Monthly Archives: February 2012

WHAT IS YOUR MONUMENT?

The world exalts accomplishments and in the eyes of most, the bigger, the better. There certainly is truth in the value of accomplishment, but we do need to consider how we go about placing that value on our accomplishments. How do we identifying what accomplishments and in turn, what use of our life is most valuable?

One of the best places to illustrate the world’s perspective is cemeteries. It is not hard to identify where the rich, famous and powerful and given their supposedly “final resting place”. The size of monuments at death are a way for the world to identify the size of accomplishments in life. Or for some it is a final attempt to remind those left behind that they were really somebody!

But how can we boast in accomplishments that will be completely erased? And is a life really well used, when everything it labored for is forever lost? As believers we cannot think of assigning value to accomplishments without identifying how they please and serve God. We have a God-centered and so an eternally-minded perspective on identifying value.

This is where the differences between the perspectives of believers and the world should be clearly evident. In the world the standard is what affects the most people, what is most notable or what is most liked.But for those who love God, He is always the center of assigning value. We understand that trying to measure the value of anything without starting with God is a fools errand that Solomon described as trying to catch the wind.

The size of a life on earth will be known by the glory it receives in heaven. Why would we want monuments in stone, when we can living monuments of hearts touched for Christ. And an eloquent inscription carved in stone will never sound as sweet as hearing our Master’s voice declare “well done faithful servant”.

If you have had a confused way of figuring out what is worth doing, look to God’s Word to find what accomplishments He says will be honored. And here is a huge encouragement for us: God never asks or expects us to accomplish anything in our wisdom and might.

The truly greatest accomplishments on earth all flow from the lives of those who recognize nothing of lasting value is happens apart from dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Indeed, those who depend upon themselves the least will see their lives accomplish the most.

If you would like the use of your life to have great value, than greatly value the One who gave you life.

WHY JESUS NEEDED TO PRAY

No one was a greater person of prayer than Jesus. Yet, to our minds, no one needed prayer less than Jesus. This thinking comes out of misunderstanding on a couple of levels.

First, we have an unbiblical view of Jesus as the Son of God. Yes, Jesus was fully God and fully man, but in his earthly ministry, Jesus walked in his humanity. The Bible repeatedly uses language to show us that Jesus operated in the weakness of his humanity rather than the limitless power of his divinity. Jesus needed to pray because he was a man who understood weakness, struggle and temptation just like us.

Second, we have an unbiblical view of how people walk in spiritual strength. Those who seem to soar spiritually are those who know the true extent of their weakness, and their inability to live for God on their own. Like Paul, they recognize that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Jesus needed to pray, because he lived on earth as a man, and he was aware that his strength was totally in his dependence upon his Heavenly Father.  In his book “The Praying Life”, Paul Miller shows us how deeply true this was to Jesus:

Whenever Jesus starts talking about his relationship with his heavenly Father, Jesus becomes childlike, very dependent. “The Son can do nothing of his own accord” (John 5:19). “I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30). “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28). “The Father who sent me has himself given me . . . what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49). Only a child will say, “I only do what I see my Father is doing.”

When Jesus tells us to become like little children, he isn’t telling us to do anything he isn’t already doing. Jesus is, without question, the most dependent human being who ever lived. Because he can’t do life on his own, he prays. And he prays. And he prays.

When Jesus tells us that “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), he is inviting us into his life of a living dependence on his heavenly Father. When Jesus tells us to believe, he isn’t asking us to work up some spiritual energy. He is telling us to realize that, like him, we don’t have the resources to do life. When you know that you (like Jesus) can’t do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense.

(Jesus) doesn’t try to “find himself.” He knows himself only in relationship with his Father. He can’t conceive of himself outside of that relationship.

If Jesus needed to pray, what about you? If the key to Jesus life and ministry was never allowing space between himself and the Father, what does that say about what we need?

How deceitful is our heart that would give us a steady flow of reasons why we don’t need to pray now. These are hellish lies that weaken us and steal from us the glories of faithfulness and fruitfulness that God has for all who belong to him.

