9 Fairgrounds Road Plymouth, NH 03264 (603) 536-3043

Our Pastor's Page

Hello, 

Thanks for checking our website.  My hope for this page will be to periodically post quotes, thoughts, articles, or questions for our consideration.  I am not interested in always providing an answer, but maybe just getting a conversation going.  We will experiment and see what happens.  Thanks for joining in, I am both nervous and excited about this adventure.

 Blessings,

Dennis Simmons
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​What Am I Reading? A weekly series.

9-18-17

The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge 

"Here is an important distinction with far-reaching implications for Christian behavior. The deeds of Christians in this present time--however insignificant they may seem, however "vain" they may appear to those who value worldly success--are already being built into God's advancing kingdom. In other words, Christians do not simply look to the cross of Christ with prayerful reverence. We are set in motion by its power, energized by it, upheld by it, guaranteed by it, secured by it for the promised future because it is the power of the creating Word that "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Romans 4:17). Our labor is not only "not in vain" but also has eternal significance because it is being built into God's future in ways that we presently see "through a glass, darkly," but in the fullness of time, "face to face" (1 Cor. 13:12)."  page 14


9-11-17

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson

 

"Having been "raised to live with Christ," we are then commanded to do these three things: "aspire to the realm above, where Christ is," "put to death those parts...which belong to the earth," and "put on the garments that suit God's chosen people". These are the things that provide Christ areas of our activity that our neighbors can observe.

If I read Paul right, I see little or not interest here in Christian performance as such. He is not concerned that we make a good record. The Christ life is no cheap legalism, no grim custodian of the rules of God.

Thomas a Kempis, in what may be the most read book on what we are talking about, The Imitation of Christ, wrote this parting challenge for us: "So many people are kept back from spiritual growth, and from tacking their faults in earnest, by one single fault--running away from difficulties; we don't like a tussle." "The devil does not sleep, nor is the flesh yet dead; therefore, you must never cease your preparation for battle.

And then he prays this prayer: "O Lord! make that possible to me by grace, which I find impossible by nature." page 311-312.

 


9-4-17

As Kingfishers Catch Fire  by Eugene Peterson

 

"Here is what Mark is doing. He is telling us that now we are at the hard part, that this is not going to be easy. It wasn't easy for Mary Magdalene. It wasn't easy for Mary, the mother of James. It wasn't easy for Salome. And it isn't going to be easy for you.

Up to now, everything was easier that this: getting in on the healing, listening to the teaching, following Jesus to Jerusalem, experiencing the terrible sufferings, watching Jesus die, coming to the tomb to care for Jesus's dead body. Taking your children to Sunday School, attending church, deciding to live a Christ-attentive life, loving the neighbor you don't like. Not that any of that is a piece of cake, but it was easier than this.

The picture has suddenly changed radically. This is not simply a continuation of what they had experienced previously. This is different: God is alive and present in Jesus and in you. Nothing they did accounts for this. Nothing we do accounts for this. They are not in charge. We are not in charge. They are not in control. We are not in control. They are not customers getting from Jesus what they want. We are not customers getting from Jesus what we want. We are not tourists visiting holy places with Jesus as our tour guide.

Resurrection turns the tables. No longer am I doing something for God; God is doing something for me. No longer am I drawn by need or curiosity to God; God is drawn by comparison and love to me, whether I'm ready for him or not.

The Easter resurrection is the dividing point between a consumer religion and a gracious gospel. This is the event that separates us into two groups; the people who want God to give them something, and the people who find out what God wants to give to them. The people who want to get some meaning into their lives by running a few errands for God, in contrast to the people who are willing to let God work his salvation in them. The people who come to church to tell God what he must do to improve their living conditions, in contrast to the people who come to church to let God tell them how to live in love and faith and hope.

There is nothing wrong with wanting something from God or doing things for God or telling God what is on our minds. But there comes  a point when we realize that God is for us, loose and alive in our lives and our world, and he is the One we must simply believe and obey and worship and adore. This is what I want to call the resurrection fulcrum, the tipping point from being occupied with yourself to paying attention to the God who is occupied with you. This is the point marked by Easter morning and all our subsequent Sundays. Now the preliminaries are over; the play begins. The race starts. Eternal life is launched. Are you ready for this? Is it going to be yes or no?"  page 265-266


8-22-17

Sunday quotes:

Mash-up of several sentences from Warren Wiersbe “These were certainly ordinary tasks to do while a miracle is taking place! But God often joins the miraculous with the ordinary just to encourage us to keep in balance. Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish, but then commanded His disciples to gather up the leftovers. Even in miracles, God is always practical. God alone can do the extraordinary, but His people must do the ordinary.”

“So I find it incredible beautiful and encouraging that through Scripture we get to learn and know about Abraham and Moses, David and Solomon, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Peter and James and John, Paul and Barnabas, and a servant girl named Rhoda!”

“The church needs to be fervently praying for the miraculous while staying balanced with realistic expectations, while we live out the everyday necessities.” (my thought—asking church to let it simmer and think this through. Is this on the right track?) What am I reading?

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson “Everything  Jesus said and did was done in a place, just as everything we do is done in a place. All living is local: this land, this neighborhood, these trees and streets and houses, this workplace, these people. One of the seductions that interferes with mature Christian living is the construction of utopias, ideal places where we can live the good life totally without inconvenience. The imagining and then attempted construction of such utopias is an old habit of our kind. But it always turns out that we can’t actually do it. Utopia is literally “no place.” We can only live our lives in an actual place, not in an imagined or fantasized place.” Page 223 “Jesus then elaborated on what he had just said. Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”  page 227 “The old term for this reimagined, replacement god is idolatry. It is without question the most popular religion in town, any town, and it always has been. In previous generations these idolatry-gods were made of wood and stone, of gold and silver. More often these days they are made of words and ideas, abstractions and principles. But the common elements that define them as idols is that they are non-human, non-personal, non-relational. But idolatry always backfires. In the attempt to become more than human, to be godlike, we become less human, nonhuman: Those who make idols and all who trust them shall become like them (Psalm 135:18). You’d think we would learn. As we cultivate a relationship with God, we need to be wary of god-fantasies so we don’t end up less human, less personal, less relational, less than who we were created to be.” Page 229

 

8-15-17

Getting Involved with God by Ellen Davis

 

"Movies and television, even modern novels have taught us to expect dramatic scene painting, psychological probing, explosive exchanges. But the Bible tells a story like Rembrandt etches one. You have to slow down and look closely to see much of anything at all, and then let your heart dwell on what you see....But it is a completely different reading of the story that Rembrandt drew later, when he himself had lost children, and was a father to an only son. Now Isaac kneels beside the seated Abraham, who is cradling his head, covering the boy's eyes with one hand. An older woman, gazing at this etching, said, "If I had to kill my child, this is how I would do it." This time the angel stands behind Abraham with wings outspread. If Rembrandt earlier painted a barely divine messenger boy, now he draws a strong, sheltering figure, who cradles Abraham as he cradles his son. This is the moment of release from God's demand. But it comes too late for Abraham to feel relief. He seems not even to see the angel, not does he look at the boy. He has the unfocused stare, the ravaged expression of someone who has survived something unspeakable. Rembrandt shows us just what it costs Abraham to be fully responsive to God and fully responsive to his son. It costs, in T. S. Eliot's phrase, "not less than everything."   page 57-58

 

Patience with God by Tomas Halik

 

"Ronald Rolheiser warns that faith divorced from the life of a specific historical church community can rapidly slip into the realm of personal fantasy and projections of our own desires. "Away from actual, historical community, whatever its faults, we have an open field to live an unchallenged life, to make religion a private fantasy that we can selectively share with a few like-minded individuals who will never confront us where we most need challenge. The churches are compromised, dirty and sinful, but, just like our blood families, they are also real. In the presence of people who share life with us regularly, we cannot lie, especially to ourselves, and delude ourselves into thinking we are generous and noble. In community the truth emerges and fantasies are dispelled." In Rolheiser's view, standoffishness toward the church on account of its faults is often merely an excuse and a rationalization: in reality, people want to preserve their illusions about themselves but sense that in the church--just as in the family--they might lose them. Rolheiser includes in his analysis a very useful list of the common false expectations that people often associate with the church and that inevitably lead to frustrations and disappointments: the church cannot offer either a substitute for family intimacy, or a tight-knit club of like-minded people, or an elite of saints, etc. I too consider our culture's frequent tendency to make the church the culprit and main cause of our problems in religious life to be a facile and shortsighted excuse, much like the trend to blame parents, society, etc., for all the faults and problems of the young. What Charles Sykes wrote about America being a "nation of victims"--with everyone seeking the cause of problems anywhere else but in themselves: in others and external circumstances--applies just as much, if not more, to present-day Europe, and is certainly reflected in attitudes toward the church."  page 74-75 

 
8-8-17
 

From Tablet to Table by Leonard Sweet 

"Relationships are not like mirrors, where everything you see is really about you. Relationships are like meals, where you feed yourself while feeding each other." page 59

 

"Jesus didn't sell the food of his Father. He issued invitations to the table. In fact, Jesus' favorite image for the kingdom of God is a banquet where everyone is sitting around a table." page 67

  

You know, that horrific blue message that states “system failure.”  It’s only natural. We’ve had 2000 years of reformation, renovation, revival, and restoration. The Church has adapted and adopted, reframed and refreshed, changed and converted.

The problem?  Most of these alterations and assimilations were reflections of wider, emerging cultural contexts.  Constantine’s church looked like Rome. Luther’s church looked like the academy.  And the American church looks eerily like our political, commercial, and entertainment institutions.  Like with a well-used computer, we’ve added hardware, software, and firewalls, but every computer eventually says “enough.”

Rick Chromey


8-1-17

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson "When we first encounter God's saving love, it may well overwhelm us. But over a period of years, it becomes a familiar part of the landscape, one religious item among many others. The vocabulary of salvation becomes hackneyed, reduced to a level of valentine-card verse. Whenever we are associated with greatness over a long period of time, there is a tendency in us to become stale. We lose, in the language of Revelation, our first love. We preserve its importance by assigning the event a date on the calendar. The form is honored, but the intimacy is lost. Praying, the most personal aspect of life, becomes riddled with clichés, a sure indication that it has ceased being personal. "  page 174-175

 

Patience with God The story of Zacchaeus continuing in us  by Tomas Halik "There are definitely as many types of atheism as there are belief. There is a frivolous atheism, which, like Esau, sells its heritage of faith for a mess of pottage. There is a "forgetting about God" that immediately crams the space vacated with substitute idols of every kind. There is a haughty atheism for which "God must not exist" lest He eclipse the immensity of the human ego that seeks to take control of the deity's throne: "If there were gods, how could I bear not to be a god?" There is a liberating atheism that has finally gotten rid of its imaginary god, its own projection, which terrorized it for years. There is also a sad and painful atheism: "I would like to believe, but there is so much bitterness within me because of my own suffering and the world's pain that I am unable to." page 41

 

​7-11-17 Apologies for the late posting

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson 
s other than we are. Holy is a word that sets something apart. That which is holy is not derived from something we are or have. It cannot be related to something we know. It is "other than." It comes from outside. God is not a projection of our imaginations, not wish fulfillment, not a childish fantasy. God is holy.

> At the same time "the whole earth is full of his glory." If holy describes God as way beyond anything we can imagine or approach, glory describes that which is here, close, evidential. I can see glory, touch it, weigh it. Glory is Hebrew literally means "weighty," something that has substance to it." Page 122

 

The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe

 

"The Jews were blind to the simple faith of Abraham and the patriarchs, and they had cluttered it with man-made traditions that made salvation a matter of good works, not faith."

