Its His Story

And John preached, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” ~ Mark 1:7-8

Today we begin a new devotional series though the gospel of Mark. Of the four gospels, Mark’s is the shortest and most fast paced, often using the term immediately not as a brief passage of time but as a quick transition from one account to the next.

Mark began his gospel with a quote from Isaiah about the messenger who would “prepare the way of the Lord.” He then described John the baptizer and his ministry to prepare people’s hearts for Jesus coming on the scene. Though John was popular and many went to see him, his attitude was one of humility. He knew his role in the grand story of Scripture—he was not the point, Jesus was.

He also knew that Jesus’ work would be far greater than his. Whereas he called people to repentance and baptism, Jesus offered something greater. Though Jesus also called people to repent (1:15) and be baptized (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus would do something John could not: baptize people with the Holy Spirit.

Two of the first things that happen when we come to Jesus are: 1) Jesus fills us with the Holy Spirit, securing our new spiritual life, gifting us to serve others, and assuring us our place among God’s family; and 2) We begin to realize that our life’s story is not primarily about us but about Jesus.

Though John had a one-of-a-kind role in the world’s history, we are like him in that we need to humble ourselves under the exalted Jesus and we need to see ourselves as part of something bigger.

As Jesus fills us with the Spirit, may we make our life story all about Jesus. May we live to make his name famous. And may we serve others in such a way that they see us clearly pointing them to our Savior-King.

 

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

Good Reads 05.03.17 (on: the Holy Spirit, marriage, and more!)

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

On the Holy Spirit: Four Ways We Go Wrong in Thinking about the Holy Spirit by Michael Horton

Many of us still remember the “Holy Ghost” from the old King James Version. For most modern people, a ghost is associated more with All Hallows’ Eve (a.k.a. Halloween) than with Pentecost Sunday. Especially in our age, the Holy Spirit is regarded (when taken seriously at all) as the “spooky” member of the Trinity. If you’re into that sort of thing—the paranormal and sensational—then the Holy Spirit is for you.

Who exactly is the mysterious third person of the Trinity? Why does he seem to possess less reality than the Father and the Son? Perhaps we think of the Holy Spirit as a divine force or energy that we can “plug into” for spiritual power. Or as the kinder and gentler—more intimate—side of God. But a person—in fact, a distinct person of the Godhead?

I want to challenge this association of the Spirit merely with the extraordinary. (click here to read more)

On faith and God’s love: Playing in the Street of Unbelief by Mike Leake

I see this quite often with teenagers. They are in that awkward stage when they still want to be doted on by mom and dad (or whoever is playing that role) but also kind of not. And mom and dad have realized that junior is developing body odor and isn’t their cute little baby anymore. And so what you end up with is a teenager who knows his parents love him but only kind of. In the really bad cases of this I see teenagers do really dumb things just to see if they still have mom and dad’s eyes.

They’d deny it until they died, but what is the teenagers are trying to say is, “If you really love me you’ll stop me”. They are doing things they know they shouldn’t do, and going places they know the shouldn’t go, hoping that somebody will stop them. What’s really sad is when nobody cares enough to stops them. But many times teens are just being emotional and silly and playing a foolish game. Their only grounds for believing such nonsense are the raging hormones that feel like truth.

But adults can be just as silly. We go through difficult experiences. Dreams die. Plans break. Our spirits droop. We start to question God’s love for us. (click here to read more)

On dealing with pain, hurt, and forgiveness: You Know How Hurt People Hurt People? How To Stop the Cycle of Hurt by Ann Voskamp

And I’ve thought a lot about their reaction . . . and mine.

My first response was protective anger—natural for a mother, I suppose.

I was ripping those girls a new one in my head and hoping they caught my glares. But I know how girls are at that age because I was one once myself. A parent’s scolding would have only made them angry, and they would have walked away to continue their teasing in private—their words growing harsher as they made each other laugh.

But when Mareto simply introduced himself with kindness and a smile, the girls were baffled.

