Monthly Archives: October 2013

SOMEONE I WILL DEEPLY MISS

Sunday, August 27, 1978 was orientation weekend for freshman at Taylor University and I fulfilled that category. We were assigned to visit the home of a staff member that day and I was in the group who showed up at the home of the Dean of Students, Tom Beers and his wife Helen.

I remember talking with Mr. Beers and trying to sound both mature and likable. It also caught my attention that they had a lot of pretty daughters (Julie, Laurie, Suzi and Cathy). Later I would discover they had two sons, Steve & Jim who were decidedly not pretty. 

What I could not imagine as I munched on cake, was how often I would be in that home, and that the Beers family would become among the dearest people in the world to me. 

Of the six Beers children, five were so close in age that all but Jim attended Taylor University at some point during my four years there. Steve was a freshman with me and it was our friendship that first brought me back through the front door. 

The Beers family is gifted with the spirit of hospitality and friendship, which I discovered on Easter Sunday when Steve invited me after church to their house for dinner. I was reluctant not thinking his parents knew about it. Steve insisted I was invited. That “invitation” consisted of Steve shouting “Kyle’s here for dinner” as we walked through the front door. I was mortified. What would his parents think? It turned out they thought another plate should be added to the already overflowing tables. 

During those 4 years I spent many Sunday nights having dinner in their kitchen. Slowly walking by their big picture window after church helped spur a couple of those invitations. Thanksgiving became a beloved holiday for me after spending a few of them on McCabe Ave. To this day the Beers have influenced the hospitality of my home.

But their love was not limited to a few close friends. With the Taylor campus only a few blocks away, the Beers house was a haven for many of us far from home. I can remember coming in late at night with Steve and having to step over sleeping bodies because all the beds and couches were full.

By the end of my freshman year all the Beers kids were good friends and Tom and Helen became my parents away from home. Helen always greeted me with a big smile, a warm hug and a listening ear. Tom provided counsel, the occasional Greek vocabulary lesson and even correction when it was needed. 

After graduation, all my vacations until I married Debbie consisted of a week at the Beers home in Upland, IN. Over the past 30+ years I have frequently made my way back to that home so saturated with love and hospitality, you can feel it walking by.

In early 2012, Helen was diagnosed with liver cancer. My trips have been more frequent since then and each visit has been a time of joy – not just in the embrace of friendship, but also in the implicit trust the entire Beers family has demonstrated toward the goodness of God. It turns out their example of trust in God has been as powerful as their example of love for people.

This week, Helen left the dust of earth to breathe the air of heaven. It is hard to think about the space in our lives that she no longer fills. The thought of her delight in Jesus’ presence, and that I am also on my way, are tightly held comforts.

The last time I saw Helen, we both knew it was our final goodbye in this world. As we hugged I struggled to choke back my tears. Then as I stepped back and saw her shining smile, I could only smile back in return. Her peace and even more – her joyous love in that moment was a balm to my hurting heart.

Today I will return to Upland to mourn with beloved friends and participate in a gathering that I wish was not taking place. Yet I also go with HOPE that is wondrous and secure!

To Helen, Tom and every member of this special family whom I love, thank you for homes and hearts which have always had room for more.

Helen and Tom in July at a gathering of the entire Beers clan

HELP and REFRESHEMENT

sgpc13_FINAL

Debbie and I are attending the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastor’s Conference this week. This is the fifth year we have attended the conference. We always leave refreshed and helped. I can look back and see several lasting benefits received through our days at the Pastor’s Conference.

Near the top of the list is the time we spend with pastors and their wives who are like minded in their view of God, His Church, and what it means to serve Him. We are eager to renew these friendships face to face. I keep up with many of these men throughout the year, but due to geography, face to face time with some of them is limited to this conference.

Sovereign Grace is a family of churches that has greatly benefited our church, by deeply impacting our pastoral team. We have gained much wisdom, insight, example and encouragement from them. And several of these pastors have preached for us. What stands out most is their zeal for the gospel as well as their graciousness.