Let us not be fooled a day longer; Jesus needed to pray and so do you!

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 2.27.12

What Amazes You? Acts 8:5-24

We love to be amazed, it is how God made us. It is why we visit the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. In my trips to Belarus I have been amazed by pastors who endure difficulties that cause me to wonder if I would persevere.

In Acts 8:5-13 we see two men who amazed the Samaritans. Simon amazed people by doing things they could not understand. Philip amazed Simon, because he knew Philip exercised power greater than his tricks

Philip was not a man of power, he was a man God powerfully used

What Should  Amaze Us Most, Are God’s Works Toward Us

1.  The message of the gospel should continually amaze us

The gospel Philip brought to Samaria was more amazing than the miracles

Consider the glory of “Holy, Holy, Holy God”. Why would He want our eternal company?

The price paid to make the gospel possible is amazing: God joins himself with human nature forever. Then submits to being abased?!

What the gospel accomplishes is amazing. It will terminate everything we fear: death, weakness, pain, rejection, loss, and evil.

The completeness of the gospel is amazing.  We are totally and forever saved – and it’s free!

We should be so amazed, that we are always thankful and trustful

2.  What God does in us is amazing

The Samaritans who believed would never be the same!

God restores what mankind cannot

Centuries of effort by millions of people has done nothing to improve the human soul. While God brings full restoration to our life and to living.

God exalts where mankind cannot

All earthly power is impotent to reach into death, or eternity.

God turns death into our friend.  In death, the believer is glorified and becomes like Christ. How amazing that we will have the same character Jesus has. And it boggles the mind to think we will reign with him!

Are we amazed enough to obey whatever God’s word asks of us?

3.  What God does through us is amazing

Chapters 6-8 are loaded with marvelous descriptions of how God used Stephen and Philip

The greatest message of God has been conveyed to our lips!

Heaven will have glories bearing our fingerprints – for we will meet people God has touched, and even saved through using our lives

Our amazement should impel us to commit ourselves daily to his service

4.  Who dwells in us is amazing (vs 14-17)

All believers receive the permanent indwelling of Holy Spirit

Jesus did not operate by his divine nature, but in his humanity though the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2, Matthew 12:29, Luke 4:1 &18, Luke 10:21, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 9:14)

We have the same empowerment Jesus used. No believer needs more power than is already in them.

In every believer, dwells the Person who is also sustaining the universe

Do we believe, we have all we need – for all God asks?

Simon Was Amazed, But In The Wrong Way (vs 18-23)

1. Simon had a self-centered perspective of God and his power.

He saw power the same way as when people called him “The Great Power”. Simon wanted this new power of God to achieve his old results

Verses 21-22 tell us Simon’s ‘heart’ was not right.  This is true of us when we want God’s power for our agenda. How often do we ask God to intervene in our circumstances without even thinking to ask him to intervene in our heart?

What do we want God to empower us for?

2. What is the correct perspective of God and his power?

We should recognize that we need His agenda as much as His power

God is amazing because He is perfect and un-improvable.  This reality should cause us to want God’s power for his glory’s sake rather than our own

What amazes you . . is God at the center of it?

 

RESPONDING TO DISAPPOINTMENT

I recently saw a video testimony by Kaylee Breunig, who grew up in our church and is a senior at Atlantic Christian School. Kaylee seriously injured her knee, which means she cannot play on the basketball team for her senior year. This was a big disappointment on many levels, yet it is a disappointment that Kaylee has handled with grace, because she has chosen to respond from a God first perspective.

All of us know what it is to be disappointed, but do we have a clear grasp of what our disappointments reveal about our heart? God is very interested in everything that happens to us. His heart is never distant from our troubles. A question for us, is how close do we draw to God when we are disappointed? Do these situations lead us to doubt Him, or are they opportunities to show how much we love and trust Him?

Kaylee’s testimony is a credit to her own spiritual maturity, to her family, and to all who have had a part in helping her grow in love for God. I hope you enjoy her testimony as much as I did. She shares truths that ALL of us need to hear: Kaylee’s Testimony

“THAT LOVELY, LOVELY MAN”

I read the following story third hand. It originally comes from the Reformation 21 blog. This is a heart warming reminder of personal devotion to Christ and what that can and should look like to us.

