Monthly Archives: March 2014

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.31.14

“God is present and trustworthy”               Exodus 5

Ch 1-2 God’s people are enslaved and suffering: Yet God is present and the main character

Ch 3-4 Moses argues he cannot lead the people out: But God is present and enough

Now God’s plan will seem to make the situation worse: Still God is present and trustworthy

Moses and Aaron do what God asked   

Scene #1 Moses and Aaron go to the Israelites (4:29-31)

Aaron spoke the words, Moses did the signs and the people believed

This is how we want following God to work: we obey, succeed and are happy

Scene #2 Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh (5:1-5)

It starts to break down when Pharaoh denies their God and their request

We shouldn’t be surprised; in 3:19 God said this would be the result

Scene #3 Pharaoh makes life much harder for the people (vs 6-19)

This is not just an inconvenience; it was brutal, frightening and exhausting

Scene #4 The people complain to Moses (vs 20-21)  

Belief and worship has been replaced with blame and bitterness

Scene #5 Moses complains to God (vs 22-23)

He tells God, you have “not delivered your people – at all”

So how trustworthy is God?

The answer is based on what God has committed to accomplishing

1. God is committed to glorifying himself

God must always exalt his glory because it’s the greatest of truths

The delays and hardships of Israel will all be used to exalt God before all people

Pharaoh had denied that God was the Lord; so God will now demonstrate that He is

2. God is committed to the kingdom of his Son

Everything God does to deliver Israel will point to Christ and his kingdom

The covenant God made with Abraham always and preeminently was about Christ (Genesis 12:2-3)

God is not committed to an eternal Jewish kingdom, an American kingdom, or to a “you” kingdom

All graces and deliverance of God are preparing for Christ’s kingdom

3. God is committed to delivering his people into the land that He promised

God would deliver the Israelites, but it was only temporary, because the world is temporary

The deliverance in Exodus is a picture of something far greater and eternal

God’s commitment to help his people has always been to bring us home

This is why God removing our immediate burdens is not the ultimate test of his love

We are to look beyond our immediate circumstances

This doesn’t mean we look beyond reality, but to the fullness of what is real

1. Look to the glory of God which he never fails to exalt

God is Sovereign – so he is not working on your problems, he is being victorious through them

God is Perfect – so how he handles your circumstances cannot be improved

God is Gracious – so he works in our circumstances far beyond what we “deserve”

2. Look to the full picture of what God is accomplishing

He is accomplishing far more than getting us out of difficulty

God is using our circumstances to produce in us a heart that beats like that of Jesus

God is using our circumstances to reach through us to those who, like Pharaoh, don’t know he is Lord

God is using our circumstances to make out of us, monuments that declare God is faithful

God is preparing a deliverance that exceeds imagination!

The persons of the Godhead have eternally loved and taken joy in one another

God has committed to bring us into that love and joy   

Heaven is not getting all we want; it’s sharing in who God is

God is not only always present with us, he is always trustworthy!

FOLLOWERS

People are followers, we all chase after something.  Most people follow what the people around them are following. Not many of them have thought too deeply about where their path will take them.

You should be a follower too – a follower of Christ!  Part of this is reminding yourselves each morning WHO it is you want to follow. And perhaps some of the crowd may even take your lead.

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”     John 6:66-69


GOOD NEWS TO SHARE

I am always thrilled when people let me know how they are seeking to apply what we talk about in church. And when their comments include a report on the ways in which God is blessing that faithfulness . . . well, such encouraging news needs to be shared.

With that purpose in mind, here is a note I received from a leader of one of our women’s growth groups:

I wanted to let you know what a blessing it is to be part of a ladies growth group and encourage you in the work God is doing at mine.

We met today and as always my heart is overflowing with thankfulness to God after meeting with these ladies.  Together we are growing in our understanding of God’s word AND our love for one another.

Every couple months I ask someone to share their testimony of faith and today was one of those days.

We were blessed to hear how God saved not just one person, but eventually an entire family.  A family history of Godlessness and what appeared to be a destiny of future generations living in the same darkness.

BUT, our mighty God had a different plan, and only as our God can do, completely transformed lives and healed broken hearts.

We never got to discuss our study for the day, but instead we were bathed in Gospel truths and blessed beyond measure in hearing of our Great and Mighty God who saves and moves mountains.

Laurie Angerman

Often it seems as if nothing is happening for God in our lives. But Scripture and the gospel are emphatic in declaring that God is active. He is faithful and fruitful even as we are weak and inconsistent.

