Sunday 03.04.18 (the great I Am)

This Sunday we’ll continue our journey through Exodus with a look at Exodus 3 and how the most important thing in life is to live daily in the presence of God, the Great I Am. On Sunday evening, we’ll continue our video study on fighting for joy. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@230pm Worship at Adrian Manor Nursing Home
@6pm Video Study in youth room

Sermon Notes
The Great I Am ~ Exodus 3

The sermon in one sentence: What matters most in life is the presence of God; and in rescuing us from sin, our all-sufficient God grants us the blessing of his constant presence.

  • Know who you are: A slave to sin, in need of rescue
  • Know who God is: The all-sufficient One who rescues us in power
  • Know how to live daily in God’s presence
    • To experience God’s presence (Ephesians 5:18-21):
    • Be in God’s word, which is the Spirit-inspired voice of God to us (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Peter 1:19-21)
    • Gather for corporate worship where we sing to God and of God to each other
    • Pray and pray thankfully
    • Serve others

Songs for Worship
Holy Ground
I Stand Amazed
10,000 Reasons
Breathe On Me

Exodus: The Rescue

This Sunday (02.18), we’ll be starting a new sermon series through the book of Exodus, the second book of the Bible. So, why Exodus? Isn’t that one of those long Old Testament books about ancient history? Yes, but it’s also so much more.

As with every book of the Bible, it’s God’s very voice to us and profitable for our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, Paul even briefly mentioned some of the events in the book and then said in 10:6, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (ESV).

Old Testament or New, every page of Scripture is exceedingly relevant to our faith and lives today. And this is how:

It’s the story of God. Whether you’re thinking about how God hears the cries of his people, or the calling of Moses, or the plagues and crossing the Red Sea, or camping at Mt. Sinai, or the proper worship of God, every account recorded in Exodus tells us of God and his glory. He is the One who rescues and delivers his people. He is the One forever faithful. He is the One truly worthy of our reverence and awe. And all of this points forward to his greatest rescue plan of all–bringing us out of our enslavement of sin by giving us Jesus.

It’s the story of those who lived it. Moses. Aaron. Israel. The lives of many men and women, young and old are laid out for us. We read of their highs and lows, their acts of faithful obedience and their acts of faithless rebellion. We read of these, not simply as ancient figures, but as our ancestors in the faith. These are real men and women, just like us, who lived and experienced the events described. What they did well is an encouragement for us as we seek to follow faithfully after Jesus, and what they did poorly is a warning to us.

It’s our story. Just like ancient Israel, enslaved in Egypt, we need rescue. Each of live enslaved to sin, unable to rescue and free ourselves, and in need of someone to pull us out of our darkness. We need Jesus. And when we are rescued by him, his presence through the Holy Spirit dwells with us, guiding us through the ups and downs of the wilderness until we reach the Promised Land of eternity where true joys and unfading glories await. Reading Exodus in light of the New Testament reminds us of these things.

So, join us this Sunday as we begin our journey! And you can prepare by reading Exodus 1&2 this week…

Exodus

Image used and modified with permission from pixabay.com

Prayer and Boldness

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4:31 (ESV)

What do you do when you feel threatened? We hear about the fight or flight response. When someone threatens us, hurts us, or makes us insecure we either boil into a rage, ready to defend ourselves, or we withdraw and seek to distance ourselves.

Peter and John had already experienced this as part of Jesus’ Twelve. When Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested, and crucified, the other nine of the party scattered (flight). John stuck around but mostly kept out of the way (a type of flight) whereas Peter followed close but denied, even vehemently, that he knew Jesus (a type of fight).

Yet, something changed after the resurrection. Jesus commissioned them (and us) to take his gospel into all the world, even if it meant facing great dangers. And to empower us, Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to be with us, strengthen us, and direct us.

So, in Acts 4, Peter and John went about healing people and proclaiming Jesus. This time, they were the ones arrested and taken before the leaders. There they were threatened and told to stop, or else worse would come to them.

After their release, however, they went back and joined their fellow followers of Jesus. They told of what had happened, and together they prayed. This time, though, there would be no fight to protect themselves and there would be no flight to escape. They prayed, the Holy Spirit strengthened them further, and they went out and faithfully spoke about Jesus, emboldened.

This is what prayer does when we’re threatened. When we feel tempted to fight or to flee, prayer takes the focus off our own anger, hurt, or fear. Prayer reminds us that we are helpless to be faithful in our own power. Prayer focuses and connects us to the God of all strength and grace. And God will answer those prayers for spiritual boldness because he loves us and he has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us away from fear.

Thus, we can be faithful to Jesus and we can say along with Peter and John, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard!” (Acts 4:20)

Good Reads 01.25.18 (on: purpose, the Holy Spirit, and more!)

