Sunday 05.28.17 (better)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Ecclesiastes 4:4-5:7 in our Meaningless/Meaningful series, and consider what it means to glorify God by seeking the “better” things in life. We hope to see you there! With the holiday weekend, we will not have our evening study.

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
**No evening study

Sermon Notes
Better ~ Ecclesiastes 4:4-5:7

  • Seek contentment, for it is better than coveting (4:4-6)
    • Jesus is the source of our contentment, for in him we are God’s children
  • Seek companionship, for it is better than isolation (4:7-12)
    • Jesus gives us abundant companionship through our fellowship with God and with other followers of Jesus
  • Seek wisdom, for it is better than power (4:13-16)
    • Jesus is our great wisdom
  • Seek to hold your tongue, for it is better than speaking rashly (5:1-7)
    • Jesus redeems the tongue

Fishers of Men

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” ~ Mark 1:16-17 (ESV)

As Jesus sat out on his ministry, he called different men to follow him for a new purpose in life. To Simon (Peter) and Andrew, as well as James and John, who worked as fishermen, Jesus called out to follow him and he would help them catch people.

In other words, if they devoted themselves to him, he would use them to bring people into God’s kingdom. This first call to these men anticipated Jesus’ last command in Mark’s gospel: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), or as Jesus stated in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”

Though the call to be “fishers of men” may have been a play on words with these men’s occupations, Jesus places the same call on the life of each of his followers. We are to seek to expand the kingdom. As disciples of Jesus, we are to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

Alvin Reid in Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out says it this way: “Talk to the actual person in front of you about the Jesus inside of you; let them see and hear the change Jesus makes in you” (pg. 99). He then gives the example of a man named Alex:

Alex worked very closely with his colleagues. As much as he wanted them to know Jesus, he knew if he brought up the gospel all the time they would stop talking to him. He developed the practice of five: as he interacted with coworkers, about every fifth conversation he had with one of them he would talk about Jesus. For his context that seemed to be about right: not too preachy, and yet not negligent of speaking of Christ. Let’s face it, if you know someone really closely for years and never speak about Jesus, you are speaking about him: you are saying with your lack of words he is no big deal.

I shared Alex’s practice of five with a group of businessmen who immediately saw it as a very helpful way to think about sharing Jesus in the workplace. I don’t know what it is for you: five times, or three, or seven. I do know there is a balance between how you live the gospel and how often you speak it. (pg. 105)

When calling us to be “fishers of men,” Jesus won’t call all of us to be pastors or foreign missionaries (though he will certainly call some to that). Yet he will call all of us to use our relationships where we live, work, and play in order to share about him with others. As Reid points out, we don’t want to be overbearing and push people away, but we also cannot be consistently silent about our faith.

If we love Jesus and love others, we will want them to know and love Jesus as well.

Another thing that Reid suggests is to pray this simple prayer each day: “God, give me today (1) an opportunity to speak with someone about Jesus; (2) the wisdom to see it; and (3) the courage to do it.” (17-18)

Will you seek to bring men and women into God’s kingdom?

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

Mark 1_17

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Good News and the Kingdom

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ~ Mark 1:14-15

Jesus’ ministry centered on his preaching, but this wasn’t simply some feel-good, here’s five points to follow message. No, Jesus came to declare the good news.

Good news—that’s what this word “gospel” means. Throughout the New Testament this word is used with various descriptors. It is called the “gospel of God” (here and Romans 1:1), the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23, 24:14), the “gospel of grace” (Acts 20:24), the “gospel of Christ / Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1, Romans 15:19), and the “gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15) among others. Most often, it is just simply “the gospel.”

Each of these descriptions point us to the same reality: We need the good news because there is bad news in the world. The bad news is our rebellion against God, decay and death, and eternal condemnation under God’s wrath, all from which we cannot rescue ourselves.

But the good news is that God has given us rescue through Jesus. He is bringing his righteous Kingdom to reign over creation, to right all wrongs, to give peace where there is enmity, and to put an end to sin and death. We are a part of this if we realize the bad news, hear the good news, and put our trust and hope in Jesus.

When Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is at hand,” he was declaring that all of these things were about to take place. The day is still future when King Jesus will return and bring the fullness of his kingdom to this world, where he will rule with perfect justice and goodness, and peace and joy will fill the lands. In the meantime, though, the kingdom is already here.

After his death and resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven and took a seat on his throne beside God the Father. Everywhere there is a follower of Jesus, the world has an ambassador representing the King and his kingdom. Everywhere the church gathers, it is a meeting of kingdom citizens.

Our task in this world is not to keep the good news of God to ourselves, but to do as Jesus did and invite others to join the kingdom ranks. We urge them to repent—to leave their rebellion against God, and to believe—to trust in Jesus as the Savior-King, believing his gospel. Every act of kindness and social justice we engage in, then, flows from this conviction and points to the King. So, let us go out and fulfill our role as kingdom representatives as those who have been entrusted with good news.

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

Mark 1_14-15

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Good Reads 05.24.17 (on: battling depression, spiritual gifts, and more!)

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

On the Old Testament: Seven Ways the Old Testament Deepens Our Love for Jesus by David Murray

One of the ways that children sometimes try to deepen their relationship with their parents is to travel back to where their father or mother grew up. They might visit historical societies, read archives, and gather newspaper stories and artifacts from old friends. Doing so, they build a bigger and better picture of their father or mother and experience a deeper sense of connection with them and love for them.

