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    Elders' Blog - Entries from August 2016

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    ThuThursdayAugAugust25th2016 The Godly Mind

    When you think of a godly person, what comes to mind?

    Most likely, you’re thinking of someone whose life is free from besetting sin. Or someone who prays frequently and fervently. Or someone who loves to serve other people with tangible acts of kindness.

    What you’re probably not thinking of is someone who conducts scientific experiments in a laboratory. Or someone whose nose is frequently buried in a philosophy book. Or someone who furiously scribbles mathematical equations on a chalkboard.

    Godliness certainly does include things like holy conduct and vibrant character and selfless service. There’s no doubt about that. But I have to wonder: Is it possible that true godliness is more comprehensive than we often imagine it to be? Might it be that the traditionally conceived categories of “spiritual” pursuits aren’t the whole story of what it means to be a godly man or a godly woman?

    When Jesus was asked by scribes about the most important commandment, he responded definitively, “The most important is, ‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:29-30).

    I suspect it’s fairly easy for most of us to understand what Jesus means when he talks about loving God with our hearts, souls, and strength. These things jive pretty well with our familiar definitions of spirituality and godliness. But to love the Lord with our minds? That doesn’t seem to belong with the others. The mind seems too worldly, too earthy, too unspiritual. Surely the mind has more to do with learning a new language or studying the laws of physics than it does with being a lover and worshiper of God, right?

    Well, not exactly. While it’s true that the mind can be put to use for selfish or prideful or futile ends, the Christian mind operates in submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. And as such, it is meant to be exercised and employed to bring him glory. As Donald Whitney observes, “What God wants most from you is your love. And one of the ways He wants you to show love and obedience to Him is by Godly learning. God is glorified when we use the mind He made to learn of Him, His ways, His Word, and His world” (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 226).

    We must realize that we don’t take a “time out” from our spiritual lives when we go to work at intellectual tasks. Study and reflection and exploration and problem-solving—these are concrete ways we can express our love for God. Regardless of your IQ or SAT score, it’s a demonstration of godliness when you cultivate your intellectual gifts, stretch your intellectual capabilities, and utilize your intellectual tools to the praise and glory of the One who gave them to you. For example:

    • If you’re a student gearing up for another year, don’t despise the work God has called you to. In the midst of the textbooks and the labs and the exams, you have an opportunity to love God greatly.
    • If you’re an educator (whether it’s in a kindergarten classroom or a Ph.D. seminar), cherish the task you’ve been given. You get to train young minds so that they can more fully love God.
    • If you’re an engineer or a doctor or an architect (or any other profession that requires mental investment), thank God for the ability to exercise your brain daily—by doing so, you’re being given an opportunity to obey the greatest commandment.

    And if you’re none of the above—just a “regular” Christian with no remarkable intelligence to speak of—don’t let that be an excuse. J.P. Moreland argues that “a growing, vibrant disciple will be someone who values his intellectual life and works at developing his mind carefully” (Love Your God with All Your Mind, p. 61). You don’t have to be super smart to do that. Whether it’s reading a book or memorizing Scripture or listening to a podcast—exercising your brain is far more than an intellectual exercise. It’s a spiritual exercise. And don’t we all need a little more of that?

    ThuThursdayAugAugust18th2016 Hunger for the Word
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Learning Scripture 0 comments Add comment

    I am hungry. Actually, I’m starving. When I get home I will attack the fridge and cupboards for anything I can consume. I get hungry often, and when I do, no one has to beg me to resolve my personal famine. In fact, if I go long enough, I’ll begin dreaming about what I might find. What's available—chocolate, crackers, grapes?!

    I recently completed a Bible study with some friends on the importance of God’s Word. In the study, we examined numerous verses that describe the Word. I was surprised to see how many times God relates and compares the Scriptures with food. Here are a few that struck me most…

    …that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deut. 8:3)

    I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. (Job 23:12)

    How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Ps. 119:103)

    Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jer. 15:16)

    From these verses, three spiritual lessons come to the forefront for me.

    First, I need God’s Word for my spiritual health just as much as I need food to keep my body alive. God has designed his written Word to connect us to knowing him. As I hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word, I commune with my heavenly Father. To disengage from him for a significant length of time will bring malnutrition similar to any neglect of eating.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not encouraging legalism or monotony. There is tremendous freedom in how I engage God in his Word. One day can look different than another, some longer and some shorter, and no one will get hurt if a few days pass without picking up my Bible. However, it’s safe to say that no one will grow who doesn’t invest some kind of regular approach to pursuing God in his Word.

    Second, there is a pleasure that comes from time in God’s Word; just as I enjoy honey when it touches my tongue, so I enjoy God’s Word as I consume it. I may not feel like opening up my Bible at a given time, but once I start, I never leave thinking it was wasted time.

