First Thoughts

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Now that the Advent Season is upon us, it is our challenge to slow the pace of our lives enough to acknowledge it and then enjoy it. However, the busyness of our ordinary lives abruptly resumes following the Thanksgiving holiday, and a new but familiar tyranny descends upon us with the approach of December. The calendar fills quickly with celebrative events, and the task list explodes. It is the most wonderful time of the year… but will we take the time required to enjoy it? Singing Christmas carols is a wonderful way to pause and reflect. During a much simpler time, at least from our perspective, Charles Wesley, one of the most prolific hymn writers in history, wrote special Christmas hymns for the church to sing during this special season. Wesley loved celebrating Christmas, and singing...

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Christian, You Need to Come to Church on Christmas

Christmas On Sunday Just so you won’t think I’m a pastor that is out of touch, I’m going to make a very candid admission. Here it is: it is a pain that Christmas falls on Sunday this year. There. I said it. Most of the time, Christmas falls on one of the other six days of the week, and that makes it easier. When it falls on Sunday, it messes up all the traditions we create the rest of the time: opening presents with kids, traveling to loved-one’s homes, Christmas breakfast, Christmas brunch, preparing Christmas dinner and Christmas lunch. It’s complicated. I get it. Even though it is complicated, here at the beginning of the Christmas season, I want to plead with my brothers and sisters to make room for church on Christmas Sunday while there’s still flexibility in your planning. Here are...

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Why We Need a First Baptist Statement on Biblical Sexuality

In October, the congregation of First Baptist Church adopted a statement required of each of our members. It is called The First Baptist Statement on Biblical Sexuality. Here is what it says: As a member of First Baptist Church, I believe that God creates people in his image as either male or female, and that this creation is a fixed matter of human biology, not individual choice. I believe marriage is instituted by God, not government, is between one man and one woman, and is the only context for sexual desire and expression. Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 This statement is a very straightforward and biblical statement. Without singling out anyone specific sin, it summarizes God’s design for gender, marriage, and sexuality. This positive statement...

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Is God in Control of Suffering?

When suffering comes into our lives, whatever form it takes, we can often respond by wondering, “where is God?” We often question that if God is good, why does he allow this difficulty to come into our lives? Or we respond the other way; we question if our good God is really in control. If God was in control, there’s no way that he would permit painful suffering in our lives. In our last post, we saw two truths about suffering from the opening chapters of the book of Job. Those chapters teach that even though suffering is Satan’s attempt to destroy our faith in God, we also learn that this same suffering is also God’s purpose to strengthen our faith in God. Satan uses suffering for his evil purposes, but God uses suffering for His good purposes in our lives. In order for us to trust God...

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Trusting God Through Suffering

Suffering comes into our lives in many different forms. The difficult loss of a loved one, especially a spouse or child. Debilitating and chronic physical pain. Financial strain from losing a job, bankrupting a business, or making a terrible investment. Relational strain from an estranged family member or former friend. We also face cancer diagnoses and natural disasters, not to mention any hostility or outright persecution for simply being a Christian. Suffering is inescapable this side of heaven. The goal is not to avoid all suffering (as if that was possible) but to be prepared for suffering. The Bible calls us to trust God through our suffering and provides us the message of Job to help teach us that lesson. Job’s Suffering The opening two chapters of the book of Job describe the horrible...

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What is Godliness?

It’s a prerequisite for Christian leadership. It’s championed in Christian literature. Its absence is a red light in romantic relationships. It’s heralded in thousands of churches every Sunday. It motivates accountability groups, is commended by Christians around the world and is summarized in one word: Godliness. Godliness means conforming to the character of God in your thoughts, feelings, desires, and actions. Quite simply, being godly means being like God. But godliness is dangerous. Not because you may be persecuted if you pursue it – although you may. Not because Satan will oppose you at every turn of your striving towards it – although he will. Not because your sinful flesh will roar in resistance as you reach for it – although it will. No, godliness is dangerous for a much more subtle...

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Winning with Evangelism

If you were to survey Christians in our city, asking them, “how many people have you shared the Gospel with this week?” you would be hard-pressed to find evangelism happening at all. We need to change that. One of the most helpful ways to do that is to adjust our perspective. I believe that a proper view of evangelism leads to evangelism. When we are thinking biblically about it, we will do it. Evangelism is obedience to what God says, like prayer, bible reading, and attending church. So, what is stopping you? We know we should evangelize, but we get hung up on rejection and relational fallout. We are careful to speak the truth in love, but all know Gospel conversations can end in tears. So, I want to share a lesson my mentor shared with me. He taught me as a 12-year-old boy,...

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Two Attitudes When Studying the Bible

Reading the Bible is not like reading any other book. The words of the Bible are the very words of God. The Scriptures are described as a two-edged sword which reads us while we read it. And yet people often treat the Bible like any other book that collects dust on their decorative shelf. Even Christians can be bored with the Bible and miss its relevance for their lives. The word of God is more important than food. It is more precious than honey. It is more valuable than gold. “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Psalm 119:72 This means there is a right and a wrong way to approach the Scriptures. The attitude with which we approach the Bible is directly connected to our appreciation of it. How we study the Bible is just as important as that we...

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Trusting God in the Wake of Health Issues

Over the past few years, God has sought ways to get my attention. I am one who seeks to be always positive and congenial, always seeking to find the best in the situation with which I am faced. Over the last ten years, we as a church have sought to provide Biblical counsel to those we shepherd, along with intense discipleship for those who present themselves to us from other churches. During these years, I have been challenged to look within my heart to see what I can decipher as the “heart themes” that I deal with concerning desires, emotions, wants, drives, and, ultimately, idols. I have discovered in those teachable moments that control is the overarching heart theme that God desires to change in me so that I can trust him more fully. I have discovered that I really do not want to have...

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Hope and Healing After Divorce

Psalm 137—God Heals the Brokenhearted Divorce is one of the most heart-wrenching difficulties that life can throw your way. Dreams are smashed. Families are divided. Homes are sold, and children wonder if they are the cause. Money becomes tight, and bitterness grows. I know precious people who have not seen their own children for years and grandparents whose hearts ache to be with grandchildren they are not allowed to see. In the last few years, this reality has been experienced by many as the extra pressure of a pandemic revealed the weaknesses already present in relationships. Does God Care About Me? Does God care about this pain, or are the promises of Scripture only related to gospel truths that happened in the past while we painfully wait for their fulfillment?  Are we all on our own...

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