In a similar way, Christians go back to the Old Testament to build a bigger and better picture of Jesus Christ. By connecting with his past, we connect better with him and deepen our love for him. The Old Testament connects us with Jesus’ past in the following ways: (click here to read more)

On dealing with personal darkness and depression: What Do You Do When You’re in the Pit? by Godwin Sathianathan

Well, that’s all very true.  But last I checked we are all still human!  The Bible never calls us to be anything other than human.  And in our humanity, we hurt. To express this hurt to God isn’t necessarily sinful communication; it can come from a very deep place of trust in our Father’s tender care.  Kids who scrape a knee and then bury their tearful faces in mamma’s lap communicate profound trust in mamma.  Likewise, God’s children run to their Father when they hurt too.  This is child-like trust, not godless defiance. (click here to read more)

On loving your church: Love the One You’re With by Jon Bloom

The earthly church has always been a motley crew. It’s never been ideal. The New Testament exists because churches, to differing degrees, have always been a mess — a glorious mess of saints still polluted by remaining sin, affected by defective genes, brains, and bodies, and influenced by life-shaping pasts.

This mess rarely looks glorious to us up close. It looks like a lot of sin and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears invested into a lot of futility. It often looks like something we’d rather escape than join.

But this is the way it’s supposed to be. Because the mess is what draws out the one thing that advances the church’s mission more than anything else. And this one thing is why we must not, for selfish reasons, leave the church. (click here to read more)

On Spiritual gifts: The Only Spiritual Gifts Test You’ll Ever Need by Stephen Altrogge

As I skimmed it, I thought, Is this spiritual gifts test really necessary? Is figuring out my God-given gifts really this complex? 

Thankfully, I don’t think things need to be so difficult. In fact, I think determining your spiritual gifts is incredibly simple.

God wants you to know your gifts. He’s not hiding them from you. You don’t have to embark on a lengthy, soul-searching journey culminating in transcendent mystical revelation.

Figuring out your spiritual gifts requires only two questions… (click here to read more)

Child of God

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” ~ Mark 1:11 (ESV)

One way to look at life is as a series of events in which we try to figure out who we are. Though in some ways we remain the same, in many ways we become different people throughout the stages of life. The adult version of you is vastly different than the teenage or toddler version of you, though you’re still you.

Yet, through all the changes and stages of life, at the core we long for affirmation and belonging.

Before Jesus began his ministry, the Father spoke to him of both affirmation and belonging. Mark’s account to follow of Jesus’ temptation by Satan is brief and leaves out these details, but Matthew and Luke tell us that Satan struck at the identity of Jesus and sought to counter the Father’s voice. “If you are the Son of God,” Satan would say.

All the more reason that we see the Father’s words given to Jesus at this point in the gospel story. He tells Jesus, “You are my beloved Son,” or: You are my dear child and I love you deeply; and, “With you I am well pleased,” or: I am happy with who you are as a person.

These are the same affirmations we long to hear as well. We seek them from our earthly parents, how much more do we seek them from our Heavenly Father?

It does not, however, take much reflection on our part to realize just how undeserving we are of hearing those words from the Father. Yes, Jesus deserved them, because he never rebelled and always did the Father’s good will. But we rebel and fall short of God’s goodness each day.

Yet, it is precisely here that we find grace. Jared Wilson wrote, “You are a great sinner, yes. But you have a great Savior. Child of God, you are a child of God. And he will never, ever, ever leave you or forsake you” (The Imperfect Disciple).

One of my favorite summaries of the gospel story is 2 Corinthians 5:21, where Paul says of Jesus: “For our sake the Father made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus became our sin that we could become God’s righteousness. This means that he took on all our rebellion and gave us all his perfection, so that if we belong to Jesus, then when the Father said, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased,” he spoke these words over us as well.

This glorious truth frees us. We don’t have to figure out how to live in order to please God. God already made us his children, pleasing in his sight. We seek to live a life honoring to our Father, through our Savior, because he is pleased with us. We don’t lay aside our sin and pick up God’s holiness in order to earn his favor, we do so because we have his favor.

So, as Wilson said, if you belong to Jesus, then you are a child of God.

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

Mark 1_11

Sunday 05.21.17 (living to die well)

This Sunday in our study through Ecclesiastes, we’ll take a look at 3:16-4:3 and how we learn to live well so one day we might die well. Then on Sunday evening, we’ll have a special “ask anything” session–come ready with questions about the Bible, theology, and faith and we will do our best to answer what we can. We hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm “Ask Anything” evening in church library

Sermon Notes
Living to Die Well ~ Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3

  • The corruption of sin
    • Sin brings injustice (3:16)
    • Sin brings oppression (4:1)
    • Sin brings death (3:17-21)
    • Sin brings despair (4:2-3)
  • The universality of death (3:17-21)
  • The certainty of judgment (3:17)
  • The hope of life: Jesus enables us to live well to die well (John 11:25-26, Romans 6:23)
    • We live by faith (Ephesians 2:1-8, Colossians 2:13-14)
    • We face death with faith (2 Corinthians 5:1-10, 1 John 4:9-18)
    • We love others and honor their lives: acting in kindness and not oppression, with justice and not injustice (Isaiah 1:17, Matthew 25:34-40, James 1:27)
    • We live in joy throughout our days (Ecclesiastes 3:22)

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.