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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Listening from the front and Developing Character

In worship at Seaford today, I had the benefit of getting to simply listen to my daughter Hannah solo. She was in from college for the weekend. I've always been behind the piano when Hannah has sang at Seaford in the past. But today she had a friend from college in with her who played for her. I know that I am biased, but wow! She sounded amazing on the Nicole Nordeman song, Every Season.

The audio from today's message on Daniel 6 can be found here on the Seaford Baptist sermon page under today's date, October 30, 2011.

If you are interested, you can see my very rough sermon notes here.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reacting to bad news

Below is a fantastic quote from the Word Biblical commentary on Daniel's response to bad news in Daniel 6:10 (ESV) 10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

There is no fuss or rush about his stand, such as characterizes every action of his assailants. Nor is he a man who has lost his true human freedom. He retains that, while neither civil servants nor king behave as free men. He cannot hide the fact that he prays. When prayer is fashionable, it is time to pray in secret (Matt 6:5–6), but when prayer is under pressure, to pray in secret is to give the appearance of fearing the king more than God: one must “render to Caesar …” (Matt 22:21; cf. Acts 4:18–20; 5:29) (Hippolytus). In fact, Daniel’s “seemingly innocuous act” was “more … revolutionary than outright rebellion would have been. Rebellion simply acknowledges the absoluteness and ultimacy of the emperor’s power, and attempts to seize it. Prayer denies that ultimacy altogether by acknowledging a higher power” (Wink, Naming, 110–11).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Praying the Gospel

J.D. Greear wrote a few days ago concerning Tim Keller’s comments (see below) regarding the effect of the gospel on making us more winsome evangelists. I’ve thought much in the past year about how to reflect on the gospel in such a way that it consistently moves me toward the sort of humility and confidence to which Keller alludes. This morning I found myself praying following a suggestion I heard many years ago. The suggestion is to take a familiar passage and make it personal in the following manner. In my journal this morning I wrote and prayed, “Father, I give you praise because I was spiritually dead and yet you caused me to come alive.” (from Eph. 2:1) “I was unrighteous and would never have sought you on my own (from Rom. 3:10-11) but you demonstrated your love for me in this, that while I was still a sinner, Jesus died for me. (from Rom. 5:8) I also prayed the verse I can remember my early pastors talking about using this practice with the most. “God you so loved me that you gave your one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (from John 3:16) Though this practice may seem simple, perhaps even simplistic, I think that such honest prayers are a way of meditating on the gospel and cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in such a way that it results in the transformation that results in greater humility and greater confidence, two critical character qualities in effectively sharing the gospel. I’m copying in Keller’s words below from Greear’s blog: Plus I’ve ordered Greear’s new book on this topic.
 “When the gospel ‘comes home’-humbling and affirming you, it turns every believer into a natural evangelist…Evangelism happens because of a) the humility of the gospel. The gospel (unlike religious moralism) produces people who are not disdainful and contemptuous towards those who disagree with them. Also, it happens through b) the affirmation of the gospel. Because of the reality and joy of Christ’s love, we are not as concerned what others think. The gospel brings a gentle boldness.” 
“The gospel makes us neither self-confident nor self-disdaining, but both bold and humble at once. To the degree I am still functionally earning my worth through performance (i.e. to the degree I am still functioning in works-righteousness), to that degree I will be either operating out of superiority or inferiority. Why! Because if I am saved by my works, then I can either be confident but not humble (if I am living up) or humble but not confident (if I am not living up). In other words, apart from the gospel, I will be forced to be superior or inferior or to swing back and forth or to be one way with some people and another way with others. I am continually caught between these two ways, because of the nature of my self image.
 So the gospel humbles me before anyone, telling me I am a sinner saved only by grace. But it also emboldens me before anyone, telling me I am loved and honored by the only eyes in the universe that really count. So the gospel gives a boldness and a humility that do not “eat each other up” but can increase together.” 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Danger of Comparing

This week we have the privilege of having my new friend Matt Wilkins leading revival services at Seaford. Matt is a fellow Kentuckian. I grew up in the southeastern part of the state and he in the western part. It’s been a joy to get to know him this week and to hear him preach. I can’t remember exactly how he described himself last night, but let’s just say the boy is intense. I didn’t know someone from Kentucky could talk that fast! I love it.

So after listening to him for a couple of days, it just so happened that I needed to listen to a bit of my most recent sermon from last week from Hebrews 13. I don’t listen to myself often, it’s actually a good practice for the sake of evaluation. But after listening to Matt, I sound, well, different than Matt.

