on earth belong:

For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine (Psalm 50:10-11, ESV)

In Malachi, God calls us to return a portion of that which he gives us back to him with the storehouse tithe (Malachi 3:10) along with all other offerings with a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Warren Wiersbe puts it well:

True stewardship means that we thank God for all that we have and use it as He directs. Giving God 10 percent of our income is a good way to begin our faithful stewardship, but we must remember that God should control what we do with the remaining 90 percent as well.

How do you view what God has entrusted to you? The questions Jesus asks do indeed probe our preconceptions. The first question implies that these resources belong to the perceived earthly owner. The second question crystallizes the fact that all we have ultimately belongs to God. Which way do you ultimately view your possessions: as yours or God’s?

Be Faithful to the Master Over All Other Treasure

Jesus brings his parable to a fine point when he states in Luke 16:13, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

In this parable, we have seen how Jesus wants us to be shrewdly faithful in the possessions we have as well as those possessions entrusted to us by our Master. Yet, we risk becoming so focus on taking care of our possessions that we forget the one to whom all things belong. We need to remind ourselves of James 1:12 that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (ESV). Let us beware lest we focus on the ‘good and perfect gift’ rather than on the good and perfect giver of that gift.

Proverbs 30:8-9 says:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.

In essence, this passage says, “God, just give me what I need.” This passage reminds us of what Jesus said during his model prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:10, ESV). In our materialistic culture, we often miss the connection between what we worship and how we live. We miss the connection in that how we view God directly proportionate to how we view money, and vice versa.

This verse is parallel to a passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:19-21, 24, ESV).

During one Star Trek episode when Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock discussed the possibilities of computers controlling everything we see, Kirk was shocked to hear the ever-logical Mr. Spock lament such a notion. When Kirk asked why, Spock made the comment, “Computers make wonderful servants, but terrible masters.”

When we turn our attention and base our contentedness based upon the amount of finances we have, we elevate our finances to a place where God must occupy. The Apostle Paul in 1 Tim. 6:6-10 has the right perspective:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Timothy 6:6-10a, ESV).

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What My DMin Week Taught Me — And Not Necessarily in the Classroom

  1. There is no substitute for study and meditation on the Word of God.  Preachers have so many shortcuts they can take.  Funny stories galore, purchasing a sermon online and preaching it as one’s own, reliance on commentaries and commentaries alone, and the list goes on.  Yet, there is absolutely no substitute for study and meditating on the Word of God.  2 Tim. 2:15 tells us, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).  Ezra 7:10 shows the model Ezra gave before the people: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”  No substitute for study!
  2. There is no substitute for the sharpening of friends in the ministry.  The names Ben, Roberto, Kevin, Steve, Don, and Mark may not mean much to you, but they have meant the world to me over the past few years in ministry.  One thing about it:  ministry leaves me in a perpetual state of guilt.  Trying to balance family, church, and school is like spinning plates on the end of a stick.  You get one rolling well, then the others start to wobble.  Rarely do we find ourselves doing all three “well.”  And few outside the ministry understand that.  But these men do — and we offer encouragement to one another.  That has been priceless to me. 
  3. There is no substitute for leadership.  It’s one thing to preach.  No substitute for this (look at #4).  But we have to model what we preach.  We have to proclaim, then implement.  We have to motivate, then give those who are motivated an outlet for ministry.  In preparing for my project, I found out that those in our 40509 area code are about to have an explosion growth.  Over the next 5 years, the population in the 40509 zip code will increase by 13.8%.  They will comprise of 20 year olds with graduate degrees.  If we do not actively find ways to be missional to our growing community, then shame on us.  Pray that God would give me his vision to lead.
  4. There is no substitute for preaching.  God spoke the Word, the universe was born.  Ezra brought out the Book, revival took place (Nehemiah 8:1-8).  Jonah spoke the Word, evil Nineveh repented (Jonah 3:1-5).  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we had life eternal (John 1:14, John 3:16).  Peter preached the Word, and revival broke out at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-45).  Each Sunday, I feel the pleasure and the weight of this responsibility God has given to me.  May God continually prod me if I start to go to cruise control in this area.  I honestly do not care if I flame out in every other area — if I take for granted the preaching of God’s Word, then I am a fraud. 
       

       

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Have You Prepared for Your Future? (Part I)

(Preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on June 24, 2007. To listen to the sermon via mp3, just click on the link to the side.)

