Monthly Archives: September 2015

WHAT THOUGHTS DO YOU BRING TO CHURCH?

 

What are the thoughts that you bring to Church?

Or, what types of thoughts arise during the worship services you attend?

As a pastor, I have needed to face this question.

I might be distracted by how something is being handled, or disappointed in how a part of the service turned out (especially my preaching). At times I can find myself worrying about what the people around me are thinking about the service.

To be honest, it has helped me to have the pastors sitting in the congregation rather than on the platform as we used to do. We didn’t make the change for this reason, but it has helped me stay focused on my role as a worshipper in the service. This is also one of the reasons I always like to sit near the front in any church service.

We cannot stop thoughts from coming to us as we listen to and observe what is taking. And some of these thoughts will contain criticisms. How we handle these thoughts of criticism is important for a few reasons:

So we are not distracted from the worship God deserves from us

So we don’t quench what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us during and after the service

So we don’t develop the pattern of being critical, or to let a critical spirit gain a toehold in our heart

So our attention is not distracted from how the Holy Spirit would use us in the lives of others

So we don’t bring a negative mood into the service however unknowing or unintentional it may be

Jason Helopoulos gives us a couple practical steps in this article he wrote for the Together for the Gospel website entitled “The Sunday Worship Killer”. Jason writes:

“In all honesty, very few of us knowingly enter church with such a motivation. How silly it would be for us to rise early on Sundays to play the role of the critic. But as we take our seat in the church pew, our focus and motivation cowers to the voice crying out within, “they are not doing this right,” “they are not doing this well,” “they are not doing this as I would do it.” And in the midst of it all, we move from worshipper to critic.”

The gathering of the local church for worship, fellowship, ministry of the Word and the Lord’s Supper are wonderful gifts and purposes of God to us.

May we use each experience we have with these gifts well, for ourselves and for one another!

 

HOW I LOVE HER

 

“I Love the Church” is how John MacArthur opens this wonderful article.

His first reason for loving the Church is because “the Church is being built by the Lord Himself”.

My heart is in full agreement with MacArthur in this enthusiasm for the Church.

Actually, how can any believer not love the Church – when Christ gave his life to win her?

How can we not love the Church when our Heavenly Father “gave” its members to Christ (John 17:2, 6, 9 & 24)?

How can we not love those who are called the “beloved” of God?

How can we not love the Church which God raised up for His glory and our good?

How can we not love the Church which has the Holy Spirit living and active in its midst?

How can we not love the Church which is made up of our eternal family of brothers and sisters?

How can we not love the Church which is being made beautiful in righteousness?

How can we not love the Church which will be glorified forever?

How can we not love the Church which is called the Bride of Christ?

How can we not love the Church when we are commanded to love even our enemies?

Yes, it is not only possible – it is inevitable that someone in the church will disappoint you, for we all remain far from complete in our sanctification. And not all who attend church are part of the true Church.

For the same reasons, it is even possible that you may have been greatly misused by your local church. But as those who love Christ, we are without excuse if we fail to give ourselves in love for the Church.

Those who leave the church and declare they can love God without it – are biblically wrong. They have to build a Frankenstein out of the New Testament to conjure up that claim.

God is wondrously good in all His plans and in all He does! As John MacArthur points out “the Church is being built by the Lord Himself”, not to mention it is also being built FOR the Lord Himself!

Did you catch that last amazing phrase? The Church is above all else for God. That reality in itself makes the Church a work of beauty.

If we cannot find love for this precious work of God, then the ugliness is in our own hardened heart.

Why do you love the Church? Share your thoughts with us in the “comments” section

THE GREAT PURSUIT

 

Over the past year and a half, I have given extensive amounts time and thought to the subject of our communion with God. By communion I mean our intimate relationship with Him.

As I have thought, read and prayed about this theme, my delight in it has continued to grow. During my times of worship, I often find my heart either soaring or being overwhelmed in wonder at the transcendent truths contained in our communion with God.

The topic of communion with God is not an esoteric or marginal subject. This is the heart of,

Why God saved us

Who we are in Christ

What our eternal experience will be

I am finding how I think about all the basics of Christianity are being colored by my understanding of this communion. For example:

What is a Christian?

“Someone who has entered communion with God through faith in Christ for the removal of all their sinful guilt.”

or,

How does a Christian live?

“In love for God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that is expressed by obedience and communion with them”

or,

Why do we pray and read the Bible?

