Good Reads 03.30.16 (on: parenting, struggling marriages, and more!)

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

On faith and the Christian life: Imperfect Faith in a Perfect Redeemer by Matt Moore

On and on I could go describing the differences between faith and unbelief. But let’s get to the question at the heart of this blog post: Is it possible these two things can exist simultaneously in one human soul? Can a person—a Christian—experience both faith and unbelief? Can we feel both Christ-like attitudes and sinful attitudes? Can we have desires that are pleasing to God and desires that grieve him? Can we, in faith, obey God one moment and then, in unbelief, disobey him the next? (click here to read more)

On parenting young children: 10 Lessons on Parenting Little Ones by Tim Challies

These little years have been the best and the worst years, the easiest and the hardest. They have been full of both joys and tremendous difficulties. At times we have done well and at times we have done poorly, I’m sure. And now they are behind us. Before it all grows hazy through the inevitable march of time, we decided to think of a few lessons we learned about parenting through the little years. Maybe you will find them helpful. (click here to read more)

On marriage: Hope for a Hopeless Marriage by Chad Lindon

Today our marriage continues to be a work in progress. Sometimes we’re selfish and insecure, and we occasionally battle one another for control. But today there’s a huge difference: we both know that our greatest need is Christ. (click here to read more)

On the battle against sin: 9 Reasons We Struggle with Addictive Sin Patterns by Chuck Lawless

You know the pattern. You fall into some particular sin struggle, and it seems like that sin overtakes you. Nothing you do brings victory. Prayers seem fruitless. Temptation only grows stronger. Battle losses are common. This post looks at why we have these battles in the first place. (click here to read more)

And finally, some wisdom on the Christian faith from Francis Schaeffer:

faith 01 (schaeffer)

The Portrait Baptism Paints (a meditation)

We were buried therefore with Christ by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life. ~ Romans 6:4

The Bible is a book filled with words because the gospel of Jesus is a message given through words. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ,” Paul wrote in Romans 10:17. But Jesus left his church more than words to remember, celebrate, and picture the gospel. He commanded for us two sets of actions (what we sometimes call ordinances or sacraments) to perform as visual displays of the gospel.

One is the Lord’s Supper in which we break the bread and share the cup which represent Jesus’ broken body and spilled blood on the cross for our sin. The other is baptism.

Baptism is the initial mark of discipleship. Jesus commissioned his already-followers to go out and lead new people to follow him, first baptizing them and then teaching them to obey what he commanded (Matthew 28:16-20). Peter compared baptism to a prayer, saying that through it we appeal or cry out “to God for a good conscience (1 Peter 3:21). And Paul compared it to circumcision in the Old Testament—an initiation ritual signifying that we belong to God’s covenant family (Colossians 2:11-12).

In Romans 6, Paul viewed baptism from a slightly different angle. It is a visual picture and a reminder that if we belong to Jesus, then just as he died and raised from the dead, so we have died to the old life and raised to the new.

So, baptism becomes more than a ritual. It is a visual story told by a new Christian’s interaction with water.

Paul’s greater point was to remind us that even through where more sin existed greater grace was given in salvation, we are not to have the attitude: If I keep sinning, then I’ll keep receiving more and more grace (5:20-6:2). Grace is not a free pass, but a life-altering gift (Titus 2:11-14).

A Christian is not one who looks lightly at sin and laughs off failures. Rather, a Christian is one who sees his or her old self hung on the cross with Jesus, and finds new life through his resurrection. We realize that the cross and the empty grave are more than safe passages away from God’s wrath. They are a means to true freedom and new life.

In Christ you are a new creature, not meant to give yourself over to sin and unrighteous passions, but to give yourself to God and that which honors him (Romans 6:5-14).

To encourage those Christians in Rome to live in this new reality, Paul pointed toward their past to that moment they came to Christ and submitted themselves for baptism, to that portrait of the gospel of which they took part. He reminded them that the act of baptism, of being immersed into the water and then pulled out from its flood, pictured the death and burial of their old selves, and the resurrection and birth to life of their new.

So baptism stands as a place for us to look, a past reminder of God’s continuing grace. You and I are no longer the same persons as before we came to Christ. Something new and amazingly wonderful has emerged through Christ: a forgiven sinner who now stands as a child of the Living God.

Baptism also serves as a reminder of what is to come, a forward-looking hope. The symbolic will one day manifest; the physical will catch up with the spiritual. The new life we have in Christ will be matched with the resurrection of our bodies from the dead as we step into eternal glory.

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

Sunday 03.27.16 (Easter Sunday)

This Sunday we’ll celebrate Easter by taking a look at John 11:25 to see how Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. We kickoff our celebration during our Sunday School hour with an Easter breakfast. There will be no evening service this Sunday.

