Love for God

PLAY-DOH LOVE

Love is wonderful

Love is popular

Love is deeply misunderstood

It is virtually impossible to find someone who has never been loved (humanly) and has no love for anyone else.

Yet, love for most people lies in a fog of misunderstanding and selfishness.

It’s hard to find a song, a book, a movie or therapeutic expert that gets love fully correct. This means we live in a world so confused about its favorite topic, that we don’t recognize pure love when it looks down from a cross at us.

It is not that people know nothing of love, the problem is that they don’t accept the baseline of love, because they don’t listen to God who is the source of love. If we don’t build on a solid foundation, we won’t end up with a structure that lasts.

Our world loves to think of love as something we can shape out of our own perspective and values. But Alex Duke is correct when he said, “Love isn’t Play-Doh”.

One of the problems with Play-Doh love is that none of us want to be loved according to someone’s pulled-out-of-the-air-according-to-their-own-desires perspective. The reason is simple, it’s not actually love and it doesn’t work out well for the people receiving it.

Of course there is an even bigger problem, counterfeit love is unacceptable to God and will not lead us to him or his kingdom.

When we don’t shape our understanding and practice of love by the teaching of Scripture and the example of Christ, we are left with emotions and interpretations that have much more self-love than true love.

If you want to know love, you must know God!

Alex Duke gives us a good synopsis of the problem and answer to “Play-Doh” love in this article, “Love Is Not Whatever You Want It To Be”.

Love is too precious to get wrong, and life is too short not to start correcting that error today.

 

DO YOU HAVE CLEAR PRIORITIES?

20141124192705-priortitize-when-everything-priority

What should be your greatest priority each day?

Do you have a ready answer?

Have you ever thought about it?

Do you think it even matters whether you have an answer?

For those who claim to be Christ followers and submit to God’s word, there is a clear answer to this question about our priorities.

(drum roll)

Love for God is to be our highest priority.

This has been a consistent theme in the Bible.

When God first presented his covenant with the people of Israel, these words accompanied it:

 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)

After the people had sinned with the golden calf, the Lord reaffirmed his covenant with them by saying:

 “Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12)

When the Lord spoke about future rebellion by his people, he also spoke of how he would restore them and how he would restore them:

 “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6)

After Israel conquered the land God promised to them and were ready to settle in it, the Lord gave this warning:

Be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)

When Jesus was asked, “Which commandment is most important of all?” He answered:

 “The most important is ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:28-31)

The context in each of these passages is what it means to be the people of God.

The Old Testament passages come at times of confirmation to Israel that they are in a covenant relationship with God. In the New Testament passage, Jesus is answering the question of God’s priority for us.

As believers, we should recognize that it’s God’s job to establish our priorities and it’s our responsibility to act upon them. And God has consistently declared that profound love for him should be the identity of his people. Indeed, failure to deeply love God should be almost be unintelligible to us – something makes no sense at all!

Each morning, regardless of circumstances, our highest priority is to love God today.

This not only gives direction to life, it is an enormous help when we are in those moments when we have no idea what to do. Take a breath and remember, whatever we are to do in this moment, it should involve showing God that we love him!

 

SIMPLY PROFOUND

It is a simple truth. 

My fullest and uninterrupted joy, contentment, happiness, satisfaction and delight will be when my heart is entirely given to Jesus Christ. 

It is simple, because I don’t have to figure out where to place the focus of my life. I don’t have to search for life’s answers. It is always Jesus! If I set the entirety of my mind and heart on Jesus I will experience the greatest possible joy in this world. 

The reason is creation. 

I am a created being. I was purposefully designed by God to know and enjoy him. This is my highest purpose for existing. 

The proof is heaven. 

My eternity will be wondrous, because I will be a Great Commandment person. My heart will overflow with inexpressible joy when my heart no longer withholds anything from Christ. 

This is a profound truth. 

Nothing is more important to understand, and nothing will bring more benefit to your life. Right now an army of activities and responsibilities are demanding your time and attention. However, none of them are as vital to your everything than the person of Jesus!

Love for Jesus is what makes life work.

Love for Jesus is how I get back on track.

Love for Jesus is how I begin each day.

Love for Jesus is how I filter all circumstances.

Love for Jesus is how I assess each day.

Love for Jesus is where I give my best efforts.

Love for Jesus is what my soul is searching for, and every substitute will leave my soul wanting more. 

Jesus will satisfy, he truly will.

WHEN ENJOYMENTS CROSS THE LINE

 

What makes an enjoyment idolatrous?

John Piper in one of his articles did an excellent job of digging into this matter. Through a series of 12 points, Piper helps us recognize when our enjoyments are being misused.

In short, he wants us to make sure all our enjoyments are completely God-centered.

