How to Prepare for Sunday, 2/18/2018

This Sunday at Poquoson Baptist Church we’re continuing our study in Colossians by examining an often-overlooked truth about Jesus’ identity: He is head of the church. What does it mean to say that only Jesus is our head? The answer may surprise you. Come prepared by reading Colossians 1:18a.

 

Here’s a few specific ways to prepare for Sunday:

 1) Pray and ask God to work in you for His glory.

2) Read and meditate on Colossians 1:18a, our text for Sunday’s sermon.

3) Below are the songs we’ll be singing on Sunday. Click on the links to learn any you don’t know so you’re prepared to sing.

Great Are You Lord

Come As You Are

The Stand

Jesus Messiah

Crown Him with many Crowns

 

See you Sunday!

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How to Prepare for Sunday, 2/11/18

 This Sunday at Poquoson Baptist Church we will continue our sermon series Confident in Christ: A Study in Colossians. This Sunday we’ll continue looking at a second reason to be confident in Christ: because of who He is. In Colossians 1:16-17, we’ll learn that we should be confident in Christ because He is our Creator.

 

Here’s a few specific ways to prepare for Sunday:

1) Pray and ask God to work in you for His glory.

2) Read and meditate on Colossians 1:16-17, our text for Sunday’s sermon.

3) Below are the songs we’ll be singing on Sunday. Click on the links to learn any you don’t know so you’re prepared to sing.

I See the Lord

Your Grace is Enough

In Christ Alone

What a Beautiful Name

Be Thou My Vision

See you Sunday!

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I See The Lord

Isaiah, a prophet of God. Despite Israel’s seemingly constant bent toward disobeying God, they had a good kind; King Uzziah. Isaiah spoke out about the sin of the people of God but it seems he was very attached to Uzziah as their king.

And then – Uzziah died. Imagine how sad, how unsure about the future Isaiah was. One day as Isaiah was praying a most amazing thing happened. We can barely imagine what it must have been like.

Isaiah saw the Lord.

God also gave him a peek into heaven. He saw heavenly beings and holy acts of worship. In the light of God’s holiness, Isaiah was undone. The word used in the text is defined as to cease, cause to cease, cut off, destroy. So intense was Isaiah’s experience peering into heaven, he felt like it was the end of him.

But his vision! How amazing, how beautiful.

On Sunday morning, February 11, we’re going to sing a song that allows us to participate, even in a limited way, in the visions that Isaiah was granted. We’re going to sing I See the Lord by Paul Baloche.

The verse lets us sing of those visions of Heaven, and then, at the chorus, we’ll break into the song that is being ever sung in the presence of the Lord.

I see the Lord and He is seated on the throne,

The train of His robe is filling the heavens;

I see the Lord and He is shining like the sun,

His eyes full of fire, His voice like the waters.

Surrounding His throne are thousands, singing, 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty;

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty;

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.”

Take a moment before Sunday and read Isaiah 6, and come prepared to praise and worship God as you sing.

From Cliff Hall

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Should Baptists Recognize Ash Wednesday?

