Watch Out for Each Other

April 23, 2018

No police officer ever wants to admit that a call has affected them emotionally. No police officer wants to show weakness when a child dies in their arms. No police officer wants to admit that they are having financial troubles, or that their marriage is falling apart, or that they have alienated themselves from their children because they work so many overtime hours. This lack of communication leads to walls, which leads to solitude, which leads to depression, which, when not addressed, leads to suicide.

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Quote

March 19, 2018

“Accurately understanding and continually applying the gospel is the Christian life.”

50 Words

March 11, 2018

God made, Adam bit, Noah arked, Abraham split, Joseph ruled, Jacob fooled, bush talked, Moses balked, Pharaoh plagued, people walked, sea divided, tablets guided, promise landed, Saul freaked, David peeked, prophets warned, Jesus born, God walked, love talked, anger crucified, hope died, love rose, Spirit flamed, Word spread, God remained…The Bible in 50 words…

Comfort god

March 7, 2018

Comfort is the god of our generation, so suffering is seen as a problem to be solved, and not a providence from God. – Matt Chandler

Great

March 3, 2018

Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God. – William Carey

Trip to NYC

March 1, 2018

Day starts off parking in a lot in NJ ($28 for all day).  Taking the NJ transit over to NYC. The place is clean.  Has an AED.  Police around.  Go to the teller, he welcomes us.  Wait for a train in a warmed booth.  Clean too.  One stop.  Get off at Penn Station.  Make our way to the street level.  Walk a ba-zillion blocks.  Then later, take the subway down to World Trade.  I have to purchase a ticket.  Teller is nice. Tells me that my 6 and 7 yr. old just duck under the gates.  Police around.  Talking in pairs or threes.  Get to WTC.  Police all around.  Fine.  Ask a Sgt. where to go to see Lady Liberty. Real nice and helpful.  Police riding two deep.  They are standing, joking, three or four deep around rush hour now.  Oh, on the way back to Penn Station, 3 separate people gave up their seats without me even asking.  Trains not too crowded.  Pretty simple to use. Shops galore underground.  On the way back to NJ, a LT. out talking with a cup of coffee in a hand, while other patrol just talking near the gates.  Funny thing, my girls go through with their tickets, and I can’t find mine.  The station manager, says hey no worries, I’ll just tap you through.  What a total flip experience.  I tried keeping it short.

Against the Wind

February 28, 2018

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

~Henry Ford

How to Listen

February 24, 2018

Shortly before college I read Mortimer Adler’s little classic How to Read a Book.  That may sound like an odd title.  After all, how could somebody read the book unless they already knew how to read?  And if they did know how to read, then why would they need to read it at all?

How to Read a Book turned out to be one of the most important books I have ever read.  Adler quickly convinced me that I didn’t know how to read a book after all–not really.  I didn’t know how to ask the right questions while I was reading, how to analyze the book’s major arguments, or how to mark up my copy for later use.

I suspect that most people don’t how to listen to a sermon, either.  I say this not as a preacher, primarily, but as a listener.  During the past thirty-five years I have heard more than three thousand sermons.  Since I have worshiped in Bible-teaching churches all my life, most of those sermons did me some spiritual good.  Yet I wonder how many of them helped me as much as they should have.  Frankly, I fear that far too many sermons passed through my eardrums without registering in my brain or reaching my heart.

So what is the right way to listen to a sermon?  With a soul that is prepared, a mind that is alert, a Bible that is open, a heart that is receptive, and a life that is ready to spring into action.

The first thing is for the soul to be prepared.  Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday.  However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before.  It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach.  In addition to helping the preacher, our prayers help create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God’s Word.  This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pray for.

The soul needs special preparation the night before worship.  By Saturday evening our thoughts should begin turning towards the Lord’s Day.  If possible, we should read through the Bible passage that is scheduled for preaching.  We should also be sure to get enough sleep.  Then in the morning our first prayers should be directed to public worship, and especially to the preaching of God’s Word.

If the body is well rested and the soul is well prepared, then the mind will be alert.  Good preaching appeals first to the mind.  After all, it is by the renewing of our minds that God does his transforming work in our lives (see Rom. 12:2).  So when we listen to a sermon, our minds need to be fully engaged.  Being attentive requires self-discipline.  Our minds tend to wander when we worship; sometimes we daydream.  But listening to sermons is part of the worship that we offer to God.  It is also a prime opportunity for us to hear his voice.  We should not insult his majesty by looking at the people around us, thinking about the coming week, or entertaining any of the thousands of other thoughts that crowd our minds.  God is speaking, and we should listen.

