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February 5, 2017: A Good Tree

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 13-15, Psalm 28, Matthew 12:22-37, Acts 17:16-34 Matthew 12:22-37: This passage contains a teaching of Jesus that has troubled the consciences of many sensitive souls down through the years of Christian history. Have I committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, they wonder? Well, it is important, as always, to read these words in context in order to grasp what Jesus is saying, and not simply be scared (or repulsed or turned off or disappointed by) the most “bumper-sticker” worthy or most memorable aspect of these verses. Jesus heals another man (12:22). The people are amazed—could this be the Son of David (12:23)? That is, they are wondering (finally) whether Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the King to come in David’s line. The Pharisees are unable and unwilling to accept such an idea, and being unable to deny the miracles that Jesus is doing, take the only course left open...

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February 4, 2017: A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 10-12, Psalm 27, Matthew 12:1-21, Acts 17:1-15 Matthew 12:1-21: Jesus and his disciples are going for a Sunday afternoon stroll. It’s the Sabbath, literally, and the disciples are hungry. They are walking through grain fields, and so the disciples start to pick the heads of the grain and start to chew it—a simple way to get some sustenance, cause no damage, and generally make the most of what is around you. However, the “Pharisees”—those Pharisees—they say that by doing this, the disciples are breaking God’s law: Exodus 20:10 said you should do no work on the Sabbath. And so they interpreted this innocent activity of the disciples as doing “work.” How picky, how precious in a negative sense, now small minded and straining at a gnat to swallow a camel! Astonishingly, Jesus actually takes the time to engage with them and attempt to reason with them from Scripture. He provides two counter...

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February 3, 2017: Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 7-9, Psalm 26, Matthew 11:20-30, Acts 16:16-40 Matthew 11:20-30: Now comes some uncomfortable hearing for those who had been following Jesus’ career so far, listened to his teaching, and even witnessed his miracles. These towns in Galilee—Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum—had not repented at Jesus’ presence, teaching or miracles (11:20). How could such a thing be! How could the Son of God walk and his people not follow where he walked? He came to his own and his own received him not (John 1:11). By contrast, says Jesus, those Gentile, pagan towns of Tyre and Sidon, and even that city of ill-repute, Sodom, would have repented if they had heard Jesus preach and seen Jesus do miracles (11:21). The application of this series of startling “woes” is quite readily apparent with a moment’s thought. What is our response to all that we have heard? It is easy to let familiarity breed contempt, and sneer...

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists: Habit 7

Today's post is the last in our series entitled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists" by Ministry Council member Rob Wolgemuth. Read the introduction here, Habit #1 here, Habit #2 here, Habit #3 here, Habit #4 here, Habit #5 here, and Habit #6 here.  Habit #7: Practice good works. Neither Whitefield or Moody viewed preaching as their only area of Christian calling. Whitefield felt a strong calling to start an orphanage in the colony of Georgia, and then put significant time and effort into raising funds to operate it. He also brought (as part of his entourage) a couple of orphans with him from England. Additionally, Whitefield had a strong ministry to slaves in the southern colonies. At his funeral it was said that he did more to convert the 18th century slave in the American south than any man ever before him (I learned this in Dr.  John Piper’s sermon on...

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February 2: Wisdom Justified by Her Deeds

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 4-6, Psalm 25, Matthew 11:1-19, Acts 16:1-15 Matthew 11:1-19: After giving these instructions to his disciples, Jesus himself goes from there to teach and preach in their cities. If we want to train others to do ministry, we need to do ministry ourselves. You cannot sit in an ivory tower telling people what to do unless you also are willing to wash dishes, get your feet wet, roll up your sleeves, and do discipleship and teaching and preaching, and serve too. John the Baptist has a question. Is this the Christ, or is he still to come (11:3)? John was now in prison and hearing of all that Jesus was doing (11:2). On the one hand, he was encouraged by the apparent fulfillment of so many prophecies, but on the other hand, John’s suffering and the lack of an immediate and total kingdom establishment may have led John to wonder what was...