“To deepen our understanding of, love for and faithfulness to our communion with God”

or,

What will heaven be like?

“A perfect, uninterrupted and exhilarating communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The Puritans placed a great deal of attention on communion with God in their writings and personal pursuit of God. Sinclair Ferguson wrote this article for Ligonier Ministries in which he discusses how the Puritan, John Owen discussed communion with Christ. In it he writes,

“(Christ) is a person to be known, admired, and loved. Fellowship with Christ, therefore, involves a ‘mutual resignation’ or self-giving between ourselves and Him”

Communion – Fellowship – Intimacy with God is something every Christian can experience. Because God is a person whose greatest desire for us is that we would enter and enjoy that communion with Him.

Fellowship is what God will accomplish in eternity and Intimacy is what He does want with you now!

Communion with God is worth hungering for, thinking about and actively chasing after.

Child of God, when you pursue communion with God, you will discover that He has already pursued communion with you.

ALWAYS ON DUTY

 

As Christians, we are never off duty in our responsibility to Great Commandment Living.

In all situations and with all people, we are to act, think, respond and speak in ways that express love for God and love for neighbor.

This is not a burden that God places upon us; it is a great privilege that the Holy Spirit makes possible for us.

Through Great Commandment Living,

. . . We declare to God the sincerity of our love

. . . We reveal the beauty of life in Christ’s Kingdom

. . . We present to the world what righteousness looks like

. . . We demonstrate the transforming power of God is a reality

. . . We influence the people God has put in our life

. . . We bring into this bitter world the sweet taste of heaven

 

An area of daily life where we need to give attention to what Great Commandment Living looks like is how we communicate online and in social media.

For many of us, social media is our primary (or close to it) means of communication. It is how the world sees us and understands us.

And sometimes what they hear and see – has little to do with Great Commandment Living (even when we are communicating about biblical matters).

I strongly urge you to read this article by Jon Bloom on the Desiring God blog, “How Should Christians Comment Online?” Jon’s article is brief, but packed with truths we need to consider.

If we are serious about our love for God, then let’s get this area of Great Commandment Living under control.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.21.15

When life is hard, God is still here       

Psalm 6

The Psalms connect our struggles, fears and questions, with the greater realities of God’s presence with us

 

Concerns We Have In Bringing Burdens To God

1.  We are fearful God will respond as we deserve (v1)

David recognizes we never deserve God’s “grace”

Whether or not our sin caused our current problem, we are sinners

God’s help is plentiful, but it is always a grace

Knowing this, should effect how we come to God

We approach with a heart of humility, submission and gratitude

We don’t accuse God of being unfair  

Knowing we are undeserving, should never keep us from coming – otherwise no one could ever come to God!

We come with confidence in Christ, and how his life, death and resurrection allow mercy to flow

2.  We become discouraged that are needs are far beyond our strength (v2)

We think we are capable of solving most problems, but we are actually fairly helpless

We cannot fix people, stop aging, change hearts or stop evil

We all realize we need God sometimes, but we need to see that it’s a constant need

Encouragement is found when we embrace our weakness and God’s infinite strength

3.  We struggle with how long God allows our burdens to last (v3)

We expect trouble will come, but when it doesn’t go away our heart murmurs

Like David, we can be honest about how this is hard for us. God wants open communication, he wants conversation

But, he also deserves our trust, our having an eternal perspective, and our contentment in him

4.  We feel as if God has turned away from us (v4)

Even though we may “feel” this way, we shouldn’t remain in a perspective based on our feelings

We answer how we feel and what our limited eyes see – with biblical truth

We apply what the Bible tells us about God, his gospel, and his covenant with us

5.  We think God hasn’t given us enough grace to fulfill his purposes for us (v5)

David wants to praise and serve God for the sake of the people who are living

He is showing that he is not like people who only want God’s help so they can go on their way

We were created to know and worship God, but sin perverted that

Jesus saves us in order to return us to that purpose

How we come to God for help should keep that agenda in view

It Is Real That Burdens Hurt and Wear Us Down (vs 6-7)

This is part of life in a world that rebels against God’s rule

Faith and godliness stop our own sin that would bring sorrow, but it doesn’t keep us from being hurt by the world’s sin

The Psalms show that God gives space and grace to share hurts

As his people, we should be that way with one another (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

We cannot imitate God unless we are serious about biblical community

This should be exciting! We can imitate God, impact each other and get the attention of people who haven’t see God’s power to transform

God’s grace and presence is a greater reality than our burdens (vs 8-10)

The Psalmist’s hope is based in God’s character and faithfulness

v8  God sees our burdens and understands how they affect us

v9  God does listen to us and he knows how to respond

v9  God will respond – he never ignores us

 However, v10 those who ignore God, will ‘be put to shame’

In the end they will discover all their labors wasted pride empty

Burdens and God’s grace are both real

But the realities of God are far greater and they should be what rules over our heart

Which reality rules how you live – that life is hard or that God is faithful?

QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU #5

This is our final installment of questions God asks us

Sometimes our big problem is not that we don’t know the right answer, but that we don’t keep our eyes on that answer. We are as easily distracted as a hound dog in a yard full of squirrels.

A running joke with many Sunday School teachers is that small children regardless of the question, will give “Jesus” as the answer. If only we could be as simple and naïve as children. For when push comes to shove Jesus really is the answer to our burdens and big questions. He is our Savior, Lord, Advocate, Judge, Life, Light, Peace and Hope. He is all we need.

This week we have looked at questions meant to lead us in thinking clearly about our daily lives. Today we have a question from Jesus that is the biggest of them all:

Who do you say that I am?

In Matthew 16:13-16 we see Jesus disciples got this answer right!

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Are you as clear as Peter in your answer?

DON’T TALK YOURSELF OUT OF GOD USING YOU

self talk

by Debbie Huber

This Sunday is National Back to Church Sunday.  We pray that God will use us as we invite our friends and family to church and we will get to see many new people come to church. Let us commit together to making them feel welcome.

The truth is, almost every week someone new visits our church. Do we seek every week to keep ourselves aware of those around us who we do not know with the same enthusiasm as on this special Sunday?

I have come to the conclusion that most of us think we are shy and therefore self-conscious. We allow this shyness to prevent us from approaching others to welcome them.

We talk ourselves out of it with thoughts such as, “I feel awkward. I don’t have anything interesting to say.”…”Why would they want to talk to me?”…”I won’t bother them.”….”They probably have been coming to this church a long time so I don’t want to offend them if they are new.”…”God has not given me the ability to talk to others.  That is for people like Linda or Susan.”…”I don’t have time today. I have to get home to______________(fill in the blank: watch the game, make lunch, etc.)”

But let us put ourselves in the shoes of the visitor and think about what their self-talk might be:  “Everyone seems happy, but they already are talking with their close friends, I do not think they are interested in meeting me.”….”The church is big, I am not sure where to take my children. Will they feel safe and comfortable not knowing anyone?”…”I am not sure where to sit. What if I sit in someone’s seat?”….”Maybe I shouldn’t have come because I do not know anyone.”…”Christianity Explored sounds interesting but I do not want to go alone.”

Remember that we are the body of Christ and we are called ambassadors for Christ.  Not just the pastors or the few that are “good at it” but all of us!  When we allow the self-consciousness to talk us out of our role as ambassadors we are believing our own lies.

Most of us will likely encounter someone new in our church this week. Let’s ask God to give us eyes to see the new person, the one who is lonely or the one who seems like an outsider. Pray that God will help you to push past the discomfort and interact with them.

Just a simple hello or an offer to help them with their children can make a big difference. Maybe you could ask them to sit with you or invite them to stay with you for the hot dog meal after church this week.  God may even use your interaction for the gospel to be shared.

Do not listen to your inner voice that tells you not to interact. Listen to God’s voice through His word that tells us to be His ambassadors.

Something as simple as a helping hand or a warm welcome can show them the love of Christ and invite them into a community of believers. We may even have the opportunity to introduce them to Christ Himself.

BOLD PRAYERS

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Every Christian wonders at times about the worthiness and effectiveness of their prayers.

Perhaps you may wonder if they are being given much attention. Certainly it can often seem as though our earnest prayers are not being answered

I cannot answer or solve all those prayer concerns in this blog, but I can give you three prayers which every Christian can pray with absolute confidence.

As we offer these prayers, we can know that God not only gladly receives them, they will be answered beyond our expectations!

1. Pray for our sanctification and that of other believers

The Bible tells us that God will complete his perfect work in us (Philippians 1:6) and that everyone who has been justified, will be glorified (Romans 8:29-30).