I grew up in a Baptist church. Some of my earliest memories come from my time in a local Baptist church in central Ohio. Like the time my little brother spit a half-masticated donut on the floor of the fellowship hall. Or the time my sister had her finger severed by a folding chair during nursery. Or the time my father interrupted his sermon to reprimand my sister and I for creating a leaning tower of hymnals on the uncomfortable wooden pews. With all these memories and more, why is it that my earliest memory of an Ash Wednesday service was in my mid-twenties at a Baptist church in Louisville, Kentucky? What’s the deal with Ash Wednesday anyways?
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the Lenten season, marking the 40 days leading up to Easter, the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. For centuries many Protestant Christians have rejected Lent observance, reminding one another of Paul’s words in passages like Colossians 2:16—“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”—and Romans 14:5–“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”.
These verses remind the Christian that “holy days” aren’t really any holier than any other day. In other words, every day should be lived to the glory of Christ, whether it’s Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday, or President’s Day (1 Cor 10:31). But that truth hasn’t stopped Christians (including most Baptists) from recognizing special days like Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and heavy hitters like Easter and Christmas. Why do we recognize some days and not others?
First, we should admit we’re not commanded to recognize any special days except for the Lord’s Day. In other words, theonlyspecial day that Christians are commanded to recognize is the week-in and week-out gathering with God’s people on Sundays for worship. That’s it. Everything else merely supplements that. So from the outset, we should avoid any “special day” observances that hinder or minimize the importance of “the main event.” We should major on the main things, and that means investing the bulk of our energies and efforts in doing what Christ has commanded. So we should spend most of our time praying, planning, and preparing to do Sunday gatherings with Christ-glorifying sant-equipping excellence.
Second, we should establish other events, programs, and special days with caution. We should ask ourselves,is it forbidden? If so, we should not do it. Let’s think through some examples. What about an Easter Sunday service to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus? Not forbidden. A Christmas Eve service to remember the birth of Christ?Not forbidden.A Good Friday service to remember the crucifixion? Not forbidden. The same would go for anAsh Wednesday service. There is nothing in Scripture that would forbid any church from having one or more (or none!) of these special services.
But Christian wisdom would require us to do more than merely avoid forbidden things. There’s a second question we should ask ourselves before we include any events, programs, and special days in our church calendars. We should ask ourselves,is it edifying? 1 Corinthians 14:26 reminds us that everything we do in the church should be done for the purpose of building up the entire body. If it isn’t edifying, we shouldn’t do it.
So what about Ash Wednesday? Can an Ash Wednesday service edify the body? I would argue yes. The first Ash Wednesday service I attended was a special service designed to emphasize our fragility and our sin. The pastor preached a powerful sermon highlighting our sinfulness and need for the Gospel, something the Spirit used in my heart to help me feel the weightiness of the cross and the beauty of the resurrection.
Of course local churches don’t need an Ash Wednesday service to remind their people of the sinfulness of sin and the fragility of man. But if the congregation is willing and able to host such a service, I believe it can be used of God in mighty ways.
Some might object that Ash Wednesday observance should be avoided due to its frequent connection to the Roman Catholic Church. But we ought to be careful to allow Scripture and wisdom to be our guides, rather than merely not appearing “Catholic.” After all, our Catholic neighbors observe Christmas, Easter, and Good Friday. Should we avoid those days too? Should we abandoned our support for the Pro-Life Movement? After all, the Catholic Church courageously fought for the unborn long before many Protestants did (including our own Southern Baptist Convention). The point is not to minimize the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism (see our recent Sola sermon series if you’re not convinced). Instead, we just want to remind one another that we should not reject everything simply because it is occasionally connected with Roman Catholic traditions. Besides, Roman Catholics are not the only ones with a long tradition of Ash Wednesday observance.
So Lord willing, we’ll host our second Ash Wednesday service on February 14 at 6:30 PM at Poquoson Baptist Church. The service will look much like a normal Sunday morning worship gathering. We’ll sing together, pray together, and listen to the Word of God preached. But with God’s help we’ll emphasize our sinfulness and remind ourselves that dust we are, and to dust we will return. Then our service will conclude, not with ashes on our foreheads, but with a communion celebration of the body and blood of Christ that transforms our ashy hearts and makes us new.
I hope to see you then!
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How to prepare for Sunday, 2/4/2018

 

This Sunday at Poquoson Baptist Church we will return to our sermon series Confident in Christ: A Study in Colossians. In our first few sermons we discussed that we should be confident in Christ because of what He’s done. This Sunday we’ll begin looking at a second reason to be confident in Christ: because of who He is. Beginning in Colossians 1:15, we’ll learn that we should be confident in Christ because He is God.

