Monthly Archives: December 2013

KEEP IT SIMPLE

How is this for simple: Only Jesus Can Be Jesus!

My friend Ian McConnell at Grace Church in Philadelphia, reminds us of this simple, yet HUGE principle. Why look for life to be full through pursuing anyone or anything other than Jesus? As Ian points out, in his article “No substitute for Jesus”, there is no substitute for the real thing.

As we enter a new year, why not make a fresh commitment to keeping it simple, keeping it pure and keeping it smart – by keeping it about Jesus.

 

FAMILY MOMENTS

Family discipleship can often seem like an intimidating task. We are not sure what to do or how to start. In the back of our minds we may even wonder if we are qualified to do it.

In some ways none of us are qualified, because we are all sinners who are lacking in understanding and consistency. Yet, as a Christian parent you are very qualified, because you love your child and you love Christ. And for all your failures, your children love and look to you.

Family Discipleship does not need to be complicated or long – in fact it will be most effective if it is clear, short and simple! I think most of us can do that and there are many resources available to help us (Marty Machowski has written some outstanding family devotional books).

Family Discipleship should also have elements of fun and celebration, because God made us to experience and enjoy Him, our family and life in general.

So I appreciated this article on the Village Church blog entitled “Time, Moments and Milestones”. It encourages us to take an approach to family discipleship that not only teaches essential gospel truths, it also celebrates the big moments in our children’s lives and makes room for ice cream

 

GLORY TO THE NEW BORN KING

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”

John 1:14

 Glory to the New Born King!

OH COME LET US ADORE HIM

used ('11)

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”

Hebrews 1:3

Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him!

HAPPINESS

I have been struggling with a serious problem. A song from a TV musical has been stuck in my head and I can’t get it out! It bores into my brain with particular vigor during my morning routine. At least fitting to the season, it comes from the old musical version of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”.

In that version, there is an extended series of scenes featuring the young Ebeneezer Scrooge while he is still in love with ole Fezziwig’s daughter.  As they run through the park with a picnic basket and glide along a pond in a boat, ole Fezziwig’s daughter is singing about love and happiness.  The line that has been deviously playing hide and seek with my mind goes like this (sung by with a sweet lovesick voice):

“Happiness is whatever you want it to be.”

Worse than being stuck in my brain, this sentiment is stuck in the thinking of our world.  The more I consider it, this is actually one of the most popular anthems of our present time; “happiness is whatever I want it to be.” Bad thinking, but much of the world is lustily singing it to their various tunes. Even among Christians, this idea is becoming an increasingly accepted way of thinking. Even if they are not singing this refrain out loud, many Christians are definitely whistling along with the tune.

But this sentiment does not work in life any more than it did in the movie. This concept of happiness sounds good as we sing it, because it is self-centered, it generates a pleasant ring to our ears.

Yet, when her beau, Ebeneezer, put her song into practice, it came back to haunt ole Fezziwig’s daughter. The worsening selfishness of Scrooge ruined their relationship, and was a cup of bitterness in the lives of many people over the ensuing years.

Where do we find happiness?  If we all seek happiness where we want it, we end up tromping over each other and pursuing all sorts of relationally destructive behaviors.  But when happiness is in knowing our God and living out His glorious gospel.  Then we will have a happiness that is not only lasting for us, it becomes a cup of joy and blessing in the lives of people around us.

With Christmas fast upon us, let us look for happiness in the amazing grace that caused the angels to sing, a star to shine, and sinners to have eternal hope!

Originally posted 12.22.10

. . . AND NOT SO MUCH

God never changes. We looked at that wonderful and reassuring reality in yesterday’s blog.

But people, they change all the time. Like smoke coming off a camp fire, they are constantly changing direction and it seems to always be in our face. The Bible makes this contrast between God and the changeableness of people

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Numbers 23:19

It is not that people (including you) are necessarily trying to flip and flop through life. Our changeability flows out of our limitations, weaknesses, ignorance, inconsistency, forgetfulness and sheer stubbornness.

