Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Should Young Childre Receive Communion?

Like many Baptist congregations, the church I serve practices what is called open Communion, rather than closed Communion. This means that every professing believer who is present for our Lord’s Supper services is welcome to participate, whether they are a member of our local congregation or not. By extension, it also means that every true believer is welcome to participate no matter what his or her age may be. Any and every child who has received the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord and sincerely intends to follow Christ is encouraged to commune with us at the Lord’s Table. And we do not have any examination process to determine a child’s readiness for Communion, as we do with baptism. We simply leave it up to the parents to determine whether a child should receive the elements of the Supper.

That’s the issue that I want to address in this article. When should parents allow their children to receive the Lord’s Supper?

Let me preface my answer by clearly stating that when it comes to the spiritual development of children, parents (with the partnership of their local church) should be very aggressive. The flesh, the world, and the devil do not wait to corrupt our children and lead them away from God. And we should not wait to sanctify our children and lead them to Christ. So I would say to parents do not wait to teach your children the importance of regular church attendance, the priority of prayer, the blessings of generosity, and the duty of service to God and others. But I believe that the Lord’s Supper is a different matter. I think that parents should be slow, cautious, and prayerful about when and how they introduce their children to the Lord’s Supper. I believe this is the proper approach, because of the nature of the Christian ordinances.

There is no redemptive value in the ordinances. God saves sinners – both children and adults – by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, plus or minus nothing. So baptism and the Lord’s Supper have no saving power. But these Christ-instituted rituals are symbols of salvation. That is, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are divinely revealed pictures of what it means to be saved. Through these ordinances, we identify ourselves with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, along with all the redeemed saints of God. They mark us as saved people; they do not bring salvation. For this reason, it may be best that parents keep their children from participating in the Lord’s Supper until they are old enough to understand the meaning of it and can receive it with faith, repentance, and thanksgiving.

In 1 Corinthians 11:28-30, a corrective against the abuse of the Lord’s Supper, Paul says, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (ESV). These are stern warnings and exhortations about the importance of the Lord’s Supper. And it would be foolish to fail to factor them into your family’s deliberations about when young children should receive Communion.

Now, if you decide that your young children should participate in the Lord’s Supper with you, you are not violating the scriptures. There is no direct statement in scripture to regulate what age children should be when they receive Communion for the first time. So that decision really is left to the discretion of the parents. But I commend to you that the wisest thing for your child’s spiritual development may be to wait to receive the Lord’s Supper.

Wait until your child understands the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper symbolizes the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus. In other words, the elements of the Supper point us to the cross, where Jesus became our substitute and died to pay the penalty for our sins. So I would recommend that parents wait until their children have a basic and clear understanding of the gospel, before they give them Communion. Don’t give it to them if they are not able to relate to the elements beyond having juice and crackers in church. Wait to make sure they understand that the “juice and crackers” point to what Jesus did on the cross. And wait for them to understand more than the facts; wait for them to understand the meaning of the cross.

Wait until your child professes saving faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian ordinances are just that, Christian ordinances. So the best standard for when a person should receive the ordinances is when they have become a Christian through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t confuse your children about salvation, give them a false confidence of salvation, or lead your children to discount the value of Christ’s atoning work, by allowing them to take the Lord’s Supper before they are able to receive it in a meaningful way.

Wait until your child is mature enough to make an independent and credible decision to follow Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper bids us to live in a way that honors the great price that Christ has paid for our salvation. This is why we are commanded to examine ourselves before we receive the Supper. We play the hypocrite, dishonor Christ, and invite judgment on ourselves when we take Communion, but live in contradiction to the spiritual values that the Lord’s Supper symbolizes. And when parents allow this to happen with their children, they inadvertently teach their children how to “play church” without being a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. So wait until your child is ready to live for Jesus before you allow them to take the Lord’s Supper.

Don’t be in too big a hurry to have them participate in the Supper that you don’t seriously process the spiritual implications of their participation. And if they ask you why they can’t have the juice and crackers like everyone else (and, at some point, they will), tell them why and explain to them the wonderful plan of salvation through faith in the cross of Jesus Christ. In fact, tell them about the meaning of the Supper as often as you can. Pray diligently for the salvation of your young children. Make sure that you live before them in such a way that your lifestyle does not contradict your witness. Lead them to participate in the elements of corporate worship and ministry programs in your church that are appropriate for your children. And wait with confidence for God to work.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What a Fellowship!