Schedule
@945 Easter Breakfast in Gym/Fellowship Hall
@1045 Worship Gathering
**No Evening Activities**

Sermon Notes
The Resurrection and the Life ~ John 11:25

  • ž“I am the Life”—Jesus is the only solution to our sin, the only path between us and God
  • ž“I am the Resurrection”—Jesus is the one who conquered death, so that we have the future hope of eternal life
  • What benefit doe the resurrection bring us?
    • žWe will live beyond physical death (John 11:25-26)
    • žWe receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:22-41)
    • žWe presently walk in new life (Romans 6:3-4)
    • žWe are guaranteed a future, glorious physical resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-58)
    • žWe have been accepted by God (Rom 8:31-34)
    • We no longer have to fear death (Heb 2:14-15)

The Cross and the Empty Grave (a meditation for Good Friday and Easter)

…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. ~ Paul, Philippians 3:10

At the heart of Christianity is a cross and an empty grave. Everything else centers around these two experiences of Jesus.

The cross was the aim of Jesus’ time on earth. In the beginning God created us in his image, but it didn’t take long for us to rebel against the One whose image we bear and strike our own path. Deceived by Satan, yet culpable for our own actions, we chose to reject God’s goodness for that of the enemy. We drew our battle lines and said, “We’d rather live without God,” thinking that somehow we as creatures could actually throw down the Creator.

Instead of freedom, we gained enslavement. Instead of life, we fell into the snare of death. Slaves cannot make themselves free and dead men cannot make themselves live. Guilty, we owed God a great debt that we could not repay.

Yet the plan had always been for Jesus to give himself freely for our sake, taking our place. He, the Son of God and true Image of God, took our sins and the wrath that we deserved for our rebellion. He paid the debt so we could be free: a gift, ours for the receiving if only we would believe in and trust him as our Savior-King.

[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~Titus 2:14

The cross is this reality played out: Jesus crucified by the hands of those who need him, so he could absorb the wrath of the Father, and our sins be forever covered with the cry, “It is finished!”

The empty grave was the triumph after this. It would not be enough that Jesus took wrath for us. To be forgiven yet to suffer the fate of death is no benefit. Death is our greatest enemy; the empty grave is a sign that Jesus defeated this enemy. His resurrection means hope for us. If we are his, with sin forgiven, then we have come into a new spiritual life. We are a new creation.

We hope, then, that Jesus would return soon and we would not have to face physical death. But even if we do, we can face it with hope.

Jesus said to [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)

Death is not the end of the story. For followers of Jesus this once powerful enemy is now a humbled servant that ushers us into the glorious and joy-filled presence of our Savior-King. Paul said, “To live is Christ; to die is gain.” So we live each moment for Christ, and when [if] we do face death, we find greater gain.

That’s why Paul could write in Philippians 3:10 that he wanted to know Jesus, the power of his resurrection, but also to share in his sufferings.

The sufferings Jesus faced that brought his death were only temporary. They were the path to something much, much greater. To be so united with Jesus that we taste his sufferings is to be so united we also experience his life, his resurrection.

Coming to Jesus we have an immediate spiritual resurrection. Such is just a foretaste of the glorious and eternal physical resurrection when Jesus returns.

The cross and the empty grave…

Good Reads 03.23.16 (on: faith in difficult times, technological advancement, and more!)

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

On trusting God, even when it is difficult: Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled by Donald Macleod

What is before the Lord’s mind here, then, is not how he himself would cope with the cross, but how his confused and bewildered disciples would cope. It is the trouble in their minds that troubles him, and he addresses it not only with soothing words, but with powerful arguments — arguments they must remember when they see him hanging on the cross, and which we, too, must remember when God leads us where we cannot cope and cannot understand. (click here to read more)

On seeing Jesus as bigger, greater, and more dangerous: We Talked to Jesus in an Inside Voice and He’s Going to be Nice Now by Owen Strachan

We’ve got to wake up. We’ve got to sober up. We need to get on mission, too. We need to stop playing life safe. We need to stop thinking we’re owed luxury and ease. We’re not. Most of the apostles died in ministry. Many Christians all over the world suffer on account of Christ. We don’t need to be foolish here, but we should plunge into the work of the Great Commission. Whatever our vocation, whether we’re changing diapers or taking exams or running boardrooms, we can participate in the promotion of Christ’s dominion. (click here to read more)

On faith and technological advancement: Here at the Dawn of the Revolution by Tim Challies

Historically, the pace of technological change has been slow. But over the past five hundred years that pace has consistently increased. Today we can hardly keep up. By the time we purchase and enjoy a great new gadget, the next one (and the one after that) is already being finalized and perfected in the labs. The newest, greatest, and most expensive device is built with a planned obsolescence that may be only three or four years away. It seems like every year or two we need to prepare our families and our churches for another big shift, another great innovation, that will call them to learn new skills and adapt to new realities. (click here to read more)

