Good Reads 03.01.17 (on: life’s purpose, grace, and more!)

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

On our purpose in life: Bring Order from Chaos by Tim Challies

But the preaching and receiving of the gospel is not the whole commission. Those who believe must also be trained to obey. They enter the Christian life in a state of moral disorder, with deeply-embedded habits of unholiness. They are to apply law and gospel to their lives until they become renewed, re-ordered in their thoughts, their desires, their deeds.

All the while, they are to live ordinary lives, establish ordinary families, do ordinary jobs. They are to carry out the ordinary chaos-to-order tasks that are the stuff of life. Where they see chaos, and especially moral chaos, they see evidence of depravity. Where they see order, and especially moral order, they see evidence of grace. (click here to read more)

On God’s grace in our lives at the proper time: God’s Grace Has a Timing of His Own by Jared C. Wilson

But Noah was remembering God too. How could he not? All other supports were gone, literally wiped away and overwhelmed by the earth-consuming deluge from heaven. Noah and his family weren’t steering that boat, far as we know. And as big as it was, it was nevertheless compared to the sea-covered planet a mere speck in the vast expanse of the raging torrent, like a cork bobbing about in the Pacific Ocean. God certainly becomes the believer’s only hope precisely when he has become the believer’s only hope.

When the storms are rising in your life, aren’t you closest to God then? Or do you fail to remember God even then and give in to despair and hopelessness and joylessness? (click here to read more)

On marriage and intimacy: Marital Intimacy Is More Than Sex by Josh Squires

The second type of intimacy is recreational intimacy. Recreational intimacy is the bond that is created and strengthened by doing activities together. These activities can range vastly from the mild (doing a crossword together) to the extreme (hang-gliding), but it is the mutual enjoyment of them that fuels a couple’s connection. This sort of intimacy tends to be its highest early in the relationship when both partners are willing to do and try things outside of their comfort zone just to have the opportunity to be in each other’s presence.

As presence becomes more the norm than the exception, motivation to be engaged in activities that are uninteresting to one partner may dwindle. Furthermore, as life gets more complicated with jobs, kids, house, and much more, the opportunities to engage in recreational activity plummet and the cost can skyrocket. Nonetheless, God has made us to be those who enjoy life’s activities — especially with our spouses (Ecclesiastes 9:9) — and our marriages need the ability to laugh and play together if they are to endure the times of tears and toil. (click here to read more)

On small groups and accountability: The Dark Side of Small Groups by Greg Morse

(In the fashion of The Screwtape Letters)

This group consists of scarecrows for target practice — of which we want your man to become. They are delicious men of the “maybe tomorrow” and “most definitely next week.” Nephew, do not fear these men. Despite what they believe to be their good intentions, they unwittingly work for us.

They actually operate by an unspoken pact not to pursue the Enemy (in real time and space) nor to take up arms in any actual battle. This invisible pact reveals itself whenever they use one of our favorite words: legalist.

Notice your man — there he sits. One after another the others confess their falls — same-old-same-old. As Job’s friends counsel each other, notice how your man sits as if castrated. He hears resolves and advice — none of it necessarily false — but he can’t quite discern why all of it reeks of such weakness and frailty. (click here to read more)

Sunday 01.29.17 (the church and her foundation)

This Sunday we’ll continue our study through Titus, taking a look at Titus 2:11-14, “The Church and Her Foundation.” Then on Sunday evening, we’ll continue our Attributes of God study by considering God’s infinite and eternal nature. 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
The Church and Her Foundation ~ Titus 2:11-14

  • Understanding grace
    • Grace is the undeserved favor and goodness of God given freely to us because of Jesus (John 1:14-17)
    • Grace brings us salvation (2:11)
    • Grace brings us sanctification–the transformation to be and live as God’s holy people and children (2:12-14)
  • Experiencing grace
    • Have faith (Ephesians 2:4-9)
    • Devote yourself to grow more in grace (2 Peter 3:18)
    • Serve others with your abilities and resources (Romans 12:6, Ephesians 4:7, 1 Peter 4:10)

titus

Good Reads 01.03.17 (on: Bible reading, praying for your children, and more!)

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

On Bible reading: 5 Ways Daily Bible Reading Impacts Your Life by Kelly Needham

Reading the Bible is like stepping into God’s house. Everything is there because He desires for it to be there. If it is in the Word of God, which lasts forever, then it must be important to Him. As I read Leviticus, I am confronted with the reality that there is a whole book dedicated to different types of sin and their corresponding offerings. If it was important to God for this to be in His Word, I must conclude that our sin really, really, really bothers Him and that all sin, no matter how small, must be paid for.

