Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pure and Undefiled Religion: Profiles of Faithful Church Members

When you look up “faithful deaconess” in the Christian dictionary you will surely find the name Marilyn Van Drew.   As a faithful servant of the flock Marilyn has worked heartily unto the Lord often without any recognition.   For many decades, Marilyn has served our shut-ins and widows.  She has taken care of children in the nursery.   She has provided hospitality during our many funeral luncheons and fellowship meals.   She has served as the church librarian and the list goes on and on and on.  Mrs. Van Drew regularly clothes herself with the graces of Christ and consistently manifests Christ-like love which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14).  Marilyn’s costly, selfless, other’s orientated mindset has deepened and sweetened the fellowship of First Baptist Church.   

Scripture exhorts us to render "honor to whom honor is due."  This morning we want to publicly recognize the beautiful legacy of Marilyn Van Drew.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

You Are Never Too Young To Serve the Lord! Profiles of Faithful Church Members

1 Timothy 4:12, Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

This picture of Jordan Niesman is from 2010.  Jordan is a wonderful example of how youth can use their energy and talents to strengthen the local church.  I have pastored the First Baptist Church of Freeport since 2008 and have personally observed Jordan serve our church as an usher, a groundskeeper, a tech booth professional, a nursery volunteer, an Awana leader, and more recently, as a youth group helper. 

Jordan and his family love to serve God's people not only at Church they also serve folks in the community as well.  Jordan has blessed my family many times over.  In this regard, Jordan's testimony is an example to all of us who believe (per 1 Tim. 4:12).

As a young man Jordan has tried to live out the implications of Jesus' words in John 13:12-17.

And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again, He said to them, Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
This summer Jordan will be ministering at a Christian camp in Wisconsin.  His absence will be felt in a big way and that is really the best commendation a church member can receive.  Jordan reminds all of us that you are never too young to serve the Lord!


You Are Never Too Old To Serve the Lord! Profiles of Faithful Church Members

1 Peter 4:10-11, As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

One of our oldest church members (93) reminds us all that you are never too old to serve the Lord.  Brother Ed recently lost his wife yet he continues to use his God-given talents to serve his Lord and Savior.  Brother Sincock plays at nursing homes, a number of local churches, and recently he even played hymns over at the Rockford Rescue Mission.

The Lord of the Church not only gives believers the Holy Spirit upon our conversion, He also gives each person special talents and grace gifts.  God gives a diversity of spiritual gifts for the unity of the body (per 1 Corinthians 12-14).  These gifts and talents can be employed in many different contexts but the primary stewardship location is the local church (notice the context of the vast majority of the New Testament 'one anothers').  To serve the flock or not serve the flock is not even a New Testament consideration (note 1 Peter 4:10-11).

Most of the senior saints at First Baptist have gone on to glory.  We have had over 60 funerals in the last fifteen years.  Those who remain are faithful examples to their pastor and fellow church members alike (Hebrews 13:7).  To God be the glory!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Whitefield and Piper on "Why Expositional Preaching Is Particularly Glorifying to God!"

When I first heard this John Piper sermon in person back in 2006 it both rocked my world (who is sufficient for this?) and solidified all of my biblical convictions and aims as it relates to 'exulting' Christ in/through expository sermons.  I would encourage you to listen to Piper's address, if nothing more from minute 3 to 17.  Piper's fifteen minute "summons" is the standard by which every preacher should be evaluated (PREACH the Word)!

Here is a brief excerpt from this life changing introduction:  “George Whitefield believed in preaching and gave his life to it. By this preaching God did a mighty work of salvation on both sides of the Atlantic. His biographer, Arnold Dallimore, chronicled the astonishing effect that Whitefield’s preaching had in Britain and America in the eighteenth century. It came like rain on the parched land and made the desert spring forth with the flowers of righteousness. Dallimore lifted his eyes from the transformed wasteland of Whitefield’s time and expressed his longing that God would do this again. He cries out for a new generation of preachers like Whitefield. His words help me express what I long for in the coming generations of preachers in America and around the world. He said,
Yea…that we shall see the great Head of the Church once more . . . raise up unto Himself certain young men whom He may use in this glorious employ. And what manner of men will they be? Men mighty in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace. They will be men who have learned what it is to die to self, to human aims and personal ambitions; men who are willing to be ‘fools for Christ’s sake’, who will bear reproach and falsehood, who will labor and suffer, and whose supreme desire will be, not to gain earth’s accolades, but to win the Master’s approbation when they appear before His awesome judgment seat. They will be men who will preach with broken hearts and tear-filled eyes, and upon whose ministries God will grant an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit, and who will witness ‘signs and wonders following’ in the transformation of multitudes of human lives.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wolf Hall and the Protestant Reformation

My wife and I have enjoyed watching a new series called "Wolf Hall" on PBS Masterpiece.  In this intriguing show history is retold through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, "the enigmatic advisor to King Henry VIII, as he maneuvers the corridors of power in the Tudor court. This six-part series follows the back-room dealings of this accomplished power broker, from humble beginnings, who must survive deadly political intrigue." 