"God repeatedly disciplined His people and sent them prophets to warn them, until finally He carried them off to Babylon where they were finally cured of idolatry."

"The Jewish defense of their temple was both illogical and unscriptural."

"Man's dead traditions had replaced God's living truth."

"For Israel, Stephen's death meant condemnation. This was their third murder: they had permitted John the Baptist to be killed; they had asked for Jesus to be killed; and now they were killing Stephen themselves. When they allowed Herod to kill John, the Jews sinned against God the Father who had sent John. When they asked Pilate to crucify Jesus, they sinned against God the Son. When they stoned Stephen, Israel sinned against the Holy Spirit who was working in and through the Apostles. Jesus said that this sin could never be forgiven. Judgment finally came in A.D. 70 when Titus and the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the temple."
In 1948, Auca martyr Jim Elliot wrote in his journal, "I seek not a long life, but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus." Two years later, he wrote: "I must not think it strange if God takes in youth those whom I would have kept on earth till they were older. God is peopling Eternity, and I must not restrict Him to old men and women." Like Stephen, Jim Elliot and his four comrades were called on January 8, 1956, to "people Eternity" as they were slain by the people they were seeking to reach. What has happened to the Aucas since then is proof that the blood of the martyrs is indeed the seed of the church. Many Aucas are now Christians. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).


​7-5-17 (late in posting this)

Run with the Horses  by Eugene Peterson

 

"Jeremiah, before he was born, was enlisted on God's side in this war. He wasn't given a few years in which to look around and make up his mind which side he would be on, or even whether he would join a side at all. He was already chosen as a combatant on God's side. And so are we all. No one enters existence as a spectator. We either take up the life to which we have been consecrated or we traitorously defect from it. We cannot say, "Hold it! I am not quite ready. Wait until I have sorted things out."

For a long time all Christians called each other "saints." They were all saints regardless of how well or how badly they lived, of how experienced or inexperienced they were. The word saint did not refer to the quality or virtue of their acts, but to the kind of life to which they had been chosen, life on a battlefield. It was not a title given after a spectacular performance, but a mark of whose side they were on. The word saint is the noun form of the verb consecrated that gave spiritual shape to Jeremiah even before he had biological shape.

In the neighborhood where I lived when I was in the first grade, all the children were older than I. When we had neighborhood games and chose up sides, I was always the last one chosen. One time--it probably happened more than once, but this once sticks in my memory--after everyone else had been chosen, I was left standing in the middle between the two teams. The captains argued over who was going to have to choose me. Having me, I suddenly realized, was a liability. As the argument raged between them I went from being a zero to a minus.

But not with God. Not a zero. Not a minus. I have a set-apart place that only I can fill. No one can substitute for me. No one can replace me. Before I was good for anything. God decided that I was good for what he was doing. My place in life doesn't depend how well I do in the entrance examination. My place in life is not determined by what market there is for my type of personality.

God is not to win the world in love and each person has been selected in the same way that Jeremiah was, to be set apart to do it with him. He doesn't wait to see how we turn out to decide to choose or not to choose us. Before we were born he chose us for his side--consecrated us."  Page 41-42

 



​6-28-17

 

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson

 

"The prophets purge our imaginations of this world's assumptions on how life is lived and what counts in life. Over and over again, God the Holy Spirit uses these prophets to separate his people from the cultures in which they live and to put them back on the path of simple faith and obedience and worship in defiance of all that the world admires and rewards. Prophets train us in discerning the difference between the ways of the world and the ways of the gospel, keeping us present to the presence of God.

We don't read many pages into the Prophets before realizing there was nothing easygoing about them. Prophets were not popular figures. They never achieved celebrity status. They were decidedly uncongenial to the temperaments and dispositions of the people with whom they lived. And the centuries have not mellowed them. It's understandable that we should have a difficult time coming to terms with them. They aren't particularly sensitive to our feelings. They have very modest, as we would say, "relational skills." We like leaders, especially religious leaders, who understand our problems ("come along side us" is one idiom for it), leaders with a touch of glamour, leaders who look good on posters and television.

The unrelenting reality is that prophets don't fit into our way of life. For a people who are accustomed to fitting God into our lives or, as we like to say, "making room for God," the prophets are hard to take and easy to dismiss. The God of whom the prophets speak is far too large to fit into our lives. If we want anything to do with God, we have to fit into God.

The prophets are not reasonable, accommodating, themselves to what makes sense to us. They are not diplomatic, tactfully negotiating themselves to what makes sense to us. They are not diplomatic, tactfully negotiating and agreement that allows us a say in the outcome. What they do is haul us unceremoniously into a reality far too large to be accounted for by our explanations and expectations. They plunge us into mystery, immense and staggering.

Their words and visions penetrate the illusions with which we cocoon ourselves from reality. We humans have an enormous capacity for denial and self-deceit. We incapacitate ourselves from dealing with the consequences of sin, from facing judgment, from embracing truth. Then the prophets step in and help us first to recognize and then to enter the new life God has for us, the life that opens up hope in God.

The prophets don't explain God. They shake us out of old conventional habits of small-mindedness and trivializing god-gossip. They set us on our feet in wonder and obedience and worship. If we insist on understanding them before we live into them, we will never get it.

Basically, the prophets did two things. First, they worked to get people to accept the worst not as a religious catastrophe or a political disaster but as God's judgment, and that not as punishment but as a way of setting things right. It can only be embraced, not denied or avoided, for God is good and intends our salvation. So judgment, because it is God's judgment, while certainly not what we human beings anticipate in our planned future, can never be the worst that can happen. We can see it as part of God's way of setting things right again, for it is the work of God to set the world-and us-right.

The second major work of the prophets was to get people who were beaten down to open themselves up to hope in God's future, to get them on their feet again. In the wreckage of exile and death and humiliation and sin, the prophet ignited the hope of opening their lives to the new work of salvation that God is working toward at all times and everywhere."   page 115-117

 

6-12-17

Here is the reading for this week. Along with a link to the Alliance Council videos.
 
https://livestream.com/accounts/3964833/events/7296025

 

The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe

 

"There must be conviction before a sinner can experience conversion. Unless a patient is convinced that he is sick, he will never accept the diagnosis or take the treatment. Peter turned the temple into a courtroom and laid all the evidence our for everybody to see.  How could two ordinary fishermen perform such a great miracle unless God was with them? Nobody would dare deny the miracle because the beggar stood there before them all in "perfect soundness."  To accept the miracle would have been to admit that Jesus Christ is indeed the living Son of God and that His name has power."  
 

"Peter's burden was to encourage his people to trust Christ and experience His gracious salvation."

 

"True repentance is admitting that what God says is true, and because it is true, to change our mind about our sins and about the Savior."

 

"But notice that Peter did not permit the "national blessings" to overshadow the personal responsibility of the individuals listening to his message. God raised up Jesus Christ and sent Him to each one who would turn away from his iniquities. National repentance depends on personal repentance, the response of individual sinners to the message of salvation. Peter was addressing a large crowd, but he still made the application personal. His message produced two opposite results: (1) some 2,000 Jews believed the Word and were converted, and (2) the religious leaders of the nation rejected the message and tried to silence the Apostles. We have here the beginning of the persecution about which Jesus had already warned His followers."

 

"Whenever God blesses, Satan shows up to oppose the work and silence the witness; and often he uses religious people to do his work. The same crowd that opposed the ministry of Jesus Christ also opposed the work of the Apostles, and they will oppose our ministry today. Expect it--but don't let it stop you! The important thing is not that we are comfortable, but that the name of the Lord is glorified through the preaching of the Gospel."

 

"The early church had none of the "advantages"  that some ministries boast of and depend on today. They did not have big budgets provided by wealthy donors. Their pastors lacked credentials from the accepted schools, nor did they have the endorsement of the influential political leaders of that day. Most of their ministers had jail records and would probably have a hard time today joining our churches, let alone leading them. What really was the secret of their success? This chapter provides the answer: the Christians of the early church knew how to pray so that God's hand could work in mighty power."

 

"Prayer is not an escape from responsibility; it is our response to God's ability. True prayer energizes us for service and battle."

 

"Miracles are not a substitute for the Word of God."

 

"There is little sense of urgency and danger because most of us are comfortable in our Christian walk."

 

"Their praying was based solidly on the Word of God, in this case, Psalm 2. The Word of God and prayer must always go together. In His Word, God speaks to us and tells us what He wants to do. In prayer, we speak to Him and make ourselves available to accomplish His will. True prayer is not telling God what to do, but asking God to do His will in us and through us. It means getting God's will done on earth, not man's will done in heaven."

"They did not pray to have their circumstances changed or their enemies put out of office. Rather, they asked God to empower them to make the best use of their circumstances and to accomplish what He had already determined."

"Do not pray for easy lives," wrote Phillips Brooks. Pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks." That is the way the early Christians prayed, and that is the way God's people should pray today."

"They did not ask for protection; they asked for power. They did not ask for fire from heaven to destroy the enemy, but for power from heaven to preach the Word and heal the sick. Their great desire was for boldness in the face of opposition. The emphasis is on the hand of God at work in the life of the church, not the hand of man at work for God. Believing prayer releases God's power and enables God's hand to move."

 

"The glory of God, not the needs of men, is the highest purpose of answered prayer."

"The name of Jesus Christ has not lost its power, but many of God's people have lost their power because they have stopped praying to the sovereign God."

 


5-29-17

Here is the link that I was mentioning yesterday. 

http://www.andrewmackie.com.au/podcasts/eugenepeterson.htm 

 

The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe

 

"It was necessary that twelve men witness at Pentecost to the twelve tribes of Israel, and also that twelve men are prepared to sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes (Luke 22:28-30). From Acts 2-7, the witness was primarily to Israel, "to the Jew first". Once the message had gone to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11), this Jewish emphasis began to decline. When the Apostle James was martyred, he was not replaced (Acts 12). Why? Because the official witness to Israel was now completed and the message was going out to Jews and Gentiles alike. There was no more need for 12 Apostles to give witness to the twelve tribes of Israel."

 

"We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God. Vance Havner made that statement and he was right. The early church had none of the things that we think are so essential for success today--buildings, money, political influence, social status--and yet the church won multitudes to Christ and saw many churches established throughout the Roman world. Why? Because the church had the power of the Holy Spirit energizing its ministry. They were a people who "were ignited by the Spirit of God."

 

"On the Feast of Firstfuits, the priest waved a sheaf of grain before the Lord; but on Pentecost, he presented two loaves of bread. Why? Because at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit baptized the believers and united them into one body. The Jewish believers received this baptism at Pentecost, and the Gentile believers in the home of Cornelius (Acts 10). This explains the presence of two loaves of bread (see 1 Cor. 10:17). The fact that there was leaven (yeast) in the loaves indicates the presence of sin in the church on earth. The church will not be perfect until it gets to heaven. We must not conclude that this ten-day prayer meeting brought about the miracles of Pentecost, of that we today may pray as they did and experience "another Pentecost." Like our Lord's death at Calvary, Pentecost was a once-for-all event that will not be repeated. The church may experience new fillings of the Spirit, and certainly patient prayer is an essential element to spiritual power, but we would not ask for another Pentecost any more than we would ask for another Calvary."