At any rate, my good friend Rick Lin asked about my sermon’s being recorded so here’s my message from last Wednesday evening. It took us a few days to get it posted due to some computer issues and in fact, it starts about a minute or two late, so it misses the intro. The recording level is also a little strange at the beginning, but that gets adjusted within the first minute.

I’m also posting in my notes from the sermon here. They may not make a lot of sense, as they are just my bulleted points, but they are there if you want to see them.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Serving the world from home

Sitting this morning in my very comfortable home office, I am shaken by my reading in Operation World of the obscure (to me) ethnic and religious diversities of the regions around Chechnya in Russia. The tremendous poverty and unemployment, along with ethnic and religious violence among people’s of which I’ve previously never heard have captured my imagination. I don’t want to be guilty of what David Brooks speaks of, that is, Americans enjoying and complementing themselves on having sympathetic feelings toward people who are hurting but doing nothing whatsoever to make a difference in those circumstances. The first step I am taking is to get more serious about praying using the Operation World guide and signing up for the daily email from their site. I don’t know what else to do today, but I draw some encouragement from today’s entry from Oswald Chambers that it is up to God’s sovereignty to determine from where I am to minister.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A prayer for effectiveness

The best way that I know how to learn to pray is to prayer the prayers contained in scripture. Recently, I discovered Heb. 13:20-21 as a prayer to add to my arsenal of scriptures to use in learning to pray and in praying for people.
Hebrews 13:20–21 (ESV) 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
It is actually a benediction, which is a form of prayer, spoken by the writer of Hebrews over his readers. It begins and ends with a word of worship, as I think much good praying does. This prayer can be prayed word for word or just like the Lord’s Prayer, can also be used as a pattern, launching you into more prayer from the outline it provides. In that manner, you could use it as a guide, first to worship God specifically as the God of peace and to mediate through prayer on what the means. Then, moving to the next phrase, focus on the action of God raising Jesus from the dead. This rehearsal in your mind of things you already know is not a mindless rote activity. Rather, it is where worship begins. Our hearts cool to the stupendous reality of who God is and what he has done. But as we rehearse these truths, the ground is set for our minds and hearts to reawaken to the glory and power of what we often so easily pass over. This creates the possibility of generating new love and fresh awe of God, which leads to more worship and more trust in the one to whom we pray, which provides powerful motivation to continue. You can further mine each phrase of the prayer as a source for mediation and worship.

However, the specific thing I want to note here is the crux of his prayer for the people in v. 21 that God would “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” If you stop on the first phrase of the prayer that God would “equip you with everything good,” that could easily slip into a shallow prayer essentially for the American dream, “God, please bless me with everything good.” However, that’s not what it says. Rather the writer prays that God may, “equip you with everything good that you may do his will.” (italics mine) It is a prayer that God would provide everything needed to be able to accomplish what he calls us to do. This text is a reminder that you and I should not presume that God is doing this, but rather we are to ask for it. Jesus said in John 15:4-5 “without me you can do nothing.” This prayer in Hebrews 13 is a practical outgrowth of Jesus’ statement in John 15 and praying the Hebrews prayer faithfully for each other is the right action to remind us of that reality. If God does not provide what we need in spiritual power, ideas, giftedness, and initiative, “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” then we cannot please God and we cannot accomplish his kingdom purposes. We may be doing activities that look like ministry, but in the end they will burn up  (1 Cor. 3:10-15) and will accomplish no kingdom good.

So, we need you to take up this weapon of prayer and pray it faithfully for those within your sphere of prayer responsibility. The need has never been greater for God’s people to not just be busy doing church, but to be effective in ministry for God’s sake.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gratitude as a conflict management strategy

Why is it that in some cases it is not until a person dies before we are genuinely willing to reflect on what they mean to us? It's easy to get frustrated with people, to be irritated at folks because of both little things and big things. Then, when that person comes to mind, it’s the irritations we remember and not the things we value about this person. In contrast think about how remarkable Paul’s brief statement is about the Ephesians recorded here in chapter 1 of his letter to them. Ephesians 1:16 (ESV) 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,

Following Paul's example could greatly alleviate most any relational problem. Try this: For the sake of shocking your system, when you are frustrated with someone, imagine their funeral, and reflect on what we would say if called upon to speak on this topic: “here is what I will miss about my friend.” Whatever that is, that is the very material for which we you can now express gratitude to God. Let's focus on those things about each other, let’s not cease giving thanks for the people in our life and what they bring to our lives that we would miss and let us not cease remembering them in our prayers.