Monthly Archives: June 2014

WHAT TO DO IN A BIG COMPLICATED WORLD

We live in a big and complicated world!

At least to us it sure seems this way.

The moment we think we understand how life works – a huge new wrinkle jumbles all we thought we knew.

However, to God – our God, this world is not complicated at all.

Oh, He sees it as quite messy, but the answers to how it all should work are always clear to Him. God is never confused, surprised or anxious. That truth alone calms my worried and wearied soul.

This reality that God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is sovereign over everything in the universe no matter how great or small, should lift our hearts and spur our actions in many ways.

One of these encouragements is in the area of bringing the gospel to people around us. Josh Blount, the pastor of Living Faith Church in Franklin, West Virginia, makes this observation about God’s sovereignty:

“Do you see what all this means for evangelism? The burden doesn’t lie on us! God, in his triune glory, is the great Evangelist. For the glory of his name and the good of his people, God is at work to spread the gospel around the world. He uses everything to accomplish his purposes. Everything. Every single thing. Weather patterns. Wars. The clash of empires and the explosion of technology—and a warm greeting in the checkout line, a hot meal waiting when the neighbors return from the hospital.”

May our confidence in God’s sovereignty encourage us to be more active in making His name known!

Read the entire article

MESSY PEOPLE

We know the world is filled with messy people. Well, we should know this since we are one of them – if only on a part time basis.

With a world so messy, it should not surprise us that the church is in the thick of this messiness. And if our church is never a messy place then either we don’t know the people in our church or it’s basically empty.

Rather than be surprised or offended by the messiness and exhausting behavior of fellow church members, we should thank God that they have come within reach. The church, like the gospel, exists to work in the lives of sinners.

Churches or Christians that are too “pristine” to bother with sinners, are only clean on the outside. Our place in this world is to labor with rolled up sleeves as we engage ourselves with the kinds of people that Jesus welcomed.

Rather than want to keep messy people at bay, we should be asking God in his grace (to them and us), to draw them into our churches. And while we are at it, we might think of inviting them too.

Stephen Altrogge wrote a blog at The Blazing Center, “Church is for Messy People”. In this article, he gives us helpful suggestions for how we can be part of the answer rather than adding to the mess.

BIG NEWS FOR SEE GLOBAL

SEE GLOBAL logo

SEE Global is the mission organization founded by Greentree Church to “Support, Encourage and Equip” the global church.

New Church Plant in Minsk

The biggest new step for SEE Global is the development of a team to plant a church in Minsk, which is the capital of Belarus.

The church plant team is being led by Sergei Lukyanov who is the co-founder of SEE Global. Sergei and his wife, Zoya, planted two churches after graduating from the Minsk Bible College (now operated by SEE Global).

Over the past dozen years, church planting has virtually dried up in Belarus. We have a three-fold desire for this church plant:

            1.  To spur a new movement of church planting

            2.  To present an example of healthy church ministry

            3.  To be a training center for pastors and church leaders

PLEASE PRAY for the church plant team that is in training. PRAY for the church location. We are in discussion about an exciting possibility, but we need God’s guidance and abundant provision.

Potential New Partnerships

This weekend I am privileged to be with North Hills Community Church, near Greenville, South Carolina.

North Hills is a large church deeply committed to strong biblical teaching, equipping new leaders and proclaiming the gospel.

My connection with North Hills is in the area of how they have been applying these commitments in the area of missions.

After a few conversations with North Hills about what SEE Global is doing in Belarus, I was graciously invited to spend time with their church so we can know one another better and discuss how their church may be able to be part of SEE Global’s work in training pastors and church leaders.

Ask God to lead our time together this weekend. PLEASE PRAY that God will open up many new partnerships to help strengthen and multiply churches in Belarus!

Expansion in our Geographical Scope of Ministry

This month Randy and Margie Lawler joined the SEE Global family!

Many people at Greentree are familiar with Randy and Margie who have worked in London for over 30 years reaching Muslims with the gospel.

The Lawlers have planted the Oasis International Church, which is an international church with a focus on reaching peoples from Muslim backgrounds. 

They have Muslim Background Believers attending from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Somalia. There are also American, British, Indian, Brazilian, Canadian, South Korean, Palestinian, Bolivian, and Swiss members in the church.

SEE global is thrilled to work with and serve the Lawlers.

PLEASE PRAY for God’s expansion of their ministry to include many church plants for Muslim Background Believers.

