Sunday, November 13, 2011

Daily Encouragement

Daily Encouragement 

“…encourage one another daily 

Hebrews 3:13

Mark Twain has been credited (or charged) with saying “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”  If I look into my own heart, I have to admit that I too am sometimes bothered by what I do understand.  The simple plain teaching of Scripture so often contradicts my life that I find myself bothered and forced to make irrational excuses to justify my disobedience. 

Take the words at the top of this page for example.  Here the author of Hebrews is giving a command to the people of God.  In light of the challenges and trials associated with living the Christian life faithfully, he issues this order to help us along:  encourage one another daily.”  It is neither complicated nor unreasonable. 

If we were to break it down, we would see that these 4 words contain:

1.         A clear command:  Encourage.  The word is neither foreign to our ears nor difficult to accomplish.  Almost any kind word would qualify.  He prescribes no set form or pattern to which this encouragement must comply.  Great liberty is apparently allowed as to the manner in which we carry out this duty.  Just encourage.  Lift someone up, cheer them.  Promote the welfare of another through some tangible medium of communication or activity.  Encourage.  Life is hard.  The Christian life, lived well, is even harder.  Therefore encourage.

2.         A clear audience.  The object of this command is very simple:  one another.”  The author is telling Christians to encourage other Christians.  The assumption is that there are believers whom you have access to in one way or another.  This command was issued before modern communication technology was available.  How much less of an excuse do we have today, when the opportunities to encourage another believer in Christ are almost unlimited due to postal services, telephones, computers and email.  No doubt there is someone in your church who could use encouragement.  Some missionary that could use a letter.  A college student who wouldn’t mind some cookies.  A shut in that would appreciate a visit or a call.  A Pastor who might like to know you were actually listening.  Encourage another Christian.  Any Christian.  Take your pick.

3.         A clear frequency:  Daily.  The word is not complicated or obscure in the original.  First century Christians would not have understood this differently than we do.  It means every day.  Once every 24 hours.  Seven times a week.  The context is not poetical and the language is not figurative.  Encourage one another every single day.  The words that follow this text make the point even more emphatic:  “Encourage one another daily, while it is called Today.”  The command means that every day, from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep, I ought to encourage (at least) one other Christian. 

This command, therefore, really could not be made more clear:

·         Encourage. 

·         Encourage another Christian. 

·         Encourage another Christian every single day. 

Not rocket science.  Pretty simple really.  What’s not so simple is the answer to this question:  Why don’t I do it?  Why do I allow so many days to roll by without lifting my voice or directing my pen into the way of encouragement?  I cannot claim this verse is too hard to understand.  Like Mark Twain, maybe it is the very clarity of the command that bothers me so much.  I squirm under the crushing weight of a clear and reasonable expectation from the Lord.  How about you?  Maybe it is just me. 

I am making a plan to change this.  That is, ultimately, what repentance is all about: changing.  Repentance means making a plan to change some pattern of behavior from disobedience to obedience.    I know a few Christians.  I’m making a list.  Does that seem too artificial?  Too mechanical to qualify as obedience?  Maybe it is somewhat artificial and mechanical.  But I tend to think that mechanical obedience is safer than comfortable sin.  And maybe, just maybe, this is the way we change. 

Monday, September 5, 2011


"And indeed, as your life was valued much this day in my eyes, so let my life be valued much in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.”"

1 Samuel 26:24

A Life of VALUE

Is there anything worse than feeling worthless?  Have you ever felt as though your life was of no real value to anyone?  Undoubtedly this is one of the most uncomfortable and devastating emotions we can experience.  Maybe you have never struggled with this.  Most, however, have known to some degree the pain, the tears and the crushing effect this feeling of worthlessness can produce.  Industries aimed at alleviating these thoughts are both profuse and profitable.  Everywhere we turn we find advertisements from chemistry to counseling which promise to restore a person’s sense of value and well-being.  These have a place.  I do not wish to undermine the sincere efforts or to minimize the serious suffering endured by those who benefit from them. 

The verse at the top of this page got me thinking about what makes a life truly valuable.  The words are those of David who had been fleeing for his life from King Saul.  David had the chance to kill his enemy, but he would not do so.  And when David had retreated to a safe distance he cried out these words to Saul: “ your life was valued much this day in my eyes, so let my life be valued much in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.”  What David had done for Saul, in sparing him, he now desires the Lord to do for David.  David valued Saul’s life.  He calls upon the Lord to value his life.

