Good Reads 04.12.17 (on: pain, identity, resurrection, and more!)

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

On the church and our struggles in life: Brother, I Wish I Would Have Known by Russell Meek

I never told anyone about my addiction. I went to class, talked about Jesus, attended church—all the things seminary students are supposed to do. And no one was ever the wiser, at least not to my knowledge. I often wondered when God was going to kill me for making such a mockery of his name. But instead of that, he woke me up one morning with a life-changing thought. (click here to read more)

On our identity and our pain: You Are Not Your Pain by Kaitlin Miller

You may have had a friend desert you, but you are not deserted. You may have had a spouse abandon you, but you are not abandoned. You may have failed, but you are not a failure. You may have never known your father, but you are not fatherless. Life may be crushing, but you are not crushed.

The only way to take back our true, God-given identity, with unshakable confidence, is to look to the One who gives us our identity in the first place. (click here to read more)

And two about Easter and the resurrection:

Nine Glorious Things the Resurrection Means by Stephen Altrogge

The Resurrection Means The Penalty For Sin Has Been Paid

The wages of sin is death. Those who love wickedness must face the just consequences of their choice. Our rightly deserved punishment is both spiritual and physical death. When Jesus rose from the dead, it demonstrated that the penalty for sin – death – had been satisfied. Nothing else was needed, the price was paid, all had been accomplished. (click here to read more)

Radical Effects of the Resurrection by John Piper

I mean, be a Christian and you’ll get your act together. Be a Christian and life will come together. It will go better for you. That’s generally the way I think we talk, we evangelize. So what’s wrong with the Apostle Paul? What’s wrong with him? If there is no resurrection, in other words, if this is it, if this is it, we’re fools. What are we doing, living like we’re living? We are of all men most to be pitied. What is wrong with Paul? Why does he say things like that? It’s not a good sell for Christianity. His answer, I believe, is that, for Paul, for the Apostle following in the steps of his Master, the Christian life was a life of freely chosen risk and suffering in the cause of love for other people in great need. (click here to read more)

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When Prayer Is Not the Answer

The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore, the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies.” ~ Joshua 7:10-12

After the unusual victory that God granted Israel in their battle against Jericho, Joshua led them to battle against Ai, which had a much smaller population and should have been easy to defeat. Yet, the army fled from the men of Ai because God was not with them in the fight.

In the face of this defeat, Joshua went before the ark of the covenant and cried out to God. God’s response was to tell Joshua to stop praying and go deal with the sin in the camp. You see, a man named Achan had disobeyed the command of God and taken items from Jericho for his own tent which God had told the people to destroy. Achan’s greed brought sin into the camp, and this sin in turn caused God to turn against the army in battle.

The solution was to deal with the sin and purify the camp.

This story also reminds us that sometimes prayer is not the answer. Yes, as God’s people through faith in Jesus, we are to be regularly devoted to prayer. Talking with God should be a daily part of our relationship with God. Yet, there are things in our lives that can hinder this relationship. Consider the following:

In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus taught that if you’re about to enter into an act of worship, such as offering a gift at the altar, but in the process remember that someone has been offended by you, then you are to leave your gift, go and seek reconciliation, and then come back and offer the gift. Paul warned in Ephesians 4:30, in a list of sins to avoid and of righteous behaviors to embrace, that we’re to be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit within us. Our sins, after we come to Jesus, may not again separate us from God but they can strain our relationship with God. Thus, we should be quick to confess and repent (1 John 1:9).

Then, in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter warned husbands to honor their wives and see them as fellow heirs of the grace of life “so that your prayers may not be hindered.” God cares deeply for his daughters and he has entrusted them to us who are their husbands. If I mistreat my wife, God’s precious daughter, then I shouldn’t expect that God would want to hear my prayers.

The answer in each of these situations isn’t to pray more, nor is the answer to ignore the situation. The answer is to deal with the sin present in our lives that hinders our relationship with God and others. Then, with renewed fellowship through the continued grace of God, we find restoration in our prayer life and in the tasks that God has called us to.

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

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Sunday 04.09.17 (finished!)

This Sunday, we come to the week before Easter and we come to John 19:17-42 in our sermon series, where we see Jesus’ death on the cross. Of all the things that Jesus accomplished and showed us through his death, the greatest are found in the words: “It is finished!” We will see how Jesus completed everything needed that we might be saved by faith in him. We hope to see you there!

