Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Splendor in the Ordinary

Cindy Mercer Photography

To what do I direct my energies? What do I value and how do I show it? Where do my thoughts run? ’Tis the season for some “perspective” quotations. I have randomly listed some of my favorites.

“He has made earthly blessings for our benefit, and not for our harm.”

John Calvin

To Christ: “This is the happy life—to rejoice in you and to you and because of you.”

Augustine

“If you marry the spirit of the age, you’ll soon be a widow.”

G.K. Chesterton

“That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.”
“Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Henry David Thoreau

“Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like.”

Will Rogers

I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.

Forrest Gump

“Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘Sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’”

C.S. Lewis

“So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.”

Wendell Berry

“There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.”

Martin Luther

We love the things we love for what they are.

Robert Frost

“Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunderstorm rising; but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God, so to speak, at the first appearance of a thunderstorm.”

Jonathan Edwards

Deep within Mordor, Sam and Frodo feel doomed. Hope is all but lost. Yet amidst such apparent hopelessness, Samwise Gamgee—the peasant hobbit who, despite his humble origins, has gradually emerged as a figure of great moral and spiritual insight—beholds a single star shimmering above the dark clouds of Mordor: “The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.... Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep and untroubled sleep.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Things that cancer cannot do:

It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot conquer the spirit
It cannot steal eternal life

Anonymous

Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion.

Proverbs 30:8



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Monday, November 27, 2006

Reflecting On Narcissus

Cindy Mercer Photography

“Why, beautiful being, do you shun me?” Narcissus asks. “The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckonings with the like.” He pleads: “Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you.”

Narcissus is in love for the first time, so says the Greek myth. What a catch he is. He is beautiful beyond words, and he knows it. Many a female admirer has met with his haughty condescension. Nemesis, the goddess of retribution, has had enough. She curses Narcissus with himself. The next time he stoops to admire his reflection in one of the mountain pools, he will never be able to tear himself away. He becomes so consumed with himself that he loses all thought of food or rest, and he pines away and dies. He literally admires himself to death. This is the bleak picture of Narcissism.

Christians look for a different reflection. In Psalm 95:1-7, the Psalmist writes,

O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
[2] Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
[3] For the Lord is a great God,
And a great King above all gods,
[4] In whose hand are the depths of the earth;
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
[5] The sea is His, for it was He who made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.
[6] Come, let us worship and bow down
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
[7] For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.

This Psalm tells us that our worship is response, response to God’s revelation of Himself as King, Creator, and Shepherd. As John Piper writes, “Worship is gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth.” C.S. Lewis reminds us that praise is “inner health made audible.” He continues, “Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”


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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Biblical Priorities for a Healthy Church (4)