From these words I draw this conclusion:  there is such a thing as a life that is valuable to God.  We find this taught elsewhere.  The Lord, speaking of Israel, says “you shall be a special treasure (i.e. valuable) to Me above all people (Exodus 19:5).”  Scripture speaks of a ‘precious’ life.  Since you were precious in My sight” said the Lord through Isaiah the prophet.  Jeremiah speaks regretfully of a people who were once “valuable as fine gold (Lamentations 4:2).” 

All of this, I suppose, raises the most important question in the world:  Is my life valuable to God? 

This verse from 1 Samuel 26 sheds some light on the subject.  In this text I find some things that help me to understand what we might call: The Valuable Life.

I.       First, the text implies that there is a difference between a life valued by men and a life valued by God.  Notice David’s words.  He did not say:  Saul, I valued your life.  Now I want YOU to value my life.”   Rather, he said (as it were): “Saul, I valued your life.  Now I want the LORD to value my life.”  There is a difference.  It is one thing to have a life valued by men.  It is another thing to have a life valued by God.  We may be valued by men for many different reasons.  Sometimes people value us simply because we are useful to them.  Sometimes people value us because we provide them with security or pleasure.  But God never values a man because He needs him.  We cannot be “useful” to God in the same way we might be useful to our employer.  Our value in God’s eyes is not based upon what we can do for God, but rather on what God is doing in us.  Maybe we could put it this way:  We become more valuable to God when God becomes more visible in us.  There is, therefore, a vast difference between being “valuable” to men and being “valuable” to God. 


II.      Secondly, these words express to me this:  :  It is better to have a life valued by God than a life merely valued by men.  David valued Saul’s life and spared it.  But in return David looks for something more.  David asks for a life that is valued by the Lord: “so let my life be valued much in the eyes of the LORD.”  When is the last time you or I prayed that prayer?  “Lord, more than anything else, grant me to live a life valued by You.  Empty my world of those things that are worthless.  Purge from all my plans what is profitless.  Rid my soul of all that rubbish I too often relish.  Lord, make me useful and valuable to You, regardless of what people may say.  Father, what good is my life if it only charms the eyes of men but does not delight the eyes of my God?”

            I write this as an encouragement to those who, in striving to be worth something to God, have felt they are worth nothing to this world.  Paul knew this feeling.  He writes to the Corinthians “we have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now (I Cor. 4:13).”  Paul knew what it was like to feel “worthless” in the eyes of the world.  But for him, being valuable to God was worth it.  Christ Himself was rejected as worthless by the world.  Peter writes of Christ: “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious (1 Peter 2:4).”  Christian – you may feel at times utterly useless to the world – but you are “valued much in the eyes of the Lord.”

III.       Finally, I think this verse tells us, in part, how to live a life that is valuable to God.  Do you want to live such a life?  Are you ready, if necessary, to make changes to the way you have lived so far?  Are we ready to re-evaluate all of our priorities and goals so that right now it might be said of us:  This life “is valued much in the eyes of the Lord?”

The verse concludes with these words, and I think they give some helpful direction:  and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.”

A.        A life valued by God may be a difficult life to live.  David speaks of “tribulation.”  This means trouble.  Maybe that isn’t what you wanted to hear.  But for those trapped in troublesome trials you need to know that a life can be VERY valuable to God that is loaded with troubles on earth.  Let me say that again.  A life can be VERY valuable to God that is loaded with troubles on earth.  David’s was.  And that means you don’t need to wait for your troubles to go away before you become valuable to God. 

