Faithfulness

JUST BE FAITHFUL WITH YOUR TODAY

James-4-14

by Debbie Huber

I recently read a blog article where the author made a point that stood out to me:  “Just be faithful with your today”.  Many of us allow regrets from the past to prevent us from doing what we know is best today.  We can beat ourselves up over the things we did not accomplish or would do differently from the past.  We also tend to habitually put things off until “tomorrow” or expend a lot of mental energy worrying over the future.  These thoughts can often paralyze us so we are not faithful with the things God has entrusted us with for today. 

Are you waiting to begin having your personal time reading the Bible daily until circumstances are better (….your child sleeps through the night, or until your work schedule changes, or until summer comes, or until you are less tired…)?

            Make a plan today and begin.  There will always be events of life that seem like they are obstacles.  Make reading God’s word a priority TODAY.

Do you feel like your children are too old and it is too late to begin reading the Bible together as a family?

            It is never too late to begin reading the Bible.  Apologize to your children for putting it off and approach it as a privilege, not a chore!

Is there tension in your marriage and you have pulled back emotionally?

            Repent of your selfishness and seek God for your marriage TODAY. 

Are you putting off joining a small group until after your child’s sports season?

            Do not wait!  Demonstrate to your family that God is most important.

Are you neglecting hospitality because you are not happy with how your home is decorated?

            God has put you in your home today, be content in it and do not be ashamed to share your life with others.  He has called us to be faithful with what we have. 

Have you been putting off sharing the gospel with a coworker?

            Ask God to help you do it today.

Have you been meaning to call your struggling Christian friend but are dreading getting into her “messiness”?

            Pick up the phone today.  Do not neglect God’s imperative to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24

MAKING PROGRESS!

 

Earlier this week, I shared Richard Baxter’s list of 20 hindrances to living fully for God.

Today, I have a list from William Perkins, who is often called the Father of the Puritans. His list comes from the positive side. He gives 6 evidences that we are committed to progressing in godliness.

Find encouragement from where you see yourself in this list. And gain wisdom by adopting those you still need.

1.  We have an earnest and hearty desire in all things to further the glory of God.

2.  We show a care and readiness to resign ourselves in subjection to God, to be ruled by his word and Spirit, in thought, word and deed.

3.  We have a sincere endeavor to do his will in all things with cheerfulness, being conscience of everything we know to be evil.

4.  We walk upright in our lawful calling, while by faith rely on God’s providence, so that we are content with whatever He sends.

5.  Every day we humble ourselves before God; wholeheartedly seeking his favor through Christ; being daily renewed in faith and repentance.

6.  To continually maintain a fight between the flesh and the spirit, drawing on grace and resisting what pulls us from God.

WHY AM I NOT MATURING AS I WANT?

 

Every Christian is called to be a Great Commandment person who loves and serves God with all that we are. Yet, we all recognize that we still have progress to make.

If we are serious about loving and living for God more fully, then we need to be serious about specifically identifying what is getting in the way.

Once we are clear minded about obstacles, we can prayerfully and humbly make true progress in rising above them. This is not only important for God’s honor, it will flood your life with grace and lift your heart with joy.

Richard Baxter was a puritan pastor who wrote extensively on what it means to live fully for God. In one of his treatises, he listed 20 hindrances of conversion.

As I read over his list, it occurred to me that for the most part, this is also a list of what hinders us from being Great Commandment people.

Tremendous progress can be made once we identify one or two areas of stumbling and then daily seek God’s grace to overcome them.

This is Baxter’s list of hindrances with my own comments in italics:

(1)  willful neglect of the means of grace – this includes the habits of godliness God has told us to follow

(2)  bad company

(3)  gross ignorance of biblical truths – how can we know them well, if we are rarely in God’s Word?