If we will keep ourselves in the middle of serving the gospel in the lives of believers and unbelievers around us, we will experience God at work.

A great way to begin is commitment to a small group. This not only gives you people to continually invest in; but like Laurie and her group, you also get to hear what God is doing in and through them.

WE CAN DO THIS

At Greentree Church (and most likely at your church), we want to be passionate about the role each of us has in sharing gospel truth with the people God puts on our path.

Some of us are self-motivated and have made this part of our lives, others (like me) are trying to improve, but we struggle with a mixture of fear, uncertainty and preoccupation.

How do we all make progress in this essential task which not is our mission and our job description, it is at the center of God’s heart?!

Pray for God to increase our heart for gospel work. This is not hard, so let’s all start here!

Be equipped. Our church has been giving focus to helping us learn how to be clear with the gospel and have direction with sharing this truth we know and that everyone needs

Build relationships. Be a listening, be attentive, be friendly – this is attractional to people and opens the way to sharing Christ.

My friend, Ian McConnell at Grace City Church in Philadelphia wrote this article that encourages us in “bringing others into what we follow.”  Ian points out that we like to do this with sports and other interests, so why not put this principle to work with the gospel?

As Ian says, we are not salespeople for God, but we are His recruiters. God does the work, we just share what He has done for us and for them!

Not only is being Gospel people important, we can do this!

MORE THAN WHAT WE SEE

Yesterday’s article on the Sovereign Grace Blog fits nicely with the content of the past two weeks of preaching from Exodus. And it definitely sets us up well for this coming Sunday’s message from chapter 5.

The article is by Aaron Law, from Metro Life Church, which is a terrific church our family has visited just north of Orlando, FL. The article’s title itself makes the point clear; “Our Circumstances are a Bad Barometer of God’s Presence”.

Aaron doesn’t use the events in Exodus as his illustration, but he does use the very closely associated events of Joseph’s life in Genesis, which is the preceding backdrop to the Exodus story.

As you read over these thoughts by Aaron, ask God to strengthen us in these essential truths we all need to own for ourselves.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.24.14

“God’s Presence is Enough”       

Exodus 3-4:16

In chapters 1-2 we saw that God is present and he is the main character even though the people of God are enslaved

Chapter 3 returns 40 years later to Moses who had fled Egypt into exile (3:1-10)

God approaches Moses

God could have appeared in any form, why choose fire?

The association of God and fire is a common and multi-layered motif in the Bible

Fire purifies and it consumes; and like fire, God is both beneficial and dangerous

That the burning bush was not consumed, is a picture of God’s gracious work in us 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Speaking out of the fire, God reveals several truths about himself

v5 God is holy: our understanding of God should always begin here

v6 God makes and keeps covenants, which are both wonderful realities

vs 7-8 God is a deliverer.

He is describing himself “behind the scenes” during Israel’s enslavement

God is always the initiator, and his purpose is to raise us up

v10 God uses people; he was sending Moses to be part of something huge!

We can also pull out a couple implied truths about God

(1)  He views time differently than we do: we focus on faster, while God focuses on eternity

(2)  He views burdens differently than we do: we want them to stop, while God looks to our growth and fruitfulness

How does Moses respond to God’s invitation?

We would think Moses would leap at the chance! Instead he gives 5 objections

1st Objection:  I’m not the right guy (vs 11-12)

Moses sense of self is more accurate than it was 40 years earlier

But God’s response is that his presence makes our inadequacies irrelevant

God doesn’t call us to be sufficient; he calls us to be a vessel and to be faithful

2nd Objection:  Who do I say is sending me? (vs 13-14)

In v6 God already said he was “The God of your Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”

However in v14 He adds one of the most significant titles of God in the Bible: “I Am”

He is declaring his self-sufficiency and sovereignty

This is the God our world rejects, the God who is self-defining and Lord of all!

3rd Objection:  No one will believe me (4:1-9)

God takes care of that by giving Moses three signs he can perform

  • vs 2-5  Moses staff will turn into a snake and back to a staff: the snake was a symbol of Pharaoh’s authority
  • vs 6-7  Moses hand will turn leprous and then be whole again: God curses and makes whole
  • vs 8-9  Water from the Nile will turn into blood: the Nile symbolized life for Egypt

In these signs, God demonstrates his pre-eminence over all Egyptian gods and rulers

4th Objection:  I’m not a good speaker (4:10-12)

God answers that he is the one who gives all abilities

Our limitations are no limit to God, who is creator and sustainer

Every person, power and obstacle we face, owe their existence to God

5th Objection and Moses real excuse:  I don’t want to! (4:13-16)

This is the only objection in which God was “angry”

Yet God is gracious, telling Moses his brother, Aaron, will speak for him

How do our excuses for neglecting serving Christ’s kingdom hold up?

