Trust

PRESSED FROM EITHER SIDE

Have you ever felt pressed in by suffering?

If you are breathing the answer is yes, and most likely you have felt the pressing burden of sufferings that press in at more than one direction at once!

In their book “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”, John Piper and Justin Taylor walk us through the unbiblical perspectives we often have during times of suffering, and the biblical perspectives that should replace them.

At one point in the book, they present opposite ways in which Satan fools and ensnares people:

“Satan enslaves people in two ways. One way is with the misery and suffering that comes from making us think there is no good God worth trusting. The other way is with pleasure and prosperity, making us think we have all we need so that God is irrelevant.”

As you read this, you may not fully fall into either of these categories. However your thinking may be touched by one or the other in times of difficulty and prosperity. So why not firm up your thinking today.

1.  How has God proven Himself to be trustworthy – no matter what happens?

If you have these reasons clear and in the forefront of your mind, you will be able to more easily brush aside the doubts that Satan will try to slip into your thoughts at some point in the future.

To strengthen myself against having unworthy thoughts about God, I daily preach to myself the greatness, the perfections and the faithfulness of God. Since there is a wealth of items to declare, each day my praise to God is different.

2.  How has your experience with possessions and success revealed to us that earthly benefits are short lived and contain burdens within them?

We should be convinced by now that we desperately need God every day and in every area of life. It is not simple that we need God to come along and give us a boost every now and then – we have a deep need for God to be at the center of all we are and all we do.

To strengthen myself against sliding into attitudes of self-sufficiency, I preach to myself the realities of God as the source of all that is good, and the sustainer of all that is!

I readily admit my limitations, yet try not to be (overly) discouraged by them; because I am human, but my God is beyond measure.

Child of God, even when you are running late to begin the day – you always have time to declare the praises of God!

The One who has blessed you in Christ, and will remain wondrous in all things today.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.26.16

Hope always comes down to Jesus

 

John 16:25-33

 

The disciples finally think they understand Jesus’ Farewell Discourse

Jesus had been talking about his leaving, which left them perplexed

But in v28 when Jesus talks about the Father sending him into world, they think “Now we get it”!

“We know” and “We believe” that you came from God

 

Jesus questions the strength of their belief

He asks the rhetorical question: “Do you now believe”

Context of entire passage “Do you fully believe I am of God?”

Your actions will show a deficiency, when you scatter in fear and abandon me alone

Notice the connection between Jesus’ plain speaking and their scattering

They will both take place in the ‘hour’ that is ‘coming’

Jesus uses this expression, “the hour is coming” several times in John

It is always in connection with the events and aftermath of the cross

The events of Jesus’ death would bring about his plain speaking (vs 25)

The events of Jesus’ death would see the disciples abandon him

Why is this connection made concerning what happens at that “hour”?

Scripture is making a point of enormous importance!

What takes place in “the coming hour” falls on Jesus alone

The weight of all the events of the cross, and so the gospel, are carried fully by Jesus

The gospel was not strengthened or helped by the efforts of the disciples or any other earthly power

The entirety of the gospel’s work and our hope is in Jesus “alone”!

 

Jesus didn’t end the Farewell Discourse with v32

1.  Jesus’ being abandoned and alone was not the whole story (v32b-33)

Jesus would not be abandoned by the Father

God continued to be and always is, the main character in all our circumstances

What Jesus says in v32 is as fully true for us as it was for him!

Jesus would not be overcome by the world

Everything that defeats us, Jesus fully conquered – this includes sin, death, the world and Satan

Every good thing we desire, he made possible – this includes peace, hope, life, joy

 Everything Jesus accomplished is shared by everyone who is “in Christ”

2.  The Disciples’ misunderstanding and failure was not whole story about them

They did know who Jesus is

They did believe – their actions didn’t always show it, but their hearts were his

They did overcome the world – their salvation arose and came out of the tomb with Jesus

They did become men of faithfulness and fruitfulness

 

How do we apply the Farewell Discourse?

1.  Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”; he is our only hope: If you believe it, then live that way!

Take your highest hope and replace it with Christ. If you only have him, is that enough?

What are activities you treat as “must be done” or goals that “you must fulfill”? Make them about Jesus

 2.  Jesus has overcome the world: If you believe it, then live that way!

Answer temptation with accusation! Declare its lies, emptiness and ugliness

Stop being discouraged by weakness, Christ is our strength

Stop trying to be the great fixer, that’s what Jesus does

We are wealthy in grace, so exchange our whining for thankfulness and kingdom action

3.  We are not aloneIf you believe it, then live that way!

Don’t just call for help during difficulty, talk with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are always here!

