Monthly Archives: July 2011

NO LONGER HOME

Yesterday, I dealt with the reality that to stand for Christ and his word often means we will not have the respect of the world.  I would like to add a little more to that thought.  For in fact our situation runs deeper than simply not having the respect of those who despise our Lord; this is a world is which we will simply never truly be at home. That may seem like an abrupt and cold statement, but the Bible makes it clear that this world is not our final destination:

Hebrews 13:14  ‘For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.’

This world will never be restored; it will never be whole and submitted to Christ.  The Bible tells us he will destroy this world (and everything in it), and make a new world that will be fitting for his kingdom:

Revelation 21:1  ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away’

Until we recognize that this world will never be our true home, we will continually overvalue what is in this world, and we will struggle with letting go of what is in it.  Part of being people of faith, is that we look ahead to our real inheritance and do not sacrifice the greater that is to come, for the lesser which now surrounds us.

At first it may seem hard to think that this world we are so invested in, is not for us.  But, it is actually a source of great encouragement, because we will regularly find ourselves not fitting in, or becoming saddened by constant heartache and the declining state of this world.

 

When you find that you are not comfortable in the ways of this world, remember this is not your home.  When you find that much of the world is consistently opposed to what you value and cherish, remember, this is not your home.  When you become discouraged with how you are treated in this world, remember this is not your home.  When you are frustrated that you never seem to get ahead in this world, remember this is not your true and final home – that home is up ahead, and you will not be disappointed!

LOOKING FOR RESPECT

In “Brainstorm”, the blog put out by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Ruse responds to the requirement by Calvin College that all its professors maintain faithfulness to the historic reformed confessions of the church. He writes:

“If you insist on the religion over the science, then don’t expect respect from the rest of us.”

Here is an issue God’s people must face up to – whose respect do we want?  This is especially challenging for those in the academic world.  If you want to be seen as being serious and worth listening to, then you had better not be foolish enough to actually take the Bible at its word.

We can face the same challenge where we work, where we play and in our families.  No one likes to be disrespected or to be thought a fool.  Yet, in light of the world’s growing confidence in shaking its fist at God, we cannot expect to remain at peace with those who take joy in their rebellion against God.

Of course, these are not new attitudes; Paul speaks about it in I Corinthians 1:27-31

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

As followers of Christ, we need to decide whose favor we desire.  I must confess I would like to be respected by the people I know and even by those who hear about me.  However, there is something that I am growing to desire far more – to produce joy in the heart of the One who came and died to save me.

If Paul was at times called a “fool for Christ”, I suppose I can be content with that moniker as well.

People Need Us To Be God’s Hands To Them

We are to be laborers in the work that is most important to God

Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus said to his disciples; the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest

Jesus clearly means to instill us with a sense of urgency.  We are always around people who need Christ, whether they are a believer or an unbeliever

Jesus wants us to pray with participation, not detachment: Lord raise up workers among us – and Lord use me.  Consider if those God used to touch you, had chosen to neglect this ministry.

To be God’s worker, we need be filled with the things that people need to experience from us:

We should be filled with love, by deepening our relationship with Him

We should be filled with truth, by applying God’s word in all of our life

We should be filled with peace, by trusting Him with our difficulties

We should be filled with hope, by having confidence his sovereignty is good

We are stewards of this ministry we have received from God.  We have received wonderful graces and truths.  Ephesians 1:3 Tells us God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”.   We have a responsibility to use these blessings from God in the lives of the people He has placed around us.

God comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we received II Corinthians 1:4

We are children of light surrounded by the blind and stumbling. We are the richest people on earth, who live among deep spiritual poverty

So what will we do with this continuous flow of God and His grace in us?  The people around you, need to see and experience God’s work through you

IMPOSSIBLE FAITH continued

Impossible faith acts on God’s faithfulness  Romans 4:18-21

18In hope (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about 100 yrs old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God; but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God 21fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Yesterday we looked at the reasons why biblical faith can survive any obstacles!  Today we continue by examining ways that we put that faith into practice

Preach to yourself about God’s glory

God has already given us all the material we need, to preach faith inspiring sermons to ourselves!   He has acted in many glorious ways to us (read Ephesians 1 carefully) for a long list).  In vs 20 we see that Abraham responded to hopelessness by glorifying God.  We often respond to hopelessness – by feeding it.  We keep reviewing the obstacles, instead of glorifying and being amazed at our God.  Ask yourself, which is the greater reality, the obstacle ot God?!

Act according to what God says, not by what we want

Glorifying God includes submitting to him. As we live for God’s kingdom, we will see that kingdom and its glory, more clearly.  Submission to God also expands our experience with God, which will make trusting Him the obvious decision

Depend on what God will do for us, not what we do for him

We automatically act as if we are the necessary component to our day.  Think about you daily routine.  It is filled with waht you do in order for your day to work. We act as if reading God’s Word, praying and worshipping are optional activities, or to be more honest with ourselves – we act as if they are unwelcome intrusions that get in the way of getting things done!  Yet all true success is what God does in and through us.  What would change tomorrow if God truly is the necessary component to our day?

An encouragement to all believers: you have demonstrated impossible faith!

You believe in the trinity (even though you cannot really understand it); you belive in the virgin birth, and you believe in the resurrection of Jesus (and eventually of yourself).  Yet you  have not observed any of these things.  The world rejects tall of these as being superstition and foolishness, yet you easily believe them. This is because you have experienced God.  He touched you beyond human possibilities and gave you faith.  Next time you wonder if you have much faith, compare what you believe with what the world completely rejects.

You have impossible faith, so put it to use!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7/25/11

IMPOSSIBLE FAITH Romans 4:18-21

18In hope (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about 100 yrs old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God; but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God 21fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Biblical faith produces hope because it can survive any obstacle

Faith can survive uncontrollable circumstances

The entirety of biblical faith rests in the person and work of Christ.  If we need to hold some control, to be content, then who do we trust?

Faith can survive the passing of time without visible change

Biblical faith is in Christ’s kingdom, not our own.  We can be confident Christ will never neglect his kingdom. When we realize we serve that kingdom, it increases our confidence that he is working for us

Faith can survive our personal inabilities

Biblical faith has already assumed we are totally insufficient (John 15:5).  Inabilities can actually comfort us, because they are reminders that we are never meant to find hope in ourselves

Faith produces hope where hope seems impossible  v18

Hope of faith rests on God being faithful to what he says

  • What God says is His will, so He will be attentive to it
  • Since everything depends on God to exist, nothing is an obstacle to Him
  • God’s plan is already finished in His sight, so there are no surprises

Some may answer, “But the hope of my faith has come up empty.”

  1. We may have followed the imposter of faith presumption.  Biblical faith is in what God promises not what we want (vs 18, 20 & 21)
  2. We may be looking for temporal answers to eternal promises.  The consummation of God’s promises are not in this world (Hebrews 11:13)
  3. We may be impatient: God promises trials to grow our character and glorify him.  He will not cut short what is best just to keep us happy

Faith wavers when we mix in other factors for why we are confident

. . . More coming tomorrow

People Need Us To Have God’s Heart For Them

Jesus response to seeing people under sin was compassion.

When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38

When meanness in people turns us off, we need to see it as a manifestation of their burden.  When people we know are angry at our stand for Christ and reject us, we understand it is because they do not know Christ.  Is there anyone else who will pray for them, if we decide we have had enough?

When the progress in people is slow and inconsistent (especially in our family members) are we patient with them as God has been amazingly long suffering with us?   We may be the only ones who will have God’s agenda for them.

Matthew11:28-30 presents the “agenda” of Jesus as compassion

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The arms of Jesus (for whom we are an Ambassador) are wide open to all who are burdened.  Too often our arms are either folded in impatience or busily wrapped around the objects of our selfish attention.

