Monthly Archives: December 2015

MAKE 2016 A SIMPLER YEAR

Another New Year is fast approaching.

This is when we are told we should be introspective about the year behind and expectant about the year ahead.

What did my life accomplish in the past year? And how can I better my life in 2016?

People will put their minds to setting goals and resolutions.  We see them in gyms across America during the early weeks of January – and for a few days, doughnut shop owners don’t see them.

The real question facing each of us as we look ahead to 2016 is Who will own these 366 days? (It’s Leap Year).  Will this year belong to us and our choices, or will God own it all? 

If the year belongs to God, then we have just simplified all the questions, commitments and resolutions. 

There may be many things we want to accomplish, but the heart of the matter comes down to a single and simple focus:

Will I honor God today?

My favorite Bible passage concerning the direction of our lives is found in Ecclesiastes 12:13

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all”

 

Living by this statement simplifies life in many ways: 

It tells us what is important

It reminds us what we should be accomplishing on each today

It shows us the values that should guide every decision 

It tells us Who to should please in every complicated situation 

When we fall and need to get back up, it reminds us which direction we should be facing.

The “success” of 2016 is completely a matter of who will rule over your days in 2016. 

If they belong to you and your kingdom, the year will be wasted, because your kingdom will not prevail. 

But if your days serve God, then you know what is accomplished will last as long as His eternal Kingdom.

Whether this year is filled with little things or big events, knowing what we do will be carried into eternity, should make the year an exciting prospect!

Have a Happy “God Rules Over All” Year!

WORTH EVERYTHING

great-commandment

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

God asks for everything from us.

No apologies. No exceptions.

God provides lots of grace and patience for our slow, gradual and stuttering progress. But in the end, there are no compromises, God wants and expects all that we are.

We refer to this expectation of God, as The Great Commandment (GCT). We do so because Jesus when asked to identify the “most important” commandment of all gave that answer.

Why does God expect so much?

Because He deserves all that we are – since all that is, comes from and is sustained by Him!

There is nothing unreasonable in God’s expectation; there is great unreasonableness in our resistance

Our response to the Great Commandment is a good test for how we love God

If GCT living sounds wise and is desirable, that indicates our heart is soft and wise open to God.

But if this command seems, intrusive, unfair or burdensome, it indicates our heart is at least partially closed off to God.

Assuming that we truly want to grow in our GCT living, there are still significant obstacles. Part of the challenge is that we don’t fully understand what it even means for God to fully have our life.

Great Commandment living is something to affirm each day as our great desire for “today”

God is worthy of our all and God having our all is all good. Indeed there is no better way to live our life, walk through our day, or use our time and resources. There is no fuller beauty of character, no higher nobility of purpose

Great Commandment living is something to be offered up to God each day

We need to freshly submit our hearts to Him, because each day we are freshly and routinely distracted from doing so. If we don’t intentionally hand over the keys to God each day, we will automatically live as if we are in charge.

Great Commandment living is something to be discussed with God throughout the day

We know partially what it means to give our all to God, but the fact is we are ignorant of GCT living, and we are often blind to where we fail at it. We need the Holy Spirit’s ongoing conviction, instruction and inspiration.

Great Commandment living is something to be discussed with one another

We need encouragement and help from one another if we are to consistently think about, desire and improve in GCT living.

Great Commandment living is our destiny

The GCT is not only an expectation of God; it is a description of what God will fulfill in us. This is how we will interact with God throughout eternity. For Great Commandment living describes what Jesus’ heart is like. And 1 John 3:2 wonderfully tells us, “when (Jesus) appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is”.

At this moment, does God have all of your heart?

How would you know?

What would be different?

These are good questions to talk with God about today.

WHAT HAPPENED ON CHRISTMAS?

Christmas

Merry Christmas!

A CHRISTMAS LIFE

 

Christmas is magical, busy, fun, overwhelming, tradition, tiring, expensive, family, stressful, hectic and quickly gone.

But far above all these things Christmas is:

Christmas is God with us

Christmas is hope entering our world

Christmas is God’s promise fulfilled

Christmas is wow

Christmas is I am clean

Christmas is amazing

Christmas is transcendent

Christmas is God really does love us

Christmas is forever

When you wake up on Christmas morning, what will Christmas Day be to you?

Oh, not in theory; what will be your attitude, your actions and your interactions with God and the people around you?

Believer, we don’t celebrate a Christmas Day, we celebrate a Christmas Life!

