Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Finding Courage to Live Differently; Psalm 141, Daniel 1

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Monday, November 13, 2017

You are the Temple; Genesis 1:26ff, I Corinthians 6:9-20

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Praying with the Persecuted; Psalm 119:81-88

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Solus Christus--In Christ Alone; Ephesians 2:1-10

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Lord is Great/Praise the Lord; Psalm 135, Numbers 21:21ff

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Living Testimony; Psalm 119:73-80, I Corinthians 10:27-11:1

As I shared with the children this morning, you were created intentionally and for a purpose. We see that in the first verse of our Psalm reading this morning. “Your hands have made me and fashioned me.” Most of us take for granted that God made us, but the word “fashioned” indicates particular attention to what is being created to shape it and form it. In the women’s Bible study, there was a question that we didn’t have time to address, but it had to do with wrong thinking. The question asked us to refute some common wrong ways of thinking. One of those dealt with the reason God made us. The wrong assumption was, “God made us because He was lonely.” You may have even heard this before. God did not make us because God was lonely. The Trinity is a complete community of love. God lacks nothing in Godself. One of the most common questions is, “What is my purpose in life?” Most of us really begin asking that as teenagers, beginning a serious quest to find out the answer. For some people, this also marks the beginning of a spiritual quest. Somewhere along the line, and even as early as childhood, those on a spiritual quest ask the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” It is an important question, and one that we shouldn’t stop asking if we are seeking to follow Jesus. But as I said at Tammy’s memorial service yesterday, the answer to the question of God’s will for our lives is often much simpler than we think it is. We were created to glorify God. That’s what the Westminster Catechism tells us—Question 1: “What is the chief end of man? What is the ultimate purpose of human beings?” Answer: To glorify God and enjoy God forever. Like I said, that doesn’t mean we stop asking the question, but it ought to change how we ask the question. What can I do to bring glory to God today? How does God want to be glorified in and through my life? Is what I’m doing right now bringing honor and glory to God? These are questions we can ask ourselves not only daily but throughout the day, if we want to make doing God’s will and allowing God to fulfill God’s purpose in our life a priority. These are the questions we ask if we really care about what our purpose in life is. Our New Testament passage goes so far as to say, “Whether or you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Every little thing we do is an opportunity to glorify God or to do dishonor God. We are a living testimony. Sadly, we dishonor God a lot. Last week in Sunday School, we read of the promise of God to restore Israel. God had punished them for their gross idolatry. God promised to bless them, not for anything they had done but for God’s own Name’s sake. God will always defend God’s own reputation, despite the ways we can muddle it up. When we dishonor God, it can lead other people away from God. Now God will find a different way to bring those people to the Lord, but we miss out and we hinder the gospel, because one of the main ways we glorify God is to bear witness to the gospel with our lives and words. The way we find out what brings God glory is in God’s word. We spend so much time wondering what God’s will is when we barely give Scripture a passing glance. If we read it and spend time in it like the psalmist does, we will know what God wants us to do. If we start with the obvious stuff and are faithful in those, God will make that which is less obvious more clear. But how faithful are we at obeying even God’s obvious commands? God created us to bear witness of God’s glory, and that includes being an ambassador of God’s kingdom in the world. If we are going to witness to unbelievers, then we have to develop relationships with them. That means making friends, sharing meals, and hanging out. It means listening. These are all the things that Jesus did, and the Pharisees and religious leaders hated Him for it. They never understood why He was always hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. Paul gives these instructions about what to do when invited to the home of not yet believers, because he practiced the Jesus way. He expected those who read his letter to have unbelieving neighbors with whom they develop friendships. We may or may not have to deal with the specific issue of whether or not to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols, but that’s why Paul went further to say, whatever we do, we are to do it for God’s glory, and then he went on to elaborate that we should not do anything that would offend people, whether unbelieving, or those that are doing the best they know to follow God, or to the Church. Paul isn’t talking about being politically correct, although that could be part of it, but again, he is talking about doing something that would tarnish God’s reputation by confusing people as to who God is—God’s nature and character, or even giving the church, which is the people of God, a bad name. And yes, we are to witness even to our enemies. We must not hinder people from seeing Jesus, and to aid people in seeing Jesus, we need to treat them dignity, respect, and honor. Remind yourself that people, no matter how strange or seemingly repulsive, are created in the image of God. They too were fashioned carefully by God’s hand. That image may be deeply marred and buried, but it is there nonetheless. Go out of your way to treat people with kindness, just as Paul did when he said that he “worked to please all in all things, not seeking [his] own profit, but that of the many, that they may be saved.” Both Paul and the psalmist are people who consider themselves as examples for other people to follow. Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” The psalmist says in Psalm 119:74, “Those who fear You will be glad when they see me because I have hoped in your word.” Since he goes on with prayer requests for mercy and comfort and even mentions those who have treated him wrongly, it sounds like he is being faithful in the midst of persecution. He hopes his faith will encourage others to follow his example and remain faithful to the Lord, despite circumstances. This reminds me of a story in this month’s VOM magazine about how precious the Scriptures were to a believer in prison. It took him many months to get a Bible, but once he got one, he read the entire thing in 3 weeks. I know that I personally am encouraged by my persecuted brothers and sisters who remain faithful to God’s word and God’s will despite horrible and difficult circumstances. In verse 78, the psalmist asks that the proud would be put to shame for treating him wrongly. He is not going to take revenge. He is going to continue meditating on God’s precepts. But when we live faithfully in the presence of our enemies, they can become convicted and have their hearts changed. And then in verse 79, he sounds like Paul—“Let those who fear You, who know your Testimonies, turn to me.” He wants to be an example worthy of imitation and to be found blameless in keeping God’s Word. What about you...Could you tell other people to be like you? Is your life worth imitating? Can other people see Jesus in you, or does the Lord have to defend His own name because you do more to discredit him through your words and actions than to reveal Him to others? Is there someone you strive to be like or want to be like? Is that person someone in whom you see Jesus? God made us intentionally for God’s glory. We are living testimony, whether or not we are conscious of it. As we wait to hear God’s response to the question, “What is your will for my life,” we are to persevere in doing the last clear thing we know God told us to do and not stop doing all those little things we know God wants us to do. In closing, I’d like to share “Seven practices to encourage perseverance in waiting for God’s Word” from a curriculum called “A Walk Through Psalms,” which is meant to be used for family devotionals. This is page 45 from the curriculum for Psalm 119. I will put a link to the full PDF on my blog, or if you would like a copy of this page, let me know, and I’ll make sure you get one…. Here is the link to the curriculum referred to in the sermon Scroll down to page 45.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Jesus, the Bread of Life; John 6:22-40

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