Kalamazoo Gospel Mission - Above and Beyond
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The Kalamazoo Gospel Mission is more than a homeless shelter. Did you know that the Mission provides:

  • three meals a day

  • recovery programs

  • childcare

  • job training

  • counseling

  • and a learning center?

The Kalamazoo Gospel Mission has been serving Kalamazoo for over 85 years and each night in the family shelter, women's shelter and men's shelter the Mission houses 350 men, women and children.

The men's shelter ministry is divided into two parts. The dormitory is for men who are substance-free and can house up to 88 men. The Good Samaritan men's shelter will take anyone for any reason and provides 90 beds per night.

The Mission kitchen feeds 500-600 meals per day from donated food. Anyone can come in and receive a meal. While feeding people in need is important the mission of the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission is much deeper. The Mission strives to feed people body, mind, and soul.

Between the Creation Station and Sonshine Kids children's ministry, the Mission serves about 50 children every day. While in the Learning Center adults receive GED certification, job search assistance, resume writing, job, and college application assistance. Bible teaching is available for adults along with parenting classes and household budgeting seminars.

Many people do not know that the Mission has a health clinic. The clinic provides vision referral and glasses, urgent dental referral, mediation assistance, and help with DHS food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance.

Rescued Treasures and Rescued Wheels both provide the Mission with funding and individuals with job training and job skills. Come on out and shop!

This year at Northbridge a portion of our Above and Beyond Offering will go to support the Mission's Capital Campaign. This 8 million dollar expansion will double the capacity of the women's shelter, improve facilities open to children and create a single secure entry point. The expansion is on the footprint the Mission occupies currently.

Would you consider giving to the Above and Beyond at Northbridge? Together let's be part of the gospel going forward and people receiving the help they need to know Jesus and flourish.

Ray Brandon
Praying the Scriptures for someone who is ill

Prayer is a universal thing.  Nearly everyone prays because we are created in God’s image as worshippers and thereby programed to speak to God.  However, not all prayer is true pray as instructed by God in the Scriptures.  James says, that we can ask and miss the target because we are not praying properly with the right motive (James 4).  Jesus says, don’t pray like this, pray like this in Matthew 6.  We need to learn how to pray.

When we pray we ought to pray according to the prescribed pattern and teaching in Scripture.  It is fine to recite the pattern we call the LORD’s prayer but we are not to pray the words over and over as if it is a magic charm or rabbits foot.  Vain repetition accomplishes nothing.  We are instructed to meditate on Scripture but that is a related but different topic that we will not address here.

So it is important that we get prayer right but don’t become anxious over getting it right.  It is important that we are obedient in the pattern, encouragement and command to pray.  Prayer is not intended to be a burden we carry but a blessing and encouragement to make our journey light.

In prayer, God gives us three helps.  First is the Scripture and that will be our main focus here.  The next is that Jesus himself is our mediator and the final is the Spirit of God.   The Scripture guides us, Christ’s work covers us in grace and presents our prayers to the Father and when we do not know how to pray, the Spirit of God prays on our behalf when we are at a loss for words.  How much divine power does it take to get a believer from grace to glory?  It involves the continual, unending, relentless intercession of the Son and the Spirit. Prayer is something we are to be obediently and joyously involved but the power in prayer is all God’s and not our own.

So how do we pray for someone who is ill or going through a medical procedure or fighting cancer.  We pray the Scriptures for them. 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 say that the Word of God is the mind of God in written form.  We have the mind of Christ in the Scriptures!

Let’s use the pattern of the LORD’s prayer in Matthew 6.  Jesus taught us to pray in this way.  Jesus’ pattern is a broad pattern in which other patterns fit.  So it would be appropriate to pray through Psalm 23 or James 1, Hebrews 11, Romans 8 as they fit within the pattern of the LORD’s prayer.  We are limited by the LORD’s prayer in that it shows us what prayer is not.  And through the LORD’s prayer we have a pattern that it would take a million life-times to explore in which all other biblical prayers fit.  Just remember that all Scripture is profitable in this way as it focuses our mind on Jesus our Savior.

Matthew 6:9-13

9 Pray then like this:

 “Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name. 

10  Your kingdom come,

your will be done, 

on earth as it is in heaven.

11  Give us this day our daily bread, 

12  and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13  And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

 

Let’s say for the sake of example we are praying for Janice who is fighting cancer.

Father, we are thankful that by your mercy and grace we can come to you in prayer.  You love us and you call us to commune with you as we do with a friend.  God we know that while you call us into this relationship and into this place of praise and petition that you are not like us. 

You are the One who created all things and by you all things exist and without you nothing that is could be.  Your power is ever present.  You know all the mysteries of the universe and today you know our hearts.  May our hearts in this moment and in the hours and days to come magnify you, make much of who you are so that we might rejoice in you and that others might see your glory.  

We believe that you have never made a mistake, you are without error unending.  In this hour of uncertainty and suffering we pray that Janice will see, that I will see that others will see and believe that even in suffering nothing that you have set out to accomplish, no purpose or plan or promise will ever fail.  Because of Jesus, we know that suffering and illness can never be an indictment on the efficacy of your power, purpose, will or plan.  Press upon us an imprint the cross of Jesus upon our lives today that we might be reminded that is was through the death of the Son of God on the cross that gives us hope.  It was through your power in resurrection of the righteous Savior that brings to us grace upon grace.  You passed through the ultimate valley of death so that in our suffering we would only feel it’s shadow and never its full weight. May the message of the cross and hope of Jesus be unhindered in our suffering rather expose through our suffering it’s power.

Father, we know that what we have our life, our family, our church, our possessions our daily provision is from you.  Thank you.  Thank you for this therapy that fights this disease.  The knowledge, the doctors, this building and its staff they all come from you. If I have anything, it is from your hand.  I pray now for Janice and those others that are here today. Give them patience and staff an understanding of their total and utter dependence on you for everything and a gratitude for life, each moment that is by your sheer grace. 

Father, I pray now for Janice.  I want her to get well and in her life and in mine I want to understand more of the depth of you care.  May we trust you to do what is best and be obedient until the day we meet Jesus our Savior.  Forgive her where she falls short.  Let her experience your great grace in her weakness and sin and make her even more gracious more merciful for your glory.

Janice is experiencing weakness of her body.  Protect her, Father, in her mind and soul.  May she not give in to sin.  Keep her mind on you.  Calm her anxiety by giving her a firm trust in your care and deliver her body, from illness and mind and spirit from sin.

We pray these things in Jesus name, Amen.

We want to hear God from God when we pray.  The way that we hear from God is through the Word of God alone, so pray the Scripture and pray as the Scriptures instruct.  Remember, that prayer is something Jesus taught with great patience to his disciples.  Even so, he will be patient and gracious with you.

 

You are loved,

Pastor Ray Brandon

What to Read When Anxious

Anxiety attacks the mind and soul and body.  Battle back with the following resources:

  1. Richard Baxter, “The Right Method for a Settled Peace of Conscience and Spiritual Comfort,” in The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter (23 vols.; London: Duncan, 1830), 9:1–287.

  2. Andy Farmer, “Peace and Anxiety,” ch. 5 in Real Peace: What We Long for and Where to Find It (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 79–93.

  3. Robert W. Kellemen, Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure (The Gospel for Real Life; Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2012). 42 pp.

  4. John MacArthur, Anxiety Attacked (Wheaton: Victor, 1993).

  5. Wayne A. Mack and Joshua Mack, Courage: Fighting Fear with Fear (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002).

  6. J. P. Moreland and Klaus Issler, “Defeating Two Hardships of Life: Anxiety and Depression,” ch. 7 in The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006), 155–77.

  7. John Piper, “Anxiety: Sin, Disorder, or Both?,” Ask Pastor John, February 19, 2014.

  8. John Piper, “Battling the Unbelief of Anxiety,” sermon preached on September 25, 1988.

  9. John Piper, “Faith in Future Grace vs. Anxiety,” ch. 3 in Future Grace (2nd ed.; Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2012).

  10. John Piper, “Let Jesus Argue with Your Soul about Being Anxious,” Desiring God Blog, July 30, 2011.

  11. Edward T. Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (Greensboro, NC: New Growth, 2007).

AnxietyPastor Ray Brandon
How inspiring worship wins over anxiety

Exodus 6:6-27 is confusing at first read.  What does a family tree have to do with anything?  Why is the passage bookended by the same statement by Moses about his anxiety over his inadequacy to lead the people of Israel.  At first glance, the text itself can make one anxious!

This Sunday, we will see how Moses’ anxiety is resolved in Aaron’s leadership over the worship of God in Isreal.  In the same way, God has created and commanded worship to assure us, to remind us of His good grace and sovergn power.

Learn this Sunday how regular inspiring worship wins over life’s anxieties.

Service times are 8:30, 10 & 11:30 AM.  Childcare is provided at the 8:30 & 10.  The 11:30 service is a family worship service.  Children of all ages are invited to worship with their parents.

3 Questions about you and the kingdom of God

Matthew 16:13-19

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Is it possible to love Jesus and not love his church?  Can one love God and not his neighbor?  Can one fear God and not do what he says?  These are the choices some, maybe many, make.  Jesus ask in this passage – Who do you believe I am? – Some peole believe Jesus is one thing and they follow their own idea of Jesus.  This week we learn to be like Peter and follow the Jesus who is the Promised One.