What in the world is so important about doctrine?
Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church (4) Biblical Doctrine
Titus 1:1-2 and 2 Timothy 1:13-14
Introduction (review):
1. On October 22, we began a new series of topical-expository messages on Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church.
2. In our first message in this series, "Where in the world in the Church?," we considered the context in which we live and minister, and we agreed that the Bible teaches us that it is important for us to be aware of our contemporary context, to understand our times (see, e.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Chronicles 12:32 and Matthew 16:3/ Luke 12:56). We also argued that there at least three huge factors impacting the church in our day: individualism, relativism, and consumerism. We also said that these cultural myths and assumptions have a massive influence on the church, and often unhelpfully impact the way we view what the church is, should be, does and believes, as well as the way we participate in the life of the church and the way we engage the culture.
3. So how do we compete with this? How do we resist the siren song of the culture? How do we keep from caving in and copying the world? The Bible’s answer is primarily that we do so by having our hearts and minds captured by the word of God. And this has to work it’s way out primarily in the faithful exposition of God’s word - biblical preaching. So that was the focus of our second message in this series.
4. As we studied 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and noted Paul’s emphasis on the importance of preaching, we also suggested five ways that we as hearers of the word can better profit from the message preached. 1. Listen as if your life depended on it (Matthew 4:4). 2. Recognize the seriousness of your life situation (Ephesians 6:12). 3. Realize that it is God’s word you need in such a circumstance (Psalm 119:105). 4. Understand that it is God’s help that you need (Psalm 40:17). 5. Appreciate that communion with God is your goal (Psalm 27:4; 42:1)
5. This last observation on how to benefit from the preaching of God’s word led us, naturally, to focus on the subject of worship. Having communion with God as our goal is closely connected with valuing God above all else as our end (and not simply viewing him as a means to an end). Thus, true believers all have a passion for worship.
6. We learned that worship takes place in two arenas, all-of-life and the gathered congregation, and flows from a heart that has received God’s grace and desires God.
7. We see a good, brief, biblical definition of worship in Psalm 29:2 - "giving to the Lord the glory due his name." We see an emphasis on all-of-life worship in the OT and NT in Jonah 1:9 and Romans 12:1-2. We see the emphasis on gathered or congregational praise in the OT and NT in Psalm 100:2 and Hebrews 10:25.
8. We said that: a healthy church is filled with believers who by God’s grace have a passion for biblical worship. They live to glorify God in all of life and they love to gather with the saints to meet with him. And we argued that this passion will manifest itself in at least four ways: I. Glorifying God (Worship in all of life); II. Desiring God (God as the object of our worship); III. Following the Bible (God-directed worship, in form and content); and IV. Loving the Lord’s Day (God-centered view of Sunday).
9. Tonight, we move to a fourth priority of a healthy, biblical church: a delight in biblical truth, teaching and doctrine.
10. The study of theology (call it what you will: doctrine, biblical teaching, biblical truth, etc.) is in fact that most practical study that a person could ever undertake. Because’s God’s truth is intended by God to serve the interests of his glory and the well-being of his people.
11. One mark of a healthy biblical church is that it will be filled with members who love the truth, know that it is important, and are being transformed in their discipleship by it.
12.
So, those who just do not care about doctrine, are missing out on a blessing. They may consider doctrine extraneous to authentic Christian experience, irrelevant to their daily practice, and entirely too cold and speculative for their tastes, but every day of our lives, our choices, our attitudes, our words, our motives are based on our theology! We can't escape it. What we believe affects how we live. Bad theology leads to bad practice. Good doctrine aids us in our duty and helps us interpret our experience, and bad doctrine distracts us from our duty and confuses us about our experience. That’s why every Christian needs to be thoroughly grounded in Christian doctrine. We need to know biblical truth (doctrine) in order to live the Christian life (discipleship). God’s truth is for people! It is good for us and makes our lives better.
13. Paul explains to both Titus and Timothy the importance of doctrine in the Christian life when he says:
Titus 1:1-2 1 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, . . .
2 Timothy 1:13-14 13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
The well-formed Christian life consists of three parts: doctrine, devotion, duty (or you could call the three parts: theology, experience and practice - corresponding to the three functions of the soul, thinking/believing, desiring, willing.

Five problems in relation to these three components of the Christian life dog the church today: (1) nominalism, (2) doctrinal formalism, (3) doctrinal deviation, (4) non-doctrinal moralism, (5) doctrinal indifference.

PROBLEM ONE: Nominalism – "in name only" Christianity
PROBLEM TWO: Doctrinal formalism – "dead orthodoxy"
PROBLEM THREE: Doctrinal deviation -- "denying, undermining, perverting the truth"
PROBLEM FOUR: Non-doctrinal moralism – "duty disconnected from grace and the Gospel"
PROBLEM FIVE: Doctrinal indifference – "often rootless, individualistic experientialism"
How do we help make sure doctrine doesn't "go bad on us"? By turning our study of doctrine into prayer (of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and petition) and by engaging in self-examination in connection with all our doctrinal study (asking ourselves if we are growing in the graces that the truth we are studying is designed to promote).