Something new this year will be my attending a meeting led by Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Music. SEE Global in Belarus has teamed up with Sovereign Grace Music in their translation of worship music into Russian. I was thrilled when Bob asked me to attend this translation planning meeting.

Please pray that Debbie and I will receive what God wants to accomplish in us during these few days. And ask God to refresh all of the faithful men and women who will be here.

 

A GOOD REMINDER

A few years ago Doug and Lori Pearson gave a Sunday morning testimony about their involvement in Community Fellowships. I thought it would be a good reminder for all of us to “hear” it again:

My name is Doug Pearson, my Lori and I were asked to give a brief testimony on Community Fellowships. We have been coming to Greentree for a little over a year and a half now.  It was after last year’s tent service that we decided to try going to a Community Fellowship.  

Prior to that, we had never even heard of home fellowship groups, so initially the whole thing sounded kind of foreign to us. We have two young children, so we also weren’t sure how that would go over, bringing them to someone else’s home. 

Well, we found a wonderful Community Fellowship. We were welcomed with open arms and hearts.  Little did we realize at that time how our faith and understanding of God’s word would grow. 

At fellowship we have dinner, where each family brings a little something, followed by group discussion on that day’s sermon. It’s great because it provides an informal setting talk about the sermon from that morning.  It really is a great way to more fully understand the meaning of what we were told about that day. 

We also have prayer time for any requests anyone might have. Through our small group, we and our children have met and become good friends with other Christians who have given us great insight into everyday biblical based living.  This includes issues such as child rearing, as well as how to address our difficulties from a biblical standpoint. 

Our group really is like an extended family. We often plan things together too.  Our children can’t wait to go on Sundays. They keep asking us if it’s time to go yet. 

To be honest, going to fellowship has actually helped teach us how to put the word of God to use in our everyday lives. We have learned not only how to apply God’s word, but also to actually live it.  It has strengthened our application of living a godly and Christ-centered life. This is true for us, and for our children. 

We are happy to have built such strong Christian ties in such a short time. It has also inspired us to serve, whether for this church, each other, or for other people. 

To be honest, Community Fellowship has become an extension of Sunday’s morning service and we look forward to it each time

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.28.13

Is the Great Commandment Worth It?  

Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me the Father will honor him (John 12:25-26)

Following Christ makes life full because we are with him! (v26)

We all struggle with spiritual distraction

A basic benefit of serving Christ is that he is always in view

We know we need to improve our focus putting God first

When life revolves around the Great Commandment we replace our distractions with following

How amazing, that God wants to be “with” us

We never have to convince God to walk with us or care about us (John 14:3, Romans 8:38-39)

God came to us in Christ, in order to make the way wide open

Christ is always accessible to those who serve him (Hebrews 4:14-16)

When we act upon putting Christ first, our relationship with him becomes more interactive

However, our heart must serve not simply our actions

We don’t want to fall into the trap of going through the motions of serving

This is why I encourage believers to see themselves as worshippers; this keeps our heart lifted before God

There is no greater waste than to exchange more of God for more of the world

What is so good about more focus on Christ in our day?

We will be more often touched by the beauty of his character

He is perfect, so we can rest in all he is doing

He understands us fully, yet loves us completely

He is never flustered or worried; he is always in control

He is good in all that he is and does, which means good (not necessarily easy) will fill our day

We all want to be with certain people; why would Jesus not top our list?

When we serve Christ, we are part of what he is doing

Everything we can accomplish is limited, flawed and temporary

But what Christ accomplishes is glorious, whole and eternal

When we live for the Great Commission, our small actions become part of something huge

This is true when you work with children’s ministry, participate in a small group or share your love for the gospel with people

The most lasting benefits come in Jesus service, because what he does lasts

Anything done apart from God, grants meager benefits (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

We don’t truly understand what a full life is until we are being used for Christ

Even difficulty is received in peace if we see God in it

The greatest benefit of serving Christ is to be “honored” by God (v26)

We don’t know much about our future rewards and honors

God’s eternal rewards are beyond the experience of this world

So what can we say about God “honoring” faithful servants?

