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Mar 18, 2012

From the Pastor,

I’d like to do something a little different tonight for evening service. During last week’s sermon I used a site called Blue Letter Bible (http://www.blueletterbible.org/index.cfm). Some people have asked questions about the site, while others already started using it and expressing some very positive results. What I’d like to do during evening service tonight is take a look at the site and see how it can benefit us as Christians. We’ll look up some words in Greek and Hebrew and see how an understanding of them can help us in our understanding of God and His Word.

I do want to say I grew up in a religious system that made the common people, or laity, feel like they couldn’t understand God’s Word. You were made to feel that unless you were one of the religious leaders, and had therefore received sort of a special anointing from God, you’d be completely confused if you attempted to read the Bible on your own. So it’s better if you don’t even try!

The Old Testament was written almost entirely in Hebrew and the New Testament was written almost entirely in Greek. I’ve met some people who act like unless you understand the original languages, you’ll never really understand the Bible. That couldn’t be more untrue; it reminds me of the religious system I grew up in! There are a number of verses I could quote, but just consider Jesus’ words in John 14:26 that “the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things” or John 16:13 which says “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” Jesus never said an understanding of the original languages is necessary to understand the Truth.

To me, understanding the original languages is like going to Sunday School, evening service or our midweek studies: it’s not necessary, but it can really benefit your Christian life. So even if you don’t normally attend evening service, think about coming tonight for what I believe will be an enjoyable evening learning how to better understand God’s precious Word.

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Mar 11, 2012

This week I was particularly impressed with the depth of God’s Word. We’ve all heard how we can read a passage of Scripture and get something knew from it each time. The same is true with teaching. We’re in 2 Samuel 6 this morning and I taught this chapter a few years ago during a morning service at Grace Baptist. At that time I covered the entire chapter. This morning, we’re only going to look at the first 7 verses. When I went over the sermon with my wife, she actually wanted me to stop after the first four verses! In case you’re wondering why she wanted me to stop after the fourth verse, it’s because she really wanted me to elaborate on the Israelites imitating the Philistines. This will make more sense during the sermon if you’re unfamiliar with the passage. Katie saw great application for the church not to copy the way the world does things.

I also wanted to mention this, because Jim copied sermons I preached at Grace Baptist and passed them out while I was candidating. I think he copied the sermon I preached on 2 Samuel 6. If you happened to listen to that sermon, don’t worry, this morning’s sermon will be different!

Anyway, as I came back to 2 Samuel 6 this week, it really reminded me of just how wonderful God’s Word is in our lives. Matthew Arnold said, “To the Bible men will return; and why? Because they cannot do without it.” The great thing about returning to the Word – even to those passages we feel like we’ve memorized – is there are always has new treasures for us.

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Mar 4, 2012

From the Pastor,

Have you ever wondered why Jesus healed people, but told them not to tell anyone? The end of Mark 1 shows this happening and also provides part of the answer: “43 And He strictly warned him (the man Jesus just healed of leprosy) and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

45 However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.

Jesus wanted to be able to teach people about the Kingdom, which required being able to move freely from town-to-town, but being flocked by multitudes prevented Him from doing so; instead He was forced out to deserted places.

Secondly, Jesus wanted to help people spiritually more than He wanted to help them physically. If Jesus healed people, and the news spread, people would be coming to Him for physical reasons instead of spiritual ones. Think about John 6. After Jesus fed the 5,000, thousands followed Him, but it wasn’t to hear Him teach. It was because they were hungry again…and I don’t mean hungry spiritually. After Jesus tried to talk to them spiritually and tell them He was the true bread/manna/food from heaven they should be hungering for, they walked off in frustration.

This is why we see a sort of reluctance in Jesus at times to perform miracles, like for example when Mary wanted Him to turn water into wine.

So this begs the question: why did Jesus still perform miracles if He knew they’d make His ministry more difficult? One reason is the miracles testified of His Messiahship, but the other reason is contained in Mark 1:41: He was “moved with compassion.” Matthew 9:35 and 36 say Jesus went through all the towns and villages and when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them. Jesus wants to meet our spiritual needs, but He still feels compassion for our physical needs.

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Feb 26, 2012

From the Pastor,

Oftentimes in my studies I encounter great literary artistry in God’s Word; however, I don’t point it out because I’m trying to get as much beneficial information as possible into a 45-minute sermon and there’s just not that much application. Still, I think we should all know the Bible does have this beautiful, literary depth. Just using today’s passage, let me share some of it with you:

  • The chapter is 12 verses long, but it’s divided into 3 main sections of 4 verses.
  • Each of these 3 sections is further divided into a 3-verse-unit, followed by a 1-verse conclusion that features one or more parts of the body.
  • Verses 1 and 12 form what’s called an inclusio, which is where the concept at the beginning and end of a section are the same, thus “including” the material in between. In other words, a bookend is formed for the passage, where the bookends themselves contain the contents of the passage:
    • It might be a little different, depending on what translation you have, but in the original language, verse 1 mentions Ishbosheth, Abner, Hebron and hands. Then look at verse 12, which also mentions Ishbosheth, Abner, Hebron and hands.
    • In verse 1, a few of your Bibles might say “Saul’s son” instead of “Ishbosheth” or “he lost heart” instead of saying “his hands were feeble”, but in Hebrew the same words were used.

