Monday, July 13, 2009

Closing Up Shop

I know it's been months and months since I last updated this site. Now, finally, I am ready to let this one go. I will still keep this site up, but I have no more intentions of updating it.

While I will no longer be posting here at A Fruitful Life, you can find me blogging weekly at a new blog which is a combined effort with 5 other Reformed Baptist brothers. Please visit Ardent Cries and pray for the 6 of us men as we begin this new and exciting adventure in cyberspace!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

In light of the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I would post a message that I recently gave at my church about the blessings of God from Psalm 103. May you be encouraged by this passage. (If the Flash Player doesn't work for you, click here.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Spiritual Punches

I was recently re-reading Josh Harris' book, Stop Dating the Church, and came across a phrase that really stood out: "spiritual punch."

A friend of mine was recently telling some of the college students at our church that it seemed they were in need of some spiritual punches. What I think he and Josh Harris meant by this is that many Christians are spiritually lazy and need a good awakening—even a painful one—so that they may be engaged and active in their local body of Christ.

In his short book, What Is A Healthy Church Member?, Thabiti M. Anyabwile lists 8 visible expressions of a committed church member:

  1. Attends regularly
  2. Seeks peace
  3. Edifies others
  4. Warns and admonishes others
  5. Pursues reconciliation
  6. Bears with others
  7. Prepares for the ordinances
  8. Supports the work of the ministry

After looking at this list, what immediately jumps out at me is that the very first item—"attends regularly"—is somehow one of the most difficult duties for many Christians to fulfill. This is troubling to consider.

The regular weekly worship service is not an option for Christians. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for the Church, and God expects His people to show their gratefulness and exhibit humble obedience by showing up every Sunday to worship Him. As Anyabwile writes, "Being present, being known, and being active are the only ways to make Christian love possible (Heb. 1:24-25)." But for whatever reason, being not present, unknown, and inactive in church is the way of life for too many Christians.

These Christians need spiritual punches!

Not only is it difficult for some church members to show up for worship regularly, but it is likewise disheartening to see the even more noticeable lack of attendance at Sunday school and evening services. These meetings are also ordained by God for the good of His people. These are great times of teaching, encouragement, and fellowship that too many people miss out on. And they're free! How many Christians are so serious about getting an education or sending their children to get educations, but when it comes to them getting biblical education from Sunday school, so many people opt out? Think how much it would encourage the leaders of your church if Sunday school classrooms were filled and prayer services were expanded to include a majority of the congregation. Think how this would please God. And then think how discouraging it must be for your elders when only a small number of the church members make any effort at all to regularly attend these services that are meant for their benefit.

These Christians need spiritual punches!

Being that today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, our congregation met tonight to pray on behalf of our brothers and sisters worldwide who are being severely persecuted for their testimony of Christ. It is sobering to know that Christians in other parts of the world are suffering for their faith so intensely that they must meet in secret to worship lest they be found out by their neighbors who would turn them over to the local governments for punishment. Some Christians in China travel many miles by foot to meet with their fellow believers to read God's Word and pray. What a wonderful testimony these foreign Christians provide to us in America; and what a poor example we are to them of fundamental Christian living.

We all have our excuses for our sin (yes, I said "sin"), don't we? Our excuses may include anything from driving distance to poor weather to slight headaches to oversleeping to other "pressing obligations" (work, school, house chores, etc.). But all of these excuses fail to justify the lack of regular attendance at the services of the local church. Corporate worship is just one day out of seven. Even with Sunday school and prayer service, it's only three of four hours out of 168 hours in a week. Usually all it takes is a better time management plan and re-prioritizing of one's life to find the time for God (something that should always be at the top of our "to do" list!).

What every excuse boils down to is this: a lack of desire to meet with God and his people. There is absolutely no other way to spin it—some Christians are just plain lazy.

(Because I can already hear some readers accusing me over over-generalization, I will concede that there are such things as "providential hindrances" and "legitimate reasons" why one might skip a service here and there. But I hope it is obvious that I am not referring to those examples.)

Brother or sister in Christ, if you have fallen away from regular attendance at the established meetings of the church of which you are a member, allow these words from the Lord to convict your hearts and encourage you to do your spiritual duty:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are
in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
I Timothy 4:13

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:18

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers
in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

I Timothy 4:12

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD.
Isaiah 58:13-14

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Matthew 22:37

We need to discipline ourselves. We need to form godly habits now. We need to feel the discomfort of carrying the cross of Christ on our backs so that we may experience the joy of walking with Him. And most of all, we're probably all in need of a good spiritual punch!

