Monthly Archives: June 2012

CHURCH CANCELLED FOR JULY 1ST

Due to the bad storm which has cut power for days to the church and surrounding area, Greentree Church will not have services Sunday July 1st.

I encourage you to gather in homes with the people in your area to have informal services.

Please pray for people in our church and elsewhere who have had to leave their homes because of damage and loss of power / water

UPGRADES AND EXTRAS

The cardio room at the Ocean City Community Center where I work out is on the second floor. Last week as I labored on an elliptical machine, I could see the tops of the cars in the parking lot.

I casually noticed that a few cars in a row had sunroofs. Becoming interested, I saw that it was more than a few: five, six, seven – it was eight cars in a row!  This was not earthshaking information, but mundane things gain new interest after 20 minutes on any cardio machine.

Now I began scanning the parking lot. While not a scientific test, at least half the cars had sunroofs or moonroofs (is the difference between the two names something specific or is it just based on when you use it?)

The conclusion to this nifty bit of investigative work is that we love our extras and it is not limited to the automotive industry. My son works for Merlino Marble & Granite, which is a marvelous company that would love your business. How is that for shameless promotion? It is not just about my son, the owner Tim Merlino goes to our church and his mom is my secretary.

Anyway, my son has been working beaucoup hours of overtime installing stone countertops in kitchens and bathrooms. This latest “must have” feature in our homes is desirable for its beauty and cache, but it is far from necessary. We all managed to survive the Formica years. Now I am not putting down sunroofs, moonroofs or granite countertops.  Personally I am ambivalent about the sunroof, but Debbie would take granite countertops in a second.

My point is to underline a reality we already know, that we like extras and upgrades: box seats at the ballpark, wider seats on the plane, faster internet, or the newest Apple device. Basically we love to move up to whatever is better than we presently have.

The purpose of this blog is not to make you feel guilty over your favorite upgrade.  Although we should be watchful against being perpetually discontent with what we have and always wanting more. My purpose IS to ask if we are willing to apply our love for extras and upgrades to God.  Do we have that same thrill about stepping up our prayer life, reading an added chapter of Scripture each day, or taking on a leadership role in a ministry at our church?

Since it is nice to receive upgrades, perhaps we can consider upgrading how we live for God; how we serve His agenda, how we care for His church. Part of that increase in what we do for God is to upgrade how we love, serve  and care for the people God has put in our life.

How can you upgrade what you do for God?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.25.12

“A Light That Never Goes Out”

Acts 16:16-34

Life has many dark places

Try to picture yourself lying in a foul dungeon, bleeding and in pain from a terrible beating. You are accused, yet innocent.  How unfair!  How humiliating!  How painful!  How dark!

Imagine what could have been in the hearts of Paul and Silas

What is your dark place?

How does being in that dark place affect you?  Common responses are fear, depression, resentment and addictive / self-destructive behaviors

Yet, there is no trace of these responses in Paul and Silas

They may have been in a dark place, but a light was shining

They experienced abuse, cruelty and injustice, but these things did not shape them

Paul and Silas were not the only ones in that dark place, but they were the only ones singing

Verse 25 shows us that for Paul and Silas life was about God; He shaped their responses

When life is for God, the light is always on

God is never in darkness (1 John 1:5)

God has the light of his wisdom

He knows all things, and how they will end. To God nothing is ever unknown, confusing or fearful

God has the light of his glory

There is nothing God cannot do (except fail). He is never out of control or anxious, so why are we?

God’s plan is always in full and successful motion, so we can be confident

When we walk with God, we walk in his light

We are always in the light of God’s presence (He is always here)

The purpose of the gospel is to restore communion with God; it removed our separation from Him

The Deceiver uses dark circumstances to whisper, God is far off or uncaring

Paul and Silas sang “to God” who was in the dungeon with them

In your darkness God could not be closer and worship helps brighten that reality

We are always in the light of God’s truth (because it never fails)

We know wondrous truths that can pierce any darkness

  • About God:  He is greater bigger than any burden or sorrow
  • About Christ:  He went through the worst darkness, so we could remain in light
  • About Eternity:  Nothing can compare to forever
  • About the question Why?  So God will be glorified and we will have reason to praise him

What is shaping your perspective?

