Good Reads 06.29.16 (on: a spiritual checkup, teenagers and theology, and more!)

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

On cultivating your child’s heart (this was written to fathers but can be applied to mothers as well): 4 Ways to Reach a Child’s Heart by Richard Phillips

I am constantly amazed at the number of people who assure me that their fathers hardly ever praised them, but constantly criticized and berated. I meet people all the time who tell me that their fathers beat into their heads that they were losers who would never succeed. I can scarcely imagine what that is like. There is only so much a pastor can do to remedy such an upbringing, and the best he can do will include pointing such a person to the effective healing love of our heavenly Father, who can do far more than any man. But as fathers we can ensure that our own children are raised with the rich fertilizer of fatherly affection and esteem. (click here to read more)

On self-examining your spiritual walk: 10 Questions for a Six-Month Spiritual Checkup by Chuck Lawless

What truths have you learned about God during the first half of 2016? If you can’t state them, you either haven’t spent enough time with God or you haven’t thought regularly enough about this question.

How many non-believers now know the gospel because of your personal evangelism this year? If you’re a pastor, answer this question first without including evangelism you do from the pulpit… (click here to read more)

On advice from an older Christian to younger Christians: The #1 Regret of a 70 Year Old Christian by David Qaoud

This is a good word not just for young Christians, but all Christians, yes. But I think this is something young Christians particularly need. We young folk tend to be more concerned with being cool than being holy. And this is a problem. Paul tells us that God saved us so that we might be holy (Ephesians 1:4) — a pursuit that Christians can seek with effort, without being self-justifying.

Still, “pursue holiness” may seem daunting or ambiguous. So here’s a few reminders for young Christians on this great pursuit. (click here to read more)

On teenagers and theology: 5 Reasons Why Teenagers Need Theology by Jaquelle Crow

As a Jesus-following teenager, I believe studying God’s character is what teenagers need in order to face our terribly complicated world. It’s what will give us lasting hope to face our future with a firm commitment to God’s truth. Let me explain how theology answers our biggest questions and meets our greatest needs. Of course, this is only the briefest beginning, but it gets us started. (click here to read more)

Be imitators of God (a meditation)

In the movie Jaws there is a scene where Chief Brody is sitting at his kitchen table, frustrated at events and deep in thought. Across the table sits the Chief’s youngest son. In the silence of the moment, the boy begins to imitate his father’s every move—an act that brings a smile to the Chief’s face when he notices.

In life we learn by imitation. As kids grow older, sometimes the imitation is done out of love like in that movie, and other times it is done to annoy a sibling or classmate. Either way, we are still people who imitate others. Some imitation is bad. When done to annoy or when the imitation is of a sinful act, the results are never good. We as Christians, though, are called to the highest form of imitation.

So you should be imitators of God, like dear children. ~ Ephesians 5:1

As Christians our purpose in life is to imitate God as much as we can. Obviously, there are some aspects of God that we cannot imitate. God is all knowing, all powerful, and everywhere present. We are none of these. But we can imitate God in a variety of ways.

We imitate God’s character. First John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Paul went on to write in Ephesians 5:2, “Conduct yourself in love, just as Christ loved us.” When we love self-sacrificially and for the good of another, we love as God loves. When we pursue justice for those treated unjustly by corrupt world systems, we act in the same justice that God shows. When we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit such as joy, patience, kindness, goodness, etc., we are imitating these things in God.

We imitate God’s creativity. This is something in which we might not be able to fully imitate God, but we can partially imitate him. We cannot create something from nothing with only a word. We can however use the tools, gifts, and abilities that God has given us to create something new out of what exists. We can build buildings, shape statues, paint pictures, write stories, and compose music. God has also designed us, along with all of life, to create a new generation through reproduction.

We imitate God’s mission. Jesus said he came to earth to seek and save that which is lost. In other words, he came to be the Savior and Redeemer of sinful and rebellious men and women. Then Jesus said to us as his followers, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). No, we cannot imitate God in being the savior of others; but we can pursue his mission by taking the word and knowledge of Jesus to others and point them to the one true Savior.

In these things we are to live out the truth like Father like son (child). This doesn’t mean that we will all look the same, talk the same, work the same jobs, have the same number of children, etc. No, God has given the world a vast variety for his glory, so we will have different talents, personalities, backgrounds, passions, and experiences. Yet, we still are called to be like our loving Father and our magnificent Savior-King.

Imitating God is more than the highest form of flattery, it is the best way we can live life for his glory.

