Monthly Archives: October 2014

IS ANYONE BUSY?

Is your life busy?

That’s a question that probably doesn’t need to be asked.

How many people do you know who would say, “My problem is what to do with all my extra time”.

Busyness is draining us and robbing our relationships of quality and quantity interaction.

We won’t even bring up how it affects your devotional life

Kevin DeYoung wrote a book entitled, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem”. He said that he wrote it not out of expertise, but as a way to help himself analyze the problem from a biblical perspective

As the title promises, Crazy Busy is a short read. Most of the chapters briefly address “diagnostic” statements about why we allow ourselves to become busy to a degree that we know is not healthy for us.

Here are some of Kevin’s “diagnostic” thoughts:

Pride is leading us to try and make ourselves look good

We are trying to do what God doesn’t expect us to do 

We have not set priorities

We need to stop freaking out about our kids 

We are letting technologies take over our lives

We need to rest ourselves before we wreck ourselves 

We suffer more because we don’t expect to suffer at all 

HELP IN PROTECTING YOUR CHILD FROM PORNOGRAPHY

“One in three children ages 11 to 14 have viewed pornography on a mobile device”

As a parent, that is a fearful and sickening statistic!

There are a lot of responsibilities a parent must bear

And there are (it seems) an increasing number of dangers to guard against

Protecting our children against pornography needs to be high on those lists.

The potential damage is too great

The accessibility is too easy

Our culture is too irresponsible

I have noticed particularly among moms, that there can be an unrealistic assumption of innocence about their children and pornography. If your children truly have been spared, praise God for that grace. However, we must not allow our good desire for their innocence to cause us to be naïve about what they might be hearing and seeing.

These facts are virtually certain, whether or not your children have seen pornography:

1.  There are people they know who are exposed to pornography

2.  There are people out there who want your children to get hooked on pornography

Jen Wilkins has written this outstanding article for the Gospel Coalition entitled “Help Your Children Say ‘No’ To Porn”. This is an apt title, because eventually your children will be asked or offered to see it.

I particularly like her thoughts on giving our children “internal controls” to help protect themselves; and reinforcing a “cultural of confession” rather than concealment in our homes.

As Jen points out, we need to start early. Even if our children are too young to be capable of seeing pornography, it is good to start planning for their safe future.

At the end of Jen’s article, make sure you check out the valuable resources she provides.

I also encourage you to talk with one of your pastors, if you know or suspect your children are viewing visual filth. We want to be a help to you – because we are parents too. We want to be a church that supports one another in these matters that are dear to our hearts.

MORE

We are surrounded with prosperity

. . . And we always want more!

Compare your possessions and experiences with that of your parents and grandparents. The difference in just one generation is mind boggling! The “American dream” tells us we should expect to always do better. And technology enables us to be constantly entertained

There is much we can have and do have; and more is always being held out to us. The job of the thousands of ads we constantly hear and see is to make us discontent with what we have, so we want more of what they are selling. In his book Worldliness, CJ Mahaney uses this true story to illustrate the seduction of having more:

An American company had trouble keeping employees working in their Panama factory. The laborers lived in an agrarian, barter economy, but the company paid in cash. Since the average employee had more cash after a week’s work than he had ever seen, he would periodically quit, satisfied with what he had made. So the company gave all their employees a Sears catalog. No one quit then, because they all wanted the previously undreamed-of things they saw in that book

 

A leader of the persecuted church in Romania made this sobering observation:

“In my experience, 95 percent of the believers who face the test of persecution pass it, while 95 percent who face the test of prosperity fail it.”

The Bible warns us against the seduction prosperity in Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; . . Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

Prosperity and success lead to self sufficiency and pride that diminish God in our mind and hearts. We lose our sense of complete dependence upon God and our sense of urgency in pursuing Him. We ‘forget’ what He has done; we forget that all we are and have is from Him

The answer?

Well it is not necessarily to get rid of everything, although most of us might benefit from a little simplification of life and stuff. Rather the answer to make sure all we have is for God.

How generous are you with God?

Is giving and generosity part of your lifestyle?

How tightly do you cling to what you have?

Do you feel that God has the right to take what He has allowed you to have?

Do we enjoy what we have for the glory of God or for the satisfaction of our self?

