Preaching at CRPC Round II

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As most of you know, I preached for about two and a half years after Dr. Kennedy went home to be with the Lord. It was my pleasure to bring the Word to the congregation. Yesterday I brought a message on the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  You can find this just below this blog. This coming week the message will be on the parable of the “Good Samaritan” which, when properly understood is one of the most shocking parables in the Bible.

My twitter handle is @drsamlam and I will remind you as the time comes closer is you would like to follow me (no need however).

While I know that my style of preaching is not like the last pastor, I hope that the exegetical look at passages will be helpful to those who are looking for a careful examination of God’s word.

If you are reading this and happen to be at the service, please stop by the lobby after the service and tell me hello. I’d love to meet you. If you would like to set up an appointment, please email me at  slammers@knoxseminary.edu and I can send you my assistant’s information.

At this point, I am only glad that the Lord has allowed me to work on a small corner of the kingdom. I am not anywhere near the best but the Lord uses small people to do great things. For that I am thankful.

SamLam

Free Books

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I have resolved to start writing again (darn that laziness that I inherited from Adam). What better way to start than to tell you about free books?

Those of you who know me might be shocked that I am getting rid of books. While I am getting rid of some of them, most are from a “purge” of the Knox Seminary Library. We have hundreds of books that are sitting out waiting for a good home. All that you need to do is stop by during regular hours (9-5) and ask for the “free book room.” You can spend hours going through and finding some great stuff.

If you do stop by, please see if I am free to come down and see you. I would love to show you what I think are some of the great things to get.
There are lots of great things happening at Knox and I will look forward to sharing them with you in the days and weeks to come. Suffice it to say that I am AMAZED at the grace that the Lord has shown us and the wonderful place that the seminary finds itself in.

SamLam

On Pilgrims And Doors

“It is a dangerous business… going out your door. You step into the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
— Bilbo Baggins to Frodo

I believe that God sends to us the conversation partners that we need at any particular time in our life. These are often friends who help us to sort through difficult issues that we are facing. For me, however, some of my best conversation partners have been great books.

I am facing some important decisions and potential changes in my life over the next few months and I have just discovered a wonderful conversation partner. It is a brand new book calledIn Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity written by Dr. Jim Belcher. The theme of the book is pilgrimage.

Dr. Belcher took his wife and four small children on a pilgrimage across England and Europe to help them experience many of the great heroes of the Christian faith. Belcher explains in the first chapter that his goal is multifaceted. He wants his children to truly embrace the Christian faith and know the stories of such people as C. S. Lewis, William Wilberforce, Corrie ten Boom, and even Maria von Trapp (from the “Sound of Music”).

But Belcher takes the pilgrimage himself as well. He wants a renewed sense of love and devotion to the Lord and seeing and experiencing the places where such great Christian men and women walked helped to bring him back to his love and away from the burnout he and his wife Michelle were facing.

The book begins with their time in Oxford and a trip to the site of the burning of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer. Belcher’s prose here is mesmerizing. Far from a dry history lecture, the lives of these three men come alive, and their deaths are written about with care, accuracy, and emotion.

Belcher mentions his trip up the stairs to see the representation of the cell in which Kranmer was kept until he was burned at the stake. On the way up the stairs, they pass a door which is the actual door behind which Kranmer was kept. Dr. Belcher goes on to poetically remind the reader of how important doors are to a pilgrimage.

This first chapter is both challenging (particularly for Christian parents) as well as affirming. I believe that this book will be one of the most important conversation partners of the last 15 years for me and I look forward to sharing with you more lessons from upcoming chapters.
If you would like to order the book (and I highly, highly recommend it) click on the link below. It’s a book that you should read with your entire family.

In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity

Onward,

SamLam

P.S. Full disclosure-Dr. Belcher is a colleague of mine at Knox Seminary, but a good book is a good book. And this is a great book!

Does God desire all people to enter heaven?

I’ll be teaching Sunday School at Cross Community Church this week. Each week we choose a difficult ethical question about Christianity and try to deal with it from the Scriptures.