B.        A life valued by God looks steadily at the Lord for deliverance and help.  David said “let Him deliver me.”  Note:  God doesn’t value our life by OUR strength, but by our dependence upon HIS strength.  That is the truly valuable life.  More than anything, that means first and foremost looking to Jesus Christ to deliver you from your sin.  Let Him deliver me!  Yes…yes…dear reader…let Him deliver you.  No life is truly “valuable” to God that does not first look to Christ for deliverance.  And then, having done so, a valuable life looks steadily and faithfully to Him for help.  Are we ready to simply wait upon God in the midst of our problems?  Too often our response is anger with God for our troubles, rather than humble submission to His purposes.  A life valuable to God says “not my will but Thine be done.”  What trial is in my life today, for which I need to trust God more for deliverance?  The key to a truly valuable life is not worldly success but submission to God.  When He wants, and not before then, let “Him deliver me.”  That is what a Christian should say when confronted with trials and temptations:  Let Him deliver me.  When confronted with sorrow and loss:  Let Him deliver me.  When overwhelmed by temptations and defeat:  Let Him deliver me.  Christian, is that your cry and mine?  Oh the value of that cry in the ears of the Lord!  Full surrender and submission to the Lord in all things…that is a life “valued much in the eyes of the Lord.” 

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Today we arrive together at REASON 6 for studying John's Gospel, and especially to take advantage of the opportunity to hear preaching on this gospel at Immanuel Chapel in Upton, MA beginning on Sunday September 4, 2011 (11:00AM).  As you will have noticed from previous posts, we are taking 1 reason for each chapter of John's Gospel.

Reason 6 – John 6:  Doubters are Welcome
You'll have to read to the end to figure the picture out

Reason #6:  Doubters are welcome.  What?  Are you saying I can read the Bible and come to church even if I’m not entirely sure any of this is true yet?  Yes, yes I am.  And the great proof of this fact is found in the Gospel of John chapter 6.  Not sure about Jesus?  Allow me to let you in on a little secret:  neither were His disciples.  And much of Jesus’ ministry was directed to teach them who He was.  John chapter 6 might be entitled:  Who Am I?  That is what Jesus is trying to teach them, and teach us.  That is what much of John’s Gospel is all about.  Do you know who He is?  Philip (a disciple) still wasn’t sure.  So Jesus tested him about how they would feed 5,000 people. Jesus asked Philip a question: “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat? (John 6:5)” Philip answered:  Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little (6:7).”  Philip, you see, thought Jesus was asking an economic question. He reasoned:  We can’t afford to feed this crowd!  But Jesus was asking a theological question.  Jesus was saying, as it were, “Philip – Who am I?”  Jesus was addressing Philip’s doubts. 

We see this again later in the same chapter.  Our Savior, knowing their doubts, meets them right where they are at.  This time it was in the middle of the sea.  The disciples had been rowing hard and the wind was blowing against them.  Things were looking bleak.  And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them (John 6:17).”  Do you feel in the dark about spiritual things?  As I said before – doubters are welcome.  But Jesus didn’t leave them in the dark forever.  Jesus came to them, walking on the water, and we are told “they were afraid.”  And notice what Jesus says to them:  It is I, do not be afraid (John 6:20).”  It is I!  Jesus is saying – “Do you see?  Do you understand who I am?  Are you beginning to figure out who your Teacher really is?” 

This chapter has good news for doubters.  By the end it appears the disciples are starting to get it.  When Jesus asks them if they too want to leave Him, they respond “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:68-69).”  Amazing grace had overcome their doubting hearts. 

A personal story and application:  Yesterday I was out in a kayak on an unfamiliar lake.  About 45 minutes into my paddling around the perimeter I could no longer see my starting point.  The lake shore had many twists and turns (I’m told it actually used to be called “crooked lake” for that reason).  I honestly wasn’t sure how long it would take to get back.  But I knew if I kept paddling the shore line I would eventually get to where I started.  And I did.  Do you have doubts about religion, about Christ?  Paddle the shore line of John’s Gospel with me.  Let’s follow it together and see if it doesn’t bring us some answers we’ve been looking for.  Don’t be like some in John 6 that gave up too quickly:  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more (John 6:66).”  They stopped paddling the shore line.  Friend, don’t give up just because of your doubts.  Maybe as you round the final turn of this journey you too will say you have “come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

Saturday, August 20, 2011


"Do you want to be made well?"
John 5:6

I continue today with the 5th reason to study John's Gospel, and in particular, to come and hear a series of sermons preached on this book of the Bible beginning on Sunday September 4, 2011 at Immanuel Chapel.