 


SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.21.15

The Depth of the Christmas Story

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14)

 

This is a Theological Version of the Christmas Story

In vs 1-5 we are introduced to someone call “the Word”

He is creator of everything and he is God

The one God is a Triune being: he has eternally existed in three equal persons

In v 14 it becomes obvious, this person is God the Son, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity

Why is Christ called the Word?

In Genesis 1, each step of creation came into existence by God’s spoken word

In the Old Testament, when God communicated or interacted with his people we are often told “the word of Lord came”

In John 1, Christ being the Word means he is God’s self-disclosure; Jesus is God’s clearest expression of himself

The Christmas Story is God displaying himself with a clarity never seen before

Now God comes to dwell in the world he created

If Jesus had been merely God in a visible form that would still have been wondrous

But the fact that the Word became part of humanity, this is more than we can take in

We rejected God’s rule: the Bible says we “suppressed the truth” . .  “we are dead in sin” . . our “hearts were darkened”

The Word became human, so he could take humanity’s place on the cross

The Christmas Story is God entering humanity to save us!

 

John Goes On To Say “We Have Seen His Glory”

We are not capable of seeing the full glory of God (Exodus 33:18-20)

God will always be transcendent; he can never be less glorious

Yet, to his people, God’s glory is also experienced and transforming

Christ is a fuller disclosure of God; he is all that God is (Hebrews 1:3)

Christ reveals a muted glory

This is what Philippians 2 means when it describes Jesus as God who “emptied” himself

And yet, there is still much of God’s glory that we see in Jesus

(1)  We see glory in his Authority and power over nature

One who came to save us, truly is King of kings

(2)  We see glory in his healing Miracles

These are a foretaste of the wholeness we will all experience in his kingdom

(3)  We see glory in his Character

Jesus demonstrated love, patience, care and humility in their fullest form

Jesus never sinned and shows us total ‘Great Commandment Living’

(4)  We see glory in the Cross

God in flesh became sin, so we might become the righteousness of God

(5)  We see glory in his Resurrection

Jesus shattered death’s chains, he is now the ‘the firstfruits’ of our resurrection (1 Corinthians 1)

The Christmas Story is God has brought his glory into humanity

 

The Glory of Christ Is Full of Grace and Truth

Jesus glory is “full” of truth

Everything Jesus did was led by a perfect expression of truth

His life is the perfect example of behavior, priorities and focus

Jesus’ life and teaching is a treasury of truthfulness

To live by Jesus’ words is to feast on God’s goodness

It is impossible to go wrong or to lose, when we live by the Word

Jesus glory is “full” of grace

Christ’s labor and love for us doesn’t just have grace, it is full of grace

Ephesians 1:7-8 describes it this way, we are saved “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us”

The Christmas Story is full of unsinkable hope

The entirety of our salvation and hope rests on what Christ does, not on what we do

And we remain in this hope through Grace

 

We Have Received From This Glory 

from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace v16

The Word became flesh, so we can have God’s absolute best for us

Jesus came so we can be like him forever (1 John 3:2)

Jesus came so we can be with him forever (John 17:24)

This fullness of grace never stops flowing

v16 describes it as “grace upon grace”

The grace of Christ is ever flowing so we are ever filled

The Christmas Story does require something from us: all that we are!

And there is nothing unreasonable about it

GET READY FOR PHILIPPIANS

On January 3, we will begin preaching through the New Testament book of Philippians.

Philippians is known as one of Paul’s prison epistles, because he wrote it during his Roman imprisonment.

The word most often used to describe Philippians is joy, because the words “joy” and “rejoice” are used 14 times. Joy is a topic all of us should be excited to dig into.

There are many encouraging themes and famous statements found in Philippians:

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” 1:6

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” 1:21

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” 2:3

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” 2:12

“I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” 3:8

“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” 3:13-14

“Rejoice in the Lord always” 4:4

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” 4:6

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” 4:11

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” 4:13

Philippians is known most of all (at least at Greentree), for one of the most important theological passages in the Bible. Philippians 2:5-11 contains the great declaration of Christ’s pre-existence, humility, incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection and exaltation!

In order to gain a general sense of this wonderful book, start reading through the book of Philippians. This will help you to benefit more deeply as you hear the messages preached.

I also encourage you to consider reading Matt Chandler’s book on Philippians, “To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain”. Some of our small groups have enjoyed working through it. You can read my blog review here.

