Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life-Saving Boldness

There’s a passage in 1 Chronicles 3 that lists the sons of King David.  It’s one of those passages that we usually just skim over or ignore, but there is something very revealing in it.  As you read the list of boys, you recognize the name Solomon, and if you really know your Bible, you know the names Absalom and Amnon, because they both are destined for a bad end.  Then there’s the name Nathan.  David and his wife Bathsheba named a son Nathan.  Here’s what is remarkable about that:  We know the names of David’s father and all his brothers, and David didn’t choose to name any of his sons after them.  We also know the names of the thirty mighty men, David’s elite soldiers who were with him from his days as a fugitive to the days when he was conquering every nation that opposed Israel.  He didn’t name a child after any of them, either.  Nor did he name a son after any of the great heroes of Israel: Not Moses or Joshua, Gideon or Samuel, Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.  In fact, the only person David named a son after—as far as we know—was Nathan.  What did Nathan do to earn the respect and love of David and his wife Bathsheba?  That story is found in 2 Samuel 12, and that's what I'll be preaching on this Sunday.  I'm in a series on boldness, and we will see how boldness can save lives. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Death-defying Boldness

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard this saying: “The safest place to be is right in the middle of God’s will.”  But is it true?  It depends on what you mean by "safe."  If you mean that when you're in the center of God's will, you will have (to put it crudely) better luck than others; if it means that your plans will succeed, your health will be good, your happiness will be constant, and doggone it, people will like you...then no, that's not true.  In fact, it's demonstrably false when you look at the lives of virtually every man or woman in Scripture who ever obeyed God's will.  But if you mean that we’ll always be right where God wants us, in the right place at the right time to accomplish the great things He has planned for us in the world, then yes, being in the center of God’s will is the only safe place to be.  There, and only there, do we find our defining moments, our divine appointments, the opportunities that God had planned for us from the beginning. 

For the past two weeks, we’ve been praying together that God would teach us boldness and would give us opportunities to use it.  If you’re praying that way, God is going to put you in positions where you have an opportunity to speak the hard truth to someone.  It will not be easy.  If you tell a friend she needs to reconcile with a relative she resents, you may not have a friend anymore.  If you speak up about unethical practices at work, you may lose your job.  If you share your faith with a co-worker, you may become known at the office as an intolerant religious fanatic.  Years ago, my wife felt strongly led to confront a couple we knew.  They had a little girl who they constantly belittled in public.  She knew this couple loved their daughter, but she also knew this child needed to feel her parents were proud of her.  She spoke to the mother, even though as a pastor’s wife, there was a real risk that they might respond by leaving our church.  The question I want us to consider this morning is, “How can I get ready for these moments of truth, so that I respond in the way I should?”

This Sunday, we'll take a look at the story of Esther.  Here's a young woman, probably a teenager, who had to decide whether to speak up on behalf of her people--which could lead to her execution--or watch passively as the Jews were eliminated.  Along the way, we'll talk about two daily habits that will get you ready for your moments of truth.  And just to be clear: This is such an awesome story, it will be worth your time just to hear it...or hear it again. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bold Humility

Imagine your great-great-grandfather came to visit you here in the 21st Century.  You would have so much to show him: Freeways, microwaves, television, cell phones.  I wonder what he would think of indoor plumbing and air conditioning?  At some point, he would notice that there is a special class of people in today’s world.  We shower them with money.  We pay close attention to every detail of their lives: What clothes they wear, what sorts of houses they live in, who they socialize with, fall in love with, break up with.  If people in this special class tell us we should buy a certain product, we do it.  Some of these people are in this special class because they are especially talented in some way: Athletics, singing, or acting, mostly.  Some are in the special class because they are especially attractive in a physical sense.  And some are in the special class for no discernible reason whatsoever; they just are.  And what do we call these special people?  Celebrities.  Have you ever wondered where that term came from?  It is actually a derivative of the word “celebrate.”  We think of celebrating a holiday like Christmas or Easter.  But one meaning of the word “celebrate” is “to hold up or play up for public notice.”  In other words, we make a big deal out of them.  We don’t often use the word “celebrate” in that way, although occasionally you will hear something like, “She is a celebrated author.” 

