Monthly Archives: April 2016

THIS IS POWERFUL!

5 year old Levi has Down’s Syndrome. And that is the easiest of his physical difficulties. His adversities include four open heart surgeries (and counting).

This testimony by his dad, a student at Bethlehem Seminary, is powerful, perspective correcting, and encouraging!

“Drinking Deeply of the Tenderness of Christ” from Bethlehem College & Seminary on Vimeo.

PRAYERFULLY REMEMBER THIS ANNIVERSARY WITH THEM

IMG_0576Visiting a “dead” village in the Chernobyl region of Belarus in 2004

Today is the 30th anniversary of a day the world and especially Belarus would like to forget!

On a Saturday morning thirty years ago, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had an “accident”. The result is the worst nuclear disaster in history. Although calling today an “anniversary” is accurate, it doesn’t seem like the right word.

Chernobyl took place in Ukraine along the border of Belarus, when they were both part of the Soviet Union. Most of the effects poured out on southern Belarus where farmland is abundant.

70% of the Chernobyl radioactive fallout landed in Belarus

24% of Belarus was impacted, including 20% of the nation’s farmland

It is estimated that the Belarusian government spends 20% of its annual budget on the affects of Chernobyl

This nuclear accident disaster led to the evacuation of 2000 towns and villages in Belarus!

I have visited this region a few times, and have walked through a “town” where all that now exists are overgrown streets – all the buildings were removed or buried.

The Soviet government’s initial response was to try and keep this disaster a secret. An old villager who refused to heed the government mandated evacuation, told me they first knew something was wrong when the rain puddled green.

Empty and decaying villages dot the restricted districts which are located in southern Belarus.

I also know many Belarusian people whose health has been affected by the radiation that poisoned the land. The affects to them are inescapable.

FullSizeRender30 years ago, this street used to be lined with homes and human activity

Pause to imagine if those statistics and impacts were applied to the United States. The impact is actually unimaginable for us.

Imagine wondering at every pain or sickness, if this is the result of radioactive poisoning?

Imagine living where it is hazardous to grow your food in radioactive farmland, but you are so poor, you do it anyway.

Imagine wondering when you buy produce, whether or not it was grown illegally in radioactive areas and sold to your store through the black market.

Imagine being a parent raising your children in areas affected by radiation.

Imagine walking through the woods near your own home and discovering a secret grave yard of Chernobyl victims.

Imagine being a young pastor sensing God has called you to plant a church in this region. You wonder how you can root your family in such a place.

For hundreds of thousands of people in Belarus, these are not imagined scenarios, this is life. These concerns come out of conversations I have had with them.

For pastors and churches in Belarus, Chernobyl after-effects are one more burden they face if they are to take the gospel to all of the people in their nation.

May these be reminders of why our Christian brothers and sisters in Belarus need our prayers and why these churches need our partnership.

We can forget what happened 30 years ago today, Belarusians cannot.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.25.16

 

Extraordinary Joy and Peace

Philippians 4:4-9

by Pat Tedeschi

When we go through these verses slowly, we see a number of imperatives or commands, that when considered carefully can almost seem impossible.

Who can really live like that?

If you are in Christ, you can.

Now clearly this doesn’t mean we will never struggle with these things. We can assume that we will struggle- that’s why the verses are there.

But the truth of God’s Word is we can live out these seemingly impossible commands and experience a life of extraordinary Gospel joy and peace.

Here’s why; we have a Savior who not only models this sort of life, but is all powerful to enable us to live it out.  

So let’s look at each of these commands and look to the Savior who inspires and enables us to obey them.

1.  Rejoice in the Lord always (v 4)

We clearly see a theme of rejoicing throughout the book.

Biblical joy is not grounded in our circumstances, but in the Lord.

The Philippians have everything to rejoice about in Him!

If we ground our joy in our circumstances there may be very little to rejoice in.

But if our rejoicing is in Jesus and what He has done then we have reason to always rejoice.

2.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone (v 5)

Reasonableness means not holding onto your personal rights but dealing gently with others when you feel the right or need to retaliate.

How sweetly reasonable are you when others accuse or offend you?

Paul pushes us beyond our so called “rights” to look to Christ when he says “the Lord is at hand”.  

He is near and He is powerful to help. You have His resources to be sweetly reasonable and be at peace with others, as He has been reasonable with you.

3.  Do not be anxious about anything, instead pray about everything (vs 6-7)

Anxiety is a distressed, burdensome concern, where we trust in our own abilities to solve or avoid problems rather than trusting God.

Paul wants us to take the energy we give to worrying and use it instead to pray.

Prayer builds relationship with our Father and Savior – which is ultimately what we need most for a life of joy and peace.