    That leads me to my third point, something someone shared with me years ago. Not every experience in God’s Word has to be of equal intensity. I don’t get as excited about peanut butter and jelly as I do my favorite meal at Nine Irish Brothers. And that’s okay. But both give me physical life. Some meals I remember and many I don’t, but all of them sustain me.

    It is similar to engaging God in his Word. I don’t have to put pressure on the moment that I must leave with a major, life-changing insight. Far from it, but any time in God’s Word sustains my spiritual health.

    So, be encouraged. Time in God’s Word is never a waste. You need that time, even if it is just five minutes. Read a Psalm. Reflect on last week’s sermon. Write a verse on a note card to memorize. Enjoy your meal.

    WedWednesdayAugAugust10th2016 Don't Change the Channel
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Culture Evangelism Media 0 comments Add comment

    If you’re like most television-watching Americans, you hate commercials. Few things are more annoying than having your favorite show interrupted by some toothpaste company telling you that four out of five dentists recommend their product. Isn’t this one of the main reasons we pay through the nose to get cable packages with hundreds of channels? We need somewhere else to turn when these unwelcome intrusions take over the screen.

    But here’s a challenge for you. The next time you’re relaxing in front of the TV and a commercial rears its ugly head, don’t change the channel. Relax your finger. Sit still. And pay close attention.

    Now before you go thinking I’ve lost my marbles, hear me out.

    If you’re a Christian who desires to faithfully make the gospel known to those around you, it’s important to understand the hopes, dreams, fears, and questions that dominate the hearts and minds you want to reach. And if you want to understand such things, then in my opinion there are few resources more insightful than commercials.

    You see, television commercials aren’t random or arbitrary creations—at least the good ones aren’t. They’re carefully crafted and well-researched by marketers who know how to resonate with viewers. As a result, you’ll rarely find an effective commercial that fails to speak in some way to our culture’s most profound and deeply held values.

    Take this new Coca-Cola commercial, for instance. It was recently launched to coincide with the 2016 Olympic Games:

    The marketing team at Coca-Cola understands something profound about our culture. We long to be on top of the world, to be victorious, to experience the feeling of accomplishment and triumph. And yet, most people viewing this commercial are sitting on the couch, eating potato chips, watching other people live out their dreams of Olympic glory. In other words, we’re a long way from the conquests we dream of.

    So what does Coca-Cola do? They subtly intersperse clips of world-class Olympians experiencing the euphoria of winning gold with clips of average people experiencing the euphoria of drinking Coke, thus conflating the two. Realizing that none of the people in their target audience will truly know “what gold feels like,” Coca-Cola offers an alternative (and more accessible) option: opening a bottle. Now if we’re honest, most of us know that the joy of being crowned the best athlete in the world has absolutely nothing in common with the joy of drinking carbonated sugar water. But with the right background music and enough lens flares, we might just begin to believe. And the next time we’re thirsty, some inexplicable compulsion may just drive us to reach for that red bottle.

    For the Christian, a commercial like this is a window into the soul of our culture. It helps us see what our friends and neighbors hold dear. And it helps us know how to engage them.

    In this case, the innate longing for victory and accomplishment informs the way we reach out to people. After all, we know the fulfillment of this longing, and it’s not a beverage. The ultimate victor is Jesus, and he generously invites us to share in his conquest. He has defeated the power of sin and the curse of death. He has broken the stronghold of the Evil One. And when we join ourselves to him in faith, we too get to experience these triumphs. If you want to speak to the heart of people who crave that “gold feeling,” this is how to do it.

    But gold feelings aren't the only things we crave. When I watch this commercial for a psoriasis medication, I see the fears of those who desperately want to be known and accepted despite imperfections—and I think of how the gospel relieves those fears. When I watch this Mercedes commercial, I see the hunger of those who want to be connected to something that’s both historical and modern at the same time—and I think of how the gospel connects us to an ancient faith that’s also forward-looking and progressive. We could go on and on.

    The point is this: When we pay attention to the advertisements around us, we’re effectively letting well-trained, well-resourced market researchers do some of our homework for us. And why wouldn't we want to use their work to help us explore inroads for the gospel?

    Ultimately this idea goes far beyond commercials. There are hundreds of ways we can let the culture itself tell us about its values (and idols), and TV ads are just the tip of the iceberg. So if you have a heart for the gospel's advance, then let me encourage you to have your eyes open and your ears alert at all times. If you do, you’ll find clues everywhere. And as a Christian you’ll find plenty of ways to seize those clues and use them to make Jesus known.

    WedWednesdayAugAugust3rd2016 The Greatness of God in Exodus
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Exodus Sermons 0 comments Add comment

    Take a moment to watch the video below for a preview of our upcoming sermon series, beginning August 28, 2016. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope you'll join me in praying for God to work through the preaching of his word as we embark on this new study.

    The Greatness of God in Exodus from Kossuth Street Baptist Church on Vimeo.

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