Life with Christ truly is about relationship with him. Yes, there is a lot of depth of doctrine that we plunge into as we grow in the knowledge of our Lord. Yet at the same time, it remains a relationship between persons; we who are unworthy are the beloved of Christ who is wondrous.  I hope you find fresh motivation to know Jesus more personally from this article “That Lovely, Lovely Man”.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION ALSO WORKS FOR THE SOUL

We have all heard the adage that purchasing real estate is all about “location, location, location”.  Paul Tripp has an outstanding and encouraging article entitled Location, Location, Location that shows four ways in which location (and we are not talking geography) is essential to our life.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 2.20.12

“THE PROMISE OF POWER” Acts chapters 6-8

The key verse of Acts is 1:8, which promises empowerment by the Holy Spirit to the church. So what kind of power does this promise contain?

It is the power that enables us to prevail for Christ, despite our weaknesses; in a sinful world that opposes the gospel and those who live for it

We see this empowerment in the very difficult circumstances faced by Stephen and the Jerusalem Church (chapter 6:8, 10 & 15; chapter 7:55-56 & 59-60; chapter 8:4-8).

In all these settings, the responses of God’s people overcame the difficulties they faced, no matter how severe

What do we learn about how the Holy Spirit empowers us in these chapters?

1. The Holy Spirit empowers us to serve God’s purposes

At every step Stephen is able to “be” and to “do” what honors God

God’s entire will is focused on the fulfillment of his glory. When he saves us, it is so that we can become part that plan (Ephesians 2:10)

What do you want God to empower you for?  Are we looking for God to empower our agenda, or his agenda in us?

One reason we may not be more empowered, is because our life is directed away from what God is doing

2.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to live above our circumstances

Without Christ, people only have this world to live for. When the world is all you have, then life rests in your circumstances

Christ not only saves us from our guilt, he saves us to a new life

In Christ, circumstances are all opportunities to serve him. Stephen never lost sight of that greater reality.

He did not waste life by being distracted by the lesser agendas of this world. He did not settle for anger, self-pity, compromise or comforts

Stephen lived in victory, because all things to him were about Christ; and Christ is always victorious

How do our circumstances affect us?

Is our life driven by circumstances like a log bumping along in a stream, or do we live as though all our circumstances are driven by the glorious and eternal purposes of Christ?

3.  The Holy Spirit empowers us with the message that saves

In Acts 8:4-8, the believers being scattered, did not alter their life message; they lived for Christ and his gospel

We have been given authority to proclaim the power of that gospel to any who believe (Matthew 28:18-20, and 2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

Do we get the magnitude of this?

We live in representation of Christ! Wherever we go, we carry with us the only hope that people can have.

Will we allow ourselves to walk through life ambivalent to this awesome truth?

What does it mean to live empowered by the Holy Spirit?

1.  Make God your starting place, because he is our ending place

Begin every day affirming him through prayer, worship and his word

Affirm his glory and his grace to you; and affirm your love and your dependence on him

Throughout the day, answer every difficulty, temptation, disappointment and uncertainty with “Lord, I want your will, not my own”

2.  Never stop trusting God, because he is faithful, almighty and good

We never have reason not to trust him, when we keep the cross before us. See the Son of God dying for you! See your guilt pressed upon his innocent heart!  See the Father’s wrath fall in full force upon him!  See the death and the life he purchased so dearly for you!

In light of the cross, joyfully turn difficulties into opportunities to show you love him

3.  Keep seeking to obey God more fully, because he is victorious

When we bring our life into obedience to the One who is totally victorious, we will see our life filled with true victory.

Taking another step of obedience is the always wisest thing we can do at that moment

Andrew Murray wrote, “Jesus lost nothing by giving his all to God”.  Let us live in a hearty “Amen” to that!

 

MEET THE MARRIAGE KILLER

The Wall Street Journal had a good article by Elizabeth Bernstein, on the subject of nagging entitled “Meet the Marriage Killer”.  The author wrote,”It’s more common than adultery and potentially as toxic, so why is it so hard to stop nagging?”