Here is the sermon skeleton from my message yesterday.

Title: "What a Fellowship!"

Text: Philippians 1:1-2

Sermon Series: Philippians: Partnership in the Gospel

Point: True Christianity binds believers to Christ and to one another.

Theme: The relational elements of a healthy church


I. A healthy church is marked by servant leadership (1:1a).

    Paul teaches a lesson about servant leadership through...

    A. The omission he makes: He does not identify himself as an "Apostle"

    B. The association he shares: and Timothy

    C. The designation he embraces: servants of Christ Jesus

II. A healthy church is marked by a consecrated membership (1:b-c)

    What it means to be a saint is seen in...

    A. Our relationship to Jesus Christ: saints in Christ Jesus

    B. Our relationship to the world around us: at Philippi

    C. Our relationship to godly leadership: with the overseers and deacons

1. Overseers serve by leading

       2. Deacons lead by serving

III. A healthy church is marked by true fellowship (1:2)

    A. The basis of true fellowship: grace

    B. The result of true fellowship: peace
    C. The source of true fellowship: from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 04/26/09

As I drove to church this morning, I listened to Tunesha Crispell sing, "God Can Do Anything But Fail." My goodness, I really needed that reminder this morning. It set my mood for worship this morning. God is great!

Our youth choir led two numbers at the beginning of our 10 AM worship service. They did a wonderful job. What a great encouragement it was to have our youth leading us in praise to God.

Clifton Davis was our guest soloists this morning. He sung, "Jesus, The Center of My Joy." I  was deeply moved by the song. The congregation obviously appreciated the song as well.

In my New Members' Class, I continued to teach on the importance of prayer. I concentrated today on the conditions for an answered prayer.

Deacon Johnson rocked the house this morning!

I began a verse-by-verse exposition of the book of Philippians this morning. I preached from Paul's opening salutation, recorded in Philippians 1:1-2. I entitled the message, "What a Fellowship!" I intend to post the sermon skeleton tomorrow (I also hope to soon have a way to post my full manuscripts online. Pray for that to happen).

By the time I got to the reference to "the deacons" in verse 1, I was out of time in both services. I basically skipped over it. And I summarized the greeting in verse 2 quickly. I still had a lot of material that I wanted to cover. But I know it would not be prudent to go back and pick up what I missed. God knows best.

I look forward to the day when I am able to unburden myself of the message that is on my heart, without the tyranny of the clock.

My plan is to take up Philippians 1:3-8 next Lord's Day: "Partnership in the Gospel."

Praise God for those who were saved and added to our church family in our services today.

News Flash: Hailey strikes again! As I was preaching the 10 AM service, Miss. H.B. threw up all over her mother and her big sister. I hope this was not her statement of what she thought of her father's sermon.

As I was checking the headlines this afternoon, I saw that former middle weight champion, Jermain Taylor, was knocked out last night. Unbelievable.

The Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Detroit Pistons in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. Sorry George.

The Boston Celtics are tied with the Chicago Bulls at two games apiece. I have no predictions yet.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Vital Statistics of Philippians

God willing, this Sunday morning I will begin a verse-by-verse exposition of the epistle of Paul to the Philippians. I am calling the series: "Philippians: Partnership in the Gospel."

Here is a summary introduction of the book of Philippians that gives abbreviated details about the contend and background of this letter. I hope you find it helpful as you read through, study, and meditate on this wonderful letter of Philippians.

Author: The Apostle Paul is clearly identified as the author of Philippians (1:1)

Intended Audience: Paul writes to the all the Christian believers in the local church of Philippi, along with the spiritual leaders of the church (1:1)

Date of Writing: Some time between 61-63 A.D.

Place of Writing: Paul is under house arrest in Rome, where he is awaiting trial. Philippians is one of the "Prison Epistles" of Paul (along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon)

Occasion: The church had sent Paul a gift through Epaphrotidus. While ministering to Paul, Epaphroditus became gravely sick. God healed Epaphroditus and Paul sent him back to the church. Paul sent this letter to the church through Epaphroditus.

