Audio for August 17 Sermon

August 31, 2008

We had some recording problems with the August 17 sermon, “Work Hard Yet Relax During the Race of Faith,” but thanks to Michael Black and Matthew Pinckney we now have a satisfactory version of the audio online here.

The Heart of the Gospel

August 28, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

What is the heart of the Gospel? What does the Gospel teach at its core?

In our adult Core Seminar this week, we consider this issue by means of J.I. Packer’s “The Heart of the Gospel,” chapter 18 from Knowing God (republished by Crossway this year in In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement). In this chapter Packer explains the central importance of propitiation – that is, of averting God’s anger over sin by an offering. He explains the reason why so many take offense at the idea, the biblical support for the idea, and the importance of the idea in our Christian walk.

Here is a brief outline of the chapter to whet your appetite. Please read it if at all possible, and join us this Sunday as we glory in Christ’s work on our behalf. Read more

Maintain Your Form and Finish Well in the Race of Faith

August 27, 2008

(This sermon on 2 Timothy 4:6-8 was preached 8/24/2008. For a version that is easier to print, click here. The audio is available here.)

Many expected the Beijing Olympic marathon to be slow, as runner after runner would succumb to the pollution on top of high heat and humidity. So when this morning the leaders took off at close to world record pace, a number of runners – including the top Americans, Dathan Ritzenheim and Ryan Hall – decided around three miles that that was suicidal, and backed off, hoping to run a slower, more even pace, and pick off stragglers. Such tactics had worked well in a number of past Olympic marathons.

But not today. Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya had other plans. He had prepared for these conditions. When the day dawned quite clear for Beijing, he was confident he could run a fast pace all the way to the end.

And he did. With a little over two miles to go he picked up the pace – and immediately dropped his last competitor. Running smoothly, relaxed and strong, he entered the stadium with a large lead. The crowd roared, cheering him on. He celebrated as he ran the last quarter mile on the track. Sammy Wanjiru finished well.

Our question this morning: Will you also finish well?

To get the gold medal, you have to finish the race. The marathon is 26 miles 385 yards. If you stop at 26 miles, 384 yards, you do not win – no matter how far ahead you are at that point. Read more

Striving, Resting, and the Word

August 22, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

On Sunday we focused in part on Hebrews 4:11:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

We noted the paradox of this verse: We are to work real hard to rest. And we showed that this does not mean, “Work read hard NOW to rest IN THE FUTURE.” Psalm 23 and Matthew 11:28-30 clearly show we are to be resting now, while we are working. Our rest in Christ is, instead, similar to a runner – a Usain Bolt, a Ryan Hall – relaxing while running the race of his life. He is working hard – yet, other than the specific muscles required for running, he is completely relaxed. In the image of Matthew 11, we are yoked together with Jesus. He gives us rest – simultaneous with our taking up His yoke. His power does the labor, the pulling, as we are paired with Him.

The Hebrews passage clarifies further how we are both to strive to rest, and to rest while striving. The author writes:

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest . . . 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The word “for” links the command to how we live out the command. And there is only one way to depend actively on God: Through His Word.

How does the Word help us do this? Read more

Work Hard Yet Relax During the Race of Faith

August 18, 2008

(This sermon was preached August 17, 2008. For a version that is easier to print, click here. The audio is available here.)

No one in the history of mankind has run 100 meters as fast as Usain Bolt did yesterday. And yet – did you see the head-on shot of his race? He looked completely relaxed.

This coming Saturday night, watch the men’s marathon. Ryan Hall will run over 26 miles, averaging well under 5-minutes per mile. That’s fast. Indeed, looking around, I don’t think there’s anyone here this morning who can run one mile that fast. Yet while making that long, sustained effort, his stride will be fluid and his face relaxed.

Are these two anomalies?

No: All good coaches teach their runners to relax.

When trying to run as fast as we can, we have a natural tendency to grimace, to tighten the mouth, the neck, the shoulders. But all that is counterproductive. All that slows you down.

In order to run fast, you must relax.

Why is this? It is actually quite logical, for two reasons. Read more

The Old and the New

August 15, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

“So much of the Christian life is not learning new things but learning fundamental things in new ways.”

So wrote Tom Ascol, Executive Director of Founders Ministries, in a recent blog post. Several weeks ago he was struck by lightening – yes, literally – and is still recovering.

In this country, we have a passion for the new: New electronic gadgets, new books, new ideas, new leaders. We expect progress; we anticipate that all will improve.

The anticipation of progress is less common around the world and, from a historical viewpoint, is rather recent. Now, in many ways, believing that change is possible is helpful and necessary; indeed, a belief in change is fundamental to salvation.

But our fascination with the new has a downside also: We quite easily slip into an attitude of disdain for the old. C.S. Lewis labeled this “chronological snobbery,” which he defined as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited” (from Surprised by Joy chapter 13.)