Develop the habit of calling on the Holy Spirit throughout the day

Engage in biblical community, so you are regularly encouraged toward God

4.  We will have tribulation, but still can have peaceIf you believe it, then live that way!

Preach the gospel truths about our future in Christ to yourself every day; and then give praise for those truths

Actively give your concerns into Jesus hands, treat them as primarily his concerns

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.12.16

‘Joyful Bewilderment’

John 16:16-22

God, I don’t understand!  Lord, what are you doing? What does this mean?

You have probably had these thoughts, and in Jesus’ Farewell Address, we find his disciples asking those questions

 

Jesus’ disciples are bewildered

They are bewildered about statements we easily understand

It’s easy for us to understand now, because we know what happened

The disciples understood the words Jesus used, but not the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ of his leaving and return

It would not be until Jesus works were complete, that their understanding would be full

According to v19, Jesus knew exactly how they were struggling

Yet, he doesn’t give them a specific answer about what he meant by “a little while”

Instead, Jesus gives them a big picture answer about how it all ends

       Jesus knows his actions will eventually answer their questions

       Knowing the big picture will serve them in all life’s confusing and painful moments 

We want the immediate details about our circumstances and we complain to God when we don’t have them

 God does far better than give us the immediate details; he fills his Word with big picture clarity

 

Let’s look at Jesus’ ‘big picture’ answer (vs 20-22)

We will face what is painful and doesn’t seem to make sense – it’s unavoidable

(1)  We will find ourselves bewildered at times by life events

          Our world rejects the rule and truth of God, so we are surrounded by senselessness

          To think we won’t struggle is unbiblical; but so is struggle without hope (compare vs 20 and 22)

(2)  We will find ourselves struggling at times over God’s Word

          Much of God’s word runs against the common human perspectives of self

          Living with a biblical perspective only makes sense in light of the big picture of eternity

Jesus saw the disciple’s struggle to make sense of life

He cares about our struggle, but like small children, we simply cannot grasp it all now 

He has clear and excellent answers, and we will see them ‘in a little while’

        Until then, God has given us sufficient answers for now in the gospel and its promises

        Until then, God is giving us abundant grace now for the active presence of the Holy Spirit

All our sorrows will be transformed to joy

Jesus gives hope in his leaving by assuring them of his returning

       The return of his resurrection – when sin and death are defeated

       The return of his second coming – when our faith and his kingdom are made perfect

All our questions will be answered when we see Jesus

       Because the answers are all fulfilled by Jesus

       If we truly know Jesus, that should hold us for now!

Jesus uses child birth as an illustration of our big picture realty (v21)

       The real pain we have in life now, is producing an overwhelmingly greater joy forever

       This should encourage us in how we walk through what is now painful

Jesus gives 3 big picture reasons why we can take joy now (v22)

1.  We will see Jesus

The impact of this is multifaceted

       The glory and wonder of his presence will be pure joy

       His coming brings the perfections of life in his kingdom

       When we see him we shall be like him (1 John 3:2)

2.  Our hearts will rejoice

This is because every gospel fulfillment will completely satisfy us

       In Jesus’ kingdom we will all be Great Commandment people

       We will enjoy the fullest possible fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

3.  No one will take our joy

No one who opposes Christ and our life in him, will be left standing

Christ’s kingdom will be perfect, eternal and undisturbed

 

Believer, joy is how all things end for you – including every pain, struggle and question

REAL ANSWERS TO ANXIETY

Do you ever worry?

If you are a breathing member of humanity, you have problems that look (and perhaps are) fearful. Anxiety is one of the most shared and common of human experiences.

Our experience is different in the degree to which anxiety dominates our emotions, but we are all touched by it.

Yet, the Bible tells us that we should not remain in a place of anxiety. In Philippians 4:4-7, the Apostle Paul gives us this biblical council:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Paul even gives us direction on how to overcome our anxiety – replace it with praise and prayer.

You have probably tried that with mixed results. The problem is not that Paul gives faulty direction, but that we are weak vessels.

Part of our problem is that we listen to the voices in our head which insist that a full blown 5 alarm anxiety siren is the correct response to our current disturbance.

Justin Taylor wrote an excellent article entitled 8 Arguments for Why You Should Be Anxious Today (and How the Bible Responds)”. Justin points out that the real battle in these times is between belief and unbelief.

His premise is quite helpful, but what I appreciated most in his article was the way Justin listed 8 arguments our minds give for worrying, he then briefly presents an opposing truth from God to defeat each one.

Justin has provided us with a useful article that is great for sharing!

JUST AS HE SAID

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said  Matthew 28:5-6

I think each of us needs this same reminder to take to heart what Jesus has “said”

Every word our Lord has spoke is precious and true. Yet how many words from his mouth have you forgotten?  What has Jesus already said, that would would minister to your heart today, but it has fallen from your attention?  And what has your Savior done that proves to you his goodness and faithful remembrance of you?

Give timto remember that Jesus always remembers you.

