Monthly Archives: March 2012

GROWING IN TOUGH PLACES

We may recognize that difficult times are growing times, but we still don’t want to go through them. On the Desiring God blog, Jon Bloom has a good article on growing in difficult places.

Jon uses an interesting title for his article “God Loves Good Wine”. He is referring to the end product of persevering through difficulties. All of us go through difficulties, so only makes sense to use those times well. And since many people spend a significant portion of their life in hard situations, it would be very wise to have a healthy perspective about our struggles. Take the time to read this short article that presents great truth.

WHY ARE WE HERE?

According to the Westminster Catechism, the correct answer is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”.  It is a definition that has stood the test of time. But what does it mean? How are we to glorify God?

We glorify God in two broad categories:

(1)  We glorify God in how we respond to him

As worshippers, we respond to God’s glorious nature and works.  God is praiseworthy in every aspect of his being and in all of his actions. This worship is not just by the praise of our mouth. Romans 12:1-2 informs us that worship is meant to be how we live for God in everyday life. To put it succinctly, we glorify God when we put him first.

(2) We glorify God in how he has dealt with us

We, who opposed God and were under condemnation, have been set free because the Son of God took our nature in life and then took our guilt in death. Yet, we were not simply released from wrath; God brought us as near to himself as possible through adoption into his family!

Even though we are weak, frail and obstinate creatures, we now bring glorify to God by the astonishing measure of grace he has brought to us.

Yet, we keep trying to find our purpose in the things that we accomplish. But that is a backwards and man-centered approach to life. Should we not agree with Romans 11:36 that “from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever”? If our answer is “yes”, then our purpose is God. Our life is from him, and through him and to him.

Is worship a major priority of your daily life?

Do you think that putting God first throughout the day is at the heart of why you exist?

How often do you glorify God for the wonderful realities of his gospel?

These may not be the questions that the world contemplates when it considers the reasons for our existence, but the answers to these questions should be dear to us.

TOO CLOSE TO THE TRUTH?

The zany minds at Sacred Sandwich.com posted this barbed humor last summer. I wish the sentiments they are mocking, were rarely found in the lives of real believers.

Even if only traces of this approach to life are found in your heart, it is time to make a fresh commitment to walk in a manner worthy of our great salvation and our glorious Lord.

And if this attitude shouldn’t be in our heart, then why waste time listening to preachers who allow it to infiltrate their teaching?!

VISUAL THEOLOGY

My wonderful wife won a free trip to Florida. Now I am not implying that my wife is wonderful because I get to go on this swell trip. It is just another way in which hanging around her has poured blessing into my life!  All this does mean there was no sermon yesterday to gives us Leftovers today.

Instead I am sharing a chart that comes from the Challies blog. Tim Challies has come up with a series of neat graphics he has entitled “Visual Theology”. We all learn in different ways and these visuals may be extra helpful for you. You can see them all (and keep looking for new ones) at CHALLIES.COM.  Just type “visual theology” into the search box at the top right. He also has book giveaways every Friday.

This particular graphic helps us to have a well rounded understanding of God’s character, which is necessary if we want to properly understand ourselves, our world, how salvation works and how it should be lived out! Click on the chart to make it bigger.

 

NEVER LOOK AWAY

Our church has recently learned a Sovereign Grace song entitled “Shine into Our Night”. There is a line from that song which strikes me every time I hear it: “We’ve seen your glory Lord, and looked away”.

We have only seen part of the Lord’s glory, but the part we have seen should be riveting to us!

God shows his glory in creation:  He spoke into existence uncountable stars extending over immeasurable distances

God shows his glory in beauty:  From snowflakes to symphonies; from waterfalls to chocolate, God made us to delight in sight, sound, color and flavor

God shows his glory in life: Caterpillars become butterflies; acorns become oak trees; and each newborn baby has an eternal soul

God shows his glory in himself:  When time did not exist there was only and always God. He created and sustains all things, yet has never exercised effort. Neither power nor wisdom can exist outside of him.

God shows his glory in the gospel: Eternal God stepped forever into humanity; God with us became sin for us; the blood of God dripped to the ground; and death was slain with its own sword

God shows his glory in what the gospel purchased:  Rejecters of God become glorified by God; mockers of Christ will reign with Christ; children of wrath become children of God; and those who had no reason to hope have no reason to doubt

So much glory to see, yet the accusation within that song is not misplaced, we do look away.

What could cause us to turn our eyes from incomparable glory?  The deceit of sin and love for self. Experience has taught us that sin and self cannot deliver all they promise, and that the joys of God run deepest. Yet, we still are capable of looking away.

Our experience with God’s glory is like the experience a fish has with water. We have never known life without it. Like the fish, we stop thinking about the reality in which we constantly live.

