Sunday Service 10/16/11

This week’s Scripture text:

Matthew 6:16-18

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your 
Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

In this week’s text Jesus returns to His warning the disciples about hypocrisy.  He has talked about hypocrisy in giving and in prayer, and in these verses He talks about hypocrisy in fasting.  Fasting is certainly not prohibited by Jesus, but He does make it clear that we must check our motives for why we fast.  Each of the three examples of hypocrisy that Jesus has given in chapter 6 have been examples of different scenarios in which we come to God in a kind of “fake worship”; pretending to hunger after God when our true heart’s desire is to be seen by others as being holy or spiritual.
If Jesus took up half a chapter dealing with this issue…at the very outset of His teaching ministry, and devoted 3 distinct illustrations of it, then shouldn’t we take notice that this is something He really wants us to watch out for in our own hearts?  What about you?  What areas of your own heart a prone to pretend with God?  What impact does that have in our relationship with God?  How does it impact our service for God?  And most importantly, how do we get out from underneath that kind of “performance mentality” and stop faking it with Him?
Again, let’s be prayed up and ready to hear from the Lord this Sunday.
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Sunday Service 10/9/11

This Sunday…

Matthew 6:14-15

 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Why does Jesus say this, and what does it mean?  Does this mean that God will forgive me because I forgive others, and conversely, if I don’t forgive others then I will not be forgiven by God and that the reason for my not being forgiven is because of my unforgiveness toward others? What exactly is Jesus saying, and what is He not saying.  Certainly there are extremes to avoid here, but after we untangle ourselves from those extremes, it is clear that Jesus is teaching about unforgiveness.  He wants His disciples to forgive those who sin against them, and teaches that there are serious consequences for not forgiving others.

Harboring unforgiveness is serious business with God, and indicates that something is amiss in our walk with the Lord.  So, what about you.  Is there someone you need to forgive?  Why do we tend to hold on to unforgiveness, what does forgiveness look like in practice, and where can we find the strength to forgive those who have wronged us?

Let’s prayerfully ready ourselves to hear from God about these things this weekend.

Day 21: Acts 16-20

Today’s reading is the story of a great journey. It’s the journey of Paul and his companions to take the Gospel to the world in obedience to the command of Christ in Matthew 28 to “make disciples of all nations.”

Let’s take a moment to consider some of the events along this journey. It’s a wild ride, but there is one simple thing that is the primary highlight of the whole story.

Acts 16

  • Paul and his companions keep trying to preach the Gospel but are blocked again and again by the Holy Spirit before finally being allowed to take the Gospel to Macedonia.
  • While there, they preach the Gospel to a businesswoman named Lydia and she comes to faith in Christ.
  • Paul casts a demon out of a slave girl but because the girl was a source of income for her owners as a fortune teller, Paul and Silas are beaten and then thrown into prison.
  • While in prison, Paul and Silas are worshiping and God causes an earthquake, which sets them free from their chains.
  • The jailer thinks everyone has escaped so he is ready to kill himself. Paul stops him and preaches the Gospel to the jailer.
  • The jailer and his entire household are born again.

Acts 17

  • Paul and Silas preach the Gospel in Thessalonica and because Jewish leaders were jealous of the popularity of the Gospel message, they gather some wicked men and convince them to riot.
  • Paul and Silas are sent in secret to Berea, where they preach the Gospel and many are born again.
  • After the Jews in Thessalonica hear about the Jews in Berea getting saved, they show up in town and start another riot.
  • Paul escapes to Athens.
  • While Paul is waiting in Athens for his friends to show up, he is heartbroken over all the idolatry in that city so he starts preaching the Gospel every day to anyone who will listen.
  • Paul ultimately preaches the Gospel in the Aropagus (which is where all the “smart” people would hang out).

Acts 18

  • Paul goes from Athens to Corinth where he starts to work at his trade as a tent maker and preaches the Gospel every day.
  • Paul goes to Ephesus and preaches the Gospel.
  • Paul went to Caesarea, Antioch, Galatia, and Phrygia preaching the Gospel.

Acts 19

  • Paul comes back to Ephesus and preaches the Gospel.
  • He spends two years there, working at his trade and preaching the Gospel every day. God works through him in such a way that all the residents in Asia hear the message of Christ.
  • God brings an incredible revival through Paul’s ministry. Miracles are being performed and many pagan magicians start burning their books of magic and repenting and getting saved.
  • Because of Paul’s ministry and so many people being born again, the idol makers are nearly put out of business. So what do they do? They start a riot…of course.