If you consider any of these points to be “too picky”, it may be a sign that you need to look more seriously at God’s call for you to be a Great Commandment person.

Here are Piper’s 12 points of self-examination:

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is forbidden by God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionate to the worth of what is desired

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not permeated with gratitude

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is starting to feel like a right, and our delight is becoming a demand

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it draws us away from our duties

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it awakens a sense of pride that we can experience this delight while others can’t

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is oblivious or callous to the needs and desires of others

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not desire that Christ be magnified as supremely desirable through the enjoyment

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not working a deeper capacity for holy delight

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss ruins our trust in the goodness of God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss paralyzes us emotionally so that we can’t relate lovingly to other people.

DON’T FORGET GOD ON YOUR VACATION

Vacation season is upon us, and whether or not this is when you are on the road, it is a good time to consider how we honor God while we travel.

Sam Bierig encourages us in this article to make sure we don’t allow excuses to keep us from being in church when we are away.

I will add two other areas we should not let slip during vacations.

Giving – the expenses of your church don’t diminish when you are on vacation. Make sure you remain supportive of your church family whenever you cannot attend a service.

If you don’t give regularly to your church during the rest of the year, keep this in mind: you expect your church to be faithful in its ministry to you, so you should be faithful in making that ministry possible. 

Devotional time – vacation definitely flips over our regular schedule, which is the point of going on vacation! Still, have meaningful engagement with God.

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but we have all experienced vacations turning into times of frustration. We need our hearts equipped by God wherever we are. God is worthy of living for him in all situations – including the times of getting away, which he graciously makes possible for us.

When you go away to be refreshed, keep in mind that meaningful time with our good God is refreshing.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.15.17

Love for the Gospel Shapes How We Live

 

1 Corinthians 9

Last week, we saw principles that guide how we exercise our rights and freedoms. The Apostle Paul continues this theme at length!  But now he uses his own example to show that serving the Gospel shapes his priorities and lifestyle

Paul Starts By Reminding Them of His Position v1

He was an Apostle: the highest office in the church

A requirement of being an Apostle is to be a witness of the risen Christ. Paul says, “I saw him!”

He was not just an Apostle he was their Apostle vs1-2

In Acts 18, Paul founded the church in Corinth; and he spent 1½ years teaching them

He Understood His Rights in Christ v1 “Am I not free?”

Many in the church struggled to understand their freedoms; but not Paul, he knew them well

 

Yet, He Wants Them to Know the Rights He Gave Up

There are three areas in which Paul gave up his rights

1.  The right to eat food sacrificed to idols as mentioned in chapter 8 and possibly here in v4

2.  The right to have a wife v5 – Paul embraced singleness as he describes in chapter 7

3.  The right to be paid for laboring to serve churches v6

Paul keeps his focus on this last right

He gives four proofs that he has the right to be paid for serving the church

1.  Being paid for your service is a principle that is obvious to the world v7

2.  The Old Testament law affirmed this principle v8

3.  This was the practice for those who work in all temples v13; whether Jewish or pagan

4.  It was commanded by Jesus v14 (Luke 10:7 ‘a laborer deserves his wages’)

He goes into detail about his rights in order to dramatize his refusal of them

 

Why Would the Apostle Paul Give Up Obvious ‘Rights’?

The gospel is a greater purpose than clinging to our rights

He repeats this idea three times: v12, v15 and v18

In vs 12-18 he refers to ‘the gospel’ seven times

Each time, he exalts the value of the gospel to dictate how he lives

Can you say the gospel motivates your priorities?

What is the gospel and why is it worth sacrificing rights and privileges?

Gospel means good news: it involves incomparable events, and it provides unequalled hope

The gospel so thrilled Paul, he made himself a servant to it v19

He was not just willing to live this way, he was eager to do so

The gospel had captured Paul’s heart and he wanted it for everyone else!

This made Paul flexible in how he dealt with people vs 20-22

What point is Paul making?  ‘Servants’ adapt to those they serve

He is not telling us to compromise beliefs, but to compromise our preferences

Love leads us to become comfortable with the people around us

Serving Christ and his gospel shaped how Paul lived vs 24-27

All that Paul claimed to believe about God actually led how he lived

He lived with self-control v25

This is not a negative concept, being out of control is

Just as exercise shapes our physical body, godly discipline shapes our soul  Bible reading, prayer, community

He had direction v26

He was not “aimlessly” reacting to every new situation

We are Christians, we follow a Person; and he is consistent, faithful, and wise

His heart was filled with the joy of serving Christ!

Look at his language: v18 reward, v23 share blessing, v24 the prize

Paul lived to please God and that brought joy to his heart

Have you lost perspective about where goodness is found?

