Sunday 05.31.15 (the Promise Keeping God and Praying with Paul)

This Sunday we’ll look at how Joshua 23 explains the sometimes hard to read passages of Joshua 13-22 which tell us that God is the God who keeps his promises. On Sunday night at 6pm we will kickoff a new adult Bible Study: Praying with Paul by D. A. Carson. Hope to see you there! Schedule @945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages @1045 Worship Gathering @6pm Bible Study: Praying with Paul, in church library Sermon Notes The Promise Keeping God ~ Joshua 23

  • žGod made a promise to Abraham of land, offspring, and a blessing; and was fulfilling it in the lives of the people
  • God issued a charge and a warning:
    • The charge: Love God
    • The warning: If you don’t, then you won’t find rest and peace in the land
  • For us:
    • Offspring: If we belong to Jesus, we are Abraham’s offspring and a faithful people
    • Land: God has given us a land where we will have perfect rest (the new earth)
    • Blessing: Having been blessed by God, we are tasked with blessing others

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Children of Promise (a meditation on belonging to God’s and Abraham’s family through Jesus)

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. ~ Galatians 3:29

We all want to belong. The place God designed for us to naturally belong and be welcomed and accepted, to feel like we’re home, is family. Of course one of the sad realities of living in a post-Genesis 3 world is seeing so much brokenness and division in family life. But as much as Jesus came to redeem individuals, so he came to redeem family.

In the story of scripture one family stands apart from all others: that of Abraham. After all, it was in Genesis 12 where God promised a land, a great nation of offspring, and blessing to an old man who seemed beyond the years of having children of his own. The rest of the Bible is the ups and downs in the life of this man’s family until the true Son of Promise, Jesus, came on the scene (3:16).

Though the promises were unconditional to Abraham (Genesis 17:7-8), God told the nation physically birthed from him that if they wished to be his people, experience his blessings, and keep the land, then they would have to obey and follow him (Exodus 19:4-6, Deuteronomy 28, and Joshua 23:11-16). Because the people’s hearts were as stained with sin as the rest of the nations surrounding them, they ultimately could not obey the Law meant for their good and proved themselves unrighteous (Romans 2-3).

Yet, God kept a portion of the nation alive even throughout a foreign exile so that one might be born from among them who obeyed perfectly and received forever what the others could not keep—the man, Jesus (Galatians 3:15-18).

Therefore, Paul wrote, the Old Testament Law was a guardian that kept watch on God’s people until the promised Son came. Because of him “we are no longer under a guardian;” but we are free to live and walk according to the Spirit who produces within us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. “Against such things there is no law.” (See most of Galatians 3-5).

serving_01If we belong to Jesus, we are justified not by our works but by the works of Jesus and through our faith in him (3:24). Through Jesus we are children welcomed into a new Family, an eternal family—children of God, children of Abraham, and heirs of promise. Though we do not lose our distinctiveness in our differences, there is no division of differences, be it of gender, ethnicity, or social class, which keep us out of the Family so long as our faith rests only on Jesus (3:26-29).

In a Family made new, we belong.

Belonging to this Family, the promises of God to Abraham are promises of God to us his children. Followers of Jesus from every tribe, tongue, and nation become citizens of the grand eternal nation filled with people zealous to do good and honor Jesus (Titus 2:14). We are heirs not merely of a small strip of land in the Middle East but of the entire world as Jesus will completely reverse the Genesis 3 curse at his return (Romans 4:13, Revelation 21-22). And we are unimaginably blessed by God that we might in turn be a blessing to the world as we live for him and share of his love and grace (Matthew 5:1-16, Ephesians 1:1-14).

Therefore, let us love our Family in Christ, welcoming and accepting one another and spurring one another on in our journey to follow him. Let us care for our world, being wise with creation and our jobs in order to benefit others. Let us show others the love of Jesus in the hope they too will become part of the Family. And let us look forward to the hope of perfect joy in a perfected world, together always with our God and his Family.