Prayer that expresses our hearts to God with the mind of Christ has a magnificent promise to it.

Paul says that the peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

This peace is not about the absence of trouble. God doesn’t promise to remove all of our difficulties.

Instead it is like calm in the middle of a storm. Like Paul and Silas singing songs of joy at midnight in the Philippian jail.

4.  Think Godly thoughts, Follow Godly examples (vs 8-9)

Paul gives us two other elements to stand firm in living out the Gospel- godly thoughts and godly practices.

He lists a number of distinctly Christian virtues to fill our minds with in this pursuit of Gospel joy and peace.

That is what we think on – but our thinking must move us to action.

So God gives us living examples we can follow right in our churches- men and women who seek to advance the Gospel according to the mind of Christ.

But we can’t stop there. Their lives and practices should lead us to be godly examples for others to follow as well.

There’s much to do and to think about from this passage. It can seem impossible.

However, the focus is not on our own ability to do these things. Instead Paul consistently points us to the One who models and empowers us to live them out.

With Jesus as our example and enabler, we can live out these seemingly impossible commands and experience a life of extraordinary joy and peace for the advance of His glory in the Gospel.

TRUE BEAUTY WOMEN’S CONFERENCE

true-beauty-header (1)

by Debbie Huber

 

“Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”  I Peter 3:4

It is reported that Jennifer Aniston spends $140,000 a year (or $8000 a month) on her beauty regimen. She is a very beautiful woman and obviously works hard at presenting herself as beautifully as she can, trying to “hold back the hands of time”. 

While very few people will spend nearly that much on our beauty regimen we still are very concerned about how our outward looks appear to the world. But as we all know outward beauty does not last forever. 

We live in a world where a woman’s identity is often defined by how she looks, what she wears, or how she feels about herself.  The Bible speaks to us about an imperishable beauty that should shape our identity: true beauty beholds and reflects the Glory of God.  We reflect His glory as we gaze on it and become completely satisfied in Christ and His beauty. 

Greentree Church is presenting a Women’s Conference entitled “True Beauty”.  The conference is scheduled from 6:30pm to 9:30pm on Friday, April 29 and from 8:00am to 12:00 pm on Saturday, April 30.  

This free two day conference will focus on who we are in Christ and challenge us to reflect His beauty to a world that seeks beauty that is unsatisfying and fading. Whatever your season in life, beholding the beauty of our Savior deepens our love and satisfaction in Him alone.

All women are invited to attend this conference. There will be Biblical teaching, worship, and small group interactions. A special continental breakfast will be served on Saturday morning.

Invite someone to come along with you!  This is a great opportunity for you to invite an unsaved friend or someone in our church who needs to be connected. A personal invitation can make all the difference. 

You must register online and can do so here

Registration deadline is Monday, April 25. 

GREAT PRAYER TIPS THAT WILL NOT WEIGH YOU DOWN

pray-1024x682

I refer to prayer a lot in my preaching, because it is simply and absolutely necessary:

to mature spiritually

to know God more closely

to love God in reality

to resist sin more consistently

to hear the Holy Spirit more clearly

to live worship-fully

to be used of God more fruitfully

etc.

Even so, my anticipation can be somewhat modest when I click on a link for another article on prayer. Articles on prayer can be burdensome, shallow or even worse – convicting!

But I am glad to connect you to this article on prayer by David Qaoud from the Gospel Relevance Blog

Actually, it is not an article, it’s a list. More specifically it is “25 Quick Tips and Reminders to Help Your Prayer Life”.

I found David’s list to be excellent! There are no “filler” points just so he could get to 25. His list is balanced, wise and most of all – practical. It was not shallow. I was not burdened. But yes, I was hooked by a point of conviction.

And if you have a point to add to David’s “25” – please share it with us!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.18.16

‘Reconciliation is not Optional’       

 

A major theme in Philippians is unity with one another and in mission (1:27). In chapter 4 Paul addresses two leading women in the church whose conflict threatened both of these

Philippians 4:1-3

 

We Don’t Know the Reason for Their Conflict

But it was serious: it is a rare step for Paul to correct people in a church by name

And it was affecting the whole church: this correction is addressed in a letter to the whole church

When members of ‘the body’ are in disharmony, the church will be weakened

The women were living in contradiction to the heart of the entire letter

1:27 tells us to live worthy of the gospel – but they were not

2:4 says don’t look out merely to your own interests – but they were

 

Look How Paul Approaches Reconciliation

1.  Paul approaches them with an abundance of grace (v1)

This is how God approached us in order to reconcile us to himself and it continues to be how he deals with us

We are acting hypocritically when we brush graciousness aside

The reality of the sin in these women didn’t override the reality of how Paul loved them; and the reality that Paul loved them didn’t override the need to confront their sin