How will you respond to Christ and his gospel?

Do you need this gospel?  Christ is here to save – don’t push him away

For those who have the gospel – is your heart dry? Is your life aimless?

FREE TO BE A SLAVE

A Slave-Pen at New Orleans Before the Auction

In reading “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke, I came across this compelling story:

A wealthy Englishman went to California in the 1850s to enrich himself during the gold rush.  After much success, he left to go back to England.  He stopped at New Orleans on the way home, and, as all tourists did at that time, visited the infamous slave trading block. 

As he approached the place where people were sold for cash, he saw a beautiful, young, African woman standing on the block.  He overheard two men who were trying to outbid each other for the woman, talking about what they would do to her if they could buy her.  To their surprise, the Englishman joined in the bidding by offering twice the price.

The auctioneer was astonished. “No one has ever offered this much for a slave,” he said.

After purchasing her, the Englishman stepped forward to get her.  When he helped her down to his level, she spat I his face.  He wiped away the spit and led her to a building in another part of town.  There she watched uncomprehendingly as he filled out forms.  To her astonishment, he handed her some manumission papers and said, “There, now you are a free woman.”  She spat in his face again.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, as he wiped her spit away again.  “You are free!  You are free!” 

She stared at him in disbelief a long while.  Then she fell at his feet and wept – and wept some more.  Finally, she looked up and asked, “Sir, is it really true that you paid more than anyone has ever paid to purchase me as a slave, only to set me free?”

“Yes,” he said, calmly.

She wept some more.  Finally, she spoke: “Sir, I have only one request.  Can I be your slave forever?”

This encounter is meant to illustrate what Christ has done for us, and –don’t miss it– what our response should be to his generous grace!

Christian, you know your own story of unexpected liberation from slavery and condemnation. Are you as willing to make yourself a slave of Christ?

There are believers who occasionally say they are thankful, and there are believers who daily demonstrate they are thankful. Which best defines you?

STOP APOLOGIZING FOR GOD!

by Debbie Huber

Are you apologizing for God?

Do your children see and hear that you love God and there is no higher priority in your life?

I am sure that most of you hope so.  But we may not be aware that we, as parents, can come across as “apologizing for God” to our children.

Our children can perceive that God is a lesser priority in how we communicate his importance for our lives.

Are you afraid that your teenager will be bored in church so you feel guilty for bringing them?

Do you give up on family devotions before school in the mornings because you feel sorry that your children will be too tired getting up early?

Do you allow sports and sporting events, birthday parties, or sleepovers to keep your family from being in church together because you feel bad since “they will be left out”? 

 

Do not apologize for the things of God! 

Rather be excited for every opportunity to be with the family of God, to worship Him, to read His word, and to love Jesus more.

The Christian life is an adventure! 

Following Jesus will not be easy but let your family know that it is worth ALL of our life and our devotion.  We “get to” go to church!  We “get to” read the Bible so know who God is! We “get to” be around fellow believers!

We will not regret the sacrifices we made for God but we will regret the “apologies” we made for Him.

 

WHERE DO YOU STAND?

Morality

Have you ever found yourself disturbed over the casual way in which sexual behavior outside of marriage has been presented in our culture?

No one enjoys being disturbed, but it’s worse if we are undisturbed by a degraded culture.

Not too long ago the world at least understood the Church’s concern about sex outside of marriage. Now the world will not even agree on the definition of what is a marriage!

Those who love God have good reason for voicing their concern. A constant stream of immorality deadens the senses to God’s standards. What the Bible calls immorality is so common that even the biblically literate can fall into a mindset that thinks “biblical standards should not be that inflexible”.

But the situation has become even worse than desensitized understanding toward sexuality and godly purity. Today, there are many in the church who RESENT reminders of Biblical standards.

We need to ask ourselves some pointed questions:

Are we willingly to believe that God’s Word is no longer smart enough for our generation – and that the culture we see around us is wiser than God?

Are we willing to say that we no longer need the grace of God’s Word being spoken into our lives by fellow believers – especially when we have veered off of the Bible’s good and protective path?

Barton Gingrich has written an article for the Gospel Coalition that addresses the problem of minimizing biblical standards by many of this generation’s self-proclaimed biblical Christians. He writes,

“Young evangelicals must choose their master. Right now, too many follow their appetites and desires.”

Who have you chosen to be Master of your life? Whose word do you trust? And almost as important, of whose word will you be skeptical?

Reading Barton’s full article may be a help to you in considering these questions about today’s perspective of sexual morality.

R

SERMON LEFTOVERS 8.02.16

The True Vine

by Dan McManus

John 15:1-11

Authentic disciples abide in Jesus by drawing upon his word, which bears fruit in their lives for their joy and God’s glory

The Vine

Throughout the gospel Jesus giving several “I am” statements

These statements present the ideas of replacing and fulfilling. What once was is now fully seen in Jesus.

