Sunday 01.31.16 (the fear of the Lord)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Proverbs 14 and talk about what it means when the Bible uses the phrase “the fear of the Lord.” We will also have a special presentation by the Gideons International on their work to spread Bibles across the US and the world. Then Sunday evening, we begin our 5-week Winter Bible Study series on 2 Corinthians, The Church’s Ministry Handbook. Hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Winter Bible Study in church library

Sermon Notes
The Fear of the Lord ~ Proverbs 14:26-27

  • Out of 27 occurrences the phrase “the fear of the Lord” appears 14 times in Proverbs, these tell us that fearing God…
    • Marks the start of our journey to true knowledge and wisdom (1:7, 29; 2:5, 9:10, 15:33)
    • Brings us to hate sin and turn from evil (8:13, 16:6, 23:17)
    • Leads to a long and lasting life (10:27, 14:27, 22:4)
    • Is better than great treasure (15:26)
    • Provides satisfaction in life (19:23)
  • The fear of the Lord is “that indefinable mixture of reverence, fear, pleasure, joy, and awe which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what he has done for us.” –Sinclair Ferguson, Grow in Grace
  • Learn to fear God as his beloved children by seeing him more and more in his greatness, glory and power
    • This provides us with great confidence (14:26)
    • This leads to comfort for others (14:26)
    • This leads to true and lasting life (14:27)

A God-honoring Ethic (a meditation)

The Lord demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness. ~Proverbs 16:11

If you’re an attentive reader as you go through each proverb in the Bible, you’ll notice some repetition. And you’ll come across a proverb about accurate or honest scales quite a few times (see, also: 11:1, 20:10, 20:23).

These verses show us that God desires his people to act ethically in everything they do. For the Christian, there is no sacred/secular divide. This doesn’t mean that we have to treat every event like a church service or try to smack people over the head with our Bibles, but this does mean we are to be lights shining in the darkness.

Our ethic should be to stand against injustice wherever we see it. This includes how we act and treat others at our jobs. It’s easy to say so what if we skim a little, everyone does it or yeah, I know we’re ripping them off, but that’s just how the business works. Yet such attitudes are an affront to God.

God defines justice. His justice demands that we don’t try to rob, cheat, or steal; that we don’t use other people to our own advantage; and that we don’t look down on certain people because they have less (or even because they have more). God’s justice says, “I will buy, trade, sell, and do business in a way that honors God.”

The pressure of the marketplace can be strong against this. It can dissuade us to do what is right and fair, instead opting for what will make the largest profit, regardless if it is right or ethical. Yet we are to resist. There is nothing wrong in profit seeking, but there is much wrong in doing it at the cost of justice.

This is why Jesus calls us to move against the grain. The first shall be last and the last shall be first, he said. A Christ-centered ethic puts the good of others above the good of self—however that looks in your life with “accurate scales and balances.”

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

provbers 16_11

Good Reads 01.27.16 (on: marriage, prayer, and more!)

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

On prayer: 7 Ways to Fight Distraction During Prayer by Gavin Ortlund

I’ve been trying to pray more this year. But prayer does not always come easily to me. I often find (can you relate?) that I sit down to pray with the best of intentions, only to suddenly catch myself, a few moments later, daydreaming about yesterday’s conversation, tomorrow’s meeting, or next week’s vacation.

Most of us have experienced this, and the rest of us are liars!

Distraction can be a huge hindrance in our prayer life, but I am also discovering that it provides an opportunity for growth. Here are seven strategies for fighting distraction, and harnessing it to deepen and direct our prayers… (click here to read more)

On marriage: Living Intentionally Together as a Married Couple by Erik Raymond

In my experience the practice is common for many Christian couples as well. Different sleep and lifestyle preferences combined with a desire to defer to one another leads to a lifestyle where very little time is actually spent together. There is a danger of simply living together rather than really living together. This tension is particularly acute for Christians. Our marriages are to joyfully reflect the reality of the gospel. In order to do so there must be regular expression of love, forgiveness, patience, respect, grace, and kindness. You simply can’t do these things without spending time together. (click here to read more)

On the gospel and life: This is How I Know the Gospel is True by Becky Wilson

I’ve held hands with the elderly who knew Christ so well, they couldn’t wait to get home to him. I’ve embraced people dealing with some of the most difficult situations known to man and sensed their strength and peace right in the heart of their storm. I’ve listened to previously hard, selfish, dangerous men weep in grief over the pain they’ve caused others and then celebrate in joy what Christ has done for them. (click here to read more)

