WTLN Interview with Pastor Curt

For one of their recent Church-of-the-Week programs, WTLN, 950 AM, Orlando, chose to feature, as they have done in the past, Orlando Grace. They aired a message from The Graces of Gospel-Shaped Community series called The Grace of Clothing with Humility from 1 Peter 4:19-5:7. You can listen to the audio of that message here.

Before broadcasting the message, they played a recording of an interview with me about my ministry and the ministry of our church. If you missed that program the afternoon of October 30, you can listen to the interview audio here.

My thanks to Bill Rhoden of the radio station for his kindness in making the copy available to us at OGC.

Why I Won't Preach on the Graces of Gospel-Shaped Community This Sunday

Well, it’s certainly not because I don’t believe that the series matters. I continue to pray that God will use our fall emphasis on loving community motivated by the impetus of God’s love in the gospel (1 John 4:7-12) to shape us into a people fiercely devoted to one another. I hope you do too!

But some Sundays deserve special attention and warrant given their historical significance. The next two at OGC are no exception. This week, on October 30, we observe Reformation Sunday. It marks the anniversary of the magisterial reformer Martin Luther’s posting of his famous 95 theses on the church door at Wittenburg on October 31, 1517. That daring feat unleashed divine tectonic forces that launched the monumental event in the history of the church known as the Protestant Reformation.

Now we are a distinctly reformed, baptistic, protestant church. We owe our existence and distinctives to the sovereignty of God displayed in this historical event. That I have failed to acknowledge this significant Sunday in years past (last year excepted) during my watch as pastor-teacher at Orlando Grace borders on the unforgivable. Shame on me for my ignorance and neglect.

Never again. I simply must preach on something pertaining to and emblematic of the significance of the event. And so I will turn to Romans 1:16-17, what some have called Luther’s text, as my sermon text in a message entitled How Not To Be Ashamed of the Gospel. I will undertake to show you five glories of the gospel that should make us all eminently eager to “preach” the gospel to the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike.

In addition to the special emphasis during the morning service on this theme, in the evening at the SDA, beginning at 6 PM, we will have a special worship/educational/fellowship celebration commemorating the reformation that you won’t want to miss.

Whether you do Halloween the next night or not (let your conscience guide), I urge you to enter into the superior celebration the night before that is commemorating a heritage without which we might still labor under the tyranny of Rome’s work’s gospel without access to the treasure of all five solas – scriptura, Christus, gracia, fide, and deo gloria .

For more insight into the history and significance of Reformation Sunday click here.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Pastor’s Preaching

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written a helpful blog post for those who regularly submit themselves to the means of grace that is the preached word.

I particularly appreciated this pre-service exhortation at the top of her list:

Pray for your pastor as he prepares for Sunday. Pray that his schedule would be free from unnecessary distractions. Pray that God will give him understanding into the meaning of the Word. Pray that God will speak to him personally through the Word and that he will respond in humility and obedience. Pray that God will help him to communicate the truth with clarity, freedom, passion, and power.

I don’t know any preacher worth his salt that wouldn’t salivate over the prospect of a people who did half the things this sister advises, especially that kind of prayer.

You can read the entire piece here.

Yes, It's a Holiday Weekend but . . .

Yes, it’s Labor Day weekend with the rest, relaxation, and refreshment it can bring, but . . . Sunday will come tomorrow and we will gather for worship and community as always.

In some ways it is a more important Sunday than others.

First, we have a congregational meeting during the 9:30 hour for members and attenders alike. We will address a financial update on our 2011 operating budget as well as the capital campaign for our building program. We will hear about the growth group and 9:30 hour for children and adult emphases this fall as well. We have some interesting research about churches who recently opened new facilities and will share what we have learned from that and how we are seeking to profit by the conclusions. Finally, as we almost always do, time permitting, we will have an open mic Ask Anything of the Leadership Team session at the conclusion of the meeting. Child care will be available for ages 0-4.

Another reason tomorrow takes on greater importance than some other Sundays is that we will have the Lord’s Supper at the conclusion of the service. The Scripture reading for the day actually includes Paul’s treatment of the Supper in 1 Cor. 11:17-34. The sermon text comes from vs. 33-34 where we hear Paul exhort about the grace of waiting for one another at the Table. Why not take a moment to read and reflect upon the passage now?

