Monthly Archives: June 2015

YOU AND THE “JONESES”

“You can’t keep up with the Joneses when you’re committed to radical generosity, and I think that’s exactly how God intends it.”

That is how Tim Challies ends this article entitled “The Cost of Radical Generosity”.

Tim gives us an encouraging reminder about priorities and the proverbial “keeping up with the Joneses”.

The truth is we cannot spend as much on ourselves when we are generous givers to God. But can we truly say that we have not benefitted when we are generous to God?

When we give out of love for God, we are not bothered by what we could not do with our money, because we did what means most to us.

Generosity will increase the list of stuff we cannot afford to buy and places we cannot afford to go – but we can be joyful now and forever that the Kingdom of God had an increasingly generous place in our giving, because love for God has an increasingly big place in our hearts!

Here are some questions we should ask ourselves about our giving:

Have you seriously and thoughtfully asked God about your giving commitment?

Does your giving involve any sacrifice – or is it a token gift?

Have you grown in your generosity toward God?

Is your giving to God the central issue in your budget and finances?

Do you have the perspective that you share in the responsibilities of what your church needs and is trying to accomplish?

Do you give consistently to your church, even on the weeks you are sick or away?

Do you thank God for the privilege of giving to what His Kingdom is accomplishing?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.29.15

‘A Kingdom Perspective on Money’

Matthew 6:19-24

Where Is Our Treasure?

Jesus points out that our treasure is primarily about place (earth or heaven)

People who don’t treasure Christ’s kingdom, live for what is here

If we treasure Jesus, then we treasure everything about his kingdom

v19 is forceful in telling us to stop making foolish choices

As people of Christ’s kingdom we should apply what we say we believe

We know everything in this world will pass away – making it a poor treasure choice

We know nothing in Christ’s kingdom can pass away – making it a forever treasure

If we are citizens of Christ’s kingdom, what to treasure becomes obvious

Jesus says this issue runs deeper than making the wiser choice (v21)

Our choice of treasure shapes the affections of our heart

Jesus tells us this because we may be deceiving ourselves

A big deception is telling ourselves that we are laboring to give our family a good life

How much does our actually family need?

And how are we defining what is a good life?

Clarifying thoughts:

1. Jesus is not advocating poverty: but he likely intends more simplicity, more restraint and generous giving

2. Jesus is not condemning financial planning: he is condemning wrong goals (planning can help us clarify our goals)

3. Jesus is not condemning “laying up treasure”; in v20 Jesus says go ahead, lay them up in heaven

The great treasure is our eternal fellowship with the triune God

Yet the Bible also speaks of rewards in eternity

Our Choice of Treasure Affects Our Life Perspective (vs22-23)

Jesus is building on his point in v 21 about how treasure affects our heart

The “eye” here is referring to our heart and how we look at life

We interpret how to move forward through life by our heart’s perspective

When our perspective is colored by greed, materialism and envy, it twists our entire agenda

Jesus brings urgency to this issue; it is a matter of “light” or “darkness” (v23)

If our eyes are filled with the light of love for Christ, our life will glorify him and be filled with eternal fruitfulness

If eyes are filled with the darkness of materialism, then life will be grievously wasted on shallow goals and withering pleasure

Paul said he prayed that as God’s people we would see our true riches clearly (Ephesians 1:18)

Since we have a “glorious inheritance” coming to us, becoming generous is no loss to us

Let the light of glory open your eyes to live as a steward for God

What do we spend more on – vacations, hobbies, debt, education or Christ’s kingdom?

God can accomplish all he desires without you, but why would you want him to?

