Saturday, December 31, 2011

Keys to reading through the Bible

Many of you are getting ready to read through the entire Bible in 2012. For many, this will be the first time you've ever attempted such a feat. I started reading through the Scriptures every year when I was preparing to become a pastor, and I wanted to share a few tips that may help you:

Keys to reading through the Bible:

1. Set a specific time for reading: When you first get up, at lunch time, in the evening, or whenever your mind is most focused and alert. Give yourself 15 dedicated minutes

2. Set a specific place that where you can be alone.

3. Before you start, pray for God to reveal Himself to you through His Word. That’s what the Holy Spirit does!

4. When you have questions, write them down. Set a time to discuss them with a trusted Christian friend. When you learn something new, write it down. If God speaks and reveals some way He wants you to change, make that your mission until you have accomplished it.

5. If you get a few days behind, catch up slowly by reading an extra chapter a day. If you get a week or more behind, DON’T QUIT! Just start fresh on that day’s passage. Better to miss a week’s reading than to get discouraged and quit reading altogether.

Keep this up for the first month. That’s how long it takes to make a habit.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sermon preview--Grace in the Fall

Most of us like stories with happy endings, but it’s the tragic stories that stick with us. I once had a dream I had lost one of my kids. When I realized it was just a dream, I woke up. Yet there was a part of me that desperately wanted to go back into the dream and find my child. I felt like something was undone. I think that’s why sad stories have such a hold on us. We return to them because each time we hear them, we secretly hope they’ll turn out better. We hope that this time, Romeo will realize that Juliet is only in a coma instead of dead, and won’t take his own life. We hope Scarlett will forget about that wishy-washy wimp Ashley Wilkes and love Rhett Butler. We pray for Rose to get on the lifeboat so that there will be room for Jack on that floating door when the Titanic goes down. This Sunday we read the saddest story of them all, found in Genesis 3. It’s not a nightmare or a movie; it’s a true story…the story of us. This is the story of how one small act of rebellion made God’s perfect world the way it is today. We may want to change the outcome of this story. We wish we could go back in time and stop Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit, but we can’t. But fortunately, we serve a God who can make wrong into right, who can redeem the most tragic story of all. In this sermon, I want to show you how, even in the saddest story ever told, we see the love and grace of God.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sermon preview--Jesus our King

We live in a world full of people who want to rule. This past week, Kim Jong Il, ruler of North Korea, died. This was a man who lived in opulence in a palatial estate while his people starved to death by the millions. According to his official biography, there was a double rainbow in the sky on the day he was born. He claimed that the first time he played golf, he shot 11 holes in one. He mandated that a song about him be played constantly over loudspeakers in the capital city of Pyongyang. The King God was sending would be much different. His invasion would begin with the pregnancy of an unwed teenaged girl, and a birth in a cattle stall. He would grow up in a town so obscure, it isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament. He would be a blue-collar worker as a young man, then at the age of 30, would become an unemployed, wandering teacher who was rejected by the mainstream religious authorities. He would never write a book, command an army, own a company, or hold political office. On the day of His death, His own people disowned Him as a traitor. The governing authorities mocked Him by placing a crown of thorns on His head and nailing a sarcastic sign over His cross that said, “King of the Jews.” His closest friends ran away. And He died owning nothing except the clothes on His back, and the soldiers who crucified Him gambled for those clothes at His feet as He died.

Yet of all the people who have ever lived, no one else has influence this world as Jesus Christ did. No one else even comes close. Is He your King? This Christmas morning at 11:00 we will celebrate His birth in a simple service with familiar carols and a short message. We will examine His claim for the throne of your life...and the difference it will make if you will receive Him as King.

Quick Guide to the Radical Experiment

In 2012, we are challenging members of Westbury Baptist to take five challenges to grow closer to God than ever before. Here's a quick guide to making the Radical Experiment reality in your life...starting January 1.

Challenge #1: Read the Entire Word.

--We will hand out copies of a Chronological Reading Plan. Sunday sermons and devotionals in your Bible Study departments will go along with each week’s reading.

--Each week’s Scriptures will also be in the Sunday bulletins, and there will be a link to the reading plan on our website. Click here for a link to the entire plan.

Challenge #2: Pray for the Entire World.

--We will hand out copies of a yearly prayer calendar from the Operation World website. Each week’s prayer schedule will also be in the Sunday bulletin, and a link to the entire calendar will be on our website. Click here for the link.

--For each nation or region, pray that the Gospel will advance. Pray for Christians and missionaries to boldly represent Christ. If you know of specific issues in that nation or region, lift them up to God in prayer as well. Pray for justice, righteousness, freedom and peace.

--If you want, you can order the Operation World book from the website ( or from a Christian bookstore. It contains prayer information on every nation.

Challenge #3: Commit to a Multiplying Community.

--If you are part of our Sunday morning Bible Study (Sunday School) at WBC, commit to be there every Sunday this year, unless you are ill or out of town. Pray daily for your class, your department leaders, and the overall small group ministry of our church.

--If you aren’t yet part of our Bible Study, commit to finding a class this year. The church staff is here to help you find the right group.

Challenge #4: Sacrifice Financially for a Purpose.

--If you don’t currently support God’s work financially, commit to start this year.

--If you give sporadically, commit to giving regularly, as a percentage of your income (the biblical instruction is a tithe, or a tenth, of our income).

--If you currently tithe, ask yourself, “What sacrifices could I make for one year so that I could give more?”

Challenge #5: Spend Time Ministering in Another Context.

--Find a way to serve God outside of your own family and friends. This could be through volunteering at Braes Interfaith, McNamara Elementary, or some other ministry field. Or it could be through a short-term mission trip. We will publish a list of ministry opportunities early in the year, and add to the list as we hear of other opportunities.

Bonus: Read Radical; Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream, by David Platt.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sermon preview--Jesus our Priest

We’re in a series right now for Christmastime called Jesus: Prophet, Priest and King. The idea here is that in order to prepare the way for Christ, God in the Old Testament created three kinds of people: Prophets, priests and kings. Those people existed to help God’s people know God and experience all of His blessings. When the Messiah came, He would fulfill the function of all three. He would be the ultimate prophet, the perfect priest, the King of Kings. An Israelite would have understood that perfectly, but we’ve lost that idea, and so in many ways we’ve lost an understanding of who Jesus is and what He can do for us. Two weeks ago, we talked about the idea of Jesus as our prophet. He is the reason we know who God is and how God wants us to live. To conform our lives to His teachings and His example is the only way to become all we were made to be as human beings. But if Jesus was simply a prophet and nothing more, we are lost. We need more than a teacher, more than an example. We need a priest. Now that may sound strange to you, especially coming from the mouth of a Baptist preacher. But I am not talking about the kind of priesthood you see in many Christian churches. Long before any church existed, there were priests of God.

This Sunday, we'll talk about what priesthood was in Old Testament Israel, and why God created this institution. We'll look at several Scriptures in Hebrews that explain how Jesus is our ultimate High Priest, focusing on Hebrews 10:19-22. And we'll explain why we need Jesus to serve as priest in our lives. If this is a new concept for you, perhaps you are missing something very important that Christ wants to be in your life. If you've heard all this before, come and worship Him for making a way for you and I to get to the Father. Either way, I hope I see you this Sunday.