Monthly Archives: April 2011

What Fuels the Great Commission

What a beautiful, Great Commission month April was at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church! Our team arrived back from Trinidad as we spread God’s glory to the nations—and four came to know Jesus Christ and countless others had the seeds of the gospel planted in their hearts, both young and old.

The Hazard missions team helped with the Easter Egg Hunt that saw 300+ children come through—and were a key part of 103 coming to the first preview service at Summit Community Church on Sunday, April 17thand five came to know Jesus there. Mark called, excited that they just scheduled that church’s very first baptism.

Our Eggs-traordinary Easter Egg Hunt was a tremendous success. Even with the horrendous rain, over 40 children (and lots of adults) had a great time with the inside Easter Egg Hunt. We had tons of children visitors, three of whom did not have a church home! This is why we had this hunt—to reach children (and their families) for Jesus.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Our vision of reaching our neighbors and the nations is coming into clear view. This was not a vision that I or others at our church concocted—Christ gave it to us. We are simply ambassadors, not out to write out a new way of doing things, but simply conveying the marching orders of the one who sent us.

What Fuels the Great Commission

As David Sills said at our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday back in September, “Jesus’ last command is of first importance.” The word ‘gospel’ comes from the Greek word euangelion (you can see the word ‘evangel’ in there) which in a military term. It’s the sending of good news from the commander to the battlefield telling of how the war was over, declaring victory over the opponent. This gives us confidence in sharing the good news with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and the nations—it’s a message of victory, given by the authority of Christ Himself.

When thinking about the Great Commission, we often start at Matthew 28:19: “Go, and make disciples . . . .” Yet, the Great Commission begins in the previous verse, where Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (28:18). Christ births, institutes, plants, and sends His church to minister as a missions hub, a launching point to tell the Good News of the victory He’s won! No wonder all authority was given by the Father to His Son. Only He conquered that which was unconquerable—sin and death—and only He provided atonement for that sin.

When Jesus tells to, as we go, to make disciples, this is not simply garnering decisions. We must resist feeling satisfied in folks ‘walking the aisle’ or filling (or as the case may be, staying) in our pews and recognize the joy and beauty as followers of Christ in coming alongside new believers and making disciples—those who sit at the feet of Jesus and His Word and learn about who God is, what He has done, and what He aims to do through us! There’s a joy in connecting with others, growing in Him, and serving Him! How do we make disciples?

We help others find their identity in Christ. “… baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.” To be baptized means to be immersed. Christ did not die on the cross for Him to be just an add-on to our house. Jesus takes up our old foundation and lays a new one through the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:19-22)—that is, the Word of God! He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (Isaiah 44:6-8; Revelation 1:17), and thus He must be our First and Last. And given all He accomplished for us, why wouldn’t we want Him to be?

We help others follow the Word of Christ. “… teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” Remember, Christ said this. We teach them to observe everything. Oftentimes, we are tempted to pick and choose that which we teach, either due to the fear of man, or due to the fact that that passage just seems so hard. After all, some say, how can we reach people with such hard teachings? We know the commands about adding to or taking away from God’s Word. We are commanded to teach everything Christ commanded us. The Word of God is that lamp to our feet, and we are to hide its words in our heart so we may not sin against God (Psalm 119:11, 105). All we are doing is conveying orders as ambassadors from our Commander. We don’t determine which ones to convey and which ones we don’t. The world needs to hear the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:24) and we are to preach it “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

We help others to know that our Commander is with us on the field. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). How? Jesus promised to send the Spirit to help us, come alongside us, convict us, empower us to witness—so we would not be orphans in this world (read John 14-16 about the Spirit’s ministry). We are not left on our own to do business on our own, living for Jesus by our own power, drawing on the world’s ways to do to God’s work! He is with us!

Starting this month, we will continue on with Luke’s second volume, known to us as the book of Acts. Your Bibles may entitled this book “The Acts of the Apostles,” but they are really the Acts of the Holy Spirit. All through this book, you will see a people who lived beyond their means, who never knew what was coming, Through the Spirit, they lived beyond their means, and never knew what was coming next, but were doggedly clinging to God’s Word, regardless of what men had to say. All they had to rely on was Jesus and His body, the Church! They stayed obedient to what was clear—and God took care of that which wasn’t. I can’t wait for this journey!

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May 1 Bible Reading: Ezra 1-2

Key verse:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:2).


