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Feb 2 2009

Remembering God’s Faithfulness

Jamie Barrows

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My pastor, Josh Lipscomb, preached a very good sermon this past weekend, and I thought I would post the main theme here. I’ll start off with the main passage that the pastor used.

Psalm 77:1-15

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

1 I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.
3 I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah

4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I have considered the days of old,
The years of ancient times.
6 I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate within my heart,
And my spirit makes diligent search.

7 Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
8 Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah

10 And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the works of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
14 You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
15 You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

When things are darkest, and when the future looks bleakest, remember what God has already done for you. And trust that if he did that for you, he will be faithful to you in the future. Be grateful for everything he has already done. Believe that he will guide and protect you as he has done in the past.

Too often we (me included) forget to be grateful for what we have already been given. And we don’t trust God to bring us what is best for us.

We get depressed when things don’t go the way we think they should. A depression that, as the author of the psalm says, can bring us sleepless nights and crushing worry. But like the author, we can look at the wonders that God has already done and know that he can and will provide in the future.


Jan 27 2009

Sermon Critiques

Jamie Barrows

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I read a rather interesting article on the blog, Stuff Christians Like. It was kind of tongue in cheek, but also serious at the the same time.

How often are we just listening to a sermon so that we can find ways to critique it? So that we can find “Spiritual” things to say about the sermon to our friends later?

The article listed a bunch of common phrases people use to criticize a sermon, along with a rather sarcastic definition of what the phrase means.

  1. I’m just not being fed.
    What a fantastic way to look as if you’re more spiritual than the pastor himself.
  2. That message was not meant for me.
    You are so generous to have sat there patiently while someone else that needed that sermon was able to receive it. What kindness.
  3. That didn’t feel like church.
    What a perfect smokescreen of vagueness. How can anyone argue with your feeling? What does that even mean? More organ? Less organ? Better lasers? No lasers?
  4. There wasn’t enough Bible in that for me. That felt like a business leadership book.
    What’s enough? No one knows, which is why this is such a gem.
  5. I’m not sure that sermon works in a postmodern world.
    I’m not even sure I know what the word “postmodern” means, but it’s fun to say. Few things make you look smarter than repeating this word. Repeatedly.

From the article: Critiquing the sermon at lunch.
by Prodigal John

The truth is that I’ve heard almost all of these phrases before, and sadly I think I may have even used one or two. Which made me think about how often I’ve criticized a sermon for no real reason other than that it made me sound more knowledgeable or more spiritual.

There is always a need for examining what is said and studying it for yourself. And you should never just assume that because the pastor said it, it has to be true. But if you are just critiquing and criticizing so that you can avoid having to deal with your own issues, or so that you can appear more spiritual than others, you need to get a handle on why you are in church in the first place.

We don’t go to church to look good, or to make ourselves feel good. We go to church to worship God and to learn about Him what He would have us do.


Jan 13 2009

Church Family

Jamie Barrows

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I believe strongly that church attendance is an important and necessary part of being a Christian. Without the accountability and family relationships that come with your church family, you are alone and can easily fall into sin. Furthermore, you will never develop and mature as a Christian without the support and encouragement of your fellow church members. That isn’t to say that I think missing church occasionally is a sin. Rather that being a member of a church family and getting involved with that church family is extremely important to your growth as a Christian.

So anyway, I was having a discussion with someone the other day who was displeased with the church he was in. He made the point that, in his church, the legalism and obsession with outward appearances meant that no one in the church really knew each other or even liked each other. Everyone constantly wore a mask to keep from being judged. Any slips or cracks in that mask simply exposed that church member to the disdain and criticism of those around him. Which in effect mean that most of the members of the church never did anything together outside of church that wasn’t directly church related.

Now, I’m familiar with the church he was referring to and could definitely sympathize. The church he attends is exactly that way. Which is one (aside from it being in a different city) of the reasons I would never attend there.

So I told him I thought he should try another church rather than keep staying at a church that doesn’t like him and that he doesn’t like either. His answer was that there were no other good churches in the area. My response to that was to point to some that I had visited in the past. He said none of those churches were acceptable and listed each the of minor belief or tradition differences that were his reason why they weren’t acceptable.

At this point, not wanting to offend him I left the subject alone. Clearly the minor doctrinal points and traditions were more important in his eyes than having a real church family. But it got me thinking.

