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What are Spiritual Sacrifices?altar

The inspired text of 1 Peter 2:4-5 says, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  I want to zero in on one arresting thought in this passage.  Peter speaks of believer’s offering “spiritual sacrifices.”

The context speaks of believers as a “holy priesthood.”  The primary function of the Old Testament priest, as they ministered in the tabernacle and later in the temple, was to offer animal sacrifices.  These sacrifices were for atonement for the sins of the Old Testament people.  When Jesus inaugurated the new covenant, animal sacrifices were no longer necessary.  The only sacrifices remaining for the believer to offer up were spiritual sacrifices.  That begs the question, what are spiritual sacrifices?

Spiritual sacrifices are “offerings” or “sacrifices” a follower of Jesus offers to the Lord.  Let me share with you six acceptable spiritual sacrifices found in the New Testament.

Your Bodies-Romans 12:1-2.  We are to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, which is acceptable to God.  We are to crawl up on the altar and offer to our Father our complete body.  As someone once said, the only problem with live sacrifices is they can crawl off the altar.  Every day offer yourself to the Lord.

Your Praise-Hebrews 13:15. We are to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.”  Our verbal praise from a grace-filled heart is a spiritual offering unto God.

Your good works and possessions-Hebrews 13:16. Let me quote this verse, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”  The believer’s good works and generous desire to share what God has given to Him is a sacrifice offered to God.

People you have led to Christ-Romans 15:15-16.  This invigorating and encouraging passage speaks of Paul’s offering of Gentile believers to the Lord as an acceptable offering.  People you lead to the Lord are a spiritual sacrifice to our rescuing and saving Father.

Your financial giving to the Lord’s work-Paul refers to monetary gifts that the church at Philippi sent him through Epaphroditus.  These gifts are described as a “fragrant offering and a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

Your prayers-Revelation 8:3-4.  In these verses the prayers of the saints are seen rising unto God.  The unbelievable thought in these verses is that the incense cloud of the saints’ prayers rises into the presence of God. Your prayers, child of God, are a spiritual sacrifice offered to the Lord.

Today, my encouragement to you is to offer spiritual sacrifices to your loving, faithful, redeeming, and gracious Heavenly Father.

 
 
 

God Moves in a Mysterious Wayclouds

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

William Cowper, 1774

 

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Please help me understand the Bible!

2 Peter 1:20-21-“…Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

2 Timothy 3:16-“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…”
The Bible is the inspired Word of God! In the series Awakening, I preached two sermons on the primacy of the Bible. In one sermon, I asked the question, “Can I believe the Bible?” I mentioned external evidence, internal evidence, and Jesus believes the Bible, as three reasons why every Christian can trust the authority and accuracy of Scripture. The verses above remind us of the uniqueness, veracity, infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible.

2 Timothy 2:15-“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” This verse speaks not so much to the authority of Scripture but to our need to present ourselves “to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed.” You and I are called to diligently study the Word of God! A growing Christian immerses themselves in the Word. They are not spoon fed by a preacher on Sunday and burped on their way out the church door! They are actively spending time in the Word.

Let me give you three steps to assist you in “righty handling the word of truth.” These basis steps to accurately understand the Bible were popularized by Kay Arthur and termed the “Inductive Bible study method.” Robbie Gallaty, Senior Pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church, has a great chapter in his Book Growing Up that gives great information on these three steps.
The three steps are: Observation, Interpretation, and application. Let’s briefly look at each step.

Observation-What does the text say?
This initial step involves observing. You need to become familiar with the passage. I suggest reading the passage three or four times.
Below are some questions that Gallaty lists in his book that will help you with observing the text:

  • Who is the author?
  • Who are the recipients?
  • Who are the main characters involved in the text?
  • What is happening in the text?
  • What the author intending to communicate?
  • What are key words in the text?
  • What is the context of this verse?
  • What important comparisons or contrasts to you see?
  • When do the events take place?
  • Where do these events take place?
  • Why do the events take place?

These questions will help you practically observe what is occurring in the passage. In this first step think of yourself as a detective! When I was young the game Clue was very popular. As a detective, you were trying to determine who committed the crime. The first step for every good detective is to gather the facts. You are observing and gathering all the facts about the passage.

Interpretation-What does the text mean?
This second step is not what does the text say, but what does the text mean? The reader is studying the facts that were gathered in step one.
A list of questions from Gallaty to ask:

  • What do the key terms mean?
  • How do the verses or phrases relate to each other?
  • How this passage fit into the larger story of the book it is in?
  • How does the passage relate to the story of the Bible as a whole?
  • How does this passage point to or speak of Jesus?
  • What are the differences between the biblical audience and me?

These questions will help the reader study the facts that were collected in step one. A scriptural truth/theological principle will emerge from the text. This next statement is important! Listen carefully! This truth/principle is the same truth the author meant for the original audience.

Remember, we haven’t reached application yet. At this point you are not asking what does this text demand of me? We are focusing on the original intent of the author. Let’s take a closer look at some of the questions we should ask in this step:

  • How does the passage fit into the verses around it and the book as a whole? This is important because it will keep us from taking the verse out of context.
  • How does this passage fit into the narrative of Scripture? The narrative of Scripture is that God, through the gospel of Jesus, is redeeming for Himself a people and He will one day restore all things as they were before the fall.
  • How does this passage point to or speak of Jesus? Luke 24:27 is a gamechanger when it comes to understanding the Old Testament. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus clearly says the OT speaks of Him. We must look for the gospel when we read the Bible!

Application-How does the text apply to me?
“The Bible is not merely a book to be learned, but a book to be lived.” (Growing up, 93) Here are some questions to help you discover the application of a passage.

  • Is there an application already in the text?
  • Is there a command or exhortation for how we should live?
  • What does the biblical principle mean today?
  • What would the application of this verse look like in my life?
  • How can this biblical principle how me in my walk with God?
  • What does this text demand of me?

As the Christian daily looks to the finished work of Christ and understands the sufficiency of Jesus’ imputed righteousness for their right standing with God, out of the overflow of His grace the Christian seeks to frame his/her life within the boundary of God’s Word. The genuine Christian after he/she has observed and interpreted God’s Word now ruthlessly asks, “What does the text demand of me?” This step is crucial so that we are actively obeying God’s Word.

Let me close with Psalm 119:1-8:

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.[b]
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!

 

jesus-is-king-nails-580

O Jesus, King Most Wonderful

O Jesus, King most wonderful,
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou Sweetness most ineffable,
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, Light of all below,
Thou Fount of life and fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire!

Thy wondrous mercies are untold,
Through each returning day;
Thy love exceeds a thousand fold,
Whatever we can say.

May every heart confess Thy Name;
And ever Thee adore;
And seeking Thee, itself inflame,
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee may our tongues forever bless;
Thee may we love alone;
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

-Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153

 

Pictures and stories of sharing the good news of King Jesus in West Africa

For security reasons names of individuals and names of the villages will be omitted from these stories.

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The first enthralling picture is of a group of children who were given a break from their classes and came out to look at us as we passed by. What is interesting is the children were in a Koranic school! (A school where the kids study the Koran) Most of the time when we walked around the village I carried my Bible (See bottom picture and look at my right hand). There was powerful symbolism as I carried God’s Word and we walked by a group of children being taught the Koran. Years of faithful seed planting has occurred in these West African villages through the ministry of Mission 10:14 and other missionaries on the field. God’s Word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the Heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) God’s Word will accomplish what He desires! (Isaiah 55:10-11)

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This delightful picture of men gathered in the morning, drinking coffee, and discussing events from politics to personal preferences, weather to the events of a day, is what I call the “local Starbucks.” A gregarious and happy lady would serve the men coffee as they sat and talked.

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Looked closely at the man pictured with me. This is a fellow brother in Christ! Through the ministry of Mission 10:14, this wonderful brother has come to faith in Jesus. We need to pray for these believers because they are few in number and experience ostracism and persecution because of their belief in Jesus.

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This compelling picture of a small boy has an amazing story behind it. In a village in West Africa our team had planned to stay two nights. The first night we would show a film and the following night we would spend time teaching the believers. The days would be spent building relationships and sharing Jesus with Muslims. We had a plan, but God had other plans.

Our first day in the village was filled with relationship building and engaging Muslims with the gospel. After showing the film the first night, Pastor F presented the gospel and encouraged anyone who was interested in following Jesus to come and talk with us. The next morning word got back to us that two ladies indicated they wanted to trust Christ. We would meet with them at 3pm when they came in from the fields. At that pivotal meeting not only did those two ladies trust Christ but five other Muslims decided to follow Jesus!