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

Sunday 06.26.16 (in Christ)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Ephesians 1:1-14 and see what it means to have an identity that is based in Christ (a favorite term of Paul’s in our passage). Then Sunday night we’ll dive into  chapter 2 of our I Will study: “I Will Worship with Others.” We hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@Noon Widow/Widower Lunch hosted by the deacons in fellowship hall
@6pm I Will study in church’s library
@7pm Business Meeting

Sermon Notes
In Christ ~ Ephesians 1:1-14

  • žWe are to joyfully worship God for who he has made us in Christ (1:3)
  • žSix realities about our identity in Christ that give us reason to joyfully praise God:
    • He has made us holy and blameless (1:4)
    • He adopted us into his family (1:5-6)
    • He redeemed us from our debt of sin (1:7-8)
    • He revealed to us his plan to save people from all the nations in Christ (1:8-10)
    • He has provided us an inheritance (1:11-12)
    • He has sealed us with his Holy Spirit (1:13-14)

Good Reads 06.23.16 (on: work, fatherhood, and more!)

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

On fatherhood: The Two Words Fathers Should Say to Their Children by Joe Carter

There are few imperatives a father hears more often from his children than “watch me.” It’s a plea for us to recognize that whatever our son or daughter is doing—catching a ball, jumping off a diving board—is worthy of our full attention. They know we are often busy, often distracted, and they want, at least for a moment, for us to truly see them. By seeing them in action, they believe, we’ll appreciate them even more. We can learn a valuable lesson from their example: If we want our children to develop godly habits we need to imitate them by saying, “Watch me.” (click here to read more)

On work: 7 Reasons Why I Wish Everyone Had Experience Working in a Restaurant by Art Rainer

Restaurant work is hard.

During high school, I worked in a chain restaurant. My roles varied depending on the night. I showed people their seat, cleaned tables, and served food. And I am glad I did this. It helped develop a healthy work ethic in me before I plunged into the “real world.” It makes me wish that everyone had a similar experience. Here’s why… (click here to read more)

On Christians and funerals: I Forbid You to Say These Things at My Funeral by Tim Challies

We’re not having a funeral; we’re having a celebration. Why pit the two against one another as if only one can be true? We are having a funeral and it is a genuinely sad occasion. Yet we do not, can not, must not mourn as those who have no hope. A Christian funeral marks both a departure and an arrival; it provides an occasion for both grief and joy. (click here to read more)

On sex and marriage: Why Sex Isn’t the Best Thing Ever by Lore Ferguson Wilbert

One of the best blessings to me in my singleness were friends who did not make marriage an ultimate thing in my eyes by only telling me the beautiful parts of their marriage, but who told me the difficulties of it as well. They also prayed for me actively to someday have the gift of marriage. I hope I am doing the same for my still single friends who desire the gift. I want them to know its not all romance and intimacy and good feelings and great conversation. But I also want them to experience the gift themselves so they can both see it and minister out of it.

One thing it is very easy to believe during the long fast from sexual intimacy that is godward singleness, is the option to have sex will make things better. Most of us wouldn’t be so foolish to say having sex makes things better, but it’s darn easy to believe the option and permission to will make it better. But sex doesn’t make things better. Not in the way you think it will. (click here to read more)

God’s Workmanship (a meditation)

For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works… ~Ephesians 2:10

God creates. This is part of his nature from the opening pages of the Bible: ours is a God who creates, even so far as he makes something by just speaking words over where there is nothing. More than this, God doesn’t simply create a utilitarian world. He created a world, no, a universe made to be enjoyed. God has put on a vast display of beauty and imagination from the tiniest fish in the sea, to the great and high mountains, to the galaxies spinning above.

With that same creative fervor, God also recreates. Jesus speaks in Revelation, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Our sin has and continues to scar God’s good creation, but the day is coming where every hint of sin will be done away. On a personal level, God recreates us who belong to him in Jesus.

In Ephesians 2, Paul launched into the good news and the bad. The bad: we are, by nature in a post-Genesis 3 fallen world, rebels against God and children of wrath. We turn against God and exalt ourselves at every opportunity. Though it would have been good and just of God to leave us all under his wrath for our rebellious betrayal, he did not desire this.

So he offered up Jesus. The perfect Son of God and son of man, born to Mary with all our limitations but none of our rebelliousness. Tempted like us in every way, he remained faithful. He walked straight into death on the cross not for any wrong he did but for every wrong we did.

This was the sacrifice, the offering for our sins—God’s gift of grace. This gift we receive by faith, an acknowledgement that what God says is true about us and a recognition of our need for Jesus as the answer. So, Paul wrote, “You are saved by grace through faith, not by works” (2:8).

If it was by works, it would be something we have earned. Yet on our own, we are sinners, and sin does garner a wage—death (Romans 6:23). Even the good that we can do, each work still tainted by our sin, could never add up so that the good would cover the bad. So it is not by works. We do not have to work to please God, rather God gives us his pleasure because he so desires in Christ.

Again, by faith—we simply receive. And as we receive, God recreates. The old in us is gone, new has come, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17. We might not feel new all at once, this is after all an already-but-not-yet reality. When we come to Christ we are justified, our sins have been paid and our debt covered and the fullness of the new will come. We are not yet glorified, walking both body and soul in the newness of Christ, but that day will come. We are being sanctified, changed each day by the work of God as we pursue him because he first pursued us, becoming less and less like the old and more and more like the new.

