Monthly Archives: July 2017

LOOK FOR THE SWEETNESS IN GOD’S WORD

How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!

                                                        (Psalm 119:103)

The Bible is entirely good.

As Christians, we know it is important to read God’s word. However, we may not be convinced that it is a book filled with sweetness for our souls.

To help us have the proper perspective about reading the Bible, we need to maintain the proper perspective about God and his purpose in giving the Bible to us.

God is entirely good.

Indeed, he is perfect at being good, wise, faithful, and loving. These qualities of God flow through his word which he has given to us.

The intention of God’s word is to reveal what God is like, to show how sinners like us can be reconciled to him, and to guide us into life with him.

Look for the sweetness in God’s Word

To get the most out of reading God’s word, we want to escape reading the Bible as if it’s a form of drudgery.

One of the ways to do this, is to look for the sweetness in God’s word.

 As you read, look for descriptions of God’s glorious character

As you read, look for evidences of God being faithful.

As you read, look for disclosures of God’s intentions for you.

As you read, look for declarations of God’s faithfulness to you.

As you read, look for promises of your future with God.

As you read, look for guidance in becoming more like Jesus, God’s Son.

The Bible is a gritty book, because it tells the truth about sin and its consequences.

The Bible is a challenging book, because God doesn’t accept half-heartedness.

The Bible can be a difficult book, because God’s ways are higher than ours and run opposite of the world.

However, the Bible is also a sweet book, because it contains what our Good Good Father has to say to us.

 

PLAY-DOH LOVE

Love is wonderful

Love is popular

Love is deeply misunderstood

It is virtually impossible to find someone who has never been loved (humanly) and has no love for anyone else.

Yet, love for most people lies in a fog of misunderstanding and selfishness.

It’s hard to find a song, a book, a movie or therapeutic expert that gets love fully correct. This means we live in a world so confused about its favorite topic, that we don’t recognize pure love when it looks down from a cross at us.

It is not that people know nothing of love, the problem is that they don’t accept the baseline of love, because they don’t listen to God who is the source of love. If we don’t build on a solid foundation, we won’t end up with a structure that lasts.

Our world loves to think of love as something we can shape out of our own perspective and values. But Alex Duke is correct when he said, “Love isn’t Play-Doh”.

One of the problems with Play-Doh love is that none of us want to be loved according to someone’s pulled-out-of-the-air-according-to-their-own-desires perspective. The reason is simple, it’s not actually love and it doesn’t work out well for the people receiving it.

Of course there is an even bigger problem, counterfeit love is unacceptable to God and will not lead us to him or his kingdom.

When we don’t shape our understanding and practice of love by the teaching of Scripture and the example of Christ, we are left with emotions and interpretations that have much more self-love than true love.

If you want to know love, you must know God!

Alex Duke gives us a good synopsis of the problem and answer to “Play-Doh” love in this article, “Love Is Not Whatever You Want It To Be”.

Love is too precious to get wrong, and life is too short not to start correcting that error today.

 

DO YOU HAVE CLEAR PRIORITIES?

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What should be your greatest priority each day?

Do you have a ready answer?

Have you ever thought about it?

Do you think it even matters whether you have an answer?

For those who claim to be Christ followers and submit to God’s word, there is a clear answer to this question about our priorities.

(drum roll)

Love for God is to be our highest priority.

This has been a consistent theme in the Bible.

When God first presented his covenant with the people of Israel, these words accompanied it:

 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)

After the people had sinned with the golden calf, the Lord reaffirmed his covenant with them by saying:

 “Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12)

When the Lord spoke about future rebellion by his people, he also spoke of how he would restore them and how he would restore them:

 “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6)

After Israel conquered the land God promised to them and were ready to settle in it, the Lord gave this warning:

Be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)

When Jesus was asked, “Which commandment is most important of all?” He answered:

 “The most important is ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And 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 12:28-31)

The context in each of these passages is what it means to be the people of God.

The Old Testament passages come at times of confirmation to Israel that they are in a covenant relationship with God. In the New Testament passage, Jesus is answering the question of God’s priority for us.

As believers, we should recognize that it’s God’s job to establish our priorities and it’s our responsibility to act upon them. And God has consistently declared that profound love for him should be the identity of his people. Indeed, failure to deeply love God should be almost be unintelligible to us – something makes no sense at all!