On evangelism: Why Christians Don’t Evangelize by Daniel Darling

Why don’t we evangelize? Not because we don’t have the right tools or the right spiel. We don’t talk about Jesus because those of us who know Jesus have lost the wonder. If you’ve been with Jesus, who was raised from the dead and has given you new life, if he’s indeed the reigning King of the Universe, if you know and love him, of course you are going to tell people about him. (click here to read more)

On authentic living: The Realest Authenticity by Barnabas Piper

Authenticity without humility is a burden to others. It does not serve them. It does not soothe them. It takes from them, holds them to a false standard, sets them up for a fall. It demands things of others instead of asking self-effacingly for the help we need. In the end people are in relationship with a false you, and when that falls apart the wreckage affects all involved. (click here to read more)

Life-Giving Fountains (a meditation on our words)

The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain. ~Proverbs 10:11

When you read through Proverbs you will find many statements that contrast the words of the godly or the wise with the words of the unrighteous or the foolish. Why such an emphasis on words? Because words matter. They can build up and they can tear down. They can make someone’s day or they can ruin a person’s week (or worse).

word bubblesThe Bible speaks so much about the things we say because the tongue is notoriously hard for a person to control. James even went so far to call it “a fire, a world of unrighteousness…set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). Jesus said that our words reveal our hearts, “for out of the abundance of the heart [a person’s] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

So, the question is: Are your words a life-giving fountain, encouraging and edifying others; or are they a bitter fountain that tears down?

We should remember that this question goes beyond our mouths. In today’s world we have so many different ways to communicate—blogs, emails, texts, Instagram, Facebook, etc.—what we type or post matters just as much as the words which roll from our tongues.

Since our words represent our hearts, the place to begin to confront any bitterness or hatred in our speech and to develop our words as life-giving fountains is on the level of the heart and mind. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Spend time each day dwelling on the One who is most true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise. Spend time in God’s word, meditating—thinking deeply on who God is and all that he has done for you through Jesus.

Spend time in prayer, laying out before God your weaknesses and temptations in this area. Ask him for his grace and strength to overcome the struggles against your tongue.

Spend time around other followers of Jesus who model speech that is a life-giving fountain. Let their words and actions be an encouragement to you so that you might grow in encouragement towards others. Conversely, consider the things in life that weigh you down and cause you to falter. Minimize what you need to minimize and cut out the things you need to cut out.

Finally, repent of and apologize for those times your words have cut other people down. If they were words spoken in private, deal with the issue in private; if they were words spoken publically or on social media, then deal with them there.

Focus your heart and mind on the life-giving grace and beauty of God, and with time your words will follow as they develop into a life-giving fountain for others.

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

Sunday 01.24.16 (the worth of wisdom)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Proverbs 3, consider the worth of wisdom and how we are to seek after Christ-centered wisdom. Sunday evening will also be the final session of our Bonhoeffer video series. Hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Bonhoeffer study in the church library

Sermon Notes
The Worth of Wisdom ~ Proverbs 3:13-35

  • More than mere knowledge, wisdom is using true knowledge in practical ways that honor God and help others to honor God
  • Why value wisdom and how does it relate to Jesus?
    • It brings true happiness; such joy is ultimately found in Christ alone (3:13)
    • It is more precious than all the wealth of the world; Jesus is our greatest treasure (3:14-16)
    • It leads to peace; Jesus is our peace with God who helps us live at peace with others (3:17)
    • It leads to life; Jesus is the ultimate source of life (3:18)
    • It helps us to mimic our all-wise, Creator God; Jesus is the great One to be mimicked (3:19-20)
    • It helps us to avoid stumbling in sin; Jesus is the one who frees us from sin and leads us from its snare (3:21-23)
    • It brings confidence from God; Jesus is our great confidence and hope (3:24-26)
    • It helps us to love our neighbors; Jesus is the ultimate source of love in our lives (3:27-32)
    • It brings and inheritance of honor; Jesus is the One with whom we share a perfect inheritance (3:33-35)
  • How do you gain wisdom?
    • Trust God whole-heartedly (3:5)
    • Humbly depend on God each day (3:5-7)
    • Stand in a sin-avoiding awe of God (3:7-8)

proverbs 3_7

The hands of grace (a meditation)

“They got what they deserved.” There are times where we have heard this said, or we ourselves have said it or thought it. Sometimes it comes with a joyful sneer seeing misfortune befall others after they have done harm in some way.