For some excellent insight on how to prepare for the Supper tomorrow, especially if you have struggled with your indwelling flesh this week, check out this by Pastor John Piper: Can I take the Lord’s Supper if I’ve had a bad week spiritually?

More Bonds of Brotherhood TT This Sunday

I was not prepared for the post-service rush last Sunday.

At the close of my message I offered a give away of about ten copies of a recent issue of Tabletalk magazine on fraternity called The Bonds of Brotherhood.

One of my brothers, a football coach in our community, almost took me literally about the tackling thing. I saw my life flash before my eyes as he rushed the pulpit!

Anyway, those copies disappeared faster than Dan would have flattened me on the offensive line. But I have good news! My beloved source from Ligonier has graciously offered to make another thirty to forty copies available for distribution this Sunday.

So if you would like the full treatment on brotherly community in one of the best Tabletalk issues I have read, see me (no tackling please) and I will be happy to gift you one. Please give some serious thought to becoming a subscriber. You won’t regret it.

To whet your appetite, here is a sample from Pastor Burk Parson’s opening article:

Even though many men are completely content with the community and companionship of images, games, and voices on a screen, men desperately need the camaraderie and fraternity of other men. Men are made to experience intimate and authentic, loyal and enduring friendships with other men — on the battlefield, in the foxhole, at the gates of the city, and at the coffee shop on the corner. And while no wise and truly humble man will ever consider himself a hero, each and every man of God by His grace is called to strive to conquer this world, his flesh, and the Devil, shoulder to shoulder with other men who together serve one another in a company of heroes as husbands and dads who serve by leading their wives, families, churches, and communities into fellowship with God.

Oh that God would make us a community of such men at OGC!

Help for Expositional Listening

In his little book on healthy church membership, Thabiti Anyabwile promotes expositional listening as the first mark of a healthy church member. He defines expositional listening this way: listening for the meaning of a passage of Scripture and accepting that meaning as the main idea to be grasped for our personal and corporate lives as Christians (p. 20).

He gives six suggestions for cultivating this habit:

  1. Meditate on the sermon passage during your quiet time. FYI, tomorrow’s text is Galatians 5:13-15.
  2. Invest in a good set of commentaries. These would aid your study in your quiet time prep.
  3. Talk and pray with friends about the sermon after church. I supply discussion questions in every bulletin to help with this.
  4. Listen to and act on the sermon throughout the week. We upload the audio recording normally every Sunday afternoon after the message is given that morning.
  5. Develop the habit of addressing any questions about the text itself. Be active not passive in your reading and study.
  6. Cultivate humility. Beware knowledge puffing up as opposed to building up.

Will you seek tomorrow to develop this mark of a healthy church member? Pray that all who attend will.

No Sermon Upload Today

Due to security reasons attached to the sensitive nature of the material and locations presented by our guest speaker today, there will be no sermon upload for August 14, 2011.

Lord willing, we will post the next sermon in the series The Graces of Gospel-Shaped Community, as I resume the series next Sunday, August 21, 2011.

We appreciate your understanding for our need to be discreet in this regard.

Take Care How You Hear

The Scriptures contain numerous exhortations as to how ministers of the word should pay close attention to their doctrine and teaching (see for one example 1 Tim. 4:13-16).

The word of God also addresses the other side of the communication quotient, the listener, in multiple places.

One such instance in the teaching of Jesus occurs in Luke 8 with his explanation of the parable of the sower. His point in the parable is that not all who have ears truly hear. So the end of the matter is this in v. 18 – Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.

Kent Hughes, in his book Disciplines of a Godly Man (Crossway, 1991, 282 pages), gives two lists, one for Saturday night and one for Sunday morning that can make a huge difference in how we hear when we sit under the preaching of the word.

