Monthly Archives: April 2015

I LOVE GOING TO CHURCH

My Dad and older siblings at my first church home in Jackson Twp, NJ

I love going to church

I always have

It all started when I was 9 days old. My mom played the piano for our small church which had no nursery. So she slid me underneath in a basket (Moses style), and I have been in church ever since.

I really am excited when I arrive each week

Showing up at church is not the same as arriving at any other event. This is a gathering of those:

Jesus has saved,

the Father has adopted,

and the Holy Spirit has entered

We are meant to find blessing and be a blessing on every ordinary  Sunday.

We are to arrive with joyful expectation that God will be at work in ways that only God can work.

For these reasons, I enjoyed this little article by Trevin Wax, entitled “The Wonder of Sunday Morning”.

As you read it, be encouraged by the simply – yet significant graces of God that are taking place every time we come to church.

OUR HOPE CAN HANDLE ANY CHALLENGE

 This is the fourth in a 5 part series on Tuesdays that present the great truth of biblical Hope.

Our Hope Can Handle Any Challenge

In Christ we are never hopeless!

Our hope will be challenged in a variety of ways – but our hope can handle every challenge

The hope we have is that salvation’s entire promise will be fulfilled        

God has promised that his sovereignty and goodness will fulfill that hope

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, 30and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30)

Our enemy cannot alter this hope, so he tries to distort our perspective about hope

What are some of the major challenges to our hope, and why can our hope can handle them?

The Challenge of Sin  

Satan lures us into sin and then uses it to condemn us.

He floods our thoughts with a barrage of accusations declaring God’s anger and rejection.

He wants us to give up our zeal by telling us that we will never be godly.

Hope meets the challenge

v30 tells us those who have been “justified” (saved) will eventually be “glorified” (perfected). 

Our salvation is guaranteed by Christ’s work, not by our maintenance of salvation

v29 reminds us that our salvation began by God coming to us – He is totally committed to the preservation of our relationship with Him

The Challenge of Success and Prosperity

It seems that nothing leads us to take our minds off God faster than success.

At first we thank God, but over time we become lax and fall into thinking we are self-sufficient.

We become forgetful and lesser hopes take over our attention. We spend less time with God and think about his graces less often

Our focus increasingly is on what we are accomplishing, what we think we need to do, and our ever lengthening list of wants

Hope meets the challenge

Simply look up and there Christ is – he has never left us or stopped his labors on our behalf

v28 reminds us that “we know” wonderful truths about God

We are surrounded with memorable works of God and the wonderful promises of God

Our hope is so extraordinary, just to look at one facet, is enough to outshine the empty hopes of our own success

The Challenge of Disappointment and loss

The reality of living in a world groaning under bondage (vs 20-22) is that pain and disappointment are never far

We are regularly assaulted by thoughts that “God may be real, but He is not near”

We take our failures and multiple burdens to be evidences that God has stepped back

Hope meets the challenge    

Our hope is nothing less than the person of God himself and His inability to be unfaithful

vs 28-30 repeatedly remind us that we are on an eternal trajectory. In fact life can only make sense when we look at it with an eternal perspective

God is taking our life somewhere and the final destination is not here

The Challenge of Shallow Hopes

The world is incessantly offering us their false hopes

When the world around us is only talking about these empty hopes, we can get lost in the clutter of it all. The sheer volume of hearing about them creates an obscuring fog of shallow hope.

When we see people enjoying some of these hopes, we start to think they are worth pursuing.

The world’s hopes are not a mirage, but they are a veneer – they are shallow and will wear away

Hope meets the challenge

Our hope is not simply something held out to us to grab, we are a new creation

v28 tells us our hope is in God’s work

All the efforts of this world combined cannot match the grandeur of what God is accomplishing in us and for us

The Puritan preacher, Richard Sibbes wrote:

“As an adult is no longer satisfied with children’s games; so we are no longer satisfied with what the world offers”

We have been made for greater hopes than the world could ever provide – and we have tasted that they are wondrously good

Spit out the false hopes people are trying to feed you and nourish your soul on the person of Christ who is the Bread of Life. Refresh your soul with the person of the Holy Spirit who is the Fountain of Living Waters

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.27.15

‘What Are We Here For?’

Matthew 5:13-16

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes what life looks like in his kingdom. Jesus is not adjusting how we view life, he is revolutionizing it to be entirely God-centered. In vs 13-16, Jesus reshapes how we understand our role in the world

Why are we here? What is our role or purpose?