We are often influenced by others and our circumstances. And sin if left to follow its course will bring changes that even shock us.

On top of all these influences and variables is the frustrating reality that we can be different from one day to the next and have no idea why! We wake up one morning and feel like the world is waiting to be conquered by us. Twenty-four hours later we don’t even want to get out of bed to face the world.

Where is all this going?

Don’t put yourself or other people in the role of God. What I mean is don’t expect them to be unchangeable and sufficient for your needs.

Don’t look to them to be your joy, or depend on them to be your peace

Don’t rest in their wisdom, or place your hope on their strength

Don’t be afraid of their power, or be intimidated by their authority

This doesn’t mean we lose all expectation for people. Neither does it mean that we should lack trust in them.

It does mean that we look for God to be God, and we recognize that the people in our life will be flawed and inconsistent like us. Perhaps they will be a little worse, or maybe they will be a lot better – but they cannot fulfill the role in our life that belongs to God alone

NEVER CHANGING . . .

Our character, our opinions and our circumstances, as well as that of all the people around us, are all subject to change – lots of change

God, well, He never changes!

I am the Lord, I do not change!” Malachi 3:6 

This is a fundamental understanding of God’s character and works. But it is a doctrine that Christians can affirm in blasé fashion. In other words we claim to believe it while neglecting to be amazed and strengthened by the many implications flowing out of it.

If God does not change then these statements must all be true:

God’s word never changes: this means changes in what the surrounding culture believes are irrelevant for Christian belief

God’s standards do not change:  We cannot think that our situation demands an exception to what the Bible clearly declares

God’s warnings never change:  His eternal judgments remain the same. All sin will be condemned. Either we bear that penalty in hell forever or Christ bore it on the cross

God’s grace does not change:  Once we are free of condemnation, we cannot become re-condemned   

God’s love does not change:  In Christ we are loved as deeply and completely as is possible. The moments (or longer) when we are ‘unlovable’ do not sabotage this love

God’s commitments do not change:  When God says He will complete his perfecting work in everyone who is His child, we can count on it

God’s sovereignty does not change:  He is ever and always King of kings and Lord of lords. His control over our situations is never more or less

And the list goes on and on!  Stephen Charnock, the brilliant Puritan who wrote extensively on the character of God, had this to say about the immutability or the changelessness of God:

“Immutability is a glory belonging to all the attributes of God” 

So take any attribute of God and ponder what it means to know that God will always fulfill that aspect of His character

THE MAGIC ANSWER

Paul Tripp, the noted author, counselor and speaker recently wrote an article discussing the big picture of identifying the answer to people’s problems. He said people coming looking for a great revelation or a magic bullet to solve their problems. He then adds;

These people didn’t need any new revelation or special insight. They needed to submit to what God had already written. They needed to trust what is sure – the clear words of the Creator, found in the pages of his book, the Bible.

Chances are if you were in the chair facing Paul, he would be thinking the same reality applies to you. So why not cut out the middle-man and start taking steps that show we believe this is true.

God is the source of all wisdom, the solver of any problem, the lifter of every burden and the one who can meet each need.

When we make it our practice to trust, follow after, listen to, and rest in, God who formed us, we will find life taking a straighter and firmer path.

You can the entire article “Have You Been Taken Captive” at this link

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.16.13

If God is for us, the opposition doesn’t matter  

Romans 8:31-39  

Romans 8 ends with a crescendo of affirmation that “God is for us!” 