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Biblical Priorities for a Healthy Church (3)

How in the world should the church worship?
Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church (3) Biblical Worship
Psalm 29:2; Jonah 1:9 and Romans 12:1-2; Psalm 100:2 and Hebrews 10:25

Introduction (review):
1. On October 22, we began a new series of topical-expository messages on Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church.
2. In our first message in this series, "Where in the world in the Church?," we considered the context in which we live and minister, and we agreed that the Bible teaches us that it is important for us to be aware of our contemporary context, to understand our times (see, e.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Chronicles 12:32 and Matthew 16:3/ Luke 12:56). We also argued that there at least three huge factors impacting the church in our day: individualism, relativism, and consumerism. We also said that these cultural myths and assumptions have a massive influence on the church, and often unhelpfully impact the way we view what the church is, should be, does and believes, as well as the way we participate in the life of the church and the way we engage the culture.
3. So how do we compete with this? How do we resist the siren song of the culture? How do we keep from caving in and copying the world? The Bible’s answer is primarily that we do so by having our hearts and minds captured by the word of God. And this has to work it’s way out primarily in the faithful exposition of God’s word - biblical preaching. So that was the focus of our second message in this series.
4. As we studied 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and noted Paul’s emphasis on the importance of preaching, we also suggested five ways that we as hearers of the word can better profit from the message preached. 1. Listen as if your life depended on it (Matthew 4:4). 2. Recognize the seriousness of your life situation (Ephesians 6:12). 3. Realize that it is God’s word you need in such a circumstance (Psalm 119:105). 4. Understand that it is God’s help that you need (Psalm 40:17). 5. Appreciate that communion with God is your goal (Psalm 27:4; 42:1)
5. This leads us naturally to today’s focus: worship. True believers all have a passion for worship. Worship takes place in two arenas, all-of-life and the gathered congregation, and flows from a heart that has received God’s grace and desires God.
6. We will see the emphasis on all-of-life worship Psalm 29:2 and Romans 12:1-2. We’ll see the emphasis on gathered praise in Psalm 100:2 and Hebrews 10:25.

A healthy church is filled with believers who by God’s grace have a passion for biblical worship. They live to glorify God in all of life and they love to gather with the saints to meet with him.

This passion will manifest itself in at least four ways:

I. Glorifying God (Worship in all of life)
*Psalm 15

II. Desiring God (God as the object of our worship)
*Psalm 63:1-5

III. Following the Bible (God-directed worship, in form and content)
John 4:24

IV. Loving the Lord’s Day (God-centered view of Sunday)
*Revelation 1:10

M’Cheyne "A well-spent sabbath we feel to be a day of heaven upon earth . . . we love to rise early on that morning, and to sit up late, that we may have a long day with God"
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"I Like Monotony"

"P.D. Mercer"


I was ready. This morning's blog was to be a meditation upon a culture that produces anxiety and dissatisfaction as it embraces image management and self-fashioned lifestyles. In a postmodern world, we're not supposed to be thankful for grace; we're supposed to be courageous self-actualizers. "America is a country," writes Ralph Wood in Contending for the Faith, "in which no one can be too slender or too rich." "We have all become consumers within the marketplace of personal choices; no matter how contradictory." Our "consumerist culture of comfort and convenience" has conspired to produce more sophisticated consumers not more virtuous disciples. I was ready.

Then, I lost my dog. He's nothing special, a small, five-year-old Boston Terrier who answers to "puppy"--we're not very creative with names. But he's ours; and he's gone. We prayed, emailed the Belhaven neighborhood association, then took to the streets with several flashlight wielding neighbors. Nothing, not a trace. We fell into our beds exhausted and brokenhearted. Some of you know the feeling.

This morning the sun came up early--in more ways than one. The phone rang. P.D. had wandered his way into the embrace of a loving family a few blocks away. After enjoying a good meal, he spent the evening romping on the floor with two young children before settling in for the night under the toasty covers of the master bed. He's home now. I'm glad he can't talk, I suspect he would have refused to come home.

"I like monotony," C.S. Lewis told Time magazine in a 1947 interview. He is not saying that he likes boredom. He is calling us to reject being herded like proverbial sheep through the chute of discontentment, covetousness, and greed. He emphasizes that every ordinary moment of every ordinary day is charged with eternal significance. There is no such thing as an ordinary day or a mere mortal. What do we expect when lift our eyes in prayer to God? We expect and desire daily, hourly grace.

Psalm 123:1-2:

To Thee I lift up my eyes,
O Thou who art enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress;
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He shall be gracious to us.

This Thanksgiving, don’t miss the significance of every breath you take, of faithful friends, good conversation, a moving memory, a long walk, an autumn afternoon sunset, a weekend at deer camp, hot coffee, tailgating, or the return of a lost dog!