GOD IS ALWAYS HERE

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?”  Psalm 139:7-12

God is present everywhere

It is theologically impossible to ever be alone

The purpose of Psalm 139:7-12 is to convince us that we can never be, where God is not   

However, the nature of God’s presence is not the same with everyone

This difference is a matter of covenant (Ephesians 2:12-13)

Only those justified by Christ can be brought ‘near’ to God’s gracious and intimate presence

Our life takes place in God’s presence

All that God is – is with us 

Each of God’s attributes are brought to our benefit

Every attack must pass through His protection (Zechariah 2:8)

Every difficulty comes attached to His purpose (Romans 8:28)

Every struggle takes place within His hand (John 10:29)  

God’s desire to have us with Him, is the amazing message of the Bible

Christ saves us to remove all separation and bring us near   

The Father adopts us so we can be His children

The Holy Spirit dwells in us, to be constantly and intimately engaged in our lives

Heaven is to live in the glorious undisturbed presence of God 

Why do we struggle to sense God’s presence?

At times God leads us through seasons in the wilderness, but most of our sense of distance is self-inflicted

We view his transcendence as distance   

We misjudge God’s pruning work as distance  

We think God responds to our failures like people do

Our attention is elsewhere

How can we cultivate awareness of God’s presence?

Take the Bible to heart in all it teaches about God and us

Be a worshipper

Thanking Him reminds us He is near

Exalting Him reminds us He is great

Exulting in Him increases our desire to pursue Him

Live gospel centered, for the gospel is at the center of God’s heart and purposes

Live in Biblical community, for God is active in and through His people

The greatest evidence of God being with us, is God working in us

Keep the door open for God to have His way in you, and His presence will be known

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.23.14

“God Speaks to Us”

Exodus 19-20

The Israelites arrive at Mt Sinai, and will remain there for almost a year (the rest of Exodus). During this time, the Mosaic covenant (the law, the priesthood, and the tabernacle) is given and put into practice

Covenant preparation is set around 3 trips by Moses up Mt Sinai

Moses 1st Trip:  He is given the purpose of the covenant (19:3-8)

God, who delivered them, wants a relationship of blessing with them (vs5-6)

We hear the phrase ‘covenant people’ without wonder

This is because we lack understanding about ourselves, about God and about what covenant relationship is meant to be

I think the strongest word picture in the Bible about our communion with God is the ‘bride/bridegroom’ motif

Hosea 2:20 “I will betroth you to me in faithfulness”

Revelation 21:2 describes the Church “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”

God really does want us to compare his feelings for us with that of a bride & bridegroom!

Without a covenant, the bonds of relationship are loose and vague

But only God can rightly define the bonds of covenant

Moses 2nd Trip: He is given directions to prepare the people (19:9-12)

This is serious! The people are not entering a covenant between equals

The preparations described were not to earn the covenant, they were meant to shape how the people would view it

To properly honor being in covenant with God, we need to see the enormity of it

The external actions of “consecration” God gave the people were meant as tutors to the heart

Moses 3rd Trip: Dramatic signs and warnings are given (19:16-25)

The scene starts with dramatic manifestations like a Hollywood movie

These physical manifestations helped create perspective for what the people could not see. God is glorious, and what they are about to hear is glorious

God then repeats his earlier warnings to the people (v21)

The holiness of God cannot be over emphasized; it is God’s leading attribute

These warnings also remind us that we have no hope to approach God outside of his mercy

God speaks to his people (20:1-4)

The detailed law of ch 20-23 is given to teach, structure and guard the covenant

The Law gives the people a clear and safe path to please God

Truths of God must be revealed, we cannot reach them ourselves. We are limited by our ignorance and our corrupt sin nature

Without God defining covenant, we try to place ours on him

Every human religion is an example of this

Even with the truth, we struggle with the right order of expectations between us and God

Because God deeply loves us, he cares about how we live

That is why much of the law describes how we are to love our neighbor

God wants our lives to represent him in the form of a ‘godly’ community

When God spoke from Mt Sinai, the people were overwhelmed (20:18-20)

This is how we should always receive God’s Word

The dramatic signs witnessed by the people were not exaggerations; they were symbols of the far greater reality of God’s glory

When we read God’s word we should consider the implications of it

1.  We are reading/hearing what the glorious and almighty Lord God wants us to know

2.  His word is not about rule following, as much as it is about living in relationship with Him

What words from God are we responsible to obey?

We are responsible to listen to all God has spoken and revealed

However, the Old Testament law was given to national Israel until New Covenant was established

Galatians 3:24 “the law was our guardian until Christ came”

Hebrews 8:13 the New Covenant made old covenant “obsolete”

The Old Testament law and its symbols were not cast aside and rejected; Christ fulfilled it

The Old Testament law remains God’s word to us, but it is no longer God’s law over us

We are now under the New Testament which Galatians 6:2 and 1 Corinthians 9:21 call the “law of Christ”

Some Old Testament laws are repeated in the New Testament, because God is unchanging

God’s law is never to show what we can do; it guides us to become what we are not

God made a covenant because of his love and our need

His covenant is taking us to be with him forever and His word is preparing us for it

FROM A DARK PLACE

Depression is a dark place that not only burdens us, for unnecessary reasons it also shames us. No one wants to struggle with depression, and no one wants to be known as the weak person who cannot find their way out of this darkness.