(4)  unbelief – as Christians, we don’t believe all biblical truths as fully as we think

(5)  thoughtlessness – when we read the Bible or hear a message and shutdown as soon as it’s over

(6)  hardness of heart – every time we push off the Holy Spirit’s voice, we build up a callous

(7)  great esteem and interest in the world 

(8)  habits of sin subduing the mind – yes, every sin does affect us

(9)  foolish self-love and presumption 

(10)  counterfeit conversion 

(11)  living among strong temptations to sin

(12)  scandal and division in the church – divisiveness harms the church and our witness to the world

(13)  the poor education of children – parents are not all Bible experts, but all parents can read and talk about the Bible to their children

(14)  striving against the Holy Spirit

(15)  half-heartedness in religion

(16)  delay 

(17)  failure to follow through on good beginnings – this is one reason we need the example and accountability of biblical community

(18)  misunderstanding some Scriptures – bad teaching makes it harder to mature

(19)  pride and unteachableness – the Bible shows pride to be the great root of sin

(20)  willful obstinacy

THE WAVES NEVER STOP

Living near the shore has its advantages.

I don’t get to the beach often, but when I do, I usually think to myself, “Why don’t I do this more often?”

My favorite time to walk along the beach is early evening, when the crowds are gone along with the heat.

Although the people have left, the sand bears many signs that swarms of them were recently present. In addition to the ubiquitous footprints in the sand, are the remnants of collapsed castles and abandoned excavations.

Yet, the next morning, all these evidences will all be washed smooth by the ever-flowing action of the waves.

God’s grace accomplishes a similar work in the believer’s heart.

Throughout each day, sin is disrupting our hearts and minds. As we come to the end of our day, we can see abundant evidence of sin’s disturbance.

However, the Cross never ceases to flow with the cleansing grace of Christ.

No matter how often our soul is disrupted, the merciful actions of our Savior have the final say. This is the proclamation of the Prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-24

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Child of grace, don’t neglect giving praise and thanksgiving to your faithful Savior.

He never tires of pouring grace upon you, so don’t tire in imitating his attentiveness.

As we develop the habit of recognizing the evidences of his grace, our minds will turn more easily to worship rather than worry. And our hearts will increasingly yearn for the good things that honor him.

The result will be a heart that is clean, and at rest.

FORGET MAKING NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

Forget Your New Year’s Resolutions

Life is not going to improve because you resolve to try harder. But life can become increasing fruitful if you consistently respond to God who has already pursued you

If you are in Christ, you cannot keep your life from reaching its highest possible crescendo! This is because God has already resolved to complete his work in you!

“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)

“Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30)

“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7)

The intention of these passages is to assure us that God is absolutely committed to completing the ultimate purpose he had in saving us.

In Romans 8 and Ephesians 2, notice how the end result of our salvation is spoken of in the past tense. This shows us, that in God’s eyes it is a finished work – that even our failures cannot stop!

I am not saying we shouldn’t bother to put effort into being faithful.

And I am not saying it doesn’t matter if we are spiritually half-hearted.

My point is that the foundation to why we “can” be faithful and fruitful, does not start with our earnest commitment toward making life work. It comes out of God’s irrevocable commitment toward all who trust in His Son.

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9)

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12)

In these verses, we see that God is the basis – even for our responses to Him. This is not an invitation to give less effort. Rather, it is an encouragement that our efforts flow out and are held up by God’s faithfulness.

We will fail, we will face dry times, and at times we will feel utterly useless for God.

But that is only a partial reality. There is a greater reality, which is God’s resolution to never give up on those who belong to him.

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, start meeting God who has already come to you.

God has given his word to you, read it

God is here every morning, spend time with him

God’s graces are new every morning, praise him for them

Your children are God’s gift to you, let them see you are committed to him

God has established the Church to build you up and to use your gifts, commit to it

God has made us his ambassadors, be a person of the gospel

Yes, these actions require resolve from us.

But be encouraged that God makes it work. He does the heavy lifting.