I know these can be hard questions to even know how to answer, but they are questions worth considering.

Another protection from “more” is to recognize how rich we are in Christ. A careful reading of Ephesians 1 helps us to remain content with God. We gain a greater joy for the possessions of grace that are most important

Perhaps the most helpful protection of all is to want God more than anything else. If we are desperate for more of God, we will not allow lesser things to distance us from him.

Is God want we want more of?

 

R

HELP FOR OUR PRAYER TIME

Paul Miller’s book “A Praying Life” gives what he calls “seven simple suggestions for how you can spend time with your Father in the morning”:

1.  Get to bed

What you do in the evening will shape your morning. The Hebrew notion of a day as the evening and morning (see Genesis 1) helps you plan for prayer. If you want to pray in the morning, then plan your evening so you don’t stay up too late. The evening and the morning are connected.

2.  Get up

Praying in bed is wonderful. In fact, the more you pray out of bed, the more you’ll pray in bed. But you’ll never develop a morning prayer time in bed. Some of my richest prayer times are at night. I’ll wake up praying. But those prayer times only began to emerge because I got out of bed to pray.

3.  Get awake

Maybe you need to make a pot of coffee first or take a shower.

4.  Get a quiet place

Maybe a room, a chair, or a place with a view. Or maybe you do better going for a walk. Make sure that no one can interrupt you.

5.  Get comfortable

Don’t feel like you have to pray on your knees. For years I was hindered from praying because I found it so uncomfortable to pray on my knees.

6.  Get going

Start with just five minutes. Start with a small goal that you can attain rather than something heroic. You’ll quickly find that the time will fly.

7.  Keep going

Consistency is more important than length. If you pray five minutes every day, then the length of time will slowly grow. You’ll look up and discover that twenty minutes have gone by. You’ll enjoy being with God. Jesus is so concerned about hanging in there with prayer that he tells “his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).

“Regardless of how or when you pray, if you give God the space, he will touch your soul. God knows you are exhausted, but at the same time he longs to be part of your life.”

3.7.12

MY COURTROOM EXPERIENCE

“Guilty of murder in the first degree”

That was the result of my recent three week experience with jury duty.

Serving on a murder trial was saddening, fascinating and tedious.  

It was also sobering.

Many times I felt the weight of two possible and sickening results: that we might declare an innocent man guilty, or that we might allow a guilty man to go free.  

Thankfully, the entire jury felt confident in the justice of our verdict.

As I sat though this experience, my thoughts often made comparisons between what was taking place before me and the final courtroom scene of God’s eternal judgment.

Here are some of those thoughts:

1.  In God’s courtroom, there is no confusing legalese or bureaucratic wrangling.

Every, thought, word, deed and motivation has been recorded. God will lay out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!

2.  In God’s courtroom, there will be no jury.

The only voice that counts for eternity comes from the Lord of Eternity. The flawed and arrogant opinions that people utter now, will be swallowed up in fearful silence when that Judge appears.

3.  For every believer, our defense attorney is Jesus Christ.

And He has never lost a case placed into His care.

4.  God who is our Judge, will do more than declare each believer innocent

He will pull out the papers that also proclaim our adoption as His precious child and heir.

5.  In God’s court, perfect justice will be done!

Without exception, the guilt of every sin will be punished. Either that punishment will at that moment be placed on the sinners who still hold their guilt – – Or, God will declare that the penalty was already paid in full by Jesus on the cross

Do you know what will take place for you when God calls us before His court of justice?

You can have complete confidence that you will walk out free!

Because Jesus has paid the penalty required for sinners.

And even now, Heaven cries out,

 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9)

 “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

 But if you ignore God wonderful and available grace,

 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”  (John 3:36)

 “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)

SERGEI HAS LANDED

Sergei (right center) and Valery Beza (left center) will be planting a church together in Minsk

Sergei Lukyanov just landed, and we are asking for your prayers for his time in the U.S. (October 20 – November 17)

Sergei is our ministry partner in Belarus and co-founder with our church of SEE Global, a mission organization that focuses on Belarus, but has recently widened its reach to Muslim ministry in London.

