“Do Not Take Away Our Blessing”: A Hard Lesson in Repentance and Grace

          

“Machew Perr-ee—do not take away our blessing!” I’ll never forget that piece of advice. The year was 2009. The place? The Mount Beulah Evangelical Baptist Church in Point Fortin, Trinidad and Tobago. The one giving me the advice? My brother from another mother, Roddie Taylor who has pastored Mt. Beulah since 1988.

            You see, I had gone to their church to do a number of crusades (what we would call revival services) and they wanted to give me a gift for my time there. I told them, “I did not come here for any kind of compensation.” “We know—but we want to give you this anyway.” After about three rounds of this back and forth, Roddie put his hand on my shoulder (I could still take you to the very spot where I stood) and told me, “Machew Perr-ee, do not take away our blessing!”

            I repented and accepted their kind gesture—and a mutual blessing was dispensed.

            You all have blessed our family with care, prayer, and “share,” in the form of meals, cards, and in many other intangible ways. Cindy is now back to work, our children are finishing up finals, and our Christmas break begins with a final week toward remembering the blessing God gave in the person of His Son, Jesus.

            Yet, in order for me to get to this point of receiving blessings from others, I had to repent. Many years ago, Eugene Peterson wrote a book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. In this book, he applies the Songs of Ascents in the Psalms (120-134) to our present time and has served as food for my soul. Here is his definition of repentance:

Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision. It is deciding that you have been wrong in supposing that you could manage your own life and be your own god; it is deciding that you were wrong in thinking that you had, or could get, the strength, education and training to make it on your own; it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and your neighbors and your world. And it is deciding that God in Jesus Christ is telling you the truth. Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.[1]

For the Christian, repentance is daily, hourly, moment-to-moment. We must rejoice when confronted by others who challenge our mindsets that bring us closer to loving God and loving neighbor as self (Matthew 22:34-40). “Don’t take away someone’s blessing.” Ceasing to repent is taking away the blessing God bestows on you to draw you closer to Him. Of what is He calling to you repent? See the blessing of repentance and restoration.


[1]Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2018), 23.  

Seven Ways to Tackle Exposition for Your Christmas Services

The day is coming.  One of the two ‘big days’ of the year for worship services in general, and preachers specifically.  One of those days is right around the corner:  Christmas.  Usually, two services around this time really matter during Christmas time are the service the Sunday before Christmas, and the Christmas Eve Service.  I include the Christmas Eve service because in my 20+ years of ministry and almost 12 years as the preaching pastor of local churches, I’m always amazed at how well Christmas Eve services are attended.  People who come to these many times do not come to a regular worship gathering.  So preachers should prepare as well for the Christmas Eve service Sunday-before-Christmas service.

As expositors, what do we do? 

First, resist the temptation to discard or disregard or discount exposition in your sermons.  Our conviction is to preach the whole counsel of God and bring out the Book.  We believe that God intends for His Word to be shown and searched.  That should not change. 

However, second, concision would  suit the occasion better.  While deeply exploring the background of the Magi would be an interesting foray into biblical history, this may not time.  While flexing the lexical muscles of your Greek and Hebrew prowess may impress on other Sundays, refrain on this one. 

Thirdly, be consise and be clear.  Roll out the main point (or the Big Idea, for all you Haddon Robinson fans), and stay tethered to it for the duration of the sermon.  Get to it.  Clearly.  Repeatedly.  Make it pass the 3 AM test, where you could call your listeners up at 3:00 AM the following week and ask them what the point of the sermon was, and they  could answer!

Fourthly, be Christian.  ‘Be gooder, do better’ sermons need to go the way of the do-do.  Preach about not what your listeners should do, but drive home what Christ has done.  Don’t pour on more law, but slather your sermon in God’s mercy and grace.  Do we avoid the sticky subject of sin?  No, for Christ came to save His people from just such a thing (Matthew 1:21).  But by him coming is the epitome of his mercy and grace put into action, culminating at the bloody cross and the empty tomb. 

Fifthly, encourage them to come, and keep coming.  The church is the Bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the pillar and ground of the truth, and puts on display the manifold wisdom of God.  This is a great place to be, a place where sinners can come to be with other sinners who have been rescued by Christ.  Help them to take that next step in their journey with Christ.  And ultimately, you want them to repent of their sins and come to Christ.

Sixthly, once they come, encourage them to connect.  Christ has set up his church and various local kingdom outposts for us to join and be accountable.  Through baptism, membership, connecting in a small group, connecting with another fellow member of the church for discipleship and accountability as well will provide that connection so many in our world long for, and the church provides in Christ.

Seventh,  encourage them to contribute.  Everyone wants to belong to something and Someone bigger than themselves.  As they connect, they grow and mature to the next step of leadership and contributing to the work as ambassadors of the Kingdom.  Again, help them to take that next step.

What else would you suggest as an expositor over Christmas?

Devotional Matters Matter More Than Logistical Matters

We’ve noticed that the videos which deal with more logistical matters regarding reopening, seating, masks, etc. receive many more ‘hits’ than do the devotional videos. That’s understandable. But this video talks about how the videos geared in Scripture help us move forward better in dealing with logistical issues. Why?

Also, we give a book recommendation on the life of Lottie Moon.

For more information about our ministry, go to http://www.arbc.net.