Tom’s statement is an excellent summary of the right attitude towards biblical truth. We must remind ourselves and one another again and again of the great truths of the Gospel, of the great acts of God in history, of the great aspects of His character, of the great promise of Christ’s return. This is how we run the race of faith with endurance.

But reminding ourselves of these fundamental truths requires more than simply reciting a known fact. We must learn them in new ways, as Tom says. We must apply these eternal truths to the changing and challenging circumstances that overwhelm us in this life. Read more

Why are my Pastors and Elders so Disappointing, and What Should I Do About It?

August 13, 2008

(This is a summary of the last sermon in the six-part series, “God Gave Pastors and Teachers,” preached on July 20, 2008. The audio is available here.)

What do you expect from a pastor?

What do you expect from an elder?

Consider this description of the perfect pastor found in various forms on the internet:

The perfect pastor works every day from 7am until midnight and is a wonderful family man. He is content with a salary of $100 a week, wears stylish clothes, drives a late-model car, buys plenty of books, and donates $100 a week to the church. He is 29 years old and has 30 years pastoral experience. He condemns sin roundly but never hurts anyone’s feelings. He is enthusiastic about missions, but never encourages anyone’s child to live the rest of his life overseas. He makes 5 visits daily to members’ families, visits shut-ins and the hospitalized, spends all his time evangelizing the unchurched, never misses a committee meeting, and is always in his office when anyone calls. That’s the perfect pastor.

People tend to have high expectations of pastors – and they are often disappointed. Some end up hopping from church to church, trying to find someone who fits their ideal. Others work hard to get rid of each inadequate pastor who comes to their church, expecting to be able to find someone better. But then after a few months or a few years, the next man proves just as disappointing.

Surely God doesn’t intend us to church hop, nor does He intend us to trade in our pastors for a newer model every two years.

How should you handle disappointment in pastors and elders? Read more

More on the “Miracle Mile”

August 13, 2008

In Sunday’s sermon, I described the 1954 “Miracle Mile” between Roger Bannister and John Landy. Here is Bannister’s complete description of the race, which I excerpted in the sermon. It, in turn, is taken from p. 192-194 of his book The Four-Minute Mile, originally published in 1955 but now available in a 2004 edition from Globe Pequot. Sports Illustrated published a lengthy excerpt from the book in its June 27, 1955 issue; that article, which includes this race description, is available here.

We lined up for the start. Landy was on the inside. The gun fired and Baillie of New Zealand went straight into the lead. I stayed some yards back at Landy ‘s shoulder until he took over the lead at the 220-yard mark. Gradually he drew away, and I lay second at the end of the first lap in 59.2 seconds. Landy ‘s pace was too fast for me (58.2 seconds) and I had allowed a gap of seven yards to open up. In the second lap this lead increased at one time to 15 yards. I completed the half-mile in one minute 59 seconds, so I was within a four-minute-mile schedule! Read more

Stay Focused and Alert in the Race of Faith

August 13, 2008

(This sermon on Hebrews 12:1-2 was preached 8/10/2008. For a version that is easier to print, click here. The audio is available here.)

You’ve trained for years. Day after day. Season after season. Long runs. Interval training. You’re prepared.

Now the opening ceremonies are over. Your Olympic race day has arrived.

Over the course of anywhere from a few seconds to a bit over 2 hours, you must put into play all you’ve learned; you must put into effect all the strength work, all the cardiovascular work you’ve done. One mistake, one brief loss of focus, one moment of indecision could set aside years of training.

What do you need to remember as you race in order to run to win?

How will you run the race?

A number of you have run in events where place is completely irrelevant. You’re not so much running AGAINST others in the race, as WITH them. Your goal is not to beat others, but to complete the distance, or to achieve a particular time.

Not so in the Olympic track events. In these races, time is almost irrelevant. Your only goal is to win the race. If you can win in a slow time – that’s fine.

In order to win, you have to beat your opponents, either mentally or physically. So, particularly in events 400m or longer, every coach hammers this point into his athletes’ heads: Your goal is to make the race develop in such a way that others can’t catch you, or to make the race develop in such a way that those who can catch you think they can’t.

A classic example of this took place 54 yars ago this week, in the 1954 Commonwealth Games “Miracle Mile.” The Englishman Roger Bannister had run history’s first sub-four minute mile on May 6. The Australian John Landy broke that World Record six weeks later. No one else had broken the barrier. About seven weeks after Landy’s record race, the two runners met for the first and only time. Read more

Working Hard While Relaxed

August 12, 2008

This coming Sunday we continue our series on Running the Race of Faith by considering a paradox: When running a race all out, we must relax all muscles except those that are working hard.

The video below is a great example of this. Jeremy Wariner, the favorite in the men’s 400 meters in Beijing, wins last year’s World Championships. Look especially at his face and neck in the head-on shot of the last 40 meters, which begins about 1 minute into the video. He is quite relaxed – yet he is running within a few 10ths of a second of the world record.

Here are key verses to consider in drawing the parallel with the race of faith: Read more

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