Monthly Archives: February 2012

Make a Real Difference – Pastor’s Letter – March 2012

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Question: If you could do one thing to make a real difference in your entire life, what would it be?

Answer: Assuming you are already trusting by faith in Jesus Christ, the answer is to be regularly seeking out the Word of God.

If you’re a Christian, you pay at least lip service to the idea that God’s Word is important.  But do you understand the riches available to us daily through God’s Word?  Some of you are thinking, “oh no, not another exhortation to read my Bible.”  But I tell you this not to be legalistic or to turn you into a Bible nerd.  I tell you this because of my love for all of you.  Anyone who has made a daily practice of seeking God through the reading of Scripture will echo the words of Job, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:12b)  Yes, it really is that good!  If you’ve made a regular and enduring commitment to reading the Bible, you will immediately understand what Job is saying.

Even on our busiest of days, we never forget to eat, providing the necessary, life sustaining fuel our bodies need.  Yet, many of us neglect to feed ourselves the meal that strengthens, nourishes and sustains our inner person.  I can say without hesitation that a morning started in the Word of God will change your entire outlook on the day ahead.  It makes even the worst of days completely bearable and grounds us in reality.  This is not because the Word of God is full of helpful sayings or encouraging platitudes.  It is not Chicken Soup for the Soul or the best of Norman Vincent Peale on the Power of Positive Thinking.  It is because the Word of God is like no other.  It is the very Word of God.  Its pages work themselves into us through the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is as Paul says in1 Thessalonians 2:13, “at work in you believers.”  When we earnestly read the Bible, we are receiving the life changing Word of God Himself.

So if you really want to do the one thing that will have the greatest impact on your life, start reading the Bible daily.  If you don’t own a Bible or need a new one, take one of the free ESV Outreach Bibles at the back of the sanctuary.  If you would like a serious study Bible, I recommend the ESV Study Bible (see separate review in this issue).  If you need a resource to get you going and keep you motivated on a daily plan, consider purchasing D.A. Carson’s companion book to the Bible, For the Love of God.

Put the Lord’s book in your hands and expect to see your life transformed.

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Rest to Work – Mark 2:23-3:6

When I was growing up in rural Massachusetts, it was hard to find a gas station open on Sunday.  Trucks, other than for milk transport and emergency fuel needs, were not allowed on the highways on Sunday.  All team sports were played Monday through Saturday.  The pharmacy was the only store open in town on Sunday and then only for half a day.  Sundays were considered, by most people, a day of rest.  It makes you wonder, “exactly how old is Pastor Bob?”  No, wait a minute, I hope it makes you wonder “why is Sunday no longer different from the other six days in the week?”  I know of no statistical research on the topic but would venture to guess that it has more to do with how Christians view their obligation to set aside Sundays as a day of rest, than it has to do with the influence of other religions on our culture.

It seems that the culture we live in has turned Sunday from a day of rest to a day of work.

The Pharisees were upset that Jesus disciples were picking grain as they walked along on the Sabbath day of rest (Saturday).  Can you imagine how upset the Pharisees would be at our Sabbath keeping today?   But it appears, from the correction Jesus gives them in verses 27 and 28, that they were not any more on track with the meaning of the Sabbath than our culture is today.

What did Jesus mean when He said that “the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath?”  What does the fourth of the Ten Commandments say about keeping the Sabbath?

After the resurrection, the disciples shifted the “day of rest” from last day of the week (Saturday) to the first day (Sunday), which in the New Testament is called the Lord’s Day. What do the disciples seem to be engaged in and what do the New Testament epistles call Christians to do on the Lord’s Day?

On Sunday, we’ll look at what the Sabbath is, what it is not and what it means to us as Christians today.

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Not So Fast – Mark 2:18-22

OK, by now you must be getting the impression that the Pharisees are more than a little uptight and uncomfortable with the authority that Jesus is claiming.  In our journey through Mark thus far, they’ve called Him a blasphemer, criticized the company He keeps and closely monitor His every move.  In this week’s passage, we see them laying yet another charge, insinuating that He is a rule breaker.  Well, a breaker of their rules anyway.

The scribes and the Pharisees were certainly fastidious about rule keeping.  They created a twice a week fast on Mondays and Thursdays from sunrise to sunset.  Just so you would know how good they were at keeping the fast, they wore disheveled clothing and either put ashes on their foreheads or applied white make-up to their faces to make themselves look weak and worn from fasting.  Quite a contrast to Jesus’ prescription for fasting in Matthew 6:16-18.

When Jesus is questioned in verse 18, He takes the next four verses to respond.  Does His response seem a little weird to you?  What in the world is He saying and what is His point?  Why should these well learned Jews, of all people, be able to figure out what He was saying to them?

How comfortable are you getting with Jesus’ claims of authority?  Are you getting more or less comfortable each week?

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A Congregational Reminder

Our Separatist and Puritan forefathers came to America from England to practice religious freedom separate from church, which had been taken over by the King of England, who formed an Anglican state run church.   Our Pilgrim / Congregational forefathers came to this land for religious liberty, wanting to follow God alone, according to His Holy Word without interference and corruption by the king.   The authority of the state run church was at odds with the authority of God in Scripture.  Christians found themselves asking, “Do we violate our consciences and obey the political authority or do we disobey those God has put over us?”  By physically separating themselves geographically from the reaches of the state run church, they would be able to worship God and practice the Christian religion without governmental corruption.

