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Archive for November, 2007

Advent Poems

Beginning in 1982, as a gift to Bethlehem Baptist Church, John Piper has written poems for each of the four Sundays of Advent. They are mostly stories from the lives of biblical characters who find their lives intertwined with significant events in redemptive history. As we celebrate this Advent season, I will post one of these poems each week. In preparation, and to celebrate his 25th anniversary of writing these poems, I have posted Mr. Piper’s first from November 28, 1982. Enjoy.

Tilting on her yearly track
Advent beauty circles back,
Flying faster with the years,
Hardly giving time for tears
First to dry upon the cheek—
Has it been more than a week
In the ground now winter cold?
Has there really been a spring
When the birds began to sing?
Has there been both summer, fall
Since the Baby in the stall
Called us with a Christmas bell
to sing, O Come, Immanuel?
Tilting on her yearly track
Advent beauty circles back,
Flying faster with the years—
Ah, but overtaking fears.
Let the Lord of advent lift
Every care (an early gift!);
See the Savior and the Son
Shine in advent candle one.

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Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. (2) For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. (3) Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. (4) Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. (5) So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! (6) And 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. (7) For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. (8) But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. (9) With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; (10) from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. (11) Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? (12) Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. – James 3:1-12

There are many things we say that we just shouldn’t say. We might think that some of the things we say really don’t matter all that much. But we’d be wrong. Everything we say matters. It matters a lot.

The tongue is a tattletale that lets everyone know the real you. In Scripture it’s described as wicked, deceitful, perverse, filthy, corrupt, flattering, slanderous, foolish, boasting, complaining, cursing, sensual, and vile just to name a few. We know the tongue is of great concern to James because he mentions it in every chapter of his letter.

He begins chapter 3 much like he began the first two chapters by letting those he was writing know that he was one of them, not someone who had arrived or was better than they were, but someone who was addressing them in love, as someone who struggles just like they do. To make his point even more, he uses the pronoun we at the end of verse one when he says, “we all stumble in many ways.” In other words, all of us are in the same boat together. But just as he does in the first two chapters, James, in chapter 3, gets right to the point.

He says, if anybody doesn’t have trouble with their tongue, or in what they say, they are perfect. Now, he doesn’t mean they are without sin. He means that they are completely mature. They have a purified heart. He says that only spiritually mature believers can control their tongues. A pretty strong indictment isn’t it?

He then goes on to make a pretty incredible statement. He says, if someone can control their tongue or what they say, then they are also able to control the others areas of their life through which they sin. He says, if the Holy Spirit can control the most volatile part of our being the rest of us will come under His control as well. To clarify what he means, he uses two analogies to illustrate what he’s trying to say.

The first one is the example of a horses bit. A horses bit lies on top of it’s tongue and when attached to the bridle and reins, it is possible for the rider to make the horse obey. When the horses mouth is controlled, his head is controlled and when his head is controlled you can direct his entire body. And horses need to be under control whether they are used for riding, racing, pulling or plowing.

The second analogy concerns the rudder of a ship. Compared to the overall size, a ship’s rudder is very small, yet it can steer a large boat with ease. No matter where the captain wants to go, turning the very small rudder is the only way to make it happen.

By using these illustrations James says that to be useful, a Christian will need to control his or her tongue and when they do, everything else will follow. Why? Because the genuineness of a person’s faith is demonstrated by his speech. The tongue only produces what it is told to produce by the heart. What a person is will inevitably be disclosed by what they say. You could say, and I think James is saying, that the way a person speaks is a reliable way to measure that persons spiritual temperature or condition. And their obedience can be predicted based on what comes out of their mouth.

At the end of verse 5 James moves from describing how controlling the tongue is to how corrupt the tongue is. He compares the tongue to a fire. Fire has the incredible ability to reproduce itself as long as it has fuel to burn. If there is enough flammable material and oxygen around, a fire will burn forever. James then uses the fire illustration to describe four truths about the tongue.