Cameron Woolford is our speaker.  Cam provides strategic and tactical leadership and direction for Servant Leaders International. He has been in ministry now for over 20 years as a missionary in Latin America. He has served in the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, and in Costa Rica, doing church planting, discipleship, and leadership training. He has his bachelor’s degree in Bible/Missions from Clarks Summit University in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, and his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Cairn University. You can email Cam cwoolford@servantleaderstraining.com   or visit http://www.servantleaderstraining.com/

Setbacks can get you to the goal
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Everyday we live with certain kinds of setbacks.  As God creates the journey for us we often feel like its two steps back and one more step back.  Progress is slow and not often enough.

This week we will explore how God, the master designer of our journey, uses setbacks to get us to the goal in Exodus 4:18-31

TABLETALK Devotions and Baptism

I’m thankful for the TABLETALK devotional magazine. The articles and daily reflections are filled with solid instruction in God’s Word and not the cotton candy drivel of most devotionals that at best give you little substance of spiritual value and mostly the air of humanism.  Every morning I read the TABLETALK devo and I listen to the daily Scripture through the Ligonier App or read the Scripture in the printed Word.  If we are to become a church that is marked by the maturity of people who are on mission, we must be a people who are daily in God’s Word.  Let me encourage you to continue, every day, to be in the Word.

From Wednesday the 11th of October up to Monday the 16th, the TABLETALK devotional dealt with baptism from a covenant reformed perspective.  Northbridge is a reformed church that is particularly Baptist and not covenant reformed.  Thereby, we would not agree with all of the specifics that equate the practice of circumcision in the Old Testament to baptism in the New Testament.  Covenant Theology sees the relation of God to mankind as a kind of compact which God established as a reflection of the relationship existing between the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Covenant Theology interprets all of the Scriptural truth through the interpretive lens of two or sometimes three covenants.

Covenant Theology is reformed but not baptistic.  Being Baptist by conviction, we then do not baptize infants a sign of God’s covenant He made with Israel.  Rather, we believe in believer’s baptism as an obedient sign of conversion and testimony to faith in Jesus, our new covenant.  The mode of baptism is important because of the specific picture of redemption through the work of Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.  In believers baptisms, the symbol and the mode of the symbol, that of immersion, is very important.  In Covenant Theology, the event of the covenant of God with Israel in the past and as an extension of that to the church today is important and the mode (immersion, sprinkling, pouring) or picture of baptism in redemption specifically is not important.  According to covenant theology, baptism then can take place prior to salvation as an infant, or child as well or after salvation as a believer.  All are acceptable in Covenant Theology because baptism does not picture Jesus work specifically in the work of redemption but rather God’s covenant(s) in general.

While more certainly can be said of this and much more explained, I am confident that you are receiving solid biblical truth through the TABLETALK devotional.  Of the many devotionals we could choose – and there are few of this caliber – TABLETALK is one of the best.  It combines, theology, church history, a focus on the biblical text and daily application.  I know that you will continue to be blessed by the devotional even though we will encounter points of disagreement with the authors at Ligonier.org ministries.

Also, don’t forget to read the articles!  This month’s articles are invaluable to understanding the reformation.  I love the translation of Luther’s 95 Thesis and R. Albert Mohler Jr’s article on “Why We Protest”.  WOW!  It’s good stuff for godly living and great talking points for the gospel with our friends and neighbors.

Then came cancer – and I was terrified!

‘Then Came Cancer … I was terrified.’ 

Life was about to get very difficult for Connie Dever. Her soul echoed her body’s turbulence. Everything felt so desperately out of control. ‘Fears seized me and sometimes evil felt palpably close. At times I couldn’t even open my Bible – only hold it. I was at the end of myself. -God, hold on to me! I can’t do anything-‘

And hold onto her, He did.”  From “He Will Hold Me Fast: A journey with grace through cancer” by Connie Dever.

I’ve never had cancer.  I never want to endure cancer but sadly, I know so many people who do.  There are so many people I love who are fighting this terrible disease.  I hate cancer.

Cancer changes things.  It changes your body, your ambitions, you hope and reality.  Cancer changes how you love and what you love, mostly for the better but so I understand it limits some of the things one loves and can no longer experience.  A Northbridger with cancer recently said, “my disease woke me up to the reality that I was no longer in charge.”  She was not giving up or giving in to cancer but realizing her mortality.

I’m hopeful.  I think someday we will conquer cancer.

But will we conquer disease and decay?  Will we conquer everything that makes us mortal.  That, I am not so hopeful.  Disease is a result of sin that has entered into the world.  I hate cancer but I must ask, “do I hate the source of cancer?”  Do I see my own sin as the rebellion and entaglement that brought great heartache into the world?

Connie Dever is right to fight cancer and point us to the one to who we must surrender, Jesus.  He is the ultimate victor!  He is the Savior.  We must not fight but surrender because He is the only one that can forever hold us fast.

So, you are thinking about becoming a church member…

How wonderful! It is certainly a very important decision—one of the most important you will ever make in your life. At first, it may seem to be a very simple choice—as they say, a “no brainer”—for there is no organization more important and no cause more noble than the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither the Lion’s Club, Girl Scouts, Toastmasters, nor the local chapter of a particular worker’s Union can claim the Creator of heaven and earth as its Head. The church can. Furthermore, no earthly organization is guaranteed a perpetual existence. Every company that comes along will be replaced eventually by a newer and more relevant model. Not the church—it will last forever. 

Indeed, it seems like an easy decision. But, then again, I’m sure you have a number of questions whirling in your mind:

  • How do I know if I’m ready to join the church?

  • What do I need to know before I join?

  • How do I go about joining the church?

  • Is it even necessary to apply for formal membership?

  • What will it matter if I don’t?

Well, I want to help you to answer some of these questions. It is appropriate for you to consider, in advance, the significance of this decision and to learn something about the many privileges associated with membership in the church.

I also want to address a few issues that you may or may not have considered regarding some of the responsibilities associated with church membership. Jesus taught that it is important to “count the cost” of following Him—that is, to consider what is involved in discipleship.

  • What will membership in the church require of you?

  • What will be expected of you?

No doubt, you’ve heard the adage, “With privilege comes responsibility.” In a day when many people approach the gospel as consumers, asking “How can this benefit me?”, it is needful to recover Jesus’ emphasis on servanthood. The most basic question asked by early Christians was not the consumer’s question—“How can I benefit from the church?”—but the question of the servant—“What shall we do?”

Indeed, there are privileges—rich and wonderful privileges—associated with membership in the church. Church membership will benefit you in a variety of ways. But there are also duties that accompany the commitment to follow Jesus Christ in the fellowship of other believers, and it is important that you understand both what you can expect from church-life and what will be expected from you, before you become a member.

Perhaps we should begin by asking the very basic and fundamental question…

Is the concept of “joining the church” even a Biblical concept?
A reaction against institutional forms is one of the unhappy emphases of our day. Some would argue that baptism is “into Christ,” as Romans 6:3 says, not “into the church”. But it is doubtful that Romans 6 is talking about “water baptism” at all; the subject of Romans 6 is the legal doctrine of spiritual union with Christ. It may surprise some people to know that the Bible does indeed talk about “joining the church”.

Twice in the book of Acts, reference is made to a person “joining himself” to the church. The original word translated “join” means “to cement together, to unite” and refers to a formal relationship such as the joining of a man and a woman in a marriage covenant.

Furthermore, there are statements in the New Testament that make sense only in the context of an official membership—“tell it to the church,” “when you are gathered together,” “if the whole church be come together into one place,” etc. All of these references suggest that the early church was a local assembly with a definable membership.

In Acts 2:47, conversion is defined in terms of “the Lord adding to the church such as should be saved.” Obviously, the Bible assumes that church membership is the will of God for every true believer. That leads to the next question…

Who should join the church and when is the right time?
How do you know if you are ready to join the church? If the Lord has done a work of grace in your heart, then you are not only qualified for membership, but called—simply by virtue of His gift of salvation—to unite yourself to His people. The call to separate oneself from the world and to identify oneself with the stigma of the cross is God’s will for every one of His children.

The church is for believers. We practice credo- (or believers) baptism by immersion, not paedo- (or infant) baptism, for belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate evidence that a person has been born again. Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Well, ask yourself these questions: Have I been brought to see myself as a sinner who needs a Savior? Have I found comfort in the gospel of Christ and dared to believe that the work of Jesus on the cross was for me? Have I ceased to trust in my own personal worth or merit as the basis of my acceptance with God, convinced that Christ alone is my righteousness? Have I turned from the ambivalence and unbelief that presumes to sit in judgment on the Bible and said with the hymnwriter, “I can, I will, I do believe”? If you can answer “yes,” then you ought to unite with others who understand your experience.

Perhaps you wonder how much you ought to know before you can be a member. We have “membership classes” to educate candidates for membership in the basic function of the local church. It is helpful (especially in cases where a person is an adult) to have a basic understanding of the fundamental function or core beliefs of the church concerning salvation and baptism.  You may want to enroll in the next class offered.

Of course, from one standpoint, commitment to Christ comes first and deeper understanding and education comes next.  You don’t have to be a scholarly theologian to join. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me”—in that order. In a very real sense, all that is required for membership is the knowledge that (in the words of John Newton) “I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

On the other hand, there is a place for learning as much as possible about the basic theological convictions of the church, for baptism is essentially a theological statement—a confession not only that you believe in Jesus Christ but of what you believe about Jesus Christ.

