Monthly Archives: July 2015

WHAT KIND OF LOVE IS ENOUGH?

by Adam Ford:  Adam4d.com

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WHAT RIGHTS DOES GOD HAVE?

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The Bill of Rights which we in the United States cling to tenaciously, contains what are known as “The Five freedoms”: Freedom of religion, Freedom of speech, Freedom of press, Freedom of assembly, Freedom to petition

What rights does God have?

Obviously God has any rights that he wants. To think we have the power to limit the rights of God in any way is an arrogance that surpasses rationale thought.

The more accurate question: What rights do we consider God as having?

In practice, the average person thinks in ways that would deny God many of the rights which they consider basic to their own existence. Here are some examples (if you can think of others, please share them with us under comments).

Does God have the right to an opinion?

What does God think about how we as people approach him and please him? We have strong opinions about how people should treat us and about what we think is acceptable behavior toward us.

But it is considered arrogant of The Church when it declares that God has established a clear path in what it means to have life with him

Does God have the right to free speech?

We have the right to say what we think, but God is not allowed to have a book that shares his definitive thoughts. The world doesn’t mind that there are many different books describing what God is like, but when we say God has one book in which he declares himself – that is ridiculed as arrogant and narrow minded.

Yet how else could God make his thoughts clear to everyone on earth unless he has a clear source for that. If every religion’s sacred books (which contradict each other) have the same validity – then no can ever know what God’s true voice is.

Does God have the right to patent his inventions?

God has the right to define marriage, because God created marriage. It was his idea – his “invention”.

However, human governments now declare that God does not have the right to define marriage, even though it has been clearly understood since the dawn of humanity.

Once gender can no longer be part of the definition of marriage, that same logic will eventually declare that age, numbers of people and even species cannot be used to define marriage and family.

Does God have the right to bring justice?

Theoretically we love to see justice enforced. But when God agrees and then adds that he will exercise perfect justice against all sin (rather than merely arbitrary justice against some sinners and some sins), people become angry. They claim such a God is unloving and hateful.

Does God have the right to determine the nature of his own kingdom?

We get to decide who lives in our home and who can inherit our wealth. But God is despised for daring to declare who can enter his eternal kingdom, be called his child and receive his mercy.

Does God have the right to disagree with us?

We might claim that we don’t limit God in this manner. But when we have a strong opinion regarding what we hold dear – then the claws come out if God says we need to change how we think or live.

We go beyond saying we have a different perspective than God; we are offended that he would dare to intrude upon our way of life

How many of these rights do you agree God has?

If these rights all belong to God, are we living in acknowledgement of them?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.27.15

‘What are your Kingdom responses?’

Matthew 7:13-23

Jesus is bringing the Sermon on the Mt to a conclusion through a series of contrasts that reveal which kingdom we love and live by

 

There Are Two Gates For Life (vs 13-14)

One gate is wide and easy

It has a wide gate – because people can choose any option they want

It is easy to take – you can keep life as you want it

The other gate is narrow 

It is narrow – because it declares life is through Christ alone (Acts 4:12 and John 3:36)

It is hard – because we must drop our own claims of rule and ownership

These gates not merely ways through life, they are ways to eternity

Jesus describes two eternal destinies

 (1) One is called life, because it gives all God created living to be

(2) Other is called destruction. We don’t cease to exist, but it only leads to wrath and the loss of all that is good

If you are thinking, ‘How dare you be narrow or judgmental’

How dare we water down what Jesus said?

How dare we ignore the means God has mercifully provided?

 

There Are Two Influences In Life (vs 15-20)

One influence is false teachers in the church

They wear sheep’s clothes which makes them dangerous

If we are not rooted in God’s Word, their teaching sounds good

But their teaching produces ‘diseased trees’ (v17)

The other influence is faithful teachers who let God’s word be itself

Faithful teaching is when we lay out what the Bible says rather than trying to put truth in it

Faithful teachers are like healthy trees who produce good fruit

Jesus is warning us that there are consequences to who we listen to or read

We don’t want a critical spirit, but we must be discerning

We need to look at what teaching will lead to, what fruit does it produce:

Does it produces character like that of Christ who loved the Father fully?

Does it emphasize what God emphasizes, or does it follow human agendas?

Does it exalt Christ’s kingdom, or does it focus us on our success?

Does it have a gospel agenda for people, or does it use them for gain?