“Have you planned for your future?” How often have we seen advertisements posing this question? We first hear this question as we approach high school graduation. One flyer from a university with an inset picture of a thumbtack says, “Don’t get stuck without a plan … be prepared for your future.” Once you graduate, then you have to prepare for your future through finding gainful employment. Soon, you may consider types of investments you will make to help provide for your children’s college education. Also, do not forget about preparing for retirement. An article I came across said, “Prepare for Your Financial Future: Know What You Can Expect from Social Security.”

Do you feel stress about these matters? Do you have a plan for your future? While the world’s way of thinking may take them to issues such as graduation, jobs, marriages, buying a house, or retirement — I am referring to more important plans — plans that not only deal with our earthly future, but our eternal destiny. Are you using the resources God gives you now to help prepare you for eternity?

This morning, God has us examining a very difficult parable known as The Parable of the Dishonest Manager from Luke 16:1-13. As we sort through Jesus’ words, hear his plea for us to be good stewards of our possessions as we ready ourselves for eternity. Hear his plea for us to use what he entrusts to us for his glory and for the good of all. Toward the end of Jesus’ explanation of this parable, he declares the central truth of this particular parable in verse 10, “One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10, ESV). How faithful are we being with what God has given to us?

Be Faithful With the Possessions You Have

Randy Newman in his wonderful book Questioning Evangelism crafts his book around how Jesus’ habit of asking questions so that his listeners would probe their own souls and mindsets more deeply. Newman calls this “rabbinic evangelism ” — answering questions with questions.

Jesus constantly dealt with the questions of his disciples as well as his enemies. They enjoyed trying to put Jesus in a corner. Jesus used questions to probe our preconceptions about our thinking and living. Notice this first question: “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust you to the true riches” (Luke 16:11, ESV)? To understand this, let us read Luke 16:1-4:

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses’ (Luke 16:1-4, ESV).

The rich man hired this manager to oversee his finances. This manager would collect on bills owed to his employer and would invest the finances so the rich man would receive a good return. Yet, this rich man fired his manager, for he was “wasting his possessions” (Luke 16:1, ESV).

Now the manager was in a bind! He had grown accustomed to the life of luxury and ease. What would he do now? Would he dig? The rich life had weakened him due to the lack of manual labor. Would he beg? No! Everyone knew his association with the rich man — he could not associate himself with beggars now. What would everyone say?

Yet, he used what resources he had at his disposal to prepare for his future. What did he do? Read with me verses five through eight:

So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light (Luke 16:5-8).

Some controversy arises as to what this fired manager was doing. Was he simply forfeiting his commission? Was he releasing the debtors from illegal taxes levied by the rich man? Quite frankly, we do not know — each of these options could be a possibility. Jesus does not feel the need to say and it seems as if the listeners understand.

This much is clear: the fired manager wasted his master’s wealth, so now he needs to make sure he does not waste opportunities from this point forward. In fact, his former boss compliments him, not for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness in taking care of his future plans. “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8, ESV). This dishonest manager used the world’s wealth to gain friends who would help him after his termination.

What friends should we try to make? Luke 16:9 says, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9, ESV). God wants us to use the world’s wealth so that our ‘friends’ will welcome us into our eternal dwelling — namely, God and all the heavenly angels waiting to greet them. Robert Stein notes, “Believers should so conduct their lives that when this world and its wealth comes to an end, God will welcome them into his presence.”

Are we using our resources with the shrewdness that God gives us in order to honor, glorify and befriend him? When Jesus told us in John 15 that “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 15:10a, ESV). He demonstrated that love by laying down his life for his friends. He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14, ESV). We are faithful with our future when we befriend our Lord Jesus through faith and obedience.

Categories: Finances, sermons | 1 Comment

Liveblogging my DMin Week at Southern (Day Four — 4:55 p.m.)

I sit here in the computer lab checking e-mail and will soon go over my sermon this coming Sunday on Hebrews 5:11-6:8.  The title of the sermon is “Why Settle?”  In school, we settle for grades just good enough to get us through.  In church, we tend to be willing to lead areas and serve on committees — just so long as the bare minimum is required.  And in the Scriptures, God issues stern cautions and warnings for those Christians who want to come to Christ — but only if they can do so with minimal commitment.  Whereas the late 60’s may have been, as the song goes, “the Age of Aquarius,” we are living now in the Age of Mediocrity.   We settle for far too little in too many areas of life.

One man who did not settle for too little was our guest professor today, Dr. Thomas Schreiner.  Schreiner serves as the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Studies and the Associate Dean for Scripture and Interpretation here at Southern (a title so long, he carries two business cards because one business card cannot contain it all).  He came in today to show us how to trace Paul’s various arguments in his epistles.  He is working on a commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians and has a wonderful new work coming out in 2008 on New Testament theology. 

