Monthly Archives: June 2017

DON’T FORGET GOD ON YOUR VACATION

Vacation season is upon us, and whether or not this is when you are on the road, it is a good time to consider how we honor God while we travel.

Sam Bierig encourages us in this article to make sure we don’t allow excuses to keep us from being in church when we are away.

I will add two other areas we should not let slip during vacations.

Giving – the expenses of your church don’t diminish when you are on vacation. Make sure you remain supportive of your church family whenever you cannot attend a service.

If you don’t give regularly to your church during the rest of the year, keep this in mind: you expect your church to be faithful in its ministry to you, so you should be faithful in making that ministry possible. 

Devotional time – vacation definitely flips over our regular schedule, which is the point of going on vacation! Still, have meaningful engagement with God.

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but we have all experienced vacations turning into times of frustration. We need our hearts equipped by God wherever we are. God is worthy of living for him in all situations – including the times of getting away, which he graciously makes possible for us.

When you go away to be refreshed, keep in mind that meaningful time with our good God is refreshing.

DOES BUSY CHURCH = HEALTHY CHURCH?

 

When a pastor or church member looks at their church’s calendar when it is full of events, the response is usually one of satisfaction.

However, there are good reasons to exchange that perspective for one of concern.

The reason we like to see a full schedule is because we think it declares fruitfulness is taking place. And perhaps that is true. But most likely the idea of fruitfulness through busyness is only partially true.

I have been a pastor for almost 35 years, and I have discovered that when pressed to identify the fruit in our programs, sometimes the results are surprisingly slim. This has nothing to do with the sincere intentions and faithful hard work of those involved in them.

There have been times when a program that many would consider to be a showcase of good work was in fact producing virtually no identifiable fruit.

The answer is not to trash all programs, but we should carefully examine their usefulness.

The knee jerk reaction by people tends to be that attempts to significantly reduce programs is a step backward from fruitful ministry.

But the opposite truth is the motivation for trimming the programming in our churches. It is because we do want to be fruitful, that we don’t want to fool ourselves into thinking we are being effective because we are being busy. The importance of gospel ministry is too precious to merely think we are being effective.

The ministry goal that Jesus has given us is to be making disciples. This involves having people come to faith in Christ and having them mature so that they become part of the disciple-making process.

This requires a certain amount of programming in and by the church, but it also requires freedom to be involved in disciple-making in our homes and communities.

When we free up the church calendar AND empower church members to be disciple-makers, fruitful ministry expands.

The topic of church schedule and programming is not a minor concern, the health of gospel ministry is partially at stake.

Jared Wilson serves the church well with this article, “10 Reasons Why You Should Underprogram Your Church”. A careful reading of Jared’s points reveals the value of giving this matter serious consideration.

It can be hard for a church to strike a perfect balance, but we can become more careful and intentional about busyness in the church just as much as we should be concerning busyness in our personal lives.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.26.17

Don’t Ruin a Good Meal                  

 

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

 

How did the Corinthians ruin a good meal?

Let’s try to picture the scene Paul describes

They ‘came together’ in homes of the wealthy which had limited dining space, so some people sat in outer courtyards

People were bringing or being served different meals based on status, which was a social norm

The wealthy arrived early and servants would arrive later

Some were gorging themselves and v21 getting ‘drunk’

The ‘division’ described is over economic and social status

The results: God was dishonored, v22 the church was ‘despised’, v22 some were ‘humiliated’ and their witness to the world was corrupted

 

Application #1: Take seriously our fellowship with God

Paul takes the church back to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper

vs23-24 the Bread – represents Jesus’ body and the physical reality that God in flesh took our place

v25 the Cup – the context for the cup in the Old Testament was often wrath. Jesus died taking wrath for us 

Exodus 24:8 describes the Old Covenant: obey God’s law and he will bless you

Jesus’ blood established a New Covenant: trust in Christ’s death and you will receive his life

This New Covenant is between God the Father and God the Son; and we are brought into it (John 17:6-8)

This meal is called a ‘remembrance’ – to live with a cross-centered perspective

Eating this meal v26 is a ‘proclamation’ –  a testimony to one another

 A holy meal (fellowship) requires a holy heart

vs 27-32 tell us to ‘examine’ our hearts and eat this meal in a ‘worthy manner’

The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal which proclaims our relationship with God

If we are careless with this relationship, we are guilty concerning Jesus v27

Carelessness with the Lord’s Supper shows inattention to the death and reign of Jesus

The honor of Christ is so momentous, God judges those misuse him

Those who reject him, are eternally condemned!