To that end, many Christians find it helpful to listen to sermons with a pencil in hand.  Although note taking is not required, it is an excellent way to stay focused during a sermon.  It is also a valuable aid to memory.  The physical act of writing something down helps to fix it in our minds.  Then there is the added advantage of having the notes for future reference.  We get extra benefit from a sermon when we read over, pray through, and talk about our sermon notes with someone else afterwards.

The most convenient place to take notes is in or on our Bibles, which should always be open during a sermon.  Churchgoers sometimes pretend that they know the Bible so well that they do not need to look at the passage being preached.  But this is folly.  Even if we have the passage memorized, there are always new things we can learn by seeing the biblical text on the page.  It only stands to reason that we profit most from sermons when our Bibles are open, not closed.  This is why it is so encouraging for an expository preacher to hear the rustling of pages as his congregation turns to a passage in unison.

There is another reason to keep our Bibles open: we need to make sure that what the minister says is in keeping with Scripture.  The Bible says, concerning the Bereans whom Paul met on his second missionary journey, “that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11; NKJV).  One might have expected the Bereans to be criticized for daring to scrutinize the teaching of the apostle Paul.  On the contrary, they were commended for their commitment to testing every doctrine according to Scripture.

Listening to a sermon–really listening–takes more than our minds.  It also requires hearts that are receptive to the influence of God’s Spirit.  Something important happens when we hear a good sermon: God speaks to us.  Through the inward ministry of his Holy Spirit, he uses his Word to calm our fear, comfort our sorrow, disturb our conscience, expose our sin, proclaim God’s grace, and reassure us in the faith.  But these are all affairs of the heart, not just matters of the mind, so listening to a sermon can never be merely an intellectual exercise.  We need to receive biblical truth in our hearts, allowing what God says to influence what we love, what we desire, and what we praise.

The last thing to say about listening to sermons is that we should be itching to put what we learn into practice.  Good preaching always applies the Bible to daily life.  It tells us what promises to believe, what sins to avoid, what divine attributes to praise, what virtues to cultivate, what goals to pursue, and what good works to perform.  There is always something God wants us to do in response to the preaching of his Word.  We are called to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22; NKJV).  And if we are not doers, then we were not hearers, and the sermon was wasted on us.

Do you know how to listen to a sermon?  Listening–really listening–takes a prepared soul, an alert mind, an open Bible, and a receptive heart.  But the best way to tell if we are listening is by the way that we live.  Our lives should repeat the sermons that we have heard.  As the apostle Paul wrote to some of the people who listened to his sermons, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:2-3; NKJV).

Phil Ryken

Former Co

February 24, 2018

Nicholas Young, the disgraced D.C. Metro Transit Police Department officer convicted of providing support for the Islamic State (ISIS) in December, was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday.

Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia handed down the sentence on federal charges of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice.

Young was fired in 2016 after coming under surveillance in 2010 for associations with other terrorism suspects. In 2011, he traveled to Libya and allegedly pursued links with the Jihadists fighting dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Court documents allege Young traveled with “body armor, a kevlar helmet and several other military-style items” and told the FBI he had been with rebels in Libya.

Eventually, Young was arrested in July 2016 when FBI informants, posing as U.S. military reservists of Middle Eastern descent who supported ISIS, got him to send them gift card codes for use to bolster the brutal terror group’s jihad. At trial, prosecutors revealed that, in addition to Islamist ties, the Muslim-convert Young also sought out Nazi materials and links online.

The obstruction charges stem from him advising the informant on how to avoid detection as he went to the Middle East to join ISIS. It was after an informant was supposedly with ISIS overseas that he requested Young send money through the gift cards.

Young was convicted in a jury trial in Alexandria, Virginia, in December. At the time, prosecutor Dana J. Boent said, “Nicholas Young swore an oath to protect and defend, and instead violated the public’s trust by attempting to support ISIS.”

According to the Justice Department (DOJ) press release, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia teamed up with prosecutors from Main DOJ’s National Security Division Counterterrorism Section to pursue the case against Young.

Young faced up to 60 years on the terrorism and obstruction charges. His 15-year sentence means we will serve at least 12 and a half years in federal prison. He is reportedly the first American law enforcement officer convicted for trying to assist ISIS, having joined the Metro Transit Police in 2003.

Character Building

February 23, 2018

“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming character-producing habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.” -Charlotte Mason, pg. 73