Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Submission to God’s Servants

Romans 13:1-7         July 26, 2015          Link for audio/video/manuscript 

The concept of humbly submitting in obedience to authority is pretty foreign to us in North America. But God does not allow us any wiggle room to do so as the truth of His Word tells us that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God does not allow us to resist and reject authority because we disagree with or dislike the one whom He has placed in authority over us. We are to obey “all” authority God has put over us because to resist authority is to resist God, and we are to obey “all” that those in authority tell us to do unless they demands we violate a clear truth or principle of God. When it comes to humbly submitting in obedience to authority, Jesus is our example. He gave up his right to be God and “emptied himself” and became “human” and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” May God grant us all a humble submissive spirit of obedience that opens our hearts and opens the doors to the Kingdom of God!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Living Out the Love of Christ

Romans 12:9-21              July 19, 2015           Link for audio/video/manuscript

Once we begin with the sober judgment about ourselves as a starting point, we need to live out the love of God through Jesus Christ by loving righteousness and good, hating sin and abhorring evil, showing preference to each other and humbly serving others, rejoicing in the hope of Jesus, giving generously of ourselves, genuinely loving those who hurt us, loving each other and our enemies, casting off pride and rejecting any form of judgment based upon human merit or measurement, and pursuing peace by returning good for evil. This is our call together as God’s people, the church. For us love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. And while living out that kind of love can change us the way a parent changes a baby - awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess - it is the life the God calls us to through Jesus Christ which proves our love is“genuine”!

Monday, July 13, 2015

We Grossly Underestimate God - Francis Chan

Do Not Underestimate a Defeated Devil - Jon Bloom

We think we know what’s going on. But often we barely have a clue.
Scripture teaches us that what we see happening in the world is only part of the story. There’s a whole dimension to reality that wields a direct and very powerful influence in our experience and yet is largely outside of our perception. The apostle Paul describes it this way:
We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Do You Know What Hunts You?
Many times Christians have quoted the first phrase of this verse to help us remember that our fellow human beings aren’t our primary adversaries. And that’s true. But the rest of the verse is quite serious and significant, too. We are up against cosmic powers that govern the present darkness in which we live — powers for which we are no match, at least not alone. Are we taking this enemy seriously enough?
In Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring,” after Frodo the Hobbit has his first encounter with the evil Nazg├╗l, he meets Strider (who turns out to be King Aragorn). Strider asks Frodo, “Are you frightened?” Frodo answers, “Yes.” Strider replies, “Not nearly frightened enough. I know what hunts you.”
Do you know what hunts you (1 Peter 5:8)?
Satan Demands to Have You
The disciples found out what was hunting them and what they were really made of on the night Jesus was betrayed. Jesus warned them it was going to come. In the Upper Room, he turned to Peter in a moment of anguished compassion and said,
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” (Luke 22:31)
Ponder these five words for a moment: “Satan demanded to have you.” The Greek word for “you” in verse 31 is plural. Satan wasn’t just after Peter; he was after all of the disciples. He wanted to press them all through his sieve of terror.
The disciples had an Adversary — a ruler, an authority, a cosmic power, a spiritual force of evil — who had demanded that God let him put them through the wringer. And God was granting Satan permission. And they had no idea what was happening underneath and behind everything they could see.
I don’t know about you, but I find this stunning and unnerving. Satan, who the Bible says accuses Christians before God day and night (Revelation 12:10), can make demands, and sometimes God grants them. We also see this reality in the first and second chapters of Job. And when Satan is granted his demands, like with Job, all hell breaks out against believers. And this attack can take the form of flesh and blood enemies, natural disasters, and bodily disease.
Are you ready?
Don’t Overestimate Yourself
It is a dangerous thing to underestimate the power of spiritual evil and to overestimate our ability to withstand it. When Jesus told Peter that Satan was coming after him and the others, Peter responded,
“Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33)
Peter had a willing spirit, but he didn’t know how weak his flesh was (Matthew 26:41). However, Jesus did and he told it to Peter straight:
“I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:34)
In human terms, Peter was no wimp. This man had left everything to follow Jesus (Mark 10:28). He had the guts to try walking on water (Matthew 14:29). He had seen Jesus transfigured (Mark 9:2). It would be wise for us not to assume that we are his equals. If Peter could be pressed by Satan to deny Jesus, there’s no doubt that we could be as well. Without the protection of Jesus, we have no hope of withstanding such an evil spiritual force.
The Protection of Jesus’s Prayers
In the face of Satan’s attack, Peter had only one hope, as he discovered. Jesus had said to him,
“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
It’s interesting that the Greek word for “you” in this verse is singular, as opposed to the plural “you” of verse 31. “I have prayed for you, Peter.” Jesus knew Peter was going to outright deny him repeatedly. Peter was going to have a major failure of faith. He was going to discover that he needed far more than self-confidence to withstand satanic sifting. But Jesus had prayed for Peter, and so Peter’s faith was not going to fail utterly. His faith would be sustained, restored, and strengthened.
Like Peter, ultimately our only hope of enduring this present oppressive darkness is with Jesus’s prayers. And we have very good ground for hope, for Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). That intercession ensures that by his omnipotent grace we will ultimately stand (Romans 5:2).
Wear the Armor, Wield the Word, and Pray at All Times
But Jesus does not merely intend for us to be the passive recipients of his mighty prayers. He intends for us to engage our powerful Adversary, the cosmic powers, in battle by the strength he supplies (1 Peter 4:11). Through Paul we understand how Jesus equips us. We discover that we have spiritual body armor and a sword (Ephesians 6:13–17), and that Jesus expects us to do everything possible to withstand evil (Ephesians 6:13).
In other words, we must take the reality of spiritual evil very seriously. The enemy and the war are not metaphors. They are very real. Being armed, we are called to remain alert by remaining prayerful, “praying at all times in the Spirit . . . with all perseverance . . . for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
If we are not praying this way, it’s likely that we do not take the spiritual forces of evil seriously enough. We do not really know what hunts us. And like the disciples, we do not know how weak our flesh is. Jesus’s word to us, like it was to them, is, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).
But if we wear the armor, wield the Word, and pray at all times in the Spirit, we will “not be outwitted by Satan” or “ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11). We will be ready to wrestle well when he demands to have us.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Glorious Wisdom and Ways of God!

