Trust

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.

PRESSED FROM EITHER SIDE

Have you ever felt pressed in by suffering?

If you are breathing the answer is yes, and most likely you have felt the pressing burden of sufferings that press in at more than one direction at once!

In their book “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”, John Piper and Justin Taylor walk us through the unbiblical perspectives we often have during times of suffering, and the biblical perspectives that should replace them.

At one point in the book, they present opposite ways in which Satan fools and ensnares people:

“Satan enslaves people in two ways. One way is with the misery and suffering that comes from making us think there is no good God worth trusting. The other way is with pleasure and prosperity, making us think we have all we need so that God is irrelevant.”

As you read this, you may not fully fall into either of these categories. However your thinking may be touched by one or the other in times of difficulty and prosperity. So why not firm up your thinking today.

1.  How has God proven Himself to be trustworthy – no matter what happens?

If you have these reasons clear and in the forefront of your mind, you will be able to more easily brush aside the doubts that Satan will try to slip into your thoughts at some point in the future.

To strengthen myself against having unworthy thoughts about God, I daily preach to myself the greatness, the perfections and the faithfulness of God. Since there is a wealth of items to declare, each day my praise to God is different.

2.  How has your experience with possessions and success revealed to us that earthly benefits are short lived and contain burdens within them?

We should be convinced by now that we desperately need God every day and in every area of life. It is not simple that we need God to come along and give us a boost every now and then – we have a deep need for God to be at the center of all we are and all we do.

To strengthen myself against sliding into attitudes of self-sufficiency, I preach to myself the realities of God as the source of all that is good, and the sustainer of all that is!

I readily admit my limitations, yet try not to be (overly) discouraged by them; because I am human, but my God is beyond measure.

Child of God, even when you are running late to begin the day – you always have time to declare the praises of God!

The One who has blessed you in Christ, and will remain wondrous in all things today.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.12.16

‘Joyful Bewilderment’

John 16:16-22

God, I don’t understand!  Lord, what are you doing? What does this mean?

You have probably had these thoughts, and in Jesus’ Farewell Address, we find his disciples asking those questions

 

Jesus’ disciples are bewildered

They are bewildered about statements we easily understand

It’s easy for us to understand now, because we know what happened

The disciples understood the words Jesus used, but not the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ of his leaving and return

It would not be until Jesus works were complete, that their understanding would be full

According to v19, Jesus knew exactly how they were struggling

Yet, he doesn’t give them a specific answer about what he meant by “a little while”

Instead, Jesus gives them a big picture answer about how it all ends

       Jesus knows his actions will eventually answer their questions

       Knowing the big picture will serve them in all life’s confusing and painful moments 

We want the immediate details about our circumstances and we complain to God when we don’t have them

 God does far better than give us the immediate details; he fills his Word with big picture clarity

 

Let’s look at Jesus’ ‘big picture’ answer (vs 20-22)

We will face what is painful and doesn’t seem to make sense – it’s unavoidable

(1)  We will find ourselves bewildered at times by life events

          Our world rejects the rule and truth of God, so we are surrounded by senselessness

          To think we won’t struggle is unbiblical; but so is struggle without hope (compare vs 20 and 22)

(2)  We will find ourselves struggling at times over God’s Word

          Much of God’s word runs against the common human perspectives of self

          Living with a biblical perspective only makes sense in light of the big picture of eternity

Jesus saw the disciple’s struggle to make sense of life

He cares about our struggle, but like small children, we simply cannot grasp it all now 

He has clear and excellent answers, and we will see them ‘in a little while’

        Until then, God has given us sufficient answers for now in the gospel and its promises

        Until then, God is giving us abundant grace now for the active presence of the Holy Spirit

All our sorrows will be transformed to joy

Jesus gives hope in his leaving by assuring them of his returning

       The return of his resurrection – when sin and death are defeated

       The return of his second coming – when our faith and his kingdom are made perfect

All our questions will be answered when we see Jesus

       Because the answers are all fulfilled by Jesus

       If we truly know Jesus, that should hold us for now!

