October 30, 2006

A Crucial Two Weeks

Some of you have probably heard me say that November is our busiest time of year. That is true every year…but especially in 2006, what with our moving toward elder and deacon leadership, and revising our constitution. We will not vote on these matters until December 3, but all the remaining planning and praying will be happening over the next two weeks—between today and the 19th, when we will present to you all our nominations, recommendations, etc. in written form. Add to that our Missions Week (and all that goes with it), our Servant Ministry Questionnaires, and our budget process, and you have an incredibly busy…and incredibly important next 14 days in the life of our church. And O, how your leaders and your church need you to be praying! Here is a list of items we hope you’ll bring to the LORD regularly in prayer…

1. The Selection of our Elders and Deacons. These men (and those that follow) will play a vital leadership role in our church until Jesus comes. Please pray that we will get started out right…that the men whom we select would be qualified; and that we’d get them into the right roles. I am in the process of praying with six men about potential leadership at PRBC. Pray for them…and me!

2. The Proposed, Amended Constitution. We met this past Wednesday to discuss the documents. Pray that we will make the Lord’s decision on December 3.

3. Servant Ministry Roles. Every year, November brings the great privilege and challenge of helping each of you find your part in the body—your place of service. We’ve heard from most of you and are pleased to see where God is leading you. Pray that the deacons and I will have wisdom as we slot each of you into your roles of service. And pray that the Lord would raise up more workers for Nursery, Preschool Church, Mission Friends, and Fellowship Team (hint, hint).

4. The Church Budget. The finance committee has completed a proposed budget for 2007 (which you will also receive on 11/19). Please pray that God would make obvious any necessary adjustments, help us meet and exceed our goals, and help us spend every dime of His money wisely for Jesus’ sake.

5. Missions Week. November 12-19 is Missions Week. It will feature three missions messages (two Sundays and a Wednesday). Pray that the LORD would greatly help me (and you) with those messages. Pray that he’d move you to give big-time to our Lottie Moon Missions Offering and our Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection. Wouldn’t it be great if the LORD made this year our most generous yet?

Pray, too, that God would begin to use the compounding effect of year-after-year of Missions Week and missions sermons to make us a missionary-sending church. Pray that God might begin to raise up some of our young people (or not-so-young people!) to leave Cincinnati, leave PRBC, and go live and share the gospel among some people group as yet unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Praying with you...

October 16, 2006


Well, we’ve spent 10-plus weeks on the Ten Commandments. How do you feel? Maybe you are a little irritated with me by now. Every week I’ve been meddling in your business. You feel like I’m that mean, stern-faced, old teacher that used to wrap you across the knuckles with a ruler. And that’s exactly how you’re supposed to feel! The laws of God—the Ten Commandments—are supposed to make you feel like you’ve just been worn out with the principal’s belt again! (He really wasn’t the princi-pal was he?).

Paul says in Galatians 3.24 that the Law is a “tutor” or “school-master” to lead us to Christ. The law is like a moral tutor who teaches us what is right. And though we may like what we’re learning, we keep failing the test. So we leave the classroom every week feeling worse, and worse, and worse. And that is exactly what God wants.

Why does God want us to feel bad about ourselves? Not because He wants to make us miserable, but because it is true. All have sinned and fall short—far short—of the glory of God. No one has ever (or will ever) received a passing grade. And God wants us to realize that so that we will come to Jesus for grace! And it is really a good trade, you know! Even if you were to start passing right now; even if you never sinned again beginning right now, you’d still be carrying around a back-pack full of F’s from years gone by. But if you give up on yourself; if you stop trying to pass on your own, you get to trade your sin-filled backpack for Jesus’ light and sinless back-pack!

Therein is the goal of the “schoolmaster.” To force you to see that you cannot do enough good to save yourself. To force you to see how much you need Jesus.

So yeah, the Ten Commandments are difficult. Intentionally so. God has written a list of ten simple rules that cut to the very core of our selfishness. And He has done so on purpose—to drive us to the Savior. Have you met the Savior? Or are you still trying, in vain, to prove that you can pass God’s test on your own?

If you’ve met the Savior, then you have realized that He alone measures up to this list. And you’ve stopped tying to use the Ten Commandments as a stairway to heaven. But if you’ve met Jesus; if you’ve seen His unique ability to obey God perfectly, then you also have come to have a great admiration for the Ten Commandments that He obeyed. They are not simply the ruler that busts your knuckles. They are also the ruler that shows you how to make a straight line. And though you’ve come to realize you’ll never make the line straight—for Jesus’ sake, you want to try.

If you’ve met Jesus, you want to be like Him. And you know that to be like Jesus is to love and obey God. So, though you have ceased using the Ten Commandments as a ladder to try to get to heaven, you have not thrown out the Ten Commandments altogether. You still want to obey them—not because you think you can, but because you know you should—for Jesus’ sake!

So learn these two important uses of the Ten Commandments. First, let them show you how far you fall short and how badly you need a Savior. And second, once you’ve embraced the Savior, let them show you the path that leads to God’s best for your life—the path of imitating Jesus.

October 9, 2006

The Jones's Don't Really Have it so Great

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20.17

If there was ever a commandment that was written for modern-day America, this would be the one. Yes, there is quite a lot of stealing and adultery. There is plenty of blasphemy and idolatry. There are more than enough lies to go around, too. But I think we might be worse at coveting than any of the other commandments. Why? Because most people don’t think it wrong to covet. Our culture thinks it perfectly normal to be greedy.

