Good Reads 09.30.15 (on: suffering trials, seeing the best in others, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On God’s purpose in life’s trials: Injury Interrupted My Idolatry by Landry Fields

Through suffering, God gives us humility. When I first started getting injured, I prayed, “God, leave it up to me, and leave me alone.” Now, I pray, “Thank you, Lord, for doing this and driving me back to you.” Suffering magnifies Christ to me, and in me, and through me. I’m thankful for my injured elbow, hand, and hip, because they make me depend on God in a way that I never would have without them. (click here to read more)

On growth in a Christian’s Life: When You Feel Discouraged Over a Lack of Fruit, Remember This… by Stephen Altrogge

Serving the Lord is a slow, long-term project, and fruit is often a very long time in coming. The fruit of parenting isn’t seen in a week or a month, but over the course of years. The members of your small group will probably change over the course of five years, not six months. The fruit of your efforts in children’s ministry probably won’t show up until many years later. That’s just the way it works when it comes to serving the Lord. (click here to read more)

On how we view other people: A Glass Half Full by Tim Lane

It does no one any good to go on ferocious sin and idol hunts in one’s life or the lives of others. Not only do they not help, they can seriously hurt people. Instead, we want to begin with marks of God’s work in our own life and in the lives of others. As I met with John and Erin, I had many opportunities to help them see where God was actually powerfully working in their marriage and family. It wasn’t a completed, pretty picture, but it was a masterpiece in the making by God’s grace. Remember, if you are a Christian, you have God’s Spirit at work in your life. You can always find places where he is at work; just like John and Erin. And you can find ways that he is at work in others, too. (click here to read more)

On what to pray before reading your Bible: Four Prayers for Bible Reading by David Mathis

Prayer is a conversation, but not one we start. God speaks first. His voice sounds in the Scriptures and climactically in the person and work of his Son. Then, wonder of all wonders, he stops, he stoops, he bends his ear to listen to us. Prayer is almost too good to be true. With our eyes on God’s words, he gives us his ear, too. How then should we pray over our Bibles? (click here to read more)

On the importance of Bible reading: The Fan Club? A Parable Featuring Harry Potter by Rustin Umstattd

Let’s for a moment be honest with ourselves. There is not a single fan club in existence that is based upon a novel in which the members of that club have not read the novel or are not actively, aggressively reading through the novel. In fact, the fans of Harry Potter have read the 1,000,000 words of J.K. Rowling over and over again. They are enraptured by the story that this woman has told. Their lives have been shaped in countless ways (often unnoticed by the person) by their engagement with the story and its characters. So what does this say to us who have the Bible that is 800,000 words? You read that correctly. The Bible is shorter than Harry Potter! Why have we not read the words of God over and over again? (click here to read more)

Sunday 09.27.15 (the Christian’s Sabbath)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Hebrews 3:1-4:13 and see how for the Christian Jesus is our Sabbath rest. We also will have a fellowship dinner and afternoon services at Adrian Manor Nursing Home following our morning worship gathering. Hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@Noon Fall Fellowship Meal
@230pm Adrian Manor Service
@6pm Adult Bible Study in church library

Sermon Notes
The Christian’s Sabbath ~Hebrews 3:1-4:13

  • žJesus is our great Sabbath Rest
  • žOur aim: To enter this rest (4:11)
    • Our rest comes from receiving, not earning the promises of God (4:9-10)
    • Be faithful to trust Jesus, holding fast to joy and salvation through him (3:6)
    • Keep watch on and encourage one another in Christ (3:12-13)
    • Let God’s word shape your lives (4:12-13)

Good Reads 09.23.15 (on: the arts, manhood and character, killing sin, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On Christians and the arts: Why Christians Should Paint, Dance, Quilt, Act, Compose Music, Write Stories, Decorate Cookies, and Participate in the Arts by Mark Altrogge

But when Jesus saved me in my early 20s, I began to wonder if art was a waste of time. I could be evangelizing or praying or doing something spiritual instead of dabbing oil paint on a canvas. And besides that, everything is going to burn up anyway at the end, so what’s the use of creating things? Or if I do paint a painting does it have to be a Christian theme? Does it have to have a cross in it or be a scene from the Gospels? Here are a few reasons why Christians should play banjo and decorate cakes, knit sweaters and make movies, do photography and write poems… (click here to read more)

On consumerism: Consumerism Keeps Us Fed and Starving by Gloria Furman

Like all of the other idols, consumerism is just an empty, useless facade. Consumerism is starving, and because we emulate the characteristics of what we worship, its worshipers are unsatisfied and never filled. The idolatrous pursuit of pleasure through stuff works against the way God designed us. So, of course, it leaves us miserable. (click here to read more)