 

There Are Two Claims of Discipleship (vs 21-23)

Jesus warns against false disciples in the church

These are people who are active in church, think they are Christians, and others probably agree

What is missing? They don’t carry out ‘the will of the Father’

This is not a secretive will of God that they failed to grasp

They refuse to obey what the Bible clearly declares (Luke 6:46)

This kind of mistaken identity is not rare

Many are in Churches that never challenge them with the clear gospel

Others only have the benefits of the gospel emphasized to them. They were never confronted with repentance or the Lordship of Christ

Some appear rooted, but eventually they refuse to ‘do’ what God clearly says

We cannot tag who will or won’t be in heaven, but neither should we close our eyes to false hopes for heaven

How can we give gospel care to one another, if we ignore the failure of “Christians” to obey Christ?

 

Why Does Jesus End His Sermon This Way?

1. Because it is important

Everyone has a soul that lives forever

We are all accountable to God for how we respond to his word

Jesus makes these contrasts, because they are real problem in the church

2. Because it is needed

We tend to be confused about priorities. Our priorities should be based on the seriousness of consequences

Jesus’ purpose is not to make us doubt our salvation; it’s to have us all examine the foundation and the fruit of our salvation

How do we live?  What choices we are making?

3. Because he is merciful

A common distortion about the Bible is that Jesus in the New Testament has a different perspective from God in in the Old Testament

Yet the Old Testament is no less concerned with grace and Jesus is no less concerned with judgment

Jesus’ warnings are a form of grace and protection

It is a blessing to be awakened before disaster strikes
Jesus lets us know in v23, there is a point when it’s too late to respond correctly

This moment is not too late

WHAT DO THE CHURCHES IN OUR AREA THINK?

 

In recent weeks I have attended two gatherings of local pastors. Except for me, each was attended by a different group of church leaders.

It should not be surprising that the topic of gay marriage and gender identity was brought up each time and became the prominent focus of discussion.

As the discussions began, I wondered inside how unified would these pastors be in their perspectives?

In both cases I rejoiced in what I heard! These servants of God stood firmly rooted in the unchangeable truth of God’s Word, while being deeply concerned with expressing the wonders of God’s grace.

Here are themes that were brought up and received with unity and conviction:

The Bible clearly teaches homosexuality is sin

All sexual activity outside of a biblically defined marriage is also sinful

All sin is wrong and should be treated seriously

The church must remain clear minded in its teaching on sin

When Christians mock those we disagree with, we are failing to uphold the gospel

Churches should not pick on gender identity sin as if other sins are not also wretched

We must love those caught in gender identity sin

We must work hard to express care for those who are struggling with gender identity

However, in our desire to show grace, we must not allow compromise with homosexual relationships in our churches

We are not judging people when we declare God’s word and identify his view of sin to them

Our churches need to work on having a culture of care for all sinners and not shun those who are distasteful to us, or who make us uncomfortable

We are called by God to be reaching out with the gospel into the lives of all people around us

God has never been more or less sovereign

We should remain fully confident in God’s present and faithful work among us

We need to guard against enemies of the gospel using ‘anti discrimination’ laws to persecute the church

There is no better, safer or grander place to stand than in the truth of the gospel

To our sorrow, there are clergy in our region and beyond claiming to be shepherds of God’s people who are revealing that they are actually wolves.

However, we should be encouraged that the beating heart of the evangelistic churches around us is firming rooted in the clear gospel of Jesus Christ!

 

THANKFULNESS A – Z

School Days

In a sermon a couple weeks back, I mentioned that if we are keeping lists of what we don’t like about people, it is a warning sign that we have a critical spirit.

As an (unplanned) illustration, I mention that several years ago a church member came into my office with an A–Z list of what was wrong with our church.

Following the letters of the alphabet, he read off 26 ways our church had it wrong. Some of his list was on target, some of it was petty and all of it was excruciating!

In response to my illustration, last week Kim Ordile, who is a member at Greentree, sent me an A–Z list of what she loves about our church.

This list was a joy to read, and it pointed my heart toward God by filling my heart with reasons to be thankful for the many ways He is working through his people and creating blessing to many.

If you are from Greentree, I am sure this list will lift your heart.

And if you are from another church, I am sure your pastor(s) would be thrilled to receive an A-Z list of what you love about your church

As you read over Kim’s list, may you be doubly encouraged as you see items where you have been part of how God is blessing people’s lives.