 

"As we study the events of Pentecost, it is important that we separate the accidentals from the essentials. The Spirit came and the people heard the sound of rushing wind and saw tongues of fire. The Spirit baptized and filled the believers, and then spoke as they praised God in various languages. The Spirit empowered Peter to preach, and then he convicted the listeners so that 3,000 of them trusted Christ and were saved. Let's consider these ministries one by one."

 

"Why did God do this? For one thing, Pentecost was a reversal of the judgment at the Tower of Babel when God confused man's language. God's judgment at Babel scattered the people, but God's blessing at Pentecost united the believers in the Spirit. At Babel, the people were unable to understand each other; but at Pentecost, men heard God's praises and understood what was said. The Tower of Babel was a scheme designed to praise men and make a name for men, but Pentecost brought praise to God. The building of Babel was an act of rebellion, but Pentecost was a ministry of humble submission to God. What a contrast!"

 

"The Christians you meet in the Book of Acts were not content to meet once a week for "services as usual." They met daily, cared daily, won souls daily, searched the Scriptures daily, and increased in number daily. Their Christian faith was a day-to-day reality, not a once-a-week routine. Why? Because the risen Christ was a living reality to them, and His resurrection power was at work in their lives through the Spirit. The promise is still good: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Have you called? Have you trusted Jesus Christ to save you?" 

 

5-27-17

Faithful Presence by David Fitch

" Kingdom prayer brings people together around places, circumstances, and social structures, and opens space for Christ's presence to become real. In the space of his presence, we can now respond to God as witnesses. We invite people into the resulting fellowship, reconciliation, proclamation of the gospel, economic sharing, and flourishing that comes when people submit to the King. Our presence tending to his presence undermines the systems of violence and resists the powers of the enemy. Kingdom prayer embodies what it means to be faithfully present to his presence in the world."

 

 The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe "The Book of Acts is also the account of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church."

 "When you read the four Gospels, you discover that the Apostles had a strongly political view of the kingdom and were especially concerned about their own positions and privileges. Being loyal Jews, they longed for the defeat of their enemies and the final establishment of the glorious kingdom under the rule of King Messiah. They did not realize that there must be a spiritual change in the hearts of the people."

 "No matter where we live, as Christians we should begin our witness at home and then extend it "into all the world." As Dr. Oswald J Smith used to say, "The light that shines the farthest will shine the brightest at home."

 

A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf

"Consequently, human beings flourish and are truly happy when they center their lives on God, the source of everything that is true, good, and beautiful. As to all created things, they too ought to be loved. But the only way to properly love them and fully and truly enjoy them is to love and enjoy them "in God."

"Earlier on I noted that when the scope of love diminishes, love itself disappears; benevolence and beneficence mutate into the pursuit of self-interest. Something similar happens to hope, which is understandable if hope is love stretching itself into the future of the beloved object, as I have suggested at the beginning of this chapter. So when love shrinks to self-interest, and self-interest devolves into the experience of satisfaction, hope disappears as well. As Michael Oakeshort rightly insists, hope depends on finding some "end to be pursued more extensive than a merely instant desire."

"Western churches have a past they like to boast about but a future they seem to dread."

"For Christians, giving witness is a key way of sharing wisdom. But what does it mean to witness well? First, a witness is not a tyrant who imposes....Second, a witness is not a merchant who sells....Third, as witnesses, Christians are not mere teachers who instruct....Fourth, a witness is not a mere midwife. The great Greek teacher of wisdom Socrates saw himself in the role of a midwife. His task was to help birth the wisdom with which every person was already pregnant. He himself was incidental to the process of acquiring wisdom. According to this view, if a person is sufficiently self-aware, she can find her own way to wisdom, for wisdom resides within her.  Not do with Christ, and not so with a witness to Christ. Christ does not help a person find the wisdom hidden in her own soul; Christ is the wisdom. Consequently, a follower of Christ is a witness to Christ, whose purpose is to direct the attention of a person away from herself to Christ--to the life, death, and resurrection of the Word incarnate, who lived in a specific time and place. Socrates helps a person discover something inside herself, something she knew, had forgotten, and needed to be reminded of; in contrast, a witness to Christ tells a person about something that has occurred outside herself, something about which she must be informed. So a witness points not only away from herself but also away from the person to whom she is giving witness; she points to Christ and the wisdom he was and continues to be."

 

7


5-17-17

The Fourfold Gospel by A.B. Simpson
 

"The secret of a Christlike life lies partly in the deep longing for it. We grow like the ideals that we admire. We reach unconsciously at last the things we aspire to. Ask God to give you a high conception of the character of Christ and an intense desire to be like Him and you will never rest until you reach your ideal."

 

"The Key to any character is to be found in its supreme motive, the great end which it is pursuing, the object for which it is living. We cannot understand conduct by merely looking at facts. We need to grasp the intent that lies behind these facts and incidents, and the supreme reason that controls these actions. When a great crime has been committed, the object of the detective is to establish a reason for it; then everything else can be made plain. The great object for which we are living will determine everything else and explain many things which otherwise might seem inexplicable....The supreme motive of Christ's life was devotion to the will and glory of God."

 

"Like Jesus, therefore, we must expect often to be unpopular, often to stand alone, even to be maligned; perhaps to be bitterly and falsely assailed and driven "without the camp" even of the religious world. Let us not be afraid to be unpopular, and let us never be soured or embittered by it. Let us stand sweetly and triumphantly in the confidence of right and of our Master's approval."

 


5-12-17 (A George error in posting)

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

 

Too often the church does not know how to interface with university culture because it comes to the table only ready to moralize and not dialogue.

 

You never know the terrain someone else has walked to come worship the Lord.

 

How did the Lord heal me? The way he always heals: the Word of God got to be bigger inside me than I.

 

In this crucible of confusion, I learned something important. I learned the rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.

 
5-2-17

The Fourfold Gospel by A.B. Simpson

 

Sanctification is not your own work; it is not a gradual attainment which you can grow into by your own efforts. If you should be able to build such a structure yourself and add to it year after year until it was completed, would you not then stand off with a pardonable pride and look upon it as your own work? No, you cannot grow into sanctification. You will grow after you are in sanctification into a fuller, riper and more mature development of life in Christ, but you must take it at its commencement as a gift, not as a growth. It is an obtainment, not an attainment. you cannot sanctify yourself. The only thing to do is to give yourself wholly to God, a voluntary sacrifice. This is intensely important. It is but a light thing to do for Him. But He must do the work of cleansing and filling. page 21 

Sanctification is not self-perfection. We shall never become so inherently good that there will be no possibility or temptation to sin. We shall never reach a place where we shall not need to abide in Him each moment. The instant we feel able to live without Him, there comes up a separate life within us which is not a sanctified life. page 22 

Sanctification is separation from sin. Sanctification means also dedication to God. Sanctification includes conformity to the likeness of God. Sanctification means conformity also to the will as well as the likeness of God. Sanctification means love, supreme love to God and all mankind. page 23-25

 The heart and soul of the whole matter is seeing that Jesus is Himself our sanctification. page 26

 

​4-27-17 (my aplogies for the delayed posting)

Empowering Missional Disciples by Bob Rognlien "After 25 years I finally began to understand the problem. I had not yet learned to follow the pattern of life Jesus set for us to follow. Jesus never called his followers to attend church services and activities. he didn't command us to invite people to church or develop top-heavy, staff-led programs. Jesus never said the goal was to get more people attending programs. Instead he modeled a way of life for us and called us to follow that way by his grace.  Through that way of life he trained, empowered, and sent his disciples out to bring the Good News of the Kingdom to lost and broken people where they lived. Jesus made disciples, formed a new kind of family, and in so doing built a kingdom movement. He commissioned us to do the same.

My nagging sense of uneasiness in growing a "successful" church was the realization that we were doing none of those things effectively. We had become really good at producing spiritual consumers who liked attending the programs run by our staff and who were willing to support the church financially. The problem was that most of these people were "too busy" to get significantly involved in doing the things Jesus did in the world to seek and save the lost." page 6-7

 


4-18-17

Name above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson

 

"In 1925 Eric Liddell was leaving Scotland to go to China as a missionary teacher. He was both a Scottish Rugby internationalist and an Olympic gold medalist in the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

 

When Eric Liddell boarded his train in Waverly Station, Edinburgh, on the first leg of his journey to China, a vast crowd had gathered to bid him farewell. He was the great sports superstar of his day. Family and friends intermingled with folks just off the street. Liddell lowered the window of his compartment, put his head our of the window, and shouted, "Christ for the world, for the world needs Christ!" And then he led this massive throng in singing the hymn "Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun."

 

Here is the vision of Christ's  reign that the people of God have shared since time immemorial:

 

Jesus shall reign where're the sun

Does his successive journeys run;

His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

 

To Him shall endless prayer be made,

And praises throng to crown His head;

His Name like sweet perfume shall rise

With every morning sacrifice.

 

People and realms of every tongue

Dwell on His love with sweetest song;

And infant voices shall proclaim

Their early blessings on His Name.

 

Blessings abound where're He reigns;

The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;

The weary find eternal rest,

And all the sons of want are blessed.

 

Where He displays His healing power,

Death and the curse are known no more:

In Him the tribes of Adam boast

More blessings than their father lost.

 

Let every creature rise and bring

Peculiar honors to our King;

Angels descend with songs again,

And earth repeat the loud amen!

 

That was the 1920s in Edinburgh. It is now a century later. Jesus Christ was King then. Jesus Christ is still King now. Cheer up, you saints of God. (page 98-99

 
4-10-17

Name above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson

 

"Jesus Christ has been given the name above all names. The names assigned him begin in Genesis and end in Revelation. Taken together they express the incomparable character of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Reflecting on them better prepares us to respond to the exhortations of Scripture, to focus our gaze upon him, and to meditate on how great he is.

Being able to think long and lovingly about the Lord Jesus is a dying art. The disciplines required to reflect on him for a prolonged period of time and to be captivated by him have been relegated to a secondary place in contemporary Christian life. Action, rather than meditation, is the order of the day. Sadly, too often that action is not suffused with the grace and power of Christ.

How different is the example of the apostle Paul--for whom "to live is Christ"--or the author of the letter to the Hebrews, who urges us to "consider Jesus."

We need to learn to recapture such Christ-centeredness in our activist, busy age. Many of us are by nature too impatient. The most common tools of life, used on a daily basis--our computers and all of our technology--simply increase that impatience." page 15-16

 

4-3-17

Faithful Presence Seven Disciplines that shape the church for mission by David Fitch

 

"The drive for control is at the core of the human condition. We live daily with overwhelming uncertainties. Anxiety is the air we breathe in the Western economies. Most people live isolated, vulnerable lives, and so we strive as individuals to secure our existence in every way. We strive to make our finances, our health, our family, and our future predictable. Most of us live under the delusion that we are in control of our lives. As a result, endless striving characterizes existence. Most of us are not aware of how much it's affecting us physically and emotionally.