For those who like to spend the week before each message review that Sunday’s text, here is our schedule for preaching through Philippians:

January 3        Philippians 1:1-11

January 10      Philippians 1:12-18

January 17      Philippians 1:18b-26

January 24      Philippians 1:27-30

January 31      Philippians 2:1-4

February 7      Philippians 2:5-8

February 14    Philippians 2:9-11

February 21    Philippians 2:12-18

February 28    Philippians 2:19-30

March 6          Philippians 3:1-11

March 13        Philippians 3:12-16

March 20        Philippians 3:17-21

April 10          Philippians 4:1-9

April 17          Philippians 4:10-13

April 24          Philippians 4:14-23

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS WITH ETERNITY IN MIND

 

by Debbie Huber

You shall teach (the Scriptures) to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 11:19).

Recently I asked my daughter, Elyse, what is the most memorable part of Christmas for her. She responded that it is the traditions that are the most memorable and meaningful. From decorating the tree together, the visits with family and friends, the Christmas Eve service at church, to the family reading of the Biblical account of Christmas on Christmas morning, the traditions stand out more than the presents.

In her book, “Treasuring God in our Traditions”, Noel Piper emphasizes that our traditions should reflect our hearts’ delight in God. These traditions don’t just happen; they happen because we live our lives everyday dependent on God and His Word. And then we plan to include our children in this lifestyle of dependency on God.

When we read and meditate on the Nativity, we cannot help but to be overcome with joy knowing that God Himself chose to be born as one of us…To live as one of us, yet without sin…and to die in our place for our sins. As this Gospel impacts us it overflows into the big and small moments of our lives.

There are many and varied traditions for our families at Christmas time. Some are more meaningful to us, drawing us to contemplate Jesus’ incarnation. Sometimes we have certain traditions because we have always done them that way or because everyone else seems to be doing it.

But in all of our traditions, do we reflect a gratitude to God for His amazing gift of His Son to us at Christmas? That because of Christ’s incarnation we have more than the fun of the moment, we have an incomparable hope! Jesus has rescued us from the punishment we deserve for our sins.

Do we delight in this, enthusiastically demonstrating it as we sit with our family in our houses, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up? This is teaching God’s word to our families through the impact that His word has on our lives. And this is what our children will remember about Christmas.

Noel Piper says it so well: “How will our home look if our celebration is a picture of anticipation and waiting for God’s plan to be completed, a picture of our joy, in the salvation he has begun for us? What visible things will fill our house as we celebrate what God has done through Jesus?”

 

THE HERO OF DICKEN’S “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”

Some time ago I clipped these lines from an article by Ronnie Martin on the Gospel Coalition blog.

Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s lowly employee, had a joy that transcended his earthly circumstances, which included a sick child, intolerable working conditions, and a salary that barely afforded him the essential provisions to feed his family. But it was Cratchit’s joy that led him to hope for his son, feel charity toward his boss, and celebrate Christmas with an overflowing heart. Bob Cratchit had a joy that could not be contained.

Christmas cannot be contained, because the gospel can never be silenced. The world cannot shut out the light of Christ shining in the hearts of his children.

Let us rejoice in the Scrooges of our world that “come to their senses”

May we seek to be the Bob Cratchits who keep their eyes on the wondrous Savior no matter what circumstances the world throws at us! For if we are in Christ, then God has blessed us – every one!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.14.15

“The Focus of our Homes”

1 John 2:15-17

by Paul Long

What is the greatest threat that our children face? The greatest threat that our children face is misplaced love.

In vs 15 John gives us a very clear command, “Do not love the world or the things in the world”

 

3 reasons for why we should not love the world:

Reason #1  Love for the world crowds out a love for God v 15

It is not possible to be fully devoted to God and have a love and desire for the things in this world.

John defines the world we are not to love as three things:

1. The Desires of the flesh

God created us to have good desires – but our sin distorts those desires so that instead of being fulfilled in a God glorifying way they are pursued in a “me satisfying” way.

2. The Desires of the eyes

Our sinful cravings are activated by what we see.
Your children will see a world that offers them anything. They see a world that lives by one rule, whatever makes you happy is good for you – go after it.

3. Pride in possessions

It is love for what we’ve got and who we are. Life is defined by power, stuff, standing and achievements. How big is your house, and how important is your job? How high have you climbed, what have you accomplished, what makes you such a big deal?

