Blog Posts

Advent Calendars

Rich Shipe | November 21, 2018

As I mentioned this past Sunday, here are the pdf version of the two Advent resources.

Advent: The Christmas Journey

  • December 1 through 25
  • Includes ornaments for coloring and cutout
  • Use with the Jesus Storybook Bible
  • Download pdf file
  • Ideal for families with younger kids. Read the Bible passage and/or the assigned pages from the Jesus Storybook Bible while the kids color the ornament for that day.

Seasons: Enter the Story of Jesus

  • This is a full year personal devotional tool that follows the traditional church calendar.
  • December 2, 2018 through December 1, 2019
  • Includes some ideas for family devotionals each week
  • Download the pdf file
Are the Holy Spirit’s displays of power in Acts normal? Should we expect it today?

Rich Shipe | October 26, 2018

Jesus said in Acts 1:8 that the disciples would “receive power when the Holy Spirit” came upon them. They certainly did receive power! In chapter two the Holy Spirit arrives with a bang, and after Peter presents the Gospel, 3000 people believe and are saved. From then on we see several amazing events recorded.

Should those displays of God’s power be considered normal for today? Are we missing something if this is not a part of our normal experience? 

Some would say we should see these things today, and that there is something wrong with us or our faith if we do not. Now I do believe that God can work this way today and does perform miracles, but I do not believe it should be considered normal.

The displays of the Holy Spirit’s power in Acts are incredible. But just because they are recorded in Acts does not mean we can conclude that they should be normal for today. Here are three reasons why:

Descriptive is not prescriptive. Narrative sections of the Bible should not be presumed to be prescriptive of how we should live. It is a logical leap to assume that because it is described, it is meant to be imitated. All scripture is profitable for us (2 Tim 3:16); there are life-changing applications to be drawn from descriptive sections of the Bible.

Highlights ≠ normal. I remember as a kid watching football highlights on TV and thinking, “Why don’t they throw it deep to the endzone on every play?” Of course God is capable of miracles and awesome displays of power today. But we can’t make the mistake of assuming those displays should be normal, everyday occurrences. Even the incredible displays of power in Acts are rare for Acts. This is true throughout the Bible. There are about 20 miracles recorded in Acts and the book covers about a 30 year period. So less than one miracle per year on average is recorded. Yes, other miracles are referenced as happening, but I think the point still stands that they are uncommon.

And even if you look at the detail you’ll see that sometimes miracles did not happen in a situation where they happened before. For example, Paul and Silas were miraculously rescued from prison in Acts 16, but then later in Acts, Paul spends years in prison. With further study I think we find that God was just as involved and engaged in both situations. But it is wrong to assume that because it happened once, it should then happen again.

Fast and dramatic is not the only kind of miracle. It would be great if thousands of people flocked to hear us preach, and then in one message, 3000 people came to faith like we see in Acts 2. That was quick growth of their numbers and dramatic displays of power. But it is wrong to say that the more steady movement of God in the hearts of people is not also a miracle. When someone moves from darkness to light there is a celebration that happens in heaven! That is not boring! When the Spirit works on a Christian to enable them to resist temptation and instead do what is right, we see a great work of God. We would love to see God work dramatically and quickly, but we should not minimize the incredible work that God does faithfully over time and in our hearts.

Lament Psalms

Rich Shipe | September 18, 2018

I want to share some additional things I've learned about the lament Psalms to go with what I preached on last week. Let me know if you have any questions or additional thoughts!

Lots of Laments in the Bible

As I mentioned in the sermon this past Sunday, the Psalms can be categorized and put into various buckets. Here is a visual representation of all 150 Psalms in their various categories. The categories are just labels that theologians use so it isn't always perfect. And some theologians have slightly different categories.

As you can see the largest category is the Laments. What can we learn from that detail? God has a lot to say to us about the hard times of life. (And don't forget that laments are in other parts of the Bible too. Most of Job is a lament and there is an entire book called Lamentations.)

I find it encouraging that even if Christians aren't always super open to that kind of honesty in trial, God is very open and real about hardship! Christian radio may be limited to "positive hits" but God knows that life isn't always "positive and uplifting."

Lament Pattern

For the most part, the laments follow the below pattern or outline. There are some exceptions, but as you read a lament it can be helpful to look for this pattern in the lament.

  • Introductory Cry — “O, my God!” See the opening of Psalm 22 for the classic example of, "My God, my God..." The lament is vertically oriented. The cry is toward God, not at someone else.

  • Lament proper — Three pronouns (I am hurting, You don’t care, They are winning). This the expression of the problem. Psalm 22:2: "I cry by day, but you do not answer and by night, but I find no rest." Psalm 13:1–2: "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" The Psalmist just lays it all out. No filtering or cleaning up, just raw and real. This is how he feels.

  • Confession of truth — “No one cares about this as much as you” “You love me." Here is the Psalmist lays down some truth that he knows. It may not fit perfectly with what he feels or is experiencing but he's putting it down to remind himself of those bigger truths. Psalm 4:3: "But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him."

  • Petition — “Hear me!” “Save me!” “Punish them!” This is the part where the lament makes the request. What do you hope will happen? How do you want God to work? Just ask. Psalm 6:4: "Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love."

  • Motivation — Why God should answer. This is an interesting one. The Psalmist will often give God reasons for why it is in God's best interest for Him to answer. I remember praying many times that God would send people to help build our core team in the early days of our plant so that people would not doubt that you are at work in church planting. Sometimes it might seem a little simplistic, but it does orient us and our needs in line with God's glory and what he wants. Here is a great example of that in Psalm 6:5. Right after asking God to save his life, the Psalmist gives God a reason to save his life: "For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?" In other words, "If I'm dead I won't be able to praise you."

  • Vow of praise — I will praise you for what you will do. It is saying, "God, I am ready to credit you for what you will do in my life." Psalm 13:6 (ESV) — 6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Write your own lament

As you read laments in the Bible you can look for that pattern. But you can also use that pattern to write your own lament. I've done it a few times in my life and have found it to be extremely helpful in processing through pain and suffering.