Hear Lewis:

Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment 'as to the Lord.' It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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Monday, November 20, 2006

"The Whole Booke of Psalmes"

The Library of Congress's copy of the Bay Psalm Book is one of eleven surviving copies and one of five remaining copies that are in their original bindings.


Title page of the Bay Psalm Book (1640), printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


It was the highest price ever paid anywhere for a book sold at public auction or published in the English language. When an original edition of the Bay Psalm Book sold for $151,000 in 1947, a copy of the first folio of Shakespeare came in poor second, fetching a “mere” $77,000.

Originally titled, The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, it was the first book printed and written in English North America. The first printing press in New England was purchased and imported specifically to print this book. Today, only eleven of the original 1700 first edition copies survive and, of these, only five are complete.

The contrast couldn’t be more profound: The first book printed in America was a Psalter; the Psalms have almost completely disappeared from public worship in most churches today.

The author of the preface, probably Richard Mather, concludes his list of reasons for the writing and printing of the new Psalm book saying, “that so we may sing in Zion the Lord’s songs of praise according to his own will; until he take us from hence, and wipe away all out tears, and bid us enter into our Master’s joy to sing eternal hallelujahs.”

Psalm 23, from the Bay Psalm Book:

The Lord to me a shepherd is
Want therefore I shall not;
He in the folds of tender grass
Doth make me down to lie.

To waters calm he gently leads
Restore my soul doth he;
He doth in paths of righteousness
For his names sake lead me.

Yea though in valley of death’s shade
I walk none ill I’ll fear;
Because thou art with me, thy rod,
and staff my comfort are.

For me a table thou hast spread
In presence of my foes;
Thou dost anoint my head with oil
My cup it over-flows.

Goodness and mercy surely shall
All my days follow me;
And in the Lord's house I shall dwell
So long as days shall be.



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Friday, November 17, 2006

Dr. Sam Hensley to Speak at December Men of the Covenant Luncheon


Men, please make plans to join us on Thursday, December 7th for the conclusion of our fall Men of the Covenant Luncheon series. We have enjoyed an excellent series over the past few months on the topic of pursuing Christ-like Leadership in all arenas of life. Governor Haley Barbour began the series and was followed by Dr. Roger Parrot, President of Belhaven College, and Mr. Peter Jernberg, President and CEO of Jackson Academy. If you were not able to attend, take advantage of the recordings which are now available in the library.

For our final luncheon, we are privileged to have our own Dr. Sam Hensley, Gastrointestinal Pathologist, join us. Alongside his work in pathology, Sam also serves as Bioethics Consultant to Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, as well as a professor at the University of Mississippi Center. In conjunction with his work at UMC, he is a member of the Executive Committee for the Christian Medical and Dental Association and serves on the CMDA National Ethics Commisssion. Sam also serves on the Health and Human Services Committee in Washington that advises the President and Congress on issues surrounding organ transplantation and procurement.

Lunch will be served beginning at 11:30 a.m. and will conclude at 1:00 p.m. Reservations are not required and the cost of the lunch is $5.00 This is a great opportunity to invite friends and co-workers. If you have any questions, please contact Ashley Hall in the Discipleship Office at 601-973-9118.
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cath├ędrale St-Pierre, Geneva


This Sunday evening at First Presbyterian Church, the service will reflect the order of a typical service in St. Peter's Cathedral, Geneva in the middle of the sixteenth century where John Calvin was the minister. John Knox said of the worship in Geneva that it was the closest thing to heaven he had ever experienced.

Calvin believed that nothing should be done in the public worship of God that did not have Scriptural command. Thus, like Zwingli, he rejected such things as images, candles, priestly robes. Seeking to follow the tradition established by the church Fathers, Calvin introduced a form of liturgy (though, he only infrequently used this word) that reflected the theology of worship that was in accord with the teaching of Scripture.

The sermon will be based on a text from Colossians 2 in which Paul is addressing the issue of worship and we will illustrate how this was implemented in Geneva under Calvin's directions.

Unlike Calvin, however, we will have the aid of an instrument in the singing of God's praise!

