WHAT SHOULD I THINK ABOUT?

think

by Debbie Huber

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

For Christians to grow in likeness to Christ we need to have a renewed mind. God in his graciousness to us gives us his Word so we know what our minds should and should not give attention to.  We need God’s word to saturate our minds so that our thoughts change from selfish and sinful thoughts to praiseworthy thoughts in all situations. 

We need to change how we think and “take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5.) Seek to think of things through the filter God’s word. Ponder the things of God that are worthy of our thoughts.

“Whatever is true”:  Think about the good things we know about others, not the motives we assign to their actions. 

“Whatever is honorable”:  Honor is about serving and respecting others, not seeking our own rights above others. 

“Whatever is just”:  Knowing that God’s ways are perfect and unbiased and that even the most difficult person on your life should be served with joy.

“Whatever is pure”:  Ask God to remove desires for gossip, viewing ungodly TV and movies, and inappropriate or addictive social media. Feed your soul through prayer and Bible reading.

“Whatever is lovely”: Ask God for a heart to love others with pleasing thoughts, words and actions.

“Whatever is commendable”: God is concerned about the state of our hearts, not the world’s standards of accomplishments or success.

“If there is any excellence”: Are you thankful for the excellent qualities of the world that God has made and the people that he has put in your life?

“If there is anything worthy of praise”: Flee from negatively criticizing people and situations because God is worthy of all our praise.  And no situation can ever diminish His commitment to us.

Therefore, “think about these things”.

WONDERFUL WORDS

Everything we must know about the gospel is simple:

GOD – he is our Creator and we are accountable to him

MAN – we are condemned by our sin and deserve the punishment that God requires for it

CHRIST – in mercy, God sent his Son to die in our place and pay the penalty for our sin

RESPONSE – all who confess their sin and trust Christ to save them, are forgiven

Everything we can know about the gospel is vast:

Like being dropped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we could never dive to the bottom or swim to its end.

Here are some of the rich truths contained in the gospel that have reshaped the life of every Christian.

 Justification – in God’s courtroom, those whose sins were placed on Christ have been declared “not guilty”

Redemption – Christ paid for our release from the bondage of sin

Propitiation – Christ has satisfied God’s requirement for the “wages of sin”

Sanctification – those who have been forgiven are being transformed into the character of Christ

Regeneration – the Holy Spirit gives a new nature to all who are in Christ so that we are “born again”

Reconciliation – once the barrier of sin in removed, God welcomes us into a restored and intimate relationship with him

Adoption – our relationship with God is so close that we become children of God and co-heirs with Christ

Glorification – the work of sanctification will be complete and we will be perfected

Resurrection – God will raise our physical bodies and transform them so they are fit for our glorified inner self

Eternity – our life had a beginning, but it will not have an end; we will be everlasting

Kingdom  – we will forever enjoy the presence and rule of Christ without any interruption of sin or sorrow

Each of these words represents truths (doctrines) about God that are real for every believer. These are what Paul has in mind when he speaks in Ephesians 1:7-8, of the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us”.

Each of these truths is worthy of examination and reflection. God deserves our regular praise for each and all of them.  

Don’t be intimidated by these words, seek to grow in your knowledge of them – for they are the most precious realities we possess.

WHO IS IN CONTROL, YOU OR YOUR PHONE?

We love our smart phones!

The convenience,  the connectedness, the amazing apps!

I no longer wear a watch, have a camera or use an alarm clock. My smart phone keeps me connected to friends around the world, it provides many forms of entertainment, and it allows me to answer virtual any question that comes up.

So go ahead and celebrate the genius of your smart phone. However, along the way, we should be aware that these phones have side affects. Some of these are good and others are subtly unhealthy.

Tony Reinke helps us to think through the effects of our smart phones with his new book “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”. Reinke’s purpose is to help us maximize the benefits and carefully minimize the costs that come with using one of the most amazing and powerful gadgets ever invented.

 

UPDATE FROM OUR SISTER-CHURCH NEAR HOUSTON

This update is from Darrel Schiel from Sovereign Grace Church in Pearland, TX, which is a suburb of Houston. At the bottom, he shares 3 prayer requests.

Dear Sovereign Grace Family, 

The expressions of wholehearted love and care we have received from you and your churches during and immediately after the historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey have had a significant strengthening impact on our hearts. We are so very grateful for all your prayers. 

We want to thank those of you who were able to join us on the ground to help with our immediate needs. Also, thank you for your sacrificial giving to the Sovereign Grace Churches Relief Fund. Additionally, thank you for the many who have expressed a desire to come and help us with ongoing work. We have been overwhelmed, not by the flood waters, but by the grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of his people. 