So pray boldly for your growing holiness and love for God

2. Pray that more people will be saved

If Christ has not yet returned, it is because there are more people He is committed to saving

So pray boldly for God to save many

3. Pray for the glory of Christ’s Kingdom

Our Lord is and will always be “King of kings and Lord of Lords”. Nothing will ever diminish him, his
kingdom or his plans

So pray boldly for our Lord’s kingdom to be glorified

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.14.15

“How we live matters to God”

Psalm 5

The Psalms are worship that instruct; they are examples of preaching the gospel to ourselves.

Psalm 5 tells us how God looks at the lives of the righteous and the unrighteous. Again we will see that God is our greatest reality

 

1. God’s People Should Be Confident to Call On Him (vs 1-3)

We live in a world where calling on God often involves “groaning”: bodies have pain, relationships have conflict, plans have obstacles, and life has chaos

Through Christ, we bring all this to God with confidence (v2)

The only true God is our God:

‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ (John 20:17)

Our confidence before God never rests on our performance

Every prayer is heard and received, nothing is ignored

Our God is the only true “King”; he alone has the final word

If this is true, God should regularly hear our voice (v3)

Something happens every time we come to God

He is always engaged; God’s face is always turned toward us!

Our days become sweeter when they are with him

 

2. God Will Not Accept Those Who Pursue Sin (vs4-6)

God hates sin every occurrence of sin and any measure of sin

(1) Because God understands sin: it corrupts, deceives and destroys

God is grieved by the devastation sin has brought to the world and the human soul

(2) Because sin hates God: every sin is rebellion against God

Sin began (in Satan and Adam) as attempts to overrule God, sin wants God to get out of the way

The language used by the psalmist is unyielding

God will not allow sin to dwell in his kingdom. It must be stopped!

This is why all sin and sinners are condemned, no sin can be ignored

We see God’s seriousness about sin in the drastic measures he took – the sacrifice of his Son on the Cross

 

3. The Righteous Are Welcome In God’s Presence (vs7-8)

God’s goal through the cross was far more than to “save us”

His desire is to bring us into his presence, so we can eternally experience his love

The door is wide open for us to pursue intimacy with God

In these verses, we see the character of those who are righteous:

(1) The righteous pursue God: A heart without any desire for God, is an unchanged heart

(2) The righteous submit to the reign of God: If he is not “King” to us, we are living in denial of his person

(3) The righteous follow the ways of God: They want to embrace all that is of God

Christians will struggle in these areas, but they must desire them

 

4. The Unrighteous Have No Real Hope (vs 9-10)

They remain in their guilt which pervades all that they do

People generally will admit they have sinned, but not that they are sinners

Yet, that is what sin does to our soul, it makes our nature sinful: Sin is never isolated or controlled

There is nothing to envy in the lives of those who are without God

We see in v10, the main characteristic of unrighteousness is rebellion

God’s judgment is not for the worst people, it is on all who rebel

Our essential need is not to become better people, it is to be brought out of rebellion

 

5. The Righteous Should Be People of Joy (vs11-12)

The world is a bruising place, but God himself is our refuge

This Psalm makes contrasts between the lives and hopes of the righteous and the unrighteous

Just as the unrighteous have no hope, our hope cannot be extinguished!

In these verses, “joy” and “rejoicing” are given as the appropriate perspective for us

God’s protection is over us (v11), and His shield covers us (v12)

Although we are still under bruising attacks – we are under the “shield” of God’s sovereignty and goodness

When v12 declares that God “blesses” us, it is not some vague concept

The blessings of God are concrete, specific and personal

We have a responsibility to learn about them and “exult” in them

We need to carefully consider what perspective of “truth” our heart embraces

It is disastrous to ignore or water down God’s perspective on life and eternity

And it is wondrous when we embrace it

 

QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU #4

Have you noticed that life so often seems to be a battle? Instead of out into the world, it can feel like we are going off to war!

A normal day can be like a walk through a briar patch with thorns clawing at us from every side. And who knows when the next monster is going to leap out of a hiding place to attack us.

These monsters are not just in the world, some of them are in our own fears, failures and accusations. God who has saved us forever and is committed to caring for us just as long, reminds us He is our greatest reality by asking us this question:

If God is for us, who can be against us?

Here is God’s question to us in its context from Romans 8:31-39  

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you have a confident answer to God’s question?