Schreiner today inspired me.  He is a scholar who is brilliant, but has a passion for the pure undiluted Word of God.  His books are very accessible, especially his book on Paul: The Apostle for God’s Glory (IVP, 2006, $15.25 at WTS — click title link).  He gave us some very helpful tools in truly understanding the flow of Paul’s thinking.  He helped us be able to mine out some wonderful nuggets of gold from the Word.

Here are some books I would like to recommend to you by Dr. Schreiner:

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Liveblogging my DMin Week at Southern Seminary, Day Three (10:23 p.m.)

Today, Dr. Robert Plummer demonstrated a wonderful Bible software program called BibleWorks.  I purchased this program back in the fall — yet I did not realize that I had the Porsche of all Bible study software.  When I found out all that I could do with this program, I was stunned.

I began to think — isn’t that how we are as Christians?  We walk around defeated and joyless, yet we forget all that we have in Christ Jesus (see Philippians 4:19). 

I had dinner today with Mark Combs, Josh Martin, and Kevin Whitt (formerly known as the moderators of Reformation Underground).  We discussed the singles conference we’d be conducting in November, so pray for us as we begin planning to be ready for what God has in store.

Tomorrow we have class with Dr. Tom Schreiner.  He is one of my favorite theologians and New Testament scholars.  I’ll fill you in tomorrow.

 

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Liveblogging my DMin Week at Southern (Day Two — 9:35 p.m.)

After having a rather stimulating talk on preaching the parables of Jesus, we were graced with the presence of Dr. Al Mohler, seminary president, who spoke to us for a couple of hours on the topic of preaching. 

He shared with us a story of a search committee of a rather large megachurch who called him about a potential pastoral candidate.  After 45 minutes of conversation, Dr. Mohler asked, “Would you like to hear about his theology?”  They seemed taken aback.  They basically said they were looking for someone who wouldn’t “preach” but would “communicate.”  They also said they were looking for someone to reach young people.  Mohler asked, “Well, how do you want him to do that?”  They responded, “I don’t know … that’s up to him?”  Dr. Mohler pressed, “What do you think is his primary task in reaching people?”  They were silent. 

The point was, too many want to fall on so many other methods, yet the pastor’s primary task is the preaching of the Word of God — all of it.  Especially in our day when many in our churches fail to see the urgency of God’s Word proclaimed from our pulpits.  Here is how he defined expository preaching:

Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching which takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text. As the Word of God, the text of Scripture has the right to establish both the substance and the structure of the sermon. Genuine exposition takes place when the preacher sets forth the meaning and message of the biblical text, and makes clear how the Word of God establishes the identity and worldview of the Church as the people of God.

He acknowledged that “meaning” and “message” could be viewed as synonymous, yet in our day people may understand the message, but then the ‘so-what’ factor sets in. “Yes, that’s what it says… so what? What does that message mean to me?” It is up to faithful expositors of the Word not only to tell what the passage says, but also to give the implications and applications of what the text means. And for many young preachers (myself included), we are far more comfortable finding the message of the text than we are trying to apply it to the listeners’ lives. That comes with time and a growing knowledge of your congregation, I would say.

All of our DMin cohort went to Applebee’s off Hurstbourne Lane. What a great time we had just sitting with Dr. Cook, our professor, and just picking his brain about all things New Testament. He shared with us how much Leon Morris, F.F. Bruce, and John Stott (minus his views on hell) have been an influence on him.

My friend and rooming, Mark Combs of Intersect lore, is really enjoying and benefitting from his first set of DMin classes in Evangelism and Church Growth. I’ll never forget something he shared. He said that many of our gospel presentations were crafted from a Christian worldview for those who have a Christian worldview.

For instance, take the FAITH presentation which springboards the salvation message with the question, “What in your opinion do you think it takes for a person to go to heaven?” According to the program, there are only four answers: Jesus, works, don’t know, not sure. Yet, in our day, some may answer, “I don’t believe there’s a heaven.” Bobby Welch, former pastor of FBC-Daytona, insists on using the exact wording of the program in order for greater success. Yet, do we make provision in these canned passages for such a response?

I am convinced more and more that we need to understand the Gospel story of God’s creation, the Fall of Man, God’s redemption through Christ, our response. But instead of a canned presentation, strike up a conversation and just ask about spiritual beliefs — then incorporate that into the conversation. It’s not about presentations and numbers, but about establishing authentic relationships to where people won’t be suspicious of you trying to get them to “join the group,” but will see you genuinely care about them as one made in the image of God.

