Sunday 02.28.16 (a song of love)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at the Song of Solomon and see what it teaches us about Marriage and Love. Then in the evening we will have our final session of Winter Bible Study. Revive! 2016 begins next Sunday evening at 6pm (click here for more details). Hope to see you there!

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

Sermon Notes
A Song of Love ~ Song of Solomon

What lessons does the Song teach us about marriage and love?

  • See the love of marriage as being about both commitment and passion as it models the love of Jesus for his church (verses throughout)
  • For the not-married: Know that the deeper intimacy of love has a right time, and learn to wait for it (2:7, 3:5, 8:4)
  • Freely and liberally praise your spouse and seek to build them up where their insecurities lay (1:1-2:17)
  • Rekindle the fire when the passion begins to die down (5:2-7:13)
  • Seek to make your marriage an example for others (8:8-14)

Song of Solomon 2_16

Seek Justice (a meditation)

God only helps those who help themselves. It’s a popular phrase, and many people seem to think that it is from the pages of the Bible. Fortunately, that is far from the truth.

Yes, when it comes to work and such the Bible commands us to have a good work ethic, to not be lazy, and to not intentionally burden others if we are capable of working. When it comes to our salvation, Paul even wrote the phrase: Work out your salvation in fear and trembling; but he preceded that with: He who began a good work in you will bring it completion; and followed it with: for it is God who works in you (Philippians 1:6, 2:12-13).

What we find as foundational throughout scripture, indeed the very reason why God sent Jesus to live and die for us, is that God delights in helping those who cannot help themselves. This is grace—freely bestowed, unearned favor; God’s ultimate “helping hand.”

And so it is that God calls his people to pursue social justice. He calls us to seek to help those who either can’t help themselves or who are oppressed by others and therefore unable to have their voice be heard.

Yes, the church as God’s people must be about more than social justice. There is a greater need at the core which we must address. Every person in the world has a sin problem. Each of us enter into life as natural born rebels. We reject God and his word, instead opting to create our own god who wouldn’t dare judge us (at least not judge those things we think make us happy). But the wages of sin is death. Death in sin results in eternal hell—the wrath of a perfectly good and just God against his enemies who have rejected him.

No amount of creating idols for ourselves will rescue us from this fate.

Yet, God gave us Jesus, our hope and our rescue. In Isaiah 1:18, God calls out, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are like crimson, they shall become like wool.” This stain of sin is washed away through Jesus, the one who bore “our griefs and carried our sorrows…pierced for our transgressions [and] crushed for our iniquities” (53:4-5).

Abandoning our commitments to a life of self-seeking and self-satisfaction through sin, and believing in and following Jesus brings us true life and salvation from sin.

But having been personally redeemed, we are called to address the sin problem of the world which manifests itself through injustice. Therefore God says to us:

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s case (1:17).

Through Jesus, God helped us when we were unable to help ourselves. Having been helped by God, we are to take up the mantle of social justice towards others. We do this because of Jesus (Matthew 25:31-40), both to show his love and to make him known. We also do this because as followers of Jesus love is the great virtue and we are to loves others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). So we speak of the One who saves from sin and at the same time we stand up for the poor, oppressed, orphaned, and widow.

These are people who receive the attention of great rhetoric (good and bad), especially at times such as this in the political cycle. Yet we are to be as lights shining in the darkness, we are to speak in such a way that transcends the rhetoric and offers real hope and real solutions.

And this is a community effort. No one Christian can do everything needed, nor can a single church. But we can pray for wisdom and seek to meet what needs we can. Then together in our efforts we are able to fight against poverty, injustice, and hopelessness.

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

Isaiah 1_17

Good Reads 02.24.16 (on: justice, marriage, and more!)