Reason #5:      Spiritual Priorities.  Some time ago a little book was written entitled “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  The title was catchy – and picks up on our tragic preoccupation with relatively unimportant issues or problems.  I suppose the flip side of that is equally true.  While sweating over minor matters we often fail to deal with bigger problems or more serious concerns.  We easily get our priorities out of balance. 
The 5th reason to study the Gospel of John is to focus our spiritual priorities.  John 5 displays a contrast that we can all relate to.  It is the contrast between “my rules” and “God’s rules.”  It is the contrast between a life determined to do it “my way” and a life humbly prepared to do things “God’s way.”   Let me try to explain this.

The “my ways” and “my rules” focus:  In John 5 we find Jesus healing a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years.  But when the Jews saw it, rather than rejoicing, they said “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.  It is not lawful?  Really?  Whose law?  The Lord had instituted the Sabbath Day (this was Saturday for the Jews) as a blessing and rest from 6 days of work.  They were forbidden from conducting business on this day, including the importing and exporting of merchandise.  But the carrying of a bed, particularly one from which you had just been delivered, was no sin.  But many of the Jews of Jesus day, particularly the spiritual leaders, decided to create their own laws and doctrines, rather than the Lord’s.  This whole approach ruined their reading of the Bible (the Old Testament at this point).  Jesus said “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”  They were so caught up in “their rules” and “their ways” they couldn’t see God standing before their very eyes.

God’s rules” and “God’s Way:” Jesus presents a different priority.  Listen to what He says in John 5:24Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.    There is a lot in this little verse.  But for now I just want to draw your attention to one statement:  not come into judgment.”  In John 5 Jesus makes it clear that there is something far more important than our silly man-made rules about religion, namely, judgment.  He spoke of this to the paralyzed man He healed when He said “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you (John 5:14).”  What could be worse than 38 years in bed?  The answer is clear:  judgment.  A few verses later John records Jesus saying that the Father has “committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22).”  A few more verses and He says it again, that Jesus has “authority to execute judgment (John 5:27).”  And yet a few more verses and Jesus says in most sobering language that “the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth” and that some of these will be rising to the “resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).”  If our spiritual priorities do not take into account the reality and consequences of this judgment, then we are guilty of still doing religion with “our rules” and “our way.” 
My friends, do you see the contrast presented in John 5?  Do you want to go on living by “your rules” and “your way?”  As we study John’s Gospel we are given a far better set of spiritual priorities than the ones we have been living by so far.  As we read this Gospel, and especially as we listen to it preached (yep…I’m still trying to get you to come!) let us be willing to put our priorities before the Lord and evaluate them in the light of His Word.  What is the most important thing in your life right now:  money, success, friends, relationships, pleasures, parties, respect, healing, relief from trouble or trials?  What will these things do for us on the Day of Judgment?  These things will not help us in that Day if we do not have Jesus Christ.  Many in Jesus’ day were not willing to believe in Him.  He said “you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (John 5:40).”  What about you?  Are you willing to come?  Jesus Christ is a willing Savior, and ready to receive you today.  Let me close by asking you the question Jesus asked of the paralyzed man, in a sense the most important question in the world:  Do you want to be made well?” 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Come, see a Man who told me all that I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?”

Reason #4:     In John chapter 4 we find a 4th reason to study John.  This series of encouragements have particularly been aimed at inviting you to sit under a series of sermons on John’s gospel to begin shortly at Immanuel Chapel on September 4, 2011.  But they might equally be understood as a general encouragement to study this gospel.  Solid, Biblical preaching is one of the best aids to the sincere study of any book in the Bible. 

The fourth reason to study John is actually taken from the very mouth of a woman in John 4, the Samaritan Jesus met at the well. 

Here it is:   Come, see a Man who told me all that I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29)

1)         This encouragement is to “come” and “see.”  See for yourself.  Friend, it is very likely you have heard a lot about Christianity.  Your parents have, by word or example, given you their opinion.  Your teachers have given you their perspectives.  Your friends and the circle of people that surround you have some ideas about religion.  No doubt the music you listen to, the books you read and the TV, movies and videos you have seen have all conveyed some impression of Christianity and of Jesus Christ.  No doubt you have read of religious scandals and hypocrisies all carried out under the cloak of “Christianity.”  You have, on the basis of all this various testimony, come to some conclusions.  My word to you today is this:  Come and see.  See for yourself.  Don’t rest solely upon the opinions you have formed so far.  Inquire into the true nature of this “Man” called Jesus of Nazareth.  Do not rely solely on those impressions which have been given to you by others.  What have you got to lose? 