Do you believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation? Do you rejoice to hear the message of a successful Savior who actually secured salvation for His people on the cross and finished the work of redemption? Is the message that says “salvation is of the Lord” a joyful sound in your ears? Does the message that man is hopelessly fallen in sin and cannot recover himself by his own decision or effort agree with your experience? Does your heart resonate with the proclamation that salvation is by grace alone—not of works lest any man should boast? Do you hunger for the faithful and consistent teaching and preaching of God’s word? Have you publically declared your faith through the waters of baptism? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then (may I be so bold as to say) you ought to unite with those who share these convictions. Now is the day of salvation; today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your heart.

How does a person unite with the church?
The ordinance of baptism marks the entrance into the fellowship of the local church. By this solemn act, a person gives dramatic testimony to those with whom he will live and worship of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Gospel baptism marks a turning point in the believer’s life—a decisive act of repentance from his former lifestyle and willing submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In a very real sense, it is a fresh start—a new beginning—a “year of Jubile”. To witness a penitent sinner submit to Christ in baptism strengthens the faith, inflames the zeal, and renews the commitment of the entire church. It also establishes a bond of mutual love and understanding within the fellowship—a unity in the Spirit that arises from participation in a common faith.

Baptism marks your entrance into the church. At Northbridge we have a process of a class, an interview with the Elders and a formal vote on membership based on a confession of faith and baptism.
What difference will membership in the church make in my life? What can I expect?
Have you ever noticed that much of the New Testament’s instruction for Christian living is framed in the context of local church life? For example, it is in the epistle to the church at Ephesus that we are exhorted to walk in holiness, love, light, and wisdom. It is in the fourth and fifth chapters of that letter—as well as the letter to the Colossians—that the apostle Paul gives practical directions for living Christianly in the areas of personal attitudes and behavior, relationships in the home and at work. It is in the letter to the church at Philippi that he teaches how to overcome worry and to live joyfully and contentedly, regardless of one’s circumstances. What is the significance of this fact? By framing his practical teaching in the context of letters to specific churches, Paul implies that it is only in the fellowship of the local church that anyone can possibly live an authentic Christian life.

What difference, then, will participation in the life of the church make in your life? First and foremost, it will enable you to fulfill God’s call to holiness by creating a setting in which it is possible for you to grow in Christ and to receive the spiritual nourishment you need to bear burdens and resist temptation. If it were possible for a person to get these benefits on his own, Christ would have never established the church.

There are privileges associated with membership in the church that a person simply cannot get on the outside. Consider Paul’s argument for unity to the church at Philippi. When Paul urged the Philippian believers to labor for unity, he pleaded with them on the basis of the many privileges that were theirs in church life: “If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, fulfill ye my joy that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord.” His point is unmistakable: Great privilege in the fellowship of the saints calls for great effort to preserve the blessing.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to church membership is the privilege of participating in the Lord’s Supper. To be permitted to take the unleavened bread—a symbol of the Savior’s broken body—and the cup of wine—an emblem of His precious blood—in communion with the saints is an unspeakable mercy. These tangible elements are visual reminders of both the act and the significance of Christ’s death on the cross. Personal participation in this solemn ordinance serves to make the audible gospel a reality to the individual believer, prompting him to say, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me’. It is an opportunity for you to proclaim the death of Christ until He comes again.

Membership in the church also fosters a sense of belonging and identity. When he came to years, Moses chose to identify himself with God’s people. He knew that he was a Hebrew, not an Egyptian. He esteemed the reproaches of God’s greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt; therefore, he joined himself in covenant with the people of God.

It is my experience that such a sense of identity will prove to be a great safeguard against sin. More than once, I have been spared from falling into temptation by the simple reminder, “I am a church member and should not participate in this activity.” Membership in the church brings a person face to face with the sins of slothfulness, selfishness, and covetousness in his life. The awareness that I have made a commitment to the Lord and other believers establishes a structure that makes it easier for me to be zealous and energetic. It drives me outside of myself and forces me to think beyond the little circle of my personal life. It gives me a sense of responsibility, direction, and significance in life.

Finally, membership in the church carries with it the privilege of fellowship. Paul thanked God for “the fellowship in the gospel” that he enjoyed with the church at Philippi. The Greek word koinonia (translated “fellowship”) means “to share in common.” The covenant relationship between fellow believers in the church is a reciprocal dynamic of giving and taking—a mutual ministry in which each gives to satisfy the need of his brother and receives from his brother the supply that God has given to him. It is only in the context of sharing in the common life that any believer can grow to full maturity.

What do believers share with one another? They share their knowledge of Scripture, experiences, encouragement, counsel, spiritual gifts, material possessions, and prayers. They participate together as partners in the gospel of Christ. Fellowship is life in community with the saints—life in covenant with other believers.
That brings us to the next question…

What does it really mean to enter into covenant with other believers?

Membership in the church is a glorious thing because it is an assembly of people who have made a covenant (or promise) to God and one another to uphold the principles of God’s word. Baptism is the first act of Christian fellowship—a “sharing in common” with other believers. When a believer is baptized into the fellowship of the saints, he/she is saying by that act, “I, like you, place all my hope and trust for salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. I share your convictions of my own unworthiness and of His sufficient sacrifice in my stead. We are people of ‘like precious faith’.”

He is also making another confession to his brothers and sisters in Christ. He is saying, “I want to share with you in the mutual ministry of the church. I want to receive from you what God has taught you and to give to you what God has taught me.”  The mutual ministry of the church involves, first of all, subjecting yourself to the input of others into your life. By the act of uniting with the saints, you are saying to them, “I realize that I am not self-sufficient. I cannot live the Christian life on my own. I need your prayers and encouragement, your knowledge of His word, the witness of your example, and your godly counsel. I need the “checks and balances” that church life will provide. I want to be accountable to other believers. I want you to love me enough to gently challenge me when I begin to falter, to faithfully admonish me when I stray, and to help me to be faithful to the Lord.”

Secondly, fellowship involves giving yourself in service to others. At his baptism into the fellowship, the believer is saying, “I want to show my love for the Lord by serving His people. I want to offer my life as a sacrifice on the altar of Christian service. Whatever the Lord has given to me—whether my spiritual gifts, knowledge of His word, material resources, personal time, or experience—I want to invest in the cause of Christ by bearing the burdens of my brethren.”

In a very real sense, membership in the church is a covenant relationship. It is an agreement to take responsibility for one another. Living in a sinful world as we do, we can be thankful that the Lord has given such a precious resource as the communion of saints to help us stay the course of godliness.

Does the idea of “taking responsibility” for the church sound frightening to you? We are living in a day when many people want privilege without responsibility. But it is God that holds us accountable. It is nothing short of Divine Providence that has blessed us with such priceless blessings as the opportunity to congregate ourselves with His children, sing the precious songs of Zion, and hear the joyful sound of redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ. Simply by virtue of the inestimable blessings we’ve been given, each believer is obliged to assume personal responsibility for the maintenance and forward progress of the church.

That brings us to the final question…

What will be expected of me as a church member?

Membership in the church implies activity and commitment. If human organizations that allow a person to retain membership on his own terms are rare, then it should not be a surprise that the “Householder” of the church determines that those who refuse to wear His prescribed garments may not remain at the wedding banquet. A person may not “name the name of Christ” and refuse to depart from iniquity.

Does that mean that sinners are unwelcome? Of course not. The church is not a museum where perfect people are showcased. None of us deserves to be here—all are unworthy sinners, unfit to be so signally blessed. Further, none of us has attained perfect conformity to Christ-likeness yet. But the church is a place for penitent sinners—for those who “keep on confessing” their sins in ongoing repentance, and are disciplined and purified more and more by the word so that there is real growth in grace and progress in holiness. A humble and teachable spirit—a heart that is sensitive and submissive to God’s word—is the first and most basic character trait of those in the kingdom of God. The presence of such an attitude is the raw material from which the Holy Spirit manufactures “vessels meet for the Master’s use”. The absence of a pliable heart will always reveal itself in a spirit that resists accountability and refuses to repent.

In a word, neither you nor I will ever find a perfect church this side of the grace of glorification. The church will always be a people in process of becoming, not a people who boast “we have arrived.” But this fact should never be used as an excuse for shallow commitment. The challenge facing us is to make our church a true and authentic New Testament church—as Biblically pure and distinct from this fallen world system as she can possibly be. Be separate—be holy—be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind—that is the basic call of the gospel of Christ.

When one remembers that the motivation for godliness is gratitude for grace, then duty becomes a privilege. Church members should do all that they do “as unto the Lord”. To be committed to the Lord Jesus Christ implies being committed to His church. In a very real sense, we serve Him by serving others. That being said, what, then, does commitment to the church involve?

1. Consistent Attendance at Public Worship

Hebrews 10:24-25 is one of the premier passages in the New Testament concerning the duties of church members: “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Notice the connection between a concern for other believers and one’s church attendance habits: Let us consider one another…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together… The point is hard-hitting, almost to the point of harshness: Absenteeism displays a self-centered spirit and lack of consideration for other believers.

Why should you worship with the church? Because the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth”. Here truth is disseminated as the word of God is proclaimed. Here, you may unburden your soul, for God’s house is “a house of prayer for all people”. Here, you may experience the presence of God and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, for the church is “a habitation of God through the Spirit”. Here your questions find answers. Here your soul will find a haven of rest—a safe refuge from distress. Here God is praised.