This is an exciting time for SEE Global:

1.  We have a terrific new class at our Bible College in Minsk, Belarus

2.  Sergei is working with an energized leadership team that will be planting a new church with him in Minsk next year

3.  In a few months we will begin a fresh approach to equipping pastors that will involve extensive hands-on-training with a small group of committed men. The idea is to have these men train others and so on.

Would you pray right now for these key areas of SEE Global’s ministry?

Today, Sergei will be traveling with me to the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Conference in Nashville. In addition to the benefit of the teaching we will hear, we will be connecting with leaders in the areas of pastor training and church planting.

Ask God to help us learn & absorb all that would be good.

At the end of the week, Sergei will head north for a three week swing across New England. He will visit churches that work with SEE Global as well as make connections with pastors who want to know more about SEE Global. 

Pray for Sergei’s energy and that God will use him effectively.

The last week of Sergei’s trip will be spent back in New Jersey. He will be involved in events and services at Greentree and we will be attending a second conference – this one for ministry leaders in churches. This teaching will be helpful for Sergei’s use with his church plant team.

These final days of Sergei’s trip will provide the much needed opportunity for planning in regard to the present and future ministry of SEE Global in Belarus. This relaxed face to face discussion is much better than our usual email and phone contact.

Pray for unified wisdom as we work through the new steps SEE Global is taking in Belarus.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.20.14

“How do we look at people?”                   

 James 2:1-13

James continues to address how we live in community, as believers. He now warns us treating one another according to the external standards of the world

Partiality is when we make unbiblical distinctions between each other

Partiality can take the forms of either Discrimination or Favoritism

The Church is not immune to ‘celebrity-itis’ or cultural prejudices

The word for “partiality” in v1 literally means “receiving the face”

It is referring to treating people based on external matters

The example James uses, is when we treat one another according to social status

Our perspective is to be radically different from the surrounding culture

We need to make a couple clarifications

1.  We need to distinguish between Discerning and Discriminating

Discrimination is treating people differently based on their group

Discernment responds accurately to people as wisdom requires

For example, in Children’s Ministry we do not let just anyone teach; this is for reasons of physical safety and biblical safety

Discernment can show love even though it requires trust to be earned

Discrimination is a preloaded opinion that fails to show love, or wisdom

2.  As Christians, biblical standards must overrule personal standards

The world places personal choices first, so they consider the Church’s rebuke of them to be discriminatory

The church must operate under the standards of God’s word, which means we must confront sin. Sometimes that will involve restrictive action (church discipline)

This is not discrimination and it is not judging – as long as we are using God’s judgments and not our own

Three reasons why partiality doesn’t belong in our hearts

1.  Partiality stands in contradiction to God’s own evaluation (v5)

God saves by his ‘choice’; if we treat people with a bias, we are contradicting God

In addition, when God saves someone, he also adopts them as heirs of his kingdom

How do you feel when someone mocks or disdains one of your children?

2.  Partiality ignores basic human realities (vs 6-7)

People of status often are those who misuse the rest of society

They often blaspheme (or disregard) God who we cherish

3.  Partiality violates our guiding principle of loving neighbor (v8)

God has given us a new agenda, which is to show love toward every person

Love looks at people’s best interest

Love takes action that reflects how God cares for us

One form of partiality we often don’t recognize in ourselves, is when we assume bad motives for people

It is internal slander and violates the Bible’s teaching on Love 

1 Corinthians 13:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things” 

James wants to press upon us the seriousness of the matter

1.  This and every sin should be taken seriously (vs10-11)

His point is that we are responsible for all that God requires

His purpose is to keep us from minimizing partiality as a small sin     

2.  Partiality is a serious departure from biblical thinking

It is inconsistent with our faith in Christ (v1)

All people are sinners, condemned and helpless. No one in our church received salvation because they were better people

In v1 James refers to Christ as the Lord of glory. He is reminding us that He alone deserves to be exalted by us

Partiality is inconsistent with Christ’s agenda. We are called to always pursue people, not set up prejudices

In v4 James adds that the motivation behind partiality is evil thoughts. This is because we are using the world’s way of thinking

A couple important implications:

1.  The Word of truth is meant to influence every aspect of life

Everything is under the authority of God and His word

It is too easy for us to think we are pretty good at following God’s word

Being connected in a small group helps us to think through biblical truth and holds us accountable to it

2.  The Church is meant to be a community of vibrant love in action

The biblical community in our church should show the transforming reality of God that we see in the Acts 2 church

But this will only take place if we are “doers” of what the Bible says about the Church

People regularly experience partiality; so w have an opportunity to demonstrate something different

Is there anyone you should treat differently? 