Sunday Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God Study on God’s transcendence and immanence

Sermon Notes
Finished! ~ John 19:17-42

  • The death of Jesus on the cross:
    • Fulfilled Scripture (19:18, 23-24, 31-33, 38-42)
    • Proclaimed his greatness (19:17-22)
    • Displayed his love and care (19:25-27)
    • Completed our salvation (19:30)
  • Therefore:
    • We have only to look to Jesus and must look to him alone for full forgiveness (Hebrews 10:14)
    • We no longer have to fear judgment or wrath (1 John 4:9, 15-18)
    • We are free to love and serve God and others (Hebrews 9:14, 1 John 4:7-12)
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An Unusual Victory

On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout for the Lord has given you the city.” … So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat…” ~Joshua 6:15-16, 20 (ESV)

Ancient cities were surrounded by strong walls to help guard against an attacking foe. Jericho was no different. As Joshua led the people into the Promised Land and went up against Jericho, they would face the difficulty of the walls.

Yet, God had a plan for them: They would attack the wall by marching around the city and shouting. It was quite the unusual strategy. For six days, the army marched around the city one time each day. On the seventh day, they marched seven times around the city, then trumpets blared, the people shouted, and the walls fell flat. This allowed the army to storm the city and capture it with this obstacle no longer in the way.

Throughout the Bible, God fought for his people in unusual ways. In Exodus, he went against Egypt with a series of ten plagues. In Joshua, the walls fell. In Judges, he whittled a large army to just three hundred men.

The point of all of these acts and more were to show our dependence on God and his strength.

Next week we celebrate the greatest and most unusual victory of them all: Jesus’ death on the cross. The death of Jesus seemed to be anything but a victory. After three years of teaching, he was arrested and crucified with criminals in a plan to silence him and his followers. For a moment, at least, it seemed to work.

Yet, three days later, Jesus came from his grave, never to return. What seemed like weakness and foolishness turned into great strength. Jesus bore the sins of his followers so that we would not have to face the wrath of God. He kicked down the door of the grave so that we would have hope of life eternal. Jesus’ death and resurrection were God’s victory over our sin.

So, we are thankful for the God who fights for us, for the God who wins victories in unusual ways, but ways that show his greatness and his love for his people.

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

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Good Reads 04.05.17 (on: our dreams, marriage, temptations, and more!)

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

On the greatness of Jesus: Jesus Is Better Than Our Dreams by Whitney Putnum

The pursuit of Him, the quiet moments with Abba, the breathing prayers throughout the day, the rest and peace bestowed by the Sustainer. The presence of God and the magnificence of slowing down to recognize God in every detail: every smile, laugh, tear, and hug. Every giggle from a tickle fight with a toddler to slight gaze between husband and wife. God with us.  God is better.

The pursuit of Him alone is better.

In my analysis, I believe what happens is many of us taste God and His goodness; His passion begins to burn and fuel the injustices we see around us, and we begin to dream, fight and be the change. We sense the call to go and make disciples. We gather the troops and we storm the Bastille knowing that justice is God’s heart and we will fight! We will fight to the death! Storm the gates! (click here to read more)

On God, faith, and struggles: Trust God Through Your Tears by Michael Goff

There are times in life when the shadows where Peter wept become the very same shadows where we weep. Those shadows are filled with denial, fear, anger, and the abandonment of desire to relate with God. Having received Luke’s diagnosis, I was devastated. Thoughts raced and anger raged, How could this be? God, do you care? I have always consulted you — always! We waited ten years before we had our first child. We did it right, and this is what we get?

And more than any other pain, I feared what Luke would endure. What kind of life will he have?

In the midst of my palpable anger, there was a real awareness of how we were supposed to feel and what we were supposed to say. We knew God promised to be with us always, yet in those days, that reality felt distant and remote. I experienced the throes of a battle inside of me between the gentle reminders of the Holy Spirit and the sinful nature of my heart toward God. (click here to read more)

On marriages and Easter: Why Easter Matters to Marriage by Barbara Rainey

Christian couples must remember: Christ died specifically for you. And Christ died specifically for your spouse. While you likely both believe this, understand that this means Christ has covered the sins in your marriage. Your sins. Your spouse’s sins.