As leaders we were blown away by what God was doing! You are probably wondering how the boy fits into this narrative. We made the decision to spend a third night in the village to help train the new believers. What I failed to mention earlier is that afternoon some of the Muslims had asked us to show the film that night again. We made the decision with how the Lord was moving to show the Jesus film the second night.

The first night we had 75-100 people for the film. The second night we had easily over 200 people come for the film. Just before the film was to start, I heard a little boy crying. I looked over and noticed his leg was badly burned. As I got closer, it was terribly burned. It was charred black. He had done it 16 days ago and he was no longer eating or sleeping. He was very sick and his parents had no money to get him to the hospital. We made the decision to show the film and the next morning Pastor F and our driver L would take the little boy to the hospital. There was a buzz the next morning! The Christians were providing for the boy. We were proclaiming the gospel, now through this act of service we were displaying the depth of God’s grace for these people.

Two other events reflect God’s working. First, a Muslim came to us and said, “If we would not have asked you to show the film the second night, you never would have seen the boy to help him!” Even a Muslim man recognized the working of God. Remember, initially, we had planned to not show a film the second night. Only after some of the people had requested to show a film and the seven Muslims came to Christ did we make the decision to show the film. Truly, if the film had not been shown the second night we never would have found the injured boy.

Second, the father of the injured boy was a Muslim man who had been persecuting the Christians in the village! In many villages the handful of Christian’s are ostracized and persecuted. God’s grace reached out to this rebel by providing care for his son. Isn’t this just like our grace-filled Father. He is always seeking out the lost that he might redeem and rescue them.

The picture you see was taken one day before we left. The boy received treatment and last I heard is recovering well. Praise God!

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This picture shows an encounter between myself, my translator, and J and Pastor F and a staunch Muslim. After sharing the gospel, I asked him, “Tell me, do you believe in heaven.” He was infuriated when he heard this! He robustly said, “Who do you think you are, God?” In his mind, I had no right to ask that question. Shortly after his question, he abruptly walked off. The truth is he is lost in the dark belief system of Islam. So many of the Muslims we met are warm, caring, and nice people, but we must not forget that Islam is a dark, devil-filled theology that leads people to eternal condemnation. We must continue to pray that God will use Mission 10:14 and other mission agencies to bring the light of the gospel to the dark world of Islam.

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These pictures show the primitive state of how these people live. The huts were mud-baked homes covered with thatched roofs. They have no electricity and no running water-They draw water from a well.

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There were many opportunities to share the gospel. The people were very attentive as we talked. I remember after seven Muslims (after years of sowing the gospel seed) came to Christ, you could see the joy on their faces. They simply sat there, reveling in their new life. It was a striking moment for me. The radiant looks on their faces is indelibly etched into my mind. The third night we had a worship service and taught them. Under the clear African night, brilliant stars clustered in constellations, the people sang and we taught. I shared from Ephesians 2 that they were dead in their sins and trespasses and followed the prince of the power of air, but God being rich in mercy and love and made them alive. I passionately taught them Ephesians one-they had been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. They were chosen, adopted and redeemed!

As I look back on my time in West Africa, I am convicted that I am not near as intentional in America as I need to be in sharing Christ with others. My we seek for intentional opportunities to share Christ.

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These are pictures of the warm and kind people we met in West Africa. May we remember and pray that God will call unto Himself a great harvest of Muslims. May the come to see Jesus as their greatest joy. May the Muslims in West Africa submit their lives to King Jesus!

Your Marriage Questions Answered By the Staff

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Dennis & Judy Rogers

Where did you have your most difficult times?
In looking back over our years of marriage our most difficult times were and continue to be those occasions when we expected our mate to act in a certain way and they didn’t. Early in our marriage many of those expectations were unrealistic. Now, when we filter each other’s’ actions only through our preferences without considering why our mate acted as they did, there is tension that can lead to difficulty. Early in our marriage I criticized Judy because she did not cook certain foods like my mother did. It didn’t occur to me that she cooked the way her mother had cooked. That’s where she learned. When expectations of each other are not met, there can be criticism and hurt that can undermine trust. In some ways two married people are always in process of becoming one. It’s a work in progress. Attempting to see life through our mate’s eyes can go a long way in keeping difficulties at a minimum.
How did you balance the ups and downs of marriage?
Balancing emotional and spiritual ups and downs in our marriage is an ever-present challenge. Not only are we facing shared problems, but we each have times of personal downs that impact how we relate to our mate. We have found that one big help is to continue to have dates-time together out of our normal routine that we have fun and rediscover the thrill of the courting relationship. Even more important, we made a decision early in our marriage to pray together before we go to sleep each night, no matter how much tension might be present. Praying together not only acknowledges our dependence on our Heavenly Father, but it is a practice of grace that serves as a catalyst to restore intimacy.

 

Brandon & Emily Garrett

Is it ok that you have different interest/hobbies?
The short answer is yes. Absolutely. But we think a longer answer is needed to rightly understand why this is so. The distinction of male and female in Genesis 1 will give rise to varying degrees differing interest and hobbies. And because God created the distinction of male and female (and the varying interest associated with maleness and femaleness), it is good in the eyes of God that a man should not be just like woman and that woman should not be just like man. In this way, these distinctions—even our varying interests and hobbies—should be celebrated as good and right and consistent with God’s plan for marriage. I, as a man, should love and work to cultivate all the things that make my wife the woman that she is. And vice versa. Therefore, if part of what makes Emily the woman God has made her to be in Christ is participating in an activity that I have no taste for, I should celebrate her participating in that activity because she is being true to her identity in Christ. But here is one caveat. Differences in interest and hobbies, while good, should never be used for selfish gain. In marriage, all that we are, all that we hope to be, all that is ours, all that we possess including our hobbies and interests, is to be used to benefit our spouse. Not to escape our spouse but to love them, to cherish them more than any interest or hobby we claim as our own. Therefore, we should always be assessing with one another how our individual interests are being used to bring flourishing to our marriage. So where different interest and hobbies are consistent with the new creatures we are in Christ, and where we use our individual interest and hobbies to serve not ourselves but one another, our marriages will be blessed and flourish.

How do you disagree with your husband and yet still show him respect at the same time?
We want to affirm on the front end that this question rightly recognizes there is a right order to the marital relationship. Godly submission of wives to their husbands is biblical and glorious. In order to rightly frame our view of godly submission, we must first refute some false claims. Godly submission does not mean throwing your brain away, agreeing with everything, going behind your husband to circumvent him, putting his will above God’s, or relying on your husband to grow spiritually. True biblical submission comes from an internal reverence for Christ and his work. We must hope in God and grow in our relationship with him by daily submitting ourselves first to Christ’s life-giving authority. Only this will produce an inner meekness that will give rise to a unique, glad submission to our husbands even when we disagree. While it’s tough to give specifics to this questions because context could change our approach, a general principle to remember is that part of being “a helper fit for him” will mean at times correcting and disagreeing with our husband in a way that encourages him towards maturity in Christ, not towards our own agenda. Additionally, there are a few questions to ask yourself. Are you concerned about not getting your way? Or do you think your husband is leading you and your family to disobey Christ? Have you considered your desires that led to your decision? And has your husband considered his desires that led him to make his decision? Perhaps have a conversation after the kids are in bed. Both of you should have a chance to listen and talk, and respect should always abound in conversations between a husband and wife. Now, if there comes a time where the two of you can’t reach a compromise and at that point, the wife should fall under the loving authority of her husband. At this point the matter is done. As you wake up the next day and go about your life, both of you should love and respect each other out of a mutual and supreme love for Christ.

 

Richard & Betsy King

What are some practical ways that you have continued to grow and strengthen your relationship with Christ together throughout your marriage?
• Praying for each other daily to become the follower Jesus has called us to be
• Sharing our ministry roles together. Understanding Jesus has called both of us to separate ministry areas, but finding ways to fulfill those roles together
• Being supportive of each other’s struggles and joys in trying to live more Christ-like lives
• Worshiping together
• Seeking the mind of Christ in decisions
• Allowing for time alone (a daily quiet time) to seek the Lord’s face

How do you keep “the fire” of love alive and well while dealing with the stresses of everyday life?
• We tell each other “I love you” at the beginning of the day and at the end along with any time we leave the other to go somewhere. Hopefully each time it’s meaningfully said.
• We sleep in the same bed together every night unless we are away for work or one or the other is traveling to see relatives. King size works well since Richard needs space.
• We don’t let the sun go down on our anger. Well both of us could think of twice…and it wasn’t pretty the next morning.
• We try to set aside a date night…it has come to be known as “No cook Thursday.”
• We are very positive in our speech toward each other…no putdowns like “you never” or “you always.”
• We try to be very kind toward each other. We address each other with love and respect. Betsy will never be my “old lady.” We listen to concerns and joys as well.