On Saturday (pp. 114-15)

  • I have asked Christ to make me sensitive tomorrow to needs of people in the body who are hurting.
  • I have solved the “Sunday clothes hassle” by making sure that what I will wear is ready today.
  • I have spent time in confession so all will be right between myself and my Lord when we meet tomorrow.
  • I have determined to get to bed early so I will be refreshed and ready for church tomorrow.
  • I have planned on sustaining the delight of this time with Christ and his people by guarding against Sunday afternoon infringements.

On Sunday (p. 115)

  • I have gotten up in plenty of time so I will not feel rushed.
  • I have programmed my morning so I will not just arrive at church on time, but get there early.
  • I have eaten a good breakfast, so an empty stomach will not detract from my worship.
  • I have my Bible in hand plus a pen and paper for taking notes.
  • I have left for church with a great sense of expectancy because I know Christ will be there.

Careful hearing requires disciplined preparation. May we give ourselves to whatever it takes to have ears that truly hear, especially on Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

Nursery Numbers Gone Wild

They have. Last Sunday, twenty six little ones. And we haven’t even occupied a building yet.

Wonderfully scary to think what having our own place might mean for growth in our ministry in all kinds of areas, let alone this strategic one.

Our leadership team is working on the present challenge in this regard as well as thinking ahead to what the future might bring.

Mike and Peggy and Joyce, along with the help of a corps of other faithful volunteers have worked heroically over the years to serve our body in this area. Praise God for them! What a fabulous job they have been doing.

But truth is, things are getting a bit unmanageable. The leadership team decided some time ago to pursue hiring a paid nursery worker to serve on Sundays from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM to coordinate our team of volunteers week-in and week-out and to help us ensure the safety and excellent care of our little ones. All our attempts to acquire this person from outside the body, for various reasons, have not succeeded.

On Thursday night we agreed as a team to bring on, on an experimental basis for the next four months, someone from within our own body to attempt to address this area. Beginning tomorrow morning, Katie Fairey will assume the post. We praise God for her willingness. We will make every effort to make sure she gets to be in most of the service each week, but for set up, the 9:30 hour, drop off for and pick up after the service, and take down, she will be present in the nursery. Please pray for her and us as we give this strategy a shot and see how things work out.

One other item has come to our attention as we have sought to address this area of need in our ministry. The load of care is falling on too few servants. Some simply aren’t willing to serve. Others call at the last minute or fail to show up as scheduled at all.

Please, I beg of you, dear sisters in Christ, for the sake of the gospel, the love of Christ’s family and the care of our little ones, let’s rally around Katie and one another and do better in this regard. I realize it isn’t everyone’s favorite ministry and nobody wants to miss the service. But if everyone pitches in no one has to serve more than once every six weeks or even more. And I see that the message of the day gets posted on the website that very afternoon so folks don’t have to miss the feeding of God’s word.

If the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these, let us show our affirmation of that by working together to have the best of all possible nursery environments for our children of today and tomorrow.

Amazing Grace Behind Bars

As I prepare today for another Lord’s Day and the challenging preaching assignment God has given me from John 12:20-26, particularly vv. 25-26, I find myself decidedly grateful for the grace of Christ and His gospel. That and that alone enables anyone to hate his life in this world that he might keep it in the next.

Reminder that only the grace of God can empower extreme devotion to Christ came to me today from some reading I did in Bryan Chapel’s excellent book, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. In the chapter entitled Developing Redemptive Sermons, he writes of John Bunyan, the famous hymn writer, noting how much of his theology came into focus with clarity from behind bars.

Historians tell us that one of the amazing features of the life of John Bunyan was his refusal to let prison deter him from his pursuit of ministry. The author of Pilgrim’s Progress wrote many of his most influential words while incarcerated. In fact, prison helped strengthen and galvanize much of his thought. Bunyan’s theology took more concrete form when, though facing great deprivations, he debated with fellow religious prisoners whether the assurance of God’s love promoted holiness or license. Fellow prisoners challenged Bunyan saying, “You must not keep assuring people of God’s grace because they will do whatever they want.” Bunyan responded, “That is not true for God’s people. If you keep assuring God’s people of his grace, then they will do whatever he wants” (p. 313).

Guess who is praying for grace this evening that tomorrow God will help him assure His people of His grace that they will do whatever He wants?