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

On marriage and date nights: In Defense of Date Nights by Stacy Reaoch

In our own sixteen-year marriage and ministry, we’ve come to view date nights as a life-giving time to keep marriage fresh. Our American culture pushes workaholism and child-centeredness in such a way that marriage is often left on the back burner. The vast majority of us don’t need a free pass to stop dating our spouses, but a push to be intentional about making marriage a priority amidst the other demands and responsibilities of life. (click here to read more)

On being married and on being single: At Least You’re Married or Single by Lore Ferguson Wilbert

Marrieds love to tell singles going through transitions and hard times, “At least you’re not tied down! At least you’re free to be flexible! At least you can make your own schedule, etc.” Singles love to tell marrieds going through transitions and hard times, “At least you have each other! At least you’re married! At least you don’t have to do it alone!” The truth is that painful circumstances in our own lives can bring offensive, short-sighted, and dismissive platitudes to real struggles in the lives of other people. Freedoms that exist within singleness come with a cost and the partnership that comes within marriage can mean a similar cost. (click here to read more)

On the fight for justice, including a tribute to Harper Lee: Atticus Finch and the Fight for Justice by Jasmine Holmes

Ultimately, Atticus Finch’s fight for justice is incomplete; his champion has passed away, and before she did, she showed us that our hero was, in fact, more complicated than we ever realized. She also showed us the power of story to declare impactful truths. My hope is to see a generation of storytellers rising up to stand in her wake, communicating truths in just as winsome and unapologetic a way as she did, and anchoring those stories in the ultimate truth and healing power of the gospel. (click here to read more)

On the Christian life and how we view each other: When You Are Too “Jesus-Freakish” for Some Christian Circles, and Not “Sold Out” Enough for Others by Matt Moore

As you try to follow Jesus as the Bible prescribes, have you ever been perceived as “too spiritual” by some professing Christians and “not spiritual enough” by others? Have you ever been ridiculed by one group of people for being a holy roller and shunned by another group for not being “sold out” enough? I’m sure you have because Christians today encounter the same kind of mislabeling that John the Baptist and Jesus dealt with two millennia ago. Though accessing and learning the Scriptures has never been easier, there are subcultures within contemporary Christian culture that seem so void of biblical truth and wisdom. Like the Pharisees of times past, these subcultures twist or add to the true faith and ridicule—or even condemn—those who won’t submit to their twistings and additions. (click here to read more)

On making the most of “retirement”: Hillary, Bernie, Donald, and Me by John Piper

“Jesus gave himself for us to purify for himself a people who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). No age limit. Zealous. Passionate. To the end. For good works. Works that he has gifted you to do. He has given you a lifetime of experience and wisdom and resources. You have a decade of freedom in front of you. This is a trust. All your previous life was designed for this season of fruitfulness. What is your dream? (click here to read more)

 

 

Don’t awaken love until it’s ready (a meditation)

Song of Solomon is a book that sometimes makes us uncomfortable. Throughout the history of the church, many have tried to allegorize it instead of letting it speak as it is: an intense description of love and sexuality between a groom and bride. While the book is explicit in its detail it stays away from becoming sinfully illicit as it presents sex as the beautiful gift God intended for enjoyment and intimacy between husband and wife.

Sometimes it is questioned whether or not the Bible speaks against sex outside of or before the commitment of marriage. If you’re looking for such a precise statement, you’d be hard pressed to find it; but the idea is clearly present in several ways. First, in the fact that over and over the Bible idealizes sex only within marriage; and, second, in places like the Song of Solomon where we read lines such as this:

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases (2:7).

This is such an important aspect of the book that we find it repeated in 3:5 and 8:4. The context is clear. “Love” here is not the general love that we’re to have for all people. And it’s not even the puppy love that first develops between a new boyfriend and girlfriend. This is the love that combines steadfast commitment and intense passion physically, emotionally, and spiritually, which the most intimate of relationships provides.

The Bible never downplays the pull of a person’s sex drive. While only a small part of what Paul and the rest of scripture teaches about marriage and sex, there is a reason why Paul adjured the single and widowed: “If they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). This is also why when Paul told Timothy to flee temptation and pursue righteousness, the temptation he named was “youthful passions” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Deep love is captivating (Song of Solomon 4:9). The pull towards physical intimacy is great. But God intended a time for such (marriage) and a time to refrain from such (non-marriage). So one must be careful to guard their hearts and minds, to not awaken love until ready.

