Monthly Archives: January 2011

Attention, Pastors: What Books on Preaching Have Helped You Most?

Dear pastors:

I enjoy reading books on preaching and communicating. What are some books that have influenced you on the subject?

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Acts 28 Challenge: 28 Chapters in 28 Days in February

Dear Boone’s Creek Family:

Let’s keep the momentum going and stay focused in the Word!

February has 28 days.  Acts has 28 chapters.  Let’s take a chapter a day through February.

Read it.

Journal your journey through it.

Share it however possible: phone, letter, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, smoke signal, carrier pigeon.  I’ll be sharing thoughts on this every day, sending them out between 2-3 pm each day. 

My only regret is that this idea took root in my heart Sunday afternoon—otherwise, I would have shared it on Sunday morning.  So those of you who have Internet, could you share this with your class today, especially to those who do not have Internet? 

Let’s see what God shows us in His Word!

Blessings,

Bro. Matt

P.S.  Don’t forget, we are baptizing Morgan and Jacob White this coming Sunday—at the same time!  Tom Rawlins will baptize Jacob, I will baptize Morgan at the same time.  Since they are twins, they came into the world at the same time, now they start their Christian walk in full obedience together!

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Ten Commandments for Short-Term Missions Trips

With our church heading on a short-term missions trip to Trinidad in April, plus two day missions trips to Hazard in February and April, I came across Trevin Wax’s post on the “Ten Commandments for Short-Term Missions Trips.”  So helpful!

  1. Thou shalt always remember that the primary function of a short-term team is to learn, and not to help.
  2. Thou shalt always defer to the long-term missionaries, even when thou dost not agree with them.
  3. Thou shalt surely leave all they agendas at home before thou arrivest on the mission field.
  4. Thou shalt be prepared to spend large amounts of time doing nothing, for thus verily is the way of the mission field.
  5. Thou shalt be careful to obey in all details, the security rules and advice of the project which thou visitest.
  6. Thou shalt be both attentive and accurate in the communication with the mission base before they visit.
  7. Thou shalt be careful to pay for all the expenses of thy visit.
  8. Thou shalt take great care in thy giving and spending, lest thou appearest to be filthy rich.
  9. Thou shalt be careful to respect the doctrinal and theological views of the project which thou visitest.
  10. Thou shalt surely keep thy word in regards to follow-up activities.

(from Paul Cull, leader of Projeto Casa Esperanza in Brazil)

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So You’re At the End of Your Fast! Now What?

For those of you participating in our church’s Read. Pray. Fast. 21 Days.—you are at the final day!  You have likely had some successes and some failures—but the main takeaway from this time is that you learned much about yourself and your relationship with Christ. 

Now what?

First, continue in the habits you developed during your RPF21!  In all likelihood, you recognized some of the idols you’ve erected in your life.  You are more aware of areas and habits that you thought were crucial in your life are really trivial.  You realize how these areas can turn into an item of worship (I have to have that cup of coffee/watch that TV show/log on to Facebook, etc.).  So continue on in investigating areas that hinder your walk with Christ—and invest in areas that help it along (Scripture reading, prayer, maybe fasting for another important time in your life or in the life of the church). 

Second, beware the rubber band syndrome.  When a rubber band is stretched too far, it either breaks or it snaps back to it’s original form.  The 22nd day from beginning RPF21 could very well be the rubber band syndrome.  You break or you snap and go back to the old habits—and the old self.  If you are thinking, “Great, I can now get some coffee!!!” (if you fasted from caffeine), then your motives and the takeaway from this fast may have been more of a personal goal than a pursuit of Christ.  “Oh, now I can get on Facebook!” (if that was your goal).  If you are ready to get back to wasting time, you’ve missed the mark.  If you are ready to reconnect with folks who need to be strengthened in Christ or have Christ shared with them, then you can use FB in a redemptive fashion.  You understood the purpose.

Third, you now know the value of RPFing (reading, praying, fasting).  When a prayerwalk, survey or service in our community, or a big day (Easter, etc.) comes us, will you join me in an abbreviated (at least by 21 days’ standards) RPFing so we can get out of the way and be of ultimate use to God as His Spirit moves in those for whom we are praying?

Fourth, understand we have and are engaging in spiritual warfare.  The devil wants us comfortable, and anything he can do to keep us from pursuing Christ more fully and deeply, he will do it—subtly as ever.  First John 4:1 says:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. [2 ] By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, [3 ] and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
(1 John 4:1-3 ESV)

Read John 21.

Pray for yourself and the three for whom you are praying to know Jesus.

Fast to disconnect from the world.

Journal your journey.