The big picture in Exodus 1-4

1.  God has made a covenant and he will keep it

Difficult circumstances are never a proof against God’s faithfulness; they are his means to show it

Old Testament Israel is a picture of the New Testament Church which has been given greater promises

2.  God is present with us and he is enough

Our obstacles and burdens are real. We face real temptations and fearful things

The greater reality is that “I Am” is with us; Creator is with us; God in flesh is with us; Our Savior is with us . . and he is always enough!

What is keeping you from trusting God is enough?

A SECURE PLACE

This world can be a harsh and uncaring place. It is easy to feel as if we are going to overcome by the burdens and pressures that unceasingly sweep around us. How wonderful to know that our Savior remains the immovable rock and secure resting place in all situations – make Him your resting place.

I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.

He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the LORD was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

Psalm 18:1-3, 16-19

IS IT JUST ME?

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Do you ever feel as if you are the only one who fails like you do? Or, that everyone else has life together just a little bit better than you? Yes, we are each unique, but we are very much alike in our experience with sin and failure.

Josh Blount does a good job of laying this out before us in this brief article called “The Lie of Uniqueness”. If you struggle with feeling you are the “only one” in these negative ways, please read Josh’s article and be encouraged. Because yes, you are a flawed sinner – but you are far from alone in your experience.

One way to use this knowledge is to be aware of how other people get discourage just like you, so that you can be a help to them in your common experience. That may make you just a little bit more unique in this world after all.

GOD’S GLORY ON DISPLAY

by Debbie Huber

Recently on the news I saw some stories about a teenage boy with Down’s Syndrome named Kevin Grow who has a love for the game of basketball.  He had been a manager of his high school basketball team for four years when he was given a chance to play the last two minutes of one of their games where he scored four 3-pointers!  He was then given a special two day contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.  After that the Harlem Globe Trotters heard about him and he played alongside of them, scoring a three pointer!

It warmed my heart to see the value that others saw in this amazing young man.  His high school coach was quoted as saying, “He’s a gift from God-He really is.” People were rejoicing in this boy who is God’s creation.  His parents find great joy in their son.

But the sad reality is that it is estimated that between 60 to 90% of children diagnosed prenatally with Down’s Syndrome will be aborted.  We look to our plans and choices for what is good and wise and not to God whose plans are always good and wise. 

John Piper writes, “When there is a defective chromosome or some genetic irregularity in the sperm that is about to fertilize an egg, God can simply say no. He commands the winds. He commands the waves. He commands the sperm and the genetic makeup of the egg. If God foresees and permits a conception that he knows will produce blindness, he has reasons for this permission. And those reasons are his purposes. His designs. His plans. God never has met a child from whom he had no plan. There are no accidents in God’s mind or hands.”

God does not only display His Glory through what we see as strong, His glory is displayed through weakness, inability and disability.  I am sure there are things we would change about ourselves thinking we would be more successful or wise or more acceptable to others. But God desires that we trust Him and not any false conception of our own strength (or lack thereof).

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What To Do When You Wake Up Feeling Fragile

Maybe you never wake up with a sense of failure and fears that you cannot handle what life is serving on your plate – but I sure do!  There are many reasons why we can feel this way. Some of the reasons are quite specific and justified (we always in over our head and sometimes that makes itself obvious). Other times our sense of dread is vague and goes beyond the reality of our situation and the grace God faithfully weaves through our existence.

Fortunately the answer to this and all other problems, is to start with God. Since He is fully in control, confident, faithful, gracious and good, we can have fresh assurance that the day can be good (i.e. God honoring), even when we are otherwise barely a step beyond clueless about how to manage the multiple spinning plates that are about to come crashing down.

It turns out that the very gifted and fruitful pastor and author, John Piper, wakes up some days feeling like the rest of us who are not nearly as gifted or fruitful. In an article in his Desiring God blog, Pastor Piper shares how he finds help in “crying out” to God as his first response. You can follow this link “What to do when you wake up feeling fragile”.