 

Kevin & Amanda Lamb

What advice would you give regarding “picking battles” – knowing when to take strong stances and when to let things pass by?
First off, we have learned this lesson by doing it the wrong way too many times! We have found that there are several questions to consider when an issues come up.

  • Why am I fighting this battle? Do I want to fight this battle as a matter of pride (I HAVE to be right), or is it actually a matter of “right and wrong”? If the answer is pride-related, it probably isn’t a battle worth picking. If it is a matter of right and wrong, the battle is worth having, but the question then is how do I need to fight this battle? Answer: Speak the truth….. in love.
  • Is this battle worth hurting each other over? We have had points in our marriage (and you have too, more than likely) when we did not “fight well”. The point of our fighting became more about “winning” the battle over the other person, than it did about the conflict itself. This is a self-centered tactic that does not bring honor to our spouse or to God. If there is any chance that you are going to hurt your spouse over the battle at hand, we have found that it is better to “back down” and not let it be an issue to begin with. However, when battles will come up (and no doubt about it, they will come up), if we understand the goal of the battle is not to hurt each other, and that we can actually love each other even in the way that we fight, the battles are far less frequent or severe

Here is the crazy thing we have learned. When we choose to have less battles with each other, the more understanding we are of each other when battles do come up. In other words, if we make everything a battle, there is no way for your spouse tell what you are actually passionate about and what truly matters to you (think boy who cried wolf). However, picking only battles that are truly important, and “battling” in a loving manner, makes it is much easier for each other to understand both the significance of the issue and where the other person is coming from.

How do you show your spouse that you love them through the valleys just as much as you love them on the mountains?
This is one of those “easy to answer on a blog….but hard to do when you’re ACTUALLY in the valley” type of questions! However, we have found that the best way to love each other in the valley is not with simply words, but through actions. There are many valleys that have come up in our marriage. At times, we have experienced them together, at others just one of us is going through the valley. In all cases, patience, understanding, and simply being there with each other, in ALL circumstances (for better or WORSE, anybody?), are powerful actions that show love through a valley. It is easy to love each other when things are going well, when your spouse is doing a good job of loving you back; but being there for the other person when they aren’t doing a great job of loving you back shows a type of selfless love that shows a lot more than words can ever say. That type of love and is a reflection of the love and grace that Christ shows us. We can only demonstrate this love through the power of the Holy Spirit, and when we are growing in relationship with Him.

 

Paul & Libbie Ballard

How have you/did you continue to prioritize your marriage as the kids came along and as they grew up?
Libbie: We tried to serve each other, do things for one another and prioritize time with one another. When Matt and Lauren were young we weren’t always able to go away for a weekend or date night. This weekend (October 28-29) Paul surprised me and took me to the mountains. It meant so much to me that he planned something just for me. We will hike, shop and just hang out together.

Paul: When Matt and Lauren were young and involved in activities it was difficult. We were extremely busy between our jobs (Paul-Pastor; Libbie-K-4 teacher’s aid), the kid’s activities and life. Let me mention two things we tried to do.

• Make marriage a priority. As Libbie said earlier, prioritize spending time with one another. When we understand the Biblical account in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,” we will absolutely elevate our marriage to the top priority beneath our relationship with Jesus. Marriage is a covenant vow between two people. As I have said before, “Theology matters.” We must believe deep down in our soul that our Creator God has placed marriage as a seismic priority for the believer. This deep believe will manifest itself by investing in our marriages.
• Because we believed that marriage was from God, we attempted to always communicate and be open with one another. It is critical that you take time to communicate with your spouse. It may be after all the kids are in bed or if you have teenagers, not until you get in bed with your spouse. I will say spend less time looking at the TV and more time looking at your spouse. Some practical steps for husbands to love your wife her way: (Taken from Gary Smalley, If only He knew)

  • Regard her as important
  • Do everything you can to understand her feelings
  • Value what she says
  • Let her feel your approval and affection
  • Compliment her often
  • Admit your mistakes; don’t be afraid to be humble
  • Remember, communicating is much more than just talking; it is connecting with your spouse.

How do you keep the spark alive after so many years?
Libbie: Make sure you take the time for just the two of you. Make time for good conversation. I know this is somewhat repetitive, but I believe you must make time to connect with one another. Learning what each other’s love language can help you meet each other’s needs.

Paul: I would say a couple of things:
• I would read Genesis 2:18-25, Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7. We must continually root ourselves in Scripture’s picture of marriage. The Gospel Coalition has some really great stuff on marriage.
• Second, remember, most marriage problems aren’t really marriage problems. They are God problems. The deepest longing of the human heart and deepest meaning of heaven and earth are summed up in this: the glory of God. (John Piper)

  • You were made to be captivated by the glory of God! As a husband yearns for his heavenly Father and a wife yearns for her heavenly Father, they will yearn for a God-honoring marriage.When the husband and the wife are seeking to daily treasure Jesus, the result will be a treasuring of each other.
  • Practically let me give you three things that every wife needs and three things that every husband needs. (Yes, I gave this during my October 16 message)
    What every wife needs:
    Love-Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church (Let’s get after if guys!)
    Serve-Great leaders are great servants, so men, serve your wives. Your wife needs you to serve her because this shows her that she matters to you.
    Speak-Speak tenderly and graciously to your wife and daughter.
    What every husband needs:
    Affirmation-Men need the affirmation of their wives
    Affection-Men need emotional affection and physical affection.
    Respect-Every man desperately needs to be respected.

 

Suffering is a Gift- Matt Ballard

“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages” Charles Spurgeon

God has helped me understand the weight and the meaning behind that quote through different life situations. These paths are ones that I would not have chosen to go down but God knows what he is doing and I, most of the time don’t. At the core, I’m a sinner who is a lot of the time, very selfish. So praise God that he doesn’t leave me to myself but instead, takes me through suffering and works in ways I can’t understand. God is working all things for the glory of his name and the good/joy of his people. So, even when it is painful and hard, we trust and hope in the Lord.

I wish I could say I always walk through suffering with joy but I’d be lying if I said I did. In August, I moved to Wake Forest, NC to start school at Southeastern Seminary. I started doing IV antibiotics for 2 weeks to treat a lung infection. At the end of the 2 weeks, I had a checkup with my doctor expecting to get taken off the antibiotics and get back to feeling completely healthy. However, we found out the antibiotics did not work. So, I started a treatment for 8 weeks that was going to be a lot more difficult on my body so I dropped out of school and came home for the semester. There have been moments where I have been frustrated because I didn’t expect my fall to go like this. This definitely isn’t the first time I have had to treat an infection so it builds up frustration at times. But the beauty of suffering, God breaks us down to bind us back up, and it is done in love.

Because of the gospel, we can say along with Horatio Spafford “it is well with my soul.”

Horatio Spafford was married and had four daughters. In 1873, she and the girls had been in a terrible collision at sea and their ship had gone down. All four daughters died. It was just the latest awful news in three horrifying years for the family. They had lost their son in 1870, and then a massive fire ruined them financially the next year, all before the horrors of the accident at sea.

As Horatio crossed the sea to meet his grieving wife, he wrote, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”

My lung infection doesn’t sound too bad when I read about his story. What could cause a man to say that after that much loss? The gospel. That is the only thing that makes sense. Even in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, loss ends in joy. Regardless of what is taken away from us here on earth, nobody can take away the love that Christ has for us. And that love is what we’ve been searching for and that love is all we need.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 tells us that suffering is momentary and is preparing an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. When we look at the immediate effects of suffering, it can be devastating. When we look at suffering with an eternal view, we can say with CS Lewis that “one day all sad things will come untrue.” Even though it doesn’t feel that way, suffering is momentary. Even though we can’t see what God is doing, he is sovereign, he is good, he loves his kids and is working for our good, even in suffering.

In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego told king Nebuchadnezzar after being thrown into a furnace of fire, “even if He does not…” They were saying even if God does not deliver us from the fire, we will not worship you. A lot of people want to say in suffering, “what if __?” This story is awesome. I can say “even if” because God is enough. He is all we need. He will sustain us and carry us unto the end. Even when it hurts, we trust. We trust in an unchanging, all-satisfying God. Whether it is in this life or the life to come, God will fully deliver us.