What a life Paul and his companions lived! What amazing adventures and what an incredible impact they had on the world. Yet, when you look at the story of their journey, it’s really all very simple.

No matter where they were, or what they were doing, they had one single priority:

Preach. The. Gospel.

That’s it. That’s what life was about for them. Wherever they found themselves, they would preach the Gospel. It didn’t matter if they were at work, or in the public square, or in the cultural center of the city, or in prison, or in the middle of a riot! They focused on their only mission, which was to preach the Gospel.

Why do we insist on making things so complicated? Why do we insist on muddling our lives with so much, when our entire life as Christians comes down to this one very simple thing?

We are on this planet to preach the Gospel. Wherever we are, and whatever we are doing, let’s just preach the Gospel. It’s really that simple.

I’m going to let Paul have the last word here:

I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24, ESV)

Together for the Gospel Conference: Top 5 Highlights

In no particular order…

1. The Singing
Worship through song consisted of Bob Kauflin, a piano, and 7,000 people. We sang some of my favorite hymns including My Hope is Built (The Solid Rock), It is Well, And Can it Be That I Should Gain, and more.

We also sang some songs that I am less familiar with. My favorites being All I Have is Christ (FREE DOWNLOAD) by Jordan Kauflin and a hymn by John Newton called I Asked the Lord.

2. Teaching
This is a given. To sit under the teaching (9 General Sessions and a Breakout Session) of Mark Dever, R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Thabiti Anyabwile, John MacArthur, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, and Matt Chandler was a huge blessing to my soul and thousands of others. I’ll be processing my 22 pages of notes over the next couple of months.

***All of the mp3s will be available for FREE at t4g.org

3. Books
By the end of the conference we each had 20 free books! Not to mention the book store fully stocked with gospel-centered materials at discounted prices. This was another encouraging example of the desire to know Christ in a deeper way.

4. People
The four of us (Ken, Tyler, Andy, and myself) had some great times of fellowship over meals, in our hotel rooms, and with new friends. Simply being around others who have a passion for the gospel can greatly encourage a minister.

5. C.J. Mahaney
My most specific highlight is C.J.’s address to ‘Ordinary Pastors’ during the final session yesterday. We had just sat through session after session of solid teaching from some of the most gifted pastors and teachers in the church today.  He humbly reminded us that most pastors aren’t unusually gifted.

We are ordinary pastors. But that’s ok because our task to preach the gospel in and out of season (2 Timothy 4) is an extraordinary one.

Mahaney shared a quote from Charles Spurgeon that is an encouragement to all Christians in their preaching of the gospel

Wesley and Whitfield may preach the gospel better than I do but they can never preach a better gospel.”

Lord willing, I will attend Together for the Gospel again in 2012. You should too!


A Well-Rounded View of Scripture

The Bible of Jonathan Edwards

Most people reading this believe the Bible is the Word of God; Spirit-inspired, inerrant, and profitable for the life of a Christian. But there is a big difference between having a head knowledge about the importance of scripture and actually living by faith in the power of God’s word.

How a Christian views and handles God’s Word will greatly affect the depth of his or her spiritual well-being. Some view the Bible as something that the preacher talks about on Sunday. That’s the only place they hear the Word. Others practice the spiritual discipline of daily reading. Some carve out time for deeper study, using a commentary or study Bible.

Are these just personal preferences? Personality differences? How is the Christian supposed to handle the Word?

God wants us to handle it like Ezra did:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel -Ezra 7:10

One of the major themes of Ezra-Nehemiah is revival stemming from a high view of God’s Word. And the man God used to spark this revival had a well-rounded view of the scripture.

I want to point out four things from this verse that help us understand how we should handle God’s word.

1. Set your heart
This wasn’t just a discipline for Ezra. His heart’s desire was to study, do, teach the word of God. Many of us are trying to live by the word without a heart for the word. When this happens, daily disciplines become dry and joyless. We are merely checking a task off of a list. Or become self-righteous, attempting to do, do, do in our own strength instead of the power of Jesus. This is why prayer and the word are inseparable. We are sinners in constant need for the Great Physician to work on our hearts. Beg God for a heart like Ezra’s.

2. Study
Sadly, many Christian’s think that study is the task of the preacher and/or the seminary professor. But to be a follower of Christ means to grow in relationship with Him. In order to grow in relationship with Him we must devour God’s word through which He has revealed Himself to us. We must train ourselves in good doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6).