The prevalent view is to get what we can out of life before it’s over

And that makes sense if this life is your own kingdom and this world is all we have

In Christ, we know better – life’s purpose stretches beyond our time in this world

That is what the Beatitudes (vs 3-12) want us to see; the blessed are those who know God is our life now and forever

God made life and everything in this world “good”

But humanity has rebelled against him and the whole earth “groans” (Romans 8:20-22)

God must bring justice, but he has also provided grace

But for God to complete our salvation, he must deliver us out of this rebellious world into his unspoiled kingdom

But God doesn’t remove us immediately

(1)  He is making our life to be fit for our eternity with him (which the rest of chapter 5 describes)

(2)  He uses us as his instruments to reach others (what our text describes)

Our role in Christ, is to live for his eternal agenda – the gospel

Jesus describes our role with two illustrations

1. God’s people are “the salt of the earth” (v13)

Salt had a variety of purposes: to preserve, purify and flavor

Our gospel role involves all three functions, but preserving is pre-eminent

The point is not that believers will preserve the world, the Bible declares that this world is condemned

However, individuals are preserved through the saving gospel of Christ

God saved us to be holy and he keeps us here to be instruments

What if we go through life ignoring our primary purposes? v13 says we are like salt that has lost its taste

The phrase “lost its taste” is more literally “become foolish”

We would have lost our distinction – our ‘Why’ for being here

2. God’s people are “the light of the world” (vs 14-16)

Light reveals what is True and what is Real

God is the greatest reality in life, and eternity is the greatest implication

In v16, Jesus makes it clear that how we live is part of the light that radiates from us

Our gospel influence is our words and works, not either / or

These works are not just moral living (Matt 23:23)

The works of the gospel include how we love and care for people

We proclaim the gospel, so people hear the most necessary truth

We live gospel, so they see what God’s heart is like

Every believer shares these roles

Jesus says it clearly: you are “the” salt and light of world

Although we have different abilities, opportunities and results, we all have the same purpose of living for Christ

And Jesus’ great work in this world is to save the lost

The gospel is the only hope people have from God, and his people are the only people to proclaim it

You don’t have to find out your role in life, here it is!

Jesus is our Lord, and he has given us our purpose

And every person we meet needs the agenda of the gospel working in their lives

No other purpose or position on earth comes close in importance

Nothing on the President of the United States’ desk equals your calling to live, share and display the gospel

Look again at vs13-16, most of it describes how pointless life becomes when we are ignoring our purpose

All this has implications for us as a church

As a church we need to be committed to living in biblical community

This is where we learn what that is and it is what people should experience when they visit

As The Church we also need to go out!  How can you be involved in the lives of people in your circle of the world?

Although we are the salt and light that the world needs, the world doesn’t appreciate this fact

The Beatitude immediately before vs 13-16, focused on when persecution comes to us

Jesus wants to encourage us and give us a healthy perspective about the world’s negative responses

Be Encouraged!  Life may be a struggle, but God is making us fit for eternity with him

Be Faithful!  This world may be evil, but God still has people he will save

RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY

Sermon on the MT

I love preaching to our church family at Greentree, because you love to hear God’s Word!

This is pleasing to healthy for you – pleasing to God – and a gift to your pastors

One expression of your love for Scripture, has been an interest in further study –particularly concerning our new sermon series from the Sermon on the Mount, “Living for Christ’s Kingdom”.

There is an avalanche of material available on this part of the Bible. Here are some recommended resources that are helpful for the general reader:

The Whole Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount  by Sinclair Ferguson
Sermon on the Mount  by James Boice
Sermon on the Mount  by Kent Hughes
The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple  by Daniel Doriani
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount  by John Stott

Parts of the Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes for Today  by John Blanchard
The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character  by John Stott
The Beatitudes  by Thomas Watson   A Puritan writer

The Lord’s Prayer

The Prayer of Our Lord  by Philip Ryken
The Lord’s Prayer for Today  by Derek Prime
Praying the Lord’s Prayer  by J.I. Packer
The Lord’s Prayer  by Thomas Watson   A Puritan writer

Most of these are not carried in the bookstore of Greentree Church, but you can find them at Amazon or you can search on one of these online Christian book stores:

Cumberland Bible Book Service  cvbbs.com  My favorite book store, located in Carlisle, PA
Westminster Book Store  wtsbooks.com
Christian Book Distributers  Christianbook.com

GIVING GOD A SHOVE

Did you know that sin shoves God aside?