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Beware the Spirit of Haman

After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. [2 ] And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage. [3 ] Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king’s command?” [4 ] And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. [5 ] And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. [6 ] But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus (Esther 3:1-6 ESV).

__________

Standing as one of the most astounding narratives in all literature, the book of Esther recounts a time when the people of Israel where in exile in Babylon (around 550 B.C.).  King Ahasuerus needed a queen after he banished Queen Vashti for humiliating him in front of his friends.  Through an extended process, the king chose Esther.  Her cousin, Mordecai, instructed her to keep her Hebrew name (Hadassah) and her lineage quiet.  Esther gained favor. 

But the king’s first lieutenant was the Agagite named Haman.  Verse 1 shows that he was above all the officials—just the way he liked it!  Haman was intrigued by wealth and power, and liked how he wore those clothes, for sure.  He liked everyone bowing to him, paying him homage.  Yet Mordecai refused.  In Mordecai’s thinking, he only bowed to his God and his King.  Instead of Haman respecting Mordecai’s view, his reaction exposed his motives:  “Haman was filled with fury” (Esther 3:5).  His anger led him to wish Mordecai eliminated—even if he had to conjure up a conspiracy before the king about Mordecai’s people.  His blind rage blinded him from the atrocity he was about to commit.

D.A. Carson insightfully warns us of falling for the spirit of Haman:

It is not enough for him to be rich and powerful; he must be richer and more powerful than others. Doubtless some readers suppose that such temptations do not really afflict them, because they do not have access to the measures of wealth and power that might make them vulnerable. This is naive. Watch how often people, Christian people, become unprincipled, silly, easily manipulated, when they are in the presence of what they judge to be greatness. One of the great virtues of genuine holiness, a virtue immaculately reflected in the Lord Jesus, is the ability to interact the same way with rich and poor alike, with strong and weak alike. Beware of those who fawn over wealth and power and boast about the powerful people they know. Their spiritual mentor is Haman (D.A. Carson, For the Love of God, Part II, January 28 entry).

James warns us about the sin of partiality in James 2:1-13—only loving those who have something to offer us, or even loving those who believe we have something to offer them.  (I preached on this two Sunday’s ago for Sanctity of Life Sunday.) 

In reading about the horrible conditions found in Confederate prisons during the end of the Civil War, one would wonder if any good thing could be said about them.  The pictures that came out remind one of the pictures of those in Nazi prison camps.  Yet, one said something surprising regarding the horrific Libby Prison in New Orleans in 1864.

Libby prison was a vast museum of human character, where the chances of war had brought into close communion every type and temperament; where military ran was wholly ignored and all shared a common lot. . . .  It was indeed a remarkable gathering and the circumstances are not likely to arise that will reassemble its counterpart again. . . .  All in all, Libby prison . . . was doubtless the best school of human nature ever seen in this country (Bruce Catton and James M. McPherson, The American Heritage New History of the Civil War, 474). 

Human nature, it must be seen, is fallen and in need of redemption (Genesis 3; Psalm 51, etc.), but the idea of a situation where rank and class did not matter shows how fleeting wealth and rank and class are.  All of us are of value, being image bearers of God (Genesis 1:26-27). 

Beware the Spirit of Haman.

Read John 20.

Pray for yourself and the three people God would have you speak to about Christ.

Fast to disconnect from the world.

Journal your journey.

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Music Friday: “The Crow” by Steve Martin, Bela Fleck, and Tony Trischka

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Fast Day 19 of 21: Lift Your Petitions, No Matter Your Condition

Friday, January 28, 2011

[13 ] Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. [14 ] Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. [15 ] And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. [16 ] Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. [17 ] Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. [18 ] Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit
(James 5:13-18 ESV).

Over the month of January, I have had the pleasure of tackling the Epistle of James.  What I love most about this book is that it is bookended by the subject of prayer.  At the beginning, we are taught to count it all joy for the trials we face, because they develop perseverance (James 1:2-4).  What do we do in those trials, we ask for wisdom, trusting in the faithfulness of God who bestows that wisdom, as he did to Solomon (1 Kings 3). 

Here, James says to those who are suffering for their faith to “pray,” those cheerful even in the midst of trails to “sing praise,” and those who are physically sick for whatever reason (regular sickness, sickness that comes from spiritual distress, or even sickness due to unconfessed sin [see v. 15-16]) to “call for the elders of the church” to “pray over him.” 

A word here: notice the Scriptures say for those who are sick to call the elders.  How many times has it happened that some have been sick, but did not let anyone from their church know of the sickness.  Both you and the church were deprived of the blessings of coming together under the anointment of the Holy Spirit (“oil”) to bring us together in Christian fellowship.  James is saying that, in some cases, it’s a two-way street.

