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9 Marks of a Health Church: #1, Expositional Preaching

God's Word is the word we need to hear today. We live in a strange day, when even Christians who claim to be born again and churches that claim to be evangelical ignore God's Word. -Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (p. 54)
Four years ago I blogged through Mark Dever's book. I've decided to revisit those posts. The first mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching.

Why expositional preaching rather than topical? An expositional sermon is focused upon the Word, whereas - as you might have guessed - a topical sermon is centered upon the topic itself.  A topical sermon might be replete with Scripture, but there is an inherent danger of misunderstanding and misapplying Scripture if a verse or a passage is taken out of its context merely to support the preacher's sermon.  I have found that topical preaching encourages me to place myself in the passage, to make the Word of God about me and my problems. My friend Persis has written about why this practice …

Cutting the Cord

Day 1:

Removed Instagram, Facebook, and the game from my phone. Deactivated Facebook so that I wouldn't be tempted to check it via browser. Delighted to find that Messenger still works; it's the feature I was most concerned about losing. Scrolled Twitter periodically, but since I reduced the number of accounts I follow it doesn't take long to see what I've missed.

Most notable difference was at home in the evening. Instead of checking out to play the game and catch up on social media feeds, I had three actual phone conversations and folded laundry. I read more before going to bed.

Confession: when I got online for a task, I quickly scrolled through Instagram.

Day 2:
Is it crazy to think I slept better because I didn't look at my phone for several hours before bedtime? Whatever the reason, I woke up feeling refreshed. I wasn't as rushed this morning as I usually am, probably because I didn't look at my phone until I received a text. Was able to have another p…

pondering...

It turns out I had vastly overestimated what I had to contribute. I didn't have "more" I needed to give; I actually had nothing God needed to begin with. Nothing.

God is not looking for "helpers" to assist Him in saving the world. Yes, He still calls us to give ourselves generously to that mission and to be sacrificially generous with our neighbors. But not because He's short on money, talent, or time. He has never commanded us to go save the world for him; he calls us to follow him as he saves the world through us. - J.D. Greear (source)

weights and measures

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There is a weight to this life; the responsibilities of being a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend. I give them over to God, placing them on the scales and hoping against hope that they will equalize the balance.

      Consider what I’ve sacrificed! 

     Notice how much I’ve loved! 

     See how hard I’ve worked! 

And still I come up wanting. No matter how much I seek to find my worth in the works I place in the tray, I can never measure up. My attempts to balance the scales are vain foolishness.

The words of Augustus Toplady reverberate in my mind.

Nothing in my hand I bring,  Simply to the cross I cling;  Naked, come to Thee for dress;  Helpless look to Thee for grace. -Rock of Ages

There is a weight to this life; the fallen world and my sinful nature nearly crush me some days. I wonder if I will be able to bear them much longer. Yet even as I anticipate the day when their heaviness will be lifted from me, I trust...

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weig…

seasons

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The work of winter is to hunker down, to brace the cold and dark. I have always cherished winter, its crisp mornings with sparkles covering the ground. Windows edged in frosty patterns of lace. Chilly evenings that beg for candlelight and warmth. Winter beckons me home.

I am reluctant for spring's arrival, for the change that ensues. I prefer the safety and comfort of the familiar, the much more narrow focus winter brings.

I struggle with leaving things behind. Seasons. People. Places. Plans. I know what it means to wrestle with leaving a season. To approach a new one with trepidation. Yet God does not leave me to wander the unknown without Him. Though the path forward may be rutted and carved by ice, He points to vibrant green bursting through the still white of the fields.

I can almost touch the sprigs of new life, as I ponder what He has in store.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
-Isaiah 43:19





hurt

The pain was deep, raw. As I told a friend, I felt as if I'd been gutted. I knew it wasn't intentional, but this knowledge didn't soften the blow. Because I carried on as usual I knew the other party wasn't aware of my feelings, but that was poor comfort.

I stewed. I grappled with the ugliness of my emotions. I sought counsel from others who were removed from the situation. I asked them to pray. I prayed. I carried the hurt around for a while. Finally, when I was too weary to carry it any longer or any further, I relented and asked God to carry it for me.

And He did.

As He gracefully circumcised my heart (Deut. 10:16), He fixed my gaze on His truth. He showed me that even in this, He is molding me.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the …

a tale of two paths

Each time I leave my neighborhood - my comfort zone - I am faced with a choice. I cannot go straight ahead. I must choose, left or right.

To the right, and I will be met with rocks, potholes and dust. Yet it is quicker, and I often turn that way when I am in a hurry.

To the left, and I will find sheep grazing and a church that rose from the ashes. The lightning strike is emblazoned on my memory, much like the flames that burst forth and the black smoke that seemed to hover for days. In one brief moment I saw God aim His power to consume a temple constructed by man. He had something greater for His people.

I can reach my destination by either path.

The bumpy road or the smooth one.

The parched earth or the green pasture.

The choice is mine. I wrestle it more often than I should. Most days I instinctively turn to the easy route, but some days I involutarily choose the other. I set my jaw to absorb the jarring, squint against the dust, and pray I'm not causing any permanent damage …