One of the things that I like to do while watching a show like this is to utilize my smartphone to 'fact check' the details.  For example, did Queen Anne Boleyn ever commit incest or was it a false charge trumped up against her because she failed to produce a male offspring?  What were the actual circumstances surrounding her death?  As a Christian, I am also very interested to know what role genuine believers played during the English Reformation?

For those of you interested in learning more about the heroes of the faith I recommend the following books: Katherine Parr: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Reformation Queen (one of the many wives of Henry) by Brandon Withrow.  I also would recommend chapter four in Christopher Catherwood's, Five Leading Reformers: Lives at a Watershed in History.    Finally, I would encourage you to read J. C. Ryle's classic book, Five English Reformers.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Undermining the Legacy of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement

My wife and I were finally able to view the film SELMA. Overall, it was a very moving movie with a great cast.  As I watched the film I thought to myself, "Self, I hope you would have had the courage to join/support the peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery had you been alive and pastoring in 1965."  By the grace of God I believe I would have.
In this vein, my former pastor John MacArthur, was personal friends with John Perkins.  Perkins was one of the original Civil Rights leaders from the 1960's (Mr. Perkin's brother was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan).  Because of these associations MacArthur was refused meals at "white restaurants" while visiting the deep South.  In fact, John MacArthur was preaching the gospel in Jackson, Mississippi when Dr. King was shot and tragically killed in 1968.  MacArthur and some of his ministry friends drove through the night to Memphis and witnessed the MLK crime scene with their own eyes.  According to historian Iain H. Murray, "The experiences in Mississippi confirmed the truth to John that he already knew: the gospel alone could abolish the racial division, and he saw something of its power in the numbers of young people who were converted; some of them were to train for full-time Christian service;" but now I digress.
Back to Selma.  The only thing I did not appreciate in Selma was the theme song that was played near the end of the movie. The music to "Glory" was absolutely beautiful but some of the lyrics were fundamentally flawed.  In my opinion, one of the best ways to undermine the heroic work of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is to connect his Civil Rights legacy with the recent (violent) protests in Ferguson (and Baltimore).   Unlike so many martyrs in the original Civil Rights Movement Michael Brown was not killed because he refused to sit in the back of a bus, nor was he targeted simply because he was black.   Mr. Brown had just robbed a store and had roughed up a fellow minority in the process.  Brown fled the crime scene and was eventually shot and killed by a law enforcement officer (note carefully Romans 13:1-7).  According to news reports Brown was facing other criminal charges as well.   If true, this was not Mr. Brown's first felony arrest.  More importantly, even though the "hands up, don't shoot" narrative was disputed by several witnesses, it remains a dominant mantra among many activists today.  MLK reminded us, (quoting Jesus), that it is the truth that sets men free.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

This past March over four thousands believers came together in defense of sacred Scripture.  Those who traveled to California from around the world, did so specifically, to show their support for the doctrine of inerrancy.  Many of Evangelicalisms' key leaders preached at this important summit (16 guest speakers to be exact). 

The address that seemed to generate the most buzz during the conference was not even a plenary session message.  The following lecture by Dr. Abner Chou is the single greatest presentation I have ever heard/read on the subject of hermeneutics.  How should God's people rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)?  This verse is especially true for Bible teachers but is generally applicable to all of us.  Awana ministries, as many of you know, have chosen 2 Timothy 2:15 as their theme verse:  Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed (who rightly divide the holy Word of God).

This breakout session addresses how the New Testament writers interpreted and applied the Old Testament Scriptures.  The hermeneutic of the apostles is a model for the church.  Please consider investing an hour of your week in this vitally important lesson.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Magnify Jesus Christ - Preach Revelation!

When I came to Freeport in 2008 I wanted to be very strategic and intentional in my role as pastor-teacher. After a short thematic series of sermons on "Biblical Exposition: An FBC Distinctive," I decided to take my new congregation through the book of Revelation. The most common response I got when sharing that bit of information with fellow believers was, "Are you crazy, stupid, or a little bit of both?" Ok not really, but I could see what many Christians were thinking when I told them what my plans were:  Why RevelationFor those preachers who love to proclaim the glories of Jesus Christ Revelation is your book!