We can say “even if” because my greatest problem is not the fact that I have a lung disease and I get lung infections. My greatest problem is that I was once God’s enemy and dead in my sin. But because of the gospel, I am now God’s son and alive in Christ. So my greatest problem has been fixed and lung infection or not, I can rejoice.

When there’s absolutely nothing that can separate you from the love of Jesus, waves of trials can only throw you onto the Rock of Ages. Resting on that Rock is where I’d like to be and stay forever, and praise God for whatever way he chooses to do so. If you’re like me, it is a lot easier to say that than act it out when you actually get the news of suffering. However, we are never more strong than in the brokenness that the Lord brings us to where he draws us to himself and suffering brings us to that point. Suffering cannot ultimately beat us down and keep us there because our King victoriously endured the greatest suffering in our place- the cross. Suffering pushes us to God. We are brought near to God through suffering and there we find he is all we need and there we lose our taste for the world as we taste and see the sweet and satisfying truth of Immanuel- “God with us.”

“If the Lord fails me this time, it will be the first time” George Muller
Let God’s faithfulness carry you through doubt and suffering.
He’s all I got and he’s all you got.

Shane & Shane wrote a song from Job 13:15 called “Though You Slay Me” with a sermon clip from John Piper. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY

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Gospel 101

Part 3

The Gospel is Good News!

The word gospel comes from the Greek prefix that means good or joyful and the root word that means message or news.  Luke 2:10, “And the angel said to them,  “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. “  The next verse declares this good news is that a Savior has been born!  The gospel message is really good news!

The word gospel was used in the New Testament world to mean “the message of victory.”  In a period without Internet, television, radio or print media, the messenger with the good news delivered the news in person.  The picture would be something like this:  A battle has been raging.  The people in the nearby town with many fathers, sons, and brothers fighting await the word.  Suddenly they see running toward them a young man. The word spreads.  The messenger is coming!  He arrives out of breath…and then delivers the news.  “I report to you good news!  Victory has been achieved!  We have won!  The people cheer and shout for joy.

Our role is not to make up the news, change the news, but to proclaim the news.  Read that again.   We are called to herald the gospel.  Let me remind you again of the gospel message:  The just and loving Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent His Son, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin the resurrection so that all who trust in Him will be reconciled to God forever.  (David Platt)

Let’s ask the hard question. Have we changed the news?  Read this carefully.  When the laws, commands, and exhortations of Scripture are preached void of the gospel, we have changed the news.  The news now becomes what I need to do for God as opposed to what God has already done for me.  The news now becomes how I can have my needs met by God as opposed to how I bow before the eternal Creator God and worship Him.

The Bible does exhort believers to “live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” and to “imitate God.”  The Bible tells us that God delights in meeting the needs of His children.  But, our obedience will only come from a grateful, joy-filled heart when we have immersed ourselves in the gospel.  Our obedience will only be God-honoring when God’s glory is the focus and not my glory. Therefore, preaching must constantly drive people back to this massive and revolutionary message called the gospel.

Let me close with an illustration that John Piper uses in his book, God is the Gospel.   The scene is a prison camp.  The year is 1945.  American soldiers are held behind barbed wire in a German camp.  There is little food and water and the conditions are terrible.  The captors (Germans) go about their business as normal.  Inside the fence the captured soldiers are thin, hollow-eyed, unshaven, and dirty.  Some die each day.

A short-waves radio is smuggled into one of the barracks.  There is connection with the outside world and the progress of the war.  The captors look inside the fence and see something very strange.  The weak, hollow-eyed, feeble American soldiers are smiling and laughing.  A couple of new prisoners who still have strength give a whoop and throw tin pans into the air.

Those outside the fence stand with an incredulous look.  These American soldiers are still in captivity.  They have little food; many are sick.  What they do have is good news.  The enemy lines have been broken through.  The decisive battle of liberation has been fought.  The liberating troops are only miles from the camp.  Freedom is imminent.

This is the difference that good news makes.  Christians have heard the good news that Jesus has come into the world and has fought the decisive battle and defeated Satan, death, sin and hell itself.  The war will be over soon and there is no longer any doubt as to who will win.  Christ will win and He will liberate all those who have put their hope in Him.

The good news is not that there is no pain, death, or sin anymore.  There is.  We hurt, struggle, and we still sin.  The good news is that the King Himself has come and our enemies have been defeated!  The gospel is really, really, really good news.

The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ historical, objective work on the cross.  It has nothing to do with what we do.  What we do flows out of what Jesus has already done.  He is the gospel and that is good news.

Application:

#1-Live today in the victory that Jesus has already accomplished for you.

#2-When you sin, run to your Redeemer, confess your sins and trust in His finished work done for you.

#3-read 1 Peter 2:24-25

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Part 2

There is no end to gospel exploration

 We continue our blog series entitled Gospel 101.  The last blog communicated the truth that the gospel is about Jesus’ work not mine.  This blog will show there are endless depths to gospel exploration.

The gospel is fuller, deeper, and richer than we could ever imagine.  Let’s spend some time examining that truth.

The gospel of Jesus is BIG.  Like, really big.  Ginormous, if you will.  And massive.  Immense.  And deep. Bottomless.  And beautiful.  Stunning.  And multifaceted.  Amazing.  And expansive.  Spacious.  And powerful.  Dominant.  And illuminating.  Revealing.  And mysterious.  Did I mention big?

Jerod Wilson in his book, Gospel Deeps says, “The sort of preaching I grew up with-sincere, experienced, Bible-based, sometimes even expository-inadvertently taught me that the gospel is for the evangelizing of unbelievers only, not for the already convinced.”  The New Testament teaches that the gospel should be preached to the believers as much as the unbelievers.

As I look back over my ministry, as a young pastor I was not introduced to the gospel’s bigness.  As a seminary student and young pastor back in the 1980’s and the 1990’s we didn’t have the gospel wrong as much as we just had it shallow.  The gospel was truncated and shortened.  The gospel was seen as the abc’s of Christianity.  The gospel was what we shared to “get them in the door of Christianity” and then we moved on to more important things like giving, parenting, spiritual gifts, men’s topics, women’s topics, and a plethora of topics.  All of these topics are important but they can only be understood as they relate to the gospel.  As Charles Spurgeon said, “At the end of every sermon I plough a trough back to the gospel.”

An illustration of this is my I-phone.  I like my I-phone, but  I use probably 5% of the capability of my I-phone.  I can text, call, use some apps, and email from my phone.  My kids on the other hand use their phone for many things.  I have a very shallow understanding of my I-Phone.  I believe many Christians understand the gospel message like that.

A diamond has remarkable optical characteristics.  Because of its rigid lattice, it can be contaminated by very few impurities.  A diamond also has relatively high optical dispersion.  This gives it the ability to disperse lights of different colors.  There are so many nuances with a diamond.

The same is true of the gospel.  The further we go into the gospel, the more nuances we see.  The deeper we go into the gospel, the bigger it gets.  There is no way to plumb its depths. The more we think about it, ponder on it, and meditate on its great and glorious truths, the fuller and richer it becomes.

The gospel then is not just supposed to be our ticket into heaven; it is to be an entirely new basis for how we relate to God, ourselves, and others.  (JD Greear) The gospel is not the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity; it is the pool itself.

How deep is the gospel?  1 Peter 1:10-12 tells us that angels long to look into the “good news” (same Greek word translated gospel).  The word “look” is the same word used of the disciples as they came to the empty tomb and looked and saw the tomb was empty.

This passage has many astounding truths but let me mention two:

We are to simply park ourselves in front of the person and work of Jesus and stare.  Peer.  Look.

The angels long to look into the depths of the gospel.  Even the angels long to look into the treasure chest of riches known as the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let me give you three action steps as you consider going deeper in the gospel:

#1-Pray and intentionally ask our Father to open your eyes to the majesty, beauty, and glory of Jesus.

#2-As you read the Bible constantly ask yourself, “What does this show me about Jesus?”

#3-Three very good books that talk about the gospel are:  Gospel-JD Greear; Gospel Formed-JA Medders, Look and Live-Matt Papa.

 

Gospel 101

Part 1

The Gospel is about Jesus’ work not mine

If you have been around here long enough you have heard the word “gospel.”  Everything we do is informed by the gospel.  I want to do a series of blogs entitled Gospel 101.  These blogs will serve as a reminder that we need to preach the gospel to ourselves and one another every day.

