Friday, November 02, 2012

The Revelation is Done. What’s Next at Grace Fellowship Church?

Sunday, October 28 I preached my last sermon in the Revelation series, Stand and Conquer. That made for 28 sermons on the 22 chapters of this remarkable book. Preaching it changed me. One of the deepest ways I was affected was in my personal confidence in the canon of Scripture. I have never been one to wrestle with big doubts about the Bible’s authenticity and reliability, so I was somewhat surprised when I stood back to evaluate what the big takeaways were for me personally in preaching the book.

The Revelation so wonderfully “ties all the loose ends” of the Bible’s redemptive storyline, that my certainty in the Bible as a whole skyrocketed. Those that suggest the Bible was written by men as some product of an elaborate conspiracy to delude the masses have always amused me. Try getting ten men to agree on anything, let alone a religion!

The more I read it, the more the single voice of God’s Holy Spirit is heard in the Bible. Real men, with real personalities and real hang-ups, were used of God to write His real thoughts… without error. It is a wonderful miracle. And this miracle was confirmed again and again as I preached my way through the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The more Jesus was revealed, the more whole Bible made sense. Praise God.

Now, as for what is next, here is the plan.

We will enjoy the preaching ministry of John Ensor this Sunday morning. John is in town to speak at the Pregnancy Care Centre Banquet on Saturday night. We are humbled and happy that he is able to stay over and preach for us on Sunday.

Sunday night will continue our series on the Ten Marks of aHealthy Church. This week we will talk about the Gospel and its centrality in the life of a church. I can’t wait!

On November 11 I will begin a small series on Delighting in God. If you are new to Grace Fellowship Church then you will have observed this little motto on almost everything we produce: Delighting in God to the Glory of God for the Good of All People.  That is more than a catchy phrase to us. It sums up the Christian life. But "dead mottos the delighting Christian do not make!" That is why every few years we like to go back and remind ourselves what this life is all about. This is big picture stuff that I hope is going to change us and re-focus our living. Pray God is with us.

After this series we will take a couple of weeks in December to meditate on Jesus, not just on His coming, but on what He did when He came and what He will do when He returns.  Following that, the New Year will start a new series on the Lives of Saul and David. I have longed to preach this series for years. There is so much here in the lives of these men that teaches us about God, the fear of man, Godly risk, the fruit of sin, how to worship in trials and suffering, true love – the list could go on. I think this extended look at these men from the OT narrative will do a lot for us as Christians. I want our church to be full of men and women who have a heart after God.

So, that is where we are going. I trust the Lord is in it. As always, all of these plans are framed by the robust theological truth of James 4:15 “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Why Am I Going to “ The Works of God: God's Good Design in Disability” Conference?

1. To be reminded that sin and suffering are in the world.
When I was forced to start thinking about disability back in 2001, it was not long until I realized that all of us are disabled. That is what sin does. Being around my family and friends living with disability reminds me of the New Jerusalem and the day when all suffering will end. Events like this make me spiritually sober again.

2. To connect with a few choice brothers.
There are some brothers who will be at this conference that I long to fellowship with. They are men who think Godward thoughts about disability and who have similar ideas about how to build the church so that she becomes a place where disability is embraced, not rejected. I have no idea where these conversations will go, but I cannot help but be very hopeful the Lord will use our time together to do some good things for the church at large.

3. To learn how to love my son better.
I need teaching. Disability is a part of our lives 24/7 and there are brothers and sisters that know so much more than I do and love so much better than I do that I simply need to be around them. I need to know how to live out the Gospel more effectively under my own roof.

4. To learn how to make our church a safer refuge for the disabled.
I think we have done a lot of good things as a church to embrace those who are different from us, but I am certain there is much more to do. We are still a relatively young church and there are a thousand ways we need to mature. This is one of them. I am praying that the preaching and fellowship around the conference will fill my small brain with a million good ideas.

5. To be encouraged.
I love my disabled friends. Our journey into the world of special needs has taught us that there is often more honest joy and laughter here than in the all the air-brushed fancies of the “normal” world. God’s surprising grace is found when my Down Syndrome friend tackles me in a joyful hug or when my Williams Syndrome friend uses big words to warmly greet me. Joy surges in my heart when I watch the young couple lovingly hold and smile and talk to their severely affected, non-communicative daughter – knowing she will likely die soon from her disabilities. The Gospel draws into greater focus when I observe happy, humble, loving couples who have faced the daunting task of raising a person who requires massive investments of time and attention. I could go on.

It may be too late for you to join us at the conference, but here is the information.

November 8, 2012 in Minneapolis, MN.
Bethlehem Baptist Church (North Campus)
5151 Program Avenue
Mounds View, MN 55112

Here is a partial schedule of the day:

7:15 AM          Check-In, Registration, Bookstore and Exhibits Open

8:30 - 9:30       John Piper - When Jesus Meets Disability: How A Christian Hedonist Handles Deep Disappointment

10:15 - 11:15   Speaker Panel with Guthrie, Lucas, Talbot and Piper

2:45 - 3:45       Mark Talbot - Longing for Wholeness: Chronic Suffering and Christian Hope

4:00 - 5:00       Greg Lucas - Parenting When Your Heart is Continually Crushed

At 5:30 PM, the Bethlehem Baptist Church Disability Ministry will host an evening of conversation and prayer that all are welcome to attend.