Amazing book store

Biblical theology taught

Children’s ministry full of love

Discipleship relationships emphasized

Evangelism training

Fellowship Mall that promotes unity

Giving baskets that are private

Home Fellowship meetings

Incredible facility

Joe and Jessa love to come (the names of her children)

Kindness to those in need

Love is demonstrated here

Music and musicians that glorify God

Nursery that is safe and organized

Outreach/mission opportunities

Powerful prayer meetings for healing

Quiet Times emphasized

Relationship not religion demonstrated

Servant outreach Saturdays

Testimony times

Ushers that serve with great care

Victorious perspective of all that God is

Wednesday night pizza dinner/program

X-cellent greeters to welcome you in

Youth programs that target the heart

Zealous preaching of God’s Word

PERFECTION

 

Imagine a book that when applied in every tiny detail, would provide perfect health.

Not just good health …perfect health.  No,

cancer,

cavities,

clogged arteries,

back pain,

hair loss,

hearing loss,

glasses,

blemishes,

flabby muscles

or excess weight

What would be your motivation level to read and live by that book?

Or, perhaps a book that guaranteed to eliminate all debt and create lavish wealth.

Would you set aside time to read such a book – especially if you found that it quickly began to manifest some of its mighty promises?

The Bible declares that those who are born of God’s Spirit and live according to His word will become increasing perfect in godliness.

Yawn.

Somehow our motivation level for godliness is not as urgent as our motivation to be healthy or wealthy.

Yet, we declare that we love God and His kingdom.

Let’s take it a step further.

If there was actually a book that contained every secret necessary for perfect health or lavish wealth, we would call a person a fool for ignoring it.

But those who seek to be diligent in apply every little detail of God’s Word are often called fanatics – by other Christians!

So, what perfection do you want most?

Health,

Wealth,

or Godliness?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.20.15

“Excited to Pray”

Matthew 7:7-12

One of the biggest struggles in prayer is that it often seems to be one-sided. Jesus wants us to know that prayer is an activity we should enter with anticipation

Jesus Urges Persistence Toward God

The verb tense for “ask–seek–knock” indicates we are to keep doing them

The Christian life is described as “Walking with God”, which is a life engaged with Him

We will sink the deep roots of maturity through being persistent with spiritual disciplines

And we will regularly taste the sweet fruit of joy and peace that the Bible holds out to us

As Christians, the alternative to persistence toward God is inconsistency

God often seems distant

Sins in our life are not overcome

Obedience to God becomes a grind to us

Just becoming persistent in godliness would revolutionize your life

 

However, the Weight of This Passage is On God Not Us

Our persistence is not the foundation of living for God

The “ask–seek–knock” in vs 7-8, is in response to what God is like in vs 9-11

If the weight of life fulfillment is on our ability to persevere – it will crush us

Persistence not a magic power, it is like faith which has its strength in its object

When the weight of life fulfillment is on what God is like – we find rest

Now persistence makes sense, because it is building on a secure foundation (vs 24-27)

 

What About God Deserves Our Persistence?

1.  God is Wise

He “knows” how to care for us (v11)

Persistence with God keeps our life connected to unfailing wisdom

We don’t have to figure everything out to find rest

2.  God is Good

He knows what are “good gifts” (James 1:16-17)

‘Goodness’ only exists, because it is in God’s character

Knowing God is good, helps me push through what is not easy

3.  God is Faithful

He will never fail in his character or his covenant

There is comfort in knowing that every time we come to God, he is the same

4.  God is our Father

Learning to see God as our Father, is a prominent Sermon on the Mt theme (Matt 6:9, 26, 32)

Jesus wants us to see God with the same perspective he has

 

We Need To Address The Elephant In The Room: Unanswered Prayer

All Christians experience it and struggle with it (Psalm 13)

God always answers us, but it is according to his values

(1) God works from an eternal perspective

(2) God works for his kingdom

What if my prayers have a wrong perspective?

The answer depends on our relationship with God

1.  For people who don’t love God, he is not their Father

They have no relationship with him and cannot expect answers

The truth is they don’t care about God, they only want to use his power

For them, the one prayer God will answer is to save them (Romans 10:13)

2.  For the people who are children of God

Our Father uses even our faulty, misguided prayers (Romans 8:26-27)

This should encourage us even more to be persistent in praying

How do we keep from discouragement if we don’t see answers?

We keep our eyes on Christ with conviction that the cross is enough!