Reflect upon how he always fulfills what he has said. 

Thank him for the amazing display of what he has already manifested to you out of his love and mercy. 

Do you embrace the title of “believer”? Then live in expectation that Christ has spoken wonderful truths about his purposes for you today, and that he always does what he says!


QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU #4

Have you noticed that life so often seems to be a battle? Instead of out into the world, it can feel like we are going off to war!

A normal day can be like a walk through a briar patch with thorns clawing at us from every side. And who knows when the next monster is going to leap out of a hiding place to attack us.

These monsters are not just in the world, some of them are in our own fears, failures and accusations. God who has saved us forever and is committed to caring for us just as long, reminds us He is our greatest reality by asking us this question:

If God is for us, who can be against us?

Here is God’s question to us in its context from Romans 8:31-39  

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you have a confident answer to God’s question?

QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU #2

For many of us worry is as much a part of life’s routine as the daily sun rising of the sun. We think worry is inevitable, necessary, and a part of our life responsibility.

However, obeying God and then trusting His sovereign care is a much better way to approach the responsibilities of life.

Jesus sought to burst our misguided sense of needing to worry when he asked this question:

Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Here is Jesus question from Luke 12:22-31 in its full context:

(Jesus) said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

How do you answer Jesus?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 8.03.15

‘What are you building on?’

Matthew 7:24-29

Jesus finishes this sermon with a series of contrasting responses (vs 13-27). The final contrast is a parable about two builders. Jesus is pointing out two ways to walk away from his teaching

There Are Two Builders In Life

Jesus brings his theme of examining our responses to a conclusion

vs 13-14 There are true and false gates in life – Christ, or anything else

vs 15-20 There are true and false teachers who influence the Church – those that lay out what the Bible says, or those who try reshape it

vs 21-23 There are true and false disciples of Christ – those who act on his word, or those who just claim to follow him

vs 24-27 There are true and false ways to build life – on Jesus’ word, or on what we choose

The “house” in Jesus’ parable is how we apply what Jesus said

Putting Jesus’ words into practice is like building on solid rock

If we listen, nod and then move on, it’s like building on sand

Jesus warns us that our responses to him have consequences

v13 the wide gate leads to destruction

v19 the diseased tree growing from false teachers is cut down and burned

v23 on judgment day, Jesus will tell false disciples to depart

v27 the foundation of sand results in a catastrophic collapse of the house

The “storm” is meant to be understood on two levels

1. The primary meaning is the judgment of God; we see this from the context of vs 13-23

Without Christ, we have no standing or protection at judgment

In Christ, we are secure and untouchable by judgment

2. But Jesus’ parable also has implications for what happens in life now

 

Implications From This Parable

#1  Not all choices have equal value

The world accepts this obvious reality for everything but God

Every option is not equal in politics, sports, relationships or investments

But when it comes to religion, all opinions suddenly must be treated with equal value

The world uses this to excuse ignoring God’s Word

These four contrasts by Jesus warn us that choices about God are not all equal

To embrace Jesus’ teaching is automatically and instantly wise

All things have their source and their end in his reign

All other so called ‘wisdom’ is actually foolishness, for the results will be entirely wasted

A hybrid choice of mixing God and the world is also foolish, because rock and sand don’t bind together

Partial obedience to Christ is the acceptance of some foolishness, ignorance and cancer

#2  God is serious in expecting us to accept and apply what he says

Jesus reminds us in vs 24 and 26, these are his words

He entered humanity to bring his word to us – he is the Word made flesh

Jesus entered death and judgment in order to fulfill his word which is to seek and save the lost

Jesus is returning to enforce his word (and this parable)

There is no hope in any pursuit of life where Christ is absent

Nothing will survive this life, except what is submitted to his rule

What are you depending on to keep life from washing away?

The Sermon on the Mount ends by describing the people’s astonishment over Jesus’ teaching (vs 28-29)

People were impressed, but we are not told if they put any of it into practice

What is your track record?

Do you like Jesus . . believe in Jesus . . call yourself a Jesus follower – or obey Jesus?

Putting submission off, or not thinking about it, is a form of telling him “No!”

#3  Our priority should be the foundation of the house, not the ornamentation of it

Jesus’ parable doesn’t mention the beauty or size of the house, it only mentions the foundation

What part of life holds the highest priority for you: financial security, relational happiness, vibrant health?

What are you building on with your family?

What are you hoping will hold them up?

How do the practices of daily life show your priority?

Your life may look admirable to people, but what does God think? (Ezekiel 13:13-14)

The storm is coming, what will life look like afterward?

#4  In Christ, storms are not a time for despair, because our house will not collapse

Despair is for those without hope, which is impossible for anyone in Christ!