Believers who claim to know better, were disciplined for it (v30-32). “Does that mean I will be disciplined like this?”  The better question is should you be?

How do we ‘examine’ ourselves?

It involves careful reflection based upon what our actions reveal

But beware of self-examination that focuses only on our unworthiness 

Stephen Um: “Look for repentance and look for evidences of grace at work”

 

Application #2:  Take seriously our fellowship one another

The Corinthian’s misuse of the Lord’s Supper, was a misuse of one another

They didn’t distinguish fellowship in church from how the world treats one another

Their fellowship was marked by the world’s categories

We use people according to their gifts and maturity, but our fellowship with them is according to the cross

Take this a step further; we should be alert for those who are marginalized 

Their fellowship was ruled by personal selfishness:  Here I am, please me!

Remember how Jesus introduced this meal?  He first washed their feet (John 13)

The Church is not here to serve you; we are the Church to serve Christ and each other

Our fellowship is not in common earthly bonds, it’s in common heavenly bonds

We simply are a supernatural community; so we need to live that way

v33 the command to ‘wait’ – is a command to share the meal as a church. It is a command to look out for and take care of one another

 

What is your response – seek forgiveness, reach out, serve, or find biblical community?

 

EVERY BELIEVER’S RESPONSIBILITY

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by Debbie Huber


We are all a part of the body of Christ. We do not always consider our active role in the body when it comes to reaching out to others. The pastors, greeters, Sunday school teachers are taking care of all of this. We are in a hurry, we have to get home….  isn’t that why the church has ministry programs?

Ministry programs do not lend a listening ear. 

Ministry programs do not spur one another on to love God and His word. Ministry programs cannot give an encouraging smile to a nervous child. 

Ministry programs cannot walk a visiting family to find their child’s new Sunday school class. 

Ministry programs do not notice a worried, sad, or fearful look and offer prayer.

Ministry programs do not rejoice with others. 

Ministry programs do not give encouraging phone calls.

Ministry programs do not spend time with the elderly, or engage the teenager who seems alone.  

Every believer must consciously seek to reach out to others in meaningful ways as ambassadors for Christ. What if every person who is a part of our church prayed and asked God to help us step out of our comfort zone and touch the lives of those around us. Many seemingly small gestures work together to impact the world for Christ. 

If someone asks directions to the bathroom or a Sunday school classroom, instead of pointing them in the right direction walk them there instead.  

Greet others with a smile!  Don’t wait for them to come up to you. 

If you see someone who looks sad and fearful ask if you could help.  Pray for them. 

Speak to one another with biblical encouragement, spurring one another to seek God through His word. 

Pray that God will give you eyes to see the needs of those around you. And go the extra mile to show you care. 

INFLUENCE: FATHER’S DAY EDITION

SGC Pastor's Conference 2016 Some of the people who regularly and deeply influence me with the gospel

Yesterday we honored Fathers and their influence on our lives.

However, some of you men (and women) may be so aware of your limitations that you doubt that your life can be an influence for God.

The famous people in the world certainly seem to have far more influence than the people who serve Christ. However, where it counts most, they are completely impotent!  Just as this world will end, so will the influences of those who follow its values. But the influences for Christ’s eternal Kingdom will last as long as his kingdom does!  

To be a godly influence two truths reign supreme:

1.  The focus of our influence must be the Gospel

Romans 1:16 tells us the gospel is “the power of God for salvation”. There is no greater influence we can have on people than for the gospel. This is not just true for unbelievers. Every believer needs regular encouragements in living out the gospel.

2.  The power in our influence is the Holy Spirit

Our influence is not meant to be what we can be to others; it is what the Holy Spirit can accomplish in and through us. Wouldn’t you rather have your potential be what God will do?