The service will begin at 6.00 pm.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Mayflower: A Gift from Devonshire

Mayflower II
http://www.galenfrysinger.com/mayflower_plymouth_mass.htm

Warwick Charlton wanted to show his appreciation. Charlton, an Englishman, served during World War II as a public relations officer with American forces. After the war, Charlton determined to build a replica of the Mayflower, sail it across the Atlantic, and present it as gift to the United States. Construction of Mayflower II began at the Upham shipyard in Brixham, Devonshire in 1955. Every effort was made to insure historical accuracy, from the English oak timbers to the hand-sewn linen canvas sails and the true hemp cordage.

On a September 22, 1956, Mayflower II was christened seventeenth-century style and toasted with a golden cup. On April 20, 1957, she began her solitary voyage across the Atlantic with a crew of 34 men. She sailed safely by Nantucket Lightship on June 11 and arrived at Provincetown on the western side of the tip of Cape Cod the following day. Finally, to great fanfare, she reached her destination at Plymouth just before noon the morning of June 13.

Maybe you have read Nathaniel Philbrick’s, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. Overall, Philbrick writes a fairly balanced, commendable account, but like many historians, Philbrick completely misses the vital significance of Reformed Christianity to these early settlers.

Consider these links: Sam Logan's basic introduction to Pilgrims and Puritans. Check out Iain Murray’s article on the American Puritans, "God Will Direct the Bullet," at the Banner of Truth website. Don't miss the Pilgrim Hall Museum and the official website of the Plimoth Plantation Living History Museum. Also see William Bradford’s gravesite. Mary Chilton, a Mayflower passenger, and John Winthrop, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, are buried in King’s Chapel Burying Ground.


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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sister Churches




















I have been at our sister congregation, Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama this past weekend speaking a their annual Fall Bible Conference. [I took this photograph yesterday]. The senior minister is the son of one of our elders, Claude E. McRoberts III. Two of the ministry staff are former class mates of mine from RTS, graduating in the same year as myself, and the another is the son of a class mate who also graduated in the same year!

Trinity Presbyterian Church was organized as Central Presbyterian Church in July 1891. It was located at that time at Lawrence and Washington Streets in downtown Montgomery. In 1909, Central Church moved from its downtown location to the present site at Hull Street and Felder Avenue. The sanctuary was dedicated in March 1913.

Like ourseves, Trinity is about to embark on a building program costing an estimated $15 million adding a substantial new building for office and Sunday School space.

It's been a very enjoyale time.

Oh, does anyone know who a former staff member known as "Reverend Red" is? I've heard some stories!
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Monday, November 13, 2006

Rat, Mole, and Reverence

Cindy Mercer Photography

“Mole, I'm afraid they're in trouble,” Rat said gravely. He went on to inform Mole that little Portly had gone missing again. “Well, suppose he is; why worry about it? He's always straying off and getting lost, and turning up again; he's so adventurous. But no harm ever happens to him,” Mole said with a shrug. “Yes,” Rat responded, “but this time’s more serious.” Rat’s concern intensified as he told his friend that “the Otters have hunted everywhere, high and low, without finding the slightest trace,” and he “hasn't learnt to swim very well yet.” Together, they determine to help the Otters find their son. Thus begins the search for young Portly of the Otter clan in Kenneth Grahame’s, The Wind in the Willows.


Exploring the hedges and hollows on a silvery, moonlit night yields the unexpected. Rat and Mole find themselves confronted by a “Presence” and a sweet, transcendent melody. “Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him,” Rat declared. Grahame writes,

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror--indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy--but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew. . . . Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

In this beautiful passage it appears that Rat and Mole understand Psalm 2:11 better than most: “Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.”

Fear-of-the-Lord is a lost art. This is a “stock biblical phrase for the way of life that is lived responsively and appropriately before who God is, who he is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” writes Eugene Peterson in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. But, often, we’re not interested: “We desperately want to get out of the uncomfortableness of the situation. Rather than make ourselves available, we seek to hide. We hide behind the noise, the busyness, the self-importance, even the self-sacrifices of our existence. Rarely are we stopped and in fear of moving on, we're mostly running away from those moments.”