Whatever it includes, only God is capable of it

We will be no less overwhelmed by that honor than we are now by his grace

We will be able to enjoy it more than what we enjoy from him now

Look to the person and kingdom that is worth “giving our all”

Recognize this world is not our kingdom (John 18:36)

Are you using up your attention and energy by fighting to hold onto a kingdom here?

Let’s come to our senses if we are foolishly living for ourselves (Luke 15:11-20)

No one loves you like Jesus and no one can fill your soul like him

A TESTIMONY OF REACHING FAMILY

Some time ago Elizabeth McBane who attends our church, gave me this testimony of sharing Christ with family members. She gave me permission to let you read it too. May we all find encouragement and motivation in her words.

My father-in-law was a fun-loving man.  His laugh alone would bring everyone in the room to a smile.  He worked hard and loved family dearly.  To my knowledge, no one disliked him. To many people he may have seemed to have it all, but he did not have a Savior. 

In April 2008, Dad was diagnosed with a skin melanoma on his shoulder.  It was removed and the pathology report was negative for cancer in the tissue surrounding.  By the end of June a follow up PET scan revealed 25 lesions on his brain, two on his lung, and one on his liver.

I knew time was of the essence for his mind and competence to be intact.  I knew I needed to share the gospel with this man I dearly loved.  How in the world was I going to do this without offending anyone or being chastised from the family who are not believers?  I felt so overwhelmed. 

Then, I began to pray.  And I prayed, and prayed and prayed.  I asked Greentree church, my parent’s church and all my friends to pray.  I cannot begin to tell you the sense of peace that fell over me and the opportunities that opened up. 

I was able to secure some time alone with Dad when I offered to take him to a doctor appointment.  As I drove to get him, I prayed intensely that God would provide me with the exact words I needed and that he would accept the Lord as his Savior.  Unfortunately, my plan backfired as he fell asleep – both ways.  He had been so exhausted from all of his radiation treatments.  Now what?

A new sense of resilience came over me.  I was on a mission!  Plan B. When we got back, he was more alert.  As we had lunch I knew God was giving me another opportunity.  As I looked up from my plate to begin, I discovered he was not only having a seizure, but choking on his food.  After performing the Heimlich, we were on our way to the ER.

Part of me was thinking God help me to keep going, the other part of me was starting to question maybe this was not the right time.  I called my mom and when I was done letting out all of my emotions of the day, she said to me, “Don’t stop.  Don’t let that light be blown out!”  I went back into the ER, and told my mother-in-law I would stay with Him. 

I told Dad how much I loved him and how much God loved him.  I asked him, “You know that this trial is not a punishment, don’t you?”  He said, “yes”.  I told him God has a purpose.  Jim’s eyes welled up and he said, “I know there is a purpose and I am okay with that.”  I kept going.  I shared the message of salvation and the way to eternal life. When I asked Dad what he thought about everything I had shared, he looked me in the eye and said, “I believe.”  I replied, “Then all you have to do is ask.” 

Dad passed away that August.  I believe he is with our Lord.  At his viewing, I shared with his friends and family that Dad was okay with his purpose and was content with God’s plan.  Who knew what doors this could open?  After the service, my husband asked, “Did my dad really say that?  What else did he say?”  His brother whom I rarely see hugged me and said, “Thanks.”  At his funeral, I again stood up and shared the word of God in a reading. 

Kyle used the phrase “zealous for Jesus” in a recent sermon.  When I prayed for God to open the door for me ago, I had no idea what He had in store.  The door keeps opening.  Recently, my mother-in-law called and said “I know you’ll be mad at me for saying this, but I am mad at God for taking away this good man.”  What a conversation we had that night. 

God has blessed me with an incredible opportunity.  I have learned that when God opens a door for you don’t peer in, open it wide.  Don’t be afraid!  What do you have to lose?  Jesus is all we need.  My little light is burning . . a big fire!

HOW TO MEDITATE ON GOD’S WORD

Yesterday, I introduced the theme of Meditating on God’s Word and the two objections we have with adopting this as a regular practice. The first objection which I already addressed is that it seems like a time draining practice that won’t accomplish much.