I know of nothing that so discourages the heart of pastors and other believers as inconsistency in attendance at public worship. It sends a message of unconcern for the cause of Christ, and thereby suffocates the fire of zeal. It produces a “domino effect,” weakening the commitment level of others and making it easier for them to excuse themselves. Practically nothing does more to impede the interest of visitors who are “asking the way to Zion” as the apparent lack of concern displayed by predominately empty pews. Further, it robs the individual who stays away of the saving benefits of the gospel. Perhaps the most tragic consequence of absenteeism is the missed opportunities for ministry. The word “consider” in the text means “to notice”. The writer indicates that it is in the public assembly that believers will notice opportunities to spur other believers on to greater faithfulness—i.e. to provoke unto love and good works.

Every member needs to know that a part of his covenant to the Lord and his brethren at baptism was the vow to be consistent in church attendance. Ask yourself, “Do I make excuses to stay away? Could I attend more meetings each week than I do? How does my absence affect my pastor and fellow believers? Am I preparing myself to step up and bear the responsibility that others bear now when they are gone? Am I keeping my vows to God and my brethren? Is the Lord pleased with my attendance habits?” Painful questions? Yes, but necessary, nonetheless.

David said, “I will pay my vows now unto the Lord in the presence of all His people”. He said, “I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.” He promised, “I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise Thee among much people”. How church members need to “exhort one another daily” to be committed to faithful attendance at public worship, “and so much the more as the day approaches”! As painful and perhaps unpleasant as it is to hear, every believer needs to know that church membership involves a commitment to faithful attendance.

2. The Practice of Personal Devotion
Secondly, church membership involves a personal commitment to pursue a daily walk with Jesus Christ. Unless a person stays connected to the Lord—unless he “abides in Christ” through the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, and meditation—he cannot bear the fruit of Christian character. The members of the church in Berea “searched the Scriptures daily” —such a practice of saturating the mind with God’s word during the week will make for an eager reception of the word on Lord’s Day morning.

3. Participation in Ministry to Others

Ephesians 4:11-16 outlines the dynamics of church function in terms of “every member ministry in the body of Christ.” It works like this: The most basic function of the church is the preaching and teaching of God’s word. As the word of God is faithfully and accurately taught, the saints are equipped to minister to one another. As each part of the body fulfills its respective role, the body as a whole grows to maturity in Christ.

Each member of the local body is responsible for using the spiritual gifts they have been given to minister to the rest of the body. Each must be interested in the “one another” passages of the New Testament—each should be involved in burden-bearing, intercessory prayer, daily exhortation, showing hospitality, visiting, esteeming, admonishing, loving, helping, teaching, communicating, and serving one another. This is real “body life” with every joint supplying the needs of the body so that is built up by love.

4. Protect the Unity
Another area of personal concern to every member should be the unity of the local church. Ephesians 4:2-3 urges each believer to “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” by maintaining an attitude of “lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, and forbearance”. If you have ever experienced the heartache of disunity, you know that unity is a priceless commodity. Nothing so discredits the church’s witness to the community as strife, tension, and conflict among the membership. Every member must take personal responsibility for peacemaking within the fellowship. Do what you can to foster harmony, silence gossip, and promote a general spirit of goodwill in interpersonal relationships. Refuse to be a part of divisiveness. Guard the unity.

5. Sacrificial Giving

As a church member, you should be involved in the sacrificial giving of your resources to the church. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. Paul said, “God loveth a cheerful giver”. If we have freely received God’s gifts of grace, we ought to freely give such grace to others in confidence that God will sufficiently supply our personal needs. In a very real sense, giving is an act of worship.

Your financial and monetary gifts will be used for the support of the pastor so that his hands may be more and more liberated from secular distraction to devote his time to prayer and ministry of the word. Further, your sacrificial gifts help in the spread of the gospel, the care of those who are in need, the purchase of necessary items in the function of the church (like bibles, website hosting, bulletin printing, etc.), and the general maintenance of the building (e. g. utility bills, lawnmower maintenance, cleaning supplies, items for the kitchen and caafe, and many other background needs in the daily function of the church).
The happiest people in life are those who give sacrificially and cheerfully, never asking if it pays. God is faithful to return such an investment in a myriad of blessings.

6. Personal Evangelism
First Peter 2:9 indicates that God calls people from darkness into His marvelous light and separates them to Himself as His special people to the intent that they may proclaim His praise. Telling others what great things the Lord has done for you is a privilege and responsibility of every believer. Like the early believers who “went everywhere preaching the word”, every follower of Christ is called to be zealous for the expansion of the kingdom of God. The Thessalonian church “sounded out the word of the Lord” so effectively that it had become public knowledge. Each believer should equip himself with the necessary knowledge so that he will “be ready to give an answer” to those who inquire about his faith.

Of course, the best opportunity for witnessing is within your own family and circle of influence. Jesus told the wild man to “go home to [his] friends and tell them what great things the Lord had done for [him]. Andrew first shared the news of Messiah’s advent with his own brother Simon Peter. But even beyond the sphere of immediate influence, every church member will periodically encounter people in hospitals, shopping malls, airplanes, and elsewhere in which opportunities to speak a word for the glory of God are afforded. Spread the good word of God as widely as possible. Invite others to attend public worship with you, saying, “Come and see.” Participate in the labors of those who are doing the work of evangelism by your monetary assistance through the support of local and global outreach.

7. Assisting in the General Upkeep of Church Property
Finally, It is helpful when every member is willing to assume responsibility for the general maintenance of the building and property. Many people would be surprised at the amount of backstage activity that is necessary in the weekly life of the church. Housekeeping chores never cease. There are carpets to be vacuumed, trash cans to empty, floors to sweep, paper supplies to purchase, furniture to dust, hedges to trim, flowers to water, walks to sweep, light bulbs to change, etc., on a weekly basis.

Of course, there is a blessing to be found in this more mundane but necessary part of church life. Though the building is not the church, yet it is a place consecrated to the worship of God. The interest we show in the meetinghouse and property is a part of the witness we give to the watching world. I would encourage each member to take a personal interest in these various responsibilities so that the work load is distributed as evenly as possible.

In the final analysis, the duty of the church member is to do whatever you can to promote the welfare and prosperity of the church for the glory of Christ’s worthy name. May it be said of us as it was said of the people in Nehemiah’s great project, “The people had a mind to work.”

7 Things I Learned at Camp with my Church
  1. Conversations are better than email or social media.  Yes, you and I both see the irony in beginning this post this way, but it is true!  There is nothing like sitting around the campfire and running out of things to talk about that gets you down to the real stuff of life, laughter and love.  I won’t be upset if you put down your phone, clicked off your computer and found a real person to talk to right now.

  2. Camp life is like real life.  Camp life is hard work, messy, dirty and most often the work is performed for someone else.  In this case, I camp for my kids!  They love it.  I don’t.  But I do love it.  I love it because it is the highlight of the beginning of summer for them.  So many memories come from camp life for my kids and thereby become my most treasured memories.  Let’s get dirty and get out there and serve.  It’s worth it!

  3. The generation gap is a myth.  The best time our Northbridge teens have at camp is a 65-year-old grandfather.  Now mind you, he is an extraordinary man unlike many others, and he has become a hero in the minds of our teens.  They love him, and he genuinely loves our teens.  The stories our teens tell of their adventures with Craig are becoming the material of myth and legend.

  4. Smores are disgusting.  Smores are irresistible.  Why do I eat them?

  5. Care for the infirmed does not slow us down or burden us; it humanizes us.  Watching a family gently caring for a family member recovering from illness reminded me that the care of others is not a burden but a beautiful expression of the worth and image of the fullness humanity.

  6. You never entirely miss people who give themselves to God’s mission.  Seeing Northbridge’s church planter, John Gilfillan, and his family along with other families that Northbridge has generously given to plant a new church caused me to feel sadness that was overwhelmed with excitement and passion for the lost and renewed spiritual growth.  When you give people to the mission of God in the world, you never lose them.  You gain a stronger friendship and deeper bonds of joy.  Sure there is a selfish loss of a particular kind of bond, but there is a significant increase.  I look forward to bumping into these friends at the farmer’s market and around town as our typical patterns of meeting will be disrupted by a new ministry and a new life at CityGate Church.  I know that they are following God’s will and in a way, it’s like giving them up to heaven.  They are even closer to God now, more than ever.  Could I want anything more for them?

  7. Encouragement is the oxygen of life.  I not a great cyclist but when I ride with Mike Jones and Kevin Patmore, I feel like an Olympian or at least maybe I could train to be one.  They inspire.  They uplift.  It’s not flattery.  My legs and lungs keep me my mind firmly in reality.  These two men know how to coach and encourage.  I want to be like them.  I want to be around them.  I want to do for others as a pastor what they do for me as a very average cyclist.  Inspire.  Fill with joy.  Take in the beauty of the Creator.  Be full.  Laugh.  Sleep well

Pastor Ray Brandon
Women in the church book review

A Review | Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15March 1, 2016 Scott CorbinShare:9
A Review of Andreas Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds.
Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15
Third Edition
Wheaton: Crossway, 2016. 432pp. $18.99.

On the writing of books on gender there is no end. Book after book passes through bookstores, into personal libraries, and back into used bookstores in karmic circularity; first editions become seconds, seconds become thirds—and does anyone really want thirds?