In Jesus, you are a child of promise.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Good Reads 05.27.15 (on: dealing with sin, the Christian and work, and teens and smartphones)

Here is a collection of good reads from various sites and blogs from this past week:

On dealing with sin in our lives: The Sins We Don’t Speak Of by Courtney Reissig (click here)

I don’t know what your forgotten, unspeakable sin is. But I know mine. I know that even after years of victory it can come back without any warning, reminding me that I am still in need of a great Savior.

On the Christian’s view of work: Christian, Your Job is a Ministry Job by Jon Bloom (click here)

In other words, Christians who serve in “secular” vocations are the ones who do most of the ministry and kingdom-expansion work that happens in the world. It’s the job of vocational ministers to equip these folks so they can do their various ministries effectively.

On the meaningful moments in life: The Fullness of Empty Spaces by Becky Wilson (click here)

Meaningful moments of fullness in all those empty spaces—each attached to a person, a relationship, in many cases someone I now consider family. Bitter to leave them? Well, sure. Of course. But how sweet of God to give them to me in the first place! And how sweet to know He wants to do it again!

On teenagers and smartphones: Letter to Teens Unboxing Their First Smartphone by Tim Challies (click here)

Technology is a gift from God. When we read the Bible, we find that at the beginning of time, God created two people, naked and alone in a little garden, and gave them a worldwide task: to spread out across this world and exercise dominion over it. In order to do that, they would need to invent technologies…. Unfortunately, there is far more to the story.

About hypocrisy and honesty: The Cure for Hypocrisy by Tyler Edwards (click here)

But, the reality is, we’re not hypocrites because of what we say or because of what we do—we’re hypocrites when we hide our faults and try to act like we’ve got it all figured out. It’s easy to fall into this trap. Sometimes we start to think that God’s love is based on our performance. How often do we get in the car on Sunday morning and everyone’s fighting and yelling. From our house to the church it’s chaos, but when we walk through the doors, we are suddenly transformed from Mad Max in the Thunderdome to the Brady Bunch.

A Prayer for Memorial Day (pastor’s blog)

100531-D-9880W-192Beyond the grilling and trips to the lake, Memorial Day is a holiday set aside to remember fallen soldiers—those men and women who have lost their lives in various battles. For centuries, good Jesus-loving Christians have debated the Christian’s position on war and whether or not one should serve in the military, days like this are not for such debates. Yet one thing that we can agree upon regardless of one’s position is the need for prayer in response to fallen lives in a world plagued with war because we are plagued with sin.

So I offer up these suggestions to pray for Memorial Day.

First, pray for those who have lost loved ones in combat and also more generally for those who sit with the loss of loved ones heavy on their hearts no matter the reason. Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). No matter how it occurs, death is an enemy. Yes, through Jesus, it is a defeated enemy that no longer holds us bound under its fear. What was once a powerful cause for dread, God has made a servant for his people to usher us into his presence. Yet, in the now as we wait the glorious future, death still stings. We grieve it, rightly as we should (as even Jesus grieved death in John 11 knowing he was about to raise Lazarus from the grave). So we grieve along with those who have tasted the sting.

Second, pray for an end to war through the spread of the gospel and the return of Jesus. The gospel of Jesus is good news of peace (Ephesians 6:15). We have peace with God and that is to drive us to seek peace with others. Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Yes, the government does not wield a sword in vain—it is to protect its citizens (Romans 13); but our hearts should long for the day that wars cease.

Psalm 46 speaks of the nations raging, yet God is our fortress. The day is coming in the works of the Lord when “he makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.” Even if war is sometimes necessary, no Christian should desire war. We should long for peace. Also in Matthew 5, Jesus said to pray for our enemies. These would include enemies of the state. To pray for them—that they might taste the grace and goodness of God through the gospel—is part of our prayer for peace and an end to war.