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists: Habit 6

Today's post is part of a series entitled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists" by Ministry Council member Rob Wolgemuth. Read the introduction here, Habit #1 here, Habit #2 here, Habit #3 here, Habit #4 here, and Habit #5 here.  Habit #6: Surround yourself with like-minded people. Both books (Dallimore and Torrey) speak extensively of Whitefield and Moody’s close colleagues. George Whitfield had men like Charles Wesley and his brother John Wesley by his side at Oxford and after. He traveled with a man named William Seward and a small group of other supporters through the American colonies, Seward became a type of personal/PR assistant to Whitefield. D.L. Moody frequently had men like Henry Varley, Ira Sankey and Dr. Torrey by his side. I think it is apparent that these great men didn’t “do ministry” alone but as part of a team of like-minded individuals, sharing the plow and holding each other accountable...

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February 1, 2017: I Have Not Come to Bring Peace

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 1-3, Psalm 24, Matthew 10:21-42, Acts 15:22-41 Matthew 10:21-42: A passage of stern warnings, but given with strong reasons not to fear nonetheless. First of all, Jesus is a realist. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (10:24). If they treated Jesus like this, then surely we should not expect that they will treat us any better. Not for Jesus the saccharine sentimentality of the “everything is always going to get better.” Nor for Jesus the fake kind of religiosity which says that Christ’s goal was to bring peace on earth in a worldly or human sense. No, that is not at all the case. Think of how they treated Jesus. Expect then, disciple, that your life will not always be treated well. How could it be? Well, given this stern warning, we would naturally feel some temerity—in which case, Jesus then brings in reasons not to...

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists: Habit 5

Today's post is part of a series entitled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists" by Ministry Council member Rob Wolgemuth. Read the introduction here, Habit #1 here, Habit #2 here, Habit #3 here, and Habit #4 here. Habit #5: Don’t shy away from preaching on difficult, challenging (and convicting) topics. Here are some sermon titles from each man I found interesting and indicative of their desire to not shy away from difficult passages/sermon topics: George Whitefield: The Folly and Danger of Being Not Righteous Enough The Benefits of an Early Piety The Heinous Sin of Profane Cursing and Swearing Marks of a True Conversion “The Eternity of Hell-Torments” The Indwelling of the Spirit, the Common Privilege of All Believers Marks of Having Received the Holy Ghost Of Justification by Christ Satan's Devices Christians, Temples of the Living God Christ the Only Preservative Against a Reprobate Spirit The Heinous Sin of Drunkenness Intercession Every Christian's Duty Persecution Every Christian's Lot An Exhortation to the People of God Not...

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists: Habit 4

Today's post is part of a series entitled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists" by Ministry Council member Rob Wolgemuth. Read the introduction here, Habit #1 here, Habit #2 here, and Habit #3 here. Habit #4: Be intentional about witnessing to others. There are numerous story of personal witnessing by both men in these books. For example, Dallimore states that soon after his conversion, Whitefield couldn’t keep to himself the blessing of his new life. In his diary Whitefield records that after praying one day he felt led to go the home of a woman whom he had known prior to his conversion. He shared his faith with her and soon she wanted to be taught the ways of the faith. He says this was an occasion where he “became a fool for Christ’s sake.” He also recounts in his diary several other conversions of young people in which he was...

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists: Habit 3

Today's post is part of a series entitled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Evangelists" by Ministry Council member Rob Wolgemuth. Read the introduction here, Habit #1 here, and Habit #2 here. Habit #3: Don’t make prayer a priority, make it THE priority: Both Whitefield and Moody had set times of prayer every day. Neither left prayer to chance but were intentional and disciplined in setting the time aside. Whitefield would pray one to two hours in the morning (pg. 81), oftentimes praying over God’s Word as he read (pg. 82). He would also devote an hour or two to prayer every evening (pg. 80), and pray regularly at noontime. Whitefield was so consistent in his prayer time that Dallimore mentions a time when Whitefield was annoyed with himself for once skipping his nightly prayer time (pg. 81). Whitefield not only practiced a disciplined prayer life, he believed in the power...

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