On caring for others by listening: Do You Listen and Care or Take the Easy Way Out? by Nolan Trapp

The best we can do for someone at times is listen. There are many proverbs that tell us the benefit of listening, such as Proverbs 21:28. If it wasn’t important, I’m sure that the Bible wouldn’t have focused on it. Another key scripture I think of that tells us the benefit of listening is James 1:19. Sadly, we have to deal with the gossip and other issues in our world, but to do it right, we have to listen. (click here to read more)

On the freedom we have in Christ: Freedom from the Performance Treadmill by Paul Tautges

As we meditate on truths like these, our minds are renewed and freed from enslavement to performance. Focusing on the truth that our acceptance with God is purely because of His grace toward us in Christ will keep us humble and dependent on the Spirit of God. Bridges ends his chapter on, “The Performance Treadmill,” with an illustration of Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan (2 Samuel 9), in which he likens the lame man’s ever-helpless physical condition to our spiritual need of grace and makes this application: “Mephibosheth never got over his crippled condition. He never got to the place where he could leave the king’s table and make it on his own. And neither do we” (p. 24). (click here to read more)

The Nearsighted King (a meditation)

Reigning between Ahaz his father and Manasseh his son, Hezekiah was a good king of Judah who sought God and worked to turn the hearts of the people back to the One True God after years of chasing idols. Yet later in his life, Hezekiah blundered in pride and the result was a nearsightedness that failed to have care for the future generations so long as things went well in his time.

Isaiah 39 records how, after the king’s near death and recovery, an envoy from Babylon came bearing gifts. Babylon was a growing empire that would in time take down Assyria and for their season become the most powerful force in the world. When the envoy arrived, Hezekiah was so thrilled that he showed them all his treasures and weapons. It seems in an attempt to show off what he, as king over a smaller region, had gained and accomplished.

When the envoy leaves, Isaiah confronted the king and asked, “What did they see in your palace?” Hezekiah answered, “They saw everything.” Isaiah’s response was a message from God that warned the day would come where all these treasures would be carried away to Babylon along with Hezekiah’s own descendants.

It would seem that Hezekiah should have responded with sorrow and prayer as he did with the Assyrian threat in chapter 37 or with his own illness in 38. Maybe he should have tried to bargain with God as Abraham did in Genesis 18 when he interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah and asked, “Will you still destroy it if there are even ten righteous persons found within?” To which God responded and said, “No, I shall not destroy it if there are ten righteous persons.”

Yet Hezekiah had no such response. Instead, we read:

Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “This message you have given me from the Lord is good.” For the king was thinking, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime” (39:8).

Even though Hezekiah’s life on earth would continue only a decade and a half more (38:5), the king refused to be bothered by what lay beyond. So long as he kept his treasures and power while on the throne, he didn’t care what occurred once he was dead.

Yet legacy matters. The whole is the sum of its parts, and if one part is weak then the whole suffers.

Hezekiah wasn’t merely a king, he was king over the nation that God had called his chosen people. He was king over the nation that was supposed to display God’s glory to the world. What was future mattered greatly. At least it should have.

So it is with our lives today, whether we speak of family, nation, or church. What we do now will affect future generations. We should live, play, work, and worship with them in mind. God has not put us on earth merely for our own sake—to live and enjoy 70 or 80 years of life with no care of what happens beyond.

When Peter reminded those he cared about with truths he had taught them before, he said, “So I shall also be making every effort to ensure that, once I am gone, you may be able to call these things to mind” (2 Peter 1:15). This is concern for legacy that pushes aside the myopia to only see what is near to us. This is concern for the Kingdom of Jesus over personal comfort.

The same concern we should have ourselves in all avenues of life.

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

Sunday 03.20.16 (no turning back)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Isaiah 31 and how we are to trust God and not man with our present and our future, and not turn back to the fleeting comforts we found when enslaved to sin. Then that evening we will be joining with FBC Rich Hill for an Awana pizza party followed by night three of Revive! with Tony Jones of FBCRH speaking on praise and worship. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@5pm Awana Pizza Party in gym
@6pm Revive! Night 3–Praise and Worship

Sermon Notes
No Turning Back ~ Isaiah 31

  • Don’t trust the strength of even the strongest of men or nations (31:1-3)
  • Don’t desire to return to the “comforts” of your past (31:1)
  • Seek God in all that you do (31:1)
  • Place your trust in the protection that God provides (31:4-5, 8-9)
  • Repent of the idols that seek to turn you away (31:6-7)