Good Reads 08.31.16 (on: quietness, a greater love for God, and more!)

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

On fathering: 6 Things a Godly Dad Does by Scott Slayton

A man can only be an effective father as he continues to grow spiritually. Our marriage and parenting will be impacted by our sin and lack of maturity. We will be impatient, temperamental, rude, thoughtless, and respond sinfully to being sinned against, so our only option is to keep growing in holiness and sanctification. Putting to death the sin in our lives and growing in Christlike maturity will have a practical effect on the way we lead our homes. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading: One Very Good Reason to Read Your Bible by Tim Challies

But the benefit of personal devotions goes far beyond self. The benefit of knowledge of God and intimacy with God extends to your family, to your neighbors, to your church. If you can’t or won’t do devotions for your own sake, won’t you do it for the sake of others? Won’t you do it for their good, even if not for your own? (click here to read more)

On praying for a greater love for God: Lord, Enlarge My Love for You by Jon Bloom

What drives the Christian life is the great joy set before us (Hebrews 12:2), causing us to forget what lies behind and press on toward the goal for the eternal prize of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13–14). The Christian’s approach to life is to attain the resurrection from the dead “by any means possible” (Philippians 3:11). Whatever it takes. (click here to read more)

On making time for quietness before God: Quiet by Rachel Erin

It could be that we need to actually turn off the television, close our laptops, or adjust the notification settings on our phones. It could also mean that we are deliberate in the activities we say “yes” to for our families and ourselves. When we fail (which will happen often), it means taking time to refocus our hearts on the sufficiency of the gospel and Christ’s sacrifice for us instead of rehearsing our inadequacies over and over.  (click here to read more)

On church: 8 Reasons Every Church is Messy by Chuck Lawless

The gospel is intended to reveal messiness. Think about it—that’s precisely what the gospel does. It shatters our prideful exteriors and reduces us to our messy core. If you preach the gospel, there’s some messiness you should welcome. (click here to read more)

Anticipating Eternity (a meditation)

“For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” ~Jesus, Luke 22:18

In Luke 22, Jesus was spending his final hours with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. During this time, he shared with them a Passover meal and took from it the bread and wine and gave them something new: a memorial supper. Some call this The Lord’s Supper others Communion—whatever our term, ever since in the church we have taken the bread and the cup and remembered what Jesus did for us in offering up his body and pouring out his blood on the cross.

Though we gather as Christians and partake of this Supper regularly, Jesus said that he would not eat the bread or drink the wine again until he could do it with us in his Kingdom (Luke 22:16, 18; cf. Matthew 16:29).

In his statement we should sense an anticipation of eternity. When we eat of the bread and drink of the cup, yes we look backward in time to when Jesus hung on the cross and suffered for our sins, but we should also look forward.

In Revelation 19, John spoke a marriage supper to kickoff eternity. This supper is a coming celebration meal when the church, the bride of Christ, is gathered for the first time as its whole—the day where Jesus-followers from all across the globe and all throughout history gather with each other and with our Savior-King to ring in the new creation and begin the age of eternal joy.

That feast will only be the start. In the new heavens and new earth: “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit…my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands” (Isaiah 65:21-22); and, “In that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water” (Joel 3:18).

Though we join to eat and to remember, looking back and looking forward, Jesus said he would wait. Looking to him, we see a patient longing. The dawn of eternity is far off yet soon enough, and when it comes then we will celebrate with him.

In the meantime, though, we keep looking forward. We keep yearning and waiting as we share the broken bits of bread and drink from the cup, ready one day to do it face-to-face with our Savior-King who made it possible for us.

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

Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner (a meditation)

One of my favorite old hymns is Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy. The last verse goes:

Let not conscience make you linger / Nor of fitness fondly dream
All the fitness He requireth / Is to feel your need of Him

It reminds us of the fact that we have nothing to offer God for our salvation. We are able to come to Jesus and find forgiveness of and freedom from sin only because he has acted and given to us fully by his grace.

Sadly, some people miss this truth and their thoughts go in other directions. One of these is the direction of self-righteousness and another is the direction of a soul crushed under the weight of never being good enough. The self-righteous person believes that he is somehow better than people around him, especially those he deems to be sinners.