Purpose: The letter is primarily a "thank you" note to the Philippians. Of course, because this is Paul writing, and because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it become much more. He also gave an update on his circumstances, commendations to his colleagues, and various exhortations and warnings to the church.

Theme: Partnership in the Gospel (1:5)

Key Verses: 1:5, 6, 21; 2:5, 3:1, 13-14; 4:13, 19

Special Features:

1. Philippians is called "The Epistle of Joy," as Paul speaks of joy or rejoicing at least 16 times.
2. The Hymn of Christ (2:6-11)
3. One of the Prison Epistles (along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon)
4. One of Paul's most personal and intimate letters.
5. This is the only letter in which Paul greets church officers (1:1)
6. Paul organized the church at Philippi during his second missionary journey (Acts 16)

Chapter Summaries:

Chapter 1 - There is joy in Christian suffering
Chapter 2 - There is joy in humble service
Chapter 3 - There is joy in being and growing in Christ
Chapter 4 - There is joy in godly contentment

Length: 4 chapters; 104 verses

Key People:

1. Paul
2. Timothy,
3. Epaphroditus
4. Euodia
5. Syntyche

Key Concepts:

1. Joy
2. Partnership in the Gospel
3. Christlikeness
4. Unity
5. Suffering

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Emperor Maurice's Comfort in Psalm 119:137

There is an illustration from the life of Maurice, a Roman emperor, who found comfort from Psalm 119:137 in an unbelievable crisis. In the preaching moment last night, I passed right by this illustration. And by the time I recognized it, I was too far ahead to go back to get it. But I have been enriched and encouraged by this story and want to share it anyway.

During the 20 years he ruled the Roman Empire, he had shown virtues, marking him out to succeed Tiberius II. But the army turned against him and in 602 he fled, wit his wife and children, to Chalcedon, to escape the fury of the deformed and disfigured Phoeas. But Maurice did not long remain in safely for by order of Phoeas, he and his 5 sons were seized and executed. He was the last to die. As, one by one, the boys were murdered before his eyes, the noble father cried aloud, with each stroke of the sword, "Righteous art Thou, O Lord, and true is Thy judgment." - Herbert Lockyer, Psalms: A Devotional Commentary, p. 596

What a story! Maurice did not accuse God of wrong or deny the truthfulness of God's word, as he watched his sons die. Rather, he endured these tragic moments by reminding himself from Psalm 119:137 that at that very moment, God was still righteous and his word was still true. And so it is with whatever challenge or crisis you may face today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Well-Intentioned Dragons

Dragons, of course, are fictional beasts - monstrous reptiles with lion's claws, a serpent's tail, bat wings, and scaly skin. They exist only in the imagination.

But there are dragons of a different sort, decidedly real. In most cases, thought not always, they do not intend to be sinister; in fact, they're usually quite friendly. But their charm belies their power to destroy.

Within the church, they are often sincere, well-meaning saints, but they leave ulcers, strained relationships, and hard feelings in their wake. They don't consider themselves difficult people. Often they are pillars in the community - talented, strong personalities, deservingly respected - but for some reason, they undermine the ministry of the church. They are not naturally rebellious or pathological; they are loyal church members, convinced they're serving God, but they wind up doing more harm than good.

They can drive pastors crazy... or out of the church.

- Well-Intentioned Dragons; Ministering to Problem People in the Church, Marshall Shelly, p. 11

Friday, April 17, 2009

Partnership in the Gospel: A Study of Paul's Letter to the Philippians

It was somewhere between A.D. 61 and 63. The place was Rome, where the Apostle Paul was under house arrest. He was there awaiting trial, uncertain as to whether he would be vindicated and released or convicted and executed. Paul is forced to wait for his trial to begin and its verdict to be rendered. But while he waits, he works.

Paul was chained to two Roman soldiers at all times. But house arrest afforded him many privileges. For instance, Paul was able to entertain guest in the house he had rented during his imprisonment. Throughout his imprisonment, various friends and colleagues came and went. But one guest came and stayed. His name was Epaphroditus, from the city of Philippi.

When the church at Philippi heard about Paul’s circumstances, they raised a love offering to send to him. Epaphroditus was selected to carry this gift to Paul. But the money was only a part of the gift. The bigger and better gift was Epaphroditus himself. Paul’s Philippian friends sent Epaphroditus to serve Paul on their behalf until Paul was released.