Our approach to reconciliation doesn’t imitate Christ, if it is not filled with grace

2.  Paul addresses the women equally and earnestly (v2)

Paul didn’t pick sides, or even deal with the outward issue

The rightness of one or other was secondary to the wrongness of their conflict

Each had a heart condition that needed be addressed – they were holding on to an offense

Each had an attitude to change – they thought the other was unworthy of fellowship (grace)

Each had actions to take – to forgive completely and forever

Biblical reconciliation requires careful biblical self-examination

3.  Paul wants them to see their “situation” in its true context (v3)

This was a gospel issue – they were gospel recipients (“names in the book of life”)

Mission of church issue – gospel workers (“labored side by side in the gospel”)

All who are ‘in Christ’ are gospel people; reconciliation is now in our DNA (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)                  

The world needs us  not to allow anything to dilute “the ministry reconciliation”

The glory of Christ’s work in the gospel deserves that we live out “the message of reconciliation”

We are inconsistent with the gospel, if our heart is not reconciled

 

Paul Gives 3 Commands For Reconciliation

1.  Stand firm in the Lord (v1)

This is the same command he gave in 1:27 to “live worthy of Christ”

If they are to respond correctly, it will be because they are rooted “in the Lord”

They have to lay aside their offense, and take up Christ

They need to refocus how they see each other, and use “the Lord’s” perspective

If we don’t approach each other “in the Lord”, instead of “standing firm”, we are drifting

 2.  Agree in the Lord (v2)

This doesn’t mean we have to agree with the other person

It means we agree that what we share “in the Lord” should keep us in fellowship

We remember that we share the same standards of love and humility (2:1-4)

We recognize that we will share the same eternity that will be completely free of disharmony

3.  Help them to agree (v3)

The verb “help” indicates strong action. It is elsewhere translated ‘seize’ and ‘grasp’

Whether the “true companion” refers to a person or the church community, it lets us know that we have a role to help reconcile fellow-believers

Hopefully we can help informally through prayer and encouragement

But if this doesn’t work, then church leaders are required to step in

If we ignore infection in the body, then biblical community will fail

A MEAL WITH JESUS

Every once in a while I hear or read an observation I had never noticed in the Bible that is so obvious; I wonder “How did I miss that?”

“A Meal with Jesus” by Tim Chester did this to me.

According to Tim, “Food matters. Meals matter. Meals are full of significance”.

Well, that part I already knew and give it my hearty amen!

But what I had not noticed was his observation of how frequently the gospels portray Jesus in the midst of a meal. Immediately I realized, “Wow that’s right!”

Tim adds that even when the gospels don’t portray Jesus at a meal, he is speaking about food and meals. In fact the Bible actually describes Jesus by saying, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking” (Luke 7:24).

The book focuses on the gospel of Luke in which meals and Jesus are given a prominent role.

Since we all understand the dynamics of meals, Tim Chester’s book is approachable, interesting and beneficial to any reader who wants to apply biblical truth to their lives.

With meals being so prominent in the Bible and in our human experience, “A Meal with Jesus” is an intriguing read.

As Tim Chester points out, “We need a theology of leftovers”.

LET’S STOP BEING DIVIDED BY “END TIMES” DOCTRINES

images

The way many Christians treat the book of Revelation it’s almost as if they think it was placed in the Bible to give us all a reason to argue.

Just in case you are not sure – that is not why it was written.

In the big picture, the book of Revelation has a clear and simple message: Christ will be victorious! Everyone who trusts in him will share that victory forever, and everyone who denies him will be condemned forever.

These are serious truths, but they are not complicated.

I know that there are some parts in Revelation that can get us scratching our heads, but that doesn’t change the purpose of Revelation, which is to bring encouragement to the Church throughout its years of earthly struggle.

Eschatology (the study of end times or “last” things) brings disagreement between sincere Christians, but it should also bring shared joy. Wouldn’t it be nice if our shared joy over the “end times” was greater than our disagreements over it?

For this to happen, we simply need to look at the wonderful truths found in Revelation (and the rest of the Bible) that all Christians hold together.

Every true biblical doctrine is meant to strengthen us and lead us to be faithful servants unto our Lord.

Whether or not you like to read, study and discuss Eschatology, let us be reminded that it is simply a subsection in understanding the person and works of Jesus Christ, our King!

I recently discovered the Chris Braun blog – “A Brick in the Valley”. I am happy to guide you to his article entitled “6 Areas of End Times Agreement”. It was a refreshing change of pace for writing on Eschatology.