To follow is a list of several points taken from a message by John Piper about battling sexual temptation; these can help a person stay faithful to pursuing purity and to not awaken love until its ready…

  • Recognize that sexuality is a good gift from God.
  • Recognize that Biblical prohibitions are intended to protect something precious not deny something pleasant.
  • Believe God is for you.
  • Ponder the eternal danger of lust.
  • Think often that God has given you even now many good things.
  • Preach to yourself that there is more joy in God’s presence than in sin. Transpose desire.
  • Realize that lust disables and weakens our capacity for higher spiritual joys with God.
  • Don’t ask: What’s wrong with it? Ask: Does it maximize my experience of the power of Christ, my enjoyment of his fellowship, my perception of his beauty, my reflection of his glory?
  • Cultivate a passionate devotion to the honor of God’s name.
  • Develop a worldview that views absolutely everything in relation to God.
  • (For singles) Recognize that sexual relations are not essential to full personhood and happiness.
  • (For the married) Recognize that God designed marriage to be a living parable of his commitment to the church.
  • Be vigilant over your eyes. Avoid unnecessary stimulation.
  • Look on the opposite sex as eternal persons. Realize that lust inevitably depersonalizes and despiritualizes people.
  • Think often that Christ suffered agony for your purity. Fight image with image. Christ crying in agony.
  • Do not be excessively alone.
  • Get in a group where you exhort one another every day against the deceitfulness of sin.
  • Memorize many scriptures.
  • Stockpile your thoughts with good things.
  • Pray at all times in the Spirit for God’s deliverance.

(For more points and to see the verses to go along with them, check out: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/strategies-for-fighting-sexual-sin)

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

Sunday 02.21.16 (bold before the world)

This Sunday we’ll be taking a look at Acts 4 and the continuing, unfinished task that God has given the church to take the gospel into the world–an act that requires boldness on our part to share the good news of Jesus. We will also be joining with thousands of other churches in debuting the new hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty: Facing a Task Unfinished (you can click here for more information). Hope to see you there!

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

Sermon Notes
Bold Before the World ~ Acts 4

Like the early church we have a charge to take the gospel to the world. For this task, we have…

  • Our message–we are to share the gospel of Jesus (4:1-12)
  • Our boldness–we are to possess supernaturally empowered wisdom and strength (4:13-31)
    • We develop boldness by spending time with Jesus (4:13)
    • We develop boldness by spending time in prayer together (4:23-31)
  • Our unity–we are to be the church like a family (4:32-37)

Check out theversesproject.com for a song with lyrics from Acts 4:11-12. The Verses Project is a website dedicated to putting Scripture to music to help people learn and cherish God’s Word.

Do what you want! But… (a meditation)

Do what you want! Do what makes you happy!—these seem to be modern mantras for many people. Life is short, don’t waste your time doing a bunch of things that make you miserable, and enjoy being happy while you can.

In a way, the Bible agrees. But in the pages of scripture we also find a fence drawn around this idea—a boundary to help guard one’s heart from destructive things that will ruin a life and an eternal soul.

Throughout Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote about his experiences. He tested various pleasures and withheld nothing from himself that he desired. Yet, with time, it all proved fruitless. Meaningless he called it. Drawing on these experiences and with the wisdom given him by God, Solomon wrote to his son hoping to spare him the same measure of grief.

Near the end, Solomon said, “Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in.” This sounds good to the pull of pleasure we feel in our hearts: enjoy life and do what you want. Yet Solomon added another line: “But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do” (11:9).

Then Solomon described the aging process and how doing what you want becomes more difficult when you’re old, so honor your Creator in your youth (12:1). There’s the fence: Do what you want, do what makes you happy, but make sure what you do honors God.