God can't work amid our striving. Certainly he works around us and despite us. He still gets things done. He is still ultimately sovereign and in control of the world. But as for actually using us in his power and authority, he will not oppose our grabbing and pushing for control. He refuses to steamroll our wills in order to dictate his will in our lives and in the world. God is love. God is patient. God's power can only work through us as we submit to him, let him work, open up space for him. As we gather in his presence, submit to him, and tend to his presence, he then works in all his power. The apostle Paul challenges the Philippians, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Phil. 4:6). Prayer is the opposite of striving and anxiousness. Therefore, in everything we are to resist striving and instead present ourselves before God in prayer. Paul actually separates prayer from petition, putting it first. Prayer, as we will discover, is the profound act of giving up control of a situation, turning it over to the reign of God. Only after we have entered this space can we ask for things. Prayer opens space for his kingdom and for us to participate in his kingdom. I call this discipline kingdom prayer.  Striving is at the core of life in the world. Prayer dislodges us from the striving and opens up space. Then his kingdom is able to move in." page 168-169

 

"Order always comes with the kingdom. The kingdom is the flip side of the coin of God's presence. In this space of kingdom prayer, God reorders lives and the world by his lordship.....Kingdom prayer disciplines us into giving up control and cooperating with what God is doing.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in a few texts from the Gospel of Mark. In Mark 9:14-29 Jesus is descending the Mount of Transfiguration with three of his disciples. When they arrive at the bottom, they discover a commotion.....Later, after all the commotion is over, the frustrated disciples ask him, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" to which Jesus replies, "This kind can come out only by prayer."

Here we see that the disciples were still under the spell that the kingdom is something humans can bring in. They asked, in essence, how come we couldn't cast out this spirit? They believed it was within their power and authority to do so. After calling them faithless, Jesus refers the to the posture of prayer in which they submit this situation to God's reign. This is the foundation of faithful presence. Only in kingdom prayer can we truly prepare ourselves to participate in what God will do. When we try to take a situation upon ourself and do it ourself, we are impotent in the kingdom. The authority of the King will not be present. But submit, to God in this profound way of kingdom prayer and the space is opened for his power and authority to break in." page 169-170


3-28-17

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson 

"When we suffer we attract counselors as money attracts thieves. Everybody has an idea of what we did wrong to get ourselves into such trouble and a prescription for what we can do to get out of it. We are flooded first with sympathy and then with advice, and when we don't come around quickly we are abandoned as a hopeless case. But none of that is what we need. We need hope. We need to know that we are in relation to God. We need to know that suffering is part of what it means to be human and not something alien. We need to know where we are and where God is.

We need an eye specialist rather, than, say, a painter. A painter tries to convey to us with the aid of his brush and palette a picture of the world as he sees it; an ophthalmologist tries to enable us to see the world as it really is. In George MacDonald's novel The Princess and Curdie, when Curdie reaches the castle, he sees the great staircase and knows that to reach the tower he must go farther. The narrator takes the occasion to note that "those who work well in the depths more easily understand the heights, for indeed in their true nature they are one and the same."

For the person who suffers, has suffered or will suffer, Psalm 130 is essential equipment, for it convinces us that the big difference is not in what people suffer but in the way they suffer. ("The same shaking that makes fetid water stink makes perfume issue a more pleasant odor.") The psalm does not exhort us to put up with suffering; it does not explain it or explain it away. It is, rather, a powerful demonstration that our place in the depths is not out of bounds from God. We see that whatever or whoever got us in trouble cannot separate us from God, for "forgiveness is your habit." We are persuaded that God's way with us is redemption and that the redemption, not the suffering, is ultimate.

The "bottom" has a bottom; the heights are boundless. Knowing that, we are helped to go ahead and learn the skills of waiting and watching--hoping!--by which God is given room to work out our salvation and develop

​3-21-17 (computer problems resulting in delayed posting)

"Lord, before I commit a sin, it seems to me so shallow that I may wade through it dry-shod from any guiltiness; but when I have committed it, it often seems so deep that I cannot escape without drowning. Thus I am always in extremities: either my sins are so small that they need not any repentance, or so great that they cannot obtain thy pardon. Lend me, O Lord, a reed out of Thy sanctuary, truly to measure the dimensions of my offences. But O! as Thou revealest to me more of my misery reveal also more of Thy mercy; lest, if my wounds, in my apprehension, gape wider than Thy tents (plugs of lint) my soul run out at them. If my badness seem bigger than thy goodness but one hair's breadth, but one moment, that is room and time enough for me to run to eternal despair." Thomas Fuller


​3-14-17 (my e-mail problem causing late posting)

Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that shape the church for mission. by David Fitch

 

"The discipline of proclaiming the gospel therefore invites the participant to submit, not to the preacher but to Jesus as Lord. This space of his subjects, both proclaimer and hearer, in submission opens the space for his reign, and we are able to hear God. The kingdom breaks in. As opposed to a response of pondering the pastor's eloquent well-crafted words of wisdom 1 Cor. 2:5), proclamation creates the conditions for either submission or rejection. Proclamation cannot be argued or debated, only accepted or rejected.

Often, evangelicals preach a gospel for control freaks. This gospel says, "You have a problem. You're going to hell. Do you want to take care of that problem? Receive Christ's provision for your condemnation." You have now taken care of another problem. You have also remained in control. But proclaiming the gospel is a profoundly decentering experience that places the hearer in submission to God. It is the opposite of being in control. Proclaiming the gospel starts with, "Are you hopeless? Are you caught in a world gone wrong? Have you become caught up in sin? Are you powerless? Are you being destroyed by the world, by injustice? The gospel is that God has come in Jesus Christ and defeated the powers. God has made Jesus Lord. He therefore rules and is working in all of your circumstances, personal and in the world. Will you give up control, submit to Jesus as Lord, and participate in this new world? Will you discern what it means to follow him (and join him) in his work of making the world right? Welcome to his kingdom" page 101-102

 

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

 

03-9-17

The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe

 

Isaiah 58  "God told Isaiah to shout aloud with a voice like a trumpet and announce the sins of the nation. The people went to the temple, obeyed God's laws, fasted, and appeared eager to seek the Lord, but their worship was only an outward show. Their hearts were far from God. When we worship because it is the popular thing to do, not because it is the right thing to do, then our worship becomes hypocritical.

The Jews were commanded to observe only one fast on the annual Day of Atonement, but they were permitted to fast personally if they wished. They complained that nobody seemed to notice what they were doing. Perhaps they were trying to "buy God's blessing" by their fasting. Worshiping God involved more than observing an outward ritual; there must be an inward obedience and submission to the Lord.

If in my religious duties I am doing what pleases me, and if doing it does not make me a better person, then I am wasting my time, and my worship is only sin. Fasting and fighting do not go together! Yet how many families walk piously out of church at the close of a Sunday worship service, get in the family car, and proceed to argue with each other all the way home!

True fasting will lead to humility before God and ministry to others. We deprive ourselves so that we might share with others and do so to the glory of God. If we fast in order to get something for ourselves from God, instead of to become better people for the sake of others, then we have missed the meaning of worship. It delights the Lord when we delight in the Lord."

 

Mark 2 "Jesus had already made it clear that He came to convert the sinners, not to compliment the self-righteous."

"Salvation from sin involves much more than a person knowing about Christ, or even having good feelings toward Christ. Salvation comes when the sinner commits himself or herself to Jesus Christ and says, "I do!" Then the believer immediately enters into the joys of this spiritual marriage relationship: bearing His name; sharing His wealth and power; enjoying His love and protection; and one day living in His glorious home in heaven. When you are "married to Christ," life becomes a wedding feast, in spite of trials and difficulties."

"Jesus taught two important lessons about His ministry: 1) He came to save sinners, not to call the religious; and 2) He came to bring gladness and not sadness. The third lesson is this: He came to introduce the new, not to patch up the old.

The religious leaders were impressed with our Lord's teaching, and perhaps they would have been happy to make some of His ideas a part of their own religious tradition. They were hoping for some kind of compromise that would retain the best of pharisaic Judaism and the best of what Christ had to offer. But Jesus exposed the folly of that approach."

"Jesus fulfilled the prophecies, types, and demands of the Law of Moses. The Law was ended at Calvary when the perfect sacrifice was once offered for the sins of the world. When you trust Jesus Christ, you become part of a new creation, and there are always new experiences of grace and glory. How tragic when people hold on to dead religious tradition when they could lay hold of living spiritual truth. Why cherish the shadows when the reality has come? In Jesus Christ we have the fulfillment of all that God promised."

 



2-22-17

Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura

"Western Christianity in the twentieth century fell into an "adjective" existence, with Christian music, Christian art, Christian plumbers, and so on. Even today artists are often valued in the church only if they create art for the church, or at least "Christian art." We cannot "use" the arts for evangelism or discipleship any more than we can "use" a human being for utilitarian purposes. Culture care will mean moving away from such labels. There is no need to disown these terms absolutely, but we do need to realize that these categories in themselves are concessions to modernist pressures. They are a voluntary surrender to utilitarian pragmatism, and their use leads only to disdain and indifference. Ultimately, these terms undermine our mandate to infuse all of life with Christ's presence.

I am not a Christian artist. I am a Christian, yes, and an artist. I dare not treat the powerful presence of Christ in my life as an adjective. I want Christ to be my whole being. Vincent van Gogh was not a Christian artist either, but in Christ he painted the heavens declaring the glory of God. Emily Dickinson was not a Christian poet, and yet through her honest wrestling, given wings in words, her works--like Vincent's, like Harper Lee's, like Mahalia Jackson's--speak to all the world as integrated visions of beauty against injustice.

It is time for followers of Christ to let Christ be the noun in our lives, to let our whole being ooze out like a painter's colors with the splendor and the mystery of Christ, the inexhaustible beauty that draws people in. It is time to follow the Spirit into the margins and outside the doors of the church." page 84-85

 

2-19-17 (Apologies for late posting) Faithful Presence 7 Disciplines that shape the church for mission by David Fitch  

"The church, I contend, is built on disciplines like this. The church is more than a space where some individuals gather to affirm they believe in something. It is the place where God's people discern his presence and submit to Christ's concrete rule. He has given us disciplines for doing this. Here a new world is born that is nothing less than his kingdom breaking in. Here an incredible faithful presence takes shape." page 32 "But there is no separation between the church and the world as far as God is concerned. Returning to the twofold movement of the Son, God is at work in the whole world, including, but beyond, the church. Yet he is uniquely present in Christ's (incarnation) wherever the church is faithfully present to his work in the world. The church is the extension of Christ's presence in the world, making his reign over the whole world visible." page 39 "Down through the centuries the church has fallen into maintenance mode. It seemingly happens when the church becomes too comfortable in society or when it aligns itself with power. Less concerned with those outside of Christ, the church retreats into itself. More reliant on secular power, it turns to running things efficiently. And when the church likes its power too much and the culture is no longer primarily Christian, the church desperately tries to preserve that power. It defends the close circle at all costs. All this results in maintenance mode.

On the other hand, exhaustion mode happens when Christians leave the close circle behind to work for justice and mission in the world. They may even reject the gathering of Christians in worship altogether (as a reaction to maintenance-oriented churches) and place their focus on being with the hurting, the poor, and the victims of injustice. All of this may appear admirable  at first. But when the half circle is cut off from the close circle, it's difficult for the people to stay within the discerning posture of Christ's presence among the hurting. We are prone to taking matters into our own hands. We become exhausted as Christians. And although we may accomplish many good works of mercy (which is good of itself), in the end we will not bring in Christ's kingdom." page 42-43

 

2-9-17

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander "In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold." Page 21

 

Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura

"Culture care is to provide care for our culture's "soul," to bring to our cultural home our bouquet of flowers so that reminders of beauty--both ephemeral and enduring--are present in even the harshest environments where survival is at stake. We may need to learn to cultivate these reminders of beauty in the same way flowers are cared for and raised. Culture care restores beauty as a seed of invigoration into the ecosystem of culture. Such care is generative: a well-nurtured culture becomes an environment in which people and creativity thrive." page 22

 

Gerard Manley Hopkins The Major Works

'As kingfishers catch fire'

 As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;

     As tumbled over rim in roundy wells

     Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name; Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

     Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

     Selves--goes its self; myself it speaks and spells, Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

 

I say more: the just man justices;

     Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces; Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is--

     Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in Limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

     To the Father through the features of men's faces.