The passages in the Bible that are the most confusing and most surprising actually tell me a lot about God. Instead of skipping or avoiding things you don’t understand, ask God why that particular passage is important to Him. Ask what it tells you about His character. Grow to love Him for who He is, not who you want Him to be. (click here to read more)

On New Year’s goals: 23 Realistic Goals for 2017 by Jeremy Howard

13. Pray over your children.
Have you ever taken a moment to walk into your child’s room while she was sleeping and pray for her? If you have, you know how special that is. Do it more often. Pray that your child(ren) will be filled with wisdom from above. If your children are older — or even out of the house — they need your prayers even more. (click here to read more)

On church and the decisions you make in life: Do You Make Life Decisions with Your Church in Mind by Joshua Hedger

Do you consider the church in the decisions of your life? Do you ask yourself how your job change could affect your church? Do you consider how your moving would impact the work of God through your church in your community? Do you seek insight into how your decision to leave or stay at your local church would affect the advancement of the gospel?

Chances are, like so many of us so many times, you don’t think about the church very much in these decisions. “If decision A was better for me, then it must be the right decision.” I didn’t pay much attention to how that decision impacted the rest of the church. But what we see in Paul’s thought process here was a communal and missional mindset in his decision process. He thought about how his decision would affect the community of Christians (the church) and the mission (the advancement of the gospel). (click here to read more)

On “Amazing Grace” and the new year: God Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far by Tony Reinke

At the start of every year, Newton set aside a day to reflect on life. He was at one time a hardened sailor in the slave trade. He was broken and humbled and redeemed. And he was aware of the ongoing grace upholding his life. And his future was completely in the hands of God’s mercy, too. Like David, Newton saw grace in 3D — past, present, and future. (click here to read more)

 

Good Reads 11.09.16 (on: burnout, parenting, joy, and more!)

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

On parenting: Mom as Unsung Disciple-Maker by Sam Bierig

Ultimately, you are one of the many building blocks that God is using to teach your children their dependence upon him for everything.  You may even be the most important building block in that particular foundation.  They are helpless outside the help of the Lord.  And you are the hinge point, daily, that stands between that knowledge of God and your child.  You’re a living parable of the care and sustenance we have in the Father as well as a parable of our utter reliance upon him.  So, when you repeat to your baby one hundred times over, “Here comes the airplane!” you are evangelizing and discipling.  You are teaching them the fear of the Lord.  Just like Israel, it’s not really about the bread; it’s about God. (click here to read more)

On spiritual mentoring: Mentoring Others by Jerry O’Neill

In Titus 2, Paul instructs his pastor friend to teach what accords with sound doctrine. Titus was to teach sound doctrine (chap. 1), but he was also to teach what accords with sound doctrine, or what is fitting for sound doctrine. The context makes clear that what accords with sound doctrine is sanctified, reverent, godly love and wisdom. Even the best of classrooms can’t teach these things. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul says that Timothy had followed his teaching, his conduct, his aim in life, his faith, his patience, his love, his steadfastness, his persecutions, and the sufferings that happened to him. Timothy was well mentored. Paul’s discipling of Timothy certainly involved doctrine (listed first), but it included things that can best be fostered outside the pulpit (click here to read more)

On love, the Bible, and SSA: Love Your Neighbor Enough to Speak the Truth: A Response to Jen Hatmaker by Rosaria Butterfield

To be clear, I was not converted out of homosexuality. I was converted out of unbelief. I didn’t swap out a lifestyle. I died to a life I loved. Conversion to Christ made me face the question squarely: did my lesbianism reflect who I am (which is what I believed in 1999), or did my lesbianism distort who I am through the fall of Adam? I learned through conversion that when something feels right and good and real and necessary—but stands against God’s Word—this reveals the particular way Adam’s sin marks my life. Our sin natures deceive us. Sin’s deception isn’t just “out there”; it’s also deep in the caverns of our hearts.  (click here to read more)

On battling burnout: Grace-Paced Living in a Burnout Culture by David Murray

The motivating power of grace is missing. Take a look at five people printing Bibles on the same assembly line. Mr. Dollar is asking, “How can I make more money?” Mrs. Ambitious is asking, “How can I get that promotion?” Mr. Pleaser is asking, “How can I make my boss happy?” Mr. Selfish is asking, “How can I get personal satisfaction in my job?” They all look and feel miserable. Then we bump into Mrs. Grace, who’s asking, “In view of God’s amazing grace to me in Christ, how can I serve God and others here?”