Generosity to God is not good for you like eating kale or castor oil

It is healthy good like fresh water

It is beautiful good like a sunrise (Proverbs 11:24-25)

Our Choice of Treasure Is A Choice of Master (v24)

Jesus is pointing out that we must actively choose what agenda our life will serve

If we don’t intentionally choose God, the default choice is always ourselves

We show God to be ‘Master’, when life obeys and exalts his agenda: including how we spend our money

Notice Jesus doesn’t say the choice of masters is between God and Satan

No Christian is going to choose Satan, and he is too subtle to ask

Instead Satan encourages us choose any good thing want, just as long as it’s not God (sports over church, debt that squeezes out giving, and relationships that diminish our intensity)

In vs 24 Jesus shows us that we test who is master by what makes us resentful

Do you resent being called to give, serve or obey?

Jesus calls us to be devoted to God as Master of everything: no exemptions, nothing on the side, and no compromises

All life choices fall into two categories: submission to God or submission withheld from him

As you hear Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount, do they feel liberating or threatening?

5 LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY DAD ON BEING A CHRISTIAN FATHER

Haviland FamilyMatt is in the middle holding his son Miles, and his Dad is on the far left

by Matt Haviland

As a father now looking back I’ve come to appreciate my father and all the lessons I’ve learned from him. He’s the person who’s had the most impact on my spiritual life and as I think about it now there are 5 lessons he taught me on how to be a Christian father.

1. Be A Faithful Husband

My Dad taught me how to love my wife. He’s been faithfully married to my Mom for 40+ years. As a child I knew that my parents loved each other. We had a stable home and that helped me feel secure growing up. My parents had the occasional argument but they were brief and seemed to be resolved quickly. One of the most important things I can do as a father is to love my wife.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25 (RSV)

2. Help Others Even When It’s Uncomfortable

When I was little my dad worked at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. So naturally I got to spend time there growing up. I learned not to judge people because of their circumstances and that it was important to help people who couldn’t help themselves. The lesson of helping others came home one summer when my father moved a family coming from Africa into our basement for a few months. It was uncomfortable to share our small home with another family and share my toys with others who were sometimes destructive.

Looking back that was a great experience that helped me learn to be generous and appreciate other cultures and people that were different.

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16 (RSV)

3. Be Spiritually Involved In Your Children’s Life

My dad was the spiritual leader of our home. He took us to church and led by example at home. As my brothers got into Middle School and High School my parents volunteered as youth leaders for our church. Even though I was younger I was dragged to all the youth group events and Bible studies.

Later as a young adult my dad lead an unofficial Bible study at our home. This was a great time of spiritual growth and the birthplace of his famous “hot potato” questions which always created great discussion and debate. I desire to be the spiritual leader in my home as my father was in our home.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 (RSV)

4. Handle Difficult Situations With Love And Grace.

There were several difficult situations that my dad faced. Disappointments that could easily have led to bitterness and hatred. Instead, he handled them with grace, love and forgiveness. Looking back I can see how God used those difficult situations for good even though they were hard to understand at the time.

“But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Ephesians 4:7 (RSV)

5. Keep Learning, Growing and Trusting God

My dad was a great example to me of desiring spiritual growth. He was open to learn and grow. I see how he continues to trust God and not rely on his own understanding.

“And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:9-10 (RSV)

I’m thankful for my dad and hope to pass on the lessons I’ve learned from him to my son.

Matthew is a real estate consultant with the Haviland Group at Keller Williams Realty. He is a husband to Katrina, father to Miles and uncle to two nieces and five nephews. Matthew’s real estate blog can be found at http://SJHouses.com

TRUST and OBEY: A TRIBUTE to ELISABETH ELLIOT

ElisabethElliotQuote_Died6-15-15_HeartChoicesToday

by Debbie Huber

“You are loved with an everlasting love. That’s what the Bible says. And underneath are the everlasting arms. This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot.”

This is how Elisabeth Elliot Gren opened her radio show, Gateway to Joy. She was a wife, mother, grandmother, missionary, prolific writer and speaker. She was best known as the wife of Jim Elliot who was martyred in Ecuador in 1956.