1-31-17

Fruitfulness on the Frontline:

"The Tower of Babel was an impressive construction project, but it was a job done in direct defiance of God's will. The ark was an impressive construction project, but it was a task done in direct obedience to God's will. Everything we do is meant to have God's logo on it, to be God-honoring. And he doesn't put his logo on tasks with which he has nothing to do." Mark Greene page 95

 

"God the King of the universe doesn't have to forgive us our outrageous rebellions, he doesn't have to send his Son to die for us, he doesn't have to send his Spirit to comfort, counsel, change us. He doesn't have to lavish on us the incomparable riches of his grace (Eph. 2:7). Indeed, such is his grace, his personal care, that it expresses itself not only in big things but in little things. Indeed, perhaps sometimes  when we think of 'ministry', we set the bar far too high. It's as if it has to be some evangelistic initiative or some major project--looking after the homeless, working with teenagers, counseling someone or staying up all Saturday night to help clubbers out of the gutter...praise God for all of that. But at root, ministry just means serving others.

Ministry is love in action: taking a moment to engage with the checkout person, noticing the 'invisible' people, saying thank you to the caretaker of your kid's school or the cleaner in the changing room at the gym, or getting g up early once in a while to say 'thank you' to the people who empty your bins, calling someone and just asking if there's anything you can pick up from the shops when you go..." page 101


1-25-17

Herman Bavinck The Christian Family

"All good, enduring reformation begins with ourselves and takes its starting point in one's own heart and life. If family life is indeed being threatened from all sides today, then there is nothing better for each person to be doing than immediately to begin reforming within one's own circle and begin to rebuff with the facts themselves the sharp criticisms that are being registered nowadays against marriage and family. Such a reformation immediately has this in its favor, that it would lose no time and would not need to wait for anything. Anyone seeking deliverance from the state must travel the lengthy route of forming a political party, having meetings, referendums, parliamentary debates, and civil legislation, and it is still unknown whether with all that activity he will achieve any success. But reforming from within can be undertaken by each person at every moment, and be advanced without impediment."

 

Benjamin Zander   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LCwI5iErE

 

"I walked out of Auschwitz into life and I made a vow: I will never say anything that couldn't stand as the last thing I will ever say. We can't do this but it is a possibility to live in to."

 

1-18-17

A Gardener Looks at the Fruits of the Spirit by Phillip Keller "Christ comes to us in compassion to implant the see of His own special Word. He endeavors to cultivate the soil of our lives by the inner working of His own gentle Spirit. But He runs into resistance. The soil has been hardened by the impaction of a thousand other passers-by. The trail that has been trodden across my spirit and soul is solidified by the world's ideologies and thoughts. I become conditioned by the culture of my society."  

"If the resources devoted to pleasure were given over instead to Christ's interests in the world, we would indeed by amazed. Congregations would flourish. Churches would be crowded. Missionaries would multiply. The poor would be helped. The downtrodden would be lifted up. The suffering of earth's men and women would be alleviated. And like our Master Himself, many would go about doing this weary old world a great deal of good. Our Father, the Gardener of our lives, looks for friable soil in which to produce such graces. But sad to say, sometimes our days are so packed with pleasure they pass without producing a single fruit of benevolence that will endure throughout eternity. We are too preoccupied."

 "There is a very ancient saying in agriculture that "The finest fertilizer on a gardener's ground are his own footprints."

 The attentive, enthusiastic gardener does not, like strangers and outsiders, limit himself just to the pathways. His feet do not pound and abuse the same places with their persistent passing. Rather he moves gently, tenderly, and carefully over every square foot of ground. He knows each tree, plant, shrub, and flower that flourishes on his land. He literally loves them into abundant profusion and rich production.

 In anyone is to walk through my life, it should be He who tends me, cares for me, knows all about me, and longs to improve the garden of my life. This is none other that God Himself. He is the great and good gardener, the Husbandman who loves me.

 This is a picture of Jesus Christ. By His gracious, kindly Spirit, He moves in our lives sharing His very own life with us. Pouring out His benefits and blessings upon us, He works deep within our spirits to mellow us and make us receptive to His own new life from above. As He introduces the exotic fruits of His own person into the prepared soil of our hearts, there they take root and flourish.

 The final choice as to who or what shall dominate the garden of my life pretty much depends on me. God does not choose my friends, my reading material, my music, my pleasures, my ambitions or my thoughts for me. I do this.

 

The ultimate question simply is : Do I or don't I want to be a pathway person? Will I allow the Master's footprints to enrich the soil of my soul? Or do I prefer to let worldly ways harden my soul against His good plan for my life?" 

 
1-10-2017 Visual Theology by Tim Challies and Josh Byers

 Our responsibility before God is to understand the gifts, the skills and the passions he has given us and to use those in fitting ways--in ways that do good to others and, in turn, bring glory to God.

 There is a clear flow here: God gives us gifts; we use our gifts to do good to others; and through it all, God gets glory.

 Perhaps no contemporary Christian has done more to rediscover and celebrate the waning concept of vocation than Gene Edward Veith. Through his books and a host of articles, he has told Christians what their forebears already knew: The doctrine of vocation tells Christians how to live in this world. But it goes farther than that, to explain how God is at work in this world. He is at work through the people he has created. "When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And he does. The way he gives us our daily bread is through the vocations of farmers, millers, and bakers. We might add truck drivers, factory workers, bankers, warehouse attendants, and the lady at the checkout counter. Virtually every step of our whole economic system contributes to that piece of toast you had for breakfast. And when you thanked God for the food that he provided, you were right to do so."

 When you thank God for a piece of toast, you are not only thanking him for the food you are about to eat, but for the people, the skills, and the processes that got it from the field to the plate. You are acknowledging that God has provided through these remarkable means.
 

 3 Important points of application that provide essential guidance as you live for Christ in this world: You have many vocations, vocation brings dignity, vocation leads to worship.

  

Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers

 Why Work?

It may well seem to you--as it does to some of my acquaintances--that I have a sort of obsession about this business of the right attitude to work. But I do insist upon it, because it seems to me  that what becomes of civilization after this was is going to depend enormously on our being able to effect this revolution in our ideas about work. Unless we do change our whole way of thought about work, I do not think we shall ever escape from the appalling squirrel cage of economic confusion in which we have been madly turning for the last three centuries or so, the cage in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based upon Envy and Avarice.

 

A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going in a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand.

 

It is always strange and painful to have to change a habit of mind; though, when we have made the effort, we may find a great relief, even a sense of adventure and delight, in getting rid of the false and returning to the true.

 

In nothing has the Church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world's intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least uninterested in religion.

But is it astonishing? How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life? The Church's approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.

http://churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/296924-glorify-god-work-john-piper-desiring-god.html

 https://tifwe.org/dorothy-sayers-a-revolution-in-work/


1-4-2017

Here are some extended thoughts from Ian Duguid on Daniel chapter 3 as discussed on Sunday during the sermon. (Daniel Reformed Expository Commentary)

 

"What is more, the location of the statue was significant, for the Babylonian plain was the location for the building of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:2. The Tower of Babel had a twofold function in the mind of its builders: it was a defiant attempt to make a name for the people who built it as a lasting legacy to their glory, and also to prevent the people from being scattered throughout the earth, as God had decreed. Nebuchadnezzar's statue had the same two goals in mind: it was designed to establish a lasting testimony to his glory and to provide a unifying focus for the kingdom. This is why he summoned not merely local dignitaries but all of the leading officials from throughout his empire--the satraps, the prefects, the govenors, the advisors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the other provincial officials--to gather before the statue for its dedication. This occasion was a public statement that the unity of Nebuchadnezzar's empire was rooted in the common worship of his image, a religious unity which he was willing to enforce with the threat of death if necessary." page 47

 

"For the moment, the whole world was united in bowing to Nebuchadnezzar's statue. The curse of Babel had, it seemed, successfully been reversed." page 49

 

"It is worth noticing that there were only three men in the whole vast crowd who refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar's statue. This highlights the fact that standing up for God will often be a lonely activity. There are times in every life when to do what is right we cannot simply hide in the crowd; we have to stand more or less alone. Sometimes it will seem that the whole world is watching, as when Martin Luther stood before the church authorities at the Diet of Worms. Called upon to abandon his commitment to justification by faith alone before gathering of the Catholic authorities, Luther boldly declared, "Unless I am convincted by Scripture and plain reason...my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen" Luther's example shows us that at times we may even have to stand alone for what is right within the church itself. At other times, however, no one outside our immediate cirlce of acquaintences will ever be aware of whether we stand up for our faith or crumple under pressure. Our testimony for the faith may seem completely unobserved. Yet in either case--whether the human crowd of watchers is large or small--we should not forget that the most important audience, God himself, will always be watching us. He always observes our faithful testimony or our craven submission." page 50

 

"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not presume to predict what the outcome would be in their case. If God were our servant, or our accomplice, he would be predictable: he would always do our bidding. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood that since God is sovereign, however, it was his choice whether he opted to be glorified in their deaths or through their dramatic deliverance. Either way, it didn't make a difference to their decision. Whether they were miraculously delivered or left to burn in the fire, they would not compromise their commitment to the Lord. Live or die, they would be faithful to their God." page 53

 

"As a child and a young person, I sometimes used to wonder and worry about what it would be like to be in their position. What would I do, if I were faced with a similar choice between denying Christ and a painful death? I doubted whether I would be so bold in service of the Lord as these young men were; I feared rather that I would cave under the pressure. As I have grown older, however, I have come to realize two things. First, God has not promised to give us the grace to face all of the desperate situations that we might imagine finding ourselves in. He has promised to sustain us only in the ones that he actually brings us into. He therefore doesn't promise that we will be able to imagine how we could go through the fire for his sake, but he does promise that if he leads us through the fire, he will give us sufficient grace at that time. Like manna, grace is not something that we can stored up for later us: each day received its own supply. Second, though, I have also come to see that the same battle is actually being fought out daily in my heart over much lesser issues. Am I going to declare the Lord to be my God, my primary allegiance, come what may, or to me? These idols are not physical statues in our setting of course. They are the various pleasures, the desires, and the attitudes that society tells me I need to have if I am to be fulfilled and lead a worthwhile life. They promise to bless me if I will bow done to them, but to curse me and ruin my life if I fail to meet their demands." page 53

 

"Other idols play their blaring worship music through our unsanctified desires and appetites. We may become obsessed with food or with drink, with sexual satisfaction or with romantic daydreams, because these idols tell us us that if we don't give into them they will leave us burning in the fiery furnance of frustration. There is no gun pointed at our head, but in our case none is needed, for we are often easily cajoled into putting the Lord second to our idol. In fact, our hearts are all the more condemned by the very smallness of the pressure under which we buckle and bow down. Not for us the grand declaration that, come what may, we will never bow down the idols of our hearts. We are not like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Instead, we often slip almost unthinkingly into a daily obeisance to our idol's demands, like the rest of the crowd on the plain of Babylon.