For Christians who struggle with depression, there is the added fear of appearing as someone who is lacking in faith or godliness. Not to mention the internal struggle of wondering “why doesn’t God deliver me?”. You are not alone in this lonely place.

Keri Seavey, is a pastor’s wife who walked through this deep valley. She writes:

I wrestled with thoughts about God’s goodness and love. My clandestine fears had apparently given way to cruel doubts concerning his character.

Many famous Christian leaders throughout history spent years fighting this battle; discouraged by their bouts of depression, and frustrated that they couldn’t even understand where their depression came from.

Keri Seavey has given us a gift by sharing her struggle. Through her article, Keri helps us whether we walk through depression or know people who do.

WHERE WILL THEY RUN AFTER THEY GRADUATE?

By Debbie Huber

Can we help our children run to God and not away from Him after they graduate?

This is an exciting time for many families who have children graduating from high school. 

Whether they are going off to college or to work, the life changes will be significant.  All of a sudden, their level of independence and responsibility increases.  

But for many families, graduation can seem like an open door for young adults to “run away” from God and from all that we as parents have taught them.  As parents we often feel inadequate, that there is more we could be doing or could have done.

Can we keep them from “running away” from God?  No, not in our strength. But as inadequate as we often feel, God does use our authority in our children’s lives to lay a foundation for our children to know and love our Heavenly Father.

In an article from Erik Raymond, in the Ordinary Pastor blog, he gives some thoughts on parenting your children to run to God and not away from Him.

1. Regularly expose them to the Bible, the Sunday church service, fellowship in the church, family Bible reading, and discussions of spiritual things.

2. Be who you want them to be. Model the faithfulness that the Bible calls you to.

3. Elevate the Bible in the home. Do your children see that you cherish God’s word?  That is a powerful example.

4. Be consistent in discipline.   Don’t base it on your feelings because they change.

5. Confess your sins. Our children need to see that we are sinners in need of grace and forgiveness too!

6. Let them grow up. It is finding the balance between keeping them in a bubble and letting them do whatever they want. It is lovingly, prayerfully, and thoughtfully shepherding them through their growing up years.

7. Have real conversations and answer the hard questions.  They will hear the hard questions and they will form an opinion. Help them to see life through the lens of God’s word. Conversation is hard but it goes far in developing your relationship with your children.

8. Keep your promises.  This breeds trust.

9. Show affection. Your children should always know that they are loved and secure in your home.

10. Pray a lot!  Parenting is hard!  Even if we do all of the above, without God’s intervention our children may just be well-adjusted members of society but who are without hope for eternity.  Parenting is gospel work, a work of dependence on our Savior, knowing that He is the only hope for the children that God has entrusted to us.

Erik Raymond says that gospel parenting is not like a recipe for making a cake, that if you follow everything just right your children will be saved.  We must rely on the grace of God that He is at work in all of our lives.

And when the day comes and our children enter the new world after high school, we can let them go with confidence that they have been “loved and trained by us and God”.  And we can pray that God will give us wisdom as parents for this new phase in our children’s lives.

WHY BOTHER TRYING?

Every day our fleshly nature exerts itself in many ways. Some are easily missed and seem insignificant, while other so dominate our life, we may wonder if God’s grace in us really has power. These manifestations discourage us, and we begin to lament whether we will ever be different.

To be sure, our sinful nature will never give up. It cannot be renovated or restored, only eradicated. The final and absolute victory we long for will not take place while we walk this earth and inhabit this body.

Praise God, He will not let us stay this way. God saved us in order to make us whole. The day is coming when we really will love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We cannot imagine what it will be like to love God without restriction or omission. We have no way of knowing what it will feel like to love God like Jesus did.

However, if your faith is in Christ, take courage that you will. What a great promise we are given, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

There is a clear winner in the war between the flesh and the Spirit. Christ has purchased that victory for you. Our resting place is not some momentary grasp of perfection you manage to eke out now; we rest in the confidence that God will complete us.

Knowing we will see the battle in our heart won, gives us peace during the days of conflict. That confidence also becomes leverage for getting up and applying ourselves to godliness with fresh zeal. For those fresh starts are never empty efforts, they are real steps toward a guaranteed future.

