Monthly Archives: October 2012

GETTING REFRESHED

For most of this week I will be at the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Conference. Attending this conference has become a highlight event for Debbie and me. Over the past few years we have developed wonderful relationships with several Sovereign Grace pastors. We are thrilled with this opportunity to connect with all of them.

The conference itself feeds our souls. The worship and the teaching are thoroughly gospel-centered. We expect to be encouraged and challenged.

So what does all of this have to do with you?  First, I will not be blogging as much as usual this week, but what I have planned I think will encourage and challenge you.

Second, if you think of it – pray for Debbie and me, and all those who are part of the conference. Ask God to refresh us and lead us to be more of what He wants in and through us.

And thank you for not just regularly reading this blog, but also for the care and encouragement many of you have expressed to me. It is deeply meaningful.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.29.12

Last week I had to fill in to preach at short notice, so I had not prepared my Sermon Leftovers. Hopefully they are still good a week late!

Who do we serve?

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” Luke 16:13

God wants to have our undivided heart

Everything belongs to God and is meant to glorify and serve 

When we fail to see ourselves as servants for God, we fail to see His worthiness

God is far more worthy than anything else we can serve

We like worthy causes because we feel they give our life value

Only in serving God’s agenda do we find the most worthy cause, because it is eternal

In Luke 16, money is the ‘other Master’ Jesus warns against

Jesus focuses on money because it represents our agenda. Money is the engine for becoming our own master. The danger of money is how it’s so easy to idolize.

We often look to money to fill God’s role

We look to money to have a sense of security and peace

How can we know the place money has in our heart?

  • Our decision making – where does money fit in compared with God’s word
  • Our generosity: Randy Alcorn wrote, “Giving is the antidote for materialism”

We may tell ourselves that we are balancing God and other stuff

But that in itself is a compromise, because it implies that God has “a” place in our life, when He wants all our life!

Luke 16 tells us there has to be a distinct order of place

We do need balance, but it is a balance under God, not with Him

This means God rules over every interest we have

Let nothing be neutral, being God’s servant is all encompassing

Where we don’t make God master we will be the master

A voice whispers it’s not necessary go overboard with God, but our lives need God to be fully Lord

Many of us are passionate about the coming election because it chooses a leader over us, are we this passionate about who is Lord over us?

Having a divided heart has consequences

1. We dishonor God by minimizing His value

Rather than the all glorious God, he is God with some glory. God becomes an option for us; He is in the mix of life

What does your life say to God?

The central principle of serving God above all, is His worthiness

Worship has irreplaceable importance in making God highest

2.  We try to use God to “serve” our agenda

We begin to see God’s role in our life to be that of a genie

Like the centurion Jesus praises in Matthew 8, do we expect Jesus to take the role of Lord, and do we expect ourselves to be His servant?

We need to change how we define success, to be what honors God

If we start each day this way, then serving Him will be a priority

If we examine what we do this way, our decisions will honor Him

3. We resent God as intrusive in our life

Living for our wants cannot co-exist with full obedience to God

Are we bothered by reminders to be more devoted to God?

A warning sign is when we consider full obedience to be bit fanatical

If Jesus is our master we will “despise” other masters who seek this role

4. The end result will be wasted life (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

Jesus is the only master that will endure in eternity, so only what serves him now will last 

A well lived life serves God in the smallest things (Luke 16:10)

Being faithful in little things demonstrates that He is truly Lord of all!

How do you view God’s role in “very little” things?

An encouragement to us is that this is the pathway to being faithful in “very much”

If God is not Lord, our efforts will serve what opposes God

Luke16 says we cannot serve two masters, because they have different wills

In areas of life where God is not our Lord, another agenda is leading us

Where is God less than first in your life?

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND LISTENING

Joe Lechner had written an article for the Sovereign Grace Blog on the topic of ‘The Holy Spirit and Preaching”. Afterward that got him thinking about how some of those truths apply for us when we listen to the preaching of God’s word:

“I think there is as much, if not more, application to be had here for the hearer of God’s Word than the preacher of God’s Word. It is the hearer that is desperate for the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit just as much as the preacher.”