  • The sickness in your body, or the eternal body that’s ready for you
  • The financial pressures from a recent bill, or the inheritance you have in Christ
  • The person who hurt you, or the Savior who loves and died for you
  • How you have failed, or how God wants to use you right now

When life is for God, light shines through us

At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing to God

It was the darkest hour; their pain and the stocks were very real

For them life was not about what men do, it was about who God is

God was working in them and so he worked through them.  How wonderful!

Prisoners were listening

Paul and Silas were not the only ones in the dark

These were people who could only have been reached by someone else in that dark prison

In your dark place God has plenty of light to shine on you and in you

We are surrounded by people who are in darkness; will we shine the light of Christ for them?

 

DON’T WAIT TO PULL OUT SIN

Guest Blogger: Debbie Huber

This year Vinca has taken over my backyard!  Vinca is a pretty, variegated leaf accent plant.  It all started a few years ago when I envied a friend’s flower box. The Vinca was cascading over the side providing a beautiful frame for the flowers in the box. I had to get some for myself! I bought a couple plants and my two small flower boxes looked so pretty. After the summer was over I planted the Vinca in my garden.  The next spring it came up in my garden and had multiplied a little.  I used it in more containers, but it looked so pretty in the garden that I left some there.  In subsequent years, it greatly multiplied and I debated pulling some out of the garden but it didn’t seem like it was harmful and pulling it was too much work anyway.

What a mistake that was. The Vinca is now everywhere!  It has overrun all of the other beautiful plants in my garden, from the rose bush to the Stella D’oro day lily.

The problem is more than cosmetic; it is actually affecting the foundation of my house!  The roots are so deep that when I tried to pull it out of the garden, much of the precious soil surrounding the foundation of my house was lifted with the roots, leaving the foundation exposed for water to pool around the house.  Getting rid of it is much harder now that it is so well established and it has taken me a long time to pull it out.  Remnants of the plant still show themselves because the roots were so deep.

Isn’t this like the roots of sin in our lives?  At first it looks desirable and harmless. It even looks good in other people’s lives. We tell ourselves that if we contain a little bit of this sin to a small area of our life – it will remain harmless. Surely it won’t take root and affect the foundation of our life!

But that one small compromise in the name of something we think is important like making money, our children’s “happiness”, sleep, or avoiding confrontation, makes it easier to compromise again.

If sins were presented to us in their true despicable, ugly light, we may not be as tempted. That is why Satan disguises them with beautiful colors and gives them a measure of worldly value so they are palatable to us.

We can convince ourselves that purging the sin from our lives is too much work, and that we can control sin on our own or that God will understand. What God does understand about every sin is a truth we should accept, which is that sin is never acceptable, so we should reject all sin’s attempts to look respectable.

I am thankful that because of Christ’s work on the cross; I am not left to my own strength in weeding the sin from my life. My strength is futile for pulling those deeply-rooted sins. But through my consistent dependence on Him through reading His word and prayer he enables me to stand firm when temptations come.  Remnants of sin continue to pop up more often than I would like, but when I run to God and confess them to Him, relying on His help, it is easier to push them away. I am comforted by God’s promise of the day when I will be in the garden of His kingdom, where there will be no weeds to pull, and we will be the beautiful flowers that glorify our Creator!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.18.12

Is the gospel clear in our home?