3.15.12

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.16.14

Wisdom from Exodus for Men (Father’s Day)

Exodus 18

The Israelites arrive at “the mountain of God”, and Moses is reunited with his family

Moses describes what has taken place (vs 8-12)

In Moses description all the credit is ascribed to God

This is the only way to accurately tell the story (or our story), Israelites had done nothing to save themselves or impress God

Every judgment on Egypt and every provision for Israel was all God

Yes, Moses had been faithful, but God had to enable him & sustain him

The more we are aware that this is true, the easier it will be to rest in this truth

It was in Moses heart to exalt what God had done

When we love God, we want his will done and his name exalted

In our social media world, ‘posting’ our life easily becomes more about our name than God’s

God is expanding his work of deliverance 

This was more than a conversation; Jethro, the pagan priest, responds with true faith in the Lord

1.  Jethro rejoiced in the Lord (v9)

Praise for the person and work of God is always the appropriate response to our situations

In Christ, God is always working for our eternal good, as well as his eternal glory

2.  Jethro exalted “the Lord” (v10)

This is more than amazement over events, Jethro expresses faith

The word He uses for Lord is “Yahweh”, which is the name God gave Israel to use (6:3)

Clarity about God, will lead to humbling ourselves and exalting (i.e. highly valuing) him

3.  Jethro affirmed his faith in the Lord (v11)

When Moses first went to Pharaoh in chapter 5, he arrogantly replied:

“Who is Lord? . . I do not know him”

Repeatedly during the plagues against Egypt, God said this is so “they will know” I am the Lord

Jethro’s faith is not merely that God exists, but that God is greater!

4.  Jethro worshiped the Lord (v12)

When our heart truly belongs to God, we will act upon it

Worship is to live in response to God, to act on his greatness

In Jethro, the sovereignty and grace of God have come full circle

The Israelites arrived in Egypt centuries earlier because Joseph was sold by his brothers to Midianites who brought him to Egypt

Now Jethro, a Midianite “priest”, comes to trust in the God of Joseph

God never compromises with sin, but He is expansive with his grace

Jethro gives essential advice to Moses (vs 13-24)

The responsibility and load is “too heavy” for Moses to carry

Moses understandably has been the visible focal point for the Israelites

But he is not their hope; Moses had the weaknesses and limitations all men carry

God uses us, but He never ceases to be our help and our hope

But the real issue here is bigger than Moses

We see a strong connection between chapters 17 & 18

In both, Moses is weary and seated with men called to assist him

In both, the support given to Moses was needed for the protection of the nation

God is leading Israel to be nation under Him, rather than a people following Moses

Chapter 18 is about more than good advice; God is preparing the Israelites to see themselves as people committed together under Him

Chapter 18 is making a transition between the first half of Exodus (ch 1-18), which describes God’s deliverance, and the second half of Exodus (ch 19-40) in which God presents his covenant relationship with them

Observations for men on this Father’s Day

1.  Make sure our family conversations include what God has done

God has acted in extraordinary ways for us, and his grace continues to be very real

The habit of recognizing God’s graces is good for our soul and our family

2.  The Word of God is for all of life (v20)

If we are not living by the light of the Bible, we are left to live in the shadows

It is impossible to lead our family better, or those we can influence

3.  Strong godly men are strengthened men

Like Moses, we are not strong enough, and we were never meant to think so

God has given us three major ways to be strengthened

His Word

The Holy Spirit

Our local church

4.  Your church needs you to be a man who is growing in love for God

Half-heartedness robs your life, and it robs your church

We need men of each generation in the church, to be men of faithfulness

Christ is able to make that true in everyone who comes to him!

SKILLED SELF-SWINDLERS

Some of the sins we struggle with are obvious to us. We pray about them, we struggle against them and in Christ we truly can make significant progress in having them become less and less a part of our life.

But what about the sins we don’t see in ourselves? There is far more of this than we want to admit. An obvious problem is that it is hard to work on something you don’t even realize needs work. Is there hope? Yes, actually we have many reasons for hope.

1.  The Holy Spirit is good at convicting us

2.  The light of God’s word is meant to reveal areas in our life that need work

3.  Close friends (especially family) see us in ways that our eyes miss.

4.  The church is meant to be a place where we are under accountability

All of these helps exist, but they may not be having much impact on us if we are not open to them.

Do you ask God on a regular basis to reveal sins you do not see? And do you take action on what He shows you?

When you read God’s word, do you measure your own life by it?

Are you defensive when friends and family make corrections, or do you thank them for it?

Are you involved in close relationships in your church and small group where accountability is an expectation?

Paul Tripp wrote posted this blog entitled “Blind to Our Blindness” in which he leads us through this problem of not seeing or justifying our sins. He refers to it as being “skilled self-swindlers”. If we are serious about living for God then we must be serious about understanding and confronting all of the areas in which we struggle with sin.

4.10.12