We know there are many months of challenging hard work ahead. Nevertheless, by God’s grace we have made significant strides in the meeting of our neighbors’ most critical needs. Specifically, over 90 volunteers made up of Sovereign Grace Church Pearland and other Sovereign Grace churches have worked together to help over 30 flooded families begin the arduous process of getting their homes healthy so they can plan to rebuild. The removal of water damaged possessions, drywall and flooring is a brutal reality for those households who were flooded. As we have gently served two families from our church, friends, and neighbors, we have had the opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace to those in significant need. Thank you for playing a vital part in all these efforts. 

Many of you continue to ask how you can help. First we ask that you continue to pray. As Spurgeon said, “The power of prayer can never be overrated.” Below are three ways in which you can pray for Sovereign Grace Church Pearland. Second, while our immediate need for outside help has lessened due to the outpouring of helping hands, we may need assistance in the upcoming weeks and months.

Thank you, Sovereign Grace Church family, for all the gospel work you are doing in your cities, communities, and neighborhoods. We are greatly blessed by the loving partnership we have together in the gospel. 

Yours in Christ,

Darrel Schiel

Sovereign Grace Church Pearland

PRAYER REQUESTS:  

Please pray for continued wisdom and strength as we serve over the next few months. We love our neighbors and desire to see them whole. 

Please pray that God would continue to use us not only to see houses made whole but souls made whole through the loving proclamation of the Gospel.

Please pray for us as we move into our new building; that this new facility will be used by God as a beacon for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

MARRIAGE SURPRISES

Do you like surprises?

The surprises we like to imagine, are those in which an unexpected joy drops into our life.

However, there are other surprises, those which expose the fact that we are never as prepared for life as we had hoped.

Marriage is one of those areas filled with surprises.

Some of the surprises are the its-better-than-I-imagined kind of surprise. The distressing part is when marriage feels more like a minefield of surprises!

When a couple gets married, they are usually under the impression that they have deeply thought about and planned for their new life together. However, it doesn’t take too much time for every married couple to realize that we are never prepared enough!

Dave Harvey, is a pastor and author of the excellent book, “When Sinners Say I Do”. In an article on the Gospel Coalition website, he shared this thought on couples preparing for marriage:

“Many young couples head into marriage with blinders—believing their marriage will be the fairy tale they dreamed of as they planned a Pinterest ceremony and momentous honeymoon. But the truth is marriage reveals our sin, exposes our desires, challenges our relational network, and requires us to regularly practice costly forgiveness. Engaged folk need to know that marriage is a call to ministry where two sinners learn—till death parts them—how to apply the gospel of grace.”

Although, none of us are completely prepared for matrimony, we can all build more health into our marriage. The most important realization is that becoming Great Commandment people, will enable us to become better marriage partners.

Of course, it is helpful to recognize the specific areas where practical steps are most needed. Dave helps us by listing 6 Surprises that hit couples after they are married.

Even if you are a marriage veteran, it will be beneficial to look over this list of surprises and identify if there is an area where you need to seek God’s grace and wisdom to improve how you love and cherish your spouse.

 

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE

As blogger Trent Hunter points out “we are supposed to run from things that can kill us – active volcanoes, oncoming traffic, and snakes come to mind.”

Yet, we can allow behaviors and thoughts into our life that are death to us in a far more serious way then being incinerated by a rushing lava flow.

Read this article by Trent in which he reminds us of serious dangers AND gives advice on how to have an exit strategy, or as he describes it – how to F.L.E.E.

 

PARENTS, LET THIS TASK BE EXCITING!

Last year we conducted a survey in our church on the area of Children’s Ministry. The results gave us cause to celebrate and to be concerned.

The celebration was in the clarity our congregation has in the values of God’s word ruling over our homes, and in the importance of parent’s discipling their children.

The concern was that many parents were struggling to regularly implement discipleship and family devotions. The survey also revealed that as pastors, we had not done a good job in equipping parents for this all-important task.

This year we have prayerfully worked to change these weaknesses, and we are thankful for God’s gracious help in leading us as a church to turn this area of weakness into an area of increasing strength.

However, it can still be intimidating for parents to lead their children in devotions. This responsibility which God means to be joyful, often seems intimidating and looms as a burden on our time.