In this third edition of Women in the Church: An Interpretation & Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Köstenberger & Schreiner are hoping to introduce a “substantially new” edition of Women in the Church because they “believe that as those committed to historic Christianity, we cannot afford to take our cue from the rapidly changing culture.” Indeed, “being a Bible-believing Christian in this world—or taking one’s cues from Scripture alone—means swimming upstream and being countercultural.” (21)

What one finds, then, is not merely old chapters with new typesetting but a substantial revision indeed. Whereas the second edition clocks in right around 180 pages, readers of the third edition will traverse 350 pages (including an appendix) of densely argued, textual evidence for the contributors’ complementarian rendering of a most difficult passage. Virtually every chapter has been updated and expanded to include recent scholarship. In addition, there are also important new contributions addressing contemporary, hot-button issues.

Summary of Contents

On a structural level, this book helpfully moves from “behind the text” reconstruction (chapter 1), to textual and syntactical issues related to interpretation (chapters 2 and 3), engagement with reception history and recent scholarship (4 and 5) and then current issues and application (6 and 7). In that way, the book has a hermeneutical movement from “behind the text” to “in front of the text” discussion, helping to highlight the interpretive issues at each level.

The table of contents for the third edition of Women in the Church closely corresponds to the second edition, the main difference being the addition of chapter by Denny Burk on the history of rendering αὐθεντεῖν (authentein) in Bible translation, as well as a round-table discussion applying complementarian teaching. The following is a brief summary of the unique contribution of each chapter.

S. M. Baugh explores the first-century background of Ephesus and seeks to highlight the Sitz im Laban to help unpack the context of 1 Timothy. In chapter 2, Al Wolters argues for the meaning of αὐθεντέω (authenteo) as neither pejorative (i.e., “domineer”) or ingressive (i.e., “assume authority”), but rather, either positive or neutral. In addition, Wolters surveys the usage of αὐθεντέω (authenteo) in Christian literature after the apostolic period and finds that the word is often used toward the divine persons, clearly in a positive manner. Wolters’ chapter covers a massive amount of data and will need to be reckoned with by those who dispute his conclusions. In fact, the editors believe that the inclusion of this chapter alone “warrants the production of a third edition.” (20) Köstenberger’s chapter builds on his previous work for the rendering of 1 Tim. 2:9-15 by exploring other uses of the conjunction οὐδέ (oude) and arguing that Paul must either be arguing for a positive or a negative function for both teaching (διδάσκω, didasko) and exercising authority (αὐθεντέω, authenteo).

Schreiner has substantially re-worked his chapter, engaging with arguments that have developed since recent editions. Schreiner’s ultimate point is that Paul, rooting male-female roles in the creation order, seeks to exhort men and women to live in light of those roles in their churches. Robert Yarbrough’s chapter is also substantially reworked engaging critically with recent scholarship, and dealing with certain hermeneutical “defeaters” levied against the complementarian position. He also spends time highlighting certain figures writing from a complementarian perspective in recent years.

In chapter 6, Denny Burk discusses the history of translation for αὐθεντεῖν (authentein) wherein he considers Linda Belleville’s assertion that the predominant rendering in history is primarily pejorative—an assertion that Burk shows to be specious. Burk also discusses the NIV translation committee’s failure in their rendering αὐθεντεῖν (authentein) as having an ingressive sense. Because of the decisive work of scholars like Köstenberger and Wolters, this rendering does more harm than good. Burk concludes his chapter with a plea for the committee to reconsider. In the last chapter, “Application: Roundtable Discussion,” the editors join a panel of women and men (including Rosaria Butterfield, Gloria Furman, Mary Kassian, Darrin Patrick, Tony Merida, and more) to discuss various implications for the application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, with a view toward application in the local church.

There is so much good, helpful material to chew on. The editors have given a thoroughly updated edition that considers new scholarly evidence; re-worked, tightened arguments; and a view to help readers with contemporary issues. Because of these benefits—and not to mention the reception of this volume for a new generation of readers—the publication of this book is welcomed and warranted. Every chapter, building upon the previous chapters, helps the reader to see unequivocally what Paul meant for the conduct of the earliest apostolic communities. Köstenberger and Schreiner have cultivated a tremendous resource that brings light to darkness—clarity to confusion—on an issue of the utmost importance for ecclesial order and the testimony of the gospel.

Judicious Complementarianism

The Apostle Paul charges Timothy to guard the good deposit entrusted to him and follow the sound words of Paul’s gospel. This calling has likewise been entrusted to those of us who seek to lead others in executing this task as well. While God’s word can often be difficult to understand—as the text under consideration surely displays!—it is still good and brings delight to those who have been united to Christ by the Spirit. Pastors and elders are called to defend this divine address not just in its form, but also the direction in which this address seeks to shape the triune God’s churches. Christians ought not blush at texts that can frankly feel strange to Western eyes; rather, they ought to delight in the word that communicates the reality that God was in Christ reconciling himself to the world. This grace doesn’t merely change hearts, it restores the natural order and helps men and women see the distinctive role given them in order to witness the glory of God cover the face of the earth as the waters cover the sea. This volume will help men and women to articulate and defend just that.

Nevertheless, egalitarian sisters and brothers will no doubt disagree with the conclusions reached in this volume. Yet, one walks away from reading this volume with a sense of sympathy for opposing views. The authors offer judicious argumentation and sober exegesis. There’s not even a remote sense that these authors are schismatics, arguing for a parochial patriarchalism. Rather, they display love for their egalitarian interlocutors through faithful representation of their arguments, while also leveling their disagreements—which are no doubt resolute—with charity.

It is the hope of this reviewer that discourse surrounding this often explosive and controversial issue within evangelical theology will continue to exhibit such grace in disagreement. May all come, with open Bible, to reason with one another and seek a spiritual unity under God’s word that seeks to honor the text wherever it may lead.

—–
Scott Corbin is a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Jessi live in Louisville, KY with their son.

Pastor Ray Brandon
Family Worship

More than anything in the world, Rick prized time with his children. His work sometimes took him away for extended periods of time, but he always managed to create ways to bridge the gap created by the time and distance. In fact, on one momentous trip, Rick created a videotape with 17 daily devotions on it—one for each day he’d be gone.

“I can at least talk to them over the videotape and let them know I’m praying for them,” he said. There was nothing he could think of that was better than telling them about God.

His devotional from February 1, 2003, included the following words to his daughter, Laura.

“It’s Landing Day and hopefully, if the weather’s good, I’ll be landing today in Florida. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing you, Matthew, and Mama.” Rick read from Laura’s devotional book and when he finished, he prayed for her. “Okay, Laura, it won’t be long before I see you! I love you very, very much … I’ll see you in just a little while! I love you. Bye, Bye!”

Rick wanted both Laura and Matthew to have a daily relationship with God. It’s what had changed Rick’s life, and he knew it would sustain Laura and Matthew for the rest of their lives. This was Rick’s highest calling.

That day, February 1, 2003, Captain Rick Husband and the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia died when the craft broke apart over north Texas during re-entry.

What drives a parent to do family worship?

What would prompt a man as busy as Rick Husband to make such an investment of time in doing devotions with his children? Wouldn’t the kids be fine without it? And after all, how did he know what to do?

Rick took seriously what the Bible says about teaching your children. As Psalm 78:4-8 tells us:

For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments …

He understood that effectively teaching them is not a one-time occurrence, but a daily and ongoing process:

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

And he knew that his efforts, whether eloquent or clumsy, would spiritually prepare his children for a life of happiness and blessing. Talking to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote:

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings … (2 Timothy 3:14-15a)

We all desire for our children to know God, to serve Him, and to love Him. We want to protect them. We want them to avoid the difficulty that comes with sin. We want them to be happy in doing what is right.

Family worship is a key component to fulfilling these desires for our children.

It is a time when the family is all together. It is a time when we look into God’s Word and gain His perspective. It is a time when we can actually pray and hear each other pray. In my experience, family worship holds the potential to be unlike any other occurrence in our lives and the lives of our children.

If we can then agree on the goodness of family worship (or family devotions, as some would call it), why is it still so rare in our families? It’s mainly because we don’t know where to start and we don’t want to look like fools in front of our spouses and children.

This is where the rubber meets the road … and where our actions can finally align with our hearts. So, as we can already agree on the “why” of family worship, let’s move forward into the “how”.

How do you do family worship?

There is no single answer to this question. God is silent on the method of family worship and historically, methods widely vary. Don Whitney, author of Simplify Your Spiritual Life, and a new book on Family Worship, suggests three components of family worship regardless of form.

Reading: Many children of Christian parents leave their homes after 18 years with a clear knowledge of their parents’ convictions. However, many have no understanding of the Word that is behind them. In those cases, parents have taught their children their wisdom without sharing God’s wisdom with them.

So make God’s Word a regular part of your family worship. With younger children, the parent(s) can read a short passage out loud. With older children, the reading can be done by the children themselves. In any case, a discussion can follow rather than an actual lesson. You might consider a few standard questions to ask your family following the reading of any scriptural text:

  • What does this mean in context?

  • What can we learn from this?

  • How should we change because of this?

If you don’t know the answers, that’s okay. You can learn from your children as God gives them unique insight. You can revisit a question after you’ve had some time to check with your pastor. This type of sharing might take time to develop, but with persistence and dedication, you can be sure it will develop eventually.

Prayer: One of the most overlooked practices in Christian families is family prayer. Here’s your chance to change that. After you’ve discussed how the Scripture of the day/week should impact your family, pray for God to make that impact happen. Pray for each other. Parents can even confess on behalf of the family where appropriate. Pray for them, pray with them and let them pray for you.

