Good Reads 12.30.15 (on: prayer, the little things in life, and more!)

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

On when life leaves you feeling drained: Drained? Receive His Fullness by Kristen Wetherell

Christmas can leave a good number of people feeling more empty than full. And not only Christmas but many aspects of life. Parenting children. Budgeting monthly finances. Maintaining a healthy, vibrant marriage. Making appointments on time. Meeting the boss’ expectations. Running errands within a packed schedule. Caring for family and friends who are grieving.

The feeling of being drained is not hard to come by. But it’s not altogether surprising, considering our imperfect planet is occupied by limited, transient human beings whose needs seems to know no end. (click here to read more)

On how the small things over time make big differences: Your Whole Life Has the Same Shape as a Single Day by Mark Altrogee

Small, seemingly insignificant things we do every day shape our weeks, months, years and our lives. It might not seem like much to read your Bible for a few minutes and pray for a few minutes. But do it every day and it will shape your life. It might not seem like much to write in a journal a few things you are thankful for, but do it every day and you will wind up with a lifetime of thankfulness. (click here to read more)

On praying for your pastors: Four Reasons You Should Pray for Your Pastors Daily by Jason Allen

As a pastor, few things warmed my heart more than church members telling me they prayed for me daily. Their simple act of prayer both encouraged and reassured me. It encouraged me to know they were standing in the gap for me spiritually, and it reassured me to know they loved my family, the church, and me enough to do so. Now that I a member of a local church, God has been impressing upon my heart the importance of praying regularly for my pastors. (click here to read more)

On praying for your enemies: A Call to Pray for Our Enemies by JR Vassar

God has given human government to execute justice upon the ungodly (Romans 13:3–4). There is “a time for war, and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). We live in a war-torn time, and that should sadden us. Most Christians believe that there is such a thing as “just war.” But even just war is tragic (a sign of sin’s destructive power in the world) that grieves God and must not be called for in a cavalier manner.

I am grieved that some influential pastors and Christian leaders eagerly call for the bombing of regions that will inevitably lead to the destruction of human life (innocent image-bearers who suffer as collateral damage), and do so without tears and a broken heart. (click here to read more)

On praising God during hard times: How Can We Praise God During the Hard Times by Casey Lewis

You see, those who have repented of their sin and believe in Jesus, as their Lord and Savior, no longer have to fear God’s punishment because Jesus has taken it for them. Of that, we can be certain not only because God’s Word tells us, but also because God is unchanged. There will never come a day when God will change His mind about how we are saved or who is saved. For that, we can be thankful even while facing hardships. (click here to read more)

A Spiritual Experience (a meditation on the source of truth)

We tend to put a lot of weight into our experiences. From an early age we’re taught to examine life with what we can see, feel, taste, touch, and smell. If we’re from religious families, then we add belief in the supernatural into this mix and we long to experience the spiritual. In Christian circles we sometimes hear or say things like, “I felt God really spoke to me,” or, “I think God is leading me,” or, “God gave me a word to share with you.”

Such things can be well and good; throughout the Bible God is known to interact with his people in various ways. Yet we must learn to be wise, to ponder experiences, and to not treat every spiritual experience as equally valid or good.

The book of Job is about a man who lost almost everything. The opening pages remind us that we live life in part on a spiritual battle field—there are good as well as malevolent forces operating beyond what the eye can see and ear can hear. Though initially faithful to God and not sinning in his words, three friends come to grieve with Job, yet they prove to be miserable counselors who lead Job into further despair (Job 16:2), so that by the book’s end all four men stand before God and feel the sting of rebuke.

Part of the issue with the friends’ “wisdom” was their insistence of realities that contradict God’s truth, including that people only suffer if they have done wrong and that there is no way for a person to stand innocent before God. Both of these are contradicted in the very life of Jesus who did no wrong yet suffered greatly and who took our sins that we might stand innocent before God if we follow him.

So where did at least one of Job’s friends get his ideas? A spiritual experience. In Job 4, Eliphaz said,

This truth was given to me in secret, as though whispered in my ear. It came to me in a disturbing vision at night, when people are in a deep sleep… A spirit swept past my face, and my hair stood on end. The spirit stopped, but I couldn’t see its shape. There was a form before my eyes. In the silence I heard a voice say… (4:12-13, 15-16).

Eliphaz took his experience as words of truth. Yet God rebuked Eliphaz in the end: “After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me’” (42:7). Though he believed the words of the unknown spirit to be true, they proved as lies about God and his ways.

So, how can we evaluate our experiences, or “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1)? Peter provided wisdom in 2 Peter 1:16-21. He wrote as a man who experienced the voice of God booming from heaven as well as God speaking to him through dreams. Peter also wrote as one who had walked closely with Jesus for the three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Yet, he made it clear that his ultimate confidence was not in the experiences. Rather his confidence in the truth rested in “something more sure, the prophetic word” or scripture—the very thing we know as the Bible (1:19-20). We test what we hear and experience against the message of Jesus and the words given to us as scripture. We’re to be just as the “more noble” Bereans of Acts 17 who took what even the apostle Paul taught and tested it against scripture to confirm its validity.

After all, God is the author and source of all truth and he will not contradict himself. So we take our experiences to his word to be more like Peter and the Bereans and to be less like Eliphaz who spoke inaccurately due to his spiritual experience.