Without war there would be no Memorial Day for there would be no casualties of soldiers. The gospel creates men and women who long for peace and an end to war and death. Jesus’ return will mark the day that the true King makes his kingdom shine forever and there will be no more need for war or its weapons. To quote a song, “What a day of rejoicing that will be.”

Third, pray for President Obama, your senators and representatives, and other leaders to make wise decisions. From the news channels to Facebook, our culture shows we like to bash people who disagree with us. This is one of many places that the Bible’s take on government is countercultural. Peter wrote that we should honor our leaders (flowing from the general command to honor everyone ~ 1 Peter 2:17). He gave no qualifications. There was no statement about honoring them if you agree with their policies or honoring them if you feel they are honorable. Nope. Just honor them.

Paul wrote we are to pray for them. Paul didn’t say to pray imprecatory prayers hoping bad things would befall them. But rather pray supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings—pray for them. The purpose is “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). The hope of such prayers is our peace, which would include peace for the soldiers who act upon the will of these leaders.

So this Memorial Day, whether you are remembering fallen friends and family, spending time with family at the park or the beach, or staying at home and resting—whatever it is you do with this day, remember to pray.

Father, let your comfort and grace be upon those who grieve. Protect those who serve and find themselves in danger. Bring the lasting peace that only comes from you as the great and good King and Father. Turn hearts to Jesus through your word and Spirit. And grant wisdom and your favor upon the men and women who lead in this country, that we might see days of peace as we wait for the Prince of Peace to return. Amen.

Sunday 05.24.15 (grace is enough and prayer thoughts for Memorial Day)

This Sunday, we’ll think about Paul’s struggle with his “thorn in the side” and his realization that God’s grace is enough to give him strength and carry him though all his trials. We also pray for everyone to have a safe Memorial Day weekend.

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
**No evening activities due to the Holiday Weekend**

Sermon Notes
Grace is Enough ~ 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

  • As followers of Jesus, God is most concerned about our reliance upon him (12:9-10)
    • Faith is not about belief in the sense of mere mental agreement with some truths
    • Faith is about trust
    • God is interested in our holiness and joy
  • To shape our reliance upon him, God brings things into our lives that cause us to run to him (12:7)
    • Paul received a thorn, we’re not sure what it was though it wasn’t pleasant at the moment
    • Some of our suffering is the result of our sin (1 Pt 4:15)
    • Some of our suffering is God using it to shape us to be like Jesus (Rom 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, 1 Pt 4:12-19)
  • Running to God, know that his grace is enough (12:8-10)
    • God desires us to get to the point we are totally dependent on him
    • When God tells us no, he will give us the strength we need by his grace
    • This is all accomplished through the cross of Jesus

Some thoughts for prayer for this Memorial Day…

  1. Pray for those who have lost loved ones that have served in the military, also pray for those who have lost loved ones in other ways (Romans 12:15)
  2. Pray for the peace of God to reign upon the earth and for wars to cease through the spread of the Gospel and the return of Jesus (Psalm 46)
  3. Pray for President Obama, your senators, representatives, and other leaders with the hope “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
  4. Pray for those who set themselves up as your enemies, including “enemies of the state” that they might come to know the love, grace, and glory of God through Jesus (Matthew 5:43-48)

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Don’t Neglect to Seek the Lord (a meditation on God’s counsel and decision making)

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. ~ Joshua 9:14

Decision making can be tough. Each day we’re faced with a multitude of decisions, some big and some small. Then there are different moments in life where we face a decision that can alter the course of our lives.

In Joshua 9, the people of Israel were well into the conquest of the Promised Land. The leaders of Gibeon developed a plan to trick the Israelites into making a treaty with them. You do have to give the Gibeonites credit for creativity. Their costumes and props accomplished the job. You could also argue about whether or not the Gibeonites had a sincere belief in God or if it was more along the lines of James 2 and just a general dread like the demons who shudder; but they had heard about Moses and the Lord, and their fear inspired action.