“Fear-of-the-Lord is not studying about God but living in reverence before God. We don't so much lack knowledge, we lack reverence. Fear-of-the-Lord is not a technique for acquiring spiritual know-how but a willed not-knowing. It is not so much know-how we lack; we lack a simple being-there.

How do we cultivate Fear-of-the-Lord? “The primary way in which we cultivate fear-of-the-Lord is in prayer and worship--personal prayer and corporate worship. We deliberately interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to God. . . . We become silent and still in order to listen and respond to what is Other than us. . . . Prayer and worship provide the base.”


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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ephesians 6:21-24 Outline

God’s New Family: An Exposition of Ephesians (LXI)
Conclusion: A Concern for Comfort and A Word of Blessing

Ephesians 6:21-24

Introduction:
1. Paul has sought to give us a big picture of God’s purposes in this letter/book. He has done this by pulling back the curtain and showing us the decree. He has also done this by showing us the importance of the church.
2. Back in chapters one and two he unfolded "God’s purpose, conceived in a past eternity before the foundation of the world, to create a single new human race through the death and resurrection of Christ and ultimately to unite the whole church and the whole creation under Christ’s headship. He has emphasized that a distinctive shape has been given to this divine plan by the inclusion in God’s new society, on an entirely equal footing, of Jews and Gentiles. The old days of division and discrimination have gone. A brand new oneness has emerged, in which through union with Christ Jews and Gentiles are equal members of the same body and equal sharers in the same promise. So now the one Father has one family, the one Messiah–Savior one people, and the one Spirit one body."
3. Especially from chapter four on, he has called on us to live out this reality. "These sure facts of what God has done through Christ and by the Spirit form the basis on which Paul went on to issue his eloquent appeal. His readers must live a life that is ‘worthy’ of their calling and ‘fitting’ to their status as God’s new and reconciled society. They must demonstrate their unity in the Christian fellowship, while at the same time rejoicing in the diversity of their gifts and so of their ministries. They must put away all the uncleanness of their pre-conversion behaviour and live a life of ‘true righteousness and holiness.’ And they must learn to submit to one another in every kind of domestic relationship and so promote harmony in their homes. Unity, diversity, purity and harmony—these the apostle has stressed as major characteristics of the new life and the new society in Christ. It has seemed a beautiful ideal, an obviously desirable goal, and not so difficult to attain." (Stott, 260-261)
4. He has explained to us that we will need spiritual armament to do this.
5. Now he concludes, perhaps writing in his own hand.

Ephesians 6:21-24 21 But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
Introduction:
Paul shows his love for the church, God’s people in his practical concern and thoughtfulness and in his gracious benediction.

I. Paul’s practicality (21-22) [The concrete customs that Paul employed to cultivate congregational communion]
21 But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.
A. A guy named "Lucky" - a beloved brother and faithful minister.
B. Paul’s desire for the believers to know how he was doing and to comfort them.
C. His vision of God’s new society was not mere theory but something he put into practice.
D. Thus, by prayer, correspondence and visits he sought to cultivate the building up of Christ’s body. (Stott)
Quotation: "The holy solicitude which Paul felt about the interests of religion, or, to use his own language, "the care of all the churches," (2 Corinthians 11:28,) was thus strikingly evinced. When death stood constantly before his eyes, neither the dread of death, nor anxiety about himself, prevented him from making provision for the most distant churches. Another man would have said, "My own affairs require all the attention I can give. It would be more reasonable that all should run to my assistance, than that they should expect from me the smallest relief." But Paul acts a different part, and sends in every direction to strengthen the churches which he had founded." (Calvin)
II. Paul’s double benediction (23-24) [Peace {love, faith} and Grace]
23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. May you know the fullness of God’s favor - enjoyment of the total well-being he bestows
2. May you taste of God’s love - full, fatherly, gracious, free and overflowing
3. May God continue to grant you faith - you see, after all, it is a gift of God.