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

Sunday 12.27.15 (the edge of eternity)

This time of year we tend to place most of our focus on Jesus’ birth; but his advent or coming is a two-part event. This Sunday we’ll take a look at the second part of Advent: the return of Jesus and the beginning of eternity. Hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
**No evening activities, enjoy the holiday weekend!**

Sermon Notes
The Edge of Eternity ~ Revelation 19

Thinking of the second part of Advent:

  • Praise God for his judgment (19:1-5)
  • Celebrate God’s goodness, longing for the feast to come (19:6-10)
  • Stand bold in Jesus’ victory (19:11-21)

revelation 19_7

Good Reads Christmas Edition 12.23.15

Below is a collection of good reads gathered from the internet this past week. Also, join us in celebrating Christmas Eve tomorrow night at 6pm!

christmas eve 2015

A Perfect Christmas by Hannah Grieser

Perfection, however, may not look like we think it should. Children may stick their fingers in the frosting. Perfect. Let them taste that the Lord is good. Enemies may rise against us. Perfect. Love them, for God has prepared a table for us in their presence. The valley of the shadow of death may surround us. Perfect. He is with us, filling our cup until it sloshes over the rim and drips from our fingers. (click here to read more)

How to Stay Christian During Xmas by Jake Rainwater

For evangelicals like me the struggle arises this time of year to distinguish between the secular Christmas season and the church’s recognition of the birth of Christ. We hear about the “war on Christmas” and how secular culture is gradually transforming our Christian holiday into a purely non-religious marketing ploy. It is easy for Christians to turn the holidays into a bitter Hatfield vs. McCoy feud with society, and far too often that is exactly what happens. We engage in this “war against Christmas,” and in so doing we lose our Christian saltiness. We bundle up our light. (click here to read more)

The Christmas Miracle of the Incarnate Omnipresent Word by Jared C. Wilson

Wait a second, you might say. Didn’t Jesus disregard his deity as something to be grasped? Yes, but what Paul is getting at in Philippians 2:5-8 is not that Jesus did not “hold” or “maintain” the fullness of his divinity but that he did not exploit it or leverage it against his experiencing the fullness of humanity. He didn’t pull the parachute, in other words. Instead, what we see in the wonder of the God-Man is a miraculous extension, not reduction. (click here to read more)

Joy to the World by Marshall Segal

Those who rejoice at Jesus’s coming will suffer in this life, but their weakness, pain, and misery here are as nothing compared with the glories they already have in heaven. When we suffer for the sake of Christ, we are blessed, because suffering with him is a way of confirming we are his. And those who are his have nothing to fear and nothing to lose, and everything to gain, everything already waiting for them in heaven with God. (click here to read more)

And finally… Enjoy the sounds of Christmas with this rendition of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by Sovereign Grace Music:

What Child Is This? (an advent meditation)

Christmas in our culture seems a mix of the sacred and the secular. As much as some people lament the idea of a “holiday tree” being sold in stores they frequent, let’s not forget that Santa Claus, songs that have nothing to do with Jesus’ birth, and Christmas movies about family get togethers and little else have been around for decades if not centuries.

No Christian should get uptight when the world fails to see the meaning of Christmas. Instead, our love and our grace, and our return of the greeting Happy Holidays with a Thank you should help others see the greater reality. Quite simply, we as followers of Jesus are to be the heralds of Christ, not the store greeters or the items they sale.

Part of our task is to help people understand that our answer to one particular question is eternally important. In the 1800s, William Dix penned the words to a song with this question in the title: What Child Is This? How we answer this question, frankly, determines: do we belong to God and stand as recipients of salvation, or do we belong to our sin and stand as recipients of condemnation?

Jesus asked the question at hand to his early followers in his own way: “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” His followers replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:13-14). And so the world says about Jesus today: He is a good example, or a prophet, or a myth, or a story to control people so they behave a certain way.

But then Jesus turned the question around on his followers: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter, in a moment of spiritual brilliance granted him by God, replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:15-16). Jesus, they realized, was the long expected Savior-King who would judge the enemies of God and set the world right. Jesus went on to say that with this truth he would build his church, his people (16:18).

And then he charged his followers to be the ones to take this message to the nations that others might follow him and become his disciple as well (28:18-20).

Dix’s song asks the same question, gives the same answer, and provides the same charge.

What Child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

So it is in these words: Who is Jesus?—he is the Savior, the King, and the One worthy of all praise. He is the one whom heavenly choirs praise and exalt. And he is the one that we who have enthroned him within our hearts are to call out to others, “Haste, haste to bring him laud,” or “Hurry, hurry, come and join to worship him!”

What child is this? He is Christ our Savior-King.

(advent) What Child is This

Sunday 12.20.15 (What’s in a name?)

This Sunday we’ll celebrate Christmas by taking a look at Isaiah 9:6, a prophecy about Jesus’ birth, and ask the question: What’s in a name? Sunday evening we’ll finish up the movie, The Christmas Experience.

Also, don’t forget: No Wednesday evening activities for the next two weeks, but on Thursday December 24 at 6pm, we’ll celebrate Christmas Eve with a candlelight service with hot chocolate and snacks to follow. Hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm The Christmas Experience in the church library

christmas eve 2015

Sermon Notes
What’s in a Name? ~ Isaiah 9:6

  • The Child’s purpose (9:2-7)
  • The Child’s name (9:6)
  • The promises of the name
    • Wonderful Counselor: the promise of wisdom—receive salvation and follow his word
    • Mighty God: the promise of strength—stand in his might and war against sin
    • Everlasting Father: the promise of care—trust in his provision and share his generosity
    • Prince of Peace: the promise of comfort—rest in his rule and seek peace with all

Check out the video below… This is a missionary testimony from an International Mission Board missionary working with Syrians. During this time of year we collect for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering, where every penny given goes to support missionaries on the foreign field. If you are unable to give to this offering at church, consider giving at the IMB website (click here).