Instead of a making a New Year’s Resolution soon to be abandoned. Start responding to God who is already pursuing you.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.12.16

Joseph’s Hard News

 

Matthew 1:18-25

 

The Angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce her pregnancy, now Joseph finds out

 

Being chosen as Jesus’ parents, was a difficult honor

Joseph is a deeply hurt man; his fiancé was “found to be with child”

We don’t know how Joseph found out, or if he spoke to Mary

He knows his betrothed is pregnant, and he thinks she betrayed him

The pain and “dishonor” goes beyond Joseph and Mary

Both sets of parents, their extended families and friends were all impacted

Then there was the question who is the father?  Whose life was affected by suspicion?

Joseph was a ‘just’ (righteous) man who wants to do the right thing (v19)

He realizes he cannot marry a woman who is unfaithful and “unrepentant”

But he will show mercy and divorce her ‘quietly’; which means he will not bring charges (she could have been stoned)

Joseph is righteous and Mary is favored by God, but their lives are unraveling

God’s favor doesn’t ensure an easier life, but it will unquestionably bring a fuller life

Even though the angelic visits brought truth, the complications remained

Being in the center of God’s grace doesn’t mean all will be clear to us, or that people will be supportive

Yet, every moment of God’s purposes is gloriously worth it

 

An angel is sent to intervene (vs 20-21)

God knew Joseph couldn’t be expected to accept Mary’s testimony

God provided what Joseph needed, to follow the path given

The statement, ‘Do not fear’ was an assurance that even this will be okay: you will not be a fool, and you will not regret it, for the Lord is fully in it

The angel brought 3 affirmations to Joseph

1.  The child in Mary’s womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit

2.  The name of this child is to be “Jesus”

3.  This child is the Messiah (the “anointed one”)

Anticipation of a Messiah came from Old Testament prophets, who often described a coming deliverer who would bring unparalleled blessing

This Messiah would come from the line of David, the great king of Israel

Messianic fulfillment was clearly in the angel’s words and in the circumstances

Joseph’s response, like Mary’s, revealed his character

They both accepted what God had ordained for them

Joseph obeyed, he “did” what God commanded (vs 24-25)

Joseph will soon fade from the biblical record; and none of his words are recorded

We don’t know much about Joseph, but we know what matters – he was faithful in his part

 

Matthew adds commentary on Jesus’ birth (vs 22-23)

Jesus’ birth fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies: Matthew gives one from Isaiah 7:14

God “with us” is a key theme of the Bible – from the Garden of Eden onward, God is with his people

Jesus transcends all previous expressions of God’s presence (John 1:14 & 18)

Jesus is not only the Messiah, he is Messiah beyond expectations

God himself is our Messiah!  There could be no greater deliverer (Romans 8:31-38)

The deliverance Jesus brings is also beyond what was looked for

Jesus doesn’t simply save us from current problems, he saves us to the uttermost! (Hebrews 7:25)

He saves us as far and as wondrously as is possible to be saved!

 

Matthew gives context for Jesus’ birth (vs 1-17)

The announcement of Jesus’ birth is preceded by his genealogy

Jesus fits the biblical promise that the Messiah be from the line of David

This genealogy shows Jesus’ coming is part of a huge sweeping plan (vs 17-18)

Centuries of events and lifetimes culminate in Jesus’ arrival

No one was more aware of being predestined than Jesus. He often spoke of “my time” and “my hour”

Christ is at the center of God’s plan, but his genealogy shows God uses messy people along the way

Jesus’ genealogy contains as many skeletons as anyone’s closet

The Bible doesn’t hide the mess of these lives, Jesus saves them!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.05.16

 Mary Receives Impossible News

 

Luke 1:26-38

 

Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel (vs 26-30)

What do we know about this woman Mary?