Storms are times to display the realities of God

God upholds his covenants

We are his forever

Jesus is always right here

As we display these realities, we can share with people that this hope can belong to them too

A STORY OF LIFE WITH CANCER

the-hardest-peace-Kara-Tippetts-oatmeal-smiles

Kara Tippetts

. . . was the wife of Jason and the mom of four beautiful children

. . . cancer was not imagined as part of her story

. . . neither was it invited in

. . . yet it invaded Kara’s body and the lives of all her family

The Hardest Peace is Kara’s story about God’s grace which came along with the invasion.

Kara opened her heart and life so we could see the hard and gritty, as well as the lovely and gracious. Woven through every part is her clarity about Christ and her abiding trust in Him. It is an excellent book.

This is how Kara describes writing “The Hardest Peace”:

The writing of this book helped me through the diagnosis of cancer finding more and more corners in my body: my brain, my bones, my liver, my lymph system. The writing of this book caused me to look at my story and seek the grace to walk this hard path with cancer.

On March 22, 2015 Kara left the dust of earth to breathe the air of Heaven. Shortly before her death, Kara wrote:

My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping. But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live. I get to draw my people close, kiss them and tenderly speak love over their lives. I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves. I get to laugh and cry and wonder over Heaven. I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus—and He will provide. He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love, will cover us all. And it will carry us—carry us in ways we cannot comprehend.

You can read more from Kara about this journey with life and cancer via her blog ‘Mundane Faithfulness’. 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.01.14

God knows the oppressor and the oppressed

James 5:1-11

Fairness, oppression and justice; these are issues people care about deeply. Is God concerned?  Will God act? People have their opinions, in James 5 we have what God says

James addresses the oppressor and the oppressed

vs 1-6 His warnings appear to be directed to the unbelieving world

vs 7-11 James is addressing “brothers” i.e. the church

James starts with 4 warnings against common misuses of wealth

1.  vs 2-3 warn against hoarding wealth: The unsatisfied pursuit of having more

This is someone whose hope is in wealth, without eyes for God’s kingdom

Hoarding ignores that the world belongs to God and we are his stewards

2.  v4 warns against defrauding others:  Dishonesty to increase wealth

The text uses the example of employees, but it could also be customers

3.  v5 warns against self-indulgent lifestyles

The focus is on our use of wealth rather than on the amount of it

4.  v6 warns against financial oppression

This is when the pursuit of more damages people’s lives

These warnings can be condensed into two basic indictments:

(1)  If you are depending on wealth, it will fail you

(2)  Don’t be deceived by earthly success, because sin will be judged

Although these warnings are for the unbelieving world, we are to examine ourselves

Even if our guilt is far ‘milder’, God is displeased by any form of it

The main issue isn’t wealth itself, but wealth that ignores God

Wealth doesn’t make us sin, but it is filled with opportunities for sin (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

We protect ourselves through the pursuit of being stewards for God (Matthew 6:19-21)

Randy Alcorn writes in his excellent book The Treasure Principle:

“Giving is the antidote to materialism”

Our giving is a central part of godliness

Do you ever seek God concerning your giving?

James gives encouragement to the church (v7)

God who sees the oppressor, also has a heart for the oppressed

Just as the rich need to have an eternal justice perspective (v9 the Judge is at the door)

So the oppressed need an eternal blessing perspective (v7 the Lord is coming)

It is easy to be discouraged when we can clearly see and feel  oppression

Patience is needed because the world is filled with people who fulfill vs 1-6

Patience is appropriate because Christ is “coming” (v7)

The injustices of the world are not an endless turning wheel

As we wait in anticipation of Christ with these attitudes:

1.  Be Patient (mentioned four times)

The illustration of the farmer tells us our struggles are only for a season

This patience keeps us from losing hope: we are confident about what’s ahead

This patience keeps us from losing focus: we live by what’s coming

2.  Establish or strengthen your heart v8

We are not just “getting by”, we have the wealth of gospel blessings (Ephesians 1)

We have exciting and meaningful purposes to plunge our life into – this includes being a worshiper

3.  Don’t “grumble” against fellow-believers (v9)

Grumbling causes us to join the oppressors

If we have the gospel, grumbling becomes an accusation against God

And the Judge who stands against the sins of vs 1-6, stands against this too

We are to exchange being complainers to become exhorters for Christ!

James provides wonderful encouragements that make those attitudes possible

1.  Jesus is near (vs 8-9)

No believer is far from Christ’s presence or his fulfillments

2.  Jesus is purposeful (v11)

Do you trust God in his purposes?

That he will fulfill them?

That they are good?

We have great examples in Scripture (v10-11)

We are not the first generation to suffer and struggle

From the distance of time, we can see that God did not fail his people in the past

Don’t you want to be an example for generations that follow us?

3.  Jesus is coming! 

This is a reality which looms over all our struggles and all our oppressors

Do we live as if we will see Jesus?

And what difference should that make?