Each morning, regardless of circumstances, our highest priority is to love God today.

This not only gives direction to life, it is an enormous help when we are in those moments when we have no idea what to do. Take a breath and remember, whatever we are to do in this moment, it should involve showing God that we love him!

 

DIFFERENCES DISAPPEAR IN CHRIST

by Debbie Huber

People tend to be drawn to others who are similar to them by the world’s standards. The friends or those that people spend the most time with outside of family tend to be of similar age, or have similar socioeconomic, academic, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds. 

But as Christians we are brought together by something greater. 

The Bible tells us “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)

The worldly distinctions that once divided us no longer apply because the gospel is our shared foundation. We are united in Christ with an eternal bond that is not of this world. 

We can form relationships with people that may seem very different than us by the world’s standards because they are our brother or sister in Christ.  We should expect to see differences among us. 

These relationships set us apart from the world and are a testimony that we are united in Christ.

Take a step and seek out fellow believers of all ages and backgrounds.  Be intentional about these relationships because the bond is greater than anything of this world. And the world will take notice and our God will be glorified. 

SIMPLY PROFOUND

It is a simple truth. 

My fullest and uninterrupted joy, contentment, happiness, satisfaction and delight will be when my heart is entirely given to Jesus Christ. 

It is simple, because I don’t have to figure out where to place the focus of my life. I don’t have to search for life’s answers. It is always Jesus! If I set the entirety of my mind and heart on Jesus I will experience the greatest possible joy in this world. 

The reason is creation. 

I am a created being. I was purposefully designed by God to know and enjoy him. This is my highest purpose for existing. 

The proof is heaven. 

My eternity will be wondrous, because I will be a Great Commandment person. My heart will overflow with inexpressible joy when my heart no longer withholds anything from Christ. 

This is a profound truth. 

Nothing is more important to understand, and nothing will bring more benefit to your life. Right now an army of activities and responsibilities are demanding your time and attention. However, none of them are as vital to your everything than the person of Jesus!

Love for Jesus is what makes life work.

Love for Jesus is how I get back on track.

Love for Jesus is how I begin each day.

Love for Jesus is how I filter all circumstances.

Love for Jesus is how I assess each day.

Love for Jesus is where I give my best efforts.

Love for Jesus is what my soul is searching for, and every substitute will leave my soul wanting more. 

Jesus will satisfy, he truly will.

THE THEOLOGY OF SLEEP

Why do we sleep?

It is a manifestation of God’s purpose. He made us to mentally and physically need (and enjoy) sleep. 

There is rare condition known as Fatal Insomnia. These not people who have trouble sleeping, they cannot sleep. It quickly produces symptoms such as hallucinations, delirium, confusional states like that of dementia, and eventually it causes death.

But what about the theology of sleep?

What should we recognize about God and ourselves from this state of being which uses up approximately one third of our life?

Sleep declares that we must depend upon God’s care

Sleep reminds us that we are human, not divine. We must sleep, but God never does.

Sleep reminds us we are limited, but God is not. Our battery runs down and must be recharged. God continuously sustains everything in existence. Molecules move and hearts beat because God wills them to do so. The Puritan scholar, John Owen, said it is as if God’s magnificent work of creation is repeated every second.

Sleep reminds us we are vulnerable, and God is sovereign. We must put down our tasks and take time off from protecting who and what we love. God is never more or less in control. He is ever and absolutely sovereign.

Since sleep is part of God’s plan for us, both physiologically and theologically, take full advantage of sleep.

As you close your eyes, thank God that for the next several hours, you can rest your body and relax your mind.

As you close your eyes, praise God that he will be in complete control, while you are in a state of complete oblivion.

As you close your eyes, take joy in knowing that even when you must put aside your tasks, God remains active in everything that is important to you.

For those who are tempted to consider sleep as an interruption, and who think life would be much better if days lasted a few hours longer; you might consider rethinking that perspective. Is life more productive when you are behind the wheel or when God is being trusted to be faithful? Do we actually think that what we need most is more time to labor, rather than having a more consistent trust in God?

God is deserving of our rest, and that our rest would be full of contentment.Instead of “counting sheep” when sleep becomes elusive, try counting God’s faithfulness.

Before you slip into sleep each night, consider the theology of what is about to take place – and rejoice that God will be glorious even as you sleep.