Acts 15:1-11

In Acts 15 people were confusing the essential truth of the gospel. We know the Church must remain clear and faithful with the gospel; but it is just as important that our families remain clear and faithful with the gospel

Parents be clear about the gospel

Often our description of the gospel is vague especially when dealing with children. Children can handle the truths of the gospel. We should not short change them in this most essential area

An example of being vague: “Accept Jesus into your heart”

That is not the gospel; it is a response to it. People can respond to that statement and still reject the central truth of the gospel, because it was not even presented

The gospel is God’s answer to our sin problem. The gospel tells us what Christ has done to save us (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

In his outstanding book “What is the gospel?” Gilbert Stuart gives 4 points that should be included in presenting the gospel. We don’t need to be slavish in using this terminology, but it is a very important guide

1.  God – we are responsible to God; and He is Holy

2.  Man – we have rebelled against God and are guilty of sin

3.  Christ – he is God’s only means to save us through his death and resurrection

4.  Response – repent of sin and trust in Christ as our hope

If we are clear and comfortable with the gospel, then we can be conversational with it whenever needed

Parents be led by the gospel

What do you want to accomplish as parent?

Question:  what do you think your children cannot live without?

Answer: a personal and growing relationship with Christ

Verse 10 warns against upholding standards that cannot save

As parents we can hold up many good things for our kids to pursue, but if we pursue empty things, that is what we get

Some parents may respond “my children accepted Christ”, so we can move on from the gospel with life

But Colossians 3:3-4 tells us “Your life is hidden with Christ” and “Christ is your life”

We find life and all its potential fullness in Christ and his gospel

However, we cannot lead where we are not going

We can only lead by the gospel if our life is saturated in it

The reality is that at times we will fail our children, but the gospel never will, so lead them by it

Our children will regularly face times of difficulty and uncertainty, but we can lead them to the gospel which is a path that never goes dark, misleads or fails

Parents love the gospel

We generally fill our life with the people and things we love. Does the gospel fill our life?

Our children need more from us than truthful facts about the gospel; they need to see we are deeply impacted by the gospel

If you are not a parent, you can still be a shining example to children of love for the gospel

What are you excited to share with your children?

Does the gospel have “the” place of preeminence?

Satan will probably not ask you to deny the gospel, he will encourage you to be less zealous. He wants the gospel to fade into the background of life’s stuff. Instead let our children see when it comes to the gospel we are “all in” (Matthew 13:44)

Is the gospel and life with Christ your treasure?

If you slowly read Ephesians 1, you will see we have much to share about the wondrous graces we have “in Christ”

We give our children a precious gift when we are excited about Christ. Let our homes show that to us there is no one like Jesus!

A PROUD DAY

SEE Global staff and graduates for 2012

For many people this time of year contains the joyous occasion of a graduation. Whether it is in a kindergarten class or a grad school program, the sense of pride and accomplishment we give it is worth celebrating.

I do not have any children who are graduating this year, but I am very proud of two groups of students who are graduating SEE GLOBAL programs in Belarus.  One group are the Minsk Bible College graduates and the other group are pastors who have finished our three year continuing education program. These pastors are the first graduating class of this program.

In February, I was with the Bible College students as my brother Eric was teaching the book of Romans to them; and I have taught the pastors in the continuing education program for the last three years. Some of these pastors were my students at the Bible College in past years and I have been to most of their churches.

There is very little Bible education available anywhere in the former Soviet Union, so these graduating classes have great importance for the church in that part of the world.

Many of my blog readers have “met” these students through my Belarus Journal. You have visited their churches and joined me for dinner with their families. Even more precious is that you have prayed for the requests they have shared with us.

As we celebrate with them in this important event, ask that God will use them mightily in their places of ministry. I ask that you would keep praying for SEE Global if God gives you a heart to do so. We are blessed by God to be able to serve His church in Belarus. Much is being accomplished, but we look for far more fruit in the years to come!

WHAT IS A LIFE THAT’S WHOLE?

Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs. The people consider him crippled, handicapped and someone to pity. Many at his birth would have believed it was best that he did not live. Yet according to Nick his life is whole and he has wonderful reasons to be thankful. Nick does a wonderful job of addressing the common question “Why God?” that plagued him for years. Watch this video and consider your perspective about what makes life whole and good.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.11.12

“Empty things” Acts 14:8-18

How do you seek to fill your life?