 

 

Here’s a few specific ways to prepare for Sunday:

1) Pray and ask God to work in you for His glory.

2) Get plenty of rest on Saturday night. This Sunday we’ll be looking at two titles of Jesus that have been often misunderstood: He is “the image of the invisible God” and “the firstborn of all creation.” A good night’s rest may help you be better prepared to learn with us.
3) Read and meditate on Colossians 1:15, our text for Sunday’s sermon.

4) Below are the songs we’ll be singing on Sunday. Click on the links to learn any you don’t know so you’re prepared to sing.

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

The Wonderful Cross

Jesus Messiah

The Lord Is Gracious And Compassionate

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

 

See you Sunday!

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Who’s Welcome at Poquoson Baptist?

Nuance is dead. In our polarized, politicized society it seems that you’re either one extreme or another. Take immigration, for example. To hear the media pundits tell it, you’re either a amnesty-affirming liberal who wants open borders and a green card for everyone or a racist conservative who wants tightly closed borders and a swift boot to every foreign-born individual in the country. There is such a thing as a nuanced position.

What about in the local church? Without nuance, churches must either be openly welcoming and affirming of everyone or narrow-minded, intolerant, judgmental spewers of hatred. Allow me to propose a nuanced position.

Who’s welcome at Poquoson Baptist? It depends on what we’re welcoming individuals to.

Everyone is welcome to attend our worship gatherings. Gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, white or black, Mac or PC, Christian or atheist, American or not, it doesn’t matter. No matter who you are or where you come from, the doors to our worship gatherings are open to you. Much like a hospital should treat anyone who’s sick, our church worship gatherings should be open to anyone who’s contaminated by the sickness called sin (in other words, everybody).

Some are welcome to receive Communion. Even though everyone is welcome to attend our worship services, not everyone is welcome to receive the meal we call “Communion,” or “the Lord’s Supper.” This is a meal reserved for (1) Christians who (2) have made their Christianity public through baptism. Let me unpack those two requirements for you.

Why should only Christians be welcomed to receive Communion? Because the communion meal is an outward symbol of an inward reality. A wedding ring doesn’t make you married, it merely symbolizes that you are married. In the same way, Communion doesn’t make you a Christian, but symbolizes that you are. Therefore, the non-Christians who attend are worship services are invited to receive Jesus, and then (after they make their profession of faith public through baptism), the next time we celebrate communion they’re welcome to receive it with us. It makes little sense for a non-believer to partake in a symbol of Jesus’ body and blood if they haven’t received the real thing. Much like it makes little sense to wear a wedding ring before you’re married.

Why should only baptized Christians be welcomed to receive Communion? This one’s a little trickier to unpack. The Old Covenant with Israel featured two symbols that said to the world “I am a part of God’s covenant community.” These two symbols were circumcision and the Passover meal.

If a Gentile wanted to join the covenant community of Israel, he could do so first by receiving the initiating symbol of circumcision then by receiving the renewal symbol of the Passover (Exodus 12:43-49). What God’s people couldn’t do was reverse the order. Circumcision was the sign that said “I am a part of God’s covenant community,” an initiating symbol, and Passover was the sign that said “I am still a part of God’s covenant community,” a renewal symbol.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t have a ceremony to renew your vows with your spouse unless you had made the vows in the first place. Circumcision was like the recitation of vows on your wedding day, and the Passover meal was like the vow renewal ceremony.

In the New Covenant, baptism becomes the new initiating symbol (like circumcision in the Old Covenant, see Colossians 2:11-12) and the Lord’s Supper becomes the new renewal symbol (like the Passover in the Old Covenant, see Luke 22:14-20). In other words, baptism is the symbol that shows the world you are a Christian and the Lord’s Supper is the symbol that shows the world you’re still a Christian.

That’s why unbaptized Christians are not welcome to receive the Lord’s Supper. Not because they’re inferior, but because it makes little sense to renew your vows before you’ve made them in the first place.

