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)

Good Reads 05.17.17 (on Christian living, prayer, and more!)

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

On our dreams vs. our reality: Embrace the Life You Have by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

Finally, I am called to embrace the life I have. Embrace it as I would a beloved friend. Wholeheartedly. With joyful acceptance, not grudging obedience. Embracing means gladly receiving and even welcoming whatever the Lord gives me, even when it wasn’t in my plans. It means being fully present, living in the now, finding joy in the moment, and not longing for what’s past. (click here to read more)

On parenting: How Should Parents Respond to Their Children’s Sexual Sin by Russell Moore

It’s good for parents to feel burdened about their kids’ sin. There are far too many parents, including evangelical parents, who assume sexual sin is just part of growing up, particularly when it comes to boys. That’s not true. This is a sin against God, and a genuinely Christian response to such sin needs to begin with feeling the true weight of this sin.

Having said that, parents should also not be excessively shocked. We shouldn’t communicate to our children, “I can’t believe what you did,’ or even worse, “I can’t believe you did this to us.” Too many parents take their children’s sin personally, because they expect their child to always make the right moral decision in challenging moments. There is no sin except what is common to man, and while there are extreme sins, your child will not invent any sin. (click here to read more)

On men and prayer: Men, Lead Out in Prayer by Casey Lewis

Prayer is what the church and country need. It especially needs men who are willing to lead spiritually, and specifically, to lead in the area of prayer. Men, we can’t abdicate our responsibility any longer to the women in the church. We must lead as God has called us to lead.

I am sure other pastors in other times have said this but I am going to say it now in our time. Men, if we want our country and community to change, if we want to see people come to Jesus, we have to be spiritual leaders who are leading out in prayer. (click here to read more)

On living faithful to Jesus: Stop Being on Fire for Jesus by David Appelt

And that’s the rub. Yes, if I am living my life in obedience to Jesus, in worship of him, and striving to grow in His grace, then I will have the positivity that often comes along with it.

But by no means does the bible tell us to gauge our spiritual lives solely (or even primarily) based on our feelings. It’s a reality in the bible that we will go through seasons of pain, doubt, failure, feebleness, and loss. Not every second of our lives will be exhilarating, news-worthy, record-breaking happiness, and excitement. Most of the Christian life is radically ordinary. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 04.19.17 (on: hope, marriage, and manhood)

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

On hope and the Christian life: What Christianity Offers by David McLemore

We understand this desire, though, don’t we? Don’t most people want to live a long time? But isn’t the kind of life you live more important that just living? Paul gives us insight into the kind of life we have available to us as Christians. We don’t have immortality as we typically understand it – with this present life in continuation forever. We have something far better. We have the power of the resurrection. The life Jesus lived – obedience to God, suffering, death on the cross, then resurrection – is reversed for us. We have the power of the resurrection – the great hope that all is not lost, that this life and the next really does matter. And in that power, we can obey, suffer, and die with a peace that comes only from God. (click here to read more)

On manhood: Stop Trying to Be a Man and Start Trying to Be a Good Man by Brad Williams

Our goal ought to be becoming Christ-like men. Being a Christ-like man means rejecting the notions that our culture, and sometimes even other Christian men, herald as the masculine ideal. Instead, we should focus our attention on loving peace, seeking justice, and sacrificing ourselves for others. In this way, Jesus Christ becomes our role model for what it means to be a good man. (click here to read more)

On marriage: Did I Marry the Right Person? by John Piper

Paul quotes it and says, “This is a great mystery. I’m speaking of Christ and the church.” In other words, what happens in marriage is that God acts. Believer or unbeliever — God acts and creates a bond that is not to be broken by man, because it is a portrait, a drama, of the covenant commitment between Christ and the church.

Who is the right person to be married to? Answer: the one to whom you said, “For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. ‘Til death do us part,” because that is the only person with whom you can demonstrate the covenant faithfulness of Christ to his church. (click here to read more)


Trash Heap Lives

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead. ~Philippians 3:8-11 (ESV)

Jesus once asked the question: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his life? (Luke 9:25)

Paul took this question to heart. Before he came to know Jesus, Paul was a rising star with great potential as a religious leader over the Jews (3:2-7). But once he encountered Jesus, his aim forever changed. It was no longer notoriety, education, or power that drove him. No, he weighed everything in the balance and decided that a trash heap life was better.