Jesus invitation takes into account people’s pain and weaknesses.  However his invitation is inseparable from submission to his truth and rule.  We share Jesus compassion, by following his approach to people

We also show Jesus heart for people by showing our joyful submission to his truth and rule.  If we neglect some of God’s ways, why should people who know us be eager to know them?  If we live grumpily and complaining as is the custom of so many in the world, why would people be drawn to embrace the path we follow?

People Need Us To See Them As God Does

People need us to see they are burdened by sin

Matthew 9:36-38 When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The phrase “harassed and helpless” signifies the condition of being worn down and without hope.   Many people recognize they are in this condition – they don’t understand that its cause is sin and neglect of God.

Isaiah 59:10-13: We grope for the wall like the blind, . . as if we had no eyes; We stumble at noonday as at twilight; We are as dead men in desolate places. We all growl like bears and moan sadly like doves . . v12 For our sins are with us . . v13 we have departed from our God,

People see the affect of certain sins, but they are not cognizant of the way sin always brings brokenness.  Sin is the root of every burden that enters our lives.

When we see people this way it makes us more patient when they act poorly and misuse us.  We see their behavior is the fruit of a heart that is not whole.

When we recognize sin is the real need of people, we are less apt to answer their problems with the same trite answers that the world gives.  Most of these answers are intended to simply make them happy with us and allow us to move on without get more involved in the messy stuff of sin.

Our touch in people’s lives should reflect our understanding that no one has hope with Christ and his gospel! Any help without the gospel is merely an anesthetic.  Anesthesia has an important place, but it does not heal anything.  We do people a disservice, when we de-emphasize their sin.

People need us to see them in their true need.  If we do not, who else will?  Think about the people in your life.  Do you pray for them and relate to them as people who are broken and helpless in their sin?

GUEST BLOGGER: DEBBIE HUBER

The Joy of Serving Even When It is Inconvenient

For most of you who are reading this blog, life is busy!  Between your responsibilities at home and at work, your families’ crazy schedules, and just trying to keep your to-do list under control some of you are thankful just to get to church on Sunday mornings in one piece!  It just isn’t convenient to do anything else in the life of the church right now.  Plus, people are messy and we don’t always have the time to get involved in their lives.

It is easiest to serve when it works well with our schedules, but don’t miss the point of service:  God uses the inconvenience of service to minister to others and to help us to grow in Him.

Serving others:

  • Shows the love of the Gospel through our love for others.
  • Keeps our focus on Jesus as the foundation of our lives.
  • Helps us to think of others and not ourselves.
  • Gets us connected to a group of believers who will pray for us and encourage us to grow in Christ.

Serving others helps us to have eyes that see those in need through the lense of the Gospel, knowing that there is nothing more important than showing the Gospel to a needy, hurting people.

I have been encouraged by the ministry examples of others:

Leona will tell you that she is shy, but her ministry is to personally greet people in church every week that she hasn’t met to make them welcome.

Jen, who has battled cancer, will minister to women in the church with serious illnesses by faithfully and regularly calling them to pray with them.

Donna, a business owner, genuinely cares about her employees and seeks to share the Gospel with them.

Sharon has developed close relationships with her fellow Sunday School teachers where they are accountable and pray for one another.

Kris, who serves in Junior High Ministry, said that this service has helped her to grow in her own walk with Christ.  She said “You can’t stand in front of teens and tell them how important it is to read their Bibles, pray and love others unless you are seeking to do it yourself.”

The common theme in these women’s ministries is the focus on serving God and ministering to others, not on their personal convenience.  So don’t wait until things are convenient to serve others, it may never come!  Ask God to give you eyes to see and an urgency for serving His kingdom.

How Do We Use Faith As A Shield?

Yesterday we examined the word pictures of Satan’s flaming darts and our shield of faith.  Today we are looking at how to use our faith as a shield.

Ephesians 6:16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

Faith trusts that God is always perfect toward us

Satan’s dart:  He whispers of alternatives to complete obedience

Our shield:  Lord you are perfect, so full obedience is always best!

