Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Gospel Gripped Fellowship: 12 Books, 12 Months, Maturing Hearts for the Gospel

Beginning in January 2013 (that’s tomorrow, believe it or not), I will be kicking off a group known as The Gospel Gripped Fellowship.  While I have a Facebook page for this group, do not feel you have to join this FB page to participate.  Here is the description:

A group of believers getting together to read a book a month that deals with theology, spiritual growth, evangelism, and other biblical matters.  This is an outgrowth of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO (http://www.arbc.net). 

We have a number of young men who sense and have responded to a call to ministry.  This will help keep them sharp as we seek to train them to work out their calling in a local church setting.

But God has called all of us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). 

The first book we will read is by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, “Why We Love the Church.”  So many have been disparaging the local/institutional church that it’s time we see that these kingdom outposts are designed by God to “display the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10). 

Are you in?  I’ll be posting remarks on this blog as well as on the Facebook page.  Join us in the journey!

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Why Does a Ball Drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve?

Have you ever wondered why an 11,875 pound ball drops in Times Square to bring in the New Year?  Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic provides an interesting history of this practice.

So who will be staying up to ‘watch the ball drop’?

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Reading the Bible in 2013

Justin Taylor provides some helpful tools in order to read through the Scriptures next year. 

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Flying in a Christ Formation: Resolutions for our ARBC Family

… for whom I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 4:19).

Hard to believe 2013 is here. Was it just me, or did 2012 go by in a blur? When I look back and slow the tape down, if you will, I see that God did some marvelous things at ARBC:

  • He brought some incredible people into a church already filled with incredible people ready to mature and mobilize in Christ (69 have joined the church this year!).
  • He has allowed us to participate in some great neighborhood outreaches.
  • He is using us to develop men and women in Christ to make an impact in our homes, jobs, and schools.
  • Our worship gatherings have been filled with a ‘serious joy,’ in that we take God’s Word seriously, and His Spirit is filling His people with the joy of Christ!
  • A growing desire is taking place among our people to go deeper in the Word and a desire to be discipled in Christ.

I could go on about what God is doing here in looking back at 2012, but soon 2012 will be ‘last year.’ What does 2013 have in store? Honestly, only God knows what He has planned for our church. But I do know that of the things I see Him bringing over the horizon, 2013 could bring be a very special, Christ-exalting year in the life of ARBC.

My aim for 2013 in seeing the glory of the gospel spread from Centennial to the corners of creation is this: Christ formed in you (see Galatians 4:19). Here are some ‘resolutions’ I would encourage you to embrace in the year ahead:

  1. Bury yourself in the Word and prayer. Find a good Bible reading plan that will take you through the Scriptures. If you have Internet, http://www.youversion.com has a ton of Bible reading plans—and yes, smartphone users, they have an app. You can even download the ESV Bible app for free! I use it everyday and I praise God for it.  I also recommend two great books on prayer:  Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers that are food for my soul; and Developing a Healthy Prayer Life: 31 Meditations on Communing with God by James Beeke and Joel Beeke. 
  2. Commit to attending our worship gatherings (Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night). Hebrews 10:25 not only commands it for our own good, but shows some significant benefits to our Christian walk.  If
  3. Commit to a Sunday morning small group. These are more intimate settings where teaching and dialoguing about the Scriptures can take place. Plus, you develop friendships that last outside the class and the church. We cannot do this alone!  We need these relationships to help strengthen our main relationship with Christ. 
  4. Be a part of our monthly family conferences (business meetings) on Sunday nights: Do you realize that you can participate in the goings-on of our church? You can ask questions, make suggestions, and just learn about what’s going on with our various ministry teams. As a member, you can even vote. How wonderful it is to have a part in our church in this way! Don’t miss out!
  5. Do a Hi-Five: There are 401K Plans. Here is a 261K Plan—signifying the 261,000 people that live in a five-mile radius of our church. The Hi-Five seeks to make a dent in this: Make a list of five people you know that need Christ or at least need a church home where they can mature and minister for the cause of Christ. Pray for them. Then Invite-Invest-and Involve them in the Lord’s work here as they submit to the Lord’s Word in their hearts! Remember, Paul’s aim and ours is “Christ formed in you.” Who’s on your Hi-Five? Let us know so we can begin praying for them specifically on Wednesday nights.

May God grant you a blessed 2013! On the mountaintops or in the valleys, He has promised to walk with us all the way. What needs to happen and what obstacles need to be removed for Christ to be formed in you and in others?