If you hold family worship weekly, you might take specific prayer requests from each family member. If you do it daily, you might spend the prayer time focusing on one family member. The next day, another, and so on.

If your children are younger, be sensitive to the time. You don’t need to rush through it … they are much more capable than you might think. However, be considerate of their youthfulness. If your children are older, you can spend a longer time in prayer. They may not desire it at first, but you can be sure they are capable. Start small and build up. You won’t regret it.

Singing: Whether you attend a church that worships in a more conservative tradition or a contemporary one, music is an integral part of worship. People remember better when things are set to music. So, as important as music is in our public worship, why would we not intentionally bring it into our family worship?

Many say it’s because they can’t sing or play an instrument. You don’t need to be a professional worship leader to lead your family in worship.  Our family does not sing at our time of worship at 7 am every morning but that does not mean that you can’t attempt this with your family.   Our family loves music!  They sing all the time, so why not sing together.  If your children are young, start now and they will enjoy this time and grow from it for the rest of their lives.

No matter how musical you are, you can certainly play a CD player. Choose hymns or praise songs or music by a favorite Christian artist and sing along. Our family highly recommends the Steve Green Hide ’em in Your Heart series. Not only can you worship along with these, but they help you memorize Scripture: All of the songs are simply verses from the Bible set to music.

What we do

Each morning, at 7 am, I I sit with my entire family and we have devotions. We’ll either work through a book of the Bible, a story of the Bible (such as David and Goliath/Moses and Pharaoh), or a devotional book based on Scripture that they have chosen.

We work on Bible memory verses for the Lake Ann Scholarship that our children are working on in youth group. These verses from fighterverses.com almost always addresses issues that the children are working through, such as peacemaking, prayer, or loving others. This is also very useful in instruction and discipline throughout the day and week.

We end in prayer.

It’s worth the investment

The threat of failure can paralyze us as parents if we allow it to determine our actions. Don’t expect everything to be perfect. Sometimes, you’ll have their attention; sometimes you won’t. Develop realistic expectations: both for you and for your family. Everyone starts on a learning curve. Success with family worship is not determined by eloquence; it is determined by consistency.

Rick Husband made an investment of time in worshipping God with his family. That investment, his 17-day video devotional, is now an enormous treasure to his wife and his children. You, too, can make an investment in your family. And, like Rick, the investment you make now, no matter how mundane or routine it feels, can and will become a treasure to your children for years to come.

Pastor Ray Brandon
All Church Music as Participation in the Word

THE ECHOING WORD

The most beautiful instrument in any Christian service is the sound of the congregation singing.  For this reason, we strive to be professionals at “participation” in singing in church and not professional musicians.  All the music at Northbridge on a Sunday morning is “folk” music.  By folk, we do not mean a particular style rather a specific definition.  Folk defined is, usually of simple character handed down among the common people by oral tradition.  We do this because we believe that the most beautiful instrument in any Christian service is the sound of the congregation singing! 

Churches sing because their new hearts can’t help but echo the Word, which has given them life. Whether those songs were written in the sixteenth century or today, they should echo Scripture. If there is any place where God’s Word should reverberate, it should reverberate in the church’s songs. Remember, Scripture alone gives life.

Therefore, a church’s songs should contain nothing more than the words, paraphrases, or ideas of Scripture.

And churches sing together because it helps us to see that our hearts’ praises, confessions, and resolutions are shared. We’re not alone. Singing in the church, I believe, is about listening as much as it’s about singing. So Paul commands us to “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19, NIV). If I’m to speak to others in song, I’m to listen to others as well. In fact, I do sometimes stop singing just to listen and thank God for the voices around me!

“These brothers and sisters share my new heart, my new identity, my Lord and Savior, my comfort and support, my hope and ambition, my glory and joy. I’m with them; they’re with me, and we’re with him.”

WHY WE SING

Believers sing in churches because Christ has commanded us to sing (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19). And we’re commanded to sing, I heard the minister of music Bob Kauflin observe because God means for creatures created in his image to do as he does (e.g. Zeph. 3:17; Heb. 2:12). Let me unpack what I’ve said so far by articulating three reasons for why I expect God would command his people to speak to one another not just in prose but in poetry and melody.

We Sing To Own and Affirm the Word

Singing is how the congregation owns and affirms the Word for itself. In the Bible, singing is one God-ordained way for the members of a congregation to respond to God’s revelation. It’s how they raise their hand and say, “Yes, I believe and affirm these truths with my whole person.” For instance, the Psalmist tells God’s people to proclaim God’s Word to others: “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Ps. 96:2). Singing of his salvation means we’ve owned it as our message.

We Sing to Engage Our Emotions with God’s Word

Singing is how the congregation particularly engages its emotions and affections with God’s Word. When we sing, it’s hard to remain emotionally disengaged. Just as the sense of smell can evoke strong associations and memories, so the sound of music both evokes and provokes the heart’s joys, griefs, longings, hopes, and sorrows. Jonathan Edwards proposed that God gave us music “wholly to excite and express religious affections.” The Psalmist seems to embody this idea when he writes, “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme” (Ps. 45:1).

Singing, I’d say, is the medium by which God’s people grab hold of his Word and align their emotions and affections to God’s.

It’s not surprising therefore that Paul would command churches to sing the psalms, and that the Psalter would be referred to as the church’s hymnbook. John Calvin called the Psalms “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul” since it offers readers words that they can place into their mouths for accurately expressing the whole range of human emotions. In the preface to his commentary on the Psalms, Calvin writes, “for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.” How can Christians express grief in godly fashion? Or sorrow, fear, and doubt? By echoing the Psalms, like Jesus did again and again.

Even if churches don’t take their lyrics directly from the Psalter, they should consider the Psalm’s balance of confession, lamentation, exaltation, and thanksgiving, and seek to mimic something similar in their own hymnody. Do we know how to lament in our churches through music? Or confess?

In seminary classrooms, young preachers are sometimes warned, “A congregation will only be as careful with the Word as you are in the pulpit.” The same is true, I’m convinced, of our singing in church, and our ability to emotionally encounter God throughout the week. A congregation that learns to sing in church with robust confession and contrite praise better knows how to sing to God with their hearts at home, whether they do it to melody or not.

We Sing To Demonstrate and Build Unity

Singing is one way of demonstrating and building corporate unity. Once again, it’s not difficult to imagine how Israel used the Psalms to show and make the unity of their hearts with one another. Some psalms make this explicit:

[Call] Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

[Response 1] Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

[Response 2] Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

[Response 3] Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1-4; see also 124:1; 129:1; 136)

The psalmist makes a declaration, and then he asks three groups of people to echo him: the nation, the priests, and then all who fear God (including any foreigners and Gentiles in their midst?). The words “his steadfast love endures forever” is the source of unity, but the poetry and—perhaps—music encourages the people’s hearts to embrace, own, and rejoice in this glorious truth.

The context of Paul’s command to sing is worth noticing as well: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:15-16). Notice the train of thought: We’re to let peace rule since we’re called to one body. We’re to be thankful. And we can do all this by singing Christ’s Word together. Again, the Word is the source of unity; but the music gives expression to that unity.

No doubt, this point can be combined with the last one. Singing God’s Word is how a congregation tunes its heart together across the whole range of biblically-driven affections.

What should be clear in all three reasons for why we sing is that singing in church should be about the church singing—congregational singing. Perhaps choirs and soloists can be carefully used to call the church to respond, as in the Psalm above or as an exercise in “speaking to one another in song.” And musical performances outside the gathered church are beautiful. But God has given music to the gathered church so that the people together can own, affirm, rejoice in, and unite around God’s Word. Far better than the sweet harmonies of a few trained singers is the rough and strong sound of pardoned criminals, delighting with one voice in their Savior.

Pastor Ray Brandon
How to Evangelize a Muslim

Can this be a religion of peace?

Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment,  http://quran.com/5/33

My goal in pointing out these passages is not fear but I pray for a passion in every Christian to reach their unbelieving neighbors for Christ.

Now, that said, not all Muslims are radicalized yet Islam itself is a radical religion of fear and not love and not grace.  Many Muslims claim submission (Islam means submission) to Allah and yet do not follow all that the Quran instructs.  These ones who do not follow the Quran are secularized Muslims and they, like Christians, are often the target of persecution by those that have been deemed by politicians and the media as “radicalized”.  The difference between the radicalization of a Muslim and a Christian is clear but not to all.  A radical Muslim or one that follows Islam through the teachings of the Quran looks more like ISIS and a radical Christian looks more like David Platt.  Not all Christians follow the tenets of the Bible.  One does not have to look very far to see a secular Christian.  This, however does not change Christianity or the claims of Christ in any way.

There are people who would like to point to some radicals that claim Christianity and behave violently.  These accusers will say things like, “All religion leads to violence”.  Often these accusers will quote the Bible taking passages out of context.  Most people who claim this are either ignorant of the teachings of Islam or Christianity or both.  As Christians, we need to examine claims carefully and humbly as we defend our faith, a religion of grace and truth and love.

Again, as you read, may our hearts break for the lost who are without Christ and run to our neighbors with the Good News of the Gospel.  Be sure to read how you can bring the Gospel of Peace to your neighbor further down in this post.  It is reported that one of terrorists in

Is Islam a religion of peace? Many of its advocates say that it is. Let’s see what the Qur’an actually says.

  • The Qur’an tells Muslims to kill and go to war to fight for Islam: Quran, chapters (Surahs) 9:5, 2:191, 2:193, 3:118, 4:75, 76, 5:33, 8:12, 8:65, 9:73, 123, 33:60-62.