1. By calling it the very world of iniquity, James says that the tongue is more destructive than any other body part or object we use to sin.
2. By saying it defiles the whole body, James says that the destructiveness of the tongue is like the smoke that penetrates and contaminates everything that’s exposed to it. Whatever the fire itself doesn’t destroy the smoke does. The tongue will stain every part of us. So what we say gives everyone a pretty good idea of who we really are on the inside.
3. By saying it sets the course of our life on fire , James says again that what we say contaminates everything and everyone we come into contact with.
4. By saying the tongue is set on fire by hell, James says the tongue is used by Satan as a tool to corrupt, pollute and destroy. The word James uses for hell is a term that literally means “valley of Hinnom” which is a deep gorge southwest of Jerusalem where trash, garbage and the bodies of dead animals and executed criminals were dumped and burned. The location was originally used by the Canaanites as a place to sacrifice children as burnt offerings. When that practice was finally stopped the place us considered unclean and unfit for decent usage so Jerusalem and other surrounding areas used it as a dump. Because the garbage was burned and the fire burned all the time Jesus used this place to represent the eternal, never-ending torment of hell. And since hell is Satan’s place, James is saying the tongue is used by Satan to do his bidding.

In each case the tongue has the absolute power to corrupt absolutely. It’s effects are far-reaching and devastating.

For good measure James says in verses 7-12 that the tongue is wild and undisciplined and also clever, plotting and deceptive. And while man can tame even the wildest, most powerful beasts in the world, the tongue is still something he cannot conquer, with his own power alone. And then he really gets down and dirty and says, you praise God and curse your brothers with the same tongue. Your doing two completely opposite things.

When the Bible instructs us that “these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:10), it says that poor speech is unacceptable and intolerable. It compromises holy living. The words James uses are a strong negative used only here in the New Testament. And we should understand it to be a very broad statement regarding the various habits of speech that are common to most people. If we will take this to heart it’s going to have an immediate and lasting affect on our lives and on those whose lives we touch. It’s going to enrich us and it’s going to enrich everyone we know. That’s a promise. Let’s look at the different ways we should not use our tongue.

Gossip Should Not Be

He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip. – Proverbs 20:19

Gossip, is saying something in a person’s absence that we wouldn’t say in their presence. It’s purpose is simple—to make someone else look bad.

Slander Should Not Be

For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; – 2 Corinthians 12:20

Slander is any form of speaking against someone else with the end result being a damaged reputation. Slander assumes an authority that does not exist; the authority to pass judgment which action belongs solely to God.

Flattery Should Not Be

For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. – Romans 16:18

These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. – Jude 1:16

Flattery (eulogias, Gk.) is sort of an antonym of gossip. Where gossip is saying something in a person’s absence that we wouldn’t say in their presence, flattery is saying something in a person’s presence that we wouldn’t say in their absence.

God is not impressed when we try to impress others by the things we say to them when those things are designed for our own self-serving benefit.

Careless Words Should Not Be

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. (37) “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Matthew 12:36-37

“Careless word” in verse 36, (argon hrëma, Gk.) describes the forming of an ill-advised opinion or a concept based on incomplete or inaccurate facts. “Words,” used twice in verse 37 (logon, Gk.) describes the communicating of that opinion to someone else.

The warning here should be taken seriously by all of us to refrain from carelessly forming opinions about people and then passing along those opinions to others with our words.

Bragging Should Not Be

But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (17) Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. – James 4:16-17

Boasting (kauchasthe, Gk.) and bragging (en tais alazoneiais, Gk.) means we pretend, by the things we say about ourselves, to be something other than what we actually are.

We create a fictitious scenario and a fictitious person in order to present ourselves in the best possible light.

What Can We Do?

The question is what do we do? How can we correct the problem? Let’s go back to James 3:8.

No man can tame the tongue. – James 3:8a

It’s not altogether encouraging to think that short of dying we’re hopelessly bound to sin by our speech. But James is not suggesting that the tongue can’t be controlled. He’s suggesting that we can’t do it by ourselves. We know from Paul that all things are possible through Christ (Philippians 4:13). So with his help you and I can make the following commitments if we choose to this morning. Commit with me to do the following:

*Refuse to listen to gossip and refuse to repeat it.
*Don’t say anything in anyone’s absence that we wouldn’t say in his or her presence.
*Don’t say anything in anyone’s presence that we wouldn’t say in their absence.
*Don’t say anything unkind about anyone if it isn’t true.
*Don’t say anything unkind about anyone if it might not be true.
*Don’t say anything unkind about anyone even if it is true.
*Correct those who do any of the above.
*Be ready and willing to talk directly to those with whom you have a concern rather than talk about them.
*Encourage others to do the same.