            So celebrities are people we celebrate; people we pay special attention to, talk about, listen to, seek to emulate.  Your great-great-grandfather would notice that American culture in the 21st Century is obsessed with celebrities.  There’s even a documented psychological disorder called Celebrity Worship Syndrome.  In one article I read, a psychologist speculated that 1/3 of the population might be afflicted with this disorder.  On the lower levels, it’s pretty harmless: You are more likely to buy a magazine or watch a TV news show if you think a celebrity you’re interested in will be talked about in it.  At the moderate level, you put posters of your favorite celebrity all over your bedroom, and fantasize about meeting him or her.  Your friends tease you about having a "crush" on this famous person.  At the extreme level, you track the celebrity’s movements.  You truly believe there’s a connection between you and him or her.  You may even think your favorite celebrity is communicating with you through some sort of code; perhaps hidden messages in his movies or songs.  In 1981, long before anyone coined the diagnosis Celebrity Worship Syndrome, John Hinkley Jr tried to kill President Reagan because he thought his favorite movie star, Jodie Foster, would be impressed by his actions. 
            I think we can all see the evil in that.  And while none of us may have a dangerous fixation on a particular famous person, I would argue that every one of us has a problem with a very different form of celebrity worship.  In my opinion, our celebrity worship is much more destructive than any pop-culture obsession could be.  We don't celebrate Tom Cruise or LeBron James or Taylor Swift, we celebrate--make a big deal about--ourselves.  We’re in a series about boldness.  Last week, we talked about what boldness is.  This week, I want us to look at John the Baptist, one of the boldest people who has ever lived.  But in the story we'll read Sunday, you'll see that he was also humble.  Boldness and humility may seem to be mutually exclusive, but the person who is bold for the Kingdom will be inherently humble.  And humility is the answer to our peculiar form of celebrity worship.  Sunday, we'll talk about how our celebrity worship manifests itself in our lives, and how we can defeat it. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Storming Hell with a Water Pistol

When I was a kid, our church had an annual revival meeting.  Our pastor would get a professional evangelist or a preacher from another church to come and preach a series of sermons every night for a week.  I used to look forward to the revival every year.  The church would be a little more full than usual.  Some folks from other churches in our community would come, and that brought a different sort of energy to our little country church.  Of course, by the middle of the week, I would get tired of going to church every night, but for the first few nights, it was entertaining, even if I don’t remember all that many lives getting changed.  But then when I was fifteen, we had a different sort of revival preacher.  He was a young man, right out of college.  And he was energetic. When he preached, he would tuck his Bible under one arm and gesture with his other hand.  I thought it made him look like the Heisman trophy.  I was a bit in awe of him.  One thing that preacher said that week has stuck with me.  He said, “Sometimes you get so full of the Spirit, you’re ready to storm Hell with a water pistol.”  What an image!  To be so passionate about the truth that sets people free, you’ll face overwhelming odds to tell the saving truth with no thought of your own safety, comfort or social status.

This week, I'm beginning a new series of sermons at WBC. All this year, I'm preaching on the theme, "Representing Christ in a non-Christian culture."  People in Scripture who served God well in difficult times had certain things in common, and one of those attributes was boldness.  This Sunday I'll talk about what boldness really is.  Some Christians exhibit qualities that may seem bold, but in truth, do the cause of Christ more harm that good.  I'll contrast those with a picture of stunning boldness we see in a young boy, found in 1 Samuel 3.  I'll also tell the rest of the story of how that revival meeting when I was 15 helped change my life forever. 

Westbury 20/20 Prayer Guide

Westbury 20/20 Prayer Guide


Our Westbury 20/20 team, made up of 11 church members and our ministry staff, is prayerfully working to evaluate our church's ministry.  Sometime this summer, we hope to bring some proposals before the church that will position us for greater and more effective ministry in the future.  But right now, we need your prayers!  I've written the following prayer guide to give us all practical ways to seek the Lord during these days.  For every day of the week, I've included a Scripture and a suggested prayer theme.  Will you join us?
Monday: Ephesians 4:14-16. Jesus is the Head of our church.  Ask Him to show us His will so that we can follow Him in the plans He has for us.
Tuesday: 2 Chronicles 1:7-10. Like Solomon, let’s ask God for wisdom to lead His people well.

Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 2:10-16.  Pray for the Spirit to reveal to us the mind of Christ, so we can know how He sees our church and our mission field. 

Thursday: Habakkuk 3:2.  Pray for God to revive our church by the awesome power He has used to awaken His people in days gone by. 

Friday: Matthew 6:25-34.  Pray that God would transform us into the kind of church that sets aside our ordinary concerns about earthly, temporal things and seeks first His Kingdom with passion.

Saturday: Mark 6:34.  Pray that God would give us His heart of love and compassion for those who are without Him, sheep without a Shepherd, and that this would motivate us to reach them with His Gospel.
Sunday: Psalm 139:23-4.  Ask God to give our church a humble spirit that longs for the transformation He wants to bring about in us.  Pray that we would set aside our prideful tendency to cling to what is comfortable, and to embrace what is necessary to bring about growth.