  • Fight for Allah: “And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers,” (Quran 2:191).

  • Muslims are to battle for Allah: “Those who believe do battle for the cause of Allah; and those who disbelieve do battle for the cause of idols. So fight the minions of the devil. Lo! the devil’s strategy is ever weak,” (Quran 4:76).

  • Kill those against Islam: “The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter,” (Quran 5:33).

  • Beheading: “When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger. 13That is because they opposed Allah and His messenger. Whoso opposeth Allah and His messenger, (for him) lo! Allah is severe in punishment,” (Quran 8:12).

  • Allah urges war: “O Prophet! urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are a people who do not understand,” (Quran 8:65).

  • Slay non-muslims: “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful,” (Quran 9:5).

  • Allah urges war: “O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination,” (Quran 9:73).

  • Allah urges war: “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil),” (Quran 9:123).

  • Allah urges killing: ” . . . the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a disease and the agitators in the city do not desist . . . 61Cursed: wherever they are found they shall be seized and murdered, a (horrible) murdering. 62(Such has been) the course of Allah with respect to those who have gone before; and you shall not find any change in the course of Allah, (Quran 33:60-62).

  • Beheading: “Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens . . . ” (Quran 47:4).

  • Allah loves those who fight for him: “Truly Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in battle  array, as if they were a solid cemented structure,” (Quran 61:4).

  • So if your neighbor is a Muslim and a really nice person, that doesn’t mean the seeds of a kind of radical Islam are not sown, in fact, they already are.  The very fact that they are friendly and seem harmless and this is possible as Anne-Sylvaine Chassany and Adam Thomson reported on Tuesday in the Financial Times in an article on one of the Paris suicide terrorists in their article Paris attacks: How a ‘really great guy’ became a suicide bomber, is only because the Spirit of God is restraining sin.2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 says, “And now you know what is holding him back so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.”The purpose of this working of God in the World is so that God, the God of the Bible, His glory may be made known in Christ.  Will you bring the words of peace to one who believes a religion of fear?

Christianity Brings Peace: How to Evangelize a Muslim

  • The testimony of the Gospels provides the most reliable witness to Christ. Preach the Gospel as it is! Do not soft-pedal around biblical terminology to please Muslim hearers. Be clear about what you believe and why you believe it. Know the Scriptures well, and know the confessions and what exactly you believe . The more you know about your faith, the easier it is to talk with Muslims.

  • There is no gospel in Islam. The Quran clearly contradicts the essence of biblical Christianity and rejects the triune nature of God, disfigures the biblical doctrines of the person of Christ and denies justification through faith on account of the work of Christ on the cross. While claiming to be the perpetual religion of nature and history, following in the footsteps of Christianity, it attempts to justify its claims by asserting that the Word of God, revealed in the New and Old Testament, is corrupted. Our apologetic discussion with Muslims should be to defend the Scriptures and prove that the Scriptures aren’t corrupt as Muslims claim. Our goal is to open up their minds a bit so that they can start reading the Gospels for an eyewitness or a companion of an eyewitness to the real Jesus.

  • Always ask them the classic evangelistic questions. ‘What about your salvation?’ ‘Can you be certain of this?’ ‘If you were to die, can you be certain you’d enter heaven at some point?’ Their response is always, “No, I couldn’t be certain, nor do I care.”

  •  Most western missionaries are result oriented; instead you should be concerned about preaching the Gospel correctly (as it is). The essence of Muslim evangelism is accurate communication about sin and grace: simply and clearly. Talk about the law and the gospel, not about infralapsarianism and divine simplicity! Don’t compare the Bible with the Quran. That comes later!

  • Always remember that you are talking to Muslims. Avoid the use of Christian jargon. Speak about real sin, real guilt, real shed blood! Do not be ashamed to use Jesus’ direct and indirect titles clearly such as ‘Son of God’ ‘Lamb of God’ ‘New Adam’ ‘I AM – YAHWEH’ ‘Savior’ ‘Almighty God’.

  •  Use tact and be charitable! Don’t talk about reprobation with a Muslim or a new convert who has just lost an unbelieving family member. Be kind and courteous! Many Muslims act and speak out of ignorance, not malice.

  •  Be sensitive to their past – if they’ve had a bad experience with Christians, missionaries or churches, struggled with a particular sin etc., be understanding and compassionate! Muslims hate self-righteousness, and rightly so! Do not soft-pedal the law and the guilt of sin, but make sure they understand that you are a justified sinner, not a self-righteous “know it all” who is here to correct them!

  • Muslims will ask you many questions about your faith. Don’t feel like you have to answer all of their questions in one day. However, make sure they hear your answers to one or two questions clearly. Stick with the subject – don’t get sidetracked. When the conversation wanders, pull it back to center stage – the law and the gospel.

  • Muslims will ask you to comment on their faith. Don’t go there; they will not benefit from your criticism (or feigned approval) of other religions. Your job isn’t to debunk Islam but to give a clear witness to the truth of the Gospel. Instead of letting them drag you into the topic, turn the tables and ask them questions. Let them articulate their own understandings of the religious themes you are discussing; let what you communicate be the plain truth of Christian doctrines without enumerating how Islam is wrong.

  • The message of the Gospel offends Muslims. It is okay! Don’t worry! God will take care of the hearer. It is His message. Muslims will not convert to Christ if they are not offended by the message of the Gospel. Offend them by being very clear about the teachings of Christ!

  • Do not use any ‘Muslim friendly’ bible translations. ‘Muslims friendly’ bible translations are very deceptive! They are not true to the original Scriptures. Muslims see it as a form of deception by missionaries!

  • Muslim evangelism is not about winning an argument, but leading Muslims to Christ with the Gospel. Discussions may get heated and intense at times – that’s okay. But the purpose of Muslim evangelism is not to show why you are right and Islam is wrong. It is to communicate the truth of the gospel! The message is to be the offence! Not you!

  • When Muslims are apathetic about sin – use the law. When Muslims have doubts or are skeptical – use basic apologetic arguments. When Muslims express guilt for sin – present the Gospel.

  • Evangelism is about leading Muslims to Christ. Convincing non-Christians or Evangelicals that Reformed theology is true, falls under the heading of polemics. Don’t confuse the two.

  • When talking to Muslims stick with what all Christians hold in common wherever possible. Leave the internecine fighting among Christians aside when talking to Muslims. A Muslim will not care so much about differences between the Catholics and the Protestants or Lutherans and Baptists. Issues such as the exact meaning of the Lord’s Supper or methods of baptism should be addressed later, during discipleship!

  • Wherever possible, when talking to Muslims speak about Christianity as factually true – “Jesus did this,” “Jesus said this,” “people heard and saw him,” etc. Keep away from the subjective line of approach– “it works for me,” “this is how I feel about it,” this is my testimony.”

  • Before meeting with your Muslim friends pray for wisdom.

  • Muslims will respect the text you quote, but not your personal opinion. Trust in the power of God the Holy Spirit working through the word! Cite texts directly from the Scriptures with attribution. Jesus says, Paul says…. It will not help Muslims to hear your personal opinion on biblical issues. So, don’t say “I think,” or “it seems to me” or “I feel like…” Muslims interpret your thoughts, your take on things or your feelings as part of the corruption of the Bible.

  • Don’t rush things with Muslims. Just because a Muslim is not ready to trust in Christ after one encounter does not mean that effective evangelism has not taken place. Pre-evangelism is equally vital. You may plant, but someone else may have to water! Always remember that it is not us who convert the Muslims to Christ but God Himself (in His time)!

  • Remember that evangelism isn’t complete after you first present the Gospel message to a Muslim. Evangelism has to continue even after they repent and give their lives to Christ. They have to sit under the ministry of the Word. Evangelism of a Muslim is complete only after they are baptized, brought to the Lord’s Supper and sat under the preaching of the Word at church. In other words, evangelism never ends. Discipleship is evangelism.

  • Treat Muslims as objects of concern, not notches in your belt! Establish relationships and friendships with Muslims whenever and wherever possible.

  • Don’t forget that a prophet is without honor in his own home. The chances of Muslim converts leading their own unbelieving family members (or someone close to them) to Christ by themselves is remote. Encourage them as they give witness to what they have learned, but also pray for God to bring other people into the picture to help evangelize their families

  • Don’t force things. If your Muslim friends balk, ridicule and otherwise are not interested, back off. Find another time and place. If after repeated attempts to communicate the gospel, and someone still shows an unwillingness to hear what you have to say, “shake the dust off your feet and move on to a new town!”

  • Be willing to get your Muslim friends the resources they need: be willing to provide them with a Bible (not just a New Testament), the right book to read, and certainly an invitation to your home and later an invitation to attend your church or to a Bible study, etc. Never ever use a Muslim friendly bible translation. These translations are a product of some western mission agencies without any support from the national churches who know their context best.

  • Pray for opportunities to evangelize Muslims. Make sure to let your Muslim friends know that you regularly attend a church. Do not disconnect your evangelism effort from the church. Pray for your church – that God would bless the preaching of his word, that he would bring Muslims into our midst, and that he would bless the church with growth.