Some are welcome to church membership. Even though everyone is welcome to attend our worship services, and baptized Christians are welcome to receive Communion, the circle of those we welcome into membership is even narrower. Why? Because we only welcome into church membership baptized Christians who agree to submit to the love and leadership of the church (Hebrews 10:23-25; Hebrews 13:17).

Why the additional requirement? Because a local church is the place where we care for another as family (Galatians 6:1-10). This includes discipling one another, encouraging one another, confronting one another when necessary, supporting one another, and more. We cannot do any of those things with an individual who is not willing to submit to the love and leadership of the church.

In our context, those baptized Christians who agree to attend our Discover Class and submit to our church covenant are welcomed into church membership.

Some are welcome to church leadership. Everyone is welcome to attend our worship services, baptized Christians are welcome to receive Communion, and baptized Christians who agree to submit to the love and leadership of the church are welcomed into church membership. But the list of those welcomed into church leadership is even narrower. Why? Because Scripture clearly articulates a specific set of qualifications for those serving in the offices of pastor (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) and deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-13).

So who is welcome to Poquoson Baptist Church? The answer is nuanced. All are welcome to attend our gatherings, some are welcome to receive communion, even fewer are welcomed into church membership, and fewer still are welcomed into leadership. Why? Because we are people of the book. We don’t set the rules, we submit to the great Rulemaker who loves us so much He sent His Son to die so we don’t have to.

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How to Prepare for Sunday, 1/28/18

This Sunday at Poquoson Baptist Church we will conclude a two-part sermon series on the twin evils of abortion and racism. This Sunday is Racial Reconciliation Sunday and since I’ll be out of town with my father, Eddie Francis will be preaching on The Murderous Fruits of Racism from Luke 4:14-30.

Here’s a few specific ways to prepare for Sunday:

1) Pray and ask God to work in you for His glory.

2) Pray for our guest preacher, Eddie Francis, who will be coming in to preach on a difficult topic.

3) Pray for those in attendance for whom this sermon may be particularly difficult. These may include people who have been victims of racism, people who struggle with racist thinking, and for those who view this as totally political issue.

4) Read and meditate on Luke 4:14-30, our text for Sunday’s sermon.

5) Below are the songs we’ll be singing on Sunday. Click on the links to learn any you don’t know so you’re prepared to sing.

Behold Our God

Open The Eyes Of My Heart

O Mighty Cross

Lead Me To The Cross

O Worship the King

6) Think of specific people you can encourage this Sunday and specific ways you can encourage them (Hebrews 10:24-25).

 See you Sunday!

 

Pastor Hopson

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Midweek Ministry

On January 14, I preached a sermon at PBC outlining my vision for 2018: that I become a disciple-making pastor. One of the implications of my personal shift towards more intentional disciple-making is the need to say “no” to good things in order to say “yes” to great things. Or, as Paul puts it in 2 Timothy 2:4 — “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” 

While there’s many areas in my life where I’m fighting to say “no,” the area that will likely have the greatest ripple effect on the average PBC member is what I do on Wednesday evenings. For the past year and a half I have led PBC’s Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study. Beginning in February I will do so no longer. Instead, I’ll be using that time to meet with a small group of men to do 2 Timothy 2:2 disciple-making ministry.

Some may read those words and assume that I no longer care about corporate prayer. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I would argue, that what we do on Wednesday nights at PBC isn’t really corporate prayer in the first place. We’re a fragmented group on Wednesday nights–some are serving babies, others minister to children or students, some practice music, and a small group gathers for prayer. How can we call a Wednesday night prayer meeting “corporate prayer” when the group gathering for prayer is less than 10% of the congregation?

This is not to say that a Wednesday night prayer meeting isn’t a good thing. It is a good thing. A very good thing. However, it’s not the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus clearly commissioned His church to “go and make disciples.” Could it be we’re more comfortable praying about disciple-making than practicing disciple-making? I know I am. Which is why, for a year and a half, I have dragged my feet instead of obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples.