Many of us have heard the story and been inspired by Jim Elliot and four other young men who gave their lives for the sake of the gospel. It was humbling to hear of how Elisabeth returned to Ecuador with her young daughter to continue the work she and Jim had begun because God had called them to make Christ known in a lost world.

Last week Elisabeth went home to be with the Lord. Her life impacted many for the kingdom of God, but it was not because of any flashy, charismatic, celebrity style, it was because she was steadfast in her daily walk with trust and obedience to a sovereign God. Her life and teaching demonstrated the message that God is not here to meet our needs, but rather he is our wise and good God who is worthy of our trust and obedience even when we do not understand His plans.

When I first heard of Elisabeth Elliot’s passing I immediately though of my friend, Kris Breunig. This is what Kris had to say about Elisabeth:

To say that Elisabeth Elliot had an influence in my life would be an understatement. I first heard her on the radio program, Gateway to Joy. I would listen to her every day, just soaking in every word. I was a new Christian and I was not raised in a Christian home, so she became my Spiritual Mom.

When the radio program was taken off the local radio station I thought, what am I going to do? I did what any logical person would do; I started buying tapes of the radio program so I could continue to hear her wisdom. Over the years, I have accumulated over one hundred and twenty-five tapes.

Elisabeth has taught me to love hymns and use them not only to praise God but as a means to learn doctrine. She has introduced to me to the missionary stories of Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, John and Betty Scott Stam and of course her own stories of her and her husband Jim Elliot.

She also introduced me to some old time writers who I would not have the time to read, but she would read me their works and teach me their wisdom; such as Samuel Clark, Thomas A Kempas, Saint Francis de Sales, Elizabeth Prentiss and Brother Lawrence.

She has encouraged me when I was a mom with small kids and things would at times be overwhelming; with her words “Do the next thing”.

She helped me understand what the Christian life looked like lived out in everyday life while I was ‘peeling onions or cleaning toilets’; “The faithful taking up of the cross is the carrying out of the small duties that are distasteful to you.”

She has taught me to trust God even when it didn’t look like you could. “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way, to be Happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey.”

I think most of all, Elisabeth helped me understand God’s sovereignty and accept it. “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” Psalm 16:5

Many will miss Elisabeth Elliot in this life, but God can use her example in the lives of His children. We can also demonstrate the simple message to “trust and obey” our great and worthy God.

I RECEIVED A WONDERFUL LETTER

Conflicts, hurts and offenses take place in all significant relationships.

Sometimes these hurts tear our relationships apart. This is always a grievous result – especially among believers.

God makes it clear that reconciliation is the only biblical response we have for conflict.

Recently I received a note from someone who knew God was leading them to step forward in reconciliation.

I was overjoyed to receive this note and continue to praise God for it.

In fact, I thought their note was so thoroughly saturated in a biblical perspective that I asked permission to post it here. They graciously agreed.

Please read this letter slowing in order to identify the many biblical principles that flow through it.

Dear Pastor Kyle,

It’s been quite a few years since we spoke last and for almost as long I have often thought about the way we parted company; certainly not on the best of terms.

At the time I was incensed that you accused me of having a critical heart. In my arrogance I took that as a personal attack. Regardless of however it was meant or what basis in fact it may have had, the cause of your statement was what I said to you. I know that now. I have known it for years.

Over the passing years I have often though about sending this email, but did not do so. This morning during my devotional time, I read Matthew 5:23-24, particularly “First be reconciled to your brother.”

It immediately brought this up in my heart again and so I am sending this email as a way to say I am sorry for the things I said and the inferences I made. I was wrong to do so then. I was wrong to wait this long to apologize.

As I have continued to mature in my relationship with Christ, I’ve grown in the understanding that humility may be manifest in many ways. Few ways are better than admitting when one is wrong and showing the respect and love associated with reconciliation. So I ask your forgiveness for my words and actions.