24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
1. May God continue is grace to you – God’s free and undeserved favor.
2. This grace is for those who love Christ - "More love, O Christ, to thee"
Benedictions
Note: Benediction literally indicates a "good word" and simply means "blessing." In a Christian worship service, the benediction is a Scriptural word of God's blessing on his people, pronounced or prayed by the minister. The Lord’s Day is the "market day of the soul" and so it is fitting that it should conclude for all those gathered in his house with a word of blessing from God.
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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Biblical Priorities for a Healthy Church (2)

How in the world does the church grow?
Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church (2) Biblical Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1-4

Introduction (review):
1. On October 22, we began a new series of topical-expository messages on Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church
2. On Sunday mornings, we are going to be asking (and giving biblical answers) to questions like: what is the situation in which we as the church and living and ministering? What is the church called by God to do, to believe, to be? What are the characteristics, marks, attributes, qualities and priorities of a healthy church?
3. For the weeks leading up to the Christmas season, and for a few months immediately thereafter, we will focus on the Bible’s teaching about the church and its priorities and commitments.
4. We want to be a church that is faithful to the following important but increasingly rare emphases: expository preaching, biblical worship (both in all of life and in gathered praise), biblical doctrine, a biblical pursuit of godliness, a biblical approach to family life, a biblical understanding of the Gospel, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of discipleship, a biblical understanding of church membership, a biblical understanding of church leadership, and a biblical view of how the church relates to the world.
5. In our first message in this series, "Where in the world in the Church?," we considered the context in which we live and minister, and we agreed that the Bible teaches us that it is important for us to be aware of our contemporary context, to understand our times (see, e.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Chronicles 12:32 and Matthew 16:3/ Luke 12:56).
6. We also argued that there at least three huge factors impacting the church in our day: individualism, relativism, and consumerism. Individualism - It’s all about me. The world is built around self. The individual is sovereign. Self-interest is the supreme motivation, self-expression is an inalienable right, and self-preoccupation is a virtue. Relativism - There is no such thing as absolute truth. Hence, we have "beliefs" but not truth, "values" but not universal rights and wrongs. We cope with the multiple options we face in our society by declaring them all to be equally valid. Hence, I can believe anything to be true as long as I do not expect others to believe it. Consumerism - we view ourselves, wittingly or unwittingly, fundamentally as consumers – and hence, the customer is always right (which plays into both individualism and relativism).
7. Finally, we said that these cultural myths and assumptions have a massive influence on the church, and often unhelpfully impact the way we view what the church is, should be, does and believes, as well as the way we participate in the life of the church and the way we engage the culture.
8. So how do we compete with this? How do we resist the siren song of the culture? How do we keep from caving in and copying the world? The Bible’s answer is primarily that we do so by having our hearts and minds captured by the word of God.
9. And this has to work it’s way out primarily in the faithful exposition of God’s word - biblical preaching
10. Note: 2 Timothy 3 gives us the theme: live by the book. 2 Timothy 4 gives us the theme: preach the book.

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-4
Introduction:
1. Expository Bible Preaching is not a style but a principle. It’s controlling concern is to expound what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. It is a commitment to hear God's Word and recover the centrality of the Word in our worship. The next generation of preachers must be trained to appreciate the difference between preaching that is Bible-based and preaching that merely uses the Bible as a starting point to discuss the matter at hand.
2. Why are we committed to expository preaching at FPC? Because we aim to live and minister by the book!

I. The solemnity of the charge - before whom does Paul charge Timothy? (1)
1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
II. The content of the charge – keep on proclaiming the word, message of truth (2)
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
See answers to Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 88 and 89
III. The context of Paul’s charge – people will prefer myths to truth (3-4)
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
So, if the preaching of the word is so important to Paul. If it is the main way that God converts sinners and builds up saints, how should we prepare ourselves to hear God's word? Or, to put it even more provocatively, how should we listen to a bad sermon? That is, given the importance of hearing the Word preached, how do we prepare ourselves to hear well, even when the messenger is less than stellar (yet faithful)?
Five Answers (by way of applying points II. and III. above):

1. Listen as if your life depended on it (Matthew 4:4)
2. Recognize the seriousness of your life situation (Ephesians 6:12)
3. Realize that it is God’s word you need in such a circumstance (Psalm 119:105)
4. Understand that it is God’s help that you need (Psalm 40:17)
5. Appreciate that communion with God is your goal (Psalm 27:4; 42:1)

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