Because of our self-absorption and short-sightedness, we need to pursue a vivid recognition of God’s glory. We do not have far to go with our thoughts to see the Lord’s glory, but our forgetfulness requires that we go there consistently.

Looking upon the glory of the Lord is a daily discipline that pays back richly in peace, hope, joy, consistency and a growing love for him. The best way to look upon the Lord’s glory is to praise him for the glories you know and thank him for the graces he has given.

How wonderful it would be if our hearts could simply sing, “Your glory Lord, we see!”

TRAINING FOR GODLINESS

Guest Blogger: Debbie Huber

When my children were small I remember struggling to “find the time” to read the Bible and pray.  Many of you can probably relate to the seemingly good excuses why it can be too difficult to be consistent with our personal time with the Lord:  “I am just too tired in the morning.”  “I have to make breakfast, or lunch, for someone.”  “I have to throw in one more load of laundry.”  “I will be late for work.”  “I try to do it at bedtime but I fall asleep!”  And the list goes on……

Several years ago, while reading the book by Barbara Hughes, “Disciplines of a Godly Woman”, God showed me that I was letting habits and other daily tasks become more important than my time with my God and the pursuit of growing in godliness.

Barbara pointed to Hebrews 12:1. “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

What are we choosing to do that hinders our time with the Lord?  Maybe you hit the snooze button a few times, or you have to read the newspaper or check email first thing in the morning.  God showed me that I was choosing that few extra minutes of sleep over my time with him!

I Timothy 4:7 says, “Train yourself to be godly.”  Running a race takes discipline and hard work.  If a runner was training for a marathon, but never actually made it out to run because he hit the snooze button or had to check Facebook first, he would never make it past the first half mile!

Training involves starting with a training schedule and a plan to make it work.  Schedule the time with the Lord into your day.  Identify the hindrances to spending time with the Lord and make a plan to work around them. Then pray and ask God for His grace to help you stick to the plan!  Maybe you need to go to bed a little earlier or set up the coffee and get the breakfast ready the night before.  Set up your schedule to do the laundry at a different time.  Don’t even turn on the computer first thing in the morning so you are not tempted to check email or Facebook.

We discipline ourselves for godliness because we love God and we want to know Him better.   John Wesley expressed it well:  “Give me grace to study Thy knowledge daily that the more I know Thee, the more I love Thee.”

After setting the alarm earlier and not hitting the snooze button, I found that I don’t really miss that little extra sleep once I sit down and open my Bible.  There will be days where we are more tired than others and we won’t always have the same zeal in our time with the Lord every day, but with consistency and discipline, we will cherish and see the irreplaceable value of this precious time with God.

 

DREAMS THAT COME TRUE

What do you dream about? I don’t mean the bizarre morphing dreams that inhabit our sleep, but the daydreaming that weaves its way through our waking hours.

These dreams are typically focused on one central character. Someone we know well and love obsessively. We daydream about ourselves.

In these fantasies we are heroes and happy. We perform wondrous deeds and are respected by an adoring world. Life goes our way and we get what we want. In other words we dream about a world and a life that is far from reality.

Why not change the focus of our dreaming and imagining to an even more wonderful world that actually is real. Replace those imaginary reflections on life, for thoughts that are more wonderful, not just in their magnitude, but in their reality.

Try dreaming about the glorious promises God has committed himself to fulfilling in the life of every believer. Daydream about loving God without restraint. Picture yourself so in love with God and his character, that you never have a thought that is detached from him. Consider what it will be like to never experience evil, disappointment, pain, fear or conflict. Dream about a city where everyone you know is everything God’s word calls us to be.

I do not say this from the perspective of imagining your way into perfection. My point is that we have many options concerning what we can dream about. Instead of daydreaming about a world where we are magnified for our sake, why not dream about a world where you are glorified for Jesus sake.

Next time you read a description in God’s word about how we should live. Picture what it will be like to live in the fulfillment of them. Next time you are tempted (yes, that is what it is) to dream about you being the center of your world, exchange those thoughts for ones in which you love and serve God the way he deserves.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.19.12

 

“We are part of God’s plan” Acts 9:1-22

What makes people angry at the gospel?

‘Gospel’ means ‘good news’.

It tells us our sin can be forgiven, and we can have an unbreakable relationship with God. And all the gospel offers, is free to anyone who puts their faith in Christ

What is there is dislike, let alone reject in the gospel message?