Today,  because of a recent executive branch mandate, many Christians in this country will be faced with either violating their religious conscience or disobeying governmental authority.  President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services has ordered religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for employees that must include contraceptives, including those that may induce an abortion.  It also includes plan funded sterilization.  The only exemption is offered to churches and religious bodies that neither employ nor serve any significant number of people who do not share their faith. Many Catholic and Christian schools, colleges, hospitals and social agencies would be directly affected.

Why is this a problem?  Because those Christian organizations affected will have to pay for and provide services and procedures that are, in many cases, in opposition to Scripture.  They will be forced to either comply and violate their consciences or disobey the law and face the penalty imposed by the government.

Oh yes, the President did offer on Friday, in response to opposition primarily from the Roman Catholic church, a slight modification to the regulation.  Christian organizations and their employees will no longer have to directly pay for these benefits, although health plans will still have to offer the benefits to employees of the organization.  The cost of these benefits, will now need to be spread by the health plan providers to all other plan subscribers, thereby raising everyone else’s premiums.  Yes, even those of other Christians who consciously object to provide abortion services via their health plan.  Apparently the administration doesn’t understand the underlying issue.  Certainly, President Thomas Jefferson “got it” when he said, in 1808: “I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.”

We find ourselves in a moral dilemma not unlike those faced by our Pilgrim forefathers before they set sail on the Mayflower.  And in a situation in direct opposition to the founding principles of this country.  The one huge difference, however, is that we now live in a republic and not a monarchy. A republic where the voices of its citizens and those of the nations’s founding fathers are often heard and heeded.  Thankfully, we as Christians have an even greater hope, no matter what the outcome, as we know the One whose voice is always heard.  Please join me in praying that God would be glorified in this matter and in our actions as His people.

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Paralyzed No More – Mark 2:1-12


 Mark’s gospel is written to a Roman/Gentile audience, some 15-20 years after Christ’s earthly life, death, resurrection and ascension.  These Gentiles were largely uninterested in knowing how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies but were vitally interested in this remarkable leader who appeared in Judea; this man who claimed and exhibited great power and authority.  They either knew of Jesus, through others, or had personally witnessed much of what He had said and done.

In this week’s Scripture reading, we see one such witness to the power and authority of Jesus.  What happened at a home in Capernaum was so extraordinary that those in attendance  proclaimed, “We never saw anything like this!”  As you meditate on the passage, give some thought to what the crowd found so astounding about what they saw.

In this passage, we also begin to notice the rising opposition to Jesus by the Jewish authorities.  Those one would expect to be the first to recognize the identity and role of Jesus are the ones who seem the most unsettled by His preaching and actions.  Why do you think they reacted as they did?  In what ways do you sense your own opposition to Christ’s authority?

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Abiding – Mark 1:35-45

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As we saw in last week’s passage, Mark 1:21-34, Jesus had more than a full day of ministry as he entered the city of Capernaum.  He preached and prayed at the synagogue from 6 A.M. until Noon, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of an illness, had a meal and spent time with the disciples on the Sabbath afternoon, and then was mobbed in the evening, as the entire city showed up at Peter’s house to witness the Lord heal those with diseases and cast out demons from the spiritually afflicted.  Jesus must have been exhausted from the heavy physical, mental and emotional burdens placed on Him that day.  If that was any of us, we would have reached for the “snooze” button or slept in the next morning.  But not Jesus.  He was up and at it before sunrise.

We might argue, “yeah but He’s God.”  Well, Jesus is and was fully God, but He we must remember that He was also fully man.  And Mark reveals both aspects of Jesus’ nature again this week.  Despite Christ’s divinity, position and authority,  He recognized the vital necessity of abiding in the Father at all times.

As you meditate on the passage before we meet together on Sunday morning, give some thought to how Jesus demonstrated His need to abide in the Father and why He did so.  If the perfect God-man found it necessary to abide in the Father, how much more do you and I need to abide in God?

In Christ alone,

Pastor Bob

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Abiding – Mark 1:35-45

Image

As we saw in last week’s passage, Mark 1:21-34, Jesus had more than a full day of ministry as he entered the city of Capernaum.  He preached and prayed at the synagogue from 6 A.M. until Noon, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of an illness, had a meal and spent time with the disciples on the Sabbath afternoon, and then was mobbed in the evening, as the entire city showed up at Peter’s house to witness the Lord heal those with diseases and cast out demons from the spiritually afflicted.  Jesus must have been exhausted from the heavy physical, mental and emotional burdens placed on Him that day.  If that was any of us, we would have reached for the “snooze” button or slept in the next morning.  But not Jesus.  He was up and at it before sunrise.

We might argue, “yeah but He’s God.”  Well, Jesus is and was fully God, but He we must remember that He was also fully man.  And Mark reveals both aspects of Jesus’ nature again this week.  Despite Christ’s divinity, position and authority,  He recognized the vital necessity of abiding in the Father at all times.

As you meditate on the passage before we meet together on Sunday morning, give some thought to how Jesus demonstrated His need to abide in the Father and why He did so.  If the perfect God-man found it necessary to abide in the Father, how much more do you and I need to abide in God?

In Christ alone,

Pastor Bob

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