“Between the Lines” Jan 9, 2017

What to expect:

Full transcript:

Hey folks, Peter LaRuffa here on this Monday, January 9, 2017, and happy Monday to you. I have an announcement to make. I am starting a podcast, and this is my very first post. You say, “Why are you starting a podcast?” I’m glad you ask. You see, here’s the deal. As a preacher, by the time my sermon is done and ready to be preached, I typically have five documents to work with.

The five documents that I’m speaking of are as follows. I typically make a draft of both the bulletin outline and my sermon notes, and then I have a final copy of both the bulletin outline and my sermon notes. Then there is this other document that is entitled Scratch, and the Scratch document contains notes, illustrations, things that I’ve come up with throughout my time of prep, but things that also just didn’t make the final cut for one reason or another.

Every time I prepare a sermon, I am faced with the same daunting challenge as every other pastor, and that is the fact that there’s only so much time you want to spend preaching that sermon, and there’s only so much time you have to spend preaching that sermon. Therefore, you have to pick and choose, and my sermon hits the proverbial chopping block. I know Pastor Brad talks about that as well. The sermon hits the chopping block and you decide what is necessary and helpful to keep in the sermon and what really is just superfluous, or what is good but not great and what really should be cut out, because in most cases, less is more. Those things don’t just hit the square file; I don’t just trash them. I put them in a document called Scratch, and then I save it in perpetuity. It just sits there, and it’s something that I can always go back to. Some of those things are really helpful. They just didn’t make the final cut because there was just only so much room or only so much time.

I’m hoping that this podcast will be an opportunity for if such things exist, I’ll throw up a podcast and maybe it’s something that would encourage and help you. For that reason, I’m calling it Between the Lines. Between the Lines will be an opportunity for me to tell you what would have been or could have been or what things I was thinking as I was preaching the sermon, because sometimes I’ll hit that point in the sermon where there would have been a certain illustration that I’ve chosen not to use, but I still remember it. I’m still conscious of it, and so I’d like to share that with you.

Or sometimes perhaps we’re watching a sermon on our screen and it’s Pastor Brad preaching, because you know our campus does a combination of live and video preaching. Sometimes there’s something that Pastor Brad will say that I’ll think, “Ooh, that’s particularly helpful,” and I’ll want to unpack it or I’ll want to apply it specifically to people that I know in our congregation are going through a certain thing or could maybe use a little help applying it. This will be an opportunity for me to do just that, between the lines.

Here’s something that came to my mind from the sermon that Pastor Brad preached this last Sunday, on Sunday, January 8, as he was going through the big rocks, and one of the things that he spoke about was the fact that we are a Bible-based church. That might be something that you would assume to be true, but you know it doesn’t take long for you to visit a church and realize that not every church preaches from the Bible. Sometimes the Bible is a prop that the pastor holds as he or she preaches, but sometimes it’s not even referenced. Sometimes the message that is preached is really not from the Word of God, but really from pop psychology or just something pithy or helpful or an opportunity to talk about something that’s on the pastor’s heart but it’s not necessarily based in the Word of God.

At Grace Fellowship Church, we take the Bible, its authority, its sufficiency, its inerrancy very, very seriously. That’s why it is our sole source of everything that we need for life and Godliness as we’re told in the Book of 2 Peter. That’s why we believe it to be able to thoroughly equip us to be ready for every good work, as we’re told in 2 Timothy 3, in verse 17, and that’s why that is our sole source for our preaching and teaching. We love the Bible, the Word of God.

One of the things that we encourage our people to do is to read the Bible, but not just some of it, but all of it. If you’re anything like me, it helps to have some sort of a [inaudible 00:04:07]. It helps to have a guide. One of the things that we recommend is the MacArthur Daily Bible. The MacArthur Daily Bible will take you through the entire Bible in one year, but it’s not just that you start in Genesis 1 and end in Revelation. Instead, it gives you a little bit of the Old Testament, a little bit from the Psalms, a little bit of Proverbs and a little bit of the New Testament each and every day. You have kind of four different tastes, if you will, of the Word of God each and every day. It takes you through a yearly Bible reading schedule, and it’s a very, very effective way of reading the Word of God, and some people really like it.

However, there’s one thing that you may not realize, and maybe you have realized if you’ve gone to check it out already, and that is that this Bible is only available in the New King James Version currently. Now I love the New King James Version. In fact, I cut my teeth on that in Life in Ministry. The Bible that I have the absolute most notes in from teaching and from reading and from Times of the Lord is a New King James Version Bible that is sitting at home on my bookshelf right now, and I reference it often. However, about, oh, maybe four years ago, I made the switch to the English Standard Version, and I’ve really enjoyed reading it and teaching out of it. That’s the Bible that I prefer now.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you read a version that is not the New King James Version and you’re thinking, “Well, I really like the idea of the MacArthur Daily Bible, but I don’t know that I want to switch versions just yet. I have good news for you, because there’s something that I’ve been doing for maybe one or two years now that I hope you will find helpful as well.