Whatever our condition, lift those petitions.  All who name the name of Christ will be heard (Psalm 66:18; Philippians 4:4-7). 

Read John 19.

Pray for yourself and the three lost persons God placed on your heart.

Fast to disconnect from the world.

Journal your journey.

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Fast Day 18 of 21: Is Your Heart In Tune with Heaven?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In speaking of our conversion to Christ, J.C. Ryle brings out a notion that should be abundantly clear, but for many Christians it isn’t:

Without conversion of hear we could not enjoy heaven, if we got there. Heaven is a place where holiness reigns supreme, and sin and the world have no place at all. The company will all be holy; the employments will all be holy; it will be an eternal Sabbath-day. Surely if we go to heaven, we must have a heart in tune and able to enjoy it, or else we shall not be happy. We must have a nature in harmony with the element we live in, and the place where we dwell. Can a fish be happy out of water? We know it cannot. Well, without conversion of heart we could not be happy in heaven.

All of us in some aspects enjoy the thoughts of heaven.  The question is, do you try to get there on God’s terms—or your own?  We must be converted (changed) through the atoning work of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, as applied by the Holy Spirit. 

Some of you may be fasting for spiritual purposes—but the Holy Spirit has not changed you.  Church attendance, Bible reading, prayer cannot convert, but are the results of one converted.  Church attendance is sweeter when you have the passion of Jesus fueling you.  Bible reading is more productive when you have the Author residing in you illuminating the text.  Prayer works because Christ opened the Holy of Holies to us (Hebrews 4:12-16). 

Heaven’s tunes are filled with the songs of the crucified and risen Lamb (Revelation 5:11-12).  Is your heart in tune with the melody and rhythm of heaven?

READ JOHN 18.

Pray for yourself and the three lost ones God has laid on you.

Fast to disconnect from the world.

Journal your journey.

Links to Help Your Gospel Grip:

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Fast Day 17 of 21: Giving to Meet Budgets–Or Because You’ve Met Christ

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

[2 ] “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [3 ] But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, [4 ] so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-4 ESV)

Dear church, if you have come to our business meetings over the last few months, then you know that there is a financial concern. You know that we are trending downward when it comes to money coming in (or to use a business term, revenues—although I detest using that word in church world) versus going out. Studies have shown that churches will now start feeling the adverse effects of the Recession of 2008 right about now. While we are not panicking yet, if we continue to trend this way, that may change.

Churches are volunteer, non-profit organizations that, institutionally speaking, rely on its members to contribute in numerous ways—including tithing. So the question remains, Why does God command us to tithe? While all 50 preachers who have occupied the pulpit in the 225+ years of Boone’s Creek’s ministry have preached on giving, this principle needs to become personal. We need to truly meditate on this: why give?

Some say, “To maintain a good cash flow so we can meet our budgets! We need to make sure we can pay the bills.” Don’t get me wrong, I really like paying bills. Lights still work, heat (beautiful heat) still comes on in the sanctuary and in our work spaces—yes, paying bills is a wonderful thing. While giving does help accomplish this, to be sure, is this the extent of it—to meet the budgets we plan out and approve? Yes, we need funds to keep the lights on and to execute the various ministries God leads us in. But we then ask, “What does giving do for me personally?”

Be careful, though, not to reorient the question from “Why does God command us to give?” to “What does giving do for me personally?” While God works all things for our good (we are the beneficiaries of His work and might), He ultimately works for His glory. So the first question needs to be primary, otherwise we begin to take God’s commands and look at it merely from the man-side of the issue.

God commands us to give (wait for it) because it’s already His to command! “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). By holding back what is already His and saying that it’s ultimately yours exposes disobedience and idolatry of the first rank.

Remember, Jesus said, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matthew 25:21). We must be faithful in the clear, day-to-day commands of Scripture, being faithful over little, so we can have the joy of our Master!

So we as preachers must communicate this: giving is about obedience to God. If I lead with, “Church, you must give to help us meet our budgets!—this will only bring a short-term (helpful, but short-term) solution, and thus we risk avoiding a deeper spiritual issue. We don’t give simply when times are rough. To do so means we may cease giving when times get better.

No, we give out of obedience to the One who already owns it all. We do this obediently, discreetly, and the results will honor Him and bless us sweetly!

Read John 17—the true Lord’s Prayer.

 

Pray for yourself and the three lost people on your heart.

 

Fast to disconnect from the world.

 

Journal your journey!

 

Only four more days to go!

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Norman Rockwell’s “The Gossip”

gossip_norman_rockwell1

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