November 16, 2009


What do you mean by using this proverb …
“The fathers eat sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge”?

Apparently this was, at one time, a common saying in Israel: “The fathers eat sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge” (emphasis mine). In other words, the people were saying to themselves: ‘The bad things that are happening to us are our parents’ fault. The chaos that defines our culture; the difficulty we are in; the national strife that has befallen us … they are all the fault of previous generations.’ And, by implication, this proverb also had the effect of saying: ‘These times of difficulty are not our fault. We are doing right … and suffering, undeservedly, for our parents’ mistakes.’

Sound familiar? It sounds, to me, like a typical counseling session:

Patient: ‘Doc, my teeth are set on edge! Do you know what I mean? Everything in life seems bitter and out of control. I can’t control my temper. I eat like a pig. I get sucked into internet porn. I am not sure what to do with myself.’

Psychiatrist: ‘Let’s talk about your past. Your problem, in all likelihood, is that your father ate sour grapes. Your father probably warped you. And your mother probably made you feel guilty all your life. And that is why you can’t control your anger, your eating habits, or your sexual desires. That is why your teeth are set on edge.’

Most of us don’t even need to lie on anyone’s couch to believe these kinds of sentiments. It’s human nature, isn’t it, to blame other people for the messes we find ourselves in. And, while I am not here to deny that some of our parents, our predecessors, and even previous generations of Christians have left messes behind for us to wade through … it is true that most of our problems originate a great deal closer to home. And that is what God was saying to the people of Israel.

Your parents may have influenced you in some terrible ways … and scarred you deeply. But they are not the ones blowing up at your kids. You are. The culture may have put lewd things in front of you all your life, tainting your memory and your sex drive. But the culture is not making you click on that porn site. That is your decision. The church you grew up in may have been light on the Bible and left you stunted in your spiritual growth … but that doesn’t mean you can’t play catch up now.

Again, I do not want to minimize the scars and difficulties that others have left for you. But I do want to point out that your sin problems are just that … your sin problems. And mine are mine. I can’t change the past or the bad influences that may have affected my life. But I can do something about the present. I can walk in the power of the Spirit today. And when I don’t, it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

November 9, 2009

So what DO we have to Offer our Community? Part 2

Last week I gave the first half of my answer to the question: What does Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church have to offer the community of Pleasant Ridge? It was a question I had the privilege of answering, on November 3, for the Pleasant Ridge Community Council. And the simple answer was that we want to offer our community the same thing that the very first church in Jerusalem offered theirs: “the apostles’ teachingfellowshipthe breaking of bread … and prayer” (Acts 2.42). Having already discussed how we want to provide the apostles’ teaching (i.e. the Bible) to our community; and how we want to offer fellowship (or family), too … I proceed now to record for you the second half of my ten minute talk. Once again, I hope it helps you as you have the opportunity to articulate (for neighbors, family members, co-workers, and classmates) what we Christians really all about (whether at PRBC or your church). Here’s what I said:

3. The breaking of bread. This phrase, “the breaking of bread” is really a synonym for the early church’s observance of the Lord’s Supper (or communion, or the eucharist as it is sometimes called) … which recalled Jesus broken body and shed blood by means of broken bread and wine. The early church was dedicated to this observance … but not merely for the sake of the symbol; not as a perfunctory rite. No. The reason they cared so much about this symbol was because of what it symbolized! They wanted to constantly remind themselves (and their neighbors) of what Jesus had done for sinners. And so do we! We want to offer our community JESUS! Indeed, He is the most important of all the things we want to offer our community. The reason why we are so serious about the Bible is because it’s all about Him (Luke 24.27)!