When we do stand up to our idols, though, we had better be prepared to experience their wrath. Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed...he ordered the furnace heated hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie them up and throw them into the furnace. There is a great irony here, to be sure. The ones who obeyed Nebuchadnezzar's commands died, while those whom he condemned to death emerged alive! What a vivid demonstration of Jesus' dictum that "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matt 16:25). The issue is not whether Israel's God can keep his servants alive, but whether Nebuchadnezzar can! In a similar way, our own idols often turn out to be liars, unable to deliver either the rewards that they promise or the judgments they threaten." page 55

 

"They were not merely physically unharmed: their clothing did not even smell of smoke, a powerful testimony to the comprehensiveness of their salvation by God. This experience was a fulfillment of the words the Lord had spoken to his people through the prophet Isaiah two centuries earlier: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they willl not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isa. 43:2). Notice that God didn't promise to to take his people around the waters or to keep the fire far from them. On the contrary, tribulation was the anticipated path for God's saints, then and now (see Acts 14:22). Trials provide the context in which the faith of believers shines with unmatched clarity before the eyes of a watching world, as 1 Peter 1:6-7 makes clear. It is precisely in the furnace that the reality of our faith is displayed most clearly. yet, in the midst of those trials and difficulties, the Lord promised that his people could count on his presence with them, ensuring that their trials would not utterly overwhelm them. The Lord does not stand far off from his people in need: he has promised to be "God with us," Immanuel. As a result , nohting in all creation can seperate us from God's love (Rom. 8:38-39)." page 56-57

 

"The result of Jesus' faithful sacrifice is that in his own flesh he now provides the ultimate answer to Babel's tower and Nebuchadnezzar's idol. What they sought to achieve in vain--making a lasting name for themselves and binding together the peoples, nations, and men of every language in one united worshiping society--is now accomplished by God through Christ. In the church, God brings glory to his name by saving a hopeless and helpless band of ragtag sinners. In the church, men and women from every tribe and nation and language group come together across social, racial, and ethnic lines as the one new people of God. Together, we stand before the throne of the Lamb,a united multitude from all nations, gathered to sing praises to the God of heaven and earth. No one has to tell us to bow before Christ. It is our joy and delight to throw ourselves down at his pierced feet. The cross is the towering symbol that binds God's empire together as one." page 58-59

 

12-14-2016 The Unbelievable Gospel: "One of the things that blurs our vision of the gospel most is an inordinate concern with how others see us.""Reputation means everything to us. A person of "good repute" is someone who has good character. Character is what comes out of people in a pinch. When you squeeze the tube, whatever is inside comes out. Good character or bad character. When the milk is spilt, the character is seen--patient or impatient. So, reputation is a reflection of innate character. It isn't something we finesse or manage; it just becomes visible over time. Character comes before reputation. Unfortunately, we often flip that order. We've put reputation before character. We try to manage what people think about us without cultivating the character to work from....It's called impression management....This idolatry of reputation becomes becomes so strong that we can't imagine our versions being shattered. That would be a kind of death, a blow to our socially constructed source of self-worth....Burk Parsons comments: It may very well be the case that embarrassment is the most feared form of persecution for many Christians today."  Jonathan Dodson pages105-107

​12-7-2016 Planet Narnia: "(The Man Born Blind)...is the earliest piece of prose fiction that we have from the adult Lewis (C.S.) and the only one that antedates his conversion to Christianity. It is brief (less than 2,000 words in length) and tells the tale of how the eponymous protagonist, whose name is Robin, regains his sight after surgery. When the bandages have been removed from his eyes, Robin expects to be able to see the marvelous thing that he has heard about all his life--light. No one can show it to him. He begs his wife to tell him where it is, but she cannot explain to his satisfaction: her attempts to do so only confuse him further. At first she seems to equate light with everything visible, then only with the bulb hanging from the ceiling, then only what comes from the bulb. In despair at these contradictions, Robin leaves the house and walks up to the lip of the local quarry where the rising sun is burning through the morning mist. There he finds an artist who, pointing at the swirling vapour, tells Robin that he is trying to catch the light. The next moment the artist is alone on the quarry edge. Robin has taken a dive into the bright fog and has fallen to his death. 
  The Man Born Blind is a cautionary tale about pursuing to its end the logic of realism as represented by the 'stupidity' of Robin's wife and the 'savagery' of the painter. They have had their sight since birth, yet they cannot explain to a formerly blind man that light is not something you see but something you see by. They keep pointing Robin to things that the light comes from, or that catch the light, of that are in the light, but never tell him that light itself is invisible. To adopt terms from a later work by Lewis, their world is 'all fact and no meaning.' Robin's tragic end is a demonstration of Lewis's new found agreement with Barfield, an agreement that realism left no room for a satisfactory theory of knowledge. Robin fails to learn what Lewis had recently learnt, that thought depends upon a cosmic logos, symbolized here by invisible but ubiquitous light. Robin fixes his mind only on light's products in 'Contemplative,' as opposed to 'Enjoyment,' consciousness (to use Alexander's terms outlined in the previous chapter).  Michael

11-30-16 Name above all Names: We sometimes make an elementary mistake when reading the temptation narratives (The Temptation of Jesus). We assume that their chief purpose is to teach us about our temptations and how we should resist them.  

True, our Lord’s example of resisting his temptations does help us to withstand our temptations. But their point is not to say, “Jesus was tempted, and you are tempted just like him, so respond to temptation as he did.” That would turn his temptations into a mere example for us to emulate. No—we are told that the Holy Spirit led Jesus, indeed “drove him,” into the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus’ temptations were not a series of unfortunate events that overtook him unexpectedly. They constitute an epic confrontation taking place within the divine strategy. What we see here is Jesus’ work of conflict, victory and salvation. He came face-to-face with Satan. He appeared as God’s new man, the second Adam, to do what the old man, the first Adam, had failed to do. The question is: who will possess the kingdoms of this world? And how will God’s kingdom be recovered and established? And the answer is that Jesus will repossess them in our name and for his Father’s pleasure and glory. Satan will be crushed under foot! 

This is why Jesus experienced such overwhelming weakness and hunger (in contrast to Adam, who enjoyed plenty). This is why he faced temptation in a wilderness (not like Adam, situated in a lovely and hospitable garden). This is why he was surrounded by wild animals (not, as Adam was, by pliant, obedient, almost domesticated animals). Jesus, the Last Adam, had to conquer in the context of the chaos the first Adam’s sin had brought into the world.  

So from the beginning of his ministry to its end, Jesus is marching against the powers of darkness. Virtually immediately after the temptations, as he begins his public ministry, he has to face a further onslaught of demonic activity in the Nazareth synagogue. Soon afterwards he encounters a man in Gadara whose life is under some destructive alien influence and out of control. He roams through the tombs like a wild animal nobody can subdue. Jesus says tenderly to the demoniac, “What is your name?” He replies, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 

A Roman legion theoretically consisted of around four thousand to five thousand soldiers. The man is saying, “Thousands of demons have invaded my life.” But catch this. It takes only one demon to destroy a man. Why, then, have thousands of demons invaded him? Because the Lord Jesus was there. That is the whole point. This is not simply a poor man possessed by a legion of demons. That would be an extravagant deployment of forces Satan could never afford. No, not this man, but the destruction of Jesus’ ministry is the ultimate target.  

The reason there is so much demon possession in the time period recorded by the Gospels is not—as is sometimes assumed—that demon possession was commonplace then. In fact it was not. Rather, the land then was demon-invaded because the Savior was marching to the victory promised in Genesis 3:15. And all hell was let loose in order to withstand him.  

The response of the demons themselves to Jesus makes this clear. When he was confronted by the demon-possessed man in the Capernaum synagogue, the unclean spirit’s reaction to him was “Have you come to destroy us?” And then, of course, this sinister opposition took a more subtle form in one of the three men Jesus loved most in the world, when Simon Peter echoed the Serpent’s temptation of the Savior: “Don’t take the way of the cross, Jesus.” 

How resolute Jesus was—how clear-headed to hear in Peter’s words the accent of the Evil One—and to respond: “Get behind me, Satan!”  Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson page 26-28

 

11-23-16 Silence and Beauty: "One must wonder why, as a simple sociological reality, these dark journeys into oppression, slavery, and persecution strengthen people's faith in certain countries or regions, and may even lead to greater freedom of faith in the long run--while in some other cases the culture has not been able to move beyond them.  This comes to mind as one walks about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their devastation by atomic bombs came just three days apart, but the paths they chose over the ensuing seventy years diverge dramatically. Hiroshima tried to rebound by constructing modern shopping malls and a baseball stadium. Nagasaki went in a different direction, rebuilding its churches and communal infrastructures; prayers of the faithful bathed the reconstruction process, and the people of Nagasaki continued to welcome outsiders, even the foreign forces once seen as their enemies. Hiroshima's Ground Zero museum features mushroom cloud photos and thousands of images of hte unthinkable reality of the atomic blast and the subsequent horrors, as it should. In Nagasaki the Ground Zero museum features a melted-down church. In other words, Hiroshima tried (and tries) to recover by remembering the trauma, and then trying to move past it through modern expressions of commerce and entertainment; Nagasaki recovered by moving into the trauma through prayer and forgiveness toward the past."  Makoto Fujimura page 176

 

The Divine Conspiracy: "All that is profound in the cute wisdom is the awesome need of soul to which they incoherently respond. We sense the incoherence lying slightly beneath the surface, and we find the incoherence and lack of fit vaguely pleasing and true to life: What is the point of standing up for rights in a world where few stand up for their responsibilities? Your rights will do you little good unless others are responsible. And does one learn in kindergarten how to attract people and make a lot of money by writing books assuring people they already know all they need to know to live well? And how do you practice something that is random? Of course you can't. What is random may hit you, but whatever is purposely done is certainly not random. And no act of beauty is senseless, for the beautiful is never absurd. Nothing is more meaningful than beauty."  Dallas Willard page 1

11-9-16 Fruitfulness on the Frontline: "Modelling godly character is letting the life of Christ flow in and through us. It is about exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in tough times as well as in easy times. Indeed, the fruit of the Spirit Paul writes about in Galatians 5 is a daunting list, particularly if we remember that Paul was writing to people who were for the most part poor-people without the health service, most of whose children would die before the age of five, people who were under the social pressure that comes from following such a different path from pretty much everyone else. That was then. And of course in some parts of the world much of it still applies. But, whatever our situation, living out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control on our front lines is pretty daunting.....The truth is that, when we received Jesus, we became different creations, we were born again. As Paul puts it, 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!' (2 Cor. 5:17). I take this at face value. I was a caterpillar, and when I was a caterpillar there were only two ways to fly--on a leaf's back or in a bird's beak. Neither is particularly appealing. But now I am a butterfly. And, as the song goes, I thank the Lord for 'giving me wings'. I can fly. We are new creatures with new capacities."  Greene page 64,66

 

The Unbelievable Gospel: "Another way to change the preachy perception is to let our actions do the preaching. If we present the world with a kinder and quieter Christian, won't that solve the problem? Consider the quote often misattributed to St. Francis, "Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words." Truth be told, St. Francis was an avid preacher of the gospel and didn't say this at all. The gospel is good news to be shared, not good deeds to be observed, though it issues in marvelous deeds of grace. Doing good things may genuinely help others in need, but no one is going to look at your deeds and conclude: "I must be a sinner in need of God's grace. I need to repent of trusting in myself and others, and turn to Christ alone for forgiveness, and trust in him for redemption and acceptance before a holy God." Actions are important, but they don't articulate. When Christians press mute on the gospel, people are left to make up their own version of the good news. As a result, other religions and spiritualities are perceived as equally capable of giving them the good life. We wrongly think our silence will remedy the perception of self-righteousness, but in the end it still communicates it, just in another form: "Do good and you too can become a Christian." Dodson page 59-60.