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

On hope, fear, and the future: Most of Life Is Waiting by Jani Ortlund

Hold your fears loosely. Bring them to God and offer them to him with open hands, asking him to replace your fears with hope. Let go of your fears and hold on to him. As we leave our fears with him, he will quiet us by his love (Zephaniah 3:17), helping us to ask ourselves, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

And what does that hope look like? It looks as satisfying and secure as God himself, because real hope is a person. Paul tells us in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” When we hold on to the God of hope, what we have then is not a psychological uplift, but God himself as our ally for every doubt and danger. (click here to read more)

On giving: How Much Money Am I Supposed to Give Away by Tim Challies

When I say we are to give enough that it matters, I mean that we should give enough that it makes a difference to our lives, to our lifestyles. Erwin Lutzer says it well: “Those who give much without sacrifice are reckoned as having given little.” We are meant to give enough that there are things we cannot do and cannot have because of our dedication to the Lord’s work. Let me be clear that I do not mean that we should do without food or we should do without paying our bills. The sacrifice is to be ours and not the bank’s or the landlord’s. Giving “as he may prosper” is not calling us to give beyond the ways the Lord has prospered us. There are theological traditions that insist that going into debt in order to “plant a seed” will ensure God’s provision in return. God may choose to do that, but wisdom dictates that we ensure that we are able to pay our bills and feed our children. We are to be generous, but we are to be wise as well. (click here to read more)

On the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit Is not an It by Jared Wilson

The Holy Spirit cannot be pumped and scooped. He cannot be slung around, gathered up, or dispensed. He’s not pixie dust. In this sense, there is no such thing as the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is not a thing at all, but the very presence of the personal God himself—with us, in us, and around us.

Yes, the Holy Spirit’s power is something we really do experience, really do have access to, really can be more aware of or less—that is what this entire book is about, after all—but we never, in any sense whatsoever, can think of ourselves as controlling the Holy Spirit. You may as well try controlling ten thousand hurricanes at once. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). (click here to read more)

On purpose: The Surprising Truth About Finding Your Purpose by Mark Altrogge

You know what I love about this verse? It doesn’t talk about me finding MY purpose for my life. It talks about the Lord fulfilling HIS purpose for my life. This is great news. The Lord has a purpose for every single person who has believed in Jesus and called upon him to save them. God isn’t wondering what to do with me; he knows exactly what he is going to do. He has plans for the life of every one of his children. (click here to read more)

Truly Blessed

We’ve been on a break from updating the website for a couple of weeks. We hope to be back regularly starting today. Our Bible reading plan for 2018 is a slower plan (typically a chapter a day) designed to take us through most of the New Testament and half the psalms at a pace to allow for more thought and reflection. Online devotional thoughts will draw from that day’s passage in the Bible Reading Calendar (you can download the calendar by clicking here).

Truly Blessed

As Jesus said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” – Luke 11:27-28 (ESV)

People talk all the time about being blessed. When athletes and entertainers win games or awards, they might speak of how blessed they feel. We even find on social media the hashtag #blessed used to describe something good that has happened.

To be blessed is to have an experience of goodness. The word essentially means to be made happy or to be in a happy state of being. This is more than a general sense of happiness that comes in day to day life. To be blessed typically involves and even greater cause for joy.

This is what the woman intended who called out to Jesus. She knew that Jesus was someone special, so his mother should be happy in a special way. And, indeed, Mary may have been. However, Jesus turned around the idea of blessing upon this woman. He replied to her that those truly blessed are those who hear and do God’s word.

Why is this so?

First, it’s because the Bible is God’s word about himself. God is great joy and he is the giver of great joy (Psalm 16:11, 1 Timothy 1:11, John 17:13). Therefore, to know God and experience his presence through his word is to be greatly blessed.

Second, it’s because the Bible is God’s word about our need for Jesus. The Bible is a book of “good news,” but we need the good news because of the bad news. The bad is that we all rebel against God and deserve death and hell. The good is that even though we had no way to rescue ourselves, Jesus came to rescue us from our rebellion. It is a great blessing to move from being enemies of God on a path toward hell to being children of God on a path toward eternal joys.

Third, it’s because the Bible tells us how to live “blessed” lives. As Jesus said in John 10:10—“The thief” (that is, sin, Satan, and death) “comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” When we turn to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, we have power to live different lives—lives that daily please God. Such lives rest in and reflect the goodness of Jesus who came to give us abundant life. The commands of Scripture steer us away from the way of the thief and into the way of Jesus, the way that is blessed.

So, cling to Jesus, hear the word of God, and do what it says. There you will find true blessing.

Sunday 10.15.17 (an assured salvation)

This Sunday, we’ll continue our journey through 1 Thessalonians with a look at 1:4-10 and how we can be assured of our salvation. Then on Sunday night, we’ll watch part one of a documentary on Martin Luther for the upcoming 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Video Study in church auditorium

Sermon Notes

1 thessalonians
An Assured Salvation ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

You can be sure of your salvation because…

  • You’ve believed in Jesus through the Gospel and the Holy Spirit is using it to change you (1:4-5, 9-10)
    • The Gospel demands belief (1:4-5)
    • The Gospel’s power through the Holy Spirit results in transformation (1:5, 9-10)
  • You happily long to be like Jesus and to learn from the godly examples of other followers of Jesus (1:5-6)
    • We are to be imitators of Jesus (1:6)
    • We are to imitate those who imitate Jesus (1:5-6)
    • We imitate Jesus and others with joy, even if we face affliction and suffering (1:6)
  • Your life is a growing example of faith to those around you (1:7-10)

Songs for Worship
At Calvary
My Faith Has Found a Resting Place
Higher Ground
Change My Heart, O God
Be Glorified

Image used and modified with permission from pixabay.com

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.