When Satan attacks we should seek even greater dependence on the One who is perfect.  If we form the daily habit of praising the attributes of God, it will make taking up our shield the obvious choice

Faith sees we are enveloped by the graces of God

Satan’s dart: God has neglected you, look at the way He has failed to answer your prayers or keep you from heartache

Our shield: Look at Jesus amazing sacrifice for me, when I was a rebellious sinner

No degree of burden can equal the grace the Christian has already received. And new grace comes every day, for every day takes place in palm of God’s hand.  Whatever struggle or attack takes place, takes place in the palm of God’s hand

Faith is aware of the unchanging faithfulness of God

Satan’s dart: Look at the size of your problems; you have no reason for hope

Our shield: God chose me before the worlds were made and He pursued me.

When we examine the many and amazing steps our Lord took just to save us, there should be no more room for doubt.  As a personal habit, when I am tempted to think God has forgotten me, I pray through the history of God’s graces to me; I go back to the stories my parents told of God’s provision to them; and I thank God for His blessings to our church since I was a small boy.

Faith is confident that Christ is greater than all our sin and failures

Satan’s dart: Look at your sin, certainly God is disappointed in you

Our shield: JESUS!  We have no other answer and we need none (Hebrews 10:12)

Our unworthiness remains, but Jesus gave us his name to use!

Faith is interested in God’s treasure, rather than that of the world

Satan’s dart: You deserve more; focus on yourself; go after all you can; seek out your comforts

Our shield: The surpassing value of Christ (Hebrews 10:34-36)

Nothing we can gather for ourselves can compare to what we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).  Anything we gain now at the expense of serving Christ is life wasted

Sermon Leftovers: 7/18/11 The Protection of Faith

Ephesians 6:16   In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.

Our lives are under regular if not constant attack

There is nothing imaginary about our enemy “the evil one”.  He is ever prowling and laboring to destroy all that pleases God (1Peter 5:8-9)

Ephesians gives us an appropriate word picture of our being attacked by darts. It captures how his attacks come at anytime and anywhere.

The use of flaming darts was especially terrifying in ancient days.  Flaming darts were meant to cause s soldier to throw down his shield in fear when it caught fire – of course this left him more vulnerable to other attacks.

Satan’s attacks are just through obvious or evil sources

He uses common events and friendly people in his attacks.  The Bible calls him a liar and a schemer, his darts are often subtle.  He will use a small failure by our spouse or the impatience of a co-worker as darts.  Or perhaps he will use the surprise of an unexpected bill, or a suspicious medical test result to be his darts.

Satan’s attacks always seek to corrupt how we think and respond.  He wants us to focus on ourselves and neglect God.

We cannot stop his attacks, or know where next one will be – but we know they will come

However, we are not defenseless!

We have protection in every attack (Hebrews 10:39)

The Lord Himself is our shield  (Genesis 15:1,  Psalm 18:35 & 28:7)

If God is our shield, why does Ephesians 6 say faith is our shield?  Because faith itself is nothing, the power is in its object, which is always God.

The word for shield in Ephesians  6 refers to a specific shield used by Roman soldiers.  It was a large rectangular shield 4.5 feet tall and 2 feet wide.   It was meant to protect the whole body. In like fashion, Biblical faith is sufficient to cover us v16 “in all circumstance

Using faith at all times, means we always act according to God’s ways; that is how faith always protects us

Faith is not for use in emergencies, it is how we live

Our defense not complicated, v16 instructs us to “take up” our shield, which means USE IT!

We have already seen that faith without works is dead, so use your faith by putting God first.

When attacks come, we obey Christ, and he extinguishes the flame

A final comment on our shield; Roman soldiers used their shields to form a wall against their enemies.  Each shield meeting the shield of their brother in arms.  As brothers and sisters in Christ, the more we all keep our shield before us by putting God first, the more we add to our mutual protection

Tomorrow we will continue, by examining how we use faith as a shield