We begin by defining the gospel.  First, the word gospel literally means “good news.”  The gospel is good news that is to be heralded. This is important!  The gospel is not primarily advice we are to give, but news that we are to proclaim.  In ancient Greece they didn’t have email, twitter or cell phones so after a military battle a messenger would be sent back to the city informing the people of the result.  The messenger was simply to announce the result.  If victory occurred, he would run back to the people and herald the good news that victory was achieved.  His responsibility was simply to herald the news of victory.  This is a perfect illustration of the Christian’s responsibility.  We are to announce our conquering King has defeated sin, death, and Satan.  The gospel then is news to be announced not advice to be given!

One of the best definitions of gospel I have heard is by David Platt.  The gospel is this:  The just and loving Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent His Son, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection, so that all who trust in Him will be reconciled to God forever.

Notice when we speak of the gospel we are referring to God’s historical and completed work through Jesus. The gospel has to do with what God has accomplished for us and not our accomplishments, performance, obedience (or lack thereof), or activity.

Maybe you have heard the saying, “Preach the gospel, if necessary use words.”  At first glance this may sound good.  We should “walk our talk.”  The Christian’s life should be pleasing to God.

A closer examination reveals a major flaw, though.  While the Christian should actively seek for His life to be pleasing to God, his/her life is not the gospel.  If my life is the gospel that is bad news for my neighbors, because they will very soon be confused!  They will quickly observe the result of the sinful tendencies in my heart is that my life is far from the perfect example of a Christian.

But, if I point them to the historical and perfect work of Jesus, they will be confronted with their sinfulness and Jesus’ sufficiency.  They will gaze on what God has done for them.  We must constantly talk about Jesus’ saving work: His righteous life, atoning death, sin and death defeating resurrection, glorious ascension, and his bodily second coming.

John Hendryx says the following, “In short, the gospel is the life-altering news that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man, lived a sinless life under the Law, died for sinners and rose again to reconcile them to himself, eternally victorious over every enemy that stood between God and man.  Now, because of his redemptive work, there is nothing that separates those who believe from their Creator and all the benefits that He promises in him.”

Praise God!  The gospel is what God has accomplished for sinners!  My responsibility is to point people to the work of Christ!  The gospel is about Jesus’ work not mine.

 

 

“Twice Mine”

A little boy wanted a model sailboat.  He saved his money until he finally had enough to buy the model kit.  sailboatHe meticulously put the sailboat together.  Each piece was hand painted and carefully snapped together.  He spent weeks perfecting his boat.  When he finally finished, he took a marker and put his initials on the bottom of the boat.  He looked at it and knew that he had done his best.  It was just the way he imagined it!

The next day he took his boat down to the lake.  He watched as the boat floated in the water.  He kept the boat near him in the shallow water.  Suddenly, a strong wind came up and filled the sails of the little boat.  It sailed into the deep waters beyond the little boy’s reach.  He was so sad that his boat was gone.

The next week he was walking with his mom in their quaint little town filled with shops and businesses.  As they walked past a store, the boy exclaimed, “Look Mom, my boat!”  He ran inside and looked at the boat.  He thought, this is mine!  He picked up the boat and saw his initials on the bottom.  He was so happy; he has found his boat!

The store owner told the boy he would have to buy it.  The wise mother asked the storeowner if he would place it aside until the boy could save up enough money to buy it.  The boy diligently worked for the next week and saved up the $9.50 to purchase the boat.  The boy proudly walked into the store and placed the money on the counter.  The store owner with a smile carefully handed the boy his boat.

As the little boy left the store he said, “Now you are twice mine-once because I made you and once because I bought you!”

This is exactly what our Heavenly Father says. He created us but then we rebelled against his Kingship and alienated ourselves from God.  We were hopelessly lost.  He then pursued us and paid the ransom through the blood of Christ, so that we could be adopted into his family.  He can say, Twice Mine! I made you and I bought you!

 

Peyton Manning, the Super Bowl, and is God “the Man upstairs?”

 

I admit it.  I love the game of football.  I always have and I always will.

My preferred order of watching football:  college, high school, and  NFL.  Even though college football has become big business, there is still some purity with 19-22 year old young men playing the game because they love it.  Also, truthfully, I am a big Bama fan, and well, it’s a good time to be a fan!  Just being honest.

Second, I do greatly enjoy high school football.  Most Friday nights in the fall, you will find me on the Parkview Panther sidelines watching Panther football.

Finally, the NFL.  I am not passionate about one particular team.  Part of my turn off is the “show-boating” and “hot-dogging” that occurs after a touchdown.   Please remember, whoever scored would never have made it to the end zone without help!  I don’t care who you are and how talented you are; football is a team sport.  I’m not poo-pooing celebrating in the end zone.  Celebrate… with your teammates.  As a team you executed your plays well enough to get the ball across the goal line.  You scored a touchdown!  Great!  But, stop acting like you are “Superman” and did it on your own( I will not mention any names).  There, I feel better.

I do watch the playoffs(Please picture Jim Mora of the Colts saying, PLAYOFFS!, some of you will get that) and with great interest the Super Bowl.

I was pulling for the Broncos.  I have great respect for how Peyton Manning has carried himself and played the game.  I wanted him to win.  I was disappointed in his post-game speech.  He wants to “kiss his wife and spend time with his family.”  Great! I am all for that!  He then wants to drink “Budweiser.”  Strange and weird time to be that specific…I will let the sports talk radio handle that one.

But, he said something that showed me a lot about his theology, or lack thereof.  He referred to God as “the Man upstairs?”  This is a somewhat common description of God given by coaches and athletes.

This is my answer….NO!  We must understand this phrase unequivocally demeans a holy and righteous God.  What does the Bible say about God?

Isaiah 6:1-3, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim.  Each had six wings:  with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:  Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Revelation 4:2-6, “At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.  And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.  From the throne came flashes of lightening, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, and crystal.  And around the throne…

These verses speak of Kingdoms, thrones, crowns, and the glory of God!  The Bible is filled with symbolism to describe God because he is so far beyond our imagination.  The inspired writers are doing their best but our finite and small brain can’t even begin to comprehend the vastness,  limitlessness, and immensity of God.

In love, Peyton and every other athlete, coach, and person who refers to God as “the man upstairs,” the truth is, you don’t have a clue.

When our hearts have been captivated by the glory of this immutable, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, sovereign, and transcendent God, the idea of God being the “man upstairs” will seem repulsive.

My prayer for all of us (Professional athletes and the rest of us) is that we will see God as He really is and not as we have created him.

I close with the majestic words of Isaiah 40:28-31, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

The Purpose of the Old Testament Stories and People

The Old Testament is filled with fascinating and intriguing stories: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, and on and on the list goes.  These stories are packed with adventure, heroes, villains, conflict, jealousy, loyalty, faithfulness, and so many other compelling david_goliath-277x300qualities.  What exactly is the purpose of the OT stories and people?  A good novel will keep our attention and be exciting to read, but is that the purpose of the OT stories?  Were they written just to entertain us with a compelling story, or is there more?

Sunday mornings we are in a series entitled Lessons from Flawed Leaders.  We are studying OT stories and people. We have looked at Abraham, Samson and this Sunday we begin 3 weeks on the life of David.  I believe the OT stories and characters were written for two reasons.

To point us to Jesus-Luke 24:27, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  Jesus points us toward a Christ-centered hermeneutic.  We are to interpret all of Scripture either looking forward to the first coming of Christ or looking back and explaining his first coming.  The center point of the Bible is the person and work of Jesus Christ.  This is the gospel message.

The point of all the OT stories is not for us to hold up Abraham, Samson, David or any character.  Many “hero stories” in the world are like that…here is someone awesome, be like them.  We all know this is problematic because everyone has issues or as I like to say, “is messed up!”

The OT stories and people are written in an honest and vulnerable way.  When we read the story of David we see that he did many wonderful acts and also that he messed up (Pretty badly, I might add). There are many examples in David’s life that we should not do (And all the married couples said, AMEN!).

The main point of David’s life is that David, in his successes and failures, points us beyond himself to the real King that would come.  The bigger story behind David’s story is that David and Israel are searching for the real King, just like we are.

The OT heroes give us an example of how to trust and walk with God and sometimes how not trust and walk with God-1 Corinthians 10:6, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.”  The OT people provide us with examples about how to live.  1 Corinthians 10:6 clearly commands us to look at the examples of the OT people, both good and bad, and learn from them.  We can look at their lives and learn from their experiences.  Someone has said, “It is wise to learn from your experiences; it is wiser to learn from the experiences of others.”