The article which is not written from a Christian perspective, has some helpful thoughts on why we nag and what to do differently. It should not be difficult for a believer to see how basic biblical principles can further strengthen the suggestions the author’s suggestions. You can read it here.

“I WAS NO ACCIDENT”

Ashley McMillan was born with a partially formed right leg. Or as her doctor said to her parents when she was born,”Before I let you see you baby, I have to tell you that there’s something wrong with her.”

Ashley apparently has a healthy sense of humor, sometimes telling people she was attacked by a shark or a vicious anaconda. More importantly, she has a wonderful God-exalting perspective about life, including her life. She writes:

I believe with every fiber of my being that I was no accident. God did not look away, drop a thread, and fail to go back and fix a flaw as he was forming me. “Wonderful are [His] works and my soul knows it very well.” God labored over my creation. He had a plan before he started the process. My difference was deliberate. I rest in the knowledge that God created me exactly as I am for His purposes. We don’t always, or even usually, know why things are the way they are, but there is such hope and peace in knowing the care with which we were created.

For those who “confess” Jesus as Lord, do you have this perspective about God’s sovereignty and his goodness? How would your life be different, if this was your perspective?

For those who have trouble holding on to this perspective, I strongly urge you to keep your eyes on the cross. There we see the extent of God’s love, grace, sacrifice, commitment and sovereignty through the harshest of circumstances.

To read more of what Ashley has to say about her life, you can read her article entitled “Pondering Psalm 139″.

EVERY DAY ROMANCE FOR WIVES

Guest Blogger: Debbie Huber

On Valentine’s Day who doesn’t like being surprised with a bouquet of flowers or a heart-shaped box of their favorite chocolates?  Valentine’s Day is meant to be an expression of love to another person but God calls us to a love that requires more diligence and training than a trip to the candy store or a call to the florist.

In Titus 2:4 the Bible says to “train” the young women to love their husbands.  This kind of love does not come naturally to us.  We need to work at it and learn what love truly is through spending daily time in the Scriptures and with the Lord. We want to love our spouse because of our love for God, not because of what we might get out of it.

What is this love?  Carolyn Mahaney defines it as a tender, affectionate, passionate kind of love, emphasizing enjoyment and respect in a relationship.

Many wives are very good at caring for our husbands, but do our husbands know every day that we tenderly and affectionately love them?

And, Carolyn says, in order to cultivate and maintain a tender love for our husbands, we must guard our hearts against sin.  When we are not feeling loving thoughts toward our husband, it is like a warning signal that we may have sin in our lives that we need to attend to.  “The more we understand the sin in our hearts the more we appreciate the patience and mercy of God; and this in turn produces an attitude of humility and mercy toward our husbands.”

How do we cultivate this love?  Instead of dwelling on the things about our spouse we want to see change, we focus on thankfulness for the things that we love about our husbands.  Make sure that your husband sees your thankfulness for these things.  Vocalize them frequently, showing you appreciate him.

As they say, actions speak louder than words!  In Ephesians 5:33 we read, “Let the wife see that she respects her husband. “ A daily attitude and demonstrated actions of respect will show your husband that you affirm the role in your marriage where God has placed him.

Small acts done regularly that show he is the most important person in your life outside of your relationship with Christ will be more romantic than any one time Valentine’s Day gift!

God is gracious to us and delights in our obedience to him.  As we seek to daily cherish, respect, and affectionately love our husbands, God will grow this biblical love in our hearts.  Even if it feels like your circumstances will never allow love to grow again, God’s grace is more than enough to accomplish this.

So be romantic!  Encourage him in his God-ordained leadership in the home; when he fails give him the same grace that God gives to you; demonstrate joyful contentment and trust in your husband instead of fearfulness.  And affectionately and tenderly cherish him and love him through your actions every day.

Wives, join me in making everyday filled with a biblical love for our husbands!  Don’t put it off, start today!

(But I still love flowers and dark chocolate, honey!)