If your sins are covered in Jesus’ forgiveness, the payment has been settled.

Christ has taken on the suffering for your sins. And it is finished. So let the resentful, unforgiving wife forgive. Let the angry, unforgiving husband relent. (click here to read more)

On temptation and youth: The Particular Temptations of Young Men by Tim Challies

I love to spend time with young men, to counsel them, and to assure them that this time in their lives has great significance. As we speak, I find a number of common temptations they face while passing through their teens and twenties.

Purposelessness. Purposelessness may be the foremost struggle for young men, the one that feeds so many other vices. I don’t think we, as older Christians, have done well in communicating the purpose of these years. I don’t think we have helped young men see their importance in laying a solid or shaky foundation for the years to come. In the years of youth it may be difficult for young men to know their purpose, to know how best to fill their time. (click here to read more)

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God is for God

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. ~ Joshua 5:13-15

Before the battle with Jericho, we find this brief and seemingly cryptic account in the book of Joshua. Joshua encountered a man with a drawn sword and asked, “Are you for us or our enemies.” This would seem to us to be a reasonable question. The man answered, “No,” and identifies himself as the commander of the Lord’s army.

On first glance, we might think that this is an angel that God sent to fight the spiritual battle alongside the physical (think 2 Kings 6, for example). But Joshua worshiped at the commander’s feet, the commander did not tell him to stop, and then he told Joshua to remove his shoes because he was on holy ground, much like the voice of God said to Moses from the burning bush. It would seem then that this commander was a Christophany, an appearance of the Son of God in physical form before the birth of Jesus.

As such, the commander’s answer shows us a truth we find throughout scripture: God is for God. In The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer wrote, “The Christian religion has to do with God and man, but its focal point is God, not man.” Everything that God does is for his own self-exaltation and glory.

And that is a good thing. God is not engaged in an evil pride as he acts to exalt himself. No, we know that God is the highest good and the greatest being. If there was something or someone higher or greater than God, then that person or thing by nature would be God instead. But since God is the highest good, then there is nothing that can be better than the exaltation of God, by himself or by us.

When you factor in the many perfect attributes of God’s being, we find that this benefits us as well. Because God is the greatest good, he delights in doing good to others for his glory.

We see this in Ezekiel 36. There, God promises salvation to his people. He speaks of cleansing them from sin and idolatry, of giving them a new heart and spirit, of putting his own Spirit within them, of delivering them, of being their God, and of blessing them greatly (36:24-38). Yet, this is prefaced by God declaring, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (36:22-23).

So it is with our salvation in Jesus: God gives us many wonderful things—forgiveness of sin, adoption into his family, joy and peace, a new heart, his Spirit within, and an eternal and glorious inheritance. We are caught up in his abundant love and goodness in a way none of us deserve. Yet, ultimately he saves us that we might glorify him (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Let us then rejoice over the goodness of God and the great truth that God is for God.

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

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God’s Provision

While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And they day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. ~ Joshua 5:10-12

When Moses had led the people out of Egypt, it wasn’t long that they began to grumble and complain. Though they had seen the mighty works of God manifested in the ten plagues, the pillars of cloud by day and fire by night, and the crossing of the Red Sea, they feared starvation when they grew hungry.

In response, God provided in the form of bread from heaven, known as manna. With this bread, God miraculously sustained the people for 40-years as they wandered through the wilderness. (Exodus 16)

When the disobedient generation died and a new generation stood on the doorstep of the Promised Land, the provision of the manna ceased. This was not the end of the Lord’s provision for his people, rather it was the beginning of something better. The bread from heaven was only meant to be temporary. In fact, if the older generation had not rebelled against God in the wilderness, it wouldn’t have even lasted for 40 years.

God, before the exodus from Egypt, made a greater promise. He told Moses, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Now the people were ready to enter that land, so they ate of its fruit and the manna ceased.

God’s promises to us work the same way. He provides many good things for us, in fact all the goodness we see in our lives comes as a gift of God (James 1:17). But even the best things we receive in this life pale in comparison to the glories to come in eternity. He has promised us the inheritance of unspeakable riches in glory with Jesus our Savior-King.

So, we trust that God does provide for his children, and if God ever pulls back one provision it’s because the time has come for a better gift.

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

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