Promises, Promises

After 70 years of exile, the Jewish exiles could return to Jerusalem.  They were exiled due to God’s judgment when God sent the Babylonians at first into Israel around 606 B.C. and, ultimately, to bring the last of the Israelites out of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.  The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that they would be exiled 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12, Ezra 1:1).  So, in 538 B.C., Cyrus issued this edict, thus starting off Ezra’s book in showing how God fulfilled His promise. 

God stirred up the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites (who at the time of the exile were the tribes which constituted the Southern Kingdom of Judah) and stirred up Cyrus to give them back their Temple furniture.  How many came back?  Go to Ezra 2:64-66 and you see that around 50,000 people went back to the Holy Land to rebuild the Temple. 

God keeps His promises!  When you read in 2 Corinthians 1:20 that all the promises are “yes” in Christ, you see how God is establishing His steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 136) into His people’s hearts.  If God would keep a promise of this nature, this gave them hope that God would keep the promise of all promises—the Messiah would come to deliver the true Israel (the Church—Galatians 6:16) out of the exile caused by their sin and back to the promised land of forgiveness and eternal life!

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Simple Preaching Vs. Simplistic Preaching

Nathan W. Bingham provides two helpful posts helping us pastors differentiate between simple and simplistic preaching:

PREACHING: Simple vs. Simplistic

Illustrating Simple vs. Simplistic Preaching

Helpful!

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From The Gospel Coalition 2011: “The Pastor as Scholar” by John Piper

The Pastor As A Scholar – John Piper from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

I am grateful to the Gospel Coalition for providing these videos of the TGC Plenary Sessions. 

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Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?

In Luke 24, we see that on the first day of the week (Sunday) at sunrise, they went to the tomb where Jesus laid. It was a beautiful tomb, owned by a member of the Jewish Supreme Court, Joseph of Arimathea. This man, like so many others, was looking for the kingdom of God, waiting for the Messiah to come and to rule and reign as promised.

On that Sunday, some women came to the tomb but noticed that the stone which was rolled at the entrance of the tomb, sealed, and guarded by two Roman guards for the purpose of keeping outsiders from coming in and stealing the body, was rolled aside. The body was gone. They were perplexed, the Scriptures tell us.

The two men standing beside the tomb “in dazzling apparel” were angels. During times of God’s incredible work and intervention, these angels would appear to help give some direction. An angel came to Joseph just after Mary told him that she would have Jesus, even though she was still a virgin. The angel came and gave direction to Joseph, saying that all was according to God’s plan—and that plan was, as the angel told Joseph, “to save His people from their sins.”

They asked an all-important question to these women,

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:5-7).

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Obviously, the immediate context is that you cannot find a living, healthy being whose vitals are strong whose permanent bodily residence is in a cemetery. I’m always reminded of how my father, every time we would pass a cemetery, he would say, “You know, son, people are just dying to get in there.” And why would they seek after Jesus, when He told them repeatedly that he would rise in three days?

Human history is dotted with those who seek after life among things that are dead, even among those who are more devout. When God created everything, Adam and Eve were tempted to seek life in a place that promised death—eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They thought they would truly live if they partook of what was forbidden—and even destructive.

In Exodus, the people of Israel were delivered by God through the cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, refreshed by the rock in the waters—through the Spiritual Rock that is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-6). As they were going to the Promised Land, and even with all the provision God gave them, they longed to find their life among the dead: they wanted to return to Egypt where they would die in slavery. Even when their leader, Moses, was away, they crafted a golden calf—a non-living (that is, dead) idol that would lead them.

In Isaiah 44:9-20, we read about a man who had a large piece of wood. He took half of that wood and went to a craftsman. That craftsman shaped the eyes, the mouth, every bit of it, then set it up in a tent and would worship that idol. With the other he uses it to cook his food. Listen to what Isaiah says:

He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats mean; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

The Scriptures are littered with such examples of seeking life after dead things. But do we do this today?

Consider an automobile commercial I heard a few years ago touting the ‘soul’ of this certain brand when it hits the road. In reality, cars are just bits of metal, wire, and belts put together to function getting us from point A to point B.

Or consider a new service for married folks who wish to get what the recent movie called a “Hall Pass.” It’s a service where you can cheat (commit adultery) on your spouse, no questions asked. I remember talking to someone who was committing adultery against their spouse and said the reason they couldn’t discontinue it was because they “never felt more alive.” This demonstrates another example of seeing life among the dead-end of sin.

