Friday, February 27, 2015

When God Calls You Out - Jonathan Parnell

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:9
If we don’t sometimes feel like we’re “in over our heads,” it may be that we’re not following Jesus where he calls us.
Paul names it the “sentence of death” — that’s how he felt about the sufferings and complexities of his ministry. It was true affliction, a burden so heavy that he admits he lacked the strength to carry it. He was sinking, despairing even of life itself. The apostle Paul — to the extreme — was “in over his head.” And God did this in order to, as Paul says, “make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
The situations that stretch us come in varying degrees. Some are intense like Paul’s, others are scattered along the spectrum of the great unknown, where fear runs rampant and our faith feels small. But whatever they are, however hard they feel, we know why they come. It’s just what Paul says.
God brings trials into our lives to give us more of himself. Their purpose is that we might not rely on ourselves — not look to ourselves for salvation or hope or joy — but that we might rely on him. The purpose is that we would lean on God, that we’d fix our eyes on his glory, clinging to the truth that in Jesus he is always enough for us. Always.
This is the truth that resounds in the depths to which God calls us. He invites us to step out and follow him. To dream. To plan. To build. He invites us to put our hands to work for his name’s sake, not based upon our expertise or know-how or giftedness. He invites us here based upon who he is himself.
He invites us here because he knows that it is here, unlike anywhere else, that our souls must rest in his embrace. It’s here, above and beyond every other place, where his children must grasp the wonder of what it means to be his own. Because of the cross and victory of Jesus, we are his and he is ours. We are his people, he is our God. We are his children, he is our Father. And he is enough.
And he will prove his enough-ness to us. He will show us time and time again that all we need is found in him. All that we lack finds an abundance in his grace. Yes, we would fail. The weight is too much, and like Paul, we can’t carry this in our own strength. But God is there. His sovereign hand is our guide. His heart of mercy is our anchor. He will make our faith stand. He will be our God in Jesus Christ.
And so, let us go. Let us step out, following him further than our feet could ever wander. Let us walk upon those waters, in over our heads, not relying on ourselves, but holding fast to him, trusting in him, casting all our hope on him. Because he really is enough.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Justification by Faith: Work-less Salvation

Romans 4:1-12          February 22, 2015           Link for audio/video/manuscript

We do not need to nor can we in any way earn the love and favor and forgiveness of God. We need not and we must not get our sense of worth from things or people or from ourselves. We were created in God’s image, but sin has wreaked havoc on what God originally intended. But God promised He would send someone to rescue, redeem, repair and restore us back to God. That someone is Jesus. His life and death and resurrection is the fulfilled hope of that promise. In Jesus we are justified by faith alone. In Jesus we are righteous before God by faith alone. In Jesus we need not nor can we do anything that will save us. Jesus has done it all!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Communing with Christ on a Crazy Day - David Mathis