I find myself coming back to the hard-hitting words of the Keith Green song:

"Jesus rose from the dead…
And you—you can't even get out of bed!"

How's THAT for a spiritual punch?!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

10 Factors

I know I haven't blogged anything for quite some time now, I wanted to weigh in on yesterday's election by adding my own $0.02.

While there are many more factors that led to yesterday’s election results, here are 10 factors that I think contributed to an Obama victory:

10. G.W.B.A. Factor

Bush made things tough. His administration’s failures paved the way for Obama’s “Change” slogan to really work.

9. Grassroots Factor
The Snowball Effect—Obama really started building his campaign from the ground up. His community organizing skills came into play with the organizing of a nation of Obama voters.)

8. Media Factor
They were in the bag for Obama from the start. News outlets around the world have praised Obama for his accomplishments, failing to dig too deep into his past. From Chris Matthews to Katie Couric, news anchors shamelessly displayed their arduous feelings for Barack, thus inspiring greater appreciation for the Democratic candidate amongst the populace.

7. Broad-stoke Factor
Obama made a solid effort not to focus on individual states, but on the nation as a whole, while McCain invested his time and money into the battleground areas. Obama communicated to the entire country and won, while McCain risked and lost by narrowing his efforts to single states.

6. Age Factor
McCain’s old age made a lot of people nervous; especially considering his “inexperienced” VP choice…

5. Palin Factor
Was McCain’s VP choice of the Alaska Governor too daring?...too “mavericky”? McCain’s effort to gain disenfranchised Clinton supporters may have come off as overly-optimistic and desperate. And while “Sarah” appealed to the Conservative base, she didn’t attract enough undecided voters.

4. Economy Factor
The economy tanked over the last 6 months of the campaign. McCain made the terrible mistake of admitting that economics are his weak point. Compared to McCain, Obama was seen as the savior to America’s economic woes.

3. Messiah Factor
Speaking about being “the savior,” many actually believed that Obama himself is “the One” solution to all America’s problems. Yesterday, America drank the Kool-Aide.

2. Fundraising Factor
It’s simple: Obama knows how to raise money…and he raised a lot more of it than McCain did! Money isn’t everything, but it’s an huge benefit if you use it correctly. Obama used it right.

1. Race Factor
Anyone who denies that the color of Obama’s skin didn’t play the biggest part in his entire campaign is fooled. The “America owes it to them”-mindset had a heavy hand in tipping the scales. The historical prospect of electing the first black President added to the hype and eventually led to a much larger victory for Obama had he been just another old white guy.

Congrats to our new President-elect!

An Apologist's Take On Yesterday's Historic Election

A Biblical perspective . . .

Thursday, June 05, 2008

McCain V. Obama

As I've mentioned in a previous post, John McCain hasn't always been my candidate.

But he is now!

It has become cliche to say, "I vote for the person, not the party." Well, in this year's monumental election, that is the exact mindset that we should adopt.
Although many true Conservatives may take issue with McCain on certain policies and his history of playing ball with Senate Liberals, John McCain stands much closer to the ideals of Conservatism in comparison to the alternative candidate. For me personally there are four important areas where the candidate's values are most important to me in this election:
  1. Iraq / The war against Islamic terrorism
  2. Abortion
  3. Supreme Court nominations

First, McCain--not Obama--knows what it means to persevere in spite of difficulty. He knows what it means to fight hard for the sake of individual and national freedom. He knows what it means to sacrifice for the greater good. Barak Obama thinks that he knows about sacrifice because he has worked in the southside of Chicago; McCain knows that he knows about sacrifice because he almost gave his life for the sake of his country. because of his experience as a soldier and his years in American politics, McCain knows how serious a threat Islamic terrorism is to the safety of this country and our allies (particularly Israel, of course). With this sincere understanding, McCain will continue what the current administration has begun by using America's great military power to root out terrorism in all parts of the world, thus keeping this country safe and strong. In the process, McCain will continue to work with the country of Iraq to fully rebuild and strengthen its government.

Second, McCain--not Obama--understands and believes in the value of human life starting from the time of conception. As President, I trust that McCain will not allow any legislation to pass that further opens the door to more abortions, while an Obama presidency could indeed see a rise in late-term, partial-birth abortions. This too boils down to a fundamental difference in each man's values. Simply put, McCain values the life of the unborn; Obama does not. I often wonder how this fits into the

Third, McCain--not Obama--holding closeer to conservative values will therefore nominate Supreme Court Justices who will be more likely to uphold the original meaning of the Constitution should the seat open during his presidency. This is important for every possible reason--abortion cases, 2nd Amendment issues, gay marriage rulings, and any other cases dealing with individual freedoms.