Most Christian’s think of Revelation as a very complicated New Testament book with lots and lots of prophecy charts and really strange enigmas that no one truly understands. Yet I found that the book of Revelation is one of the most Christ-centered, doxological books in the Bible.   It is also one of the most encouraging New Testament books, especially for persecuted believers (pay special attention to the original context in Revelation 1:9).  Chapter 1 begins with a picture of Jesus Christ in all His post-resurrection glory (note Revelation 1:12-20)!  This triumphant vision sucks the air out of your sanctified lungs (note Revelation 1:17).  Chapters 2 and 3 provide immensely practical instructions from the Lord of the Church to seven congregations in Asia Minor.  These are seven real churches that represent the type of congregations (and church goers) that exist in every century of church history.  What King Jesus praises and condemns in these chapters is some of the richest pastoral theology in all the Bible.  Revelation 4 pictures heaven's worship of the Sovereign Creator of the universe (the Lord God Almighty is His name).  Revelation 5 highlights the great Hero of Heaven, Jesus Christ.  He alone is worthy to “open the book and its seven seals” (note Revelation 5:5-7).   Some of the richest details about the gospel are also presented in this magnificent fifth chapter (see Revelation 5:9-14).  I believe that Revelation 6-18 describes the awful Tribulation period that is yet "to come" (see Revelation 1:19; 3:10).   Rather than spend six months in chapters 16-18 going verse by verse through the Text I provided two overview sermons of this unit of Scripture.  Chapter 19 highlights the majestic return of Christ as the righteous Judge, the Holy Warrior, and as the KING of Kings and LORD of Lords while chapter 20 describes the millennial Kingdom and the final judgment of all God's enemies. Chapters 21-22 showcase the New Heavens and the New Earth.  As I exposited the final two chapters of Revelation I told my flock that heaven is going to be mind-numbingly massive, heart-stoppingly holy, and breathtakingly beautiful.  For believers the best is yet to come.  Is it any wonder that after taking all of this in John proclaims, "Amen, Come, Lord Jesus! Come!"

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ministry Maxim #1


Ministry Maxim #1: Stop trying to accomplish kingdom work in your own human strength.

I came up with this maxim while preaching through Colossians 1:28-29.  In verse 29 Paul notes, For this reason I labor, striving according to His power which mightily works within me.  The proper balance in life and in ministry is maximum human effort (note the holy perspiration Paul puts forth) yet with total reliance on Christ (for apart from Him we can do nothing)!

So many times I find myself trying to accomplish kingdom work in Caleb Kolstad's strength.  This pattern of behavior is a perfect recipe for burn out and failure.  In God's patience He often allows me to fall flat on my face.  Once we are on our backs (or knees) we often cry out to Him for help, which in turn, strengthens us for the task at hand! 

The Apostle Paul had come to understand this "maxim" in his own ministry context  (note specifically 2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pragmatism and the Pulpit by John MacArthur

Pragmatism and the Pulpit 
by Pastor John MacArthur

"In a column published some years ago in a popular Christian magazine, a well-known preacher was venting his own loathing for long sermons. January 1 was coming, so he resolved to do better in the coming year. "That means wasting less time listening to long sermons and spending much more time preparing short ones," he wrote. "People, I've discovered, will forgive even poor theology as long as they get out before noon."

Unfortunately, that perfectly sums up the predominant attitude behind much of ministry today. Bad doctrine is tolerable; a long sermon most certainly is not. The timing of the benediction is of far more concern to the average churchgoer than the content of the sermon. Sunday dinner and the feeding of our mouths takes precedence over Sunday school and the nourishment of our souls. Long-windedness has become a greater sin than heresy.

The church has imbibed the worldly philosophy of pragmatism, and we're just beginning to taste the bitter results.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Much Needed Reminder From the Doctor

The greatest preacher in Europe during the 20th century was Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Though dead, the good doctor still speaks.

In page 284, volume 2 of his biography we read this, "Two columns in a LA newspaper headed, 'British Cleric Pleads for Stress on Preaching.' The paper reported him as saying, 'Too little preaching and too much music, ritual and entertainment are leading to too much Christian superficiality.'" Talk about prophetic.

"Evangelism, he told them, has to be church-centered and the churches need no special technique or advertising. They are built up by sound preaching, preaching the Word of God in a Christ-centered way, with conviction, and looking to the Holy Spirit to apply it...When the local church has a spirit of evangelism, members tell others about Christ, and through personal contact among friends, acquaintances and business associates bring many into the church." Talk about relevant.

May the Lord raise up more "Lloyd-Jones'" to strengthen and grow His precious Church
(Colossians 1:28-29; Eph. 4:11-15).