In fact, this is the paradox of sin: the very thing Satan tempts us to think will make us alive will actually make us dead. Even religiously devout folks find this out. The religious leaders began to count on something else besides the life-giving Word of God. In Mark 7, Jesus spoke to these leaders and quoted from the book of Isaiah:

This people honors me with their lips,

But their heart is far from me;

In vain do they worship me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men

(Mark 7:6b-7; cf. Isaiah 29:13)

See, it’s not just bad things that can become objects of worship, it can even be good things. But there are good things—and there are God things. We were wired to worship—and ultimately, we are wired to worship the God of the living—the living God!

Remember how he told you… and they remembered.

Remember how the women were perplexed? The angel said these words, “Remember how he told you . . . .” What was it? Well, a number of places Jesus told the disciples what would happen. “… the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Then notice in 24:8: “And they remembered his words.” The word ‘must’ is of utmost importance. Rather than merely seeing Jesus turned over to the religious authorities and be an innocent man who was brutally executed, the angels reminded them that it must happen that way. Why?

Look with me at Hebrews 9:15-22:

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must b e established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Before us is a Lord’s Supper table, which signifies the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this He instituted a new covenant, instituted the night before His crucifixion. The first covenant, begun at the Passover was brought about through Moses. The only way to fulfill that was to keep every bit of God’s laws. But we couldn’t. Thus, the sacrifices of “the blood of calves and goats,” whose blood was to cleanse from sins.

But those things could not get to the heart of the matter. We were born with that DNA to pursue the living among the dead. Why? Because we are born dead in our sins (Psalm 51:4; Ephesians 2:1). But in order for that first “will” to be in force to redeem us fully from our sins, one had to die so it would be enacted. And the shedding of that blood set into motion the forgiveness of sins, cleansing us and redeeming us.

The angels called the women to remember what He told us. And they are calling us to do so as well. Allow me to ask you some questions:

  • Have you heard these words of Jesus before? The disciples had—but they hadn’t heard. You may be one here this morning who may have come with family and friends, and recall this account from many years back, but it’s been a while since you’ve encountered it. God brought you here this morning to you would hear them again, and not search for life among the dead things of this age.
  • Maybe you made a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in your life. You may be one who comes every so often, you may be one who is here everytime the doors are open. Do you remember His words? Do you relish in His lavish love for you in how Jesus not only had to go to the cross, but willingly went. How much does that empty cross and empty tomb play in your life now? Is Christ a living reality in your life, or are you tampering trying to find life among the dead things of this world that will simply pass away?

Michael Horton said once,

The resurrection is the watershed in history, with dominion of sin and death falling into oblivion, losing its grip on its terrified subjects, and righteousness and life coming to reign. . . . The clock is running down on this present evil age. The first fruits of the harvest, Jesus Christ, has been raised, entering the everlasting Sabbath rest in conquest. The war in heaven is over, though insurgent battles must still be waged on earth.[1]


[1]Michael S. Horton, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011).

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Trinidad Missions Trip Update #1 (4/2/2011)

Yes, we made it to Trinidad with no shortage of challenges.

  • Our 2:55 pm flight from Cincinnati to Miami was delayed two hours to 5:00 pm due to a malfunction. 
  • We made it to Miami at 7:45, but we had to stay on the plane for 20 minutes until an airline agent arrived, thus making us miss our 8:15 pm connection to Trinidad by 90 seconds (no exaggeration);
  • We stood in line for 90 minutes to rebook. 
  • We waited for over an hour for a free shuttle to our hotel.  All of us stayed in different hotels.  Bro. Turner had to go all the way to South Beach (30 minutes away) at his own expense both ways.
  • We made it to Trinidad, but our luggage didn’t.  All the crafts, tracts, supplies–none of it made it.  All of us have two days worth of clothing–and day two is done today.  I look forward to preaching tomorrow in jeans and a Louisville T-Shirt. 

So is the trip a disaster?  An abject failure?  Not worth coming?  Hardly the case.  These trials have galvanized this group–we were able to endure this because we were together for the Lord’s work.  We are learning so much about God and ourselves, knowing that our purpose in being here is to be faithful to the Great Commission Christ gave to us.  The attitude of the team has been extraordinary!  Nary a cross word, nary a bad attitude!  Absolutely amazing!

Pray the bags make it, but pray that we know we are armed with the Word and the Spirit.  God will receive the glory! 

Also,

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