I appreciate a recent post by Douglas Groothuis over at the Constructive Curmudgeon. He writes about how, now that Hillary is another part of the 2008 Presidential Campain history, Obama is the Democratic party's presidential nominee (and if you ask any true Democrat, he's America's Savior, too). Yet Groothuis gives an honest, but critical look at the dangerous implications of an Obama victory on November 4th. I especially enjoyed his description of the Democratic candidate:

" inexperienced, pro-abortion, tax and spend, internationalist, racially confused (think of his church affiliation) extreme liberal who does not understand Islamic fascism or how to deal with it. "

Obama is younger than McCain.
He is black.
He has younger children.
He's a wonderful orator who inspires audiences everywhere.
And he can definitely bring change to America.

...But how many of these things actually qualify Obama to lead the greatest nation on the earth for the next four to eight years?

If these truly are the qualities that many Americans respect in the man, why him? I'm sure there are many other young, well-spoken, black, American men with young children who could also change and inspire America as Obama proposes vaguely to do.

So what sets this candidate apart as a qualified future U.S. President? Is it his Senate voting record? (I hope not!) Is it his economic or foreign relations experience? (What experience?) Is it the innocence that has followed him throughout his campaign? (Don't forget Tony Rezko and Rev. Wright!) Is it his value-system? (You mean the one that values baby-killing?) Or is it his enthusiastic charisma? (DING! DING! DING!)

I hope that on Novemeber 4th, Americans everywhere remember the importance of values and character and vote for the better candidate, John McCain.

Groothuis ends his post on a strong note with the following encouragement:
"Christians should wake up, get in gear, and make a difference. In this election, to my mind, this means: pray for, vote for, and contribute to John McCain for President."
Amen to that!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ARBCA General Assemby 2008

11th annual ARBCA G.A.
Sycamore Baptist Church, East Moline, Illinois

Me and my dad, John Giarrizzo

Building Tomorrow's Church
information table
Me, James Tyler, and Sam Nocita
Grace Baptist Church, Papillion, Nebraska

Chad Bennett and Robin Eckhardt

Friday, April 25, 2008

In the Service of the King

I know it has been a while since I have posted anything substantial and worth reading. The reality of it is this: I have been consumed with work--both secular (how the mortgage gets paid!) and ministerial. Additionally, I think I have between 1 and 2 regular readers, so few people even notice any lapse in time between my posts (which is fine by me--less pressure to be consistent!).

While my occupational endeavors at the University of Phoenix always keep me busy, my work in ministry will wax and wane depending on what tasks the Lord has placed before me. Currently, He has put my hands to the plow in terms of church ministry: between teaching adult Sunday School (we just finished studying The Pilgrim's Progress; now beginning a series on "Church History"), co-leading our young adults group, singing in the choir, leading music on Sunday evenings, and most time-consumingly, coordinating a nation-wide conference for Reformed Baptist young adults (BTC), I am quite busy.

I just returned this week from the annual General Assembly of pastors and leaders from ARBCA churches in East Moline, Illinois. It was a terrific time, and I hope to give another post to this topic. But while I was there, surrounded by full-time church pastors, elders, deacons, missionaries, seminary students, seminary professors, and pastoral interns, I couldn't help but think about how wonderful church ministry truly is. To be honest with you, I wish I could serve Christ and His church full-time. It is a glorious thing (to borrow a now all-to-common expression) to be in the service of the King of kings! In one way, all Christians are to be in His service all the time--living godly lives in pursuit of holiness, encouraging the family of God, evangelizing the lost. But in another, more unique way, those in church leadership positions--pastors and elders--have the higher calling of serving the King by serving His people full time. Spending time with the pastors this last week was an exciting experience for me. Although I was raised in the home of a pastor and thoroughly enjoy learning from my dad, being in the company of dozens of men who have been called to the full-time Gospel ministry is a priviledged opportunity and one where the best thing I find to do is simply listen.

So I thank the Lord for the ministries with which He has blessed me. When I become overwhelmed with the stress of the load, He is gracious in reminding me of Who it is that I serve: a merciful Master, a loving Lord, the King of kings, my Jesus.

Thus I pray for the strength to give Him my all in all He's given me to do.
"...Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."