Sunday, March 29, 2009

Moralism: Perverting the Gospel

My pastor is preaching through a series on the Gospel of Mark. He is currently covering 2:18-3:6 and Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees. The Pharisees proclaimed a message of moralism while Jesus shared a message of changed lives through the Gospel. Pastor Mark will be sharing a three part message on how moralism perverts the Gospel.

From part one:

Moralism: A passionate promotion of outward conformity to the neglect of inward transformation.

Gospel: Believes people will continue to be immoral until they have been changed by a personal salvation experience. The church should be more concerned about preaching the gospel than passing legislation.

"Jesus doesn’t want better, patched up people. He wants entirely new people through the message of the gospel."
Listen to or download the first message here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Singing in the State Senate

A group of senate staff known as "The Singing Doormen" sing together on a regular basis. This past Tuesday they sang to help open the floor session. I had the privilege of opening the session in prayer, so I got to stay and listen as Senator Clark Barnes joined them in singing "The Old Rugged Cross" and "The Sweet By and By".

The Singing Doormen - Senator Clark Barnes is 2nd from right.

The doormen help provide order and security for the legislature while in session and these men have served in both the House and Senate for many years. It may be quite unique that such songs can be sung openly in the state capitol.

Listen to The Singing Doormen (recorded on the senate floor).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bible Study: "Judging Others in the Capitol"

This week's study is particularly relevant since Jesus' command to "judge not" was recently quoted on the Senate floor. From our study:

In this week’s passage Jesus teaches about judging others. Matthew 7:1 is perhaps one of the most misquoted and misused verses found anywhere in Scripture. Whenever anyone questions the actions or beliefs of another, you may well hear the response, “Remember Jesus said to ‘judge not’”. Yet we find that judging and is encouraged throughout God’s Word. We also see a great deal of judging and criticism in the Capitol. We will find Jesus words have much to say about such activities. Let us look at this passage and consider what Jesus really meant when He said, “Do not judge”.

Read the complete study here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Great Sacrifices are Made by Those Serving in the Legislature

Most do realize the great sacrifices that are made by those serving in the West Virginia Legislature. Time away from family and work add to the challenge of government service.

I thought it might be helpful for you to hear of these challenges from one of our new legislators. The following is by Delegate Josh Stowers, a new lawmaker from Lincoln County. Delegate Stowers has a wife, Jennifer, and a daughter, Riley who is 11 years old. He has been an educator for six years and is currently service as Assistant Principal at Horace Mann Middle School in Kanawha City.

"Being a new legislator is such a mixed blessing. You’re filled with the enthusiasm that you can make a quality difference for those back home, yet you must sacrifice time with your family, friends, and job to transition this enthusiasm into to positive action.

"I’m extremely blessed in the sense that I am able to commute to and from the Capitol every day. In that respect I have my wife and daughter to keep me grounded and who allow me to put all this work into perspective. However, most nights I am not able to return home until they are already in bed. This requires a lot of focus not to become discouraged as the grinding work that we face at the Capitol causes the lack of time I have with them.

"Recognizing these sacrifices would be required when I signed up to serve allowed me to prepare myself and my family. They have been no thing but supportive. Knowing that I am new and obviously not nearly as aware of the many challenges that others face, has prodded me to seek out advice and counsel from those that have gone before me.

"Understanding the sacrifices but recognizing the opportunities to do good, has kept me focused on the positive aspects of legislative service. Hopefully, I can simply continue to grow in this attitude as I continue to serve."

I hope this will help you pray more effectively for Delegate Stowers and the rest of our legislators as they face the challenges of serving our state.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pray for the Family, Friends, and Colleagues of Supreme Court Justice Joseph Albright

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Albright passed away on Friday at the age of 70. Please keep his family, friends, and colleagues in prayer.

Pointing People to "The Christian Way" or to Christ

My pastor has been preaching a series on the Gospel of Mark. On Sunday morning he spent time on the history and background of the Pharisees since they play such a prominent role in the Gospels. I found it helpful because so much of the Sermon on the Mount has to do with challenging the teaching and attitudes of the scribes and Pharisees. Some interesting observations and applications from his message:

"The Pharisees were more concerned about pointing people to the Jewish way than they were about pointing people to the One True God."

"We must be careful not to fall into the same attitude of moralism. If we are not careful our churches will become more known for trying to push people into a Christian way of life without pointing them to Christ."