Blessings,

Pastor Matt

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Embracing Change With the Unchanging Gospel

“Times have changed, the culture has changed, rules have changed, and expectations of leaders have changed. Metathesiophobia is the impossible-to-pronounce word for ‘fear of change.’ Fearing, resisting, or balking at the need to change, grow, and adapt can be your undoing as a leader. It can start a downward spiral for your organization or group. The only thing that seems to remain the same is change. Change is more prolific, rapid, and complex than ever before. The only place you can’t be sure of change is from a vending machine. Everything else is up for grabs.” (Dave Kraft, Leaders Who Last).

I like this quote by Dave Kraft a lot!  I’m only 41, and oftentimes I find myself relying on how things were executed from when I first entered into the ministry and had some semblance of ‘results.’  But times have changed even when I entered into the ministry in 1992.  But in fact, I’ve been chewing on this notion for a number of years (having blogged about this back in 2010). 

Being in a multigenerational church is a beautiful thing for me, but must be approached with a prayerful vision.  Some of the younger generation is ready to embrace change yesterday.  A change is seen, and must be implemented now if not sooner!  While some who may be in the more seasoned chapter of their lives may not embrace change too readily. 

Praise God for both! 

The enthusiasm of the younger generation and the wisdom of moving cautiously can sharpen each generation for the betterment of the entire church body.  But when there is a clear understanding that change needs to take place, we must be willing to “change, grow, and adapt.” 

What must never change is the unchanging Word of God in the life and breath of the church.  Psalm 119:89 says:

Forever, O Lord, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.

We also read from 1 Peter 1:23-25:

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

The preached Word is what saves and sanctifies—regardless of the culture or time or situation.  While we may apply the Word in these various areas, the Word must not be compromised!

So we must keep in mind: the culture is not infallible or inspired, it’s fallen.  Yet, we risk grasping that more dearly to our hearts than the unchanging Word of God from God!  Methodologies change, the Word does not!  Let’s make sure we get that principle firmly fixed in our minds.

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What the Shepherds Show us About the Gospel of God’s Gracious Condescension

The shepherds in the account of Luke (2:8-14) demonstrate the grace to be shown to the unclean and outcast. 

In the first century, outside of lepers, shepherds were the lowest on the social strata.  They were not permitted to come and worship in the Temple because they were ceremonially unclean–even though these shepherds here in Luke likely watched this flock for the temple chiefs who would use them for sacrifices in worship. 

But whereas these shepherds could not come close to God in the Temple worship, God came to them to tell them the Good News of a Savior born to them!

All of us are unclean and cannot approach the Throne with any confidence (Eph. 2:1-3, Hebrews 4:14-16).  So God comes to us and is with us to save us from our sin.  He makes us righteous even when we have none to offer Him (2 Cor. 5:17-21). 

So on this 27th day of December, I wish you all a Merry Christmas.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come.

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Where the Spirit of Herod Pervades: Christmas is About Life in a Culture of Death

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod.This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
(Matthew 2:13-18)

So many say that we are in the land of the living, but in all honesty we are in the land of the dying. The moment we are born, we move toward death—it’s inevitable, unpleasant to think about, but it’s honest.

We live in a time where many work in maternity wards to help bring life in to the world. We have hospitals that seek to heal life. We have assisted living places that by and large help during the more seasoned times of a life. This country especially has been amazing in taking care of the human body.

We also live in a culture of death as well. Homicide and suicide rates skyrocket; the abortion industry takes the lives of 1.3 million unborn children each year; and controversies over end-of-life, quality-of-life issues have a significant part of the cultural discourse. These among many other issues in regards to life.

There is nothing new under the sun.  The most  autocratic rulers come into power with the notion that they are able to determine which life has value and which doesn’t.  Such is the case with Herod.  Wise men from the east show up and ask, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw his star when it rose and  have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).  Herod and the Jews were troubled.  Herod called the scholars to search the OT Scriptures to ascertain where he would be  born–and they knew the  answer:  Micah 5:2 said, “Bethlehem.”  Herod wanted to eliminate the competition, so he ordered the infanticide–one prophecied back in Jeremiah, about 600 years prior to this event.

Our culture has the spirit of Herod.  So often life is not valuable in an absolute, intrinsic sense–for so many, life is only valuable as long as our particular quality of life is what we believe it to be, or if that life is convenient to us and doesn’t interrupt our goals, desires, and yes rule over our lives.  Our fallen flesh believes that we are lord of all we survey, so no one should try to offer any competition.  

But our lives matter to God.  This is not how God created His world–He created life and sent His Son into this world to rescue life.  Life matters to Him.  God created us to bear His image in this world.  But the temptation, as first brought to light in Genesis 3, is that we “want to be like God, knowing good from evil.”  But we are not like God in that God is always holy and right in what he does.  We are creatures who are in need of rescue–fallen and sinful.  We are not wired to be kings.  We are wired to have a King.  