Tomorrow, Dr. Robert Plummer will come in and show us how to use some Bible software to help us in our study of the Word of God. Then on Thursday, Dr. Thomas Schreiner will come in to help us in the Epistles. I can’t wait to fill you in. God’s been gracious.

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Liveblogging my DMin Week at Southern Seminary, Day One (11:00 p.m.)

After taking my friend Ben to Wal-Mart, I spent the majority of my time in the library.  I ran into Steve Weaver who was doing some research (and why not?  After all, Southern has the greatest theological library in the world with over 900,000+ volumes!). 

I spent the majority of my time working on my Prospectus (that is, my proposal for my dissertation for my doctorate).  My proposal is to train aspiring ministers and lay preachers in the basics of expository preaching at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church.  After looking at how Jesus trained the disciples for ministry (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 24:27, Acts 1:3) and see how they in turn preached the whole counsel of God in their area of ministry, I am hoping to use those biblical foundations to implement a solid ministry in that area here at Boone’s Creek.  I’d appreciate your prayers.  That 25-page prospectus is due September 3. 

Bedtime beckons.  Fortunately, our class doesn’t start until 9:00 rather than the 8:00 time our other class began.  Pray that I will absorb what I learn in class and that I would be a good steward of my time outside of it. 

May Jesus Christ be praised.

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Liveblogging My DMin Week at Southern, Day 1 (5:30 p.m.)

Monday, June 25, 2007 — 5:30 p.m.

An eventful day.  I originally stayed in a room that was handicap-accessible.  However, I was asked if I would be willing to move to another room so someone who could make better use of that room could stay.  Around 1:00 p.m., they called and said that the one who needed our original room was there, yet housekeeping had not finished with the new room.  So we had to vacate, re-pack the car, then wait until they were done.  As compensation for my troubles, they gave me five free cafeteria passes.  Good stuff!

I had a New Testament class with Dr. William Cook, New Testament professor here at Southern.  What a wonderful class!  Whereas many of our professors come at their particular field with only an academic knowledge.  He serves as Pastor of Ninth and O Baptist Church in Louisville, so he understands all the particulars about pastoring and sermon preparation. 

The information he gave was so incredibly helpful, especially in dealing with preaching from the Gospels (Matthew-John).  He notes that too many preachers preach the Gospels like the Epistles — only a paragraph at a time.  As a result, many of the stories in the Gospels are encapsulated and divorced from previous and upcoming events.  Thus we miss much of the thrust of what Jesus is doing and the lessons he teaches. 

Tomorrow, all of the preaching classes will be with Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary.  I can’t wait to inform you all about what he has to say.

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Liveblogging my DMin Week at Southern

This week, I am in Louisville getting ready for a seminar in New Testament. I am about one year in to my three-year study for a DMin at Southern Seminary. I and my friend/roomie for the week, Mark Combs, will be liveblogging this rather … fascinating time. Really, it’s an intense week and this will be a good way to let off some steam.

Sunday, 10:41 p.m.

After going to eat at Moe’s Southwest Grill (I got the Billy Barou nachos, which was like eating a small town), we arrived at Southern around 8:45. We went to the store to pick up some food, since it’d cost an arm and a leg to eat out every meal. Mark’s a runner, so he can eat a side of beef and run it all off. I on the other hand am not a runner, and only run when someone has a needle in their hand (just ask my wife when she tried to give me a tetanus shot — not pretty). 

We’re now sitting here watching the Detroit Tigers play the Atlanta Braves. The Tigers look solid and the Braves lack that fire. I will say that Jeff Francoeur made a dynamite double play by catching a pop-out 3/4 of the way back in the outfield, then throwing out a runner tagging up from third.

Tomorrow will be the fun time. All the DMin students will meet for a Welcome Breakfast at Heritage Hall. For me, I’m excited about the bacon. Really. Bacon tends to do that to me.

But I am blessed to have a great cohort group:

  • Don Brown, pastor of Village Church at Holly Springs, NC;
  • Steven Lookabaugh, pastor, Medway Baptist Church, Medway, OH
  • Roberto Sanchez, pastor of a Hispanic church he planted seven years ago in LA;
  • Ben Skaug, pastor, Central Baptist Church, Aurora, CO;
  • Kevin Wilson, Youth Pastor, Ephesus Baptist Church in Winston, GA.

More tomorrow.  (Riveting, isn’t it?)

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The Shallow Bag of Goods Sold in the Prosperity Gospel (Piper)

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