The options are endless, so it is important that we recognize what we are using

Some options like an addiction, we immediately recognize as unhealthy, but others seem harmless and even good

Acts 14 warns against pursuing empty things

The people of Lystra chased anything they thought could make life better

Although it looked promising (Paul did heal a lame man), they tried to pursue a hope that was empty (v15 Paul was just a man)

They made two mistakes which people continue to make

1.  They pursued something that was unable to fulfill their hopes

2.  They exalted something to a place that belongs to God alone

We are tempted to think these events have nothing to do with us. We don’t chase after false gods, so we don’t think we are idolaters

But idolatry is not just a religious action, it is a heart condition (Ezekiel 14:3)

Anything that moves God over, is an idol

Not all idolatry excludes the true worship of God, good things can become idols if we pursue them in way that minimizes God: success; a nice life, home, marriage or kids; good health; security; respect and relationships

Why do we turn to empty things in the first place?

By nature we are worshippers, our hearts want to exalt something

The question is not if we will exalt something, but what we will exalt

Since our sinful nature resists God’s rule, false “gods” fill the void

God who made the world and gave life, wants to fill us, but we stubbornly want to believe our plans and self-rule are better

If our life is not biblically driven, we will make poor value judgments

We have plans that sound great, but they end up empty; so we try another plan

v19 shows how people can lurch from one bad idea to another. The same people who wanted to worship Paul as a god, try to kill him shortly afterward, because a few troubles makers spoke evil of him

When we pursue empty things, that is exactly what we get

The author of Ecclesiastes describes the legitimate pursuits of life; and one by one he calls them “meaningless and chasing after the wind”. This was because he had pursued them for their own sake. He finally learned God makes the pursuits of life meaningful

Yet each generation keeps pursuing the same things that don’t work

Einstein wrote “Insanity is doing same thing over and over again; expecting different results”

Look at the world around you, it is increasingly shallow; and those who seem to have it all are often the most empty. Yet, God is still pushed aside as being nice, but irrelevant

How can life be full?

The answer is straightforward and never changes

We must have a restored relationship with God through Christ

In John 10:10  Jesus said ‘I came that you may have life and have it to the full’. The obstacle to having a full life is our sin. God must judge sin, so we must deal with that problem first. However we cannot remove our guilt. That is why Jesus came, to die for sinners and remove our guilt before God. Once our separation from God is resolved, the life He wants to give can flow from Him to us.

Right now confess your sin to God and ask for Hs mercy to forgive you and to lead you

Make God the main character in every part of life

God made all that is beautiful, good and satisfying. While neglect of God has led to all that is empty, corrupt and sorrowful

Paul said we should turn to the “living” God. When we do, he makes life full and satisfying.

So make God your starting place in all things

  • The starting place of each day
  • The starting place of each decision
  • The starting place of each solution
  • The starting place in every difficulty
  • The starting place in every relationship
  • The starting place for establishing your values
  • The starting place right now in what you are doing

The answer to life is not complicated, it can only be Christ and it will always be Christ

He will make life full as we pursue him

 

WHAT DO PEOPLE NEED MOST

How would you answer the question, “What do you need most?” For most of us it would not take long to come up with an answer, and our answers would have a similar sound to them, because they would fall into one of three categories: (1) To have  a burdensome condition in our life changed, (2) to see a person close to us make changes, or (3) To have something missing added to our life.

In the Biblical Counseling Coalition blog, Mark Tanious delves into this issue from the perspective of people who come to him for counseling. As he helps people work through life’s burdens this question is central to the conversation. As Mark points out, sometimes people do know their true need, but often they do not.

In this article Mark does an excellent job of directing our attention to what we really do need most, which is “to get a glimpse of our God who never changes”. Regardless of the needs that press upon us, God is always at the heart of our solution, which means seeing God with better clarity is always a great first step. No matter what else needs to happen, if we see God more clearly, we are moving in the right direction – not just for the immediate need, but for wisdom and fruitfulness in all of life.

So what do you need most and how does God fit into your answer?

BEAUTY OUT OF THE ASHES

This video story from Fotolanthropy features the testimony of a young family who lost their home and possessions to a Texas wildfire, but not their hope.