LEADING OUR CHILDREN THROUGH AN OPPOSING CULTURAL

Ever parents faces the daunting challenge of how to walk our children through the influences and landmines of the surrounding culture.

In this Gospel Coalition interview, parents are given some practical thoughts on leading our children well through a culture which does not honor biblical values

WHEN ENJOYMENTS CROSS THE LINE

 

What makes an enjoyment idolatrous?

John Piper in one of his articles did an excellent job of digging into this matter. Through a series of 12 points, Piper helps us recognize when our enjoyments are being misused.

In short, he wants us to make sure all our enjoyments are completely God-centered.

If you consider any of these points to be “too picky”, it may be a sign that you need to look more seriously at God’s call for you to be a Great Commandment person.

Here are Piper’s 12 points of self-examination:

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is forbidden by God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionate to the worth of what is desired

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not permeated with gratitude

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is starting to feel like a right, and our delight is becoming a demand

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it draws us away from our duties

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it awakens a sense of pride that we can experience this delight while others can’t

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is oblivious or callous to the needs and desires of others

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not desire that Christ be magnified as supremely desirable through the enjoyment

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not working a deeper capacity for holy delight

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss ruins our trust in the goodness of God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss paralyzes us emotionally so that we can’t relate lovingly to other people.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.03.17

‘Rejoice in being a gifted church’

 

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

 

Spiritual Gifts 101

1. Spiritual gifts come from a supernatural change in us (vs 1-3)

The Holy Spirit gives us truth, life, and the capacity to be fruitful for God

This is a reality to celebrate, to lift our heart and to energize our life

2.  Spiritual gifts come from the triune God who is communal (vs 4-6)

God is a triune being who has always existed as three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

God by nature has always lived in and delighted in community; he has always been communicative and interactive

God’s work in the church flows out of his communal nature

This includes his purpose for the gospel and for spiritual gifts

v7 spiritual gifts are given for the common good (the rest of ch 12 illustrates this)

After v6, the focus remains on the Holy Spirit who distributes spiritual gifts

The context of chapters 12-14 is that the gifts were being used selfishly in Corinth

Instead we should view spiritual gifts through God’s communal nature

3.  Spiritual gifts are the activity of the Holy Spirit

A good working definition for spiritual gifts is found in v7

Believer, you are a gifted person; every believer has spiritual gifts (v7 & v11)

Your gifts are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit (v7)

The Holy Spirit does dwell in us, he does work in us, and he will use us

Spiritual gifts are an empowerment of the Holy Spirit (v11)

The exercise of our gifts is primarily what he is doing

The Holy Spirit uses our capacities, but he works far beyond them

Our gifts are carefully selected in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (v11)

We should not demean our gifts or feel discouraged by what we don’t have

God is being good in our gifting – so take joy in it

4.  There is diversity in spiritual gifts (vs 4-6)

This is true in the variety of gifts (there is no exhaustive list) and in how they are used

This point is extensively made throughout chapter 12 – why?

We like to systematize our experience and expect others to fit into it

We like to compare, resulting in arrogance or discouragement

With this diversity, we must maintain the following:

(1)  Unity – chapter 12

(2)  Love – chapter 13

(3)  Order – chapter 14

5.  How do we know discover our gifts?

Don’t try to fit into any specific list

Since gifts are manifestations of the Spirit – focus on having a humble and pure heart

Since they are for the common good – be connected to the people of your church

Since each believer has them – be faithful and they will flow from you

 

Applications for Being a Gifted Church

1.  We have been gifted for life together, so let’s share life together

Pursue biblical community – just being friendly at church is not being in biblical community

Be engaged with one another through meaningful listening and sharing

Look for ways to encourage one another in being Great Commandment people

2.  Look for and identify how God is working in one another

Think about your conversations – is there awareness of God’s activity in them?

God is ever active, yet we often don’t feel as if he is, so we don’t live as if he is

If we are not experiencing his presence, we will worship him less

If we are not seeing his faithfulness, we will be tempted to depend upon him less

3.  We are gifted people, so we should want to be a gifted church

What that looks like is up to God, since he is the one who gives gifts

What he does is good, so we don’t need to fear any true manifestations of the Holy Spirit

We should not try to force his activity, but we can make room in our hearts and gatherings for it