 

Here’s an outline for 2 Samuel 4 so you get the idea…

Part 1 – Introduction of characters in 4:1-4

3-Verse-Unit – Ishbosheth, Baanah, Recab 4:1-3

1-Verse Conclusion – Mephibosheth 4:4

Part 2 – The Wicked Deed in 5:5-8

3-Verse-Unit – Ishbosheth’s Murder 4:5-7

1-Verse Conclusion – Head Brought to David 4:8

Part 3 – The Consequences in 4:9-12

3-Verse-Unit – David’s Verdict 4:9-11

1-Verse Conclusion – Recab & Baanah’s execution 4:12

Inclusio of Ishbosheth, Abner, Hebron and hands in vv. 1 and 12

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Feb 19, 2012

From the Pastor,

We’re going to finish 2 Sam 3 this morning – which along with the previous chapter, and the subsequent chapter we will be looking at next week – are really messy. From the beginning of 2 Samuel 2 to the end of chapter 4, there’s nothing but fighting, violence, betrayal and deception associated with David ascending to the throne.

These chapters remind me of Proverbs 14:4 which says, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.” If you don’t have any oxen in the barn, you won’t have any messes to clean up…BUT you also won’t have any harvest. Here’s another way to read it: “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest” (NLT). In other words, no oxen means no messes (clean stables), but it also means you won’t accomplish anything (no harvest).

While studying this week I spoke with three people  who experienced some huge “messes” in their service to God. I spoke with a pastor who went through a church split a few years back. Half of his congregation left as well as his elders, and they decided to start a new church. Unbelievably, the pastor’s son became the pastor of the new church. I know there are two sides to every story, but from what I could gather he didn’t do anything wrong.

All of this reminded me of David. It’s a huge mess as he ascends to the throne; chapters 2-4 are filled with all the carnage. If David was going to accomplish anything though, it was going to entail some messes. David could have sat back and never done anything in his life (had no oxen), and of course he would have had clean stalls, but he never would have done anything of significance. The whole point is that if we’re going to do anything for God’s Kingdom in our lives, work, ministry, church, families, it’s going to take a lot of work (oxen) and it will include messes (unclean stalls).

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Feb 12, 2012

From the Pastor,

Last week’s sermon had a strong focus on the purpose of the church, which we discussed is the spread of the Gospel. We talked about how the world has countless, worthy social causes, but if the church became occupied with solving even a few of them we would be completely unable to accomplish the main responsibility God has for us. We talked about how ultimately, God has called the church to focus on the spiritual, on people’s hearts, instead of their financial or physical situations.

This past week I read something in John MacArthur’s biography that I feel related to this topic. He said, “We visited Mother Teresa’s convent where we spent some time with the aged lady whose care for the sick and dying had made her famous. We were impressed with her success in recruiting helpers, with the abundance of medical supplies, but sad at the vacuum where gospel truth was needed.

            Conversation with Mother Teresa revealed a very vague understanding of Christianity. She said, ‘All my people die beautiful deaths. I love and respect all religions, but I love my Jesus.’ But in a city where Hindus believe Jesus was the seventh incarnation of Shiva, and Krishna the eighth, the ‘Jesus’ was not presented as the only Lord, Savior, and Mediator. Nor had Roman Catholic teaching helped Mother Teresa in that regard. In the Bible of one visitor she wrote, ‘May you enter the heart of Jesus through Mary.’”

We all need to remember that no matter how much love or generosity we’ve shown to others, if we haven’t presented the Gospel, we haven’t done anything eternal. We’ve probably all heard the adage, “Share the Gospel, and when necessary use words.” I understand that quote and agree with the idea that people see Christ through our actions, but we should never forget that people are “saved by faith,” and “faith comes by hearing” and “and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Eph 2:8, Rom 10:14 and 17).

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Jan 15, 2012

From the Pastor,

I’ve been reading through Job during my daily Bible reading and the other day I read 19:25-27, which records Job saying: 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;

 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,

 27 Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

Compared to the New Testament, the Old Testament is relatively quiet when discussing life after death, most of the time simply saying people went to “the grave.” Resurrection to eternal life or eternal judgment is only discussed a few times (for example Dan 12:2 says, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt”).

Job is the oldest book of the Bible, written even before Moses wrote Genesis, but Job still had some tremendous revelation regarding what followed his physical death (“after my skin is destroyed” – and based on Job 2:7-8 his skin was already in pretty bad shape!). He expected to stand before God, and not as a spirit, but in the flesh, in an eternal body and see “my Redeemer…in my flesh…[with] my eyes.” He knows the only way all this can happen after he dies is if God raises him from the dead, and his confidence is impressive: numerous times he says, “I know”, “I shall” or “He shall.”