2)         This encouragement is not conditioned upon your worthiness or goodness.  Notice what the woman at the well says to the people of her city “Come, see a Man who told me all that I ever did.”  This woman was not a “likely” convert to Christianity (if we can put it that way).  She is not someone who had her life “just right” before believing in Jesus Christ.  She had 5 husbands before, and was currently living with a man who was not her husband.  Her relationships were a mess.  But more than that, this woman rightly perceived that Christ knew everything about her:  all that I ever did.”  Jesus Christ is the only one who truly knows “all that I ever did.”  He knows about the sins of your youth.  He knows about the sinful patterns in your life and mine.  He knows about those sins that are simply to shameful to mention.   He knows.  Yet He is the one who says to this woman, and to us, “if you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”  Jesus used the idea of a never-ending supply of water to convey the fact that He was offering to her “everlasting life (John 4:14).”  Friend, you don’t need to hide any longer.  Jesus is a Savior who invites us to repent and believe in Him…BECAUSE He knows “all that I ever did.” 

3)         This encouragement may bring you to a surprising conclusion:  “Could this be the Christ?”  That is the real question that every soul born into this world must deal with.  It is, in a sense, the whole reason that John wrote this gospel.  Could this be the Christ?  Could Jesus be the One?  Look at His life, consider what He said, weigh in your heart of hearts what this Man did.  Could Jesus Christ be the very Savior you have been looking for?  Maybe you have been looking for help.  Maybe you have given up all hope.  Maybe you have begun to think life itself is not worth living any longer.  This Samaritan woman got a new start on life through Christ.  So did many in her city:  “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him.”  Maybe you will too.  Friend, let me encourage you again, “come and see.” 

Previous posts in this series:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


You Must Be Born Again



Today I give to you my 3'rd encouragement to plan on attending this series of sermons on John's Gospel at Immanuel Chapel beginning Sunday September 4, 2011.

Reason #3:      Our eternal destiny depends upon a new birth.  This is a foreign concept to many of us.  In this world virtually anything can be obtained by talent, time or money.  Heaven, however, is not for sale.  Admission cannot be bought by you or me.  Naturally, we are all a bit like Nicodemus in John 3, and expect to gain entrance to heaven by good works, kind deeds and religious ceremonies.  Or worse, we suppose that ultimately everyone gets to heaven, given enough time, in this life or the next.  But Jesus says “you must be born again (John 3:7).” 

            Let me briefly remind you of Nicodemus’ advantages.  We read of them in John 3:1There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” 

Nicodemus was in a privileged position:

·         He had a good name: “Nicodemus!”  His name means “Conqueror of the people.”  Wow.  Impressive. 
·         He had the right parents:  He was a “Jew!”  He was born, therefore, with a great spiritual heritage.
·         He had excellent training:  He was a “Pharisee.”  He was trained in the Scriptures and respected.
·         He had significant power:  He was a “ruler of the Jews.” 

But neither a good name, nor good parents, nor religious training nor power were enough to save Nicodemus according to Jesus Christ.  You must be born again.” 

Have you been born again?  The Gospel of John does not allow us to place our hope for heaven anywhere but in Jesus Christ Himself.  John 3 contains what may be the most famous verse in the Bible:  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”  There are 2 things in this verse that are shocking.  First – the extent of God’s love.  He gave His Son for sinners!  Being a father myself, I cannot fathom this.  Second – the fact that many will miss it.  Jesus said “the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:19).” 

I entreat you not to miss this series.  But even more than that, I entreat you not to miss the love of God.  In the end, it appears Nicodemus was conquered by the loving grace of God.  At Jesus’ burial we find him there attending to the body of his Savior: “And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.”  Dear reader – maybe now is the time for you to stop depending on your religion, your name or any process you have gone through – and turn in faith to Jesus Christ. 

Monday, August 15, 2011


As I mentioned yesterday, our church in Upton, MA (Immanuel Chapel OPC) will begin a series of sermons on the Gospel of John on Sunday September 4, 2011.  Our worship service begins at 11:00AM. 

Can you come?  To help persuade you, I am writing a short series of...well...let's call them "encouragements."  Reasons to come. 