The second objection which we will cover today, is that we are foggy on the specifics of HOW to meditate on God’s Word. Fortunately, for you, I found the following helpful thoughts while reading A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones:

1st  Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you.  You might use Psalm 119:18, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” 

2nd  Read a portion of the Scriptures, don’t read so much that you have no time to meditate.

3rd  Focus on one verse or doctrine, something easy and applicable to your life.  Repeat the verse or doctrine to yourself several times to memorize it.

4th  Analyze it in your mind by its various names, properties, cause and effects, together with illustrations, comparisons, and opposites.  Be careful not to speculate further than what God has spoken.

5th  Preach the truth to your soul to stir up your faith, love, desire, hope, courage, grief, gratitude, and joy in the presence of God.  Examine your life and make detailed application.

6th  Resolve with prayer to grow in grace.

7th  Praise the Lord with thanksgiving.

“To meditate is to pray, read, focus, analyze, preach to yourself, resolve with prayer, and praise God in a manner that revolves around a single truth of Scripture.  By regular times of meditation, you will practice personal devotion to the Lord and experience John 15:5:  “He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit.”

GETTING MORE FROM READING YOUR BIBLE

Young man reading small Bible

One of the the ways God’s Word calls us to use what we find within its covers, is to meditate on it.

“I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes”  Psalm 119:48

But we have a two-fold problem with adopting this practice.

Our first problem is that we don’t VALUE meditating on much of anything (except perhaps the latest smart phone or our fantasy football team). Mediating seems unproductive and we live in the land of accomplishment and getting things done. We feel good when we can act on something, and we measure worth by the length of our check lists.

Compared to action, meditation is just sitting around thinking about something. We don’t think we have time for thinking, and we know we have little patience for it.

Yet, how we think affects how we act and what we value. The simple fact is we are thinking about stuff constantly, but it is rarely planned or structured thinking. Much of our thinking is reactive to what pops in front of our eyes or hops into our mind.

Meditation is to intentionally choose to run our thoughts on a particular path. It is something like a trip to an art museum where we choose to pause at certain paintings and consider what we like or not about the strokes and splashes on that canvas.

To meditate on God’s Word is to pick a statement or concept we just read and pause to settle in and think about what is meant and how it can be applied. Meditation is really a statement of value. It is a declaration that God’s Word is God talking to us, and that what He says is essential for our life.

If you think God is someone worth knowing and if you believe what He says is worth understanding, then meditation is a practice worth our slowing down. Over time it will not only become a beloved item at the top of your to do list, it will immeasurably impact your to do list!

The second problem we have with meditation is not feeling we really know HOW to do it. Tomorrow I will give some practical help for that concern.

FRESH LOOK AT AN IMPORTANT STORY

As a pastor I have watched many people leave our church for the terribly sad reason that they don’t want to submit to the biblical call and standards given to the church.

These are self-proclaimed Christians who in the same sentence will claim they really do love God, but they are not willing to change the clearly unbiblical behavior or attitude in question. Quite often I have been barely able to even deal with the standard in question. This is because the person is so focused on being resentful over the fact that I would  dare challenge their sin.

At these times I wonder what they think the role of pastor / shepherd is supposed to be? There is certainly no recognition that I am also guilty before God if I knowingly ignore and refuse to deal with sinful behavior. And I certainly am not exercising love toward church members when I avoid confronting what is harmful to their soul and eventually to the health of the church.

Trevin Wax does an excellent job of turning the biblical account (Matthew 19:16-22) of the “rich young ruler” into a modern story. In this article Trevin approaches the story as if it was a young man today who tells us why he is walking away from the demands of Christianity.

I think you will see themes we often hear from people today. It’s the classic tale of someone who says they “love” Jesus, but they don’t like the church. As you read, may it also refresh your heart against the subtle lies that lead us to upholding our own will over the will of Jesus who is serious when he claims to be Lord of all.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.21.13

    “Being a Disciple Maker”                  

Mark 12:31

The Great Commission is our job description: all disciples are disciple-makers

The Great Commandment (to love God), keeps us motivated to live out the Great Commission (to make disciples)

Jesus adds a second part to the “most important” commandment

We are “commanded” to love God and neighbor

Loving neighbor applies our love for God out into the world

As we practice love for neighbor, we help make God’s true character known

Who is our neighbor?