So what about corporate prayer, then? I’m glad you asked. The regular PBC-er has likely noticed that in the past few Sundays we’ve leaned into corporate prayer, not away from it. With God’s help my hope for 2018 is that we get more serious about both prayer and  disciple-making.

So what about Wednesday nights? I’ve already mentioned that I’ll be leading a small group of men. What about you? I suggested that perhaps we should “rebrand” our Wednesday night gatherings to more accurately reflect what we’re already doing, namely, midweek ministryThink about it. Some are ministering by singing, some minister by serving children, some minister to students, some minister through prayer, others minister through disciple-making. That’s how Wednesday nights at PBC currently function, even if we’ve called them something different.

But are there other ways to do “midweek ministry” on Wednesday nights? Absolutely!  Some may choose to use Wednesday nights as an opportunity to lead Ministry Team meetings. This would especially benefit  young families who could use an opportunity to meet when childcare is already provided. Others may use Wednesday nights for visitation, ministering to shut-ins and recent guests to Sunday morning services. Others may choose to continue a prayer meeting. Some may choose to write letters and cards to those who have been absent or sick. The opportunities for ministry can be as diverse as the gifts and the passions of our membership.

If you have ideas or questions about what Midweek Ministry at PBC could or should look like, I’m inviting you to a special meeting January 24 at 6:30 PM in the PBC Choir Room (behind the baptistery). I hope to see you there!


© M. Hopson Boutot, 2018

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How to Prepare for Sunday, 1/21/18

This Sunday at Poquoson Baptist Church I’m beginning a two-part sermon series on the twin evils of abortion and racism. This Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and I’ll be preaching on The Racist Roots of Abortion from Exodus 1. Check out my recent article to learn more about how to prepare for a Sunday like this.

Here’s a few specific ways to prepare for Sunday:

1) Pray and ask God to work in you for His glory.

2) Pray for those in attendance for whom this sermon may be particularly difficult. These may include moms who have had abortions, men who have facilitated them, those who have worked/supported the abortion industry, and couples struggling with infertility, among others.

3) Read and meditate on Exodus 1, our text for Sunday’s sermon.

4) Below are the songs we’ll be singing on Sunday. Click on the links to learn any you don’t know so you’re prepared to sing.

Holy, Holy, Holy

His Mercy is More

I Cling to the Cross

Revelation Song

O God Our Help in Ages Past

5) Think of specific people you can encourage this Sunday and specific ways you can encourage them (Hebrews 10:24-25).

 See you Sunday!

 

Pastor Hopson

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Why Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is Risky

For the past several decades, many churches in America have set aside a Sunday in January to commemorate a horrible anniversary: the Roe v. Wade decision declaring a constitutional right to abortion on demand. Since the Supreme Court decided the Roe v. Wade case on January 22, 1973, most churches observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (SOHLS) on the Sunday nearest that anniversary.

While I firmly believe there is great value in taking a special Sunday to deliberately expose the evils of abortion (Ephesians 5:11), we must do so with great care. While a special SOHLS service may generate plenty of hearty “amens” in your church, the truth is it’s incredibly risky.   Here are three pitfalls to avoid on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

The Pitfall of Legalism

First, observing SOHLS is risky because we can fall into the pitfall of legalism. It’s easy to forget that taking a Sunday to expose the evils of abortion is helpful, but not necessary. In other words, pastors and churches who choose not to address this issue the same way we do are not spineless cowards, pro-abortion, or anti-life. There may be many reasons why a pastor and/or a congregation may choose not to address the issue of abortion in such a focused way. While some of those reasons could be sinful (for example, fear of man), there could be legitimate reasons. After all, observing a special Sunday like SOHLS is not commanded in Scripture. Therefore, it would be foolish to condemn those pastors and churches who (for good reasons) choose not to address the issue. The church has advanced for 2000 years without SOHLS and its thriving in many countries across the world that have never even heard of SOHLS or Roe v. Wade. So let’s not turn a good thing into a requirement for everybody.