I pray for all of you often. (We) will always be in Jesus debt for calling us. We are also in debt to many at Greentree, particularly you and your father Gene, for bringing us to the point of understanding what it means to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

I wish you all love and success with your work for Christ.

 Is there someone you need to step toward in reconciliation?

Are you willing to ask God for grace in how best to do this?

We are praying that God uses these words to encourage, inspire and guide all of us to be people of reconciliation!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.22.15

‘The Gift and Glory of Prayer’

Matthew 6:7-15

The Lord’s Prayer probably doesn’t need a lot of introduction. Jesus corrects pagan influences in prayer and gives us a model for how we pray

Jesus Makes 2 Points That Revolutionize Prayer

1. Why we pray

Gentiles prayed to a variety of gods which were all the product of human minds

These ‘gods’ were temperamental like the people who created them

People tried to convince and manipulate their ‘gods’ like they would other people (v7)

Jesus tells us not to pray like the world (v8)

Prayer does not inform, manipulate or leverage God into action

Prayer is to exercise our faith in and love for God who is sovereign

Prayer should reflect the realities of the Lord God we know

God is perfect, faithful, loving, almighty, good, and in us – how should these realities affect how we pray?

This wondrous God “knows what we need” and loves us (v8)

Many people respond to this with “So why bother to pray?”

Our need to depend on God and submit to him

Our desire to worship God and find rest in him

We pray to be engaged with the wonderful God we love

2. Who we pray to

What is your perspective of God when you pray?

Praying to God as “our Father” was truly revolutionary

In the Old Testament, God as Father is a relatively rare metaphor

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to God as our Father 15 times

Jesus shows us that seeing God as Father is the kingdom perspective

The Lord’s Prayer is the first time we are led to pray to God as Father

God is Lord, but to us our deepest relationship with him is as Father

God is Our Father “in Heaven”

We are in the loving hands of the One above all that exists: time is be judged by him and saints find eternal rest in him

Jesus’ Prayer Has 5 Parts (gratefully borrowed from Sinclair Ferguson)

Each petition is a prayer of personal discipleship and an evangelistic prayer for Jesus’ Kingdom to grow beyond ourselves

1. We are to pray in worship of God (v9)

We pray that our Father will receive transcendent honor

We pray this about our own hearts and that those in spiritual darkness will come to exalt him too

All our engagement with God is to be aimed at exalting him

2. We are to pray for the kingdom of God (v10)

God is exalted when his creation submits to his rule

People use the expression ‘heaven on earth’, as a way to refer to a blissful experience

True heaven on earth requires that we act now as we will in heaven

Heaven is only desirable, because it is totally subject to the rule of God

This petition recognizes the complete goodness of God’s ways

Where are you blocking out the fulfillment of “heaven on earth”?

To pray this prayer Quarles says, is to “ache for gospel fulfillment” (Matthew 9:35-38)

To pray for Christ’s Kingdom to come is to be burdened for the souls of those who are still not in it

3. We are to pray for sustenance from God (v11)

This petition should bring up images of God daily providing manna for his people in their wilderness wanderings

In America our prosperity makes this request for daily bread seem minor and perfunctory

This petition affirms that everything is a grace that comes from God

This is also a prayer of contentment that what he gives is enough

How different this prayer is from the ‘American dream’ or the ‘prosperity gospel’

4. We are to pray for grace from God (v12)

You may be thinking, “But haven’t my sins already been forgiven in Christ?”

And you are completely correct – so what does Jesus mean?

We ask for our hearts to be kept freshly washed

We ask for God to remove any disturbance in our relationship with him

Our prayer doesn’t stop there, we also ask for grace to forgive

How far do we take this?  We forgive everyone for everything” Philip Ryken

This step is so important Jesus returns to it (vs 14-15)

We don’t forgive to earn our forgiveness; we forgive to show we truly repented

If Jesus came to free us from our “debt”, how can we be his followers and still hold others in “debt”?