Epaphroditus ministered to Paul’s needs and ministered with Paul in spreading the gospel, until he became sick. Low sick. He almost died. Mercifully, God spared his life. When he was well enough to travel, Paul thought it best to send Epaphroditus home. The Philippians, who were troubled by the news of his sickness, worried about Paul and Epaphroditus. Indeed, Paul needed Epaphroditus. But he loved the church even more. So Paul sent Epaphroditus home, to relieve their concerns about him.

Before Epaphroditus’ departure, Paul prepared a gift for him to carry home to the Philippians. A letter. In this letter, Paul updated the church on his circumstances. Likewise, he thanked them for their generosity, which included a warm commendation for Epaphroditus. But most importantly, Paul wrote to the Philippians about matters related to their mutual partnership in the gospel, calling them to unity and steadfastness. All of these matters were addressed in a tone of joyfulness, which has resulted in Philippians being called, “The Epistle of Joy.”

God willing, we will begin a verse-by-verse exposition of this great letter this Sunday (4/19/09). In both of our Lord’s Day services, we will study this great letter to learn and be reminded of what it means for a local church to fellowship in the gospel. During your quiet time, read through the four chapters of Philippians in one sitting. Pray for the pastor’s preparation and presentation of the word, and ready your own heart to receive the ministry of the word. And invite someone to join us in worship as we discover the joy of Christian partnership.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Speaking @ the 2009 OKC Simultaneous Revival

I am in Oklahoma City, preaching a revival for Dr. John A. Reed Jr. and the Fairview Missionary Baptist Church. I started Tuesday night. And I am scheduled to preach through Friday night.

My father preached this meeting for Dr. Reed for many years. After his death, Pastor Reed invited me to do this meeting for him. The year was 1990. I was 17 years old. And I have preached this meeting the week after Easter every since then, except for three years. Last year, I was unable to come because Hailey was born the day after Easter. Pop "fired" me to make sure I was home with Crystal for Hailey's birth. Good looking out.

In my absence last year, Pop invited Dr. Tom Diamond of the Abyssinia Baptist Church in Jacksonville to preach this meeting for him at Fairview. He invited Dr. Diamond again this year. He is lecturing each night before i preach. And it has been a great blessing to fellowship with him over these past two nights.

A simultaneous revival is when a group of churches hold a revival at the same time in partnership with one another. This is the 65th year this meeting has taken place in OKC. Some 25 local churches are in revival with their own guest preacher. At noon, the churches come together and one of the guests speak in this mass service. At 7 PM, each church holds their own service. Then at 10 PM, a late night service takes place, with one of the guest bring the message.

Tonight, my pastor from Los Angeles, Dr. Melvin Wade, brought the message in the Late night service. He was stellar.

By brother, Kevin Willis, is also here preaching at the Tabitha Baptist Church.

And my boyhood friend and fellow "son of Sinai," Reginald Payne, Pastor of the Full Gospel Baptist Church in Los Angeles, is here speaking as well.

There are many other great preachers here, such as L.K. Curry, Wallace Hartsfield, Stephen Thurston, C.W. Wallace, the Bailey brothers, Roscoe Bradley, Sir Walter Mack, Reginald Reid, C.J.R. Phillips, and Ricky Carter, among others.

My mom, baby sister, and other family members live here in Oklahoma City. But I have not had much time to spend with them, unfortunately, between their work schedules and my service schedule.

I have two more nights to preach. And I am also scheduled to preach the late night service this Friday night at 10 PM.

Please remember this meeting in your prayers. May the Lord send a true revival to the Oklahoma City.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Johnny Can't Preach

On and between flights today, I read T. David Gordon's little book, Why Johnny Can't Preach (P&R Publishers). And it was wonderfully disturbing. Playing off the titles of several classics, Why Johnny Can't Read and Why Johnny Can't Write, Gordon argues that media (in the general sense) has shaped the pulpit. Consequently, Gordon argues, many pulpits in America are filled by men who cannot preach. That is, many pastors do not know how to read texts carefully or how to communicate clearly or distinguish between the significant and the insignificant. And the pew is malnourished because of it.