Jon Neilson wrote this helpful and encouraging article describing “Three Surprising Ways Bible reading with My Kids Has Changed Me”. Parents and grandparents, I hope you will find renewed energy in your commitment to the wonderful privilege of leading the children you love toward our Savior!

In the article, Jon shares a 40 second video with 8 quick tips on reading the Bible with your kids. He links the article to his book on this subject which is published by Matthias Media. I have not read Jon’s book, but I highly regard everything made available by Matthias Media.

 

OUT ON RECESS THIS WEEK

Not that I do not like to hang around this blog (and other places) with you, but I am on vacation visiting family and friends.  See you back here September 4th.

And by the way, thank you very much for reading this blog – I am humbled by this gift of your time.

THE GOSPEL ANTIDOTE TO THE EPIDEMIC OF LONELINESS

by Debbie Huber

Upon opening Facebook the other day, there was a picture of my family that I had posted a year ago with a notation from Facebook: “we care about you and your Facebook memories”.

Wow!  Facebook cares about me?  The place where I can show family pictures, see pictures from friends and acquaintances, find out about real AND fake news, argue with others without looking them in the eye, not be accountable to anyone, keep my struggles safely hidden from public view…

Right after seeing this I read an article that referred to a major study that was recently presented at the 125th annual convention of the American Psychological Association by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.  Data from hundreds of studies involving millions of individuals was analyzed. This analysis found that “social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death. And each one of these factors was a more significant risk factor for dying than obesity“.  

More significant than obesity?

Marriage rates have been steadily declining and families are having less children.  Families are separated by miles, divorce, estrangement, and just plain busyness. Schedules are busier and family activities dominate any possibility of free time. Neighbors come and go without ever interacting with one another. Many people live their lives without having anyone truly know about them and care for them.  

There have been multiple studies that suggest that frequent Facebook users do not feel more connected at all; they “actually experience feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and depression.”

Sometimes we are alone by choice by putting up walls because it can be too painful or fearful to be vulnerable to others. Or we just want to live our lives for ourselves without the baggage that comes from being accountable to one another. 

The Bible does have an antidote to this epidemic of “loneliness”.

We were made for relationship with one another but it is not necessarily how the world defines relationships.  God demonstrates what a healthy relationship is through the relationship between the Father, Son, and the Spirit. A relationship of fellowship, working together, and enjoyment of each other’s company. 

God calls us to relationship with himself through the gospel. We were “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12-13)

God made us to need Him and also to need one another. In Genesis 2 He says that “it is not good for man to be alone.”  We were not created to make it in this world alone. 

Real, lasting, satisfying relationships within the context of the gospel brings reconciliation between us because we were reconciled to God through Christ when we were without hope or without God in the world. We have relationship with one another even when it is difficult or inconvenient because we know that Christ died for our relationship to be restored to God even when we were “difficult” and far from Him. 

Be prayerful and watchful for the lonely around you. Seek them out face to face.  Be helpful when they need it, speak of the things of God to one another.  In light of what Christ has done for you seek reconciliation when there is division.  The Gospel will be on display in your lives.

And if you are the one “putting up walls” or on the fringes because you are fearful to be vulnerable or too busy remember the gospel!  You were not meant to go it alone in this world. The gospel tells us that we were made for relationship with God and with one another. Serve, help or become a part of a small group.  Ask God to help you to care for and be vulnerable with others. Preach the gospel to yourself daily and pray that the gospel will be lived out though your relationships.

 

PRAYER IDEAS FOR BIBLE READING

We all need the Holy Spirit’s help when we read the Bible.

But what help can we ask for beyond “God help me understand what I read”?

There is nothing wrong with that prayer, but it can be helpful to stretch our requests beyond it.

In His excellent book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally”, John Piper offers a few suggested prayers for Bible reading:

Ask God to guide you to notice parts of the text that are especially illuminating

Ask God to lead you to other passages in the Bible that would shed light on the one you are reading.

Ask God to lead you to other books or sermons or lectures that would be useful in shedding light on some problem you have run into.

Ask God for experiences, or a reminder of experiences that would make what you are reading more real.

Ask God for friends who could study the Bible with you and help you see things you haven’t seen.

Ask God to convict you of and remove any sinful habits or inclinations that might blind you to a part of Scripture you would find uncomfortable.

If you journal, pray that as you write the text down in your journal, you would notice things you missed in simply reading.

Whatever you pray to prepare yourself to read God’s word, know that God wants his word to impact you. He wants you to understand his intentions and be shaped by them.

In short, God wants your Bible reading to be a rich and engaging time with him.

That should fill our heart with anticipation every time we open our Bible.