Yet many ridicule and even rage at the gospel

To some it’s foolish:  the gospel seems detached from life’s realities

To others it’s threatening:  the gospel claims too much for Christ (he is the only means of salvation) and too much from us (he wants all our heart and life)

Saul was among those who saw the gospel as a threat

As a Pharisee, he gave great emphasis to protecting the law of Moses by adding many conditions to it. Saul had learned to trust in his own righteousness

The gospel threatened his views of God and life.  Saul thought he had to persecute the Way of Jesus (Acts 26:9)

What is your view of Christ and his gospel?

1.  Are you threatened by it?

Jesus does ask for much, but gives far more. He makes us clean and whole.  He gives us lasting peace and true hope

2.  Do you think the gospel is foolish?

There is nothing more real than entering eternity or facing God. Foolishness is ignoring consequences as if they are not coming

3.  Have you never given much thought to the gospel?

It should not be hard to realize we are sinners or that a just God must condemn all sin. In our helpless condition, God took the action we cannot, by becoming a man in order to die in our place and pay the debt we owe. No one can deserve this payment, but anyone can receive it by trusting in Christ to save us

What must take place for someone to love the gospel?

1.  As with Saul, spiritually blind eyes need to receive sight (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Until then we are blind to the realities of sin & judgment . . heaven & hell . . peace & hope

When it comes to sharing the gospel, we need to give people light

Do not give them your opinions or a watered down gospel that proclaims God’s blessing while downplaying his judgment. We cannot appreciate God’s grace until we recognize our condition

When it comes to living out the gospel, get out of the shadows

Stop holding back from living fully for God. It is a giant lie to think greater zeal for God will reduce our quality of life.

2.  As with Saul, Jesus must speak to us (John 5:25)

Christianity is unlike human religion, it declares that God must come to us

In sharing the gospel, keep pointing to Christ, he is the One people must trust in

In living out the gospel, make Christ the main character in your life

To save you, Jesus came to you and he will never let go of you. Will we neglect or minimize his place in the routines of life?

We continue the storyline of the book of Acts

God has chosen to use us (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Ananias was not sure he wanted to be chosen

Like him, we face many opportunities that we don’t want to take because of fear

At other times we simply miss opportunities out of preoccupation with ourselves

Whenever we have an opportunity to share the gospel, God wants us take it

We never know what God is doing. Who knew Saul had been struggling under conviction (Acts 26:14)?  Neither do we know what God is doing inside people

God wants to use us now

Saul immediately became a witness for Christ.

As soon as we know Jesus as Savior, we can tell others that he saves!

Start taking steps as a witness for Christ and you will be greatly blessed!

1.  Make sure you clearly understand the gospel

2.  Pray for a heart to share the gospel. Pray for those you know without Christ. Pray for opportunities

3.  Engage people: be friendly and conversational, serve people and be attentive to them

We don’t know what God is doing in people, but we do know . .

. . Everyone needs Jesus

. . Jesus saves sinners

. . We are part of his plan


BELIEVING THE DECEIVER

Why did Adam and Eve believe the Deceiver instead of trust God? I think we all have wondered that ourselves. God had made them perfect and put them in a paradise. They enjoyed a relationship with Him that we cannot yet image.

But before we cast too much disdain on our ancestors, probe our own thoughts and look at our past actions. If we ever started a written list of the times we believed the deceiver instead of God . . . well, let’s just say it would take a lot of paper.

We routinely pursue old sins that have already proven to end in shame, because the Deceiver whispers “this is going to be worth it”. We doubt God’s sovereignty and care, because the Deceiver tells us we deserve better – as if he has an iota of concern for our well being.

It does not take much examination to see we also fall prey to the Deceiver’s shallow promises, at the expense of God’s perfect and faithful word.

The Mathias Media blog has a good article on this subject here.

 

LISTENING TO THE SERMON

I have often enjoyed preaching to good listeners in Belarus

Yesterday’s blog dealt with ways to pray for the Sunday sermon, as well as why that is so greatly needed. Today let’s go a step further and consider How to Better Listen to Sermons.

Again there are many reasons why we should want to become increasingly better sermon listeners.

1.  Since you are already there, shouldn’t you want to use the time as well as possible

2.  Hopefully you will end up spending a lot of time in your life listening to sermons. Again why waste hundreds or thousands of accumulated hours in your life

3.  God has given pastors to the church in order to preach (Ephesians 4:11), which means He expects you to listen. Good listening is simply part of biblical obedience

4.  We all need the challenge, insight, correction, refreshment and help that God provides through the careful listening to preaching

5.  A poor listener is a poor learner.   Do we really want our life to suffer loss because we were careless listeners?

Philip Ryken is the President of Wheaton College. Prior to that he was pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. I have heard Pastor Ryken preach and he is worthy of attention when it comes to any discussion on that subject. And having grown up in the church, he has worth while things to say about how to listen to sermons. You can read his thoughts in this article.