I was challenged by this book. I did not agree with everything I read. Neither will you. But there is so much here that just cannot be denied and needs to be addressed by those of us who have the grave task of heralding the fitness and competence of Jesus Christ  as Savior and Lord.

Personally, reading this book has challenged me all the more to take my preaching seriously and strive to be a faithful, Christ-centered, expository preacher.

Gordon ends with good news: Johnny can learn to preach! He must simply work harder at reading the text and writing himself clear and focusing on eternal matters of creation, the Fall, and redemption. And, of course, the Lord must give Johnny utterance, and boldness to speak, so that he can say what he ought to say and make known the mystery of the gospel.

Following are a few quotes I highlighted as I was reading:

If the hearer's duty in listening to a sermon is to be willing to submit one's will to God's will, then one can only do this if the preacher does his duty of demonstrating that what he is saying is God's will. (p. 18)

Bad preaching is insufferably long, even if the chronological length is brief. (p. 30)

I realized then that sermon length is not measured in minutes; it is measured in minutes-beyond-interest, in the amount of time the minister continues to preach after he has lost the interest of his hearers (assuming he ever kindled it in the first place). (p. 31)

Anyone who reads normally assumes that you need to read a minimum of three to five books just to get a general introduction to a subject. (p. 54)

I would love to challenge the how-to preacher to preach a sermon on "How the Leopard Can Change His Spots," since, biblically, this is as easily done as a sinner's changing his ways. (p. 82)

The particular blindness of the culture warrior is that he permits himself to think God is pleased by coerced behavior; by requiring people to say "one nation, under God" even if they do not yet believe in God (which strikes me as an instance of taking the Lord's name in vain). (p. 87)

If theocracy didn't work in Israel, where God divinely instituted it, why do people insist on believing it will work in places where God manifestly has not instituted it. (p. 88)

Preaching well requires more than preparing sermons; it requires preparing oneself as the kind of human who has the sensibilities prerequisite to preaching. An individual without time to read broadly and intensely, without time to reflect on life, without time to compose (even if merely in a person journal), is not likely to be an individual who cam preach. (p. 107)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Notes from My First Easter Sunday @ Shiloh

The Lord really blessed our Easter services at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. In fact, the entire Holy Week was special - from our Palm Sunday services, to our visit to St. Thomas Baptist Church Thursday night, to our Good Friday Service, to our church-wide fast, to our 3-1-6 evangelism emphasis.

During our Bible Study Fellowship hour, our children led a program songs and recitations. It was beautiful to hear the children sing praise to God and quote from memory passages of scripture. And I was glad to see how many people came out to support our children.

The music was great! Our music did a great job leading us in musical praise to God. I was really blessed by "The Midnight Cry," which I had never heard, and "Don't Cry," were particularly moving. And a special thanks to the choir members who do not regularly attend the 8 AM service. Your sacrifice may the day extra special.

We gave a book away to all of our guests - Anchor For The Soul by Ray Pritchard. It is one of the clearest explanation of the gospel and a good read.

Thank you to every member who worked to invite or bring a guest with you to worship.

I preached a message from Acts 2:22-24 entitled, "God's Testimony About Jesus Christ." In these three verses, Peter gives three ways in which God himself testified that Jesus is both Christ and Lord:

    1. God affirmed the life of Jesus (2:22).

    2. God planned the death of Jesus (2:23).

    3. God brought about the resurrection of Jesus (2:24).

Whatever the quality of the sermon, I had a great text to preach from in which Peter declares, "God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, for it was not possible for him to be held by it." (Acts 2:24)

I got a whopping one hour of sleep Saturday night. And I was wiped out Sunday morning. But by the day got into gear, the Lord gave me strength and I did not feel tired at all. God is Good.

I preached for about 10 minutes during the 8 AM service trying to block out a woman fighting with a baby in church. Woman: Crystal. Baby: Hailey. Who do you think won?

Praise God for those who were saved and added to the church in our services yesterday!

Kim and Copelia, from Mt. Sinai in Los Angeles, were in town and worshiped with us. When Crystal pointed them out, as I was giving the welcome, it absolutely made my day. I was a little homesick over the weekend, as I thought about this being my first Easter away from home. Worshiping and fellowshipping with Kim and Copelia over dinner, was a great blessing for us.