Most people look at sin as breaking moral rules

There is some degree of truth in that thought, but it is a wholly insufficient way of looking at sin.

As we can see in our own lifetime, people easily change their perspective of what is moral and immoral.

There are churches and even so-called Christian denominations that have changed what rules they consider being moral or immoral. As a result, they have changed their categories of sin.

God was given no say in the matter, because they view sin from a man-centered perspective

When we look at sin as merely rule breaking, it’s easier to minimize the seriousness of a particular sin, even if we agree that it is still in the sin category.

When we look at sin as breaking rules we automatically create a rating system in our minds concerning what we consider to be the serious grade of sins as compared with the more modest grades of sin.

Once we have this view of sin, it becomes easy for us to be nonchalant about breaking “minor rules”; after all people break and bend minor rules every day without any serious consequence.

However, sin is not simply the breaking of a rule

Its significance runs much deeper.

Sin is to choose what we want rather than what God wants. What makes this such a significant matter is that we belong to God – in fact everything belongs to God. We have no rights over anything apart from the gracious privileges God gives to us in His world.

God is not merely Creator / Owner of all that exists; He is Perfect Wisdom in all that He does. God never operates outside of what is perfectly good, His “rules” and expectations are the manifestation of the only things God could require.

A perfect God is incapable of calling us to live by any standard that is not for our best.

There is one more factor to add to God’s Ownership and His Perfection:

God is personally involved in this world and most of all, in our lives.

We were created in “His image” and we were made to live in intimate communion with a gracious God who dearly loves us.

All of these realities about God should cause us to look differently at sin.

Sin really is pushing God aside.

We should not image this pushing and shoving as anything like the impersonal jostling that takes place when we are in a crowded place. We may apologize when we bump into someone, but we certainly don’t grieve that offense.

When we sin, we are shoving God aside in a personal and abusive manner.

A picture that more closely (but still insufficiently) illustrates our sin is to imagine a young person who rejects their parents’ wishes. They are so intent on following their own way they take both hands and push their parent in the face so they can get by them.

Yes, your sins are that raw . . that abusive . . that personal . . and that evil.

If you are “in Christ” then your Heavenly Father is not only walking with you, He is in conversation with you.

There is no inoffensive way to describe what it looks like to reject His ways for our own.

As we face the barrage of temptations to go our own way, may we do all we can to make sin ugly and grievous to us.

Picture God’s desire to draw you nearer in His embrace; then see sin as a choice between reaching out to God and shoving our way against Him

IS YOUR HOPE CLEAR?

 This is the third in a 5 part series on Tuesdays that present the great truth of biblical Hope.

A Clear Hope Makes a Hopeful Christian

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us how to clarify the focus of our hope, in very practical ways: vs 19-34

Here are three points of clarity that will strengthen our hope

1. Clarify what is our treasure (vs 19-21)

We function each day within a world dominated by our physical senses and time.

These keep pressing us to treasure what they can enjoy now. Earthly treasure is their hope

Are we going along with the world’s view of hope? The answer is found in the practices of our life.

What are we trying to obtain, or protect above all? What sets off an alarm that life is not going well?

Our standard of living

A certain relationship

How people perceive us

Accomplishments

Each of these treasures is loaded with uncertainties

Our hope is not just for a Heaven we have never seen, it is in the fulfillment of salvation’s entire promise

Whatever our treasure, it will be the lens through which we see the ebb and flow of our life (vs 22-23)

If our value system isn’t clear, we will bounce around between various ‘hopes’ that are never secure

Our treasure chest is something we need to regularly examine. What have we put in there?

2. Clarify what is our purpose (v24)

We need to bring our labors in line with our treasure

We may not think we serve different masters, but who are we working for?

What do we make sure we get done every day – our time with God or our to do list?

Does our lifestyle determine our giving, or does our giving determine our lifestyle?

If someone asked; “How are you serving the Kingdom of God?”  Would we have an answer?

There is no way around it; we will have to disappoint one of those who want to be our master

Serving God will routinely get in the way of other things. We have many responsibilities, but we only have one master.

What does this have to do with hope?

Unless we have clarified our purpose for being in this world, this idea of God being “master” will be burdensome. Our obedience will be done begrudgingly; without much joy or hope in it

However if we clearly see our big purpose for being here – is God, then we are ready to get going!