  • You don’t have to become a practical Arminian to be a faithful evangelist! A Christian approach to Muslim evangelism simply means telling Muslims the truth in love without changing it. Trust that God the Holy Spirit will penetrate hearts and minds of Muslims with “the Gospel”

  • Muslims love to sing Islamic hymns that tell the stories of the Quran. Islamic hymn singing is singing the words of the Quran. Show your Muslim friends some samples of Christian biblical songs with verses directly taken from Scriptures. In other words, sing the Bible to them! The role of music in human culture is to join people together. Biblically we are commanded to sing the praises of Christ. There are 694 references to singing or music making in Holy Scriptures. Participatory singing is a very significant matter biblically. There will be no singing in Hell, but the saints in Heaven will sing everlastingly. That is really amazing and remarkable! Let us show Muslims what we will be doing in Heaven.

  • “Fear God and give Him Glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Rev. 14:7)

  • Salvation
    In Islam, there is no guarantee of salvation except in one instance, dying in Jihad. Jihad is the struggle–the battle against those who would oppose Islam and what Islam stands for. This is very important because in the Muslim religion, there is no guarantee of salvation. Please consider the following verses:Then, he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) heavy, 7Will be in a life of good pleasure and satisfaction. 8 But he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) light,–9Will have his home in a (bottomless) Pit. (Surah 101:6-9)In Islam, there is no assurance that the Muslim will be forgiven of his sins. As you can see, the Quran teaches a system of works’ righteousness. Therefore, no Muslim can ever know whether or not he has done enough good in order to please Allah. This is a burden that many Muslims do not like to bear.

Seeking Allah and Finding Jesus: A Book Review by Tim Challies

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Pastor Ray Brandon
Slow to Anger

Why are we so easily angered?

Just hours and not yet quite days later people on social media and more specifically Christians were angered over the Starbucks Red Cup Christmas gate.  Never mind that Christians were recently angered that corporations were using Christmas for financial gain by placing Christian symbols on their products only a short while ago and now Christians are angered by the absence of holiday design placement.

Should holiday images be on the cups?  Does it matter?  I’m not so sure that it does but the reaction is revealing.  Most of all and says much about what Christians think but also to what is on their heart.  Now, I know that I am not speaking for all Christians.  Many have responded – or better not responded – and many don’t care.

The one question remains, “Why are Christians and people in general so easily angered?”  The internet and social media seem to spawn a host of things to be angry over and people move from one thing that angers them to another.  Anger is not always fueled with over the top actions.  Complaining is often just soft spoken anger and we see a lot of this scrolling through news feeds on social media too.

God is clear in his Word that our anger and complaining does not accomplish anything of value to God or other people (James 1:20).  The emotion of anger recognizes that something matters and that something is wrong.  Making much out of things that don’t matter to God or expressing anger in a wrong way is simply our way of saying, “I want my way!” and “My will be done!”  Galatians 5:16-17 says,“But I say,walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other,to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”  When we walk according to our desires then we make much of what doesn’t matter or we want a good thing more than we want God (James 4:1-2)

Change in our emotions begins with our relationship with God.  First, we must recognize that God is patient and slow to anger (Exodus 34:6).  Second, we believe that God is merciful  Anger is merciless (James 4:6).  Then when we confess our sin, that we are walking according to our desires and not God’s, the Spirit of God will give us the ability to express our anger God’s way and not our way.  Venting or yelling into a pillow or having a good scream doesn’t really satisfy the need of our soul.  Sure it may bring temporary relief is not an ongoing solution and it may only lead to greater fits of future frustration.

God’s anger is redemptive and yours can be redemptive too!  Here are four questions to ask yourself about your anger.

  1. What are the circumstances around me and inside of me when I get angry?  Note both the external circumstances and your internal responses.  It helps to write this down for further reflection.

  2. How do I act when I get angry?  Look again at your list and write down what you do when you get angry.  Do you express your anger in bitterness (stuffing your anger)? or arguing (expressing it freely)? or slander? or a combination of these and other expressions?  Where there times when anger was expressed constructively?  How?

  3. What did I want when I became angry?  This question gets at your motives.

  4. What Scripture in God’s Word speaks to my anger and its expression?  The Bible answers this question every time but you will have to search your Bible.  If you need help ask a friend, pastor, small group leader, discipler or elder.

  5. Ask God to help you express you anger in a tenderhearted manner that brings flourishing rather than destruction.

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons and daughters of God.”

Pastor Ray Brandon
Scoffers on Saturday

What is a SCOFFER?

1. A scoffer uses his mouth in sinful ways. Do not miss that the author parallels scoffers with the wicked and sinners. Wickedness often manifests most conspicuously in the way that a person speaks. As James says elsewhere,
“The tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).
We can do great good or great harm with our words (Proverbs 18:21). The scoffer is someone who is characteristically evil in the way that he speaks (Proverbs 1:22). But what is it about the scoffer’s words that are so evil?

2. The scoffer speaks with derision and contempt. Nothing is sacred to the scoffer. The scoffer thinks it is funny when someone sins (Proverbs 14:9; cf.Philippians 3:19), and he takes God’s judgment of sinners lightly (Proverbs 19:28). Sin and judgment are commonplaces to the scoffer, and he rarely trembles at them.

3. The scoffer sets his derision on other people. The scoffer has a general sense of everyone else’s inadequacies, and very little sense of his own. He loves to take his seat and entertain his friends with narratives of other men’s shortcomings (Proverbs 18:8; 26:22). He is a man of division (Proverbs 16:28). He may be the life of the party, but when he goes out peace comes in (Proverbs 22:10; 26:20).

4. The scoffer is unteachable. Like fools in general (Proverbs 14:6), a scoffer does not delight in understanding but only in revealing his own mind (Proverbs 18:1). Not only does a scoffer resist reproof, he holds in contempt anyone who would attempt to correct him (Proverbs 9:8; 15:12). He always has to save face, and he will loudly condemn anyone who prevents him from doing so.

5. The scoffer is proud. The prideful man has three names:proud, haughty,andscoffer(Proverbs 21:24).

6. The scoffer is a negative example to the wise. The scoffer is a walking demonstration to wise people of how not to live (Proverbs 19:25). The scoffer will not learn from his own mistakes, but wise people will (Proverbs 21:11). Ironically, the scoffer may seek to save face, but wise people see him for what he is and take heed to themselves (1 Corinthians 10:12).

7. The scoffer goes to judgment. God has prepared judgment for the scoffer (Proverbs 19:29), and everything that he has done will come to nothing (Isaiah 29:20).

Psalm 1:1-2

1How happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2But hisjoyis in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

Pastor Ray Brandon
Why you SHOULD criticize your pastor

Why you SHOULD criticize your Pastor

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
— James 3:1

No, your church leaders are not above criticism. Sometimes they deserve it and need it. Here are some reasons you should criticize your pastor(s):

1. They don’t preach the gospel.
As in, they actually don’t preach Christ’s finished work. Not that they don’t emphasize the points you would or they don’t present the gospel the way you prefer or they don’t give an altar call or they miss this angle of the good news or that one or they don’t preach like Carson or Keller or Piper or Chandler — but that they actually don’t preach the gospel.
(Titus 1:9; Galatians 2:11-14)

2. They are regularly engaging in sins or unhealthy habits that would disqualify them from the office.
He’s cheating on his wife or engaging in other sexual immorality. He’s a drunk. He has no self-control. His reputation in the community is terrible. He’s inhospitable. He doesn’t know how to teach. He’s violent. He’s domineering or emotionally, verbally, or otherwise psychologically abusive. He’s argumentative. He’s greedy. He doesn’t take care of his wife and kids. He got saved recently. He does not submit to his authorities. He’s arrogant. He’s undisciplined or lazy. He doesn’t rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine, won’t correct heresy or protect the flock from wolves. He himself teaches doctrine in contradiction to the tenets of the historic Christian faith.
(1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-8)

Well, that’s pretty much it. But that’s a lot and can be applied in a variety of ways.

Now, just because you are allowed to criticize your pastor doesn’t mean you are allowed to do it any way that seems right to you. So when criticism is merited, how should you criticize your pastor?

1. Gently.
2. Personally and privately, first. If necessary, personally and with witnesses, second.
3. Humbly.
4. Respectfully.
5. Graciously and lovingly.

And it bears mentioning that there are ways to have conversations with your pastor that sharpen him and encourage him toward improvements of various sorts without criticizing him. And there are ways to make suggestions without criticizing or complaining (but be sure you’re actually doing that, not being passive aggressive).

And it bears going the other way, too. Why should you not criticize your pastor?

1. He just kind of annoys you.
2. He’s not your best friend. (Or, for the ladies, his wife isn’t yours.)
3. He knows how to teach but he’s not as dynamic or animated or interesting as you’d prefer.
4. He makes decisions that aren’t the result of sin or unhealthy habits but are simply decisions that you wouldn’t make if you were in his shoes.
5. You think every critical thought needs to be expressed or that being the “loyal opposition” or “devil’s advocate” is normal.
6. You don’t understand something he’s done or said. (This would be cause to ask questions, not lodge complaints.)
7. He’s not ____________ enough. (See: political, creative, extroverted, entrepreneurial, rich, poor, outdoorsy, indoorsy, scholarly, etc.)
8. A bunch of other stuff the Bible doesn’t condemn or forbid.

This may all seem a little burdensome when you feel like you ought to be able to say whatever you feel however you feel whenever you feel it. But your pastor bears similar burdens. Keep in mind that he likely has multiple people with “helpful suggestions” speaking to him every week. Measure your thoughts out appropriately, choose the right hills to die on, and pray for your pastor. He needs it.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
— Hebrews 13:17

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:1-2

Pastor Ray Brandon