Job’s life was pretty miserable at the time he wrote these words: he’d lost everything and his “friends” constantly accused him of being wicked enough to deserve all his suffering. Still, he was able to look forward to Someone who would side with him and redeem him from his mess. Job didn’t know his Redeemer was Jesus, but we obviously have that revelation. If you’re going to be redeemed, you need a relative, someone close enough to help you (Lev 25:23-25), which is why God became a man to be our Redeemer in the Person of Jesus Christ.

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Jan 8, 2012

From the Pastor,

We finished our brief detour on Finishing Strong and we’re now back to The Life of David starting at 2 Samuel 1:1. This will take us all the way to 1 Kings 2 where David passes away at the age of 70.

I really appreciated the feedback provided last Sunday. I e-mailed the sermon and insert to the families who were absent and invited them listen to the sermon and provide feedback as well. I’ve already started receiving some of their responses and once all the feedback is received I’ll compile it into one document and get a copy to each of the leadership. We’ll spend some time going over the material and praying about it.

I’m letting you know all this for a few reasons:

  1. So you know your feedback is taken seriously.
  2. So you’ll know why you might not see any of your feedback being applied for a little while.

On a different note I’ve been reading through Job during my Bible reading time finding the different references to the Messiah particularly encouraging. The other day on FB I posted something from chapter 9, and yesterday I read this:

19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.
20 My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;
21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as one pleads for a friend
(16:19-21).

A witness or advocate is someone who speaks for someone else. 1 John 2 says, “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Job says that while he’s in the middle of this terrible suffering (“my eyes pour out tears to God”), his intercessor/advocate that is also his friend, pleads with God on his behalf as one pleads for a friend. Probably nobody’s ever suffered as much as Job, but in the middle of it God gave him tremendous revelation of his future Savior. Hopefully He does with us too when we suffer.

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Jan 1, 2012

From the Pastor,

I wrote a letter for the back of the bulletin, but Katie said she, “wasn’t feeling it.” She said I should write about the highlights from this year instead, so I said, “Why don’t you do that?” So without further ado…

 

From the Pastor’s Wife,

This last year has been so wonderful. Moving here from California was a big decision and it was the right one. I have so enjoyed living here. Some of the highlights that come to mind that have made 2011 special are:

  1. Watching my husband grow as a pastor and man of God, and do what I believe God created him and called him to do.
  2. Seeing the joy my husband has after leadership meetings. He really loves each of the men and has developed such great friendships with them. We couldn’t have imagined a better team to work with while serving the Lord!
  3. Seeing my family, including my children, be embraced by everyone. People are continually lending me a helping hand as a mom of little people. Thank you! J
  4. Seeing my in-laws move in to their new home! They sacrificed a lot to be here with us, and after what seemed like a long time coming, now Woodland feels even more like home having them here with us living life together!
  5. Each of the wonderful people God added to the church.
  6. The friendships that I have developed with the women in this church have blessed my heart SO much. I couldn’t ask for better friends to share life with! Thank you for your encouragement and love.
  7. Having Elena join our family. It won’t feel like home when she leaves us in June. She has become such a beautiful part of our family. We love her so much and are thankful to God for bringing her into our lives!
  8. Our first women’s conference and ladies’ retreat were so much fun and I felt more connected with the ladies after them.
  9. I feel like the Lord has used the people in this church to strengthen and refine me and to bring me closer to God. This is what I am most thankful for.
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Dec 25, 2012

From the Pastor,

First, I just wanted to say thank you so much for the wonderful card and gift given to us last Sunday night. The words in the card were very touching and heartfelt and made us feel very loved. Of course I’m working on trying to forgive Gary for what he did, but with time and God’s help I think I’ll be able to move on. Gary’s now two-for-two, first locking me out of his house and then…what he did last Sunday night…I don’t really have words for it. I wonder what he’s got in store for next December.

Second, check out the new photos in the hallway! One of the youth replaced all the old photos with photos from the past year.

Third, I want to encourage you to please try to make sure you attend the New Year’s Party at the Donald’s house this coming Saturday. Last year it was one of the first events I attended with the church and it’s remained one of my favorites of the year. Close to midnight we pack into the garage and watch a slideshow prepared by one of our youth and usher in 2012 with a devotional and prayer.

Second, a few people asked to hear the rest of the Mandolin Café “Drip Story.” When we last left off, Katie went up to the counter and told the skinny-little man she was the wife of the “drip coffee” guy. He said, “Well, you should tell your husband not to waste people’s time with such silly questions.”

After Katie came back and told me what he said, I walked up to the counter. He saw me coming and threw a pot of hot “drip coffee” at me. My cat-like reflexes allowed me to move just in time for the pot to shatter against the wall. The other employees and people in the café joined in the commotion. Right when it was about to look like West Side Story…ug, I don’t have room again.1


1 Actually, none of that happened. Katie did tell the guy she was my wife, but all he did was stare at her like, “Uhh…I’m going to lose my job.” He brought our coffee over to us, and I tried to start a conversation with him by joking about him being friendly, but he didn’t really say anything and walked off. See…the other version is way more exciting!