Today, we would consider her more of a girl; the typical age of betrothal was 12-14, with the marriage following a year or more later

She was Galilean, raised far from the places of power and prestige

Gabriel tells Mary, she was ‘favored’ by God (vs 28 & 30)

This doesn’t mean she deserved what she was about to hear, but Mary was certainly a godly woman

So, we know she loved God and obeyed his word, Mary’s character was like that of the Son she would bear

How God uses us differs, but the character he looks for in us is the same

Gabriel adds in v28 the Lord is “with you”

Here was the great truth about Mary!

She had true faith which brings a true relationship with God

God been working in her beyond what she grasped, for the grand purpose he had for her life

God has “favor” and is “with” every person he saves

Gabriel’s statement describes the grace and joy God has for all his children

Yet this ‘favor’ didn’t keep hardship at bay; it brought difficulties she otherwise would not have endured

 

Mary is told the Impossible (vs 31, 34-37)

As a virgin, she will bear a son!

The virgin birth is essential to the hope and power of the gospel

If the virgin birth is not true, Jesus was just another man who cannot save us

If the virgin birth is not true, Jesus was simply a good man whose life ended early and tragically

If the virgin birth is not true, the Bible is one more book of myths which offers nothing eternal

But if the virgin birth is true, God has come!

God has not merely appeared, he has entered into humanity itself

The virgin birth is the first step of God overpowering the helplessness of our sinful brokenness

Gabriel gives a 3-fold answer to Mary’s question

(1) The Holy Spirit will cause your womb to conceive

(2) You have an example of God’s power in your relative Elizabeth (vs 5-25), whose dead womb is now 6 months pregnant

(3) The ultimate answer for Mary is declared in v37, “nothing will be impossible with God”

This means God’s only limitations are his perfections! God will perfectly perform what he says, as well as what we need

 

Mary is told the Unimaginable (vs 32-33)

v32 Your son will be “great” – he will be a man worth following, serving and obeying

v32 He will be “Son of the Most High” – he is the Son of God and so equal to God. His birth will mean that God walks among us, in a greater way than He did with Adam in the garden

v32 He will be given “David’s Throne” – he is the Messiah; and will fulfill a 900-year promise of deliverance and blessing

v33 He will “reign forever” – will be more than a great king, he will be an eternal king. And those who are citizens of his kingdom, will be eternal citizens

v31 You shall call him “Jesus” – this was a common name which means the ‘Lord saves’

Jesus is the name which should daily fill our mind and flow from our lips

Jesus is the one before whom we should humble ourselves – as he did, to reach us

 

Mary’s response is our example (v38)

Her initial response is “How will this be?”

Mary’s question flows out of perplexity rather than doubt

It is okay to be perplexed by what God is doing; but we shouldn’t doubt or blame God for what he is doing

Mary submits to what the Lord has ordained for her

She accepts what she cannot fully grasp, because she trusts her Heavenly Father

She is willing to follow and fulfill what God has planned for her

Mary had no preparation for a virgin birth, for being the mother of God in flesh, or for enduring the hardships these would bring to her

But God was “with her”, so Mary had all she needed for everything to come

 

Over the next few weeks we will celebrate a joyful holiday; consider what actions you (and your family) can take to exalt Jesus in it!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.17.24

Love the church God established

 

Ephesians 4:1-16

 

God established his Church in loving unity (vs 1-7)

The bonds of our unity are rather extraordinary

1.  The unity of the Church is Trinitarian (v4 one Spirit, v5 one Lord, v6 one Father)

God is a Triune being, and each member is ever working in every believer

God’s greatest intention for us is that we share this unity (John 17:20-23)

2.  The unity of the church flows out of the gospel (v5 one faith, one baptism)

3.  The unity of the church flows into eternity (v4 one body, one hope)

The Church is a forever family

We are all part of the same covenant kingdom

So why do churches often struggle with unity?