Methinks Christians would benefit by taking this approach on other areas as well!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.11.16

“Watch What Guides You”

 

Philippians 3:17-21

 

There is a lot of misdirection around us

The Apostle Paul was deeply concerned about these influences on believers (v18)

The “enemies of the cross” he describes are not just persecutors, it includes all who distract us us from gospel truths

We are surrounded by deception, from the subtle to the outrageous, the Bible is filled with warnings to us

 

Paul gives 4 qualities to watch out for in people (v19)

1.  When they follow what is headed for destruction

He wants us to keep in mind how things end

Yet, true Christians often ignore biblical warnings about what is condemned or empty

Any person, idea or activity that is not submitted to Christ, is condemned

Is your life engaged in what makes it harder to love God more?

 2.  When they serve their own desires

Paul uses the phrase “their god is their belly” to describe living for our appetites – it is living for ourselves

Do you prioritize what makes you happy over what makes us holy?

We miss the deep truth, that holiness leads to our greatest happiness

 3.  When they take joy in their rebellion

Those who think modern thinking is better than biblical truth – it is living by pride  

Do you heed influences that cause you to doubt the fullness of God’s authority and wisdom?

4.  When their thinking is shaped by the world

In Romans 12:1, Paul calls this being “conformed” instead of being “transformed”

You are being touched by earthly thinking, so how are you being protected from it?

 

Paul gives 3 protections against misdirection

#1  Be connected to those who are faithful to Christ (v17)

Paul is not telling the church that he is their standard (he has already made the point in chapter 2, that we are to imitate Christ)

He is encouraging us to be impacted by true Christ-followers

Only those who love Christ can lead us toward him (Parents we must be mindful of this reality)

What is the example of a Christ-follower?

They are serious about Christ’s role over us

They are faithful to apply what God’s word says

They are enthusiastic in their love for Christ and his gospel (vs 14-15)

To sum it up, we are to “imitate” those who clarify what it means to live for Christ and encourage us in it!

Each of us is an example to others. How wonderful if that example is as a Christ-follower

Even a new Christian can be an example of intensity and direction in following Christ

And an imperfect Christian can be an example of persistence in getting up and following Christ

#2  Keep in mind where we are going (v20)

We are “citizens” of a “heavenly” kingdom. Paul wants this reality to be a reminder of what to live for – or not

Our goals, success and measurements should be connected our future kingdom

This in contrast to the selfish and prideful agendas described in v19

Paul wants us to remember we are part of something glorious!

Don’t lose sight of the worthiness in living fully for Christ

Don’t settle into a life that leaves us empty handed (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

#3  Remember who is coming! (vs 20-21)

Live in the realization that Christ is coming for you!

This brings accountability to us, which is common theme in Jesus’ parables

This brings hope to us, the assurance that salvation’s entire promise will be fulfilled

Yes, we struggle, and life can be difficult

Yet, amidst all this, v21 tells us Christ ‘will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body’

This means he will also transform our life, our sorrows and our forever!

WHY DID I CRY?

tears

While reading CJ Mahaney’s tribute to Jerry Bridges I came upon CJ’s statement “I’m glad he’s in heaven”. Just reading those words made my eyes well up with tears. Why would that be so?

I am not a friend of Jerry Bridges. And this was not my first news of Jerry Bridge’s death. I had read several other tributes of his death. In fact, I had written a brief blog in recognition of his life and influence.

I was surprised myself that reading the simple words, “I’m glad he’s in heaven” affected me emotionally.

What was the reason?

Heaven is a real place, and God gives us a heart that longs to be there.

We are now in union with Christ, and we rejoice over this wondrous relationship that has its culmination waiting ahead of us.

I don’t have to know Jerry Bridges to be thankful that he is joyfully in heaven. And I can personally appreciate that CJ although grieved, also rejoices that his friend is with Christ.

Our emotions don’t prove that we are true believers, but being a true believer will cause the realities of Christ to reach deep into our hearts.

I find it easy to see (and be discouraged) by the ways I don’t show my love for God. So it is good to take encouragement from each manifestation that reminds me that I do love God!

In CJ Mahaney’s tribute to Jerry Bridges, he includes this excerpt from Jerry’s book, The Gospel for Real Life. CJ commented, “As I read it, I cried. I think you will too”.

Our Homecoming

“What will it be like when we enter the presence of the Lord? Sometimes when I focus too much on my own shortcomings, of how often I have sinned against grace and against knowledge, of how little I have availed myself of all the blessings of God and opportunities that have come my way, I think I would like to somehow ‘just slip in the side door’ of heaven, unnoticed and consequently unwelcome. But that is because I do focus too much on myself and try to anticipate my welcome on the basis of my performance.

The apostle Peter, however, gives us an entirely different perspective in 2 Peter 1:10-11: ‘Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’” (pp.164–5).