So, more than anything else, we want to offer Jesus to our community. But why Jesus? Well, because the Bible says that:

*Jesus is God made flesh; God become human (John 1). And if God has really become a man, we think everyone might want to know about that!
*Jesus was tempted in all things as we are (Hebrews 4)… and therefore sympathizes with our weaknesses. That’s good news!
*Jesus was tempted in all things as we are…
but without sin (Hebrews 4). And I would think people would want to know: ‘How did He do that?’ We certainly haven’t. Indeed, if each of us were honest with ourselves, we’d be ashamed to admit the kinds of things we sometimes do, say, and think. But not Jesus!
*Jesus, because He was without sin, was capable of dying for ours! The wages of sin is death (Romans 6). But Jesus had no sin. So why did He die? Not for His own sins, but for ours … to bring us to God (1 Peter 3.18). He took the punishment that we deserve so that those who believe (and only those who believe) receive the eternal life of favor and blessing and relationship with God that only Jesus deserves.
*Jesus literally, bodily rose from the dead. And again, if that really happened, it would seem that everyone would want to know about it!

So, for all these reasons, we believe Jesus is the most important topic of discussion and thought that our community (or any community) can be offered. And so we desperately want our neighbors to know Him!

4. Prayer. Because we have been forgiven in Jesus, God has granted us free, personal access to His throne. We can talk to God … and tell Him all about our needs. And He answers prayer. So, finally, we want to offer our community the promise of PRAYER. We will be praying for you as a council. And if you (as a council or as individuals) ever have specific prayer needs, my door and phone line are always open. The same is true for anyone else in our community. And we’d love to invite you to pray with us, too. On Sundays at 9am we meet and do nothing but pray for 45 minutes. Would you join us? We’d love to pray with and for each and every one of you!”

November 2, 2009

So what DO we have to Offer the Community?

Last week I mentioned that I had been invited to the local community council meeting (this Tuesday night) to answer the question:

What does Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church have to offer the community of Pleasant Ridge?

It occurred to me, as I prepared to answer that query, that I wondered what you all would say if asked a similar question about your church. Each church is different, to be sure. But is there a basic answer that any church ought to be able to give to such a question? What is it that PRBC wants to be and do for the communities of Pleasant Ridge and beyond? And what should your church want to be and do for your neighborhood and city? Over the next two weeks, I’m going to fill you in on what I am planning to say … trusting that God will give you opportunities, too, to tell others what the church is all about. Here is what I want to say:

“We want to offer our community the very same kinds of things that the very first Christian church offered their community in Jerusalem. We want to build on their history. The biblical book of Acts tells us their story … how they were a blessing to the community. How did they do it? I think a summary answer can be found in Acts 2.42: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. These four values, each of which is two-thousand years old, are what we still hope to offer to our neighbors today …

1. The apostles’ teaching. The earliest Christians dedicated themselves to studying, believing, applying, and sharing with their neighbors what they learned from Jesus’ closest followers. What these men taught, we have in the form of the Holy Bible. So that would be the first thing that our church wants to offer this community … THE BIBLE. We want every person in our neighborhood to have the opportunity to study it seriously and apply it to everyday life. After all, these words were (according to the apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 3.16) breathed out by God Himself. So they must be true, vital, and authoritative in our lives. And we want our community to know what they say. We want to be a Bible study center for our community … giving everyone from the smallest child to the oldest adult the chance to know what the Scripture actually say. We hope you’ll join us … and be blessed!

2. Fellowship. To put it simply, the earliest Christians were committed to being a real family. We read in Acts 2.44-46 that “those who believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” They operated as one big family! Everyone’s needs were met. And we want to live that way, too! We want to be a FAMILY for those who need one.

A few examples of what that looks like in our contemporary setting:

*My family has been at PRBC for seven years and never once had to buy children’s clothing!
*A few years ago my grandmother died on a Sunday morning. Before our services were over, some of our church family had already gotten us plane tickets for the funeral (which we could have scarcely afforded on our own).
*Not long after that, my wife was very sick … and I was at work, leaving her with two kids to care for. But, thank God, one of our members showed up at the office and kindly told me to go home. Sometimes those are the kinds of things families need to do, too!

This is what we mean by family (and it’s not just my family that benefits from it!). This is the kind of fellowship we want to offer to those who live around us!”

I’ll give you the contents of the rest of my talk next week! In the meantime, please pray for this opportunity Tuesday night!