It is not that every moment of serving God is fun, but it is all meaningful

If we believe what we do has great meaning, it will be entwined with hope, even when unpleasant

3. Clarify who we trust (vs 25-34)

We are tempted to trust what claims or looks to be strong and secure

If we are not clear about who we trust, we will make the error of putting our hope in people or things that cannot hold that weight

If our trust is always in God – rather than in our ability to trust God, then we have hope

God does not fail.

He does not change the rules.

He does not diminish our prize

He is not overwhelmed

His sovereignty is never unseated

Hope is strengthened by each new discovery that God can handle the full weight of what we need him to bear.

Keep clear about what your hope is in, and your hope will not fade

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.20.15

A New Look at the Blessed Life       

Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus public ministry has begun (Matt 4:23-5:2)

v1 makes a connection between Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Moses receiving the law on Mt Sinai

Both follow the biblical mountain motif

By saying Jesus was on “the” mountain, focus is put on something significant happening as at Mt Sinai with Moses

Jesus “went up” is the same language that describes Moses at Mt Sinai

Jesus “sat down” has similar implications as when we are told Moses “remained” on Mt Sinai

The connection is that like Moses, Jesus tells God’s people how they are to live before Him

However v2 makes a contrast to Moses at Mt Sinai

Moses brought the words God had written on tablets, while Jesus spoke in his own authority

Jesus will repeatedly make the statements, “You have heard” (from Moses) . . “But I say to you”

Jesus is fulfilling what John 1 says of him: He is “the Word made flesh”

The Sermon on the Mount ends by emphasizing the authority in Jesus preaching (Matt 7:28-29)

Jesus is greater than Moses, and initiates a new and greater covenant: Moses covenant was temporary & earthly, while Jesus’ New Covenant is eternal & heavenly

Matthew 4 tells us Jesus “proclaimed the kingdom”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lays before us what life looks like in that kingdom

Just as the New Covenant is greater than the Mosaic Covenant, so its law is higher and runs deeper

The Sermon on the Mount is often seen as intimidating and impossible

This is because our lives are so infiltrated by the world’s thinking

The Kingdom of Heaven is fully God-centered, while the world is man-centered

Rather than be discouraged (or resentful) of the Sermon on the Mount, be thankful that Jesus is showing life that has beauty, goodness, truth and glory

This is how Jesus lives

This is how Heaven lives

This is how we will eternally live

This is how we can now live

This life is not an impossible way to live; it is a God-enabled way to live

This is life for those with a spiritual birth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit

The Sermon on the Mount is not simply showing a better life, it reveals the “blessed” life

This is why Jesus begins his sermon with a series of blessings or beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12)

If you were asked to make a list describing a blessed life, how many of these qualities would you list?

In this sermon, Jesus revolutionizes our framework of how to live, by shattering our understanding of what it means to be ‘blessed’

Life can only truly be blessed, when it is in covenant with God

Otherwise, our life remains under the curse of sin and God’s judgment

These beatitudes and the whole Sermon on the Mount flow out of life in the gospel

Jesus gives us a different way to look at what means to be blessed

1.  It comes from living by our covenant relationship with God

The first part of each beatitude, is based on our living in God’s presence

2.  Being blessed of God follows an eternal trajectory

The end of each beatitude, is based on the surety and glory of God’s kingdom

The Beatitudes is not a list of things we do to find blessing

Neither is it a list we choose from as our individualized identity

This is a description of God’s grace to those live for him in a broken world

These are graces we have now, but their full grandeur is yet to come

How should we respond to these declarations of blessing?

1.  Change how we evaluate our lives and circumstances

We are blessed because of what the gospel gives us, none of which can ever be diminished

If we don’t evaluate our quality of life through what Christ has done, we are acting like those who live without him

2.  Think wisely, which means more eternally, about what we pursue

The greatest reality is God, and the greatest implications are eternal

Life decisions and priorities should be shaped by eternal considerations

3.  Take joy in our Lord Jesus who wonderfully rescues and leads us

Joyfully embrace this life we have “in him” and with him

Our hardships and failures don’t describe our life, what Jesus says describes our life!

EVERYONE IS IN A WHEELCHAIR

Kim Ordile

When Lou Ordile showed me this article written by his wife Kim, I immediately asked if I could share it with all of you, God has given her excellent insights through her significant struggles.