We have seen some valuable lessons from Abraham and Samson, and we have also seen some amazing gospel implications from their lives.  David will not disappoint us.  We will find extraordinary lessons to apply to our lives and the gospel implications from David are staggering!

Being Thankful not just on Thanksgiving

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There is a laser-like focus on being thankful around Thanksgiving.  It is helpful.  It is good.  What happens after Thanksgiving, though?  We begin the sprint toward Christmas.  Shopping, gifts, parties, activities, eggnog(Not one of my personal favorites), decorations and the list goes on and on.

 

This is a reminder that this week, even today, to slow down and be thankful.  I mean really slow down, take a few minutes and be still and be thankful.

Today, drink deeply from the well of grace.  Be thankful.

Today, with the deepest humility and the greatest joy remember the gift of your salvation.  Be thankful.

Remember this odd relationship-a God who needs nothing and a people who have nothing to give.  Be thankful.

Righteousness given and forgiveness granted.  Be thankful.

This is a prayer written by a gospel-centered preacher named Scotty Smith.  Take some time to read this prayer and make it your own.  Whatever you do-be thankful.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Cor. 9:15

“… the boundless riches of Christ…” Eph. 3:8

Dear heavenly Father, of all the many things for which we’re grateful today, none surpasses the “indescribable gift” of the gospel. You loved us so much you sent Jesus into the world to be our Savior—not principally as our moral model to imitate, but as our perfect Substitute to receive and trust.

We proclaim with the deepest humility and the greatest joy, “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” From beginning to end, our relationship with you, today and forever, is entirely a gift of your sovereign and immeasurable grace. What we could never do for ourselves, Jesus has accomplished for us, once and for all. Hallelujah, many times over!

We needed forgiveness for all the ways we failed (and continue to fail) to love, worship, and obey you, as you deserve and as your law decrees. And through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, you have forgiven us completely. We will never be more forgiven than we are today… never! All of our sins—past, present, and future, are completely forgiven—not just the small percentage we’re aware of, but also the vast majority of which we remain clueless. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We also needed righteousness—a perfect righteousness. All of our best efforts and good works, our hottest tears of repentance and our most sacrificial acts of obedience, our commitment to do more and try harder, and our resolve to sin less and be more godly availed us nothing.

But before he died in our place on the cross as the Lamb of God, Jesus lived in our place as the second Adam—offering you his life of perfect obedience to you on our behalf. And now, through the gift of faith you’ve freely given us, to believe in Jesus and to trust him, you have declared us to be righteous in Christ. Every sinful thing we have ever done (or will do) was nailed to his Jesus’ cross, and every righteous thing Jesus accomplished in life, is now considered to be something we did! Hallelujah, many times over!

What a glorious exchange—Jesus got our sin and we got his righteousness. What a glorious gospel we have. What a glorious God you are. What a magnificent Thanksgiving Day this is. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus wonderful and merciful name.  (thegospelcoalition.org)

 

Trusting Christ!

We had someone come down during the invitation from our deaf ministry to trust Christ!  Praise God!  The gospel was shared with them by a pastor and they trusted Christ as their Savior and Lord.  They will make their decision to follow Christ public this Sunday!     highlights

Police officer will be on campus on Sunday

At the end of service I announced to you that we will begin having an officer on campus from 9-12 on Sunday.  This decision is proactive and not reactive in nature.  We live in a volatile world and the leadership feels for the security of the MPFBC members this will be a wise decision.  You can go to the website beginning Tuesday and view an interview of Lt. Chris Hyde who will be our officer on campus.

2016 Ministry Plan approved

The 2016 ministry plan and recommended nominees for Deacons, Management Team, Equipping Team, and Nominating Team were overwhelmingly approved!

Homeless Ministry Update

81 people were present at our initial meeting for our homeless ministry!  Chuck Ferraro from Family Promise was present and gave an informative overview of the ministry.  Morgan Stallings and Craig Corbett from our Deacons talked about the details of how we will be involved.  Look for more information in the coming weeks.

Generosity Part 2

This past Sunday I continued my Radical Transformation series.  A radically transformed Christian is a person of generosity.  Let me follow up on my sermon yesterday by giving you four principles about living a life of generosity.

  • Principle of Work (Work for what you have)

Ecclesiastes 3:13, “Also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil-this is God’s gift to man.”  A Christian should work hard and find satisfaction in their work.  As the old farmer said, “There’s something to be said for a hard day’s work and a cold glass of water.”  God made Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden to work.  Work is designed to bring you fulfillment and even joy.

  • Principle of Contentment (Enjoy what you have)

I mentioned this yesterday:  Godliness+Contentment=Great gain.  Godliness coupled with contentment produces eternal treasures in your life.

  • Principle of Stewardship (Be faithful with what you have)

The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 reminds Christians that they are to be faithful stewards with what God has entrusted to them.  An extraordinary truth that God has shown me is there is a direct relationship between how I handle my money and my relationship to God.  We tend to compartmentalize our lives where Jesus seeks to integrate them.  How we handle our money is a direct reflection of our relationship with God.

  • Principle of Generosity (Give generously from what you have)

Christians should give from a grace-saturated, Christ-centered, and joy-filled heart.  We give because our lives have been wrecked by grace.  We give as we beheld the glory and majesty of our King!  My prayer is that we will be generous people!

 

 

 

Mission 4•4•4

444 card webYesterday, we began an emphasis in the month of September called Mission 444.  The purpose of this is clearly identified in Luke 5:1-11.  Jesus used a fishing experience on the Sea of Galilee to drive home in Peter, Andrew, James, and John’s hearts that they would spend the rest of their lives catching men.

Jesus’ call for Peter to cast his boat out into the deep and let down his nets was met with Peter’s respectful and obedient response, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!  But at your word I will let down the nets.”  This is great!  Peter in a matter-of-fact way says, Jesus, I will let down my net.  I don’t feel like it.  We fished all night and caught zilch!  I’m tired and want to go home and take a nap.  But, because you have all authority on heaven and earth, (Matthew 28:18-20) I will let down my net.

What if you and I had that attitude today?  What if we decided we will look to Jesus and his power and we will let down our nets.  I may not feel like it.  I may be tired.  I may be frustrated.  I may be discouraged.  But, today, I will let down my net.

This morning as Libbie and I prayed together, we prayed over our cards.  We prayed for the people in our four networks. (vocational, family, relational, geographical)  Remember, Mission 4•4•4 is committed to doing four tasks (pray, invite, serve, and gospel talking points) to four people in each of your four networks.

Today, let down your net!

 

Thoughts on the Supreme Court and #lovewins

gavelAfter the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage in all fifty states, the trend on social media was #love wins.  Let’s think about the theology that says #love wins.

Love divorced from moral truth is not love.  You may want to stop and read that one more time.  Truth   without love is harsh, cold and calculating.  Love without truth is manipulative, flimsy, weak, and can easily    become self-serving.  John 1:14 describes Jesus, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we    have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (ESV)  Jesus was filled with grace and truth.  Grace wasn’t enough by itself to describe the grandeur of Jesus.  Truth wasn’t enough by itself describe the majesty of Jesus.  Grace and truth have a symbiotic relationship.  They need each other.  The same is true of love and truth.  Love needs truth and truth needs love.  They are incomplete without each other.

Because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, today in America a man can marry a man.  Today in America a woman can marry a woman.  They can adopt children and have a family.  The Supreme Court has decided to redefine marriage.  After their historic ruling social media was lit up like a 4th of July fireworks celebration exclaiming #love wins.

Let me offer what some will say is a silly illustration but it will make a point. If a man or woman owns a horse and they love their horse and decide they want to marry their horse…is it #love wins?  You would of course say, “No!”

Let me give you another hypothetical situation that should make your stomach turn.  A 45 year old mother decides she romantically loves her 20 year old son.  If they want to get married is it, #love wins.  Hopefully, you would say, “No!”  That is morally repulsive.  Ultimately, what prevents this situation from happening is that love demands moral truth to be love.  Slow down and read that again. Love demands moral truth to be love.  Love divorced from moral truth is the beginning of moral chaos.  Love by necessity must be anchored in truth.

I do believe that homosexual people should have rights as American citizens.  If anyone lives peacefully and lawfully, they are allowed to live in freedom in the United States of America.  I want to emphatically and unequivocally state my belief in this conviction.  This truth is one of the pillars of America.

