The Call to Follow

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” – Mark 8:34-36 (ESV)

Jesus confronts each of our lives with a call to follow him. We can gain everything the world has to offer, but if we do not have him then we are eternally lost, left with nothing but pain and regret. Jesus offers us something better—joy unending, but the cost is great: Jesus demands our everything.

This is what faith is: Not simply a belief in true things about Jesus, but also a trust that says to him, “Take my life, my all.”

This is why in addition to “follow me,” Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses. To deny self is to say, “I lay aside the passing pleasures that my heart chases after to take up the eternal joys that only you give.” To take up our cross is to say, “I no longer count my life my own. I am dead to the ways of sin and to my selfish desires. You, Lord, tell me where to go.”

Lest we think this demand is too great, we must remember that our lives already belong to God. He is our creator and the sovereign King of everything. We all one day will bow, but will we do it joyfully because we choose to do so now or will we do it sorrowfully when we stand before him as Judge in the end?

Lest we think giving our “all” to Jesus is giving too much, we must remember the gain we find. Everything in eternity belongs to Jesus, given to him by God the Father in an act of love. And if we give ourselves over to Jesus in this life, then we are his brothers and sisters, fellow heirs alongside him. We have a share with Jesus in the everything of eternity.

The road we walk today might have its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows. But it will never be more painful than what Jesus suffered on our behalf, taking the wrath of God while on his cross that we might have forgiveness and life. And in eternity, every tear of our eyes will be wiped away and our darkness turned to an eternal morning.

Listen to Jesus’ call. Follow him.

Good Reads 09.06.17 (on: parenting, forgiveness, and doubt)

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

On sin and forgiveness: If All My Sins Are Forgiven, Why Must I Continue to Repent? by Stephen Wellum

As we live our lives and unfortunately sin, we need to return to God in repentance and faith and seek his forgiveness. Yet we do so on the basis of Christ’s work applied to us in our justification. Such an experience is not a new justification but a renewed application of our justification.

When we sin, we lose our consciousness of forgiveness and our sense of peace with God. So when we confess our sins, by the work of the Spirit, we are reawakened to what Christ has done for us, and God revives our security in him and assurance of our salvation. Believers, then, continue to pray daily for forgiveness—not with the despair of one who thinks he is lost, but in the confidence of justified and adopted children approaching a heavenly Father who has declared them just in Jesus Christ. (click here to read more)

On parenting and our need for God: The Glory of a Father: Parenting on Fumes and Grace by David Mathis

Parenting young kids means running regularly on emotional fumes. My wife and I had our fourth in April. We haven’t yet found that elusive “new normal” that feels sufficiently manageable, and I’m beginning to suspect we won’t for some time. But it seems this is right where God wants us: desperate, exhausted, dependent.

God does not call me as a daddy to have enough strength now for next year, next month, next week, or even tomorrow. Just for today. Be faithful today. Don’t check out today. Ask God to provide the energy needed to finish this day well as the head of this home. Sufficient for each day is trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34). His mercies will be new tomorrow (Lamentations 3:22–23). (click here to read more)

On doubt and insecurity: What To Do When You’re Stuck in Doubt by Michael Kelley

All of us know the feeling of kicking yourself for missing something. Sometimes it’s as simple as going to sleep before the 4th quarter of a football game; other times, it’s that you make the conscious choice to be one place instead of another. Maybe it’s staying at the office instead of being at the ball game or the dance recital – and then knowing immediately that you have missed something big. Something important. It’s that feeling of second guessing yourself, over and over again, knowing you could have made different scheduling choices to be where you ought to have been, but you didn’t.

But this was not missing the opening few minutes of a play or walking in a few minutes late to a party. Thomas missed Jesus. And just as we don’t know why he wasn’t there, we don’t really know what was going on in his mind. We only know what he said: “If I don’t see the mark of his nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!” (John 20:25) (click here to read more)

Beware False Teachers

Then Jesus gave them strict orders: “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” – Mark 8:15 (CSB)

After Jesus again miraculously fed a large crowd, the Pharisees came to him and demanded a sign from him to prove his authenticity. Jesus refused and then went away with his disciples. While they sailed, Jesus warned them to “watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod.”

Matthew, in his gospel account, explains further what was meant: the “leaven” to which Jesus referred was the false teaching and beliefs the leaders of the region and religion promoted (Matthew 16:11-12). The Pharisees, especially, fit Paul’s description in Titus 1:16, “They claim to know God but they deny him by their works.” Often their demands upon people when far beyond God’s actual commands while they also neglected mercy and justice.

In every age of history, there have been people who have promoted lies and half-truths as being truths of God. The most dangerous of these are the teachings that bear much resemblance to what God has said. If we aren’t careful, such error can creep into our hearts and minds and then proceed to grow—just like dough that has been leavened with yeast.

Today, some false teachers say that we must do certain good works to be saved, instead of teaching that good works flow from a salvation that is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). Some teach that if you have enough faith then you’ll be prosperous and wealthy in this life, as they neglect the Bible’s descriptions of those who suffered much loss because of their faith (Hebrews 11:35-38). Some teach that the Bible’s sexual ethics are archaic and culture-determined, instead of teaching that Scripture gives us the truth of the unchanging God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

How do we know the difference between what is true and what is false? We become intimately familiar with the Bible.

John told us to “test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Such tests include what one says about Jesus (1 John 4:1-3). Luke also praised the Bereans and presented them as an example for us because “they examined the Scriptures daily” to see if even the things Paul taught were true (Acts 17:11).

The more familiar we become with God’s word, the more equipped we will be to sort out the good from the bad. Examine Scripture, test what you hear or read, even what you read here, and make sure what is taught corresponds with the truth that God has revealed.