5. We are to pray for protection from God (v13)

We walk through dangerous places

Satan is described as a prowling lion, a deceiver, and one who disguises himself as an angel of light

We are not strong enough ourselves (Matthew 26:41)

We worry about many things in life, but sin is our great danger

God doesn’t remove all temptations, but he protect us in all (1 Corinthians 10:13)

A Final Observation

We cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer saying “I” or “Me”; it speaks it terms of our, we and us

Jesus is reinforcing that our responsibilities for one another, include faithfulness in prayer

GUEST DAD: ED PAONE

Paone family

by Ed Paone

I have been a father for over 28 years.

What have I learned in that time?

What would I pass on to my three children concerning parenting (I have three young grandchildren and one on the way)?

We are directed by the Bible to constantly teach our children about God. Our family life is to revolve around Him. Every home should be the home described in Deuteronomy 11:19, where fathers are teaching God’s word to their children “…when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

But what is described above is really the end result of something. It doesn’t provide much direction on how to get there. A family doesn’t become more devoted to God through better planning or a resolve to act a certain way without something deeper.

And the something deeper is this – a family is moved in a Godly direction when it’s spiritual leader (that’s us, fellow fathers, whether we assume the responsibility or not) is convinced that it is the best path for their family.

So my advice for fathers is to consider, daily, whether a love for God is truly their priority. Through prayer, the reading of God’s word, and reflection, continually ask yourself basic questions about your faith –

Has God proven Himself faithful to you?

Is His word true, are you moved by the sacrifice of Jesus?

Is His character something you desire to see in your children?

Are you convinced that nothing truly “good” will happen in the lives of your children absent the working of God’s Spirit in them?

How you respond to those questions, and the conviction with which you believe them, will determine how you run your house.

I am struck by just how much my grandchildren reflect their parents at such a young age. They are being molded and changed before they can even consciously decide to act a certain way. So, as time goes on, will they pick up that their dad is most interested in the success of his favorite team, or in the things that he owns or desires to own? Is he proudest of them when they achieve in sports or win an academic award at school?

Or will they see from their dad that his greatest desire is to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and that all he does is with that in mind?

May we become better fathers to our children by becoming better sons of our God!

CLARITY ON FORGIVENESS

In our preaching series on the Sermon on the Mount, we recently examined Jesus teaching on how we should respond with grace and love to our enemies and those who misuse us.

So when I was reading the In-Depth Studies newsletter, the section on Forgiveness caught my eye.

In-Depth Studies is a teaching ministry founded by my good friend Geoff Volker. I met Geoff in 1999 during my first trip to Belarus. Geoff introduced me to the Gatovo Church and I inherited the Romans class at the Minsk Bible College from him. Geoff has a dear place in my heart for many reasons.

Here are his recent thoughts on the important issue of Forgiveness:

1. We are commanded to forgive others. Ephesians 4:32

2. Since forgiveness is a command it cannot be a feeling but an act of the will that chooses not to use the hurt done to us in a way that does not honor our Lord.

3. Having a forgiving feeling toward someone who wronged us is not a requirement for forgiveness. Once must not act on that feeling either in our mind or in our speech or actions.

4. We are commanded to love our enemies. Matthew 5:43-48

5. This command to love our enemies clearly includes those who wrong us and yet do not ask for forgiveness.

6. True reconciliation will not take place until the person who wronged us asks for forgiveness, and yet in our mind they are not our enemy.

7. We are to do good to those who have wronged us but have not asked for forgiveness.
Romans 12:14-21

8. The idea that we can forgive someone yet still not want to restore our relationship with him is a biblically unthinkable idea. 1 John 4:19-21

ARE YOU WONDERING HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Jen Gilbert making a difference in someone’s life during our recent Egg Hunt

Pastor John MacArthur got my attention when he pointed out a wonderful outreach opportunity built into every church.

The children who show up each week!