On growing in Christ-likeness: Narnia, Sanctification, and the Hardest Prayer by Jake Rainwater

And it hurts. Oh, does it hurt. To have who you are, with all your shortcomings, ripped from your bones. To have your every flaw exposed in the light of holiness. But as Eustace exclaims later in the scene, “It became perfectly delicious.” When my sin is exposed in light of the vast expanse of God’s holiness, I begin to understand just how grace works. The pain of that tearing pales in comparison to the “perfectly delicious” grace that we are given from God. (click here to read more)

On manhood and character: Fight Yourself by Darrin Patrick

Good character is hard to achieve because it requires looking at our weaknesses and addressing them accordingly. It is one thing for a man to acknowledge that he has told a lie. It is another to acknowledge that lying is habitual and that he is a liar. It is hard to look closely at the mirror of repentance and easy to look through the window of avoidance. The man who humbly faces up to the reality that he is the problem passes through one of the central steps every man must take to enter true manhood. Men who never humble themselves dance around the ring instead of planting their feet and throwing a punch. (click here to read more)

On battling sin by beholding God: The Gospel Cycle that Kills Sin by Casey Lewis

As we set our minds on the things above, we are reminded of our freedom from and power over sin, as well as of our future sinless reality. That reminder should motivate us to kill sin in our lives. Killing sin in our lives allows us to experience the blessings and joy of the life to come. As we are experiencing a taste of our life to come, we should be motivated once again to set our minds on the things above, which will start the cycle over again. In this way, we enter into a cycle of sanctification, which is driven by our understanding of the gospel, instead of shame, guilt, or legalism. (click here to read more)

Run Boldly to His Throne (a meditation on the God of grace who understands our weaknesses)

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. ~Hebrews 4:15-16

It is easy for us to see God in his great majesty as far above, far off, and disconnected. So we struggle trying to reach up and search for a God we fear doesn’t understand. Yet God, as he describes himself in the Bible, is one who reaches down to us.

Several chapters in Hebrews speak of Jesus as our great High Priest. Priests were those who stood between God and people. On behalf of the people they would make appeals and sacrifices to God. On behalf of God they would show his glory and holiness to the people. The high priest was the one able to approach nearest to the full presence of God as he manifested his glory in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle and the temple. But this the high priest could only do once a year and with much ritual. If he failed at any of it, he would be struck dead.

Jesus as the great and perfect High Priest is the God-man who stands uniquely between God and people. He offered himself in a single sacrifice to atone for the sins of all his people so we might stand perfectly pure before God (Hebrews 9:11-15).

More than this, in God the Son becoming one of us, he went toe-to-toe with the same kinds of temptations we face day in and day out. But in the struggle where we failed, Jesus stood victorious. While his perfect obedience was necessary for us to have hope and life, he does not use it to gloat over or shame our weaknesses, struggles, or failures.

Instead, he understands our weaknesses.

Far from a far off God, God draws near. He gets us, he understands us. In Psalm 8 David pondered the majesty and greatness of God and cried out, “What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human begins that you should care for them?” And in Psalm 103: “For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.”

Knowing this about God is to inspire confidence. Not that we should struggle and fail and have no concern about our sin. Rather that we should struggle and run headlong into the arms of grace.

This is why Hebrews tells us we should come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. Knowing that he knows us and understands us, knowing what he has offered us in Jesus, and therefore knowing his great love for us. When we struggle we run to God and there we find mercy, grace, and help—the very things we need in the moments of temptation.

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

Sunday 09.20.15 (faith in faithless times)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at 2 Kings 21-23 and the life of King Josiah and how his example encourages us to walk according to God’s word and be faithful even if the world around us seems faithless. Hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@7pm Tent Meeting at Frontier Village

Sermon Notes
Faith in Faithless Times ~2 Kings 21-23

To have faith in faithless times:

  • Don’t neglect God’s word (22:1-10)
  • Repent and trust God when confronted by his word (22:11-20)
  • Seek to be always reforming–always conforming our lives to God’s word (23:1-27)
  • Trust the greater King, Jesus, who is God’s Word (23:26-27, John 1)

Better than the angels (a meditation on the greatness of Jesus)

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. ~ Hebrews 1:3-4

Our culture has a very eclectic view of angels. In popular shows on tv they appear as warriors who view humanity as an annoyance or wage war against mankind and each other for control of the world. Around Christmastime with cartoons and pageants, angels are often presented as cute children with wings and halos crooning over baby Jesus. These angels wouldn’t hurt a fly. Some people pray to angels. Some wear angel jewelry or put angel statues in their yards. And some speak about heaven gaining a new angel when a loved one dies.