From the outside, it looks like all five are doing the same work; but their internal motivations all differ. The first four are striving, stressed, anxious, fearful, and exhausted. But Mrs. Grace is so energized by her gratitude for grace that her job satisfies and stimulates her rather than draining and dredging her (1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Timothy 2:1). Where grace is not fueling from the inside out, a person will be burning from the inside out. (click here to read more)

And finally, some wisdom about church and joy (image from themajestysmen.com Instagram feed)

joy

 

Run Boldly to His Throne (a meditation on the God of grace who understands our weaknesses)

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. ~Hebrews 4:15-16

It is easy for us to see God in his great majesty as far above, far off, and disconnected. So we struggle trying to reach up and search for a God we fear doesn’t understand. Yet God, as he describes himself in the Bible, is one who reaches down to us.

Several chapters in Hebrews speak of Jesus as our great High Priest. Priests were those who stood between God and people. On behalf of the people they would make appeals and sacrifices to God. On behalf of God they would show his glory and holiness to the people. The high priest was the one able to approach nearest to the full presence of God as he manifested his glory in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle and the temple. But this the high priest could only do once a year and with much ritual. If he failed at any of it, he would be struck dead.

Jesus as the great and perfect High Priest is the God-man who stands uniquely between God and people. He offered himself in a single sacrifice to atone for the sins of all his people so we might stand perfectly pure before God (Hebrews 9:11-15).

More than this, in God the Son becoming one of us, he went toe-to-toe with the same kinds of temptations we face day in and day out. But in the struggle where we failed, Jesus stood victorious. While his perfect obedience was necessary for us to have hope and life, he does not use it to gloat over or shame our weaknesses, struggles, or failures.

Instead, he understands our weaknesses.

Far from a far off God, God draws near. He gets us, he understands us. In Psalm 8 David pondered the majesty and greatness of God and cried out, “What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human begins that you should care for them?” And in Psalm 103: “For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.”

Knowing this about God is to inspire confidence. Not that we should struggle and fail and have no concern about our sin. Rather that we should struggle and run headlong into the arms of grace.

This is why Hebrews tells us we should come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. Knowing that he knows us and understands us, knowing what he has offered us in Jesus, and therefore knowing his great love for us. When we struggle we run to God and there we find mercy, grace, and help—the very things we need in the moments of temptation.

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

Who are you? (a meditation on what it means to be in Christ)

This post was originally slated for this past Friday, I am putting it up today. ~ Pastor Mike

In him… ~Ephesians 1:11

Your English teacher may have despised run on sentences; Paul, on the other hand, gave us a beautiful picture of the gospel via a run on. Though our English translations of the Bible will tidy it up for our grammatical senses with periods and paragraph breaks, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence where Paul poured out the beauty and grace of what God has done for us through Jesus.

IdentityElsewhere, Paul wrote about us being a new creation just as Jesus spoke of us being born again (2 Corinthians 5:17, John 3:1-16). These things are about our personhood and identity. In the beginning God created all of humanity, male and female, in his image. Though we have marred and corrupted that image through sin, we still possess it. Coming to Jesus by grace through faith restores that image. At once God has created us new, though over time he buffs out the stains and corrosion.

In Jesus we are new creations and new people, we have new lives and new purposes. It’s a new identity but fully and completely bound to Jesus for the glory of God.

At least twelve times (by my quick count), Paul wrote some variation of the phrase in him or through him—some preposition connected to Jesus. This defines us if we are God’s people. We are those in Jesus. Three times Paul wrote, “To the praise of his glory” or “To the praise of his glorious grace.” This is our purpose of being in him. We are made to praise him for his glory while basking in his grace.

Opening his sentence, Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” I’ve written previously about the difficulty of translating blessed into English. When it comes to us blessing God, it would have to do with giving God joy through our praise of him. When it comes to God blessing us, it would have to do with God bringing us into a joyful sense of being through showering us with his goodness and love.

And what does it mean to be blessed by God in Jesus for his glory, according to Paul?