It was clearly not what they expected, and the element of surprise led to curiosity. Their mean laughter transformed into confused but genuine smiles of interest. (click here to read more)

On serving one another in marriage: A Marriage Checklist by David Murray

I’ve been taking our adult Sunday School through Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. We’ve been camped out in chapter five for a few weeks, and yesterday we looked at Keller’s teaching on “Love Currencies” or “Love Languages.” His basic point was we must give the love-currency to our spouse that they value most and speak the love-language that best communicates love to them.

He then has a practical section on the three main currencies or languages—Affection, Friendship, Service—which I’ve arranged into a checklist. Keller recommends that husbands and wives regularly review a list such as this to identify the best way to give love to one another and then “concretely give love to each other in deliberate ways every week.” (click here to read more)

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.

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.

The Promise of God’s Presence

And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you all the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan.” ~Joshua 3:10-11 (ESV)

With the spies returned from Jericho, Joshua was ready to lead the people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. God had been with them in the past as he led them out of Egypt with many signs and wonders, and through the wilderness wanderings via the pillars of cloud and fire. Now God again promised his presence with them as they began their conquest of the Land.

And how would they know? How would Joshua’s leadership be verified? How could they trust that the victory was sure?

God gave them a sign. They already had the ark of the covenant as a visible reminder. In it were the stones containing the words of the covenant that came through Moses, as well as Aaron’s budded staff and a jar of manna. All of these reminders of God’s promises and provision. Even more, the ark was decorated with gold and figures of cherubim (winged, heavenly creatures) that surrounded what was called the mercy seat, where God manifested his presence as he gave Moses commands for the people (Exodus 25:22).

As the priests carried the ark into the waters of the Jordan, joined by a man representing each tribe, the waters stopped and stood in a wall and allowed the people to cross on dry land, just as had happened with the Red Sea as they fled Egypt.

God demonstrated his presence.

We no longer have the ark of the covenant like those Israelites did as they crossed the Jordan. Indeed, no one knows what even became of the ark after the Babylonians destroyed the temple. But we have something better, we have Jesus.

Hebrews 8-10 explain that Jesus brings to us a New Covenant that is superior to the Old one written on those tablets of stone and sealed in the ark. This New covenant truly provides the forgiveness of sins. The ark, everything within it, and everything that surrounded it in the tabernacle and later the temple were mere shadows of a greater reality. They all pointed to Jesus and his sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus is God’s promises fulfilled and his provisions given. And through Jesus we have more than an external reminder of God’s presence with us—we have the Holy Spirit within us (Romans 8).

So, let us not be like the Israelites as they crossed the Jordan, looking to an artifact and a wall of standing water to remind us of God’s presence. Instead, let us look to Jesus and all that he has fulfilled. And by faith, let us live daily with the Holy Spirit internally reminding us that because of Jesus we are God’s children and he is our Father—a Father who will never leave nor forsake his children.

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

Hebrews 9_15

Revive! Night 3, tonight @6pm

Revive! is back for 2017. Every Sunday night in the month of March we will have a meal at 5pm in the gym and a worship gathering with a guest speaker at 6pm. These special services are designed to help you learn more about Jesus and what it means to be his follower. We invite you to join us and bring a friend.

Tonight we have Cody McCully, on staff at The Church of Pleasant Ridge (Harrisonville, MO), coming to share about what it means to pursue missions. For a full list of speakers for the month, please click here.

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Sunday 03.19.17 (deepening joy)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at John 16:16-33 and see how we can live a life of ever-deepening joy. Then on Sunday evening, we’ll have our third night of Revive! 2017 with Cody McCully from the Church at Pleasant Ridge (Harrisonville) speaking on pursuing missions. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@5pm Dinner before Revive!
@6pm Revive! 2017 “Pursue Missions”

Sermon Notes
Deepening Joy ~ John 16:16-33

  • Joy is happiness in God
  • Joy develops deeply as we live in light of the resurrection of Jesus (16:16-22)
  • Joy develops deeply as we go to the Father in prayer (16:23-28)
  • Joy develops deeply as we trust in our overcoming Savior-King (16:29-33)