That cannot be said of adultery, stealing, and theft. It cannot even be said of blasphemy and idolatry, I don’t believe. But in America, there is almost no one crying out against the sin of covetousness. Even in the church, it has become accepted practice. In some circles (read: Joel Osteen and the rest of the health, wealth, and prosperity movement), covetousness has even been baptized into orthodoxy. It is not only accepted, but encouraged. And before we go throwing stones over TBN’s gold-plated wall, let’s all just take a look around out our own houses, cars, and bank accounts. How many DVD’s do we really need? How big a TV is really necessary? How many spare rooms is enough?

Do you remember a time when you had no DVD’s? Do you remember when you had a much smaller television? An older, smaller home? Are you happier now than before? Probably not. So what has been the point of accumulating all the bigger, newer, shinier stuff? Why, if you were perfectly happy before, is it now necessary to have the latest, the brightest, the trendiest? I know why. Because everyone else seems to have the latest, brightest, and trendiest. At least that is what advertisers have us convinced. And if everyone else has a new laptop, don’t I deserve one, too. If everyone else has a new car, should I take a back seat? If everyone else, if everyone else, if everyone else…

You and I both know it’s true. We were perfectly content with less…until we saw that someone else had more (or that the stores were now offering more). This is nothing less than covetousness.

In the Third World, covetousness leads to theft. I don’t have it. She does have it. I am going to take it. In the West, however, coveting leads to spending binges. Most of us are affluent enough to get the latest, brightest, trendiest without having to steal for it. Or at least we have a credit card! So we don’t steal, we just buy more and more.

But I have been thinking. Our western covetousness leads to a form of stealing, too. Think of all the junk (especially the shiny, expensive junk) you have laying around your house, shed, office, or garage—junk that you really could live without. Next, tally up how much you have spent on that junk. Probably thousands of dollars. Then imagine if, instead of the big screen TV, you’d given that $999.99 to a missionary family. Imagine, instead of the latest cell-phone, you’d given that money, in Jesus’ name, to the Tsunami or Hurricane sufferers. Imagine how that monthly cable money could’ve helped this church the last 9 months.

Now you get it! Wasteful, covetous, impulsive, greedy spending is stealing. Malachi says it’s stealing from God (Malachi 3.8). Thank God He is not as greedy as us. Thank God that He was generous with His only begotten Son—so that greedy Americans could go to heaven! But let’s not just thank God for His generosity…let’s imitate Him!

October 2, 2006

Pants on Fire

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20.16

The last few Sundays at PRBC, we have been noticing (from Genesis) how, for better or for worse, children usually turn out a lot like their parents. And not just in physical appearance, but in personality, in character, and in sin habits. Many of the rebellious streaks that so frustrate us in our children are painted right across our own faces as well! But there is one thing you do not have to teach your children to do…lie.

It seems like lying comes naturally. As sure as a child will learn to crawl, then walk, then run…he will master the art of deceit. Lying is in our sinful DNA. You remember that, after they sinned, one of the first reactions of Adam and Eve was to hide from God. They wanted to hide from Him the truth about the situation…the seedbed of all hiding and misrepresenting of truth ever since.

So we are liars by nature. And we are liars in actually day-to-day living, too. Now not everyone struggles with this sin in equal depth. But all of us find something of the deceiver in ourselves.

We leave out parts of the story that aren’t strategic for us. We fudge numbers a little here and there. We tell people we’ll call, or pray, or be there when we really have no intention of doing so. We exaggerate. We spread rumors and gossip that we cannot substantiate factually (not that gossip is any better if we have facts!). We flatter people to gain an advantage. We make up all sorts of excuses to get rid of those pesky telemarketers. And many of us just flat out lie in order to save our hides.

There is also a way that you can technically be telling the truth, and yet bearing false witness. You know the scenario. Person X leaves a message inviting you to the birthday party that you really do not want to attend. But you can’t call back and say: ‘I don’t want to come to your miserable party.’ But you also don’t want to lie. So what do you do? Before calling back, you schedule a hair appointment at exactly the time of the party. Now you can call back and deceive your friend by telling the truth (technically)! ‘I’m really sorry (no I am not). I cannot come (though I could have five minutes ago). I’d love to be there (not!), but I have a hair appointment that day (whew! glad they had an opening) and, well, you know. Tell little Johnny happy birthday for me!’

There is also a lot of lying that goes on in the business world. Don’t tell someone your company has the best widgets or the lowest prices unless you have barebones facts to back it up! False, or sensational, advertising is a violation of the 9th commandment.

In all these examples, I hope you see that the root problem with lying is selfishness, not just untruthfulness. Why do we lie? Because we value ourselves over everyone else. So we bend, misrepresent, or hide the truth in order to benefit ourselves. And in the process, we bear false witness against our neighbor. We are stealing from them the opportunity to have all the bare facts that we have, in an attempt to prevent them from gaining an advantage from the truth.

Deceit is not a pretty thing. But, O, let us remember lying, denying Peter. He lied about his very faith in Christ three times! But Jesus, who is “the truth” (John 14.6) restored him. And Jesus can restore you, too. But it is only as you turn away from lies and to the truth of the gospel of Jesus that you may be forgiven. In turning to Jesus,“you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8.32).