Yesterday I gave you my first reason, drawing on John chapter 1.

Today I give you reason #2, from John 2:

CASTIGLIONE, Giovanni Benedetto
Reason #2:     Come hear preaching on John’s Gospel and be confronted with a Man who thought worship was important.  Warning:  this Jesus may shock you.  In John 2 Jesus confronts the religious merchandisers of the day.  He made a “whip of cords” and using this on the animals[1] being offered for sale He “drove them all out of the temple (John 2:15).”  Returning, He then “poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.”  Really?  Jesus?  Gentle and mild Jesus?  Why would He do such a thing?  I think John Calvin was right, “to restore the worship of God to its integrity.”  Worship matters.  The way we worship says something about the God we worship.  Our views of worship probably say something about our view of God.  We cannot have a high view of God and a low view of worship.
And this is a relevant issue today.  We are, I believe, a religiously-saturated but worship-starved generation.  We are all, to some degree, like those hypocrites in John 2 who enter God’s house merely “doing business (2:14).”    For some, the “business” is entertainment.  For others the “business” is their icons or tradition.  For many the “business” is simply satisfying our pride that "we do worship right.”  But God isn’t really interested in our business when it comes to His worship.  And like the temple-tradesmen we are shocked when Jesus Christ “overturns the tables” of our ideas about worshipping God.  Much of our worship, and I include myself in this critique, could be summed up by Proverbs 30:12There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness.  No, we don’t go to a “temple” to worship today.  Rather, we bring our “temples” with us.  You are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you (I Cor. 3:16).”  But these temples need cleansing too.
True worship is, fundamentally, heart-worship.  John 2 ends with these words about Christ: “He knew what was in man.”  God knows what is in your heart and mine…right now.  He knows the excuses in our hearts that keep us from really worshipping Him.  He knows why we are trying to hold Him at a distance and avoid dealing closely with Christ.  He knew what was in man.”  Reader, what is in your heart?  As we prayerfully listen to these sermons from the gospel of John, let us ask God together to deal with our hearts.  And if we are going to worship God aright we must begin by receiving Christ Himself.  Let Him do the purifying work that we need.  Don’t try to cleanse the temple of your heart yourself.  Let Jesus come in with His whip and drive out our sin and guilt and shame.  That is why, ultimately, He came.  That is the purpose of the cross.  Christ died for sinners.  Receive Him.  Only then will we truly be able to begin to worship God.

[1] Some question exists as to whether Jesus used the whip on the animals only, or also on the people involved.  Although I have no doubt these merchandisers fully deserved a good whipping (dont' we all?)…I am presently persuaded that He used the whip on the animals.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

21 Days...21 Reasons

21 Days

 21 Reasons to Come

21 Chapters


On Sunday September 4 2011 at 11:00AM at Immanuel Chapel in Upton, MA Pastor Mark Marquis will begin a series of sermons on the Gospel of John. 

That’s 21 days from today.

I therefore want to encourage all my nearby friends and acquaintances that are not otherwise committed to a local church, to consider coming to hear this series of messages.  Listening to solid, Biblical preaching through a book of the Bible is one of the best ways to begin to understand the Bible and its contents.  It is free.  It is only an hour.  It may change your life. 

But if those aren’t enough reasons, allow me to add a few more.  Taking a verse or thought from each of the 21 chapters of John, I would like to give you 21 more reasons to plan on attending this series of sermons. 

Reason #1:  Your life is not God-centered enough.  Neither is mine.  Seriously.  Take an honest assessment of your life right now.  Are you as close to God as you ought to be?  Does something of the Divine Presence attend your every action?  Are you so filled with God’s Spirit that the aroma of Christ sweetens the very atmosphere around you?  I, for one, am not there yet.  What we need is to draw near to the Lord.  And that is precisely what John calls us to. 
The Gospel of John teaches us to draw near to God, because it presents a God who draws near to us.  In John’s Gospel…God draws near.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 2, 14).”  John’s Gospel simply does not allow us to hold God at a comfortable distance.  The true God is a God who comes close to us, sometimes painfully close.  John is saying to us “You, yes you, can know God…and here He is…allow me to introduce you…here is Jesus Christ. 
            In a sense, all of my problems stem from 1 fundamental problem: I really don’t know God.  Others have apparently come to a similar conclusion.  A famous 19th century preacher in London, Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, once said this near the beginning of his series of sermons on the gospel of John:
 "Do you know what is the matter with us?  I will tell you.  We, none of us, really believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!  The trouble with all of us is that we do not know enough about him.  So John says: "The thing you need above everything is to be brought to this knowledge of him - who he is, what he has done, and what he has made possible for us."
             My life is not God-centered enough.  It is not Christ-centered enough.  Far too often it is “self” centered, “sin” centered or just “stuff” centered.  But a Christian is “Savior” centered.  That’s what I want to be.  And that then is my first reason why you should plan to come and hear this series.  Tune in tomorrow for reason #2. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Responding to the Unexpected Things in Life