Conclusions about our influence through the Holy Spirit and for the gospel:

1.  Our influence goes beyond our abilities (Acts 4:13)     

2.  Our influence goes beyond our what we can see (1 Corinthians 12:21-22) 

3.  Our influence is not lost due to weaknesses or past failure (John 4:16-18 & 39)

General observations concerning being an influence:

1.  Each person you can influence is worth influencing

We often think and act as if we have no vital ministry from God. Yet, every person already in our life needs gospel influences. Perhaps we will be the only person to be praying for them this way!

2.  Every person who can observe you, can be influenced by you

Just by living a life in contrast to the world, we are an influence on those who see us. The people in your life need to be surrounded by those who love and live by the gospel.

3.  Small things can have an effective influence

The key to every godly influence is how God will use that influences. This should encourage us concerning small actions for Christ. If God honors a small action for Him, should we still consider it to be a small thing?

4.  The world desperately needs the influence of the gospel and godliness

At times if feels as if we live in the middle of a swamp of ungodliness. Rather than bemoan this fact, recognize that it sets up a vivid contrast when we live whole-heartedly for God. In our self-centered culture, godliness will stands out and be noticed. Be encouraged that your life can be a place of solid ground in the midst of the swamp.

And while you are at it, do not tire in thanking those who are an influence in your life. They need encouragement too!

READING THE BIBLE SUPERNATURALLY

 

Last year, I enjoyed reading John Piper’s book “A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness”, which presents the self-authenticating nature of the Bible.

Now my soul is being thrilled by reading Piper’s follow-up book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”.

Piper wants to do more than motivate us to a renewed commitment in reading the Bible, he wants us to recognize the extraordinary potency that should be in our everyday reading of it.

The Bible is a supernatural book, that is understood through a supernatural work of God, and should produce supernatural effects for God in us and through us!

“Reading the Bible Supernaturally” will inspire, encourage, excite and clarify. Consider how wonderful it will be to have your daily walk in God’s Word become more fully what the Holy Spirit intends for it to be.

All that the Spirit says is wondrous, and all that He intends for the believer is wondrous. This should lead us to spend more time with our Bibles open before us. And this should fill our heart with expectation at the turn of each page.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.12.17

Love for God is not independent from him

 

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Why this sudden concern for hairstyle?

In the New Testament, the emphasis is on the heart rather than the exterior (Mark 7:20-23)

Paul is also concerned for the heart condition of wives participating in church services

Their participation in “prayer and prophecy” is assumed and encouraged

This was revolutionary compared to Jewish synagogues where women were not even full members

However, it appears some wives were taking this freedom a step further

The phrase head uncovered is literally: “having down from the head”

There is historic evidence for this being hair bound up on head, or a cloth covering

Once women were married, they kept their hair bound up – it was a cultural norm

For a wife to ‘uncover’ her hair in public was a declaration of her independence

Why were wives doing this while speaking in church service?

We have already seen the Corinthians had a high view of their spirituality

We will see in coming chapters they took pride in how their spiritual gifts we were used during services

Hair ‘uncovered’ declared:  I have independent authority straight from God

Paul responds by presenting a big picture view of ‘headship’

Paul brings up headship in v3 before he identifies why he does in v5

Lets us know all that follows is about Christ more than dress code

 

Paul points are strikingly current for us

1.  God’s design promotes dependence not independence

v3 gives a 3-fold list of headship with women in the middle of the list to show it is not demeaning of them

Headship is a statement of hierarchy and it implies submission

Both concepts are repudiated in our culture as being archaic

But the inclusion of Christ in this list clearly shows that is not God’s perspective

There is a hierarchy with the triune Godhead: Father – Son – Holy Spirit

The Son serves and glorifies the Father; while the Holy Spirit was sent by and glorifies the Son

v7 God created humanity in his image, which means we reflect his character

This includes embracing the concepts of authority and creation order (vs 8-10)

If women (or men) push off their headship – they reject God’s order

The women who did this, dishonored their ‘head’ – their husband

In that culture, a head covering was a ‘symbol’ of role acceptance (v10)

When we exalt our independence, we denigrate God’s order

Why does v10 add ‘angels’ to mix?