There have been those in history who have tried to live out the Christian faith in a cold, emotionless way. And many times in pop culture Christians have been painted as brute, mean, crass, and/or ignorant hypocrites (which does, sadly, accurately describe some who try to wear the name of Christ). Yet this is not the Christian faith the Bible presents.

Instead we find people given new hearts and indwelt by the Holy Spirit to be people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-26). We find our Savior-King sounding forth the call of command to major in loving God and loving neighbors (Matthew 22:37-39). We also find this same Lord speaking in a single breath about experiencing suffering yet also the fullness of joy (John 17:13-14).

So, yes, we are to enjoy life and to do what makes us happy. But our hearts are being transformed in Jesus so that what makes us happy and what we desire is that which honors him and does good to those around us.

Under the term of Christian hedonism, John Piper described such a life as “being happy in God” and reminded us that “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him.”[1]

Yes, sin has its pleasures, its momentary joys; but these are passing pleasures with sin the reason for death (Hebrews 11:25, Romans 6:23). So here we find the “but”—do what you want! But… Yes, God wants us to be happy and to take pleasure in him and in life. But God has also warned of the destructive consequences, both now and eternally, that are brought by sin (anything that dishonors or disobeys God).

His desire for us is to avoid the great consequences of that which only brings pleasure for a moment; and instead grow eternally happy by doing what we want through that which honors him.

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

[1] See: John Piper, Desiring God.

Ecclesiastes 11_9

Good Reads 02.17.16 (on: play, singing, marriage, and more!)

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

On singing together as a church: What’s So Special about Singing? by Bob Kauflin

People sing. Everywhere. In their cars. In the shower. In choirs. At football games. At birthdays. At weddings and funerals. At rock concerts. In musicals and operas. When there’s sunshine. When it rains. When it’s stormy. In the morning, afternoon, and night.

But when the church gathers on Sunday morning (or Saturday night, etc.), our earthly voices join the choirs of heaven and the singing is like no other. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been moved as I added my voice to the beautiful, engaging, powerful, awe-inspiring, robust singing of a congregation.

But sometimes our sound is halting and weak. Out of tune and out of time. And not so beautiful. What should we do then? (click here to read more)

On accountability as Christians: Over-Complicating Accountability by Barnabas Piper

Accountability only works if it is rooted in relational investment. It works if it is not merely a Q&A but rather life lived alongside life, through conversation, meals, fun, crisis, ups, and downs. This is relationship, the kind out of which real accountability grows. The kind where it’s safe to be humble and honest. (click here to read more)

On our need for recreation and play: Play Hard by Jared C. Wilson

Why is playing hard so important? Because in our play we create and imagine and therefore tap into the very creative heart of God. We echo his story with our narratives of play. This is why on the playground little boys are playing cops and robbers or doing battle and little girls are playing house. They are vanquishing evil, subduing the earth, building civilization. And because all of this effort reflects the heart of the great Author of everything, their hearts never grow weary of it, even if their bodies do. (click here to read more)

On marriage: Dear Wives: This Is the One Thing You Can’t Afford Not to Do for Your Husband by Jarred Lopes

We can all change our behavior temporarily. We can fool others, and even ourselves that we are doing better, simply by changing our behavior. But Jesus never set out to change behavior, he set out to change hearts.

This is what is so profound about what Leila did. By waking up every night and begging God to change my heart, she was humbly admitting that she was completely out of control. She recognized that she does not posses the power to change hearts, so she went before the One who can. (click here to read more)

On living life in the midst of hardships and trials: Love the Life You Never Wanted by Marshall Segal

The reality is that all of us can imagine something better for ourselves than our circumstances today. The greater reality is that, if you love and follow Jesus, God always writes a better story for you than you would write for yourself. The “better” is based on this: God himself is the best, most satisfying thing you could ever have or experience, and, therefore, fullness of life is ultimately found not in any earthly success or relationship or accomplishment, but in your proximity to God through faith. (click here to read more)