Romans 11:25-36                    July 5, 2015                  Link for audio/video/manuscript

It’s easy for us to think we are better than we really are, when we think we know more than we really know. The great paradox of our faith in God through Jesus Christ is that God created us to have a mind and heart and a will, and it is our privilege to use our minds and our hearts and our wills to the best of our ability in a way that would glorify God - which means there will be times, because we are all recovering sin-a-holics, when we will all reach the limit of minds, hearts and wills regarding who God is and the ways that God does things. And at that point there is nothing left to do but worship in wonder and bow in adoration. And the truth is those moments happen all the time, every day. Our problem is that more often than not we miss those moments because our arrogant pride gets in the way. Its then we must desperately pray God will work in spite of us. Having done his best, the apostle Paul was content to leave it all to God!

Friday, July 3, 2015

How to Complain Without Grumbling - Jon Bloom

When we complain, it is frequently evil. But complaining is not necessarily evil. There’s a faithful (believing) way to complain and a faithless (unbelieving) way to complain.
The Bible often refers to faithless complaining as grumbling and warns us not to do that (Numbers 14:26–30; John 6:43; Philippians 2:14; James 5:9). Grumbling complaints directly or indirectly declare that God is not sufficiently good, faithful, loving, wise, powerful, or competent. Otherwise, he would treat us better or run the universe more effectively. Faithless complaining is sinful because it accuses God of doing wrong.
But faithful complaining does not impugn God with wrong. Rather, it is an honest, groaning expression of what it’s like to experience the trouble, anguish, and grief of living in this fallen, futile world (Romans 8:20–23). God does not mind this kind of complaining. In fact, he encourages it — and teaches us how to do it in the Bible.
With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. (Psalm 142:1–2)
How God Wants Us to Complain
Most of these biblical and righteous complaints are contained in what we call the psalms of lament. The Book of Psalms contains the prayers and hymns that God chose to teach us how to express ourselves to him in worship. About one-third of these psalms are laments. And they are precious gifts from God.
In these laments, the writers pour out to God their sorrow (Psalm 137), anger (Psalm 140), fear (Psalm 69), longing (Psalm 85), confusion (Psalm 102), desolation (Psalm 22), repentance (Psalm 51), disappointment (Psalm 74), and depression (Psalm 88), either because of external evil or internal evil or darkness.
These psalms are expressions of God’s profound and deep compassion for us (James 5:11). He knows that we frequently will experience bewildering pain and therefore will frequently need to express our pain to him.
God wants us to pour out our complaints to him and tell him our troubles (Psalm 142:2). He wants us to do it privately, like David did when he wrote Psalm 142 in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22). And he wants us to do it corporately, as when the people of Israel would sing Psalm 142 together.
He wants us to tell him exactly what it feels like, as when David exclaimed, “no one cares for my soul” (Psalm 142:4). And he wants us to remember that despite how things look and feel right now, because of his very great promises (2 Peter 1:4), someday these troubles will no longer afflict us, as when David expressed his hope: “You will deal bountifully with me” (Psalm 142:7).
The psalms of lament are treasures for the saints. They give inspired voice to our troubled souls. They model for us how to complain to God in a way that honors him. And they are themselves expressions of God’s merciful care for us, because in them we see that we are not as alone as we feel, and that God indeed does understand.
And if we have ears to hear, these psalms will also guard us from expecting too much in this age. God does not always intend his saints to experience prosperity. Rather, the psalms of lament remind us of the truth of Jesus’s statement, “In the world you will have tribulation,” and point us to our great hope: “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
So go ahead and complain to God, but don’t grumble. Learn from the lamenting psalmists how to be a faithful complainer.