How do each of these aspects of worldly love influence our hearts, homes and the lives of our children?

When we give into sinful desires and pride of life we are not following or obeying God.

Reason #2  The world and its desires will not last v17

Sin will not last. God will judge and punish all sin. If you love the world and if you love sin you will pass away, along with your pursuits.

This world and its sinful desires will not last forever. Yet as Christians we know the end of the story. 1 John 5:4-5

On the cross Jesus conquered sin and death. He rose victoriously and he will return to judge the world. Those who have put their faith in him, by grace will live with him forever in heaven.

Reason #3  When we love God, we get God and his blessings forever v17

To love God is to obey what He says. And to obey what He says is to love Him. John 14:15, 1 John Ch 5:3

For the Christian this world is not our home. This world is passing away but we have an eternal home in heaven with our Savior and our God.

So our goal in parenting should to be help cultivate in our children a love for God

First: we do this be evangelizing our children.

Our children’s greatest need is to know the saving Love of God the Father provided through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They need to understand and believe the gospel.

Second: we help cultivate love for God in our children by our example.

We are to model a love for God before our children. As a parent where do your affections lie? What do you love? If you were to ask your children, what does mommy or daddy love the most, what would they say? The influence of your life speaks volumes to your children.

Third: we cultivate a love for God through corporate worship and family worship.

Corporate worship is the people of God gathered together to sing, pray and hear from God’s word. A great way you can help your children grow in their love for God is by bringing them to church.

Family worship is gathering your family together to read the Bible and pray.

Donald Whitney is his book on family worship offers these three reminders that help to shape the task of family worship. He says this: Be brief, be regular, be flexible

Fourth: we cultivate a love for God through correction

As we see our children going down a path of following the desires of the world, as parents we are called to correct them. Proverbs 22:6, Hebrews 12:11, Proverbs 22:15

The goal of correction is not to produce good behavior. The goal is to produce a love for God. Therefore our correction should target our children’s hearts.

Finally:  we cultivate a love for God through love for one another

We cannot change our children’s hearts but we can love them well.
Parents let’s do all that we can to raise children that – “Do not love the world or the desires of the world.” Let us raise children that love, serve and obey God.

 

WHY DON’T ATHEISTS HATE SANTA?

AmericanAtheistChristmasBillboard2014

 

Tis the season to be jolly, or to complain about Christmas displays that have any hint of religious character.

Each year there are people who are indignant over public nativity scenes as if Christmas never originated as a religious celebration.

Others who deny God’s existence compare the Christmas Story to the myth of Santa Claus.

What I find interesting is that people don’t get mad over Santa displays, or his appearing in public places. Yet, they become ferocious in attacking nativity scenes. If as they say, God and Santa are both myths, why are they angry at the myth of God, but not at the myth of Santa?

The reason is simple, people are not in rebellion against Santa or the Easter Bunny, but they are in full force rebellion against the rule of God over their lives.

Most atheists don’t recognize that the heart of their anti-God anger is their own heart condition, but their actions reveal it.

People who are angry at the mention of God in society are angry that God claims to be Lord over all things – including their own lives. Our sinful nature has rejected the rule of God, because we want self-rule. For some people it just becomes easier to convince themselves God doesn’t exist. Problem solved!

However, because God does exist and He is Lord over everything – the problem remains. Romans 1:19 tells us God has placed the knowledge of His existence within all humanity.

This means that while the mind and mouths of atheists declare God doesn’t exist, their souls realize that He does. A downtown nativity scene or a prayer during a high school graduation are unwanted reminders of a reality that don’t want to face.

But atheists are not the only ones who squirm under the rule of God. Even Christians find themselves struggling with God’s claim to have absolute rule over our lives. We see this in a variety of ways:

we don’t like being told that your fantasy life really is a “big deal”

we get angry that another believer has pointed out a sinful attitude in us

we are bothered that God’s Word says He predestines us

we are offended that our pastor challenges the music we listen to, or the shows we watch

we leave our church when leaders tell us we must reconcile a damaged relationship with other church members

we think it is unfair that “good” people are condemned to hell

we complain about decisions our church makes when we are asked to give sacrificially

we stiffen up when we hear a teaching that mentions submission to our spouse, to the church, or to one another

The question of God’s rule is not just for God-deniers, it is also relevant for God-followers.

Next time you see a nativity scene, be reminded that the child born in Bethlehem came to destroy the power of rebellion and establish himself as Ruler over every detail of our life