Kim and Lou along with their children, Joseph and Jessa have shown the power of God’s grace in the midst of life’s great difficulties. May their heart be our own!

Back in 2012 my health started to decline. 

Today the wheelchair is my reality. 

But this is not about me, for God has graciously reminded me that everyone feels like they are in a wheelchair:

The feeling that things are out of my control

Being pushed in directions I didn’t plan on going

The fear of going too fast or the frustration with going to slow

Heart ache due to broken dreams

Angry from having to live with limitations, consequences, boundaries and restrictions

Coping with changes that impact my identity, or who I thought I was

Anxiety that I might be rejected

A sense of pain, and the lack of comfort or contentment to make it go away

I have found the only way for me to resolve any of these feelings is on my knees before God.

God loves me and he loves you, and he longs to be in relationship with us.

Hard times cause our hearts to long for something deeper and real. This is found when we are in relationship with the God who created us. Accepting that Jesus is God’s Son and that he died and rose again to pay for our sin, is the way to God. 

God is the only One that can give us peace, a purpose, a true identity, contentment, and the security of being unconditionally loved. 

I pray that no matter what your wheelchair is – that you will receive God’s love for you. I have found his love to be true even in my wheelchair!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13  

Kim Ordile

NOTHING BUT TALKING WITH GOD

You probably want to pray more.

In fact you probably would like to be a great person of prayer (whatever that is).

However, part of you resists prayer as much as part of you wants to pray.

This resistance comes from a few sources:

1. Satan does not want you to pray, because he is aware of its immense benefits and power.  

2. Our sinful nature resists prayer, because it arrogantly does not want to live in submission to God.  

3. Our culture conditions us to minimize the value of prayer.

In his outstanding book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, Paul Miller has this to say about how we are culturally distracted from a serious commitment to pray:

American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray. We are so busy that when we slow down to pray, we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer is nothing but talking to God. It feels useless, as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our bodies screams, “Get to work.”

One of the subtlest hindrances to prayer is probably the most pervasive. In the broader culture and in our churches, we prize intellect, competency, and wealth. Because we can do life without God, praying seems nice but unnecessary. Money can do what prayer does, and it is quicker and less time-consuming. Our trust in ourselves and in our talents makes us structurally independent of God.

How do you view doing “nothing but talking with God”?  Does that seem like a worthy way to use a portion of each day?

May we be awakened to see that nothing but talking with God is not only the most worthy use of our time, and it is what we need most

 

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF HOPELESSNESS

This is the second of a 5 part series on Tuesdays that present the great truth of biblical Hope.

Hopelessness is impossible for a true Christian

That is the message given to us in Romans 8:28:

We know–all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose

Biblical hope is confidence that salvation’s entire promise will be fulfilled

How could there be more reason for hope, than in what salvation promises? 

All the guilt of our sin is forever removed

We will dwell in God’s loving presence forever

We will be co-heirs with Jesus

We will be glorified – perfected into the character of Jesus

Everyone who shares our eternity – will also be perfected and glorified

All tears, pain, disappointment and sorrows will cease to exist

God will make all things whole

When we understand our hope, we will realize that we cannot actually be hopeless. Because every aspect of our salvation is accomplished by Christ and kept by the Father.

However, it’s quite possible to have feelings of hopelessness. Faith tells us these feelings are a lie; and the appropriate antidote to a lie is the truth.

Practices that help drive away the lies of hopelessness

1.  Biblical hope exalts the greatness of God

“We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2)

Be a worshiper!  The exceeding greatness and glory of God far exceeds the power of anything that can impinge upon our hope. It is the citizens of hell that moan and tremble, not the citizens of heaven.

2.  Biblical hope declares that God is sovereign and his plans are good 

“We know–all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28)

Keep reminding ourselves about the examples of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty throughout the Bible and in our past

3.  Biblical hope lives according to the word of God 

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word” (Psalm 119:114)

Keep putting what the Bible says into practice. As we live by God’s word, we bring into our lives what will “never return empty”, what will “never pass away”

4.  Biblical hope trades our personal hopes for what God has given to us

“Having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which (God) has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18)

Make sure we are not hoping in what God has never promised or guaranteed. Whatever hopes we can gather for ourselves will always pale in comparison to the grandeur of what God has already promised to his people

We cannot be hopeless, because God is the person who fulfills our hope

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast”! (Hebrews 6:19)