But, let me clearly say that #love wins will result in moral chaos because love is no longer anchored in truth but in our sinful and selfish desires.  The Bible is clear, marriage is only between a man and a woman.  Period.

      

I came across this insightful article and wanted to share it with you!-

                   5 Spiritual Dangers of Skipping Church

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I read recently that my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has a total of 16 million members, but on a typical Sunday only 6 million of those members attend their local church’s corporate worship gathering. Considering the importance and necessity of corporate worship for the Christian, this is a very discouraging statistic. Not only is it disheartening, it is also spiritually dangerous for those who profess Christ, but regularly miss worship with their church family. Below, I want to list some reasons and explain why skipping church is a really bad idea. [1]

1. You will miss out on God’s primary design for your spiritual growth and well-being.The central aspect of corporate worship is the preaching of God’s Word. The proclamation of Scriptures is God’s primary means for a disciple of Jesus to grow in spiritual maturity. When a professing Christian misses church they are missing God’s prescribed process for spiritual growth.2. You disobey God.Corporate worship is not optional for the Christian, according to the Bible. Hebrews 10:24-25 makes this clear: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…”Author and pastor, Greg Gilbert comments on this passage, “At the very least, therefore, we have to say that, for every Christian, attendance at church gatherings is not optional. The author of Hebrews—and therefore the Holy Spirit himself—commands Christians to be present when the believers to whom he or she belongs gather.”At my church, we reflect this biblical command in our church covenant, which states:” We commit, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to…continue meeting together regularly [and] work together for the continuance of a faithful evangelical ministry in this church, as we sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines.”God’s people ought to strive to keep God’s commands. One of his commands is meeting together regularly for corporate worship.3. You make a statement to the world that God is not worthy of worship.What we spend our time on shows what we truly value. If you miss church in order to sleep in or to attend a sporting activity, what does this say about the worth you ascribe to God? Replacing your church’s regularly scheduled worship time with some other activity demonstrates that God is not actually worthy of our worship; something else is. Unfortunately, this is the attitude and conduct of unbelievers, not God’s people.4. You can’t minister to anyone.Too often people think that corporate worship is only about getting their own spiritual needs met. And therefore if they don’t have any spiritual needs at that time then there is no reason for them to attend. The problem with this view of worship is that it’s too individualistic and self-centered. As Christians, our lives are to be spent serving, helping, and encouraging others.Missing church robs you of an opportunity to serve someone other than yourself. If you are gone on Sunday morning you can’t offer a word of encouragement to someone who needs it; you can’t welcome an unbeliever who doesn’t usually come to church; you can’t pray with a fellow member who is suffering; you can’t encourage the other members with your voice during times of corporate singing; you can’t encourage your pastor with your presence while he preaches the sermon he has labored over all week. These are just a few ways you can’t serve if you are absent on Sunday morning.5. You skip out on a foretaste of heaven.God created us to worship him. That’s the primary reason you exist. This is why the church was redeemed and this is what God’s people will do when Jesus returns and restores our fallen world. Revelation 22:3 gives a picture of this: “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.”In 1988, three whales became trapped under a sheet of ice near the city of Point Barrow, Alaska. In an attempt to save the whales, rescuers dug a series of breathing holes in the ice leading back to the ocean. Two of the three whales were rescued because they were able to get the oxygen they needed and were guided in the correct direction. Similarly, Sunday morning worship is a like string of breathing holes the Lord provides for his people guiding and sustaining them until they make it to their true home in heaven.[1] These reasons do not pertain to people who are providentially hindered. I believe there are circumstances in which it is appropriate and even necessary to miss corporate worship with your church family. Sickness, physical disablement, being out of town to take care of one’s elderly parents are just a few examples.

 

Are Paul and James at Odds?
Faith-vs-Works-Logo

Romans 3:28-“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

James 2:24-“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

In James we read that a person is justified by what he does, not be faith alone.  In Romans we read that a man is justified by faith apart from works.  Okay, which is it?  The answer is yes!

James and Paul do not contradict each other.  Each of them is writing about the same gospel just from different vantage points.  They are addressing different problems in the churches they were writing.

Picture James and Paul standing not toe to toe fighting each other but back to back fighting two different enemies and together defending one unified understanding of the gospel.

Paul fights against the ludicrous idea that we can earn out salvation with our works.  James fights against an easy believism that reduces salvation to intellectual belief.

The question is:  Which battle are we fighting today in 2015?  Both.

Many people hold on to whether they realize it or not, an idea they can work their way to God.  As an under-shepherd of a local church, I want to fight against that idea with everything in me.  There is no way with your sin-stained good works that you will work your way to God.

On the other hand, many people believe that sense we are saved by grace through faith that works are completely irrelevant and obedience is unimportant.  When I hear that I want to fight against that with everything in me.  This is the person who came forward, filled out a card, was baptized, and now 30 years later has no interest in spiritual things, no movement toward godliness, and no real deep affections for Jesus.  I’ve heard this-I’ve got my fire insurance!  How deceived could this person be?

The truth is these two passages together give us a beautiful picture of a glorious gospel.  This gospel is received by grace through faith, and this faith is more than intellectual ascent.  This genuine faith produces deep affections for the glory of God and radical obedience to the commands of God.

Paul and James are not at odds with one another but standing together defending the glorious gospel!

 

John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.”

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Our daughter Lauren is a second year student at Southeastern Seminary. She has a friend, Lauren Weir, who wrote this meaningful blog that I want to share with you.

 

Can I tell you a little about the treasure of abiding in Jesus? A lot of times we want God to give us an answer right away. We plead for Him to make known to us the path we should take, the decision we should make, the answer we should give. We want change immediately. But God will often delay the answer that we may seek from Him (though His timing is perfect; it seems like a delay on our end). And He has a unique way of bringing about change.

Abiding. This treasure. Our Father desires for His children to pursue Him. To learn to be attentive to Him at all times. To be captivated & overwhelmed by the love of Jesus. To dive deep in His Word to know Him & become like Him. To keep His way. To learn the unique promptings of the Spirit. To pray & fast. To worship in church services & in our kitchens. To serve His Kingdom. To walk in fellowship with Him. Jesus tells us to abide for incredibly wonderful reasons – that we may bear fruit AND that our joy may be FULL. This is the treasure of abiding. To love Jesus, oh to love Jesus more & radiate His glory more than when we first pleaded. To know Him & worship Him more fully than when we first asked. He could easily give us our answer – that thing we desire to know so badly. But praise the Lord, He knows better than we do.

Friends, He gives us much more than that. He gives us Himself. We get intimacy with the God of the universe! And our lives are changed & our joy is full. Abiding in Jesus is the way of life. Let us do nothing in our own strength or understanding today, for apart from Him, we can do nothing.  #wordsworthnoting– Lauren Weir

 

 

 The Love of Jesus Changes us

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George Muller lived in the 19th century.  He was a faithful pastor, a man of prayer, and a lover of orphans.  He remembers his conversion, “Apprehending in some measure the love of Jesus for my soul, I was constrained to love Him in return.  What all the exhortations and precepts of my father and others could not effect; what all my own resolutions could not bring about, even to renounce a life of sin, I was enabled to do, constrained by the love of Jesus.”

The love of Jesus constrains us, drives us, moves us, changes us, motivates us, forms us, and reforms us.  When you start leaping because of his love, you will leave sin behind.  That’s Christian growth.  Christian growth is not checking off the box that you went to church, but your heart being stirred by the love of Jesus.

J.A. Medders in his insightful book Gospel Formed tells the following story:

On Valentine’s Day, John Johnson always gave his wife, Sue a lovely arrangement of flowers.  Very thoughtful, right?  Except that in John’s case, “thoughtful” only begins to describe his bouquets.  His wife says it best:

     My sweet husband, John, and I were married for 46 years. Each Valentine’s Day, he’d send me the most beautiful flowers containing a note with five simple words:  “My love for you grows.”  Four children, 46 bouquets and a lifetime of love were his legacy to me when he passed away two years ago. On my first Valentine’s Day alone, 10 months after I lost him, I was shocked to receive a gorgeous bouquet addressed to me…from  John.  Angry and heartbroken I called the florist to say there had been a mistake.  The florist replied, “No, ma’am, it’s not a mistake. Before he passed away, your husband prepaid for many years and asked us to guarantee that you’d continue getting bouquets every Valentine’s Day.  With my heart in my throat, I hung us the phone and  read the attached card.  It said, “My love for you is eternal.”