The whole point God has for calling men to preach is that He also calls people to listen. Since Scripture says faithful preaching is precious and should be honored, the implication is that faithful listeners are precious and that habit should be honored.

“I think a lot of people have a category for Spirit-empowered preaching, but I wonder how many people really have a category for Spirit-empowered listening.”

The person in front of the congregation gets the most attention, but those who are listening have an opportunity to honor God by the way in which they listen. Since we are all aware of how much we battle to live in ways that please God, we should grab every opportunity we have with both hands . . or in this case, both ears!

 “I wonder how often the average person arrives on Sunday morning having sought the Lord to be freshly filled with Holy Spirit so that they might hear – truly HEAR – the Word of God preached that morning.”

I am very thankful that I preach to a church family that is filled with good listeners. Whenever we have a guest preacher, I can confidently say they will find the people easy to preach to. But before we puff out our chests in self-congratulation, we have room for improvement as hearers and doers of God’s word. We all have left some truths and applications on the floor which still need to be picked up and put into use.

An encouragement to take with us, is that if we failed last week, we can freshly seek the Holy Spirit’s involvement in how we listen this week. And with the magic of sermons online, we can even go back and get a redo on messages we need to hear again.

God is looking for His people to serve Him with faithfulness, but that is not fully possible until we first become faithful listeners!

If you would like to read Joe Lechner’s entire article you can find it here

 

HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOUR PASTOR

Just like you, pastors are easily and often discouraged – and when we are not discouraged, the temptations to be so are nipping at our heels. Today’s subject may seem like a self-serving blog article, which to some degree it is. But I think you will agree by the time you read it all, this is a Church-serving blog article!

Some of a pastor’s deepest discouragements are the struggles within the church to become more of what God desires in us and wants to do through us. A wonderful way to encourage your pastor is to be consistently faithful in church life. This does not mean you should feel pressured to carry the load, but that you are more often in the solution column than in the problem column.

The Ordinary Pastor Blog has a pretty good list of eleven ways you can encourage your pastor. You can read his thoughts here. But don’t be overwhelmed, I’ll be satisfied if you only accomplish nine or ten of them :~)

 

TEACHING OUR CHILDREN WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT

by Debbie Huber

This is a year of many changes for our family. Jordan moved to North Carolina for school and a Christian leadership Academy, we are actively planning a wedding for Jillian and her fiancé Ryan for next summer, and our “baby” Elyse just turned 18 and is planning for college.  Time really does move so fast.  We are on the verge of being empty-nesters and right now I am not sure how I feel about that fast-approaching new role.

This new phase in life for our family has caused me to think a lot about what I still need to teach my children, especially my daughters before they head into their new roles in adulthood.

Did I . . .

Teach them how to bake a pie and make homemade applesauce?  Check

Show them how to clean the bathroom?  Check

Show them the proper way to fold clothes.  Check (even if the clothes do not always get put away!)

Teach them to mow the lawn?  Check for Jordan and Elyse, but somehow Jillian managed to miss that instruction!

Teach them how to get stubborn stains out of clothes?  Uh oh, forgot that one!

My mind is full of what I did and didn’t do. The things I mentioned above are good for my daughters to know but I do know that they are not the most important things that I want them to learn. 

One of my highest concerns is did I demonstrate to my girls what the Bible says about biblical womanhood?

Did they see me loving my husband and respecting him?

Do they see me demonstrating biblical submission to my husband out of a love and reverence for God?

Was it evident to them that God is more important in our lives than anything else?

Did they see that we will not compromise when it comes to our commitment to God and His word, even when the pressures from the world try to sway us otherwise?

Did they see that we cherish our daily time with God, spending time in His word and praying? 

Have I taught them the value of purity and modesty to bring glory to our Heavenly Father?

There are many things that I regret, such as wasted time, showing my sinfulness repeatedly, and the missed opportunities to show Christ to my children.

But our prayer is that in the midst of our weaknesses, they saw the bigger picture, that we wanted to seek to honor God in our home and that He is our first love.  And we pray that God will make our children into a man and women after His own heart.