This week we will be asking the question “Does God desire that all people go to heaven?” Of course, being Reformed, we believe that God has chosen some to salvation. How then can one believe that God makes such choices and still wants all to enter heaven? This is a question that has confounded many and not an easy one to answer. If you would like to be a part of the discussion, or just sit and listen, please make your way to the Cross this Sunday morning. We would love to see you there.

If you would like to read more about this question from a Reformed standpoint a good place to start is with John Piper’s new booklet (it is only about 50 pages). You can find it here:

Does God Desire All to Be Saved?

Blessings,
DrSamLam

Speaking this Week

I’ll be speaking Wednesday night, October 23 at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. The title of the message will be “All that I needed to learn, I learned in Vacation Bible School.” It will be a message on the closing story of the sermon on the mount; the house on the sand and the rock. If your life feels like you are without stability and you need to know what or whom you can really depend upon, come on over to 5555 North Federal Highway at 6:30. I know I need this message, and perhaps you do as well.

The message will be short (about 20 minutes) and will remind us all that there is only one rock and dependence upon anything else will ultimately be a failure. I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

If you’d like to learn about the sermon on the mount, a new book by Scot McKnight has just been published and I am enjoying it immensely. It not only deals with the grammatical topics raised in the sermon, but is full of practical advice about how to apply Jesus’ message to our own lives. I recommend it highly. You can get it from Amazon (and help out with the cost of the blog) by clicking below.

Sermon on the Mount (Story of God Bible Commentary, The)

I’m teaching Sunday School regularly now and will be putting up the topics for discussion each week. I’ll put up this week’s topic tomorrow.

No Joy Allowed in This Church!

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 5:11 (NIV)

As some of you know, I preached last week at Coral Ridge. You can find it at http://www.crpc.org/media/sermon/the-pressures-off—part-5  (though I would not recommend it). As happens to me sometimes, I said some things that the congregation found funny. This week the church received a stinging phone call that excoriated them for allowing someone to introduce humor into the pulpit (after all, what could be worse than joy when the people of God meet together?).

Thinking about this, I was reminded of a couple of things from the great Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s style was so loose he was criticized again and again for bordering on frivolity in the Tabernacle pulpit. One can read his writings today and still laugh out loud. Certain incensed fellow clergymen railed against his habit of introducing humor into his sermons. With a twinkle in his eye, he once replied: “If only you knew how much I hold back, you would commend me. I would rather have the congregation laugh a little than sleep a lot, though of course, those are not the only two alternatives.

In his book Lectures to My Students Spurgeon has a chapter called “The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear.” In it he has the wise advice: “You cannot stop people’s tongues, and therefore the best thing is to stop your own ears and never mind what is spoken.” I have found that helpful in my time in the ministry.

Let me say that this does not mean, nor did Spurgeon mean, that we ought to ignore those who bring us complaints. He only meant that there are some who bring nothing but complaints and have no other aim but to hurt. After all, I stood at the front of the church for nearly a half-hour and the caller did not come to me then; my number and email address is very easy to find, yet the caller made use of neither one of them. This shows me that the purpose of the call was not to be helpful (and I will admit that sometimes I get carried away) but to be destructive. To those such comments there is nothing better than the “blind eye and the deaf ear.”

I am convinced that Jesus laughed and laughed loudly. The false description of Jesus, coming from the ninth century A.D. that includes the statement “no man has seen him laugh” needs to be stricken from our churches. Please don’t write to me telling me that Jesus was a “man of sorrows.” I know that and I am very familiar with the Isaiah 53 description. This does not mean, however, that he was continually sorrowful.

There are several times in the Psalms that God is said to laugh. The number of times that Jesus says things that were obviously Semitic humor through overstatement is high (log in your eye; camel through the eye of a needle; a man owed 10,000 talents). But the most obvious evidence for the laughter of Jesus is that children loved him.

So I will admit that sometimes I say funny things. There are times that I mean to say such things and other times when it just happens. But the Gospel is (in the classical sense of the word) a comedy. A story with such problems that it can never work out, and then comes the most unlikely of characters to save the day. Jesus is the ultimate such character and I look forward to sitting down to a banquet with him. I’ll be the one laughing.