 






10-31-16 As mentioned during the sermon here are some extended thoughts on the last chapter of Philippians from Warren Wiersbe's commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary.  I will be sharing sections and sentences that I found interesting, hopefully they will be of help to you.

 

"If we are to conquer worry and experience the secure mind, we must meet the conditions that God has laid down. There are three: right praying (4:6-7), right thinking (4:8), and right living (4:9)."

"The peace of God stands guard over the two areas that create worry--the heart (wrong feeling) and the mind (wrong thinking)."

"Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny!"

"The Holy Spirit controls our minds through truth (John 17:17;1John 5:6), but the devil tries to control them through lies."

"A thermometer doesn't change anything around it--it just registers the temperature. It's always going up and down. But a thermostat changes them when they need to be changed.  The Apostle Paul was a thermostat. Instead of having spiritual ups and downs as the situation changed, he went right on, steadily doing his work and serving Christ. His personal references at the close of this letter indicate that he was not the victim of circumstances but the victor over circumstances: I can accept all things (4:11); I can do all things (4:13); I have all things (4:18). Paul did not have to be pampered to be content; he found his contentment in the spiritual resources abundantly provided by Christ.  Contentment is not complacency, nor is it a false peace based on ignorance. The complacent believer is unconcerned about others, while the contented Christian wants to share his blessings. Contentment is not escape from the battle, but rather an abiding peace and confidence in the midst of the battle. I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content (4:11). Two words in that verse are vitally important--learned and content. The verb learned means learned by experience."

"The Christian is not sufficient in himself; he is sufficient in Christ. Because Christ lives within us, we are adequate for the demands of life."

"God's providence simply means that God sees to it beforehand. It does not mean that God simply knows beforehand, because providence involves much more. It is the working of God in advance to arrange circumstances and situations for the fulfilling of His purposes."

"Life is not a series of accidents; it is a series of appointments."

"All of nature depends on hidden resources. The great trees send their roots down into the earth to draw up water and minerals. Rivers have their sources in the snow-capped mountains. The most important part of a tree is the part you cannot see, the root system, and the most important part of the Christian's life is the part that only God sees. Unless we draw on the deep resources of God by faith, we fail against the pressures of life. Paul depended on the power of Christ at work in his life. I can--through Christ! was Paul's motto, and it can be our motto too.

Putting Philippians to work: The best thing about Bible study isn't the learning but the living. 1. Surrender your mind to the Lord at the beginning of each day. 2. Let the Holy Spirit renew your mind through the Word. 3. As you pray, ask God to give you that day a single mind, a submissive mind, a spiritual mind, a secure mind. 4. During the day, mind your mind! 5. Guard the gates of your mind. 6. Remember that your joy is not meant to be a selfish thing; it is God's way of glorifying Christ and helping others through you. Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last; and the result is JOY."

 



10-26-16 Philippians: "The one position for power, in order to remain steadfast, is "in the Lord." Unless we have learned that He is the secret of our strength and security, we will be forced to fall back in defeat. No less than eight times Paul makes use of the expression "in the Lord". You are in Christ. He is your power and protection; therefore stand fast in Him. You are His possession; He owns you. Therefore stand fast in Him. Stand fast in the faith that is in Christ. Stand fest in the fellowship that is in Christ. Stand fast in the freedom that is in Christ. Stand fast in the foundations that are in Christ. Here the believer is exhorted to stand fast in the family that is in Christ." Strauss page 212-213.

 

Philippians: "It is an interesting observation that here the exhortation to rejoice is associated with the exhortations to quarreling saints to settle their difference. Christians are not rejoicing when they are in disagreement with one another. Disunity is a destroyer of joy. To cultivate Christian joy so that we rejoice continually is so important that it should engage our earnest attention at all times. The Christian who is in fellowship with his Lord, as well as with other believers, does not need to stop first and count his money before he can rejoice. If we cannot rejoice in our circumstances nor in our environment, we can rejoice in the Lord. He is always cause for joy to those who love Him. Joy is the outgrowth of love. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy" (Gal. 5:22). Love the Lord and you will rejoice. Love the brethren and you will rejoice. Love your enemies and you will rejoice. The secret of perennial joy is in the realized fellowship with Christ and His own." Strauss page 217-218.

 

The Unbelievable Gospel: "This kind of evangelism is distasteful--and for good reason. It lacks the punch of authenticity and the flavor of credibility. It leverages people for spiritual worth. Name-drop Jesus, and we feel good. Wimp out and we feel bad. Enter the roller coaster of self-made spirituality, a far cry from Christ-centered faith. This evangelism is like social media, often more about us than it is for others. The checklist approach to evangelism fails to embody the truth of the message being communicated. While the gospel facts are present, their potency is absent. A checklist Christian  eclipses the person of Christ. The impersonal evangelist is involved in a performance act. She performs as if God's favor hangs on her evangelistic obedience, when in reality Christ's obedience drapes us with the Father's favor. She blindly dismisses people's struggles, fears, hopes, and reasons for unbelief, moving down the list to get spiritual pats on the back. Her Christianity is answer-oriented, not heart focused....As soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it's not a conversation anymore. It's a pitch, and you're not a human being, you're a marketing rep...Jesus taught us to love people first, and sharing our faith should be an expression of that love for our neighbor, not something separate from it....Jesus knows that by asking for the man's idol, he is asking for his heart. Jesus steers the conversation, but he steers it with love. He is more interested in the person, talking to him with care and wisdom, than he is in checking off another project. Let's be honest. We are always steering conversations. The real question is: to what end? Jesus steers for the heart. What are you steering for?  selected sections from pages 38-40  Dodson

 



10-19-16  Philippians: "We come now to the secret of Paul's great success as a Christian. He was a specialist with singleness of purpose. One may not have surpassing ability or superior knowledge, but if he will concentrate there is no telling how far he can go. Paul had one burning passion; it was to achieve the goal as quickly as possible, and in order to accomplish this he would allow nothing to divert his attention from the "one thing"....Now the one thing is not the only thing a Christian will do, but rather it is the goal toward which everything he does will gravitate. Everything in life may help us to be more like the Lord Jesus. The routine work of every day, the periods for reading and study, the moments spent in rest and relaxation, the trials and suffering that may come to us, all must be used to achieve the goal of Christlikeness. When this one thing is always before us we will not respond unfavorably, no matter the nature of the circumstance that comes to us. All must contribute to conform us unto the image of Him whose we are and whom we serve To this we are divinely chosen by God. (Rom 8:29)."  Strauss page 183-184

 

Fruitfulness on the Frontline: "Most of us, though, can't realistically be involved in such church-based activities for much more than five hours a week. But what if we were equipped to take the opportunities to be fruitful for God in the other 115 hours that we're awake week by week? What joy might we know in walking with him moment by moment in all we do? What might we see God do? What difference might that make in our needy land?"  Greene page 21-22

 

Imagine Church: "The goal of disciple-making is not to make us more adept in church life, nor even more alert to the theological debates that may be raging in church circles. The goal is to enable us to live our lives in a way that reflects our Master's intentions for the world around us.  If we do not keep disciple-making at the center of all we do, we will simply be sloganeering, and people will be motivated but not properly equipped or supported as they go out to their frontlines." Hudson page 39



 

10-5-2016 The Unbelievable Gospel: "When we are motivated by performance, we are self-centered, and we end up riddled with anxiety. Jesus died and rose from death to liberate us from this nasty way of living. The old is gone and the new has come. You are a new creation. Don't graduate from this. Sit in it and live in it. Tie your worth to the rock of Christ, crucified and risen. Train yourself to look at Christ and then at others with new eyes, until you too can see them becoming new. You are new--but there are lots of other people who aren't, for whom Jesus also died, and they don't know what it's like to be liberated from performance and a million other sins. Jesus died to liberate them too." Dodson page 25-26

 

Devotional Studies in Philippians: "When Sir Bartle Frere returned from India the carriage was sent to the village station to bring him to his home. When the new footman, but newly engaged, asked how he should recognize Sir Bartle, his aged mother said, 'Look out for somebody helping someone else.' Sure enough, when the London train had drawn in, the manservant observed a gentleman assisting an old lady to the platform and then jumping back into the carriage to fetch out her luggage. Going straight up to him, the footman inquired, 'Sir Bartle?' Yes; it was he. What a lovely reputation to have! To be known as one who is always on the lookout to see when, and how, one can help others." Strauss page 134

 

Gaining by Losing: "God has to take our eyes off our kingdom before he can build his." Greear page 41


9-28-2016  The Bible Exposition Commentary: "A reporter was interviewing a successful job counselor who had placed hundreds of workers in their vocations quite happily. When asked the secret of his success, the man replied: 'If you want to find out what a worker is really like, don't give him responsibilities--give him privileges. Most people can handle responsibilities if you pay them enough, but it take a real leader to handle privileges. A leader will use his privileges to help others and build the organization; a lesser man will use privileges to promote himself.' Jesus used His heavenly privileges for the sake of others--for our sake."  Wiersbe page 74

 

"Dr. J.H. Jowett has said, 'Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.' If there is to be any blessing, there must be some "bleeding." At a religious festival in Brazil, a missionary was going from booth to booth, examining the wares. He saw a sign above one booth: 'Cheap Crosses.' He thought to himself, 'That's what many Christians are looking for these days--cheap crosses. My Lord's cross was not cheap. Why should mine be?" Wiersbe page 75

 

The Unbelievable Gospel: "I do think it is important that we pause to reflect on our evangelistic heritage, our current cultural moment, and consider plausible reasons why people today have an aversion to evangelism. To do this, we must recognize that 20th century American evangelism worked because the culture was largely familiar with Christianity. It included several assumptions, such as the brute fact of absolute truth, the existence of heaven and hell (or God for that matter), and a widely held notion that sin keeps us from God.  We can no longer assume this understanding."  Jonathan Dodson page 12

 

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​9-21-2016 The Bible Exposition Commentary: "Does Christ need to be magnified? After all, how can a mere human being ever magnify the Son of God? Well, the stars are much bigger than the telescope, and yet the telescope magnifies them and brings them closer. The believer's body is to be a telescope that brings Jesus Christ close to people. To the average person, Christ is a misty figure in history who lived centuries ago. But as the unsaved watch the believer go through a crisis, they can see Jesus magnified and brought so much closer. To the Christian with the single mind, Christ is with us here and now. The telescope brings distant things closer, and the microscope makes tiny things look big. To the unbeliever, Jesus is not very big. Other people and other things are far more important. But as the unbeliever watches the Christian go through a crisis experience, he ought to be able to see how big Jesus Christ really is. The believer's body is a "lens" that makes a "little Christ" look very big, and a "distant Christ" come very close."  Warren Wiersbe page 69

 

"The most important weapon against the enemy is not a stirring sermon or a powerful book; it is the consistent life of believers." Wiersbe page 71

 

It is worth remembering that the world around us knows only the Gospel that it sees in our lives.

You are writing a Gospel,

A chapter each day,

By the deed that you do

And the words that you say.

Men read what you write,

Whether faithful or true:

Just what is the Gospel

According to you?