The Israelites, however, fell for the Gibeonites’ deception. And it was all because they “did not ask counsel from the Lord.” How often is this true in our day to day lives?

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said that we need to have faith like a child. This isn’t an immature faith that never seeks to grow, but it is a trusting faith. A child learns to walk, run, ride a bike, play ball, swim, and climb a tree because he trusts his parents to guide him. Yes, often, a child’s selfishness will result in saying no to parental direction, but the trust a child has for her loving father or mother is great.

In our culture, the more we mature the more independent we seek to become. In the Bible, spiritual maturity isn’t becoming an independent, self-made person. Rather, it is learning to trust and depend on the Father more and more. We are to seek counsel from the Lord all throughout our day.

The Father speaks to us most clearly through the Bible. God’s word is to be upon our hearts and minds day and night (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3, and 119:11). We speak to the Father though our prayers. Paul commanded us to pray without ceasing (Ephesians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). This, of course, doesn’t mean that we live every moment of every day locked away in a room on our knees with an open Bible; but it does mean we are seeking constant communion with God and a constant seeking of his counsel.

I like the way Kevin DeYoung speaks of decision making centered on God in his little book Just Do Something. He wrote that we should seek wisdom in three places: the Bible and prayer, as mentioned above, and also the wise counsel of other men and women who love and follow Jesus (he points to Proverbs 1:5, 12:15, 15:22, and 19:20). After all, God puts them into our lives to mentor and guide us (Titus 2:1-8).

This was where the people of Israel failed in Joshua 9. They knew God’s promises and his command about the Promised Land. They even had some initial suspicion about the Gibeonites’ story (9:7). Yet they trusted their own wisdom and conclusions about the situation instead of asking God.

Now, it is also never good for us to agonize ourselves into inaction over a situation, but if we keep God out of sight and out of mind except for those moments that we really feel like we need him, then we are not living in trust and we are not seeking his will. We need to learn to trust, follow, and obey him completely; seeking him at all times in his word, prayer, and wise counsel from other faithful men and women. In this way may we avoid the error of the Israelites in Joshua 9:14.

Good Reads 05.20.15 (on human significance, joy, sex and culture, and more)

On the significance of humanity: You Are God’s Workmanship by Jon Bloom (click here)

Tiny, insignificant you are more glorious than the sun and more fascinating than Orion. For the sun cannot perceive its Creator’s power in its own blinding glory, nor can Orion trace his Designer’s genius in the precision of his heavenly course. But you can. You are part of the infinitesimal fraction of created things that have been granted the incredible gift of being able to perceive the power and native genius of God! And to you, and you only, is given a wholly unique perception and experience of God’s holy grand poiema. There are some verses God will show only to you. What kind of being are you, so small and weak and yet endowed with such marvelous capacity for perception and wonder?

On laughter and joy: Laughter is the Sound of Joy by Isaac Adams (click here)

My friend and I sat after a brimming meal at his house. His wife took their little girl upstairs for a bath. Their giggles rang through the house, and my friend paused our conversation for what to me seemed like a few brief seconds, but for him it was a few lifetimes. He was enthralled. He was in bliss as he cherished each sweet chuckle. “I love those laughs,” he simply said, coming down from the clouds. And that got me thinking about this gift of laughter.

On Jesus and the church: The Organization that Will Surpass Google, Apple, and WalMart by Mark Altrogge (click here)

So don’t give up on the church. Get involved. Serve wherever you can. Seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Give to the church. It’s an infinitely better investment than apple.

On the culture and sex: How Our Culture Undervalues Sex by J.D. Greear (click here)

Our society wants to push the idea that sex is just physical. It’s like food: when you’re hungry, you eat. When you’re feeling sexual, you sex. No big deal. It’s draconian and needlessly old fashioned to talk about what morality when it comes to sex. The only relevant question is, “What do you enjoy?” But something within us just can’t seem to accept the idea that sex is just physical.