Sunday 07.02.17 (God and king)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Ecclesiastes 8:1-13 and the relationship between God and government–we’re to honor the authorities over us but hold God as supreme. Then on Sunday evening, we’ll continue our Attributes of God study with a look at God’s unchanging nature. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God study in church library

Sermon Notes
God and King ~ Ecclesiastes 8:1-13

  • žHonor the king (governing powers; 8:1-9)
    • Obey what he commands (8:2-5)
    • Seek to do good in society (8:6-9)
  • žFear God (8:10-13)
    • He is supreme
    • People in the world do evil and don’t fear the results (8:10-12)
    • But God will judge (8:12-13)
    • Our great hope is Jesus, the King of kings

The Eternal Family

Jesus replied to them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking at those sitting in a circle around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” ~ Mark 3:33-35

When we come to Jesus, we find that he redefines family. Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were looking for him and his response was to say that those who belonged to God, doing his will, were his brother, sister, and mother. Here we find several realities about family:

First, our eternal family is our spiritual family. This was Jesus’ main point—since the promise he made to Abraham in Genesis 12, God has been setting aside a people for himself. Through Jesus, God’s people come from every background and ethnicity. But God isn’t simply creating one eternal nation out of many, no he’s also creating one eternal family out of many. We pray and we hope that our physical family is among them, but it’s God’s people, other followers of Jesus, with whom we will spend eternity.

Second, God is the true Father. When Jesus listed out the family relationships, he left father off the list. This was not by mistake. Yes, Joseph served as his earthly father, the dad who raised him for a time. But, Jesus is the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. No one else can take that place. God’s loving Fatherhood extends to us as well. Whether we had good earthly dads, bad earthly dads, or absent earthly dads, through Jesus we have the perfectly good, always present Eternal Father who loves us.

Third, Jesus wasn’t saying our earthly families aren’t important. God is the one who told us, “Honor your father and mother.” Over and over the Bible highlights the importance of an earthly family and our task to love them and care for them. As much as we are able, we should celebrate our earthly families, especially when there is mutual love present. Instead, Jesus was saying that our eternal family is even greater. We want our earthly families to be a part and to join us in celebrating Jesus. Some, however, have families who not only refuse to do this, but will even threaten and persecute a person for following Jesus. If that happens, we still have our eternal family—we still have a place to belong.

Family is important. Our spiritual family through Jesus is eternal.

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Mark 3_35

Image taken and modified from pixabay.com

Sunday 06.25.17 (pursue righteousness)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Ecclesiastes 7:15-29 and what it means for us to pursue righteousness in Christ. Then on Sunday evening, we’ll continue our Attributes of God study by taking a look at the wisdom of God. We hope to see you there!

Sunday Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God study in church library

Sermon Notes
Pursue Righteousness ~ Ecclesiastes 7:15-29

  • žWe live in a world filled with unrighteousness
    • Justice often seems backwards (7:15)
    • Everybody sins (7:20, 25-29)
    • Wisdom is hard to gain (7:19, 23-24)
  • žWe must turn from sin and self-righteousness to pursue Jesus
    • Self-righteousness is no better than wickedness, so trust and revere God (7:16-18)
    • Embrace Jesus for your righteousness (7:20, 28)
    • Extend grace to others as God has extended grace to you (7:21-22)

Good Reads 06.22.17 (on: parenting and discipline, affirmation, and more!)

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

On parenting: 3 Reasons Why Discipline is Harder than Punishment by Michael Kelley

If you are strictly punishing your kids, then just put them in time out. Or spank them. Whatever it is you do in your house. You can do it quickly, and then it’s over and done with. The reason why punishment is quicker is because the goal of punishment is exclusively reactive; they did something bad, and you need to make sure they don’t do it again. But when you discipline, your goal isn’t just behavioral; it’s about the heart. Heart formation takes much longer than behavior modification. That leads us to the second reason why discipline is harder. (click here to read more)

On our need for affirmation: When a Father Wound Defines You by Scott Sauls

I once heard Tim Keller say that Jacob’s deceit was the first recorded case of identity theft. But what was Jacob’s motivation? Why, under false pretense and knowing that it would not be long before both Isaac and Esau would find him out, did Jacob deceive anyway? Ten out of ten therapists would say that it was because Jacob, like every other child in the world, craved a paternal blessing. More than anything, he longed to hear words of affirmation spoken over him by his father. And, if the blessing can only be gained under false pretenses, a child will resort to any measure to satisfy this primal craving. Simply put, Jacob wanted more than anything to hear from his father’s lips, “I see you. You matter. I love you. I like you. You matter to me.” (click here to read more)

On overcoming pornography: Victory Over Porn is Closer Than You Think by Jimmy Needham

Fighting sin feels like this, doesn’t it? When we’re in the midst of temptation, all we can see is the next big wave looming in front of us. Surrounded and hopeless, we give in and face defeat, never knowing that just over the water ridge is the calmer sea of victory in Christ. If we only had eyes to see over, what freedom would we experience in the midst of temptation? What fresh strength and resolve would we feel, with God’s help?

But so many of us can’t see over the ridge.