The Pitfall of Indifference

Second, observing SOHLS is risky because we can fall into the pitfall of indifference. It’s easy to forget that SOHLS may be a painful Sunday for many in your church. A couple wrestling with the pain of infertility may cringe through an entire sermon exposing an evil that to them seems very personal and unfair. They may be asking themselves (or God) “how can so many choose to abort their children when there’s so many couples like us that are unable to conceive?” An entire Sunday devoted to the horrors of abortion may feel like pouring salt on the wound.

Others in your church may have experienced the evils of abortion up close and personal. In your church this Sunday may be someone who’s worked (or is working) in the abortion industry, a young lady who aborted an unwanted child, a young man who drove his pregnant girlfriend to the clinic, an upstanding father who hushed up his daughter’s teenage pregnancy, or a lady who aborted a baby to cover up an affair. Whether these sins are recent memories or skeletons long hidden in the closet, a sermon exposing the evils of abortion will likely be very painful for those who’ve experienced it firsthand.

The Pitfall of Politicization

Third, observing SOHLS is risky because we can fall into the pitfall of politicization. If you asked ten random American adults which political party opposes abortion, what would they say? Virtually every American adult knows that the pro-life (or anti-abortion) cause is a decidedly Republican issue. Not that long ago one could find staunch advocates for the sanctity of human life on both sides of the political aisle, but that is becoming more and more difficult every year. The fact of the matter is, the Democratic party platform is unashamedly pro-abortion.

So what’s the point? The point is that while it is right to expose the evils of abortion, it is risky because it may subtly suggest that Christianity equals Republican politics. Let me be clear: following Jesus is not about following a political party. As Chuck Colson used to say, “the Kingdom of God doesn’t arrive on Air Force One.” Our Kingdom is not of this world. It’s bigger than America and it’s bigger than your political party. If as a Christian you’re not able to take your Bible and expose the propensities towards evil in both political parties, you’ve lost a little something of what it means to look like the God-Man who opposed and exposed sin on both the right and the left (Mark 8:14-15).

Walk the Line

So how can we expose the evils of abortion while avoiding the three pitfalls of legalism, indifference, and politicization?

First, we should humbly remember that while observing SOHLS is part of our church’s culture,  that doesn’t mean every other church will do it the same way. Don’t look down on Christian friends from other churches who do nothing to commemorate this day. Love them, pray for them, and trust that God is leading them to respond to the evils of abortion in an appropriate way for their context.

Second, we should be considerate to the hurting in our congregations. Pastors, take great care to extend grace to those who are haunted by the skeletons in their closets. Avoid careless and unnecessarily harmful statements that could hurt those you’re called to love. Church member, pay attention to hurting people around you this Sunday. Be sensitive to them. Just because SOHLS doesn’t conjure up painful emotions for you doesn’t mean that others aren’t deeply broken by the topic. Love them. Pray for them. And if someone sitting near you is deeply and visibly moved, don’t be afraid to put an arm around their shoulder and pray with them.

Third, we should intentionally look for opportunities to remind the church that the gospel is bigger than a political party. One of the ways we do that at PBC is by following Sanctity of Human Life Sunday with Racial Harmony Sunday. After intentionally exposing the evils of abortion (a sin often tied to the political left), we intentionally expose the evils of racism (a sin often tied to the political right).

Finally, in all these things don’t forget the most important thing: preach Christ. A world without abortion (or racism) and still without Jesus is a world on its way to hell. So even as we expose the polarizing sins in our culture, may we never do so without pointing sinners to the Savior who bore the wrath of God on a cross in our place.  Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)


© M. Hopson Boutot, 2018

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