Jesus answers this question in his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

Our neighbor is the person in our path we can help

Those in the parable who walked by may have had reasons, but Jesus rejects them

If anyone had good reason to ignore us it was Jesus; yet he still came to demonstrate love for us

Jesus’ purpose in the parable is to expand our view of neighbor

We cannot meet every need and no one knows our limitations better than God

However, being neighbor to people is to be the perspective we walk in

The issue is not as much who is our neighbor, as it is who will we be neighbor to?

This parable shows us that a key principle for disciple-making is to widen our path

(2) Widen our path out in the world

We do this by serving people around us, which attracts people to what we have to say

We do this through relationship building, which is how most people come to Christ

We do this by praying that God will open our eyes and enlarge our heart

(2) Widen our path within our church

We do this by serving the other members of our church who need encouragements as we do

We do this through relationship building with an intentional focus to grow together

We do this by praying through any difficulties in relationships with fellow members

What does it mean to love our neighbor?

How do we understand what it means to live in love?

  • How would you define someone as a loving person?
  • What would demonstrate that a person loved you?

How does what we know about God, eternity and ourselves get to the core of loving neighbor?

(1) Love will care for people’s eternal soul

Nothing is more loving than to bring the gospel to someone

Our reasons for not sharing the gospel are mostly reasons of self-love (fear, busyness etc.)

(2) Love will care for people in their current struggles

Everyone is burdened and we have powerful encouragements to give

Disciple-making is recognizing that we do have a role in these things

Disciple-making puts love for neighbor into action

If we neglect disciple-making what are we left with?

Either a self-centered life that satisfies no one including you

Or, a poorly aimed life that doesn’t accomplish what it could

Some common ways we fail to love

Neglect:  we are too self-absorbed in our own agenda

Distance: we settle for shallow relationships by not going further than friendliness or kindness

Abandonment: when we are tired or offended and leave our church, small group or relationships

At Greentree we stress membership and small groups as a vital means to counteract these common problems

Membership gives us focus and commitment in what it means to live as God’s people

Small groups give us a starting place to grow deeply loving relationships

These two helps strengthen and equip us to go out in love for neighbor

Perhaps this series has seemed like it’s asking a huge thing

It sounds like more than helping out at an event or a church service for a couple hours

You are exactly right! This is about our perspective and lifestyle

God is asking for your life

And He is offering a far fuller life in return

ENCOURAGEMENTS IN PRAYER

If you are a Christian, you struggle while you pray and you struggle to pray. The fact that this is a universal problem should encourage us to know it’s not “just me”.

We should also consider why is it such a battle to do something so simple and helpful as to pray? Part of the answer is that Satan knowing the tremendous power and benefit of prayer, pulls out all stops to interfere in the process. Perseverance in prayer is a victory for us and a blow to his agenda.

To give us all more encouragements to pray, I offer you this list given 350 years ago by Matthew Henry. These are the benefits every believer has through prayer:

1.   A companion ready in all their solitudes, so that they are never less alone than when alone.  Do we need better society than fellowship with the Father?

2.   A counselor ready in all their doubts . . a guide (Psalm 73:24), who has promised to direct us with his eye, to lead us in the way where we should go

3.   A comforter ready in all their sorrows . . (to) support sinking spirits, and be the strength of a fainting heart

4.   A supply ready in all their wants.  Those who have access to God, have access to a full fountain, an inexhaustible treasure, a rich mine

5.   A support ready under all their burdens.  They have access to him as “my Lord, my stay and the strength of my heart” (Psalm 73:26)

6.   A shelter ready in all their dangers, a city of refuge near at hand.  The name of the Lord is a strong tower (Proverbs 18:10)

7.   Strength ready for all their labors.  He is their arm every morning  (Isaiah 33:2)