The work of God, recreating us and making us new.

By shaping us in this way, God has given us a new way of life. Saved by grace and not by works, we are saved to walk in good works. At our jobs, we work ethically and fulfill our duties as if we were working for God himself. In our families, we work to grow the bonds of love in our relationships to reflect more and more the grace that God has given us. In our churches and communities, we look for the needs of the day–physical, relational, emotional, educational, and spiritual. We do what we can with the resources we have to meet these needs.

In doing so, we live out the wonders of being a new creation. And in doing so, we bring a hint of God’s new creation to the world around us.

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

Sunday 06.19.16 (the coming generations)

We want to wish a happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and grandfathers in our congregation. We will also have a special gift for all the men present. We’ll also be looking at Psalm 78:1-8 and the command for the older generations to teach the younger generations about God. Hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
**No Evening Activities at church, enjoy Father’s Day!

Sermon Notes
Tell It to the Coming Generations ~ Psalm 78:1-8

The command: One generation is to teach the next generation about God and his ways (78:4)

  • Who do we teach?
    • We are to teach our physical family (78:5, Deut 6, Eph 6:4)
    • We are to teach our spiritual Family (Titus 2:1-8)
  • What do we teach?
    • Of God’s glory and work
  • Why do we teach?
    • To leave a lasting legacy of knowing Jesus (78:5-7)
    • To lead our children/grandchildren to hope in Christ (78:7)
    • …to obey Christ (78:7)
    • …to flee the snares of sin (78:8)
  • How do we teach?
    • Use a variety of engaging methods (78:1-3)
    • Be intentional about your own growth in character (78:8)
    • Be intentional about sharing God’s word and your faith with others, especially your children (78:5)

Good Reads 06.15.16 (on: Bible reading, marriage, and more!)

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

On Bible reading: Why Are So Many Christians Bored with the Bible? by Marshall Segal

Unfortunately, many Christians love the idea of the Bible, but not really the Bible itself. We love having a Bible close by, even within reach, but don’t make time to open it on an average day. We talk about Bible reading like we talk about cutting calories or cleaning our house. We’re grateful for the results, but we don’t wake up dying to do it again. It sounds like a fine thing to do, until we have to choose what we won’t do in order to make time for it.

If that’s you, you probably also know a Christian who loves reading their Bible. They can’t get enough of it. As far as you know, they would just as likely go a whole day without food as without the Bible. Their happy discipline convicts and, if you’re honest, sometimes even annoys you. Who is it in your life who is most likely to pray like this? (click here to read more)

On marriage: 5 Things No One Tells You before You’re Married by Debra Fileta

Now that my husband and I have been together for over a decade, we look back at our time of preparing for marriage and realize that there is so much about the day-to-day aspects of marriage that no one really told us about.

From the practicalities of sharing a house to the practices of conflict management—a lot tends to be left unsaid. I’m thankful for the older and wiser mentors who helped us in our transition to marriage, and told us the truth we may have otherwise never heard.

Now, as a professional counselor specializing in marriage and relationships, I often work with couples who are struggling in their marriages. While I certainly believe that much of conflict in relationships stems from issues of the heart, often I do see that couples are struggling in marriage simply because of a lack of preparation. So, Here are five things we’ve learned—but no one ever told us—about marriage: (click here to read more)

On optimism and realism as a Christian: To Hope All Things in a World We Cannot Trust by Barnabas Piper

We are to have faith in God and love humanity, not have faith in humanity. Humanity will be a perpetual disappointment if we do that. It will lie, cheat, steal, and desert. It is capable of remarkable good, but aside from Christ is rooted in sin and will gravitate back to it – to selfish motives at others’ expense, including you.

Yet we are to hope all things and believe all things and love our neighbors as ourselves and treat others as we want to be treated. These realities seem incongruous. How can we believe and hope all things about someone or something that we cannot and should not trust? How can we assume the best about someone while also assuming they will disappoint? (click here to read more)

On God speaking: Why Doesn’t God Still Speak Audibly? by Patrick Schreiner

While the opening sonata and the closing allegro are different, there are also similar sounds woven through each. Questions about the revelation of God can sometimes be answered with heightened priority on personal time with an immaterial being. But the New Testament emphasizes meeting God through Christ in the performance of deeds with the body of Christ, the church. We become disciples by engaging in the communal practices of faith—repentance, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, preaching, prayer, and singing.

We do these physical acts because we worship a God who is seen in Christ’s face. Just as God was seen in the Old Testament, so too by the Spirit we “see” God in Jesus. When we meet with the people of God, we are gathering with the body of Christ. And as you participate in the Lord’s Supper, you are partaking of him spiritually.

While we may read the Old Testament and wonder why God isn’t showing himself like he once did, we can rejoice since our revelation is superior. Its greatness doesn’t just come in a spiritual sighting, but in a true experience of the new creation, through the Spirit, which is found in Jesus and his church. (click here to read more)