3. Do
Notice the order of this. Before we get to Ezra’s teaching, we read that he lived out the book that he studied. This is what I mean by “well-rounded”. There are plenty who study the Word of God without doing it. Is that You? If so, think on James 1:22-25 for a bit:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

4. Teach
Again, this is an area where many have left teaching the Word to those who do it ‘for a living’. How sad! Ezra was on a mission. He was bringing God’s Law to the exiles who returned to Jerusalem. We’ve been commanded to go (Matthew 28:18-20). And by “we” I mean me, you, your pastor, and every other follower of Jesus Christ.

This shows us that the main reason we should seek a deeper knowledge of scripture is not for ourselves, but so that others may be taught the Gospel for the glory of God. That is what Paul is telling Timothy in 1 Timothy 4. After telling him the importance of personal spiritual training, he says, “Command and teach these things.” (v.11) This is a big deal! This means that if you don’t seek a well rounded view of God’s Word, you’re not prioritizing the advancement of His kingdom.

Obviously, much more can be said about these four areas. My prayer is that this will help you gauge just how precious God’s Word is to you. I’ll leave you with a thought that God has used to reveal my own enormous shortcomings in this area:

If you care about God’s mission, you will be a person who loves, studies, does, and teaches the Word of God.



How To Take Better Sermon Notes

Every time I have an opportunity to bring the Word of God to His people, I love to see people taking notes.  I’m an avid note-taker myself and I have many pages of notes from sermons I’ve heard through the years that have helped to disciple me in the Faith.

Not all note taking is effective however.  The act of writing things down during a sermon is not enough.  When it comes to receiving God’s Word from those who preach it, we should take our lead from the Bereans in Acts 17:11 where we read:

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (NIV)

In this verse we see both an attitude and an action that distinguished the disciples in Berea from the ones in Thessalonica.

Attitude:  Eager Reception

The people in Berea were excited about hearing the Word of God preached.  They listened to Paul’s teaching with joy in their hearts and a passionate desire to know Christ.

Action:  Additional Searching

They took what they learned from the apostle and went back to their homes and searched the Scriptures themselves, double checking what he said, making sure that what they were hearing was indeed the truth.

This was not a lack of trust, but rather a robust faith.  The Bereans weren’t interested in hearing “a good sermon,” they were hungry for the truth.

Too many laymen speak about the preaching event as if it were a one-way street, as if the responsibility for what transpires when the Bible is proclaimed rests solely on the shoulders of the preacher.  But that’s not so!  Effective communication demands competence from all parties.  (Jay E. Adams)

Here are some tips for taking sermon notes like a Berean would:

1.  Know why you are there to begin with.

We need to come to church with a heart that is seeking after God, to know Him more intimately and to become more like Jesus not to be entertained.

2.  Do more than fill in the blanks.

If you are using a Listening Guide, do more than just fill in the blank spaces on the page.  Listen for what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.  If something the preacher says jumps out at you, write it down.  Don’t limit yourself to what is on the page or on the screen.

3.  Don’t try to write down everything.

You should also avoid copying down everything word-for-word.  Try putting what is said into your own words, or jot down key phrases, or words that you can flesh out later.  Trying to record everything you hear will frustrate you and cause you to give up taking notes altogether.

4.  Always write down additional Scripture references.

Anytime you hear a preacher refer to another passage of Scripture that supports or illustrates what he’s saying write it down.  Then go back later and review these references for greater insight into the message.

5.  Record any questions you have.

In the margins of your notes, write down any questions you have about what you’re hearing.  Then go back and do some extra study to see if you can find answers.  If you cannot, then you can discuss it with your BASE group or ask the preacher about them.  As a preacher I can tell you, we LOVE that kind of thing.

6.  Record application and prayer points as they occur to you.

If you’re listening to a sermon about The Great Commission and someone you know pops into your head, write down their name.  That’s the Holy Spirit telling you to pray for and talk to that person.

If you’re listening to a sermon about missions and you feel a desire to give financially to a missionary, write it down and take action on it.

7.  Review, review, and review.

As you’ve already surmised by now, the key to all of this is to review your notes later.  As you do, add your own thoughts and ideas to them, pray over the things God is teaching you and take action on the lessons you are learning.

Remember, the ministry of God’s Word is the very stuff of life and we must engage it with joy and then live it out if we’re going to be the people God has created us to be.