Sunday 09.03.17 (what matters most)

This Sunday we’ll consider the tale of two sisters in Luke 10:38-42 and see how this snapshot from Mary and Martha’s life helps us to understand that being with Christ is what matters most in life. We hope to see you there! With the holiday weekend, there will be no evening study.

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
**No evening activities

Sermon Notes
What Matters Most ~ Luke 10:38-42

On holidays, we tend to seek rest from our normal routines and work. In life, it is easy to get stressed out and overwhelmed. The answer is finding rest in our Lord.

  • A tale of two sisters: Martha, the busy worrier; and Mary, the calm worshiper
  • Jesus tells Martha that she needed to join Mary and not be overwhelmed by the good things, but rather singularly focused on the best
  • The gospel call is a call to be with Jesus and find rest (10:42, Matthew 11:28-30)
    • To find rest in Jesus is to realize that God has not given us a multitude of things to do in order to please him; but rather to trust that Jesus has provided for us and then we go do
    • Each day we must spend time at the feet of Jesus in our devotions of Scripture and prayer

Sunday 08.27.17

This Sunday, we will have guest speaker Cody McCully delivering a message on “the awe of God,” while Pastor Mike is out of town. We hope to see you there! There will be no evening service this Sunday.

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
**No Evening Activities

Songs for Our Gathering
We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise
How Great Is Our God
Shout to the Lord
Great is Thy Faithfulness
Thou Art Worthy

Good Reads 08.24.17 (on: parenting, prayer, Bible reading, and more!)

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

On parenting and discipleship: 8 Tips to Help You Disciple Your Kids by Dembowczyk

One of the main problems we have as parents is that we expect way too much of ourselves when it comes to discipling our kids, and when we can’t live up to them, we feel like failures and often quit. Family worship doesn’t have to look like worship with your church family with singing, prayer, and lengthy and in-depth Bible teaching. Gospel conversations don’t always have to end with some profound theological gem from you. We need to be realistic of what our family discipleship will look like. Perhaps that means talking about a Bible story for 15 minutes one night a week at dinner and trying to find one or two times each week to move conversations toward the gospel. Wherever you are, start there and develop rhythms and habits that work and then build on them to get to where you want to be. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading: 4 Bible Reading Strategies for Reading Plan Quitters by Scott Slayton

When you read large portions of Scripture, you will consistently see passages where you want to slow down and read more carefully. Keep a list of these passages and when reading large sections starts to feel tedious, spend some time reading only one chapter or less each day for a while.

When you do this, make sure that you read with a pencil and a notebook. Write out what you are reading on your notebook. Skip a line so that you leave yourself room to write notes. Then, go through the passage slowly. Mark significant words. Look for words that the writer uses more than once. Take note of the connecting words like “for,” “therefore,” “but,” “so that,” or “in order that” and pay attention to how they connect one clause in the passage to another. (click here to read more)

On joy and prayer: Ask Him for Joy by Mike Phay

Jesus references a radical change in relationship between his followers and his Father that will happen through his mediating work; specifically, through his redemptive death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Jesus is assuring his gathered disciples that “that day” will come when direct access to the Father will take place. In that day, Jesus says that we will be able to ask directly, that is, we will be able to pray. We will be able to approach the Father directly in Jesus’ name and through his mediating work—and we will be the ones asking (“I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf”). In turn, the Father himself will be the one hearing, listening, and responding, “for the Father himself loves you.” (click here to read more)

On Bible interpretation: Are You REALLY Interpreting the Bible Literally by Stephen Altrogge

Understanding the original intent of the passage guards us from reading a modern meaning back into scripture. Does it take work and study and thinking to wrestle the original meaning from the text? You bet. But it’s valuable, necessary work.

Why do so many people end up twisting scripture? Because they infuse their modern, “enlightened” sensibilities into the text, taking it far away from what the author originally meant. (click here to read more)


What Defiles?

“Nothing that goes into a person from the outside can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him… For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.” – Jesus, Mark 7:15, 21-23 (CSB)

The Pharisees and Scribes were religious leaders who over the course of years sought to interpret and apply the Mosaic Law and developed various traditions. Some of these may have been sensible applications, though should not have been binding as infallible, while others were inconsistent in comparison to God’s actual word.

When they criticized Jesus’ disciples for not properly washing their hands before a meal (a ceremonial ritual, not a health issue in the leaders’ minds), Jesus replied by quoting from Isaiah about giving God false honor and then attacked another one of their traditions. God had commanded that the people were to honor their father and mother. The Pharisees and Scribes, however, said devoting things to God (i.e. to the temple and the religious leaders themselves, in this case) took a higher priority, even if it left father and mother in the cold.

Jesus, rightly, described the leaders as hypocrites. Then he spoke of what truly defiled a person: Not what we put into our mouths, but what comes out in words and deeds. True defilement is an internal thing, a matter of the heart.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” This is why, when spiritually blind in our sin, we refuse to see our defilement as defilement. We ignore it. We justify it. We call evil good. So what is the answer? How do we clean what is on the inside?

We trust the one who knows us inside and out. The one who can change us.

God made a promise to his people through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances” (36:25-27). This is the description of what the New Testament calls being “born again” (such as in John 3).

Part of the beauty of the gospel hope we have through Jesus is new life. He doesn’t wash the outside but leave the inside dirty; no, Jesus makes us fully clean. With a new heart, we begin to love God supremely and love others deeply. With a new heart, we are able to flee from the acts of defilement and instead produce acts of grace: purity, faithfulness, selflessness, kindness, and the like. Let us, then, entrust our hearts to Jesus and be truly clean.