Jesus gave an illustration of a Pharisee who fit this self-righteous mold in Luke 18:11-12. There in a prayer, the Pharisee says, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”

The song above addresses those who crushed under the weight of feeling never good enough. “Fitness” is making oneself ready. If that is what we strive for, then we’ll never reach the goal. Left on our own, such thought indeed crushes.

But in Luke 18, Jesus offered a better way—the way of the person who feels their need of Him. Contrasted with the Pharisee is a tax collector standing far off, eyes to the ground, and beating his hand against his chest. This tax collector called out: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13)

Jesus said that this was the man who left the temple justified before God.

It is a simplicity of grace, yet one we fight against. Most of us would rather be in some way self-justified, feeling as if our goodness contributed something to our salvation. Yet, it doesn’t. And instead of this being a soul-crushing defeat, this should help us to realize the greatness of grace.

Some of us need to get over ourselves (Jesus talked about that in Luke 18:14). Some of us need to set our eyes more fully on what God has offered through Jesus. Then we will see our need for him. Then we will find true salvation in Jesus alone.

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

Good Reads 08.24.16 (on: justice, God’s love, and prayer)

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

On the greatness of God’s love for us: We Have Nothing to Offer the One Who Offers Us Everything by Jared C. Wilson

If you look to Jesus, the bread of life, and ask him to satisfy your hunger, he will not give you a stone. He will give you himself. Let us then stop begging for signs and start beholding Jesus. There is one great sign that you are loved more than you thought. It is the cross. And there is a still further sign that you will live in this love forever. It is the empty tomb. (click here to read more)

Why we sometimes have to wait to see justice: Grateful for the Wait by Randy Alcorn

Why doesn’t God simply reward each good and punish each evil as it happens? Because God’s justice is not a vending machine in which a coin of righteousness immediately produces reward or a coin of evil yields swift retribution. Scripture assures us justice is coming. Everything in God’s plan has a proper time; the gap between the present and that proper time tests and incubates our faith. When reward and punishment are immediate, no faith in God is required or cultivated. (click here to read more)

A series of posts on prayer:

On praying for the best and not just the good: Do You Pray Like a Nonbeliever? by John Piper

How then do they pray? Generally, they do not ask God to do bad things. They ask him to do good things without asking him to do the best thing. They pray as though God were the giver but not the gift. They pray for protection, and shelter, and food, and clothing, and health, and peace, and prosperity, and social justice, and comfort, and happiness. (click here to read more)

On what to pray for: God Doesn’t Need to be Convinced to Give You What You Need by Michael Kelley

We know that through the gospel, we are God’s beloved children. And we know that as a good Father, He does not provide for us reluctantly, but instead delights each day in giving us our daily bread, and doing more than we can even conceive. God does not need convincing. He already knows what we need, and He is going to give us just that. (click here to read more)

On how to pray well: 3 Keys To a Powerful Prayer Life by Tim Challies

The first key is a place of quiet, a place that is free, or as free as possible, from distractions. “With regard to many of us, the first of these, a quiet place, is well within our reach. But there are tens of thousands of our fellow-believers who find it generally impossible to withdraw into the desired seclusion of the secret place. A house-mother in a crowded tenement, an apprentice in city lodgings, a ploughman in his living quarters, a soldier in barracks, a boy living at school, these and many more may not be able always to command quiet and solitude. But, ‘your Father knoweth.’” Of course today we have distractions that may arise from the very devices we use to pray—the iPhone that houses our prayer app, for example—so we need to take special care that we “silence” our devices so they do not distract us. (click here to read more)

 

Sunday 08.21.16 (pride and humility)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at what the prophet Obadiah says about pride and humility. Then on Sunday night, we’ll be in chapter 6 of the book I Will, “I Will Give Generously.” We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm I Will study in church’s library