Back from Korea (1)

I arrived back home from Korea on Saturday evening tired and sore, but thrilled that I have been given such opportunities. It never ceases to amaze me that the Lord allows me such an amazing privilege. I’ll give a quick summary of the trip and try to get my photos posted on Facebook if you should like to see them (I should have them up by Monday night/Tuesday morning).

Cindy and I left on Friday Morning from West Palm to Atlanta. From Atlanta we took the flight of slightly over 14 hours to Seoul. Since Seoul is 14 hours ahead of Eastern Time, we arrived on Saturday night to meet up with Dr. Gage who arrived by a different flight about ten minutes after we did. Meeting us were my friends Nathan and Dr. Sohn who are always incredibly gracious and punctual. I fly to Korea without either of their phone numbers or addresses, simply trusting that they will be there. They always are and I never worry at all. We put on our coats (it can be very cold in Seoul this time of the year and snow stayed on the ground the whole time we were in Korea) and headed out to the van.

Dr. Sohn and Nathan took us out to a wonderful supper at a beautiful Korean restaurant. Dr. Sohn made sure that a female student came along to the dinner to make Cindy feel more comfortable. She (her western name was Augie, many Asians choose a western name to make it easier for us to pronounce/remember) was from Mongolia and planned to study counseling at the seminary.

Service in Asia seems to be on a whole different level from the U.S. One example will communicate the difference. Cindy and Dr. Gage asked for a diet Coke to drink, while I asked for Sprite. My Sprite came out immediately but the diet Cokes took a little time. When someone asked why they took so long, the server explained to our friends (who translated for us) that they did not have diet Coke and had to send someone out to the store to get it. I can’t say that I have ever had that happen in the states.

One of the things that we (Knox professors) do in Korea, in addition to teaching at Reformed Theological Seminary in Seoul, is preach at a Korean Church while we are there. I learned on the ride from the airport that I was slated to preach at a church that is pastored by Dr. Abraham Park. The church sits on a mountain that is owned by the congregation and has a large number of buildings for worship because the members could never fit into one building. I was told that between the worshipers in the building and those watching on closed circuit, there would be over 20,000 people watching and listening to the sermon. I had a terrible fear that at any moment someone was going to come up to me and say, “there has been a terrible mistake, we thought you were someone else, someone taller.” One of the things that I use to try to “break down the fourth wall” between speaker and listener is humor. This tool though is almost totally worthless when speaking through an interpreter. Between the fact that all humor is language and culturally based (even humor that does not depend on wordplay needs a certain “rhythm” to be effective) and the fact that my self-deprecating humor is not culturally acceptable in Asia, it was a difficult time for me. I knew that I had no business speaking at such an incredible place, but the Lord was faithful and I did my best not to embarrass Knox Seminary or myself. I always feel unworthy when I preach, but this was a very special case and I felt especially like I had no business being on the platform. In spite of all that, several spoke to me about how they had been blessed. The Lord uses even our worst to bring honor to the Kingdom.

After finishing speaking Cindy, Nathan (my interpreter for the week who did an incredible job) and I were taken to one of the church “restaurants.” We were fed a delicious meal and within a half an hour of the benediction I was brought a DVD of the service. I was flabbergasted. Next we were taken to a museum of the collection of Biblical artifacts belonging to Dr. Park and Kenneth Vines.

In the collection were incredible archeological pieces from the time of Christ and before. This was truly one of the high points of my trip because we had the place all to ourselves and had a very knowledgeable guide. I would have loved to have spent more time there but I was feeling the effects of jet-lag (kind of like now as I write this at four in the morning my time, six at night in Seoul) so we headed back to the hotel, a very nice one only a few minutes from where Dr. Gage and I would be teaching from Monday through Friday.

On Monday the class began, which was an exegetical overview of the Sermon on the Mount. Many of the students were assistant pastors or evangelists from Dr. Park’s church so most of them knew me, either from another class or from the sermon on Sunday.

Next, I’ll write about the class itself as well as some of the interesting side trips that Cindy and I took into downtown Seoul. I’ll tell you some very interesting things that I learned from my students, as well as some cultural differences that can affect teaching.