Jesus uses child birth as an illustration of our big picture realty (v21)

       The real pain we have in life now, is producing an overwhelmingly greater joy forever

       This should encourage us in how we walk through what is now painful

Jesus gives 3 big picture reasons why we can take joy now (v22)

1.  We will see Jesus

The impact of this is multifaceted

       The glory and wonder of his presence will be pure joy

       His coming brings the perfections of life in his kingdom

       When we see him we shall be like him (1 John 3:2)

2.  Our hearts will rejoice

This is because every gospel fulfillment will completely satisfy us

       In Jesus’ kingdom we will all be Great Commandment people

       We will enjoy the fullest possible fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

3.  No one will take our joy

No one who opposes Christ and our life in him, will be left standing

Christ’s kingdom will be perfect, eternal and undisturbed

 

Believer, joy is how all things end for you – including every pain, struggle and question

SOMEONE IS IN CONTROL . . AND IT’S NOT YOU

We generally think, “In control = good”, and “out of control = very bad”!

Who really likes to feel that people and circumstances are out of our control.

Yet, life not only is out of our control, it is rather important for us to recognize this fact.

When we think we “are in control” or if we live trying to “be in control”, that is actually a bad place to be.

One of those bad things is that we mix up the role that belongs to us with the role that belongs to God. We are terrible at trying to be God (despite the fact that we work at it rather frequently).

My friend, Ricky Alcantar from Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas wrote this article on facing the reality of it being good to know life is out of our control, “Fear Not, The Universe Is Wildly Out of Your Control”.

This is a healthy and restful lesson to learn.

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.

FAITHFUL TO THE END

letter
George Petrillo entered eternity on August 23rd of this year.

He leaves a legacy of love for his family and a wonderful example of abiding trust in Jesus Christ to all who know him.

Over the years George attended Greentree Church, I would often receive a card or letter from him. These were always encouraging. It might be a simple note of thanks for our church, or a comment on how a recent sermon affected his soul.

More recently his notes would contain updates on the serious health issues faced by him and his wife Joan. George had fibrosis of the lungs which meant they were hardening. Doctors informed him that nothing could be done to stop this condition from gradually worsening and resulting before long in his death.

On top of this, George’s beloved Joan, suffers from Alzheimer’s. For George, care for Joan far outweighed concern for himself.

Despite carrying what we would all agree are heavy burdens, George remained an encourager to his family and those who knew him.

George’s notes continued right up to his final days on this earth. My last card from him arrived the day after he passed away. Knowing his time was short; George filled out one last card and insisted that his daughter deliver it to the post office that day.

In one of his recent notes, George once more graciously shared his love for our church. He emphasized the impact of both the preaching of God’s Word and the consistent care they received from their church family.

In typical fashion, George closed with these words:

“I am always aware of God’s may, many blessings to (us), and I am also aware – so vividly of the hurts and heartaches of so many people.

The hope we have in Christ Jesus is so wonderful and so liberating! For in this HOPE we are saved.”

I hope George’s legacy can extend further to influence each of us to see God’s faithfulness in all circumstances. And along the way, may we follow his example of frequently sharing expressions of love, faith and thankfulness to one another!

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?

QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU #2

For many of us worry is as much a part of life’s routine as the daily sun rising of the sun. We think worry is inevitable, necessary, and a part of our life responsibility.

However, obeying God and then trusting His sovereign care is a much better way to approach the responsibilities of life.

Jesus sought to burst our misguided sense of needing to worry when he asked this question:

Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Here is Jesus question from Luke 12:22-31 in its full context:

(Jesus) said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

How do you answer Jesus?

THE “I AM” IS HERE

Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”  Exodus 3:13-15

On Monday evenings this summer, women from our church have been listening to the teaching series by Paul Tripp, “Women Helping Women”.  We are learning that through God’s grace we will often go through storms in our lives to help us to know that we are not alone. God takes us through these storms so we can see his glory at work producing in us what we could not achieve on our own.

The I Am is the most important name for God in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus claimed he was the I Am.  The power of this name shows us that God is always there, that He is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, He does not change, He is all powerful.