THANKS CHILDREN’S MINISTRY WORKERS!

This Sunday we are recognizing, thanking and celebrating our Children’s Ministry Workers.

I think this comic from the Adam4d.com website does a good job of capturing how we feel about these faithful and loving workers at Greentree (click on image a couple times to increase the size)

2014-01-13-child-care1

BE GRACIOUS TO YOUR HUSBANDS

by Debbie Huber

Often during teaching on marriage from Ephesians 5:22-33, we hear something like this: “Women, you may think biblical submission is hard, but wait until we get to Ephesians 5:25 where the men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church.” 

Since biblical submission is not a favorite topic of some women, at this point it is easy to sit back and bask in hearing how God needs to change our husbands!

The reality is the wife’s responsibility to submit to her husband is not necessarily easier than the husband sacrificially loving his wife.  That is because we both have sinful natures and we would naturally choose to please ourselves, not serve our spouse. 

Wives often expect patience and grace from their husband as we grow in learning biblical submission because it is so counter to the thinking of our culture or our upbringing. 

But do we give the same grace to our husbands in the area of leadership in the home?  Or do we struggle with disappointment when they don’t live up to those standards?  Sacrificial, biblical leadership is not natural in today’s society either and many men did not have a role model for this. 

A recent blog post by Jessalyn Hutto  discusses where our focus should be.

Jessalyn emphasizes that wives must “first and foremost learn to view our husbands as brothers in the faith,” in that he is a sinner too that needs God’s grace every day to obey and honor Christ in all that he does.

 God so lavishly bestows His grace upon us and through Christ’s sacrifice our sins are fully forgiven. 

“We must labor to be able to speak to, think of, pray for, serve, and love our husbands as fellow blood-bought sinners who God has chosen to lavish his love and grace upon. We must seek to extend the same mercy to our husbands as we are called to show to every brother and sister in Christ”.

“Most importantly, wives must remember that our marriages are not primarily about us. The entire purpose of God creating marriage roles in the way he did was to display the glory of the gospel—not so that we can experience the joy of being perfectly shepherded by perfect husbands!

If our happiness and ability to dispense grace to other sinners is dependent upon having perfect marriages, then we have missed the point altogether.

Our joy and contentment within our marriages should be governed solely by the love we are continually being shown by our great Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is only in experiencing his perfect leadership in our lives that we will be able to pursue and enjoy gospel-glorifying marriages made up of imperfect sinners.”

WE ARE TAKING A FRESH STEP

This article grabbed my attention immediately

“The Big God in Your Small Group”

I saw it on the Desiring God Blog and it dealt directly with an issue we recently discussed in our Community Fellowship.

Although we have a strong group that has remained consistent for many years, we recognized we still have work to do in building more community and interaction outside of our scheduled meetings.

We talked about being more intentional in how we connect with one another as individuals, couples and families. Our desire is to deepen our relationships, bear one another’s burdens and simply know what is going on in each others lives.

What especially encouraged me was that the youngest couple in the group initiated this conversation.

Here was a couple with their hands full with life: they have two preschool children and another on the way; the husband operates his own business; and they serve in church – yet they recognize the need for and want deeper biblical community.

Do you have this heart?

Are you willingly to take steps to make it happen?

One of the comments made in our discussion on sharing life together, was how much we all enjoyed a recent gathering when we went around the room updating the group on what was happening in our lives.

It helped us to feel we really know what is going on in one another’s lives. I know it help me to have better clarity in how I can pray for the other members of my small group.

The greatest encouragement we can have in pursuing deeper community with one another is that God will be right in the middle of it. Scripture tells us that He wants (expects) biblical community to happen. This mean God will give us grace for it (and that will be needed). It also means God will bring fruitfulness to it (and that will be wonderful).

As you read the “The Big God in Your Small Group”, ask God to inspire you in how you share life with the members of your church – they are your forever family!