They are messengers of God’s glory

Paul also cited angels in 6:3 which shows that our obedience is part of the big picture of God’s reign

2.  God’s design brings completion not ‘contention’ (v16)

Paul shows that submission doesn’t mean we are being devalued (vs 11-12)

Men and women are interdependent, one is not better or more valued

Ultimately, we are all fully dependent on and submitted to God

As believers, we embrace God’s order because we trust him

  • Wives submit to imperfect husbands
  • Children honor imperfect parents
  • Church members submit to an imperfect local church

We have ample reason to trust that God’s goodness is built into his design

Each of our roles contains a God given ‘glory’ in it (v7)

This idea of glory means there is completion and joy when we accept it

Jesus himself submits to the Father to complete the gospel plan (1 Corinthians 15:28)

If we throw off God’s design all that’s left is brokenness

3.  Gender distinctions are God-given and shouldn’t be blurred (v14)

Homosexuality was prominent in ancient Greece and Rome

So, Paul uses the principle of God’s design to address blurring gender distinctions

It is another example of how we must not join the world in discarding God’s order

4.  Our cultural choices should always be God-honoring (vs 13-16)

Every culture expresses itself in ways that communicate values

Great Commandment people avoid choices that (1) dishonor God, or (2) weaken our testimony

Questions to ask ourselves:

  1. Do we dress to please people or God?
  2. Do we adorn ourselves in ways that are meant to demonstrate a rebellious attitude?
  3. Does our behavior flow with the world more than with God’s Word?
  4. Do we have attitudes that are dismissive of God given authority and institutions?

These questions are really about our love for God. We cannot love him and dismiss his design for us or this world

THE COMMON SIN THAT NO ONE DOES

Gossips

No one wants to be called a gossip, and I doubt many people think they are a gossip.

Yet, gossip is widespread!

This means gossipers are plentiful. It also means that people don’t understand gossip or their own inclinations toward it.

An excellent book that walks us through the nuances of gossip is “Resisting Gossip” by Matthew Mitchell. You can read my review of this book.

Tim Challies drew from Mitchell’s book to write his own article on the subject, “The Five Gossips You Will Meet”.

The purpose of Mitchell and Challies (and now me) is two-fold:

1)  Help us identify and protect our lives from the influence of each form of gossiper, which includes not allowing them to use us to extend their sin.

2)  Help us examine and identify aspects of gossip which may already be in us. Even if you are fairly certain that you are not a gossip, there may be fragments of gossip lurking in you.

Why should you bother giving attention to the subject of gossip? Because God gives his attention to gossipers and He clearly is not pleased with the practice. In fact, it is somewhat shocking to see the company in which God places the sin of gossip:

Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)

The seriousness in which God takes gossip should be motivation to scrutinize our lives and make sure we are not allowing any trace of this sin to hide in us. This includes as the passage above points out, “giving approval”, which encompasses encouraging gossipers by giving them an audience.

THOUGHTS FOR DRY or DEAD BIBLE READING

Do you struggle to consistently read God’s Word?

You are not alone, but in the end, there are no excuses!

We are commended to abide in God’s Word.

We desperately need to abide in God’s Word.

We rob our life of richness when we fail to abide in God’s Word.

Whatever your reason for not establishing this habit, the answer is to stop minimizing the person of God while you maximize the importance of your own activities.

The failure to pray and read the Bible is not a time or scheduling issue, it is a love and submission to God issue.

The consistent, engaged and responsive reading of God’s Word will revolutionize your heart. Don’t miss God’s wealth of wisdom and goodness, because of a lousy excuse.

Do you struggle to keep your reading fresh?

You are definitely not alone there either.

Every faithful and mature Christian has walked through this struggle – many times.

I find that opening my Bible with the perspective that God is an amazing person who wants to speak to me as I read, is helpful.

John Piper’s latest book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”, is an excellent resource in this area. I hope to post a review on this book next week.

Until then, read this helpful article by Tim Challies, “Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life”. He mentions a few books at the end of the article. “Habits of Grace” by David Mathis has my high recommendation.

Another idea is to talk with fellow-believers who show a love for God. Relax over a cup of coffee and discuss ways to freshen your devotional time. Anyone who loves God will be glad to talk with you and pray for you about these matters which are precious to them.

Even if you feel dry in your devotional life, take joy in the fact that you are laboring at it. Take joy in the wonderful reality that you want God to fill your life. Most people are grievously blind and dead to these desires.

God wants to bring a fresh breeze to your time with Him. He rejoices in the time you give. It is never dry and empty to Him!