We’ve all been there. Maybe even today is one of those days for you.
The crazy day. At least spiritually speaking.
Hopefully you have your regular routine and go-to “habits of grace,” your ownwhen and where and hows for seeking daily communion with God. Perhaps you’ve been at this long enough that when the alarm goes off on a normal day, you have your patterns and rhythms for how getting up and getting breakfast and getting ready all come together in relation to some short but substantive season of “getting in the Word,” to reset your mind and refill your heart and recalibrate your perspective before diving into the day.
But then comes those crazy days. And they seem to pop up more frequently than we’re expecting. It may be the late-night conversation, important but tiring, that has you hitting the snooze over and over the next morning. Or maybe it’s staying over with relatives, or having them squatting at your place.
Or for young parents, it’s the child (or the children) who was up during the night, or rolled out of bed way too early wanting breakfast and your attention. Or maybe it’s just this season of life, and honestly every morning seems to have it’s own craziness. The Enemy seems to have some new, creative scheme with each new day to keep you from finding any focused “time alone with God.”
Whatever the circumstances that throw a wrench into your routine, your crazy mornings raise the question, How should you think about, and engage in (if at all), the “spiritual disciplines” — or better yet, “the means of grace” — of Bible meditation and prayer when God’s good, but often inconvenient, sovereignty has you reeling without your routine?
1. Remember what your “habits of grace” are about to begin with.
A good place to begin is with the big picture about your morning spiritual routines. Bible meditation is not about checking boxes, but communion with the risen Christ in and through his word. Walking in his grace today is not dependent on you going through your full devotional routine, or any routine for that matter. And it is the regular pattern of communion with Christ that is vital, not extended time on one particular day.
You could read all the passages, give time to extensive journaling in meditation and prayer, work at length on memorizing Scripture, and easily move right into a day of walking in your own strength and not dying to selfish interests to anticipate and act to meet the needs of others. In fact, it is precisely the days when you feel strongest personally, and most spiritually accomplished, that you’re most prone to walk in your own strength, rather than by the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11).
2. Consider the path of love.
It is loving (to others) to regularly commune with God. There are good horizontal effects to having our souls established and flourishing vertically. You will be a better spouse and parent and friend and cousin and child and neighbor if your soul is being routinely shaped and sustained by a real relationship with God in his word and prayer.
Sometimes, the most loving thing we can do is get away from people for a few minutes, feed our souls on God and his goodness, and come back to our families and communities reenergized for anticipating and meeting others’ needs. But at other times, the path of love is dying to our desires for personal time alone — even in such good things as Bible meditation and prayer — to give attention to the toddler who is sick or woke up early, or to prepare and serve breakfast to family from out of town, or to assist a spouse or friend who is having their own crazy morning.
3. Develop a morning routine that is adaptable.
Taking the crazy mornings in account, knowing that they will come and trying to be ready for them, may mean that you develop morning habits that are flexible. Try to create a routine that can expand into more than an hour if you have it, or collapse into just ten minutes, or even less, when love requires it.
For example, you might consider a simple pattern like this: begin with Bible reading, move into meditation, polish with prayer. On days when you have extended time, you can read and meditate longer, and include journaling, and take time to put some rich passage to memory, and linger in prayer, from adoration to confession to thanksgiving to supplication. But on a crazy morning, you can get through the reading-meditation-prayer sequence in just a few brief minutes if needed.
Instead of reading all the assigned passages in your Bible-reading plan, just take one short psalm or little Gospel account or small section of an epistle. Look for one manifestation of God’s goodness in the passage, and meditate on that goodness being for you in Jesus and try to press the truth into our heart. Then pray that truth in light of your day and the needs at hand, along with any other spontaneous requests on your mind that morning.
If time is really tight, at least pause briefly to pray, and seek to carry a spirit of prayer and dependence into the day. Christ can meet you on the move. Express to God that it seems circumstances and the call of love are leading you right into life today. Acknowledge that you can’t earn his help with a long season of meditation and prayer, and ask that he would show himself strong today by being your strength when you feel spiritually weak.
Actually, it’s often the crazy days when we feel most dependent, and our sense of weakness is good for God showing us his strength. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
4. Look for God’s provision through others.
The means of grace aren’t simply personal. They are profoundly corporate. Even our personal Bible mediation and prayer are deeply shaped by our lives in community, and by those who have taught us intentionally. Personal Bible intake and prayer can be powerful — and they are habits of grace worth pursuing daily — but so can a reminder of God’s grace from a spouse or friend or fellow believer. Don’t neglect the power of fellowship as a means of God’s grace.
If time alone with Jesus just isn’t happening on this crazy morning, be on special lookout for some morsel of gospel food from conversation with someone who loves Jesus. If it’s a crazy day for both of you, perhaps some quick conversation, pointing each other to Christ and his goodness toward us, would produce some food for you both that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.
5. Evaluate later what you might learn for next time.
When the crazy morning and day has passed, seek to learn how you can grow in anticipating and tackling these in the future. If you stayed up too late to watch some show or movie needlessly, the lesson may be, very simply, to plan ahead better next time. Though often there’s nothing to learn. This is just life in this age.
The crazy days will come. And there are seasons of life, like with a newborn at home, where all bets are off, and it’s just a crazy season. But with a little intentionality, and with a modest plan in place, you can learn to navigate these days, and even walk with greater dependence on God, knowing full well that it’s not the ideal execution of our morning habits of grace that secures his favor and blessing.
You can commune with Christ in the crazy days. © 2015 Desiring God 

In Adam All Die - Bryan Chapell

In Adam All Die: Sin’s Guilt and Corruption and the Remedy of Grace
Bryan Chapell - February 3, 2015 - 2015 Conference for Pastors

©2015 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Good News of the Gospel: Justification by Faith

Romans 3:21-31            February 15, 2015        Link for audio/video/manuscript

The bad news of the gospel is that sin a universal problem. The good news of the gospel is that God judges sin – and that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ through whom we receive the righteousness of God through faith - which is a gift given to us all by the grace of God. None of us is worthy of God’s righteous but the “gospel” which is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” because our worth comes from God who showed us love for us through Jesus Christ, who died for our sin so we might be forgiven and redeemed and restored back to God. That’s good news!