Most of these views of angels have little to no basis in the Bible.

Hebrews 1 says of the angels: “[God] makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire” (1:7) and “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (1:14)

Angels are servants of God’s will and God’s people. In a sense they are servant-warriors who fight when needed (Genesis 19, Daniel 10:10-14, and Matthew 26:52-53, to name a few places). At times they appear ordinary, disguised as persons (Hebrews 13:2); while at other times they appear in power and glory and present a frightening presences that causes people to tremble in fear, yet they are not to be worshiped (Luke 2:8-15; Revelation 22:8-9).

Yes, the Bible even speaks of a group of the angels rebelling and warring against other angels in the past, but these rebellious angels are now kept in a spiritual prison and await the final judgment (Revelation 12, 2 Peter 2:4, and Jude 6). The faithful angels are mighty, God-honoring servants who ponder the mysteries of salvation while they aid God’s people (Hebrews 1:14; 1 Peter 1:12).

Yet as powerful, mighty, glorious, and even as frightening as the angels can be, they exist to point to someone greater.

This is what Hebrews 1 and 2 teach us about the angels and Jesus. Yes, the angels are great but Jesus is greater, his name is much more excellent. Where the angels are servants of God, Jesus is the Son of God. Though during his incarnation on earth Jesus became a man and for a while was made a little lower than the angels (2:7), he is the one who now sits on his throne and rules over all of creation, including angelic powers. Though the angels serve us in salvation, Jesus is the greater Servant who gave his very life that we might have life and be freed from the power and fear of death.

While angels are a part of God’s story, we are not to obsess over them, pray to them, or worship them. Instead our great obsession, our great joy and delight, is to be Jesus himself.

For Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (1:3). Yes, Jesus is better.

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

Good Reads 09.16.15 (on: joy, the value of sex, God’s greatness, and more)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week:

On finding true joy: The Way to Joy is to Die Before You Die by Dane Ortlund

If we tunnel in to the very heart of Christian discipleship as articulated by Mark, we find, echoing the mission of Jesus himself, this startling principle: loss is gain. Death is life. Yielding all guarantees receiving all. Self-denial for the sake of the gospel is the secret to saving our life. This was the way the upside-down mission of Jesus worked out, and it is the path of discipleship for his people. Glad abandon is our only sanity. (click here to read more)

On the affections and actions of love: Love Is Not a Verb by Nicholas McDonald

The point is, love is a verb, sure. But it’s an impossible verb. It’s the kind of verb that pulls us out of our Western enlightenment secularistic bubbles into the country of the supernatural. It’s not as easy as mechanical servitude – it’s whole-hearted affection for others, flowing from our whole-hearted affection for God. It’s as difficult as feeding the 5,000 on a loaf of wonderbread, as a camel passing through a needle’s eye (picture it), as the paralyzed getting up to walk. (click here to read more)

On abortion: Gianna Jessen asks congress, “If abortion is about women’s rights, then what were mine?” by Julie Roys

I would ask Planned Parenthood the following questions: If abortion is about women’s rights, then what were mine? You continuously use the argument, “If the baby is disabled, we need to terminate the pregnancy,” as if you can determine the quality of someone’s life. Is my life less valuable due to my Cerebral Palsy? You have failed, in your arrogance and greed, to see one thing: it is often from the weakest among us that we learn wisdom – something sorely lacking in our nation today. And it is both our folly and our shame that blinds us to the beauty of adversity. (click here to read more)

On understanding the proper value of sex: Sex Is Less Significant than You Think by Tim Chester

So if you look for sex or romance or even marriage to fulfil you, to complete you, to satisfy you then you will be disappointed. Mr Right always turns out to be Mr Wrong. Men are not God. We’re just rather sad, pompous, lazy, sinful people with bad breath. And sex is never the way it’s portrayed in the movies or in porn. Sex is not God. It can’t deliver what God delivers. It can’t substitute for God. Don’t get me wrong. Sex does its job beautifully. It binds couples together in life-long union. And it does that job wonderfully. But don’t make sex do a job it’s not designed to do. Sex is very significant, but it’s not that significant – it’s not a substitute for God. (click here to read more)

On God’s incomparable greatness: How Great Is Our God by David Mathis

And what about God? The Bible tells us again and again, especially in the Psalms, that our God is great. If we use the word great for the normal and everyday, what language will we have when we need to describe the day or the meal or the game that really is a cut above the typical — or most importantly, the God who really is infinite above all else? (click here to read more)