Every child needs the gospel

Every week they arrive, sit down and wait for the adults who will interact with them

Have you ever thought that you want to be a godly influence on other people, but you are not sure how to start?

Children’s Ministry is a great way to have an immediate impact, by loving the children God brings to us and showing them how deeply you care about God and His ways.

You don’t need to be intimidated; we don’t ask people to fill “a teaching role” unless they are prepared for it. But we always need people to fill the “love for kids and Christ role”.

A great way to get your feet wet is to volunteer for our Summer Camp during the last week of July.

We need people just to help move kids around to different stations

And while you interact with these children, they can experience that the church is a place where they are loved and people care about them.

If giving a whole week for Summer Camp seems like a big commitment, think of it as you would a short-term mission trip. You may not be able to afford an out of the country mission trip at this time, but what about a mission trip right here, for people who have the same urgent need to have someone impact them for Christ.

Don’t put it off – contact Paul Long paullong@greentree.org or the church office today at 927-3838.

Be an influence . . Make a difference

You probably want to make an impact for Christ

And we have children here that need someone to make this impact in their lives!

If you are eager to jump in, there is a volunteers meeting at Greentree 7:00 Tuesday night.

Go to the Summer Camp link above to find out more and see a fun video from last year’s Summer Camp

GUEST DAD: PAUL LONG

by Paul Long

I always wanted to have children, so I am thankful that God blessed me with four of the greatest kids ever.

Being a dad is hard and I don’t claim to be an expert. Often my own sin, laziness and pride get in the way. But God continues to be gracious to me. Here are a few things God has shown me (is showing me) over the years:

1. Read the Bible to your kids

Every night in our house ends with “the routine” – brush teeth, go potty, get in PJs and gather together to read the Bible and pray. Honestly most nights I am hoping my wife will lead “the routine” so I can mindless scroll through Facebook or watch a show in bed (told you I was lazy and sinful). But I know God has called me as dad to be the spiritual leader of the family.

God has used these Bible reading times to open the hearts of my children. We have had great discussions about treasure, heaven, lying, death, and sharing the gospel. I plan to stop reading the Bible to my kids when they move out.

Dads, read the Bible to your kids.

2. Be Present

When it comes to spending time with your kids, what is better – quality time or quantity time? A pastor once said, “You don’t know when the quality time is going to surface, so you have to be attentive and aware as much as possible.”

Dads, your kids need you to be present and that doesn’t just mean at home with your head in your phone or buried in work stuff. Sit on the floor, wrestle and snuggle, play a game, rebuild an engine, go fishing, dance, sing, play hide and seek, read a book for the 500th time.

Dads, be present – because quality moments happen through quantity time.

3. Think Biblically

“God’s word is our guide in all of life” – you probably agree with that statement. But what does it look like in practice in your everyday life? When it comes to your finances, relationships, leisure activities, schedule, decisions, words, attitude and tone of voice, do you think biblically?

Dads, think biblically – compromise in your life will lead your kids astray.

4. Help your children think Biblically.

Our children are always making decisions and I am sure by now you have realized they don’t always make good ones!

Dads, your children need you to help them think biblically.

So when your daughter comes down the steps in an outfit that is just a little too short – help her think biblically.

When your son decides to get a job that will keep him from Sunday worship – help him think biblically.

When your children are fighting over the toy – help them think biblically.

Hold up the biblical standard so that your children know in this home we live by what God has said in his word.

And when your children struggle to think and live biblically, show them that there is help in the person and work of Jesus. Show them that Jesus lived the life they cannot live and he died the death they deserved. Tell them he offers his life and the forgiveness of their failure to meet God’s standard. Tell them this over and over again. Tell them there is grace to help them change.

Dads, help your children think biblically.

Being a father is hard work. If you feel like a failure that’s probably a good place to start; thank God for showing you where you fall short, confess your fatherly failure to Him and your kids. Begin fresh today. Rest in His grace and take a step – your kids need you.