“…who was I that I could withstand God?”

Acts 11:17b

 Responding to Unexpected Things in Life

            I think one of the hardest parts about being a Christian is learning to cope with an unpredictable and incomprehensible God.  Now, before I go any further, let me explain.  I don’t mean to say God is inconsistent.  The Lord is consistent.  He never changes in His fundamental character and purpose.  Nor do I mean that God cannot be known.  He wants to be known, and this is a part of the reason He sent His Son.  But rather, what I am getting at is the inescapable fact that we often can’t figure God out.   Providence seems more and more unpredictable, the older I get.
            Take the trials that come our way.  Maybe it is just the uniquely ugly and sinful character of my own heart, but is not part of the difficulty in bearing trials bound up in the fact that we cannot usually figure them out?  The hardworking Christian father loses his job, while the seemingly more careless employee gets promoted.  The prayerful and diligent believing mother watches her children walk away from the faith, while others around her appear to embrace Christ from the womb.  The Christian single, cautious over his or her purity, struggles to find a suitable spouse while a rather flirtatious and less modest friend plans her wedding.  The diligent pastor labors prayerfully and watches the church dwindle while the less scrupulous shepherd enjoys a growing flock and a generous raise.  One could go on.  And add to all this the usual tendency to believe that our trials are harder than those endured by others, and it is not hard to see how Christians get discouraged.  Never been there?  Well, I’m glad for you.  But I have been there more times than I care to admit.  It is not pretty or flattering, but it is true.
            But in meditating a bit on Peter’s words at the top of this page, I have found some help.  Peter had learned to trust God, even when he couldn’t understand God.  The encouraging thing here to me is this:  Peter wasn’t always like this.  Remember when Jesus began to teach about His death?  Peter objected.  It didn’t make sense to him.  The cross was not a part of Peter’s plan for Christ.  But the cross was a part of Christ’s plan for Peter.  And so Peter was firmly rebuked.  Remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet?  Again, Peter objected.  Peter thought, or so it seems, “this is not what God does, this does not fit my ‘formula’ for God, this cannot be right.”  Once again, Peter was wrong.  Finally, picture Peter and the rest of the disciples staring up into the sky as Christ ascends in Acts 1.  The angel had to snap them out of it with these words: “Why do you stand gazing up into heaven?”  I can imagine what Peter was thinking:  No…no…this is not right, this is not part of my plan, and this is not the way I saw this working out! 
            Now, in all these things, and many more I suppose, it seems as if the Lord was telling Peter “Peter, stop trying to figure Me out…just trust Me.”  And by the time we get to Acts 11, it appears that Peter has learned the lesson.  Once again, God did the unexpected.  The Lord poured out the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles.  Peter, who had probably grown up believing that God Himself was Jewish, now saw the saving gospel of Jesus Christ blossoming in the hearts of the unclean Gentiles.  We would expect Peter to, once again, object strongly.  But rather what we find is this:  Who was I that I could withstand God.”  Grace had changed Peter.  Grace had taught Peter to trust without questioning.  Grace had strengthened Peter’s faith to trust in a Savior who sometimes worked in ways he could not comprehend. 
            I take these words and apply them to my own trials, struggles and burdens.  I want to learn by faith what Peter learned.  I want to humbly submit to the Lord’s purposes in my life, even when they make no sense to me.  More than that, I want to glorify God through these unpredictable and incomprehensible events.  That is what happened for Peter.  We read in the verses following his words:  "When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God…”  Can I glorify a Savior who often does things in my life that puzzle me?  Yes, by grace I can.  And yes, by grace you can.  Who am I that I could withstand God?” 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What I did on my 14,975th day...

