The Reformation

Title: The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World

Author: Stephen J. Nichols

Page Count: 159

Publisher: Crossway

Readability: Easy

Genre: Church History Continue reading

Disdaining Shock and Awe from the Pulpit

American Christendom has birthed a disturbing new trend with today’s wave of ultra-hip pastors who unabashedly spew foul language from the pulpit and openly discuss various sexual acts in lurid detail with their congregations.   Allow me to share a nugget of wisdom from Charles Spurgeon that all these shepherds of God’s sheep should heed.

We need the divine influence to keep us back from saying many things which, if they actually left our tongue, would mar our message.  Those of us who are endowed with the dangerous gift of humor have need, sometimes, to stop and take the word out of our mouth and look at it, and see whether it is quite to edification; and those whose previous lives have borne them amoung the coarse and the rough had need watch with lynx eyes against indelicacy.  Brethren, far be it from us to utter a syllable which would suggest an impure thought, or raise a questionable memory.  We need the Spirit of God to put bit and bridle upon us to keep us from saying that which would take the minds of our hearers away from Christ and eternal realities, and set them thinking upon the groveling things of earth.  – Taken from Lectures to my Students: Chapter 14 -The Holy Spirit in Connection with our Ministry.

Paul’s Grace

Sermon Date: 1/25/09

Text: Ephesians 3: 7-12 – 7  Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. Continue reading

Crook in the Lot

Title: Crook in the Lot

Author: Thomas Boston

Publisher: Christian Heritage

Page Count: 195

Readability: Moderate

Genre: Christian Living

Synopsis: Boston sets out to demonstrate that all of life’s pain and suffering experienced by Christians is ultimately ordained for our good by an absolutely sovereign and loving God.  The term ‘crook in the lot’ is a biblical reference Boston uses as the main text for his work.  The scripture is taken from the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 17, verse 13: Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked. Continue reading

Esther’s Dignity

Sermon Date: 1/18/09

Text: Esther 4:12-17 – And they told Mordecai what Esther had said.  Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai,  “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”  Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

Main Points:

  • Esther rose to power
  • Esther listened to instruction
  • Esther chose to help

Reflections: It appears Pastor is doing a series on bible characters.  Last week he preached on the faith of Jabez and this week he taught us about Esther’s dignity.  Honestly, I didn’t really mine much out of this message.  I feel a little guilty, but this does happen from time to time.  Perhaps the Lord is making me work by the sweat of my brow to acquire the nugget of spiritual truth that Pastor has served up to us.

The problem I’ve noted about the last two messages is the disconnect between the virtue that these bible heroes possessed and the virtue that we’re supposed to demonstrate.  The great question that has gone unanswered is, “How do I exercise the faith of Jabez and walk in the dignity of Esther?”  I don’t know about most of you, but my faith is not like that of Jabez.  My dignity in the face of dire consequences probably wouldn’t hold up as did Esther’s.  I have no problem with being exhorted to the high standard of great men and women of God but I need to know how to live up to that standard.  The answer, of course, is that by our own power and determination we never could measure up.  Our only hope is the grace of God.  We must cry out for the Lord’s mercy and compassion to help us lowly sinners look to the perfect finished work of Christ as our only hope for salvation.  I’m too weak in my own strength to exercise great faith.  The Lord must grant me faith to believe and grab hold of the promises.  I’m too cowardly and self-preserving in the face of mortal danger to muster the dignity and courage to stick my neck out for my own people.  The Lord must perform a work on my heart to turn it away from my self interests to the welfare of others.

I guess without a reference back to the work of Jesus on the cross these sermons are really instructing us in law, not grace.  This is usually not the case with the vast majority of messages at our church.  I believe that in this case the gospel portion of the message is assumed.  I know my pastor well enough to be confident that he is not a moralist, but is  steadfastly a gospel minister. However, I am convinced that we should never assume the gospel because the natural bent of the human heart is toward meritorious works.  We must hear the gospel week in and week out in all its fullness, so that we may be humbled, lest our hearts be led astray by the things we believe we can accomplish in our own strength.

The Faith of Jabez

Sermon Date: 1/11/09

Text: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 – Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”  Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.

Main Points:

  • Jabez evidenced integrity.
  • Jabez overcame adversity.
  • Jabez invited responsibility
  • Jabez expected victory.

Reflections: I never read The Prayer of Jabez when the book swept through evangelical churches at the turn of the millennium.  I’m not sure why I didn’t.  Back then I had no qualms following the latest and greatest spiritual fads of the day.  I never read Bruce Wilkinson’s bestseller, though I have read much about the controversy surrounding it. My Pastor said that he had – and really didn’t have much to say about it after that admission.  He went on to preach on Jabez’s prayer in a way that contradicts the premise of the book.  Our congregation soon discovered two important facts about Jabez’s prayer. 1. It is not a magic formula that works by quoting by rote day after day.  2.  It is not a key to health, wealth and prosperity.  In fact, my pastor believed that when Jabez cries out to the Lord to bless him and enlarge his territory he is asking primarily for more responsibility.  More to do is a good thing.  Jabez, who had been faithful with much, desired to be faithful with even more. Pastor quoted from Christ’s parable of the talents, paralleling the good and faithful servant with Jabez.  Jabez wasn’t asking for material blessing so much as he was seeking to expand his usefulness and responsibility in service to God and his kingdom.

Personal Application: I left service asking these questions; In what way do I desire God to expand my territory?  What area of ministry have I been found faithful in and am ready for God to increase my responsibility?   I know what the big part of my answer is, but I’m not quite ready to make that public.  Suffice it to say, I’m ready to expand my sphere of influence to reach beyond cyberspace.  I am preparing to make sacrifices in money, time and comfort.  It is all for the sake of the gospel and I am excited for the new challenges that lie ahead.  The Lord is indeed beginning to do a work in my life that will greatly increase my borders.  Pastor taught me that Jabez did not seek fortune and ease, but fullfillment and purpose in the midst of doing God’s will. By the grace of God I will pray God achieves his purpose for my remaining time on earth.

Sunday Sermon Reflections

I am adding a new category to A Peculiar Pilgrim.  I”m naming it Sunday Sermon Reflections.  I believe the title is self explanatory, but let me give you the motivation for penning my thoughts on the morning message.  It has been my experience that during a normal week someone will ask how church went Sunday morning. I brace myself for the inevitable follow up question, “What did your pastor preach on?” My heart beats a little faster and my mind races to scrap together bits and pieces of my broken memory in order to muster up a vague yet truthful response without sacrificing my reputation as a spiritual Christian.  This is not to say that I don’t pay attention to the message or that the quality of the sermon isn’t adequate or that it somehow does not apply to me.  It’s just – well… I just forget.  I know, I  know.  You may say that if I thought highly of the preacher and his message then I couldn’t possibly forget.  Or, to turn the tables, you may point the blame straight at the pastor, accusing him of doing his job so poorly that no one could remember his message.  In truth, the answer really has a lot to do with over-saturation.

Let me explain.  Continue reading