(1)  Satan hates God, so he is relentless in attacking the church which is precious to God

(2)  People in the church don’t always understand their own identity. Instead they look at church life through culture rather than Scripture

The application of our unity is in vs 1-3

Paul urges us to live according to the realities of our unity

This requires us to see these realities when we see one another

 

God established structure for his Church

God has given specific practices for every church:

(1)  The church is to gather regularly to be under the ministry of the Word

(2)  The church is to practice community

(3)  The church is to practice the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper

(4)  The church is to protect against sin through church discipline

And in Ephesians 4 we are told God gives leaders to his church (vs 11-12)

Leaders are given by God to organize and lead local churches, so that the practices God has given to the church are maintained

In this passage the emphasis is on their responsibility to “equip” the members of the church

An implication of God’s structure is the importance of membership

The church is not just universal (all believers everywhere), the church is local (specific congregations)

Without the commitment of membership, which church are we responsible to?  

Without the commitment of membership, how do pastors fully know who is under their care?

 

God established the purpose of his Church (vs 13-14)

The great purpose of the church is to make mature Disciples of Christ

We proclaim the gospel to bring people into the church    

We press toward Christ-like maturity, so we actually look like him

God’s purpose must shape how we shape practices of church life

So an important question churches must continually ask: Do our practices bear this fruit?  

 

God established engagement for his Church (vs 15-16)

The existence of church leaders doesn’t minimize the role of church members

v16 the church is held together by “every joint”

v16 the church grows when “each part” is working properly

Churches cannot be healthy unless their members are engaged

This doesn’t mean random volunteering, but a commitment to the life of your church 

v16 also states that members most “work properly”, which means the characteristic of our involvement is not a matter of personal opinion, it is to be shaped by Scripture

A church that places the weight of ministry on its leaders will have a very limited ministry

So it is important that members have clarity about the doctrines of church, otherwise their involvement will be directed by opinion rather than Scripture

When it comes to church life, it is meant to be our life

JESUS IS WORTH IT!

2016-wow-jesus-is-worth-it-art

This Sunday will kick off our Annual Missions Conference Week.

This is an exciting as well as a vital time in the life of our church.

We have opportunity to get to know some of our mission partners, and we learn how we can become more connected with the glorious work of the gospel both near and far.

This year’s conference is entitled “IS JESUS WORTH IT?”. We know the answer, but we still need encouragements in living as if Jesus is always worth it.

Make sure you and your family participate in as many events as you can!

Sunday, October 2nd 

     8:30 & 10:30 am   Pastor Pat Tedeschi Preaching

  Monday, October 3rd     

    7:00 – 8:30 pm   Meet & Greet Dessert Night

An evening spent getting to know our new missionaries Fred & Dawn Weindelmayer via a Skype interview.  Bring a dessert to share.

 Wednesday, October 5th

    5:30 – 6:15 pm   Our Famous International Meal

Enjoy cuisine from around the world.

     6:30 – 8:00 pm   Movie “Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places” 

This latest episode is set in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, where a patchwork of tribes live – people groups long crushed by brutal dictators and enslaved to the worship of demons. But the Gospel is setting prisoners free!

 Thursday, October 6th 

    8:15 – 9:15 am   Prayer Breakfast

Enjoy breakfast & pray for our Missionaries.

    9:30 – 11:00 am   Women’s Bible Study

       Featuring an interview with church planter Katie Eck of New City Fellowship in Atlantic City

Friday, October 7th

    5:45  – 10:00 pm   Youth Night

Food, games, and a presentation by church planter Peter Eck at New City Fellowship in Atlantic City.

       Saturday, October 8th

    9:00 – 12:00 pm   “Being Witness: Understanding & Applying Our Identity as Witnesses of Christ” Seminar & Continental Breakfast

A seminar by Jeff Boettcher, Lead Pastor of Christ Church South Philly (SGC).   Breakfast provided.

 Sunday, October 9th

     8:30 & 10:30 am   Pastor Peter Eck Preaching

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