Here he gives the last of the “I am” statements:  I am the True Vine.

We need to see what is being replaced and fulfilled

In the OT Israel is referred to as the vine. But Israel is often rebuked for not bearing fruit and warned of being cut off

Jesus here surpasses Israel and becomes the very locus of the people of God. No longer is God’s vineyard with the nation of Israel but in the vine of Jesus himself.

The Vinedresser

The Father cares for his vineyard in two ways: Pruning and Removing

v2 tells us the fruit-bearing branches are pruned and the fruitless branches are removed.

The Branches

Those who bear fruit are pruned, v3 you are already clean because of the word.

There is a play on words that we don’t pick up on in the English but is clear in the Greek that the word for prune means to cleanse, purify, prune

The word for clean has the same root which means clean, pure, unstained.

Those who are already clean will be further cleansed.

How is it that they are already clean? Because of the word that I have spoken to you

What is the word? All of what he has said and all of who He is.

Christ is the Word incarnate

Pruning

Pruning is not always pleasant, but it is always good. Hebrews 12:10-11

False disciples are those who do not bear fruit, he removes and throws away.

There are many who pass for branches in Christ but they do not bear fruit and are only connected by profession and not true faith.  

The vinedresser must remove the unfruitful branches for the health of the vineyard.

Abiding and Fruit-Bearing

The imagery of the vine becomes more clear as we see the necessary connection between abiding and bearing fruit.

Authentic disciples (those connected to the vine by faith) abide in Jesus and so bear fruit  v4-5 

Bearing fruit is a necessary result of abiding

Once a branch is apart from the vine it has no hope of bearing fruit. It must remain connected.

Jesus is saying that in him is the life giving source from which fruit can be born.

So how is it we remain connected to Jesus, how do we abide in him?

He points to the way we abide in him by having his words abide in is

v7 “abide in me and my words abide in you”

Notice the flow from vs 4, 5 & 7 “I in you” . . . “my words in you”

There is such a connection between who Jesus is and what he has said he can speak of them interchangeably.

In the vine picture Jesus is telling us he will remain with, abide with us in his words which he sees as his very presence.

This is a profound truth that Jesus sees his word in us as our being with Him

Because Jesus is the Word made flesh, he is God with us, and all of scripture is the testimony of who God is. All Scripture is the testimony of who Christ is

Branches that “abide” in the vine bear fruit because they draw up from the vine’s life giving nutrients to bear fruit.

Authentic disciples abide in Jesus by drawing from his word in order to bear fruit.

This is not about just reading it, it is more than that. It is about drawing up the life giving truths necessary for bearing fruit.

How to we draw upon the words of Jesus?

Psalm 119 gives us many ways in which we abide in the Word

Keep it (v5) apply the Word to our lives

Store it up (v11) memorize scripture

Declare it (v13) speak the Word to yourself and to others  

Meditate on it (v15) think through the intention of the Word and how it matters in our lives            

Delight in it (v16) come to the scriptures with delight because you are coming to Jesus

Behold it (v18) gaze upon the wonder of the Word

Desire it (v20) have a passion for it

Learn it (v26-27) engaging our minds to understand so our hearts might be affected. If we want to feel deeply we have to be willing to think deeply.

Incline your heart to it (v36)

Trust it (v42) does knowing biblical truth lead us to trust it?

Sing it (v54) this is a wonderful way to draw up from the vine

Believe it (v66) a confident conviction that every word is true and good.

Hope in it (v74) when everything around us seems to be in chaos we can be steady, because our hope is in the Word

Love it (v97) to cherish it through meditation and obedience

Rejoice in it (v162) we can take great joy in this great treasure.

Pray it:  the whole Psalm is a poetic prayer that all these things about the Word would be a reality in his life

This connects us back to John 15

v7 Abiding in Jesus and his words abiding in us lead us to pray

When the authentic disciple is abiding in Jesus and drawing up from the vine his prayers will be inhabited with the will of Jesus.

We will pray according to his desire for us—that we would bear much fruit and he says it will be done for us.

Obedience, love, Joy, and glory are all tied together vs 8-11

Abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit happens in the soil of love.

Jesus tells us, we are loved with a perfect love, and so remain in it through obedience.

Jesus is our example!

He has never questioned the Father’s love

He has always remained in the Father’s love through obedience.

Obedience and love are wrapped up together 1 John 5:3

God’s Word is not merely commands to us; it is an expression of love.

v11 Jesus explains his desire through this teaching that they we have true joy.

Last week we saw that Jesus gives HIS peace, and now we learn he also gives HIS joy!