A trash heap life compares everything the world has to offer to Jesus and says, “Jesus is infinitely greater.” It understands that gains in this world, while potentially useful tools, do not result in eternal gains. What good is it to have great education, much wealth, and fame and notoriety if it gets you nothing in the end?

The one inevitable that every man and woman faces is death. Most do all they can to delay death, but eventually it catches up to us. Then, everything we worked so hard to gain is let loose from our grip. We came into the world with nothing, we leave the world with nothing. Everything we earned and gained passes on to someone else. With enough time, even our memory is forgotten in history (with very rare exception).

A trash heap life realizes these realities and says, “I want more.” It realizes that the only way to get the more is through Jesus. So, Paul could cry out in passion, “I want to know him!” For Paul saw that the benefit of knowing Jesus wasn’t just for this life, but for eternity beyond. To know Jesus as Lord and Savior is to have a part in the resurrection to life. That is, one day our bodies will be raised uncorrupted and incorruptible, glorified by and together with Jesus, that we might experience unending joy.

The trash heap life longs for that day. If we have education or money or fame, we look at these only as tools to help guide us and guide others to Jesus, who infinitely matters. If we lose those things in this world, we still put our hope in Jesus who will give us much, much better things in the days of eternity to come. So, we cry out along with Paul: I want to experience the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus!

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.


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)

A Gospel-Worthy Manner of Life

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that is from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. ~Philippians 1:27-30

What does a manner of life worthy of the gospel of Christ look like? Paul painted the picture this way:

Unity. The gospel produces a God-given unity in the followers of Jesus. Not that we always see everything the same or that we agree on every detail this side of eternity. But that we have a strong familial love for one another. We are children, brothers and sisters, of the One God; followers of the One Savior-King; filled with the same Holy Spirit; and focused on the same purpose: the exaltation of Jesus. This unity in our diversity is a beautiful picture of God’s saving power for the world.

Mission. The gospel produces a sense of Christ-centered mission. In unity of spirit and mind, we “strive side by side for the faith of the gospel.” In other words, we make Paul’s aim our aim. We strive to make Jesus known in all places, seeing people turn to him. We have a sense of mission because we realize that life is more than just what we experience in this world. Choices today have eternal consequences beyond death. We will either live with Christ and one another in eternal joy, or we will suffer the consequences of our sin in the hell of eternal torment. We are driven by mission because we want none to taste hell and all to know joy.

Boldness. The gospel also produces a boldness in our faith. There are many gospel-opponents in the world: Those who would rather enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin, those who find faith foolish, Satan and his minions, and war, poverty, and other effects of sin. The Bible reminds us that we live in the midst of a spiritual war. Boldness joyfully and faithfully stands firm in Christ, despite the opponents. If we suffer as Paul did, it’s no strange thing, because Jesus also suffered. But suffering is momentary. Salvation is forever.

Unity, mission, and boldness all manifested in a life that loves and follows Jesus. Here we find the gospel-worthy manner of life.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.


The Better Choice

If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. ~Philippians 1:22-26

Paul knew that his ministry work was dangerous (2 Corinthians 11:23-33). He had been beaten, stoned, left for dead, lowered out of a city in a basket, and imprisoned. He knew the next day of his life was not guaranteed, nor the next breath.

Paul longed to be with Jesus, so he did not fear death. He even told the church at Philippi that death was better because then he could be face-to-face with his Savior. This was not some suicide wish. This was not Paul depressed. Rather, this was Paul grasping tight to the realities of faith. If given a choice, he would gladly receive the glories of eternity over the sufferings of this world.

But he also knew it wasn’t up to him. He would have known what David said in Psalm 139:16—it is God who numbers our days. So, Paul left life and death in the hands of the Father and decided on another course. As long as he had breath, his work on earth was not yet complete. He desired to be with Jesus, but he saw necessity in remaining on in the world.

Paul was a servant of Jesus and therefore a servant to Jesus’ churches, and his desire was for their “progress and joy in the faith.” When he made the statement in 1:21, “To live is Christ,” this was an other-focused statement. This was a declaration to love God supremely and love others deeply. Loving others deeply meant seeing them grow in Christ.

Our culture and context might look different, but our task is not removed from Paul’s. Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” applies to all of his disciples, everyone who follows him in faith. To make disciples is to love others enough to show them Jesus, call them to follow Jesus, and then work for the progress and joy in the faith for all who answer that call.

As we wait for that better day when we get to see Jesus face-to-face, the better choice is not to sit back in an unengaged-with-people longing to escape this world. Rather, the better choice is to give ourselves to help others progress as Paul did.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.