"Christ and His message must be central to the life of the church. (1 Corinthians 2:2) The day when churches become more concerned about pushing “the Christian way” in our country apart from the gospel is the day we lose the battle. That’s the day we begin to reflect the Pharisee of Jesus’ day more than the disciple of Jesus’ day. If all we do is point people to “the Christian way” apart from Christ we may get a bunch of cleaned up people who die and go to hell. But, if we point people to Christ, He left a comforter, one who will guide them into truth, who will then guide them into 'the Christian way'. "
A great reminder not to focus on moral issues apart from the message of the gospel.

You can download or listen to Pastor Mark’s message here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bible Study: "The Cause and Cure for Worry"

From this week's Bible study at the capitol:

It is estimated that 40 million people in our nation are plagued with some form of anxiety disorder. We are facing a slowing economy, the fall of the stock market, and the loss of many jobs in our state and around the nation. All these have the potential to cause worry and anxiety. We worry about our families, our futures, and our health. For you who serve in politics, plans for the future, close elections, and events in the capitol might be the impetus for worry. We all recognize that worry and anxiety are a constant temptation.

In our passage this week and in our previous study (Matthew 5:6:19-24) we find that Jesus had a great deal to say about the issue of worry, giving us both its cause, and its cure. This passage and our previous passage are closely related. If our treasures are on earth and we are mastered by our desire for material things, then we will certainly have a great deal of anxiety over acquiring and maintaining them. We will worry that moths and rust will destroy; that thieves will break in and steal (or the stock market will crash or we might lose our jobs). However, Jesus tells us that those who belong to His kingdom do not need to be anxious over such things. As a matter of fact He commands His Children, “Do not worry”. He then provides compelling arguments why this is so. I invite you to take a Bible and turn to Matthew 6:25-34 as we study Jesus’ tremendous words on dealing with worry.

Read the complete study.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bible Study: Where Is Your Treasure?

From this week's Bible study at the capitol:

Recent economic events have greatly reduced the value of things people hold most dear. Many have experienced a drop in the value of their houses or are having difficulty making mortgage payments and face the loss of their home. The freefall of the stock market has dried up people’s savings for their retirement or children’s college. For many, the loss of their job has taken away that which they depend upon for their daily sustenance. These dramatic events serve as a backdrop to illustrate the passage we are studying this week. Jesus spoke of this very thing many years ago in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…"

Read the complete study.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bible Study: "Nobody's Perfect" (Matthew 5:48)

From this week's Bible study at the capitol:

An accusation often leveled against Christians is that they are self-righteous, or “holier than thou”. Perhaps there are some who come across this way, especially in the political arena. Anyone who truly understands the Word of God and the gospel, however, realizes there is no one who can claim to be perfect, truly good or better than anyone else. After all, “nobody’s perfect”. This is seen nowhere more clearly than the Sermon on the Mount. The scribes and the Pharisees were indeed people who were self-righteous and had a “holier than thou” attitude. Jesus challenged them with the true standards of God’s holiness to demonstrate no one can live up to them on their own. With that in mind we come to consider an astounding statement by Christ found in Matthew 5:48. One writer introduces his chapter on this verse this way:

“At an early point in the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus Christ taught that if a man is to enter heaven he must possess a greater measure of righteousness than the righteousness possessed by the scribes and the Pharisees, the most religious and respected men of his day. As He taught this doctrine a person might easily have said, “You teach that a man can enter heaven only if his righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. All right, then, how much in excess of their righteousness must the believer’s righteousness be? If the Pharisees can be credited with having attained seventy or seventy-five percent of the standard, what must our goodness be? Is seventy-six percent sufficient? Or is eighty percent necessary? How good must a person be to enter the kingdom of heaven?” (James Montgomery Boice)
In answer to these questions we read Jesus’ amazing words:

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Read the complete study.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Os Guinness on the Results of Evangelical Political Activism

I ran across a great video of Os Guinness speaking at the Trinity Law School God and Governing Conference in February 2008. While his topic was on sustaining freedom in our nation, in his introduction he related what he thought were the results of evangelical overemphasis on political activism:

Theological Unfaithfulness

Political Ineffectiveness

Cultural Counterproductiveness

When we consider the state of both the church and our nation today, I believe he has a point.

Other messages at the conference dealt with this issue further. I hope they might be available soon.