You can take advantage of all of the things in the MacArthur Daily Bible but also use it in your own Bible. You can do this by signing up for an e-mail, and early each and every day, early in the morning, maybe it’s like 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, you’ll receive an e-mail delivered straight to your inbox that has the readings for that day out of the Old Testament, the Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament. It’ll also have John MacArthur’s reference notes and devotional materials, so it contains virtually everything that you would get in the MacArthur Daily Bible, but then you get to read the Word of God in the translation that you prefer.

I’m going to post a link to that on my website at peterlaruffa.com, and, hopefully, that’s something that you will find helpful. If you’re one of those people who says, “Man, this sounds like a really effective way to read the Bible, but I don’t think I want to switch to the New King James. I want to stick with my own version,” then this would be a great life hack for you.

Yesterday was a very special day for us at Grace Fellowship Church, particularly at the Fort Thomas campus, as we launched our ministry to the deaf. That’s right, yesterday we had an ASL interpreter interpreting the entire service, the worship songs, the prayers, the announcements, and the sermon in American Sign Language. I want to tell you why we did that. We did that because in God’s providence, he chose to bring us somebody who was deaf, and so we decided to respond to that. We’ve been looking into this for quite some time, looking into how we might be able to minister to this family and this individual in a way that they would be able to hear the Word of God preached in their own language, in their heart language.

The person that God brought to us is a young lady, and her mom would sign to her each and every Sunday, and I could tell that she was more than willing to do that. She’s a Godly woman, and she loves her daughter and her family, but I also realized that this is taking away from her time of worshiping the Lord because she’s hearing the sermon and thinking, “What’s that sign and how can I sign that to my daughter?” It could be very tiresome, and it could be a very arduous task.

We looked into ASL interpreters and we gathered a lot of data, and some of the information was helpful, some of it wasn’t. Then we kind of back-burnered it for a while because we felt like we were getting a little bit of a runaround and going around in circles. Then we finally picked it back up and we finally sealed the deal. We are going to have two American Sign Language interpreters who will switch off serving at our church every other week. They’ll be interpreting the entire second service, which currently begins at 11 o’clock in the morning, in American Sign Language. I’m really excited for the opportunities that that’s going to open up for our church and really excited for how it’s going to bless this young lady and her family, in particular.

There’s something that I shared during the second service yesterday that I wanted to share with you, and that is something I mentioned earlier in the podcast and that is God’s providence – God’s providence, how he worked through seemingly ordinary means to bring this about.

Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology defines God’s providence as follows. He says,

We may define God’s providence as follows: God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.

Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine.
Leicester, England:Inter-Varsity Press, 1994. Print.

Once again, “God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he directs them to fulfill his purposes.”

The young lady who is deaf was born in a foreign country and was in need of being adopted. Far away from her, the Lord had laid it upon the hearts of a husband and wife that they wanted to engage in adoption, and God in his kindness arranged for these two situations to collide in a wonderful opportunity for them to become family, and this family adopted this young lady and brought her into their home. In God’s providence, God brought this family into our area, and this family was looking for a church and found Grace Fellowship Church, and now they are part of our church. In God’s providence, we now had somebody that we had a special opportunity to minister to because she was deaf.

Now I have to be honest with you, folks, it was nowhere on my heart to have our services interpreted in American Sign Language. Of course, I wasn’t against it. It just wasn’t on my radar, but it was placed on my radar because God in his kindness providentially brought someone among us who would have that need. Now, we have our services interpreted in American Sign Language and we’re able to advertise ourselves and promote our church as a deaf-friendly church.

Therefore, yesterday, on our inaugural Sunday of opening our deaf ministry in our church, we had not just the young lady that we were hoping to minister to, but three other deaf individuals, a married couple and a single lady who was there listening to the service, if you will, in American Sign Language, able to hear the Word of God, able to interact with the sermon and with the songs in their heart language.

I paused during our second service to acknowledge this young lady and let her know just how God was using her among us just by being among us. That’s called providence. It’s God using circumstances and directing them to fulfill his purposes. What can you look back upon in your life and say, “You know what, I didn’t realize it at the time, but now that I look back, I see that God was working all along to direct these circumstances to work in such a way that he would accomplish his good will.” That is the providence of God and something to be very excited about.

Furthermore, what might God be doing right now in your life? How might God be using circumstances in your life and you have no idea what he has in store for you or for others, but one day you’ll be able to look back in the rear view mirror, which is oftentimes, most times, in fact, much clearer to see in than the windshield when it comes to life, right? The windshield might be big, it might be here and now, but you look in that rear view mirror and you see how God has acted in times past and you’re able to say with certainty, “This is what God has done.” Friends, one day today will be in the past. One day the circumstances that you find yourself facing right now, you will not see out of the windshield, but you will see by means of the rear view mirror and see how God has used that in your life and the lives of others to fulfill his purposes.

I hope that encourages you, and I hope that you have a very blessed day, and I look forward to seeing you next time on Between the Lines. God bless.