(Source unknown)

Wiersbe page 71

 

Each local church is but one generation short of potential extinction. Wiersbe page 70

 

For the Glory: Eric Liddell's Journey from Olympic Champion to modern martyr  by Duncan Hamilton "It was different for Eric Liddell.  The Olympics made him a household name. In Paris he'd had the Hall of Fame hour that would come long afterward for Thomson and Beamon and Montana. The crowd, emptying from Colombes Stadium, had talked about him on the tram ride home and then again the next morning when the newspapers came fresh and inky, the smell of the  printing presses still on them. But what he did, and the way in which he inspired whoever watched him, doesn't rank as his number-one achievement. Surpassing it, and saying more about Liddell than any gold medal ever can, is a race he ran in-and for-Weihsien. A race barely 1,500 people saw, making it almost a private event. A race he ought never to have attempted. A race no one registered as significant until much later. This was the last race of Liddell's life."  page 312

 

"His second stroke, which came shortly afterward, was far more severe that his first had been. For two and a half hours he drifted in and out of consciousness, empty of everything. Buchan was able to ask Liddell whether the medical staff knew what had happened to him. "They haven't a clue," he said to her. She stood guard beside his bed, leaving only briefly to seek out his doctor. "Do you realize Eric is dying?" she asked him, knowing the tide of his life was going out. "Nonsense," she was told.

Buchan was the only witness to overhear his last words and preserve them. Looking at her, he said softly: "It's complete surrender." Within seconds of that sentence leaving his lips, Liddell suffered a third stroke and fell into a coma. The rest was silence. At 9:20 p.m. the doctors pronounced him dead." page 323-325

 

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9-14-2016

For the Glory" " by Duncan Hamilton (9-14-2016)

"Nothing betrays the character of a man like his manners, a phrase slightly misquoted from the poet Spenser that Eric Liddell never forgot. He even extended his courtesies to the occupying force in Siaochang--and not only because it pays to be polite when someone is pointing a gun at your head. Liddell followed two self-made rules in his dealings with the Japanese soldiers. The first, he said, was: "Take it all with a smile," referring to crudely deliberate attempts to rile and intimidate. The second was: "However troublesome, don't get annoyed." page 216

 

"He even refused to condemn or criticize the soldiers who attempted to bully him. One of his colleagues put it perfectly. For Liddell the Japanese were 'not to be feared or hated, but sought as sheep far from the fold,' he said. He forgave them their trespasses, however venal. The Japanese came to accept him because he was efficient and ever present. He tramped and cycled the Siaochang roads endlessly, never missing a church service." page 218

 

"Jesus' life is the most beautiful life there has ever been," he said, explaining why his own became an attempt to mirror it in both "character" and "outlook". For Liddell, this meant never "willingly" being rude or "irritated." The meant disdaining pride, which he saw as "the great enemey of humility." This meant being "ready to go out of your way to help" and to "reduce people's burdens." And this--once more--meant striving to "be ye perfect." Such high moral standards seemed unreachable--absurdly so--to some of thos who heard Liddell espouse them; surely no one could be that godly.  But within only a few months, he's show under adversity that whatever he preached was always practiced, irrespective of personal cost." page 249-250

 

"Gaining By Losing"  by J.D. Greear (9-14-2016)

 

"But when I stand before God, the ultimate measure of my ministry and stewardship will not be found in how many people we jammed into our campuses on a weekend. It will be measured y what those people did once they left the building." Larry Osbourne page 12

 

"In this book I want to press you to consider--whether you are a church leader or an "ordinary" Christian trying to figure out the best way to use your life--one, primary question: If you looked at every one of your blessings as "kingdom seeds," how many of them are you planting in the fields of God's kingdom, and how many are you keeping in storehouses to use as "food"? page 16




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6-11-16

Hi all, I wanted to share a website to provide the opportunity for you to help give audio Bibles for soldiers.  The link is: https://militarybiblestick.com/ You will be able to find some different information there and also be able to donate if you are interested.  Thanks for taking the time to check it out.

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A Word of Thanks

 

I wanted to take just a few moments and express my thanks to the Gateway family for all the work and sacrifice displayed in many different ways over the last year. Leading into this Easter season I knew it was going to be a lot of work and coordination to accomplish everything we were trying to do.  Each step of the way I marveled and praised as I saw so many individuals working toward the common goal of bringing glory to our wonderful Savior.  I am not able to adequately express all of the thoughts and emotions in written word, so please accept my simple expression of gratitude.  A note was left after Easter service which read, “Lovely service with lovely people!” I agree wholeheartedly.  I am excited to see what God has in store for us as we move forward.

Many blessings my friends,
Dennis


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Another URL you will like to see (3/05/16)

http://www.leaderu.com/humanities/fujimura-iamessay2.html

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From the wesite mentioned in Pastor' 2/28/16 sermon

http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/hymns-the-songs-and-the-stories/turn-your-eyes-upon-jesus-the-song-and-the-story.html
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Here is the link to the blog post mentioned during the sermon on Feb. 14th, 2016. 

https://ililiastrotter.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/living-love/
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The following is from a Guest

A Call to Action

 

What did you think about Pastor’s sermon this Sunday (1-17-16)? It was clearly an inspired, well researched sermon with a tremendous amount of information presented in such a short period of time! I particularly liked the information about Margaret Sanger’s role and the racist nature of abortion. As we heard about the sheep today, I could not help but think of all the children whose lives were snuffed out by abortion. How many would have become great scientists or great doctors or great evangelist. How many would have brought great joy to families? How much love has been lost? We will never be able to measure the incredibly great loss of those little ones for it is more than just numbers.

I am sure many of us left church thinking, “What can I do?” I believe that Pastor’s sermon was a call to action! We can first earnestly seek the Lord in prayer and ask what he would have us do. I think there are some things we can do so if led by the Lord.

We can pray for those involved in the pro-life movement, both nationally and locally. Considering the horror they face, I am sure they would really appreciate knowing folks are lifting them up in prayer. We can contribute financially or make other needed donations. One could volunteer at a local center. Maybe a monthly contribution is possible.

It is often good to support local organizations. There is one right here in Plymouth! Here is the link to the website: www.pregnant-help.com please contact them to see what you can do. Let them know you are praying for them as individuals and for the work they do.

Just maybe we can change the world helping to save one life at a time!

 

“Paul Revere”

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11-8-2015

Here is the video mentioned in the sermon from Sunday.
http://www.vergenetwork.org/2012/05/22/why-information-is-not-enough-for-discipleship-jo-saxton/

10-25-2015
http://www.worldmag.com/2015/10/bart_campolo_on_life_after_faith/page1
Here is the link to the article that I referenced in my sermon on 10/18/15.  Please see the sermons page to listen in how the article was referenced.  The part I found interesting was the somewhat tongue in cheek statement that in order to believe in God again the individual would have to see God grow an amputated limb back in front of him. 

How sad it is that we miss God in the daily details of life.  We can watch a flower grow, a tree grow, an animal grow, a baby grow in the womb and attribute it all coming from nothing.  We then say something along the lines of, "if God would only do this, then I would believe."  I am reminded of this quote attributed to Chesterton, "It is absurd for the evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything."

I think God has given us more than enough evidence, and thankfully I don't think he gets to bent out of shape by our further silly demands for proof.

Psalm 50:22-23 Understand this, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to rescue you. Whoever sacrifices a thank offering honors Me, and whoever orders his conduct, I will show him the salvation of God. (HCSB)

I hope to be able to write with better consistency and frequency in the future.  Thanks for reading. 

Many blessings,

Dennis 


8-21-2015

I came across this quote recently in a book I am reading, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”  I immediately underlined it and added it to the book of quotes I am collecting. I remember as a young child planting a tree in the front yard with my parents.  Over the years it seemed to grow at the pace of a wounded snail. Then many years later I looked at the tree and marveled at its growth. 

Of course this quote also brings to mind a fruit tree.  A fruit tree can take many years to reach maturity and actually produce a bountiful harvest. I wonder how many young couples eagerly and excitedly planted some sort of fruit tree with great anticipation and beautiful dreams of sharing the wonderful fruit together, only to be disappointed. Not realizing that they have actually planted a tree for some other family to enjoy many years later.  Of course there are those who have been able to stay in the same place and have been rewarded for the planting; I imagine the conversations around the first harvest would include how much time it took to actually get to that place.

My mind also goes to the spiritual aspects of this. We can plant something in our lives, naively expecting the harvest will be immediate.  But when it is not so, we angrily rip up the young plant not willing to water, tend, and nourish the root system.  I also think of the negative things we plant in our lives, possibly able to escape any immediate consequence.  Then many years later a dangerous poisonous fruit grows to maturity and brings painful destruction. 
The second part of the quote is quite important also, “the second best time to plant a tree is today.” Are we planting and cultivating health, peace, and righteousness in our lives today?  Are we eagerly working, submitting to God and allowing the maturity and growth to happen; so in many years from now there will be a harvest?

A personal application for me as a father and husband is the need to do a lot of planting each day.  Not only so that I may reap a harvest, but so that my daughters and their families may one day be blessed by hopefully a healthy orchard of bountiful fruit.  I have walked in apple orchards of New Hampshire, orange groves in Florida, and olive groves in Tunisia. They each have a unique beauty; someone had to have vision and dedication to plant each tree. A lot of effort and sacrifice to bring each one to maturity, a tremendous amount of work is necessary in order to enjoy the harvest. It is a worthwhile venture.

Here is a neat verse: Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”
What comes to mind for you when you read this verse and think of the quote about the planting of a tree?

Thanks for reading.
Many blessings,
Dennis

7-17-2015

A quick personal update:

As many of you know now, our third daughter was born on June 30th. She is doing well, and we are adjusting as a family. Thank you for your prayers, support and love. And I humbly ask for your continued prayer for us as a family. We have named our daughter Tunise Joy. Tunise is French for Tunisia. As you pray for our daughter, will you pray also for Tunisia? That the Light of the world will shine bright through then darkness. Thank you.

As a result of the birth and adjusting to a new born in the house I have not been able to update this page as much as I had hoped. But I came across this quote today and I wanted to share it.

"I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages." Charles Spurgeon

Here is a link to a well written article: www.desiringgod.org/articles/kissing-the-wave

As I think about this quote some other thoughts come to mind for me. In order to kiss a wave that is tossing me around, I have to have a different perspective. I have to frame things differently. Instead of only seeing the hardship and pain, I see Jesus. I think I have some praying to do.

Something else comes to mind for me, and it relates to some current events going on. We are seeing arguments and defenses made in regard to many social issues today in our country. One of them that recently broke was Planned Parenthood selling body parts of babies that they abort. You can find some great information at www.lifenews.com

The opening sentence of Planned Parenthoods response says this: " In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, treatments and cures for serious diseases."

When I read this I see, "we kill children in order save children and have medical breakthroughs."

I wonder what Planned Parenthood would say to this: "We scalp children in order to give wigs to children plagued by cancer." This is a hypothetical statement. But do you see how we justify decisions and actions by framing it in a certain way? Our focus is to be driven to the medical breakthroughs, ignore the murder of 53 million babies, and ignore the selling of organs.

I wonder what else takes place inside those clinics?

The storm is fierce my friends, and if we ignore Jesus then we have no hope.

Kiss the wave and the feet of Jesus, He is greater!

Psalm 18

Blessings and Peace,

Dennis

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Let's get started!

 I was at a meeting this morning with some area pastors.  We meet monthly to encourage one another and work on improving our ministries together.  It has been a wonderful experience as we have been working through a book titled, Resilient Ministry.

 We came across a question today that forced me into silence and staring off somewhere, but not really looking at anything at all.  I was just lost in thought.  I realized that I don't have a complete answer for it and that part of my answer is quite convicting. So here is the question:

 What story of success do you regularly try to live up to?

 I will leave you now to stare and ponder.

 Blessings and Peace,

Dennis