Monday, December 06, 2010

12 Traits of a Pharisee

This Sunday I preached on Matthew 23, a blistering passage that is Jesus's most significant and thorough treatment of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The 39 verses include the famous "Seven Woes" of Jesus as he blasts them for their religious shell-game.

I invited our church to a time of self-evaluation in considering the following characteristics.

12 Traits of a Pharisee:

1. They do not practice what they preach (v 3)
2. The give themselves exceptions (v 4)
3. They are focused on appearances (v 5)
4. They love to be respected (vv 6-7)
5. They hind people spiritually (v 13)
6. They are dangerously persuasive (v 15)
7. They are spiritually unbalanced (vv 16-22)
8. They are busy in the wrong things (vv 23-24)
9. They are not focused on the heart (vv 25-28)
10. They are over-confident (vv 29-32)
11. They are under judgment (vv 33-36)
12. They grieve the heart of Jesus (vv 37-38)

Here's the concluding paragraph: "Be watchful - be very, very, watchful - of your heart because the murder of the Son of God came at the hands of religious people who had convinced themselves that they were doing God's will."

Sunday, October 03, 2010

What "Unreached" Really Means

This Sunday I talked about the passion of William Carey to reach "unreached" people groups, specifically the people of India. He not only became the father of modern day missions, but he also helped give us global view of evangelism.

In the 1700's the unreached people groups were called "heathen," but in the 1970's it was Ralph Winter, at the Lusanne conference, that first defined the term "unreached people groups."

Here's a summary: Unreached people are not those who have heard; unreached people are those who cannot hear. The difference is access to the gospel message not receiving the gospel. Unreached people groups are unreached for a reason. They are hard to get to, governments set up barriers, the culture is resistant, etc.

If you are interested in learning more, the Joshua Project details the scope and breadth of the need in our world.

Here is a link to what College Park is doing to reach unreached people.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Evangelicals, Adoption and Foster Care

One of my dreams is to see the Foster Care system flooded with Evangelical believers. Imagine what would happen if 2,000 believers from every State in the Union decided to enlist in providing abused and neglected children a safe and caring home. Imagine what a testimony it would be to the overtaxed, underpaid, and highly vilified Department of Child Services to see this many followers of Jesus live out their faith.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cataloged what may be the early signs of a similar movement. It chronicles the recent interest by Focus on the Family, Rick Warren, and Russell Moore from Southern Seminary as an indication that adoption and foster care are starting to get some much needed attention.

The article clearly has a bias: "one wonders how these evangelical adoptive parents overcome their own desire for control, bring a stranger into their home, and then take responsibility for raising him."

But it ends well: "The most persuasive explanation comes from the author of that article, Leslie Leyland Fields, who exhorts her readers: "We are not sovereign over our children—only God is. Children are not tomatoes to stake out or mules to train, nor are they numbers to plug into an equation. They are full human beings wondrously and fearfully made. Parenting, like all tasks under the sun, is intended as an endeavor of love, risk, perseverance, and, above all, faith."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Insider's Guide to Capitol Hill Baptist Church

I am always fascinated when I visit other churches, especially well-known churches, at the similarities and differences in forms and styles of worship.

While I've never visited Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., David Crowe in his blog post gives an wonderful summary with pictures, notes, and even a copy of the order of worship.

It is a very helpful play-by-play (forgive the metaphor) of what a Sunday service is like.

Christian Cockroaches?

Mark Dever, in a message on politics that some have called the best message on politics and Dever's finest sermon, made an insightful comment regarding the "unhitching" of Christianity from national identity. He argued that Christianity, by definition, is international. In other words, we should use caution in identifying it too closely with a particular nation or people.

To make this point memorable he said the following: "Christians are, by God's grace, like cockroaches; we can survive anything."

To read the rest of the sermon, click here: Mark 12:13-17

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Biographical Sermon on William Carey

This Sunday I'll be launching our Missions Emphasis Month with my annual biographical sermon on a missionary. This year I've chosen to profile the father of modern missions, William Carey.

In 1792, he wrote a stirring challenge to his fellow Baptist pastors to consider the plight of the unreached (called "heathen during his day), and the result was the formation of the first missionary society.

Here's a quote:

"If a holy solicitude had prevailed in all the assemblies of Christians in behalf of their Redeemer's kingdom, we might probably have seen before now, not only an open door for the gospel, but many running to and fro, and knowledge increased; or a diligent use of those means which providence has put in our power, accompanied with a greater blessing than ordinary from heaven."

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Where I'll be in Ukraine

I'm leaving today for a 10 day trip to Ukraine and the Caspian Region to celebrate the 10-year partnership between College Park Church at Ukrainian Evangelical Seminary. I will be ministering along with Dale Shaw and Nate Irwin at UETS in Kiev, Ukraine. We are leading a spiritual emphasis week under the banner of "Beholding the Beauty of Jesus" which will include a Fresh Encounter Prayer Service at the end.

On Saturday, I'll be speaking at the graduation service and in two churches on Sunday: Salvation Church and House of Prayer. (Be sure to use the Google Chrome feature to translate into English - super cool!)

Then we'll be off to the Caspian region to visit some College Park friends.

Pray that God will bless our ministry and that we'll be a great encouragement to the church in Eastern Europe!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Today's Sermon: Defining Greatness

In Matthew 18:1-4, Jesus identifies the definition of greatness. He links true greatness to becoming like a little child - turning from self-sufficiency to dependent, life transforming faith.

Click here to view the manuscript and listen to the audio file.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Prayer Mirrors the Gospel

I found a great quotation of Paul Miller in a recent publication from Life Action Ministries on the connection between prayer and the gospel:

"In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks at the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers."

Great hope for meandering, sloppy, and struggling believers who wrestle not only to pray but to pray well.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Peril of the Corner Office

I was reading an article recently about the amazing number of corporate leaders who had been convicted or fired because of shocking behavior. The piece was entitled “The Corner Office Alters Nice Guys” and it was acknowledging a brutal and scary reality in our power-grabbing world:

“The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Once the nice guys reach the top, the headiness of wielding power causes them to morph into a very different kind of beast. They lose their ability to empathize with others, especially lesser mortals and ignore information that doesn’t confirm what they already believe. Most tellingly, perhaps, they learn to excuse faults in themselves that they are quick to condemn in others. Even the most virtuous people can be undone by the corner office.”

Translation? Be sure that you know what true greatness is all about because the world-based, self-focused lure of promotion, advancement, or success can easily destroy you. All you have to do is think like everyone else, live like everyone else, act like everyone else and then think that you did it by yourself, and it will not be long until you are just another body-bag on the road of life. Worse, you could be a personal “train-wreck” with a fish bumper sticker. The gravitational pull of our culture and our flesh is so strong that a follower of Jesus dare not set his or her life on auto pilot. We need a constant re-orientation with the horizon of God’s word.