What weight should we assign the church family aspect when we are evaluating a church? The New Testament is full of references to the importance of fellowship and communion with believers, and yet I think most of us don’t even consider that when we are trying to choose a church.  When did what hymns the church sings and what fellow church members wear become the main criteria when evaluating a church?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look for churches that believe what we believe. Or that finding one that worships in the manner we are most comfortable in isn’t important. It absolutely is! But we need to realize that having a church family is at least as important as finding a church who’s traditions we feel comfortable with. Because without placing an importance on the church family, we are likely to get stuck attending places like my friend’s church.

My friend’s church may believe all the right things, but it provides him no true accountability and no real fellowship. There is no family to support him in his personal growth or to help him through his struggles. Because for him to admit to having those struggles exposes him to being judged and ostracized. For him, church becomes just a place he attends every Sunday to hear preaching. And that isn’t a real church.


Jun 15 2008

Purpose in life

Jamie Barrows


The other day I was having one of those bad days. The kind of day where I get depressed about my life. When that happens, I start questioning everything about my daily activities. Why do I do the things I do? Do they really make me happy? What is the point of anything I do?

That kind of thinking usually pushes me into a deep depression. But this time I was trying to think positive. And as I was trying to pull out of the whole depression state, I remembered something I memorized as child.
It’s an excerpt from the Westminster Shorter catechism.

“Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Am I glorifying God in my daily life? Maybe my frequent bouts of depression and dissatisfaction are actually because I keep losing focus and forgetting what I’m supposed to be doing here on earth.


Jun 4 2007

Focus, and my life

Jamie Barrows

Focus


Sunday at my church the pastor preached a message on knowing God’s will for our lives. One of the points of the message that really hit me, was, focus. He said we need to focus on using the specific gifts God gave us to further his kingdom, rather than worry about what God’s plan for our lives will be. In doing so, we will naturally fall into God’s will for us. He also said we shouldn’t assume that the plans we want for our lives are God’s plans for our lives.

That really got me thinking about where my focus should be. I’ve been really depressed lately. Well, to be honest, I’ve actually been pretty depressed for several years. I have ups and downs, but lately I’ve been in a down spiral. For years now I’ve felt like I was running in place. I’m always doing something, and I’m always working hard at it. but I never seem to get anywhere useful. And what I do accomplish, never seems to be enough or seems to give me what I wanted.

Before I went to college, I had my life all planned out.
I chose a Christian college, so that I would be able to meet Christians. The plan was to find a Christian to marry to raise a family with. While that seemed to work for most of my friends, it never worked out for me. Relationships always seemed to fail long before they got anywhere near that serious. Since college, it’s become even harder to meet and form relationships with Christians in the local churches. Consequently, I’ve been basically single for quite a long time.

I picked my major in college partially because I enjoyed it, but also because it seemed like a field that was growing. A field where demand and pay would remain high. All things to consider, if you want to support a family and have a rewarding career. Again, it didn’t work out like I planed. The year I graduated, was the year after the tech stocks crashed. Jobs in IT were hard to find, unless you had experience. I did find a job, but the pay was not what I would have wanted. Even now, with the industry having recovered, pay scales are not what I had planned for. And as much as I love my current job, to be honest the pay is not great.

For the past few years, I’ve basically gone nowhere. My pay is higher than when I started working, but still pretty close to entry level. I’m still single, and currently have no prospects for changing that. Even my close friends are drifting farther and farther apart from me, as they get on with their lives and begin raising their families. No matter how hard I’ve tried to change things, I never seem to get any closer to my goals.

I’ve begun to think that my focus has been wrong all along. I’ve been focused on trying to accomplish my goals for my life, but maybe those goals aren’t God’s goals for my life. Maybe that is why I am not satisfied and at peace, even when it seems like I am accomplishing things towards my goals. That isn’t to say that God doesn’t want me to get married and have a family, or that he doesn’t want me to have a successful career. All I’m saying is that maybe my focus shouldn’t be simply working towards accomplishing those goals. Rather, it should be on being open to what God wants me to do.

I’m not exactly sure what I should be doing, but I’m going to try to change the focus of my life toward God’s focus as much as I can. A good start would probably be to see where my skills and abilities can best be used in my church.