We cannot save our children, but we should seek God to help us to raise them according to His word and to honor God in our home. Amazingly God can work through our weaknesses and failures in the lives of our family and that brings glory to Him! 

You may have failed to show your children how to live according to His Word, but it is never too late!  Honor God today and make it a priority to demonstrate that to your family. 

Thankfully God loves our children even more than we do and we can trust in His perfect love toward us. 

(Now, somehow I have to find the time to teach Jillian how to mow the lawn…..)

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

At times we can be on a course that to our minds is directly in the center of what is good and pleasing to God. Suddenly something or a whole string of them happen, and we are left sprawled out on the floor, our eyes blinking in wonderment at what just happened?! What is God doing, we were just working so well together? At these moments we are vulnerable to discouragement, anger, depression, self-pity etc and the host of active sins that flow out of those God questioning or even God denying perspectives.

Imagine if we had been in the entourage of those who served Jesus and traveled with him. He was changing the world and we were in the middle of it!  Yes, we messed up at times, but we could feel ourselves deepening in faith and the fruit of our shared ministry with Jesus was a joy beyond what we ever thought possible. Then in the middle of it, he is arrested and crucified!!

Bewilderment has been in the life of all God’s servants. We read classic examples in the lives of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David and others. So we really should not be surprised when we find ourselves sharing the experience of those who have served God well before us.

We need to decide whether or not we believe God is totally Lord. Can He can choose what He will do and have us always respond “How can I serve you?”. God is worth following whether or not we like what He is doing.

Do we believe He is totally sovereign? No matter what our eyes see, God is in control and worthy of our trust.

Do we believe He is totally good? God can never be less than His perfect self, and He is always worthy of our praise.

Ed Welch wrote an article entitled “When God pulls the rug out” for the CCEF blog, which you can read here. I hope you find it helpful.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.15.12

Is God Worthy of Our Obedience?     II Kings 5:1-15

 Naaman who had leprosy came to the prophet Elisha for healing. When Elisha sent a messenger instructing Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan, the proud man left in anger and belittled the prophet’s instructions. When a servant of Naaman urged him to do what Elisha said, he was healed.

We have a lot in common with Naaman

Naaman had a deeply felt need

Naaman was given clear instructions which he could fulfill

Naaman’s unwillingness to obey would have left him without hope

Why do people in need fail to obey God’s Word?

1.  We fail to obey God when our expectations are not met

v11 Naaman had expectations for how God’s prophet should have helped him

Expectations are one of the biggest reasons for conflict in relationships

  • Our expectations hold up what we want others to do for us
  • Our expectations minimize the perspective of the other person

These attitudes carry over to our relationship with God

Naaman’s expectations started with what he “thought”  v11

It’s amazing that we make conclusions about what God should do!

What experience do we have with being God?

  • He is almighty and eternal, which are concepts we cannot grasp
  • He is always perfect, and we know failure “like the back of our hand”

How does the greatness of God affect our expectations?   

Do we expect Christ to be Lord?

Do we expect our role to be that of worshiper and servant?

2.  We fail to obey God’s Word when we do not find it compelling

Naaman could not see how Elisha’s instructions would do any good

The eternal destiny of all creation will be compelled by God’s Word, yet we vacillate about obeying it

How many times have we heard the importance of consistent prayer and bible reading; yet are we compelled to make this our habit?

How compelled are we to act upon the clear biblical calls for us personally to “make disciples”, or to care for “one another”?

We miss so much by failing to fully follow God’s Word

We cannot get anywhere, when we only go half way

  • Do you wonder why fears and sins dominate your life: do you feed on God’s word?
  • Do you wonder why your family life is filled with tensions: is your home biblically directed?
  • Do you wonder why your life feels empty: is your agenda based on God’s word or yours?

