Preparing for “Holy Week”

This week, along with my other sermons, I have turned my attention to structuring our celebration of “Holy Week”—the week bookended by Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day. I have been struggling with the order of worship for our Maundy Thursday service—attempting  to honor His death without acting as if He’s not presently alive—and seeking a passage for our Resurrection Day sunrise service and main worship hour. These spiritual struggles/studies/meditations have impacted me in some very profound ways. Here’s what I’ve been thinking… 

First, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of every Christian. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth that the bedrock of our faith was the veracity of Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-19). He wrote to the Romans that one had to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead in order to be saved (Rom. 10:9-10). He preached so much about Jesus and His resurrection that the philosophers in Athens mistook the resurrection for a foreign god (Acts 17:18).  We must believe that the Father raised His Son from the dead—physically from the dead


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A Sweet-smelling Aroma

I must preface this post by stating the obvious: I’m not from around here. I married into Cabarrus county—I married pretty well, I might add—and so I know that I bring an “outsider’s” perspective to everything I encounter. But YOU, dear reader, need to realize this perspective, because my assessment of things might not be “the accepted take” on Concord. I will now proceed… 

There are several things—unique and wonderful—that I think of when I think of my new home in Concord. While I’ve only lived here for five and a half months, I’ve maintained these thoughts over years of visiting the area. These markers distinguish Concord from any number of other places in North Carolina, the United States, and even the world.


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On Marriage

I know, I know. Lots has been written on marriage in the past couple of years. But today, I put the finishing touches on a wedding ceremony for this coming weekend, and my mind has lingered on the function of Christian marriage. So, let me share some thoughts with you.

(A little story, first: I have a friend in Clarksdale, MS who was almost completely deaf. In his struggle to hear, often he would have difficulty with sermons at church. The joke was, often, when he’d lean over to his wife in church and say, “What did he say?” his wife’s answer was always, “Husbands, love your wives.” He joked often with me about finding a new topic for my sermons. So, Gerald, this one’s for you…)


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A Prince and a Great Man

And the king said to his servants, Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? (2 Samuel 3:38, ESV) 

You may not know this story. After David was anointed King, and as he ascended in power and authority, his house and army fought against Saul’s house and army, even after Saul had died. Abner was one of Saul’s great men. He had killed Joab’s (David’s senior lieutenant) brother, Asahel. After Saul’s death, Abner was accused by one of Saul’s sons of a sin against Saul. This enraged Abner, and so he made an oath to assist David in his ascendancy of the throne. 


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Celebrating Small Victories

 
When I was in the Army, we were trained for all kinds of eventualities. Some were good, some not so good. One of the not-so-good ones was in case of capture. The goal was to train soldiers how to keep up their morale in difficult conditions so that they would be ready and able to escape if the conditions were right.

One of the biggest lessons I still own is, that during your resistance while captured, celebrate little victories. In these kinds of situations, any victory is worth celebrating. So, if you could lie to your captors and get away with it, or whether you could sneak in food or weapons, or just communicate with fellow prisoners, each one was a little victory. And you were to celebrate it.


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Preparing for Resurrection Day

This year, Resurrection Day falls on Sunday, April 1st. This year will be the first time in my lifetime that Easter and April Fools’ Day will coincide. (The last time the two observances converged was in 1945.) I hate the fact that they will be together. April Fools is my least favorite “holiday” we have, and I despise practical jokes. (I know, that’s my problem.) So, I’m bracing for the onslaught of April Fools jokes made at Christ’s expense.
Concerning fools, Proverbs 12:15 states “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” Proverbs 14:1 announces, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” As we stand believing, that Jesus rose from the dead and that believing we have life in His name, we stand against the majority of the population of the world. We will be labeled “foolish,” and trouble-makers. But, according to God’s Word, we are not the foolish ones.

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Please Commit to Pray

 
 
 
 
 
 
In the early days of Christ’s church, His followers faced seemingly insurmountable odds. The whole world—and the god of this age—was against them. And yet, against all odds, the church thrived, prospered, and even “turned the world upside down.” How did that happen you ask? Because they prayed.

Throughout the book of Acts, we find the early church giving themselves to constant prayer in the face of difficulties. They had a decision to make, so they prayed (Acts 1). They did not know what next to do, so they prayed (Acts 2). They had a great harvest of converts, so they devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2). The authorities told the church to be quiet, so they prayed (Acts 4). Do you sense a pattern?


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Leaving Out Hours of Preaching

As I learned to preach – and I guess, to be honest, I’m still learning – one of my mentors told me, “Good preachers know what to put into their sermons. Great preachers know what to leave out.” In agreement to this pithy little proverb, I have always labored to streamline my sermons so that they are laser-focused on the main idea of the text. In order to do so, however, I end up leaving out mountains of thrilling, Christ-exalting, and disciple-edifying comments every. single. week.

This past week’s sermon, “Jesus Above All” from Colossians 1:15-23 was no exception. In fact, this one particular text is so rich with Christological implications, that from my vantage point, limiting the coverage to just one sermon can’t help but rob the text of its fullest tribute to our Lord Jesus. What a tremendous hymn! So, just to whet your appetite regarding this passage, I’ll give you some of the spade-work I did for this text, line by line.


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Refocus 2018

I will sing unto the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously…  (Exodus 15:1)

I am still overwhelmed by the events of last night. It was cold. The Panthers were playing the NFL Wild Card Playoff game on television. It was Sunday night. And yet, more people gathered in our Fellowship Hall than I had ever seen there before. Most of our folks showed up for the first of my annual encouragement/report/direction times that I call “Refocus.”

It was not just the size of the crowd, however, that overwhelmed me last night. I was overwhelmed at the goodness of God to First Baptist Concord. As I called our folks to celebrate what the Lord had done, the bigness of the moment moved me.


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Making Disciples

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

As a Christ-follower and a pastor, I want 2018 to be marked by my maturing and growing in Christ. I desire to lead our church to also mature and grow in grace as we walk with Him. I can’t really imagine any other reason for existing as a church or living as an individual.


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