What we have in Christ is proof that v8 is abundantly true

 

Jesus Exhortation to Ask–Seek–Knock is Invitation to Be Engaged With God

(1) Bring our needs to him

(2) Learn from him

(3) Have fellowship with him

God is not interested in a one-sided relationship

He wants our responsiveness to him, just as we want that from him

Asking God to answer our needs, involves inviting him to work in us

 

When Life Is Engaged With God the “Golden Rule” Flows Out (v12)

If we are content in God’s care, we can freely turn our life outward

What we know of God and experience in him, empowers us

We have not only experienced that life is bruising, we have experienced Christ is healing

When we are rooted in that faithfulness, we will bear a similar fruit to others

When our heart belongs to God – to treat people as we want will be what God wants

THE IMPORTANCE OF PAUSING TO REFLECT

I have found that giving time daily for worshipful reflection has been an immense benefit to my life.

At the same time I have noticed that reflection is neither highly valued nor often practiced in our culture.

Tim Challies who is one of the leading Christian bloggers in the world today has written this article entitled, “The Duty of Reflection”.

The article’s title immediately caught my attention – and the article’s content lived up my expectations.

Reflection and Meditation don’t seem like priorities to us. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • They don’t press upon us with urgency
  • We feel more accomplishment when we do something with visible results
  • Most of us have not been instructed in the value and practice of reflection

My hope is that this quick read by Tim Challies will have long lasting value by motivating you to work on reflection as a habit of life and worship. As Tim says in his article:

“How can we praise God if we do not praise him for the things he has done and is doing?”

THE DANGER OF “ME TIME” MENTALITY

me time

by Debbie Huber

Now that I am a new grandparent I am fondly recalling the days when I had young children to raise. Kyle and I were discussing the memories of the baby years, and it was interesting that most of our memories did not have to do with crying and lost sleep. We mostly remember the cuddles and the love, the first smiles and immense happiness.

Our new grandson Wyatt is reminding us that we were sleep deprived, that I often did not get a shower until late in the afternoon, and that parenting a baby is all-consuming — But I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I recall being thankful for the weekly outing that Kyle would take the kids on to the coffee shop or the library. I would catch up on housework, work-out or go to the supermarket alone.

An occasional break or outing can be refreshing for moms. But many in our culture would press us to believe that we DESERVE “Me-time”, that we are somehow missing all that life has to offer us if we are deprived of “me-time”, that if husbands can get breaks then we deserve them too.

Don’t get me wrong – a break can be helpful and I was thankful for them. But we need to be careful that we as moms do not take the mentality that we deserve them because that can lead to resentment of our children and our husbands. The mentality of having to be selfish first in order to be able to selflessly give to your family is not biblical. That is the mentality that leads to many divorces. Life is not about us and God has made us stewards of the time He gives us.

I thought about this during a recent sermon by Pat Tedeschi. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus is teaching us not to be anxious about the things that we need. Our heavenly Father knows that we need them all.

In the midst of the stress and busyness of motherhood do not seek “me-time” first, rather keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and run after His righteousness. Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Your rest and peace will be provided by our heavenly Father.

The time with small children that God gives to parents is very short in the whole scheme of things. When our children are adults will we look back on the amount of pedicures we were able to have alone or will our memories be of the time spent with our children?

So be thankful for the small breaks, for the shopping alone, the lunch with friends. But be grateful to God for every hectic, sleep deprived minute that you have with your children while they are young because God has given them to you to raise for this short time. And hunger for God to be your rest.

A DAY AT THE BEACH

A day at the beach is not just time away from our routines
It involves a gratifying array of sensory experiences

The sound of waves rolling onto the beach,
And the cry of gulls

The warmth of the sun on your face,
And refreshing cool breezes

The tangy smell of salt air,
And the drifting smell of boardwalk fried foods or backyard grills

The satisfying pleasure of cold water in a parched mouth,
And the taste of potato chips with your packed sandwiches

The sight of an endless horizon with miniature sails in the distance,
And little shore birds scurrying after departing waves

Anyone can enjoy these sensations,
But for those who know God – it should be so much more

God is the person, whose mind thought up each of these experiences,
And He alone is the One who created us with the senses to enjoy them

God designed all these things along with “every good and perfect gift”

Next time you have a day at the beach,
Make it a time of wonder and worship, as well as rest and relaxation.

Consider the goodness of God, who brought all this wonder into existence,
And contemplate the love which did this for our joy

This is a Person worth Praising,
Worth following,
Worth trusting,
And worth getting to know better!