Any Christian can do it. You can…if you will. It’s a matter of trust in the Lord, dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit, dedication and commitment. Committing yourself to do what Paul says in Colossians 3:15-17. He says,

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. (16) Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (17) Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. – Colossians 3:15-17

I promise you this much; you’ll live to regret it if you don’t and you’ll never regret it if you do.

PC

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We’re Moving!!

Beginning November 18, 2007, Legacy Baptist Church will meet for Sunday Worship at the Benton County Boys and Girls Club – McKinney Unit in Bentonville.

It is hard to believe, but we began praying for this day almost a year ago to the day on November 12, 2006. After a year of prayer and periodic fasting, God has blessed us with not only a great location but more space that is financially feasible. Most important, it will provide a long-awaited opportunity to build bridges with the community in which we find ourselves. We have seen the Lord work, providentially guiding us as He has opened and closed doors during this year. For those who have stayed the course and have continually offered fervent prayers regarding this need, it has been a long road but one that has been and I believe will be well worth the journey.

From I-540: Take Exit 88. Turn west Hwy 72. The Boys and Girls Club will be on your right 500 or so feet on the west side of I-540.

From Bentonville: Follow Hwy 72 (Central Ave.) east to I-540. The Boys and Girls Club will be on your left 500 or so feet on the west side of I-540.

Please pass on this information to as many people as you can.

These are very exciting times! Please pray for the days ahead.

Pastor Chris

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God and the Weather

One of the blessings of preaching and teaching on a weekly basis is to hear the stories of how God uses a message in the life of someone or brings things to someone’s mind during and after a message that may not have been the point of the particular message but definitely is a part of the message in some form or fashion. This week I was blessed by one such occassion and I’ve chosen to pass it along to you.

We began a 4-week series on the book of Jonah yesterday. In my introductory remarks I made a brief statement about the 10 supernatural events or happenings that are recorded in the 4 chapters of the book and then moved on to begin the series on the grace and compassion of God. Well. . .God used the introduction to spark something in a gentleman’s mind that he then sent to me. The following are the remarks of Mike McPherson. I hope they spur you on to think about God and the weather, especially in light of all the global warming talk.

The Bible speaks of God controlling the weather over and over…

Psa 107:32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
Psa 107:33 He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground;
Psa 107:34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.
Psa 107:35 He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.
Psa 107:36 And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation;
Psa 107:37 And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.

Did you Know

When Captain John Smith was 19 or 20 he was thrown over board. A large storm came upon a boat full of Catholics. They knew that Smith was a protestant so they thought they had a Jonah thing going on and tossed him over.

After Jamestown had been founded the English took Nova Scotia from the French. The French sent 80 ships over, to level Jamestown. The people at Jamestown wore sac cloth and ashes and call for a day of prayer and fasting while the men tried to sandbag the fort walls. God sent a great storm and broke the fleet in to parts.. many boats were lost. less than 40 of the ships ended up south and 2000 men fell to illness.. The captain of the north fleet was going to hire some Indians to help but when they came to shore many more men fell sick and died. They tried to re assemble a fleet but adverse winds continued to keep the fleets apart and when the French were just about to reassemble a much smaller fleet a larger fog came over them and they missed each other.. The captain of the north fleet was forced to kill himself.. the 2nd in command did the same and the fleet returned to France.. and they said that “New England stood still and God delivered them”

The British retreated out of Boston and gave George Washington his first victory with out any bloodshed and that lead to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Weather Played a major roll in that.

General Cornwallis was forced to give up Yorktown and he mentioned many times that God was on the American’s side because he was continually foiled by the weather

The Pilgrims were in a storm that was so bad that the boat went complete under several times and they hanging on to ropes and masts yelling out to God for help.

During WW II 400,000 British troops were trapped on the cost being prepared to be killed by Hitler’s Air force. Parliament called for a Day of fasting and prayer, Everyone in parliament laid prostate for day. God used weather to deliver almost all 400,000 troops.

Some things to ponder.

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