Grace is the opposite of this. Grace can be defined as unmerited favor, but another way to put it is: they did not get what they deserved. God shows us his “amazing grace (how sweet the sound)” through Jesus. On the cross, bearing God’s wrath for our sins, Jesus took the hell we deserved that we might have the eternal life of God’s children which we did not deserve as his rebellious enemies.

Such salvation is ultimate grace. There is no greater means of grace, indeed no other means of God’s grace than Jesus himself.

Yet in extending us this grace, God sometimes uses other people as his hands to bring such unmerited favor into our lives. At the end of Job, God answered Job’s request for a hearing with him. After experiencing God, Job replied, “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” (42:6). Job had felt the sting of rebuke for his words and repented as he should.

Then God turned to Job’s three friends who came and provided poor advice and little comfort. God spoke to Eliphaz as the seeming leader of the friends and said, “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me” (42:7). But then through Job, God extended his grace: “Take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has” (42:8).

God appointed Job to be the priestly mediator between him and Job’s friends—the very role that Jesus took for us. Job heeded the charge to sacrifice and pray on behalf of his friends, and sure enough they escaped without feeling the judgment of God. They deserved wrath, but instead God did not treat them as they deserved.

So it is that God sometimes uses the hands of others to extend us his grace. He did this fully in Christ; but when those who belong to Jesus do good to others and share about Jesus, it also is an extension of God’s goodness and grace. Thank God for the grace he has given you through Jesus, and thank him for those who have brought you in touch with this grace. Then seek to be one who is a hand of God’s grace to others, pointing always back to Jesus, the ultimate source of grace.

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

Job 42_8

Good Reads 01.19.16 (on: God’s goodness, MLKjr, church, and more!)

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

On remembering Martin Luther King, Jr., and racial reconciliation: Dear Dr. King by John Piper

Today, as I look at the gospel-weak white and black churches, I would say that both need a transcendent reference point in the sovereignty, supremacy, and centrality of God, expressed supremely in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated churches where the gospel is cherished — these are the birthplace of the kind of racial harmony that give long-term glory to God and long-term gospel-good to the world. (click here to read more)

On the nature of the church: The Church Is an Embassy, not a Social Club by Greg Gilbert

The answer, to put it simply, is that the church isn’t just an invention of Christians who were trying to fulfill certain needs—fellowship, teaching, and so on. It’s much more than that. In fact, the Bible seems to hold the local church out as a unique organization, one unlike any parachurch organization, any other ministry, or any other institution in the world. It is, by Jesus’s own royal prerogative, the embassy of the kingdom of heaven to this rebellious world. This reality is mostly lost on Christians today, and yet that’s essentially how the Bible describes it. (click here to read more)

On the mission of the church: One Thing Every Church, Ministry, and Christian Should Focus on this Year by Neil Reynolds

The whole “I love Jesus but not the church” sentiment isn’t new but it’s just as wrongheaded now as it’s ever been. I’ve written it before but it’s worth repeating: we learn to follow Jesus by watching someone closely as they follow Jesus.

Jesus modeled this. He spent three years with 12 guys and it changed the world. He impacted the masses by focusing on a few. If we’re going to experience a renewed focus on discipleship, it will happen in community, not in isolation. (click here to read more)

On the goodness of God: God is Good by Mike Leake

God is perfection. Whatever virtues he possesses are there in the absolute sense. What I mean by that is his attributes are his absolutely and not in relation to anything else. He alone is the sole possessor of absolute goodness, purity, knowledge, and love. Our apprehension of those qualities is always relative to him. He is the source. Saying “God is good” is not saying equating him with usefulness in a favorable or utilitarian way. Saying “God is good” is quite literally saying “God is the good.” He is goodness itself. (click here to read more)

On true faith: 3 Warning Signs You’re Drifting from Faith into Superstition by Mike Kelley

Several years later, I started seriously pursuing the spiritual discipline of having a daily quiet time – reading, praying, journaling, every morning. It occurs to me, though, that I have at many times in my life treated that discipline very similarly to the rabbit’s foot. I made sure when I had a tough day coming to put in some extra Bible time. And when I had a bad day, I could look back and see that surely it was because I had not read my Bible that morning.

My Bible had become more like a rabbit’s foot, something I clipped onto the backpack of life to try and make sure things were going well. We have the tendency to do this, I think – for faith to drift into the realm of superstition, which is really no faith at all. (click here to read more)