No king will do aside from Jesus!

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Why God Sent His Son—An Excellent Sermon

My good friend, John Divito, preached a sermon at Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY on Sunday night, December 23 on Why God Sent His Son, based on Galatians 4:4-7.  It’s an excellent sermon that I highly commend to you. 

I pray you have a Christ-filled Christmas!

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Christmas is about Adoption in a Culture of Abandonment

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

There is a core of people here who believe that parenthood should be planned (for the sake of discretion, I’ll refrain from using the actual name of these organizations). Our culture is about convenience and what Tim Keller calls “Self-actualization.” So many have their lives planned out and have a plan to improve their lives the way they see fit. If anything interrupts that plan, then steps need to be taken to fix that. Many divorces happen because the marriage didn’t do what they thought it would do, so they break it off for a fresh start.

Put yourself in Joseph’s situation. What would you do if your fiancé informed you that she was with child—knowing full well that you both had remained pure with each other throughout your entire relationship? How would you feel? Betrayed? Devastated? Vengeful? We may believe that things were so different in Bible times—but Joseph likely reacted at first the same way you would have.

Notice he wanted to “divorce her quietly.”  Why?  You see, this was a betrothal, not like our Western, American engagement.  Betrothals in that time carried a legal binding, and thus a legal hearing would be needed to end this betrothal.  This would have been a very public, very scandalous spectacle that would have ruined Mary’s life for good.  For fear of putting her to shame.   Even in the midst of this scandal that shook him to the core, he was ready to call off the betrothal, but to do it in a way that would not harm her nor shame her—after all, the penalty for such was death.  Granted, a physical examination was all that was needed to prove that she  was telling the  truth about not knowing another man, but  that could have been explained away as well.  

Joseph was like the rest of us—and needed convincing to take another track.  He had remained pure, he was a ‘just man.’  An angel appeared and told Joseph not to fear!   The angel verified Mary’s story–especially since an angel was the one who explained it to her.  She had remained faithful–to God, to Joseph–and was thus ‘highly favored.’  She would still be taken as his wife.  He would be called Jesus.  And notice the obedience in verse 24:  “He did as the angel commanded him.” He took Mary as his wife, left her untouched until Jesus was born, and Joseph was the one to name him. 

Even here, Christ recognizes we need rescuing.  Joseph could have said, “That’s enough!  This is too much!  The cost is too high!  What will people think?  He would have been within his cultural right to abandon, but instead, he adopted  that  child.  In our  day, what advice would some of these organizations have given Mary or Joseph in these circumstances?  But when God spoke to Joseph about the value of that life in the womb, regardless of the sacrifice, he got up and said, “Yes, I marry you, Mary!  Yes, I will adopt this child and raise him as my own.  Yes, I know that this who is born is Immanuel, God with us… who  came to save his people from their sins.”  

This is a picture of the gospel.  Galatians 4:4-7 says:

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Christ came to redeem us lawbreakers, sinners against a holy God–so we might be adopted as sons.  When this happens, he seals us in Him by sending His Spirit to secure us in Christ.  Joseph in his relationship to the infant Jesus gives an incredible picture of this!  He did not abandon his wife and Child when things became inconvenient and times were difficult!  He loved his wife and stayed with her and the Child through it all! 

My, how this mirrors the incredible faithfulness of God who adopts us as His children through the atoning work of Christ! 

(To listen to this sermon in full, click here. This was preached on Sunday, December 23, 2012 at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO.)

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Ears to Hear: Are You Locked in on the Right Melody?

My son Daniel is starting to pick up and pick out tunes on the piano, much like I did at his age when I began piano lessons.  He gets such joy in this, and really has a good ear to go along with his innate rhythmic sense.  I’m thrilled.

One day, he was playing a song and just one note was off.  I was in another room and heard him play that over and over again.  When I finally made it down to the piano, I showed him where he was just a half-step off.  When he finally played that, he didn’t care for it.  “I like the other melody better, Dad.”  “You got too used to it… that’s not the correct melody.”  It took some time, but he finally had the ear to hear and played it right from then  on.

SItting under preaching that preaches false doctrine is much like that.  Your ear gets used to a melody that is not correct.  Then, when you hear the Word rightly divided, it doesn’t sound right to you–and you go back to what sounds right to your bad ear. 

This is why Jesus tells us, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches ” (Revelation 2-3).

As you sit under the preaching of God’s Word, ask God to give you ears to hear His Word.  Beware of locking in on the wrong melody that the Spirit sings.

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