It means that we are chosen to be holy and blameless. What a wonderful beauty. The picture of who we are in sin is not pretty (just read 2:1-3). We are dirty, corrupt, hopeless, and helpless. We are deserving death and God’s wrath. We are his enemies, allies with a great cosmic evil. Yet when it comes to our lives in Jesus, God does not choose us because we are good or because we have made ourselves good. He chooses us in order to make us holy and blameless. This is why it is grace through faith not of our works but all of his works. We are fundamentally, radically new persons. And when the world or Satan tries to tell us otherwise, we can say, “I’m in Christ.”

It means that God has adopted us into his family. In sin, we “were by nature children of wrath” (2:3). In Jesus we are adopted sons and daughters (1:5). Not only a new identity, but a new family with its rich inheritance (more on that in a moment).

It means that God has redeemed us and forgiven us. The blood of Jesus on the cross has purchased us out of our dismal estate of sin. It has paid back every debt we owed God all the times we rejected him and his goodness. It has absorbed judgment and wrath. It has wiped the slate clean and given us a fresh start that never again becomes clouded. No more do sin and failure define us. In moments of weakness we still stumble and fail, but by his grace God lifts us up and sets us back on our feet. He disciplines but he no longer punishes. We experience his love even when the discipline seems painful, and we are infinitely removed from his wrath.

It means that we have an inheritance. This comes from being a part of the family. There are many things of eternity that we only catch brief glimpses of through scripture. Whatever the mysteries, one part of this inheritance is clear: Jesus creates a new heaven and new earth, and we get to rule alongside Jesus as kings and queens over the new creation. In the beginning we were made rulers of creation, subject only to God. In sin, we subjected ourselves under sin and Satan. In Jesus, we are set free and subject again only to God. When Jesus restores, we get the fullness of a good creation once more with him.

Finally (at least for Paul’s run on sentence) it means that we have received the Holy Spirit within. What Jesus promised in John 14 and 16, he made a reality in Acts 2. Ever since, every follower of Jesus receives the fullness of the Holy Spirit when they turn from sin and turn to Jesus. The Spirit within us is a seal of promise and a guarantee. We indeed do belong to God and his family through Jesus, and he indeed will give us a great inheritance from his love.

All of these things now define us.

Who are you? If you are in Jesus, you are one infinitely loved by a God who has cleansed you, forgiven you, redeemed you, made you a part of his family, and given you great promises. And he has done all of this without any begrudging feelings. After all, he is the one who has lavished upon us the wonderful riches of his grace (1:7-8).

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

Good Reads 05.13.15 (on parenting, the future, bible reading, and more)

Here is a collection of good reads over this past week from different blogs:

On parenting: Parenting in the Valley of Dry Bones by Kim Ransleben (click here)

There are moments as a parent when you realize you’ve done a lot less clapping for your kids than you have disciplining them for sin. It can feel like all you do is battle them between errands and events, pick-ups and drop-offs, and much of what you battle lies where you cannot reach, inside hearts which you feel so helpless to change. How can we enjoy our children in those moments when we can’t even think of them without fear of what might come?

On needing to be reminded constantly of the gospel: The Ministry of Reminder by Nick Jones (click here)

If the gospel is an ocean, then a trip to the beach does not suffice. We must continually lead our people back to the water. Each time with different gear, but back to the same ocean. We lead them back with goggles. With glass-bottom boats. With scuba gear. With depth finders. With submarines. We keep leading them back to see what they’ve already seen, to experience what they’ve already experienced, in the hopes that each trip will renew and invigorate their love for their live-giving savior.

Another on parenting and not being able to get back lost time: The Tragedy of Time by Tim Challies (click here)

This is the tragedy of time. Time is one of the few resources in this world that is given in finite measure. I can always make more money—I just need to work harder or work longer or invest better, and more money will come. But there is not a single thing I can do to gain more time. It ticks by and is gone forever.

On the past not defining your future: A Grace-Defined Future by Adam McClendon (click here)

The future for God’s children is defined by the promises of God and not their past. Such a future is exponentially greater than the pain of their past. So, the people of God do not have to carry around their pain.

On Bible reading and spiritual growth: I Read By Bible… And You Won’t Believe What Happened Next by Stephen Altrogge (click here)

When Jesus returns, we will be sanctified in “the twinkling of an eye”. However, while we live on the earth, God works at a much slower pace. God causes us to grow in the same way a tree grows – slow and sure, almost imperceptible at times. God doesn’t change us spectacularly, but he does change us steadily. You can have confidence that he’ll continue to change you.