Sermon Notes
Pride and Humility ~ Obadiah

  • Pride will deceive you, but humility reminds you of the Truth that is greater than yourself (3)
  • Pride gives you a false sense of security, but humility leads you to trust in the all-sovereign King (3-9)
  • Pride causes harm to others, but humility seeks to help others (10-14)
  • Pride brings God’s judgment upon you, but humility will help lead you to salvation (1-2, 15-21)
  • Ways to help you kill pride and live in humility…
    • Ponder the greatness of Jesus (Isaiah 6)
    • Pray for humility (Matthew 7:11)
    • Pray for others–especially those you would have a hard time treating well (Matthew 5:44-45)
    • Busy yourself with serving others, just as Jesus served us (Philippians 2:3-5)

The Lion Has Roared (a meditation)

The lion has roared—so who isn’t frightened? The Sovereign Lord has spoken—so who can refuse to proclaim his message? ~ Amos 3:8

Part of the Christian faith is the belief that there is power in God’s word. When he speaks, things happen. This idea saturates the Bible from the opening chapters when God speaks creation into existence to the closing chapters where Jesus defeats the enemies of his people with the words of his mouth.

Through Isaiah, God said that his word will accomplish all that he intends and will not return empty (Isaiah 55:11). In Ezekiel 37, the prophetic message brings dry bones back to life. Paul wrote that all scripture was breathed out or inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s word is “alive and powerful,” cutting into the very depths of a person. Peter wrote that the word of the gospel causes new, everlasting life (1 Peter 1:23-25).

When we truly believe this, it changes how we view the Bible. When we see the great power behind God’s word, we will:

1. Long to read it. Our hearts will seek out fellowship with God, the message that comes from his word. We will make it a part of our lives, longing to know the story of Jesus, and praying for the change that it creates in us. Through the word’s powerful work driven by the Holy Spirit within, we will experience the renewing of our hearts and minds to make us more like Jesus.

2. Long to hear it taught. Preaching and teaching have been a vital part of church life from the beginning. Paul told Timothy to give careful attention to the corporate reading of the word and then also to preach it (1 Timothy 4:13, 2 Timothy 4:2). Yes, the Spirit leads us in a deeper understanding of scripture each time we read it; but having someone help to guide us, remind us, and give us accountability in our understanding is also of great importance.

3. Long to share it. In the quote above, Amos envisioned God speaking being like the roar of a lion. It should cause people to stand up and take notice. But if God has so spoken, then surely we must also share what he has said. This was the experience of Peter and John. With the religious leaders of their day threatening them and telling them not to talk about Jesus, they replied, “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). So it should be with us.

God’s word changes his people. Experiencing its power will change how we view it and what we do with it.

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

Good Reads 08.17.16 (on: humility, your life story, and more!)

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

On Bible reading and confusing passages: The Bible Is So Confusing by Mike Leake

Are you using the difficulty of the Scriptures as a dodge for reading and obeying the parts which are clear? This is a word not only to the person who has a dusty Bible on his shelf but also the seminary student or pastor who spends his time trying to untangle difficult passages while neglecting to be captivated by the ones which any simple person could understand. Yep, the Bible is difficult in spots. But it’s clear enough for us to give our lives in obedience to the Lord. (click here to read more)

On scripture memory and Christian growth: The First 15 Bible Verses a Christian Needs to Memorize by Scott Slayton

I put together a list of passages for young or new Christians to memorize so they would grow in their understanding of the character of God, the work of Jesus, salvation by faith alone, and the basics of the Christian life. We need to focus on these issues early in the Christian life because if we just start learning Scripture’s commands without understanding who God has revealed himself to be and the heart of the Christian message we will develop an unhealthy view of what it means to live as a Christian. (click here to read more)

On God’s work in your life story: God Wrote Every Chapter in Your Story by Katrina Reyes

By God’s grace, I am learning that in these in-between chapters, character development takes place. He’s teaching me trust, patience, and how to wait on him through the unknown. Just like with fictional characters, unexpected twists and turns and trials come into our lives, many of them being entirely out of our control. But the author always knows how the story is going to end before the characters do. (click here to read more)

A book review on Jerry Bridges’ last book: The Blessing of Humility by Tim Challies

Bridges insists “A life of humility is not an option for a believer to choose or reject. It is a command of God.” To teach the beauty and value of humility as well as to start on down the path toward humility he turns to the Beatitudes saying, “these expressions of Christian character are a description of humility in action.” In other words, when Jesus taught how to live before God and before man, he was teaching how to live with humility. (click here to read more)