Here’s where God’s word offers an unfathomable gift to the tempted and addicted: a peek over into the calm ocean beyond our hour of temptation. Consider with me a handful of precious texts that serve to reassure us that God truly gives us the victory (Romans 7:24–25). May they serve you as they have me to walk in lasting freedom from this sin struggle. (click here to read more)

On revival: A Revival Without Christ at the Center is Not Revival by Jared Wilson

At the front end of Paul’s excursus to the Corinthians on the sign-gift charismata, he reminds us: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

What we often see in false revivals is the exaltation of particular figures or the worship of a worship experience itself. You can turn on nearly any religious television programming and see this work in action. Christ is given lip service but exhilaration, personal revelation, warm fuzzies, and spectacular manifestations are the real objects of worship. Charlatans are at the helm, and they purport to wield the Holy Spirit as if he were pixie dust. In these cases and others, it is not the Spirit stirring, but the spirit of the antichrist. (click here to read more)

The Unforgivable Sin

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for all sins and whatever blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” ~ Mark 3:28-30 (CSB)

Toward the end of Mark 3, we find one of the most debated sections of the gospel. Jesus, when confronted by his family and the Jewish religious leaders as he cast out demons, spoke of a sin that would not be forgiven. He warned that every sin committed had the possibility of forgiveness except for one: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Many have debated and others have fretted over the meaning of Jesus’ statement.

To understand what Jesus intended, we must first remember that we can never divorce a verse or two from its context. A passage of Scripture (or any other thing written or said, for that matter) does not mean something simply because we as the reader or hearer want it to mean that thing. It has a meaning found within the intent of the author and his/her context.

In this case, though confronted by his family and leaders, Jesus did not directly rebuke his family’s statement of “He’s out of his mind,” though this also was not true. Instead, he honed in on the statement of the scribes: “He is possessed by Beelzebul” and “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons.” (3:22)

Jesus first responded to the absurdity of the prince of demons casting out his own demons. He said, “If Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is finished” (3:26). In other words, Satan would be dumb to work against himself. The Bible describes Satan as crafty, cunning, and deceitful as the enemy of God’s people, but not dumb.

Then Jesus made his statement in 3:28-29 in response to the scribes’ words of “He has an unclean spirit.”

In other words, the scribes were opposing Jesus by attributing the Holy Spirit’s work to Satan. Here we have the unpardonable sin: A so thorough rejection of the Spirit’s work through Jesus, and thus a thorough rejection of Jesus, so as to call the work of the Spirit evil.

But there also seems to be another element to this. The scribes weren’t men of a different religion, or even no religion, who thought Jesus’ ways were false. No, these were men well-educated in the Old Testament, who claimed to follow the One True God, were zealous for their religion, and should have realized from the prophecies that Jesus was their Messiah.

These are men who would seem to fall into the description of Hebrews 6:4-6

For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, who tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away…

They had every reason to know better, yet they ascribed the Spirit’s work through Jesus to the forces of darkness instead of to God.

So, we should know that the unforgivable sin is real, and it should challenge us to persevere in our faith, keeping our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. But we should not get bogged down in fear, worried that we have said a wrong word or thought a wrong thought and committed it.

This sin is a complete rejection of Christ and the Spirit’s work, not a temporary slip such as Peter experienced when he denied Jesus three times before being restored to repentance. And as C. E. B. Cranfield said, “We can say with absolute confidence to anyone who is overwhelmed by the fear that he has committed this sin, that the fact that he is so troubled is itself a sure proof that he has not committed it” (as quoted in William Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark).

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Focus on the Few to Reach the Many

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. ~ Mark 3:13-15 (CSB)

Jesus dealt with large crowds with love and compassion, but his main focus wasn’t on the crowds. Jesus’ aim was to grow his kingdom people, faithful to him, and he has been doing that throughout the ages as countless millions have come to follow him. But he started this endeavor by devoting the majority of his attention to twelve men (one of which would betray him, so eleven faithful men).

Now this might seem unusual. If you want to reach the crowds, wouldn’t you focus on the crowds? That might seem like the way to go, but from what we see with Jesus, the key to reaching many is to focus most intensely on a few.

Jesus worked to train up eleven who, after three years, he would release to go into the world and make more disciples of him.

In The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman wrote:

“[Jesus’] concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus started to gather these men before he ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public…

“Jesus devoted most of his remaining life on earth to these few disciples. He literally staked his whole ministry on them.”

The principle in working with a few to reach a multitude is the principle of multiplication. If a few faithful persons spend time sharing Jesus with and training a few faithful persons who then go and spend time sharing Jesus with and training a few faithful persons, the results begin to compound.

What if one person were to invest three years in just three other people, teaching them about Jesus and his word and how to live faithful to Jesus, and then send each of these out to do the same while he/she picks up three more people to invest in?

At the start, you would have just one trained disciple-maker. At the end of year 3, you would have four. At the end of year 6, you would have sixteen; and at the end of year 9, fifty-two. These numbers don’t seem impressive, but if you keep going, after 21 years, you have 16,384; and after 27 years, 262,144; and then in 48 years that number jumps to 4.29 billion. (1)

In other words, a few devoted to reaching a few can change the world in a generation.

Paul understood this as well, which is why he told Timothy as a church leader to entrust the gospel “to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Real life rarely works according to formulas, and no person can force another to be saved. Salvation through Jesus comes only by the work of the Holy Spirit through the message of the gospel. But if we set our sights on multiplication, like Jesus and Paul, to train up a few who can train up a few who can train up a few, then we may very well see the gospel spread in massive ways.

(1) Assuming I have my numbers right…

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Discipleship 01 (Coleman)

Image taken and modified from pixabay.com

Sunday 06.18.17 (life lessons)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 and a few of the many proverbs of Solomon as we consider the life lessons we learn from a well-traveled king. We will also be honoring the men in the church with a special gift for Father’s Day. We hope to see you there!

Sunday Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
**No Evening Service, enjoy the holiday!

Sermon Notes
Life Lessons from a Well-Traveled King ~ Ecclesiastes 7:1-14

  • žCharacter matters supremely, therefore seek to finish your life with a good name (7:1-7)
  • žWhat is future is better than what is past, therefore keep your faith forward-looking (7:1, 8-10)
  • žWisdom offers more to life, therefore devote yourself to grow in wisdom (7:11-14)