Today I turned 41. 

According to THIS SITE that means I have lived 14,975 days.

Calculated out that means I have also lived...
  • 359,400 hours or
  • 21,564,000 minutes or
  • 1,293,840,000 seconds 
Sheesh.  No wonder I'm tired.

Anyway....this is what my 14,975th day looked like:

5:00AM ....I got up! 

Fed "Sponge" our Cat (I think my birthday wish is to be HIM for a day!).  Here he is sleeping in a basket of laundry:

Made some COFFEE (Ahhh...French Vanilla...a favorite)!!!

5:30AM-6:30AM Prayer, Reading...

This year I have been using Robert Murray M'Cheyne's daily Bible reading plan.  In addition, I usually begin with a devotional reading, which happens to be George Whitefield at the moment.  Also, I try to read a section or two from the OPC book of church order every day.  Portions of this book were updated in 2011, and I need to familiarize myself with it.  I also spent a little time looking again at C.S. Lewis' book, The Great Divorce, as I hope to start up our discussion group on this book shortly.  Below is my messy desk/table down in my office (aka the basement). 

 7:00AM or thereabouts...I began my work day.  I work from home for Fingertip Formulary.

My daughter Kathryn (who, along with Joshua, are homeschooled) under the close supervision of my dear wife Bonnie, made me some cinnamon toast and fruit salad for a "Happy Birthday" breakfast! 

I continued working.  I didn't take a day off for my birthday.  Poor me.  LOL.

Joshua brought me down a couple pictures he drew for me.  Apparently the big one is a monster.  This was a relief, as I thought it was ME at first.  He told me the monster wants to eat us, but I think he looks rather friendly.

I paused for a short time to finalize and sign a contract for getting our septic system repaired.  Good 'ole Title V!  Yes, a septic system that is working just fine...BUT...apparently falls below 2011 standards.  Thankfully there is a pretty decent tax credit for the that takes a "little" of the pain away.  I solicited quotes for 6 contractors.  I went with the best quote.  Today he gets his first payment.  Talk about literally "flushing" away your money....

For those of you who have town sewer...and have no idea what a septic system is...good for you!!  But here is a basic sketch:

12:00 Noon - Lunch Break.  Off to the gym.  I have been running for the past 4 weeks.  Please don't ask me if I have lost any weight.  It is a bit depressing.  I start to exercise...and my basal metabolism goes to zero.  Really.  I'm serious. 

1:30PM - Back to work researching authorization criteria for DPP-4 inhibitors and discussing the clinical categories appropriate for some newer oral contraceptives.  Sounds fun, huh? 

5:00PM - Got word that Joshua's AA baseball game for the evening is cancelled due to the rain.  Bad news for Joshua.  BUT....that means we can go "out" for my birthday dinner.  I get to pick the place.  And will be 5 GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES!!!!  There goes all my running down the drain...

5:30PM - Done with "work" for the day.  Ahhhhh.

6:00PM - Off to 5 Guys Burgers & Fries!!  Bonnie, Evan, Sarah, Kathryn, Joshua and I jump into the van and head to Worcester. 

7:30PM - Back home.  My family now insists that I open presents.  They are so kind to me.  Little do they know that, next to my Savior, they themselves are the most precious gifts I have ever received.

Below is what they gave me.  In case you are wondering, the series of books in the middle is the 4 Volume set entitled "The Christian's Reasonable Service" by Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711).  Bonnie knows I have had my eye on this set for some time.  I am really eager to begin working on it.  The "Dad" letter is a poem written by my daughter Sarah.  I scan it and paste it in below. 

8:00PM - My brother calls from Michigan.  His whole dear family sang "Happy Birthday" to me over the phone.  We are so much looking forward to seeing Aaron, Lisa and all their kids in a few weeks.  I also got calls from my parents and my wonderful in-laws as well. 

8:15PM - 10:00PM

Watching the Boston Bruins at Tampa game 3 Eastern Conference Finals with Evan and Joshua. 

And it couldn't be "birthday" without a chocolate cake (home made by Bonnie of course!).

And thus my birthday comes to a close.  I wonder what I'll do on day 14,976?

Here is the poem from my daughter Sarah:

"But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:57