This is the conclusion Paul gives to those who trust in the gospel (v31)

“These things” in v31 goes back at least to chapter 5, perhaps to chapter 1

These chapters have laid out the gospel and what it does in our life (guilt removed, peace with God, bondage to sin broken, Holy Spirit lives in us, adopted by God)

Here is the conclusion from all “these things” (v31b):

God’s commitment to us is so full that what opposes us doesn’t matter

This conclusion is on the firmest ground possible: God already gave his Son for us (v32)

God, who went that far, will graciously give us “all things”

Not all things we want (many of our wants are short-sighted and even contradictory)

But all things needed to fulfill the promises to work all things for our good (v28), and to glorify us (v30)    

God knows circumstances don’t always look as if He is “for us”

This broken world brings many sorrows into our lives  

We have our own struggles with our weaknesses and a sinful nature

But no opposition against us will be successful

No accusation will stand, because God is our defender (v33)

No condemnation will stand, because Christ is our intercessor (v34)

No can keep God from bring for us

And nothing can wedge itself between God’s love and the believer (v35-39)

Satan is a deceiver: he wants us to interpret troubles as if God has abandoned us

Satan is an accuser: he wants us to read into our failures that God is tired of us

But no situation in life ever indicates God’s love has grown cold

The cross is the great proof that God loves us (Romans 5:8)

When we struggle with doubt, weariness, discouragement, or dryness, look to the cross!

In Christ our life is part of the greatest love story ever told

“The greatest unkindness you can do to the Father, is to not believe that He loves you” John Owen

Every burden and opposition will be overcome (v37)

Nothing will be left unconquered

Christ’s kingdom will be the only one standing, which means there will be no more conflict

Everything in his kingdom will be healthy and whole, which means nothing will spoil it

Everyone in his kingdom will be glorified, which means we will no longer struggle with sinful weakness or failure

We don’t fear what we know will be conquered

For example, learning we have a cold only annoys us, because we know it will quickly pass. But hearing we have cancer is frightening, because it is not always curable

We don’t give up when we know victory is guaranteed

Our struggles are not interruptions to victory; they are part of God’s process for victory

We are forever victorious

In this world we get used to short-lived victories, since that is all there is

We can be satisfied with just getting to the next oasis (the weekend, a vacation, the TV, or a drink)

Christ’s victory is not meant to just get us through life; it’s to make life flourish

That’s not all!  God uses us help others flourish too

The eternal nature of our victory encourages us to go ‘all in’!

Our victory will be joyous

In Christ, our victory is as great as victory can possibly be!

All that life can be, starts when we reach the end of this life

This changes our capacity for joy in the midst of struggle

In every difficulty, God is working toward his glory and our eternal joy

This confidence enables us to take joy while still struggling (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

If God is always fulfilling eternal victory in us, then He is always praiseworthy

Romans 8 has meant to give us certainty: so we can be at peace, take joy in adversity, persevere through it all, and be whole-hearted in embracing his love for us

TOO MUCH TO DO!

For most of us, life can often be a blur of activity and deadlines. It seems as though we jump from task to meeting to more tasks, all the time feeling as if we are behind in all of it.  Important decisions need to be made and time to think through them is fleeting. Christmas with its looming shadow of added social and family responsibilities, adds to the sense of being out of control (how is that for an expression of holiday spirit!?).

But here is the reality of it all. True success and value all come through what God does in and through us!  Unless we have the life of the vine flowing through us, we are withering branches, useless and scattered on the ground .

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

Did you pay attention to the last phrase in the verse?  The real question before us each day, is not how in control we are – but how connected we are.  And if connectedness is THE great reality, I don’t need to stress. I can actually rest in the perfection and fullness that is the God who I serve. 

No matter how busy we are, our time worshipping, following and “abiding” (staying) in God is what makes the difference. Thank God that my success does not hang in the grasp of my weakening fingers, or weary mind. Being with God, is the essential thing, not our getting it all done and feeling in control. 

So tonight, I will be at ease, while still falling behind; because my God is in complete control and what He does is my success. Whether or not my stuff is hectic or leisurely, Christ is my resting place.  Tomorrow I will start the day contentedly over my head. But really I am out ahead, because Christ is my purpose and He is my reward. How could anyone ever want or hope for more than that!

Originally posted 12.10.10