Paul Tripp says:  “It is impossible for you to ever be in the storms of life by yourself because your life has been invaded by the grace of the one who is the I Am.”  Our hope is not in situations, locations, or people.  By His grace we have hope because the I Am is here.

“When you are facing things in your life that are too difficult to solve, say to yourself, ‘I am not in this moment alone.  Because my life has been invaded by the grace of the one who is the I Am’.”

What a great word picture.  “The I Am has invaded our lives.”  He saved us when we wanted to push Him away and fight against Him and He has conquered our sin and lives within us.  We are now His possession and His children.

When it seems that there is no hope in your marriage, say to yourself. “The I Am is here!”

When the sickness in your body seems like it has won, say out loud to yourself:  “My life has been invaded by the grace of the one who is the I Am.”

When problems arise with family, your job, your finances, remind yourself repeatedly that “The I Am is Here, I am not in this alone.”

The I Am is here, the I Am is here, the I Am is here.  And the I Am is the source of our hope.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.09.14

 “God has saved us, now what?”            

Exodus 15:22-ch 17

The Israelites have left Egypt & the Red Sea behind. As they enter the wilderness, they will face a series of serious trials

The Biblical narrative focuses on two things:  (1) The people’s response to their difficulties, and (2) God’s faithfulness in their difficulties

Overview of trials the Israelites faced

1.  God provides pure water (15:22-27)

Need:  a huge number of people & animals can only find undrinkable water

Response:  they grumble against Moses

Provision:  Moses calls on the Lord who tells Moses to throw specific log in the water which becomes drinkable

2.  God provides manna (ch 16)

Need:  the ongoing issue of food arises

Response:  they grumble against Moses saying it would have been better if they stayed in Egypt

Provision:  God solves their food problem for the next 40 years by sending manna

3.  God provides water from a rock (17:1-7)

Need:  once again the people cannot find water

Response:  they quarreled with Moses; he is questioned and accused

Provision:  God has Moses strike a rock with his staff and water comes forth

4.  God Provides Victory Against Enemies (17:8-16)

There is no mention of complaining, just an enemy attacking  

Moses has a two part plan:

(1)  Joshua will pick men to fight in the battle

(2)  Moses will hold up his staff on a hilltop

God’s people fight, but the victory only comes as Moses holds up his staff

This was not a magical staff, but a reminder that victory is by God’s power

The story stays focused on the hill, because that is where the victory comes from

Although the victory is completely of God, a weary Moses needed the help of others to hold up the staff

Afterward God seems to give Moses a case of good news/bad news 

God says war with Amalek will continue through the generations (they are a symbol of the enemies of God’s people)

But the key truth which immediately follows is “the Lord will have this war”.  Our protection is always by God’s provision

God the deliverer, is also as God the provider

We have been delivered, but we still walk through a broken world

In Christ, we are completely saved, but the fullness of it cannot be experienced in a sinful world

We too are in “the wilderness”, with all the struggles it brings

But we struggle knowing what God has done in delivering us from bondage

And we persist knowing what God has promised to take us into the land of His rest

We have been made children of God, but we still need testing

In chapters 15 & 16 God says He is “testing” those He delivered

This is not for God to discover what is in us (nothing hidden)

Testing reveals to us what is in our hearts. It shows the inconsistencies in living out what we say we believe

Testing sifts & purifies us in ways that ‘ease’ cannot provide

This testing was God’s means of teaching His people and fulfilling His care

Grumbling & complaining are inappropriate responses for God’s people

Grumbling forgets – accuses – and rebels in the face of God who saves

The Israelites couldn’t stop their stomachs from grumbling, but they could stop their mouths from grumbling

The correct response to what God has done is seek him and trust him

These responses remember – exalt – and represent our Savior

How do we do this when life is hard?  We are to praise Him, because praise remembers

We are on the same journey as the Israelites, but with greater blessings (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

We eat the same spiritual food

We are in the care of the same faithful Heavenly Father  

And the rock we drink from, is the same Christ who in himself is all we need