Naaman eventually found out the fruit of obedience is very compelling

3.  We fail to obey God when we think we see better alternatives

Naaman thought there were “better waters” to cleanse in, in his country

From commercials to political campaigns, we are bombarded by promises

Yet, the consistency of human failure should make us wary of them all

While the faithfulness of the gospel, should makes us confident in Christ

Many people think the gospel is too simplistic. They are more impressed with their own efforts and sophistication

Gospel is simple truths, but Christ death which paid for sin and resurrection which promises life – are far from simplistic

Christian, does the old adage ‘trust and obey’ seem too simplistic?

God’s plan that saved you forever, will sustain you through all things

God’s Word is all one plan, we cannot pick and choose what we will follow

What is the result of trusting and obeying God’s Word?

Obedience made Naaman clean and led him to know God is real

These are things God has done for all who follow Him

The Bible repeatedly tells us those who trust in God “will not be put to shame”

It was Naaman’s “servants” who had the right perspective

Servants are trained in the perspective of listening and obeying

Obedience is to be based on God’s decision making, not ours

The greatness of God, should make obedience to all He says, the obvious choice

What level of obedience does God deserve?  And what does He get?

 

WHAT IS YOUR FORGIVENESS PERSPECTIVE?

 

I am reading Paul Tripp’s book “A Quest for More” for the second time, it is an excellent book. Tripp shows how living for ourselves is settling for a small and meager kingdom. Living for Christ is truly Big Kingdom living!

On of the chapters deals with forgiveness, giving it and most of all, asking for it. This list from the end of the chapter gives us a healthy perspective about seeking forgiveness.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you get it right.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you step out of your little kingdom and into his.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you say that the Bible’s description of you and everyone around you is accurate.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you declare that your life does not belong to you, but has been created for the purpose of Another.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you say that selfishness is your biggest sin and that grace is your only hope.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you are reminding yourself who you are and what you truly need.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you refuse to be comfortable with your rebellion.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you recognize that the biggest problems you face in life exist inside of you, not outside of you.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you are praying that God’s kingdom would come and his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you make the kingdom of God visible for others to see.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you are worshipping the King of forgiveness and encouraging others to do the same.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, your sight is accurate, your head is clear, and your heart is in the right place.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you cry out for an eternity when forgiveness has finished its work once and for all.

Every time you ask for forgiveness, you tell yourself that for all the good you have experienced in God’s kingdom, there is still more that is needed and more to come.

5 KINDS OF CRITICS IN THE CHURCH

We live in a world where many things do not go as planned or as they should. I know that my own efforts have been frequently marked by mistakes, sins, failures and ignorance.

As a general rule not many of us enjoy having someone else point out these realities. Yet it is important that we cultivate an openness to criticism. Without it we will never grow as much as we could. There are simply too many things we do not recognize clearly on our own.

Part of being serious about growing as a believer and serving God with increasing effectiveness is our willingness to receive correction whether or not it is properly given. I have found that a desire to love God more is the best help to having a healthy attitude about correction. As we ask God to help us to have the humility and love for Him that creates good soil for receiving correction, we will see God working ever deeper in our character and in our ministry.

Since we are on the topic of receiving criticism, we might as well include giving criticism.  As much as we struggle to receive correction, we may be even worse at giving it. Much of the criticism we hand out is unnecessary, and much that is necessary is done with poor timing, tone and motives.

Thom Rainer of Lifeway Christian Resources wrote an informative article for his blog entitled “Five types of critics in the church”. As you read it here, consider how you can be more care in how you give correction AND how you can be more open to receiving it.

BEARING BURDENS WITHOUT CARRYING THEM

The Bible emphatically and repeatedly instructs us to care for one another. This involves helping fellow believers who are in sin as well as those who are in need. One of the complexities of this is figuring out how we encourage sinners without enabling them in their sin. For the Bible is also rather clear about consequences and personal accountability before God and our local church.

As a pastor, I have been forced to struggle through these questions many, many times. Paul Tautges tackles this issue with thoughtfulness in his Counseling One Another blog.

A helpful distinction Paul makes in his article, is that God asks us to bear with one another’s burdens, but not carry them.

I hope you will take the time to read this article, since struggling with sin is an ever present reality and supporting one another in our church is an ever present responsibility.