Every Valentine’s Day, Sue is reminded of her husband’s great love for her.  Today, the gospel stands as God’s bouquet of love for you.  It is not wrapped in plastic but in flesh.  There are no red roses, only red blood.  There is no vase, only a cross.  The words written on the cross declare, “My love for you is eternal.”  Today, Christian, know that you are greatly loved by your Father.

Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with singing.

Revelation 1:5, “and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.  To him who loves us…”

1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us…”

God’s love is primary.  May I be honest with you?  Our love for God is very fickle.  It goes up and down.  Strong one moment, absent another moment.  Peter is a perfect illustration of us.  One moment he says I will never deny you and the next moment he denies he even he knows him.  That’s us.

If my relationship with God is dependent on my faithfulness, I am in trouble.  That’s why we talk about God’s one-way love.  Ultimately, God’s love is primary.  God’s faithfulness and love for is children is certain and is a mystery.  The mystery is why would God love sinful rebels like us?

Romans 8:31-35, “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn-Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Then in verses 37-39 Paul exclaims this amazing doxology, “No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Nothing.  It is the mystery of grace.  God’s faithful love for sinful rebels.  You are greatly loved by God!  This love by God for you moves you, changes you, and drives you.  The love of God transforms our hearts!

 

 

A Divine Moment2-ya

Matthew 27:45-46, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The traditional view of evangelicals on this verse is stunning.  At the moment when Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” the sin of the world was placed on Jesus.  What does this mean?

Every sin you have ever committed and will ever commit was placed on Jesus.  May I be blunt?  Every time you have lied or will lie, every time you have gossiped and will gossiped, every time you have spoken derogatorily of someone else, every dirty joke you have told and have laughed at, every time you have used God’s name without purpose and in vain, every self-centered, selfish thought you have had, every lustful thought and every pornographic website you have ever visited, every time you have stolen something, every time you have been disrespectful to your parents, every time you have embittered your children, every time you have coveted what your neighbor has…I will stop with the specifics but you get the picture.

I believe, even as believers, we don’t have a clue how idolatrous our hearts are.  Yet, the Bible astonishingly teaches that your EVERY sin was placed on Jesus.  As he was suspended between heaven and earth on a cross, he became the sin-bearer.

At that moment, Jesus was the most vile, horrifying, disgusting, despicable thing in all of creation.  As ugly as our sin is, it was all layered on him.

God had no choice but to turn His back on Jesus because He is perfectly balanced in His divine perfections.  Please read that again.  God turned His back on His only Son. For the first time ever, God the Son was separated from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  The intimate Trinitarian community was temporarily separated.  Martin Luther the reformer said, “God forsaking God, who can understand that!”

This is unthinkable.  We must fall on our knees and ask God for wisdom to comprehend.  Why would God do this?  The answer that most people give is God loves us.  The endless love of God for sinners is clearly declared throughout Scripture, but that is not the primary reason.  The primary reason, as God was redeeming His people through Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, that He poured your sin upon Jesus was to bring glory to His name.  Slow down and please read that again.

The Bible declares that God’s chief desire is that He would be marveled and exalted among his creation.  Matt Chandler puts it this way, “From beginning to end, the Scriptures reveal that the foremost desire of God’s heart is not our salvation but rather the glory of His own name.  God’s glory is what drives the universe; it is why everything exists.  This world is not present, spinning and sailing in the universe, so that you and I might be saved or lost but so that God might be glorified in his infinite perfections.” (The Explicit Gospel, pp. 33-34)

This thought runs counter to our culture and unsettles us.  We don’t like the idea that everything exists, including us, not for ourselves but for the glory of God.  God and God alone stand supreme.

Everything God does is motivated by his desire to be glorified.  God governs the world precisely to the end that He might be admired, marveled, and praised by his creation.  God’s aim to glorify Himself is wholly good and without fault of any kind and is very different from human self-exaltation because it is an expression of love.

God exalts Himself so that we as his fallen image-bearers will see Him as beautiful, pure, loving, and perfect.  God’s self-exaltation leads us to treasure Him for who He is, God.

The beauty of God’s self-exaltation is none other than the endless, ever-increasing joy of God’s people in God’s glory.  Read that again.  God exalts Himself for the joy of His people.

Child of God, realize today that you live to the praise of God’s glorious grace.  You were created for the glory of God.  He has accomplished everything through His righteous life, atoning death, and resurrection.  Today, live for His glory and not for yourself!

 

A Reminder to “Be Still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be Still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Psalmist closes Psalm 46, where he has declared God is our fortress and refuge, with an admonition to be still before our indescribable God. This massive, unspeakable God will be exalted in all the earth. What does it mean to be still before God?

Studies show because of technology we are on “call” all the time. Our minds are filled with internet, facebook, tweeting, instagramming, texting, and emails. The result of this constant activity is staggering: shallower thinking, weakened concentration, reduced creativity, and heightened stress. Our constant activity is affecting our hearts.

I fear the Church has followed right in line with culture. Psalm 46:10 invites us into ancient stuff. It is the practice of being still and silent before God.

no wi fi   In Amsterdam they have started no wi-fi zones. Benches have big signs, “No wi-fi.” The benches have signal blockers that block wi-fi signals for 15 feet. It is sponsored by          Kit-Kat and they say, “Take a break.”

In Los Angeles there are restaurants that are offering a 5% discount if you leave your phone with the receptionist.

What we really need is quiet. Yet, we are afraid of it. Silence is awkward. Have you ever been on an elevator and there is silence? I normally look down! Silence is awkward.

 

Two reasons why silence is awkward:

We are vulnerable to what is going on in our minds. You are at the mercy of whatever you have been placing in your mind. As long as we are always busy and always going, we can press down what we don’t want to face. But, when you are still, and silent, you are vulnerable before God. The old adage “garbage in, garbage out” is true.

We are confronted with our weakness. We are flawed, messed up people even as believers in Jesus. In stillness and silence you see the gap between who you really are and the image your project to others. In stillness and silence, you see this massive gap with clarity. Some people live with these pasted up projected images of who they are. In stillness, just you and God, you are confronted with your duplicity.

Many of us are staying busy to not confront the issues in our lives. When we are busy, always going, we can easily rationalize our sins. This year I have been purposefully trying to spend some time in stillness and silence and God has been taking a wrecking ball to my heart. He has showed me so many underlying sins and bad habits ingrained in my life patterns. If we are not still, we will not see our many flaws.

Let me give you four reasons why silence is so important:

We must learn to hear the whispers of God. What if we lived our lives in such a way that we sensed God’s little promptings every day? We tend to focus on the big stuff. God, what am I supposed to do with my life? Where should I live? What should I do? What if we paid close attention to the small things in life. Each day we were so abiding in Jesus that we sensed the small promptings of God. This is a spirituality of stillness and listening. Every day. This is dangerous territory for us.

We would question a lifestyle that endlessly consumes and hordes. If we are still and silent before God, we begin to obey the small promptings of the Spirit, our hearts begin to beat as His does, we will no longer be callous to those in need and we will no longer marginalize the poor. You cannot get away from the fact that from the very beginning when God formed His OT people called Israel, God has shown unusual concern for the poor, unfortunate, orphans, widows, hurting and downtrodden. As we live with Jesus as the epicenter of our lives, we will recognize our solidarity with the suffering. The people of God will constantly seek to rescue people out of their suffering.

We will let God be God. If you are afraid to be still and see you for who you are, you will be afraid to look at God and see Him for who He is. A good reminder of our place in the world was last night. While we slept, the earth orbited around the sun at 60,000 mph titled at 23.5 axis, your heart beat, your lungs contracted, the universe continued on and you did NOTHING. We deserve nothing. Because we deserve nothing, we should be grateful for everything.

Let God be God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Modern day theology has recreated God. Fascinating that in the beginning God made man in His image, now man has made God in his image. This modern God is only love and exists at my beck and call. This modern day God exists for me. God then becomes a resource for me to have my best life now! The Bible is seen as a book full of resources and tips for me to be fulfilled.

Thoughtful Christians question this kind of theology. When we see the Bible not primarily as “God’s instruction manual for life” but as a book that reveals the glory of God as seen in the gospel of Jesus redeeming God’s fallen image bearers, we see that God does not exist for us, but we exist to declare his glory! We become lovers of the glory of God! As we are still and silent before God, we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:4) and we are stunned. Our breath is taken away as we gaze on the majesty of God as seen in the person and work of Jesus. We then see God for who He is and not the God our culture has created.

God’s heart is for the nations. As we are still before God, we will see Him exalted among the nations! Everywhere God is exalted life flourishes. God is a liberating God

“Be still, and know that I am God.”