Our A.B. Coleman auditorium was set up for overflow. And at least one hundred people viewed our 10 AM service from Coleman, because we were running out of room in the main auditorium.

I understand that parking was a madhouse yesterday. Thank you to all of the brothers who served by helping people find a place to park and get to the campus. For that matter, thank you to all of the SMBC members who served in any way.

Please remember the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in your prayers this week.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter is the Main Event

"Anyone can be sentimental about the Nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event; if you don't believe in the resurrection, you're not a believer." - John Irving

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Can I Tell Anyone That I am Fasting?

Last week, I taught a lesson on fasting in preparation for an upcoming church-wide fast in observance of Good Friday. But there was something I failed to discuss in detail, either in the presentation of the lesson or the manuscript I prepared. It is a common and practical question many people have about fasting: Can I tell anyone that I am fasting?

This question is raised in light of Matthew 6:16-18: “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (ESV)

In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), the Lord admonishes his disciples not to be like the hypocrites when they give to the needy (6:1-4), pray (6:5-15), and fast (6:16-18). Jesus warns them and us not to do these acts to be praised by people who see what we do for God. God is to be the subject and object of our acts of devotion. That is, what we do should be about God and for God. Our service to God is not to be “an outside show to an unfriendly world,” as they used to say in the church of my youth.

Our self-centered flesh strives to be the center of attention, even when we are doing things in the name of God. Jesus teaches us to combat this sinful tendency by praying and fasting in secret. He even instructs us to hide from ourselves when we give, working to keep the left hand from knowing what the right hand is doing, lest our good works activate our pride. Jesus speaks in such graphic terms to make it clear that our acts of service are to focus on God, not self or others. If we do good deeds to be seen, we already have our reward once others see what we do!

Jesus teaches that fasting and prayer should not be done for people to see you. But he does not teach that it is wrong for people to see that you are fasting and praying. Being seen in fasting and prayer does not cancel out the meaning of your acts or disqualify you from receiving a reward. We know this because giving, prayer, and fasting are all things that happen corporately and publicly in the New Testament. And we know that these were corporate acts because the New Testament writers reported it for all to read. It is not wrong for people to see that you are fasting or praying or giving.

Say you are fasting and someone invites you to eat. Or say someone asks why you are not eating. How should you respond? In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus clearly teaches us not to make a sad, sullen, and spiritual looking face and start explaining that you sacrificing are food for God, in a way that makes more of you than the God you supposedly are fasting for in the first place. Likewise, whatever you do, don’t lie. Do not dishonor God by not telling the truth as you are seeking to honor God by fasting and praying.

I recommend that you simply tell inquirers that you are fasting. If you are planning to fast, it may be best to talk to your spouse and close family members about what you are planning to do. You don’t want your wife to think that you are going on a hunger strike until her cooking gets better, do you? Beyond that, you should try to avoid putting yourself in situations where you will have to do a lot of talking about your fast, if at all possible.

But when and where you are directly confronted with a question, tell the truth. You don’t have to make a big fanfare about it. But be honest. You are fasting. And if this raises further questions, answer them directly and biblically. But do so in a manner that exalts the God for whom you have taken this step of faith, rather than exalting yourself for taking the step of faith.

Above all, avoid being entangled in legalistic rules when it comes to the exercises of your faith. Jesus did not say that you have broken the fast if you tell someone that you are fasting. However, you will break the spirit of the fast when you are more concerned about keeping it a secret from others than you are about feeding your hunger for God by abstaining from food for a season. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,” says 1 Corinthians 10:31, ”do all to the glory of God.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Picture of Hailey on Her 1st Birthday

Crystal took Hailey to take pictures on her first birthday, which was on March 24.

I saw the picture again this morning, and thought I would share.

So here it is: Crystal's second Mini-Me.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 04/05/09

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. And we were blessed to have a great day of worship and fellowship at the Shiloh Church. We did not add any elements to our worship service. But it was a special time nonetheless.

I am blown away that it is April already. This year is speeding along.

As is our custom on first Sunday's, we observed the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper in our 10 AM service. Praise God for those who were baptized. And thank God for the opportunity to remember our baptism in Communion.