Friday, February 13, 2015

What Is Your Doing Saying? – Jon Bloom

Your actions speak. Your works are words. The question is what are they saying?
Actions Speak
The old adage, “actions speak louder than words,” is true because, as another adage says, “words are cheap.” So, when it comes to our faith, if our words and actions are saying different things we must look to our actions for the truth.
That’s what the apostle James tells us in James 2:18, and what the apostle John essentially tells us in 1 John 3:18. And Jesus also says this in John chapter 10, where once again Jesus has proclaimed himself to be God (John 10:27–30) and once again the Jews have picked up stones (John 10:31).
But before the stones start flying, Jesus asks them a revealing question:
“I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” (John 10:32)
The Jews respond that they don’t want to stone him for his works but for his words (v. 33). So Jesus replies,
“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me [i.e. my words]; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37–38)
What Jesus is saying is that his works are also words. In fact, he had said this explicitly a few minutes earlier in the conversation:
“[The] Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.’” (John 10:24–25)
Jesus’s actions spoke plain and clear, but the Jews were not listening.
Faith Works
Jesus, the God-man, lived his earthly life in perfect integrity. His words and works were always saying the same thing. He was the incarnate Word of God (John 1:114) who always did what was pleasing to the Father (John 8:29). Being “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), he showed us how faith works. Jesus’s trust in the Father was constantly being proclaimed through the things he did.
Faith, by its very nature, produces action. It’s intrinsic. Each of us is wired to feel and act in accordance to what we believe to be true. We cannot help it.
And this is a universal human phenomenon. Every human being lives by faith. The atheist who says he doesn’t go for that faith nonsense because he believes in science has a category confusion. What he really means is that he puts his faith in hypotheses advanced by non-religious scientists with regard to the origin of the universe and questions of ultimate meaning. Since these are things he cannot scientifically verify, and which he largely learned from others who he considers authoritative, he too has a “conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
None of us can help working out his faith. We cannot help doing what we believe. That’s why Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). That’s why Paul defined his mission as bringing about “the obedience of faith” among the Gentiles (Romans 1:5). And it’s why Hebrews 11 was written, so we could have a catalog of examples of how faith works.
What Are Your Actions Saying?
So if we want to know what we really believe, we must look at our actions. For sinful humans whose selfish pride so frequently grabs for control of our tongue, the words of our mouth can be unreliable. But the words of our works speak with a powerful, and sometimes painful, eloquence about what we believe.
What are your actions saying? What do you do when you are alone, or when your plans are interrupted, or you are disappointed, or your weakness is exposed, or you’re tempted to fear, or someone else prospers or excels you, or you’re called on to help meet someone else’s financial need? How much of a priority do you make your local church? How willing are you to serve obscurely? When those who are closest to you are honest, those who observe you in your unguarded, uncalculated moments, what do they hear from your actions?
These are exposing and convicting questions. Jesus had perfect consistency between his words and works. None of the rest of us has this yet.
But since on the Great Day there will be a separation between the sheep and goats based on what their works said about their faith (Matthew 25:31–46), and since, even among the sheep there will be a distinction between those who built with gold, silver, and precious stones (more faithful) and those who built with wood, hay, and straw (less faithful) (1 Corinthians 3:12–15), we must “look carefully how [we] walk, not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). And the wise repent wherever they see unbelief and then “[forget] what lies behind and [strain] forward to what lies ahead [and] press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14).
There is no conflict between faith and works. Our works reveal where our faith is. Jesus told us that a “tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). The wise seek to make the tree good.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Bad News of the Gospel

Romans 3:1-20         February 8, 2015          Link for audio/video/manuscript

The bad news of the gospel is that sin a universal problem. Sin is who we are to the bottom of our hearts - until we surrender our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, which should cause us to see everything in a radical God-centered, Christ-exalted way, which should then cause us to acknowledge the depth of our sin and of our desperate need for God and of the mercy-saturated, grace-filled, sin-destroying, life-giving joyful hope we have in Jesus - because we treasure him above and beyond all people and all things!