I asked the church to join me in a simple evangelistic emphasis for Holy Week: Project 3-1-6. I am encouraging each member to pray for three unsaved or unchurched people for the six days of Holy Week, with the goal of bring one guest to church with them for worship Easter Sunday morning. May the Lord smile on all who take up this challenge this week.

My New Members Class was great yesterday. I did not have much time. And it seemed that the time flew by so quickly. But it was great. I fielded questions. And although I only had time to respond to a few of them, the questions were excellent and led to good discussions.

The choir was on fire all day long. They did a great job in setting the tone of the worship services (with an assist from M. Rodgers).

During the 10 AM service, I led the pre-sermon hymn with the choir. We sung Timothy Wright's arrangement of the hymn, "My Savior's Love for Me." It is a wonderful song of praise for the love of God expressed to us in the death of our Savior on the cross.

I preached from Matthew 21:12-17, where Jesus cleanses the temple immediately after the Triumphal Entry. I labeled the message, "Is the Lord Pleased with this House?"

My argument was that the cleansing of the temple is warning for every church to consistently ask itself, "Is the Lord pleased with what he sees?" I saw in the text four tests that help a congregation examine if the Lord is pleased:

    1. The Test of Divine Authority

    2. The Test of Godly Priorities

    3. The Test of Changed Lives

       A. Lives are changed by the compassion of Christ.

       B. Lives are changed by the power of Christ.

    4. The Test of True Worship

I count it a great privilege to preach to such a great congregation each week as SMBC. And I am grateful.

Praise God for those who were saved and added to the church in our services yesterday.

I am now looking forward to our Good Friday Service, this Friday at 12 Noon.

WrestleMania 25.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Celebrating Holy Week

Holy Week is an observance of the Christian church that remembers the final week of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ before his crucifixion. It begins with Palm Sunday, which commemorates the Lord Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. During the Triumphal Entry, the crowds rejoiced as Jesus’ entrance into the city stoked the messianic hopes of Israel. In those days, the arrival of a conquering king would be typically celebrated with a royal procession. But in this impromptu triumph procession, they laid out their garments along the path. They also covered the path with palm branches, which symbolized victory and triumph. And they cried out, “Hosanna, to God in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The main event of Holy Week is Good Friday, the day Jesus died on the cross as our substitute to atone for our sins. There is a sense in which Good Friday is the darkest day in human history. On that terrible day, the sinless Son of God was condemned to death and executed as a common criminal. He had done nothing wrong, except for being a religious nonconformist to the Jews and a political nuisance to the Romans. Yet our Savior died in a manner that was so painful and shameful that a new word was coined to describe death on a cross: “excruciating.” Yet while man was at his worst, God was at his best. God, in his sovereign grace and predestined will, accepted the death of his Son on the cross as the payment for the sins of all who repent and put the faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

Holy Week climaxes on Easter Sunday, with the celebration of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The resurrection is God’s stamp of approval for the redemptive work Jesus accomplished on the cross. The resurrection was of such importance that it caused the first disciples, who were all Jews, to change their day of worship from the Sabbath, which is our Saturday, to Sunday, which the New Testament calls the Lord’s Day. And since then, Christians gather every Sunday – not just once a year – to celebrate the face that Jesus lives!

I encourage you to spend this week in grateful and prayerful reflection on the inestimable price that was paid to purchase your salvation from the eternal wrath of God against sin and to provide the gracious handout of eternal life. Likewise, pray diligently for those in your sphere of influence and around the world who have not run to the cross and called on the name of the Lord for salvation.

Following is an outline of the major events of Holy Week and corresponding scripture references for you to read as you savor the goodness of God in Christ this week:

Sunday: The Triumphal Entry (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-1; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19)

Monday: The Cleansing of the Temple (Matt. 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48)

Tuesday: The Authority of Jesus Challenged (Matt. 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 10:1-8)

Wednesday: The Plot against Jesus (Matthew 26:1-16; Mark 14:1-11; Luke 22:1-6)

Thursday: The Last Supper, Gethsemane, & Arrest (Matt. 26:26-56; Mark 14:22-50; Luke 22:14-53; John 13-16)

